Friday, March 28, 2014

Chilean airline, One Airlines visits Long Beach Airport

Boeing 737-4Q8 (26279/2221) N279AD operated by Chilean airline One Airlines and operated by Xtra Airlines, is captured at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) this morning as she readies to depart to Waco Regional Airport (ACT/KACT) at 09:56 am PST.
(Photos by Michael Carter)   

Thursday, March 27, 2014

World Airways ceases operations as 5:00pm March 26, 2014!

World Airways MD-11 (48518/525) N271WA climbs from Rwy 25R at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on December 26, 2013.
(Photo by Michael Carter) 

Today World Airways announced that the Company operated its last flight on Wednesday, March 26th. World Airways was founded in 1948 and operated cargo and passenger charter flights using B747-400 and MD-11 aircraft. The U.S. Military was their primary customer.

Global Aviation Holdings and many of its subsidiaries, including World Airways, began restructuring November 12, 2013. World Airways has been in the marketplace for some months seeking funding to help it restructure in chapter 11 bankruptcy, and has been unable to secure that financing.

Tuesday World Airways' first lien holder declared World in default on its loan and stopped providing the airline funding. World Airways has started the process of winding down its operations. Today the company laid-off 325 employees, including 109 pilots and 146 flight attendants.

Eric Bergesen, World Airways' Chief Operating Officer, said, "The battle to save World has been difficult. A lot of people have worked hard to try to save our airline. Despite this regrettable outcome, I sincerely thank each of our employees for their dedication and continued support as we attempted to build a future for the Company." 

North American Airlines will continue operations with plans to emerge from bankruptcy in the near future. North American was founded in 1989 and operates passenger charter flights using B767-300ER aircraft.

( News)

What does 777X mean for airlines and Airbus?

When Boeing launched the 777X at last year’s Dubai air show, backed by commitments for over 300 aircraft from four customers, Toulouse’s worst nightmare became a reality. Having suffered at the hands of Boeing in the “big-twin” sector for much of the last decade, Airbus has been making good headway with its A350 XWB, racking up sales of more than 800 aircraft – only for Boeing to come out with an enhanced derivative of its bestseller.
Unsurprisingly, Airbus is dismissive of the threat posed by the new big-twin. But given its backing from blue-chip customers like Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa and the Gulf’s triumvirate of global network carriers, should the European manufacturer be taking the threat from the 777X more seriously? And do the airlines once again find themselves with just one go-to vendor when seeking the largest twin-engined “seat-production machine”?
Airbus’s new-generation wide-body products comprise four models: the A380 superjumbo and three variants of the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-powered A350. Its only in-production wide-body twinjet is the A330. Series production of the A350 is beginning as Airbus works towards the first delivery of the initial variant, the -900, to launch customer Qatar Airways in the fourth quarter of 2014.
The two-member 777X family in the 350- to 400-seat category slots in at the top of Boeing’s wide-body twinjet line-up, above its three variants of 787 and below the 747-8I. The 777X, which is due to enter service in 2020, is the successor to today’s strong-selling 777-300ER and the ultra-long range -200LR.
The 777-9X is the larger variant, featuring a slight stretch over the -300ER and raising seating by around 14 passengers in similar typical layouts. The 350-seat -8X is developed from the 777-200 airframe, with a 10-frame stretch.
Other major changes on the 777X include a larger, composite wing which incorporates folding tips to allow it to use 777-sized parking bays and taxiways, all-new General Electric GE9X engines and a revised cabin.

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“The 777-8X sits right on top of the A350-1000 in terms of size, but has a range advantage and is slightly more fuel efficient. And then we have the [larger] -9X, which gives us the ability to go into that territory that is unchallenged, which is really, really great,” says Boeing’s marketing vice-president Randy Tinseth.
The A350 and 787 met for the first time on the tarmac at February’s Singapore air show, prompting a rise in the rhetoric about the rival manufacturers’ contrasting wide-body strategies. Airbus argues that its product line offers simplicity, while Boeing points to an even spread of aircraft across the 200-400 seat sector.
“Boeing has been waxing eloquent about how impressive their wide-body product line is. Well actually it looks like a bit of a dog’s breakfast to me,” says Airbus chief operating officer for customers John Leahy. “If they’ve got the sweet spot in the market, there are an awful lot of sweet spots.”
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Boeing's incremental-step-in-size strategy for wide-bodies (top) “looks more like a dog’s breakfast” to Airbus (bottom)

Leahy argues that airlines want simplicity, and that Boeing’s multifaceted line-up is “not reasonable” in the current age: “My competitor has eight different models competing with four of ours. Those eight different models represent four aircraft families within them – different cockpits, different engines, different support.”

However, Boeing highlights its sales success in the wide-body sector as evidence that it has called the strategy right. The market is currently voting slightly in favour of Seattle, with Boeing holding a 55% share of the wide-body twinjet backlog.

“We’re very pleased with how we’re positioned with our wide-body product offering – from 200-400 seats we have a complete line of 787s and 777s in the marketplace. From orders to deliveries to backlog, we lead the competition,” says Tinseth. “Airbus has a lot of questions it has to answer – what does it do about the A330, about the A350-800 – I think the writing is on the wall already – and about the A350-1000.

"They signed up a great customer in Cathay Pacific for the -1000, and now all of a sudden it is also a 777X customer, so it really limits what the -1000 can do.”

Sales of the 777-300ER have outpaced even Boeing’s most optimistic forecasts, with total sales standing at 721 aircraft – including 263 on backlog. Tinseth attributes the -300ER’s surprise success to two main factors: “It crushed the competition – the A340-600 just wasn’t a viable competitor, which helped us, and we recognized that a lot of airlines bought the 747 for its range. But frankly we got that percentage wrong, and more bought it for this capability than for its size.”

Some observers see the A350 family potentially being under threat at both ends. Customers have been abandoning the A350-800 like rats on a sinking ship, switching their orders to the larger variants. This has raised questions over the future of the smallest variant, and comes as Boeing expands its 787 line-up with the launch of the -10 at last year’s Paris air show. Meanwhile, the arrival of the 777-9X could force Airbus to respond with a bigger derivative of the A350-1000.

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“At face value, Airbus faces some interesting challenges with their wide-body product strategy,” says Rob Morris, head of consutancy with Flightglobal’s Ascend advisory service.

“Boeing has its 787 family covering 240-320 seats, and then 777X at 350-400 seats," he says. "By comparison, Airbus will potentially have the A350 spanning 270-350 seats, with the family probably starting at 315 seats if the -800 fails to make the light of day, as many predict.

"We also suspect that the A330-200/300 will exit passenger-variant production towards the end of this decade, largely because the similarly sized A350-900 renders new-build A330-300s economically uncompetitive.

“The Airbus conundrum is do they consider a family below the A350 – potentially covering 220 to 300 seats – or do they consider a 380-450 seat family to close the gap between A350-1000 and 558-seat A380? In demand terms, the 220- to 300-seat sector will probably have greater demand, but the challenge of creating an economically competitive twin-aisle of this size is considerable.

"And if Airbus chooses this route, then it would probably leave the 777-9X to itself in the market, creating the potential monopoly space that would allow Boeing to manage pricing in that space to its benefit – as it has been able to over the past few years with the 777-300ER.”

Cathay Pacific, which is a launch customer for both the A350-1000 and the 777-9X, is the world’s second-largest 777-300ER operator, with a total of 53 in service and on order. The Hong Kong airline’s engineering director Christopher Gibbs sees the two rival twinjets as complementary, and is not concerned that one manufacturer could gain a monopolistic position.

“Competition is useful, but I’m not sure it’s sufficient to completely duplicate on each other,” he says. “We see the positioning between the 777-9X and the A350-1000 as a bit different – the -9X is bigger. So for routes that need a smaller demand, the -1000 is appropriate, and for routes with bigger demand, the -9X is right.”

Airbus chief executive Fabrice Bregier attributes Boeing’s decision to add a stretch to the 777-9X (over the -300ER) to the need for competitive economics, but he leaves the door open to a competitive response with the A350.

“The 777X has to be slightly bigger because it could not compete against the A350-1000,” says Bregier. “So they were in the sweet spot [with the 777-300ER] – which was 360 passengers in three classes – and we just took over this sweet spot.

So we believe the A350-1000 and A380 should be more than sufficient,” he says. “However, in the long run we are improving our product, so we have no short-term/mid-term plan to do that [a stretch], and we don’t think we have to do that, but we could well envisage additional members of the A350 family.”

Cathay’s Gibbs says the airline selected the 777-9X “most importantly” because it offers around 14 more seats than its 777-300ERs. “So it’s a plane for growth on our long-haul routes which need more capacity. And it will fly long-haul routes extremely efficiently,” he says.

Gibbs says that fuel accounts for 65-70% of Cathay’s incremental costs on long-haul operations, “so fuel-burn efficiency is really paramount and is a really important factor in our decision making.”

Despite Boeing’s early sales success with the 777-9X, Ascend’s head of market analysis Chris Seymour is not convinced Airbus needs to respond, as the A350-1000 is “ideally placed” to replace 777-300ERs – combining similar capacity and better economics.

“Emirates Airline president [and A350-1000 customer] Tim Clark says it’s the ideal aircraft for 10-hour missions with no crew-rest requirements. The 777-9X also looks to be very good in terms of range, economics, cargo capacity and 30-40 seats more – ideal for growth over -300ERs at carriers like Emirates,” he says.

“Airlines are ordering and will order both – so does Airbus need to try to stretch into an ‘A350-1100’? Maybe not. Will every long-haul market served by A330-300s or 777-200ERs grow into a 400-seat market? Probably not – more like 350 seats first, and the 777-8X may then be too heavy and have too much range compared to the 1000,” he adds.

Airbus aims to decide this year how it will tackle the market below the A350 – which could include addressing the -800’s sector – as it evaluates whether to develop an upgraded “A330neo” powered by new generation engines.

“To put new engines on the wings, it’s a big job. It’s not a decision you’re going to make quickly or easily. It’s a significant engineering task,” says Tom Williams, Airbus’ executive vice-president of programes.

He adds that making small tweaks to optimise the aircraft could also bring about “pretty good improvements."

"We’re not going to go back to the same situation with the original A350, where we got into a loop chasing weight, then went into the carbon wing,” he says.

Although the A330 has been in production for more than two decades, Williams believes that there is still “a very good market” for the twinjet, especially for operators who do not need the range of the A350 or Boeing 787, because of its lower price tag.

“We think there is an opportunity to keep flying the A330 alongside the A350 for quite a period of time. We don’t see it as a case where the A350 comes in and suddenly the A330 disappears. We think we can keep building the A330s, certainly through this decade,” says Williams.

The 777X’s arrival potentially creates a few headaches for Boeing’s long-term product strategy, namely around how it manages the transition – both production and sales – from the current 777, and the implications for the slow-selling 747-8I.

From a transition perspective, Boeing’s current backlog for the -300ER (and 777 Freighter) of approximately 300 aircraft represents around three years of production at current rates, which means it still has some way to go in sales to bridge to the introduction of the 777X in 2020. Observers expect there will be a one- or two-year overlap between the 777-300ER and the 777X, which would mean production ending in around 2022.

Boeing has “a plan” for when production will switch over, “but we’ve not shared that”, says Tinseth.

“We can take a similar approach from when we went from the 737NG to the Max – that was a successful strategy, and we can do many of the same things,” says Tinseth. “When we went to our customers with the Max, we coupled those with NGs to help with their transition as well as with ours. We’re going to take that same mentality into our 777 campaigns.”

The 777F could also come into play, says Tinseth. “Our competition doesn’t have a freighter, so if the cargo market turns around as we expect it will, we have the 777F to help with the transition.”

Ascend’s Morris believes the plan to use the 737 Max transition may not be quite as straightforward as Boeing anticipates, however. “When said quickly, it sounds easy to run the same transition plan. However, the 777 customer base is a little different, with fewer operators and more concentration. So I wonder how big fleet operators will react to the prospect of having to take some last-off-the-line 777-300ERs whilst they wait for their 777Xs,” he says.

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Morris also thinks that there could be issues around residual values: “777-300ERs will typically be on 12-year finance terms or operating leases, so how will Boeing incentivise operators to keep those last-off-the-line -300ERs for 12 years in the face of their fuel-burn penalty over 777Xs?

“I guess that will depend on where fuel prices are in the 2020s, but it seems likely that some deep discounts will be required to place -300ERs rolling off the line through the transition phase."

Despite being slightly smaller than the 747-8I, if the 777-9X delivers on its operating cost promises then it will clearly pile pressure on the Boeing’s four-engined legend. But Boeing is confident the 747 programme can cope with some sibling rivalry.

“We’ve positioned the 747-8I to be 15% larger in seat count than the larger 777X, the -9X,” says Scott Fancher, who is Boeing’s general manager of airplane development. “The 747-8 is also a great freighter – it’s a great ‘switcher’, to use an American baseball term – and that gives it great legs in the marketplace to run the distance.”

Tinseth says Boeing was pleased to secure 17 gross orders for the 747-8 during 2013, which is “right in line with our production rates”, but he warns that it has “got to do that every year” to ensure continued production of the big jet is viable.

Boeing would not have to do much to the 777X to create a single-deck airliner sized to replace the 747-8 in capacity terms, and Fancher does not rule out the suggestion that there could one day be a “777-10X” derivative: “Never say never – never rule out a possible [‘777-10X’], but today our focus is on the -8 and -9."

So the 777X arrival creates new challenges for both major airframe manufacturers, but it is Airbus that has the most questions to tackle, and we should begin to see some answers before 2014 is out.

(Max Kingsley-Jones - Flightglobal News)

ANA orders 777-9X

The board of All Nippon Airways has approved a $16.6 billion fleet renewal program that will see it order a total of 70 new Boeing 777s, 787s and Airbus A320neos.

The Star Alliance carrier will order six Boeing 777-300ERs and 20 Boeing 777-9Xs, with the latter to replace the 19 existing 777-300ERs in its fleet. It will also order 14 additional 787-9s, taking its total 787 fleet to 80.

ANA will also order seven Airbus A320neo aircraft, and 23 A321neos to replace its existing fleet of 737-500s and baseline A320s.

“The aircraft we have selected will enable us to modernize and expand our fleet further as we seek to become one of the world’s leading airline groups,” says ANA president and chief executive Shinichiro Ito. “These new aircraft will give us maximum flexibility and improved fuel efficiency and will allow us to meet the growth in demand, both internationally and in our domestic Japanese market.”

The aircraft will be delivered between the 2016 and 2027 fiscal years. Engine selection for the 787s and A320s will be announced when the order is firmed.

Flightglobal's Ascend Online Fleets database shows that ANA has a fleet of 182 aircraft and orders for a further 64.

(Ellis Taylor - Flightglobal News)

Japan Transocean Air to order 12 737-800's

Japan Airlines Group subsidiary Japan Transocean Air will order 12 Boeing 737-800s.

The new aircraft will replace its fleet of 13 737-400s. Flightglobal’s Ascend Online Fleets database shows that they have an average age of 17 years.

Deliveries will commence from 2016, and the deal is valued at $1.1 billion, based on list prices. The new 737s will be powered by CFM International CFM56-7 engines.

Boeing adds that as part of the agreement, JTA will have the ability to switch the order to the 737 Max series.

JTA is based in Naha, Okinawa and operates flights within Japan.

(Ellis Taylor - Flightglobal News)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Switzerlands FarnAir buys 45% stake in Thailands K-Mile Air

K-Mile Air is based at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok
(K-Mile Air)
Switzerland based integrator support airline FarnAir, has purchased 45 per cent of the shares of Thailand’s K-Mile Air.
The shareholding formerly belonged to Transmile Group Berhad. Suan Plu Thani of Thailand remains the cargo carrier’s majority shareholder, a company statement says.

Kedchai Benjaathonsirikul, chief executive of K-Mile Air, states: “This new partnership with FarnAir is going to enhance and further strengthen Bangkok’s position as a regional cargo and logistics hub connecting Thailand to many of the emerging regional countries.
“And, the introduction of newer, efficient B737-400 cargo aircraft will see us being able to fulfill the needs of the market.”
Vic Karjian, group chairman of FarnAir, adds: “This investment is a very significant step for us regarding implementing our strategic vision in the region.
“Our partnership with Suan Plu Thani is key to establishing a successful regional platform serving and connecting emerging markets with established cargo hubs in the region.”
K-Mile Air, based at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, began operating scheduled and charter cargo flights in Asia in May 2006. It is Thailand’s only all-cargo airline.

(Thelma Etim - AirCargo News)

Boeing scores 42 737 MAX 8 with India's SpiceJet


SpiceJet, a low-cost carrier based in India, has announced an order for 42 Boeing 737 MAX 8s. The order, previously listed as unidentified on the Boeing Orders & Deliveries website, is valued at $4.4 billion at list prices.

"The induction of Boeing 737 MAX will further modernize our fleet, improve customer experience, and ensure that we operate the most efficient fleet well into the future," said S.L. Narayanan, Group CFO for the Sun Group.

The aircraft will be powered by CFM International LEAP-1B engines.

Boeing said that MAX development is on schedule with firm configuration of the airplane achieved in July 2013. First flight is scheduled in 2016 with deliveries to customers beginning in 2017. The aircraft has accumulated more than 1,800 orders to date.

(Karen Walker - ATWOnline News)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Southwest Airlines will no longer land on Rwy 18 at Birmingham

Southwest Airlines, prompted by worries about safety alerts from cockpit computers, has barred its pilots from landing on the runway where a UPS cargo jet was trying to land when it crashed at Birmingham's airport last year, the company said Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for the Dallas Texas-based airline, Jenna Williamson, said Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport's (BHM/KBHM) Runway 18 is no longer authorized for Southwest landings, but pilots can still use it for taking off.

Southwest made the decision because a cockpit system was alerting pilots they were flying too close to terrain when approaching the runway, she said.

The north-south runway has hills at either end and is about 5,000 feet shorter than the airport's primary runway. It also lacks complete guidance equipment, making landings trickier than on other runways.

Southwest's decision was first reported by While the Federal Aviation Administration still lists the shorter runway as being approved for traffic, airlines can impose internal rules that are tighter than government regulations.

Southwest's rule goes further than a safety alert from a major regional passenger carrier, Atlanta-based ExpressJet Airlines, which told its pilots to avoid Runway 18 whenever possible and use the longer runway. The ExpressJet decision followed an internal review prompted by the UPS accident.

A UPS A300 jet clipped tress and crashed into the side of a hill while nearing the shorter runway in August, killing two pilots. A National Transportation Safety Board investigation indicated that commercial pilots typically land on the airport's main runway rather than the one where the UPS pilot was trying to land.

The NTSB, which has yet to determine the likely cause of the crash, held a hearing that concentrated more on the possibility of pilot fatigue than any potential problem with the runway at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.

The authority that governs the airport has declined comment on the runway, citing the continuing NTSB review.

Birmingham's airport has only two runways, but Williamson said Southwest receives enough notice to avoid scheduling problems when the longer runway isn't available for landings.

"If there is an unplanned or sudden closure ... our dispatchers will coordinate with the flight crew on plans for either delaying departure of flight into (Birmingham), airborne holding, or diverting affected flights," Williamson said in an interview conducted by email.

(Jay Reeves - Associated Press)

Missing Malaysian 777-200 not equip with Boeing performance data link

Malaysian Airline System (MAS) opted out of a Boeing Co. service to collect real-time performance data from jets like Flight 370 for use in planning maintenance, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The carrier harvests the same information itself, said the person, who asked not to be identified because Flight 370 is under investigation. The search for the missing Boeing 777-200 entered a fifth day today, leaving investigators baffled at the lack of details on what was happening on the plane when radar contact was lost on March 8.
Having Boeing's Airplane Health Management program potentially would have provided a backup to the airline's own surveillance of the plane, said David Greenberg, a former operations executive at Delta Air Lines. Boeing pulls in that information to mine data and help airlines spot mechanical faults early, providing carriers another window on their operations.
"It's like having a cell phone right next to your desk next to your landline," Greenberg, who is now a Chicago-based consultant, said in a telephone interview.
Onboard computers track performance of pivotal airplane systems and send the information to airlines through a messaging technology known as the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, or ACARS. Boeing taps the same computer data via satellite links for subscribers to its service.
About 75 percent of Boeing 777s, the planemaker's biggest twin-engine model, use the maintenance and monitoring program, according to a 2013 company presentation.

Airlines get "a set of predefined prognostic monitors and alerts that trigger prior to system failures," covering components as varied as the engines and air conditioning, according to a Boeing fact sheet for its maintenance program.
A spokesman for Malaysian Air referred questions about the in-flight communications system to a company statement, in which the carrier said all contact was lost with Flight 370 as it approached Vietnamese airspace. The airline didn't immediately respond when asked about the Boeing program.
"All Malaysia Airlines aircraft are equipped with continuous data monitoring system called the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) which transmits data automatically," the carrier said. "Nevertheless, there were no distress calls and no information was relayed."

Wilson Chow, a spokesman for Chicago-based Boeing, declined to comment about Malaysian Air in a phone interview.

For airlines in the Boeing program, data from onboard systems and engines are sent to the carriers' ground operations, and the planemaker also prepares alerts and reports on "important maintenance-related events."
Services such as Boeing's "are not designed to be inflight advisory systems," said R. John Hansman, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "They are really designed to be post-flight maintenance systems."

(Julie Johnsson and Mary Schlangenstein - Bloomberg)

Air India re-evaluating 787 fuel efficiency

Air India is reviewing the performance of its Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet to see if they are using up fuel faster than expected, but has no plans to ground the aircraft, the state-owned carrier's chairman said on Wednesday.

Speaking at an air show in Hyderabad, chairman Rohit Nandan told reporters that Air India believed the planes were heavier than originally promised.

The carrier is collecting 18 months worth of data up to November this year to gauge if the plane is using more fuel than originally anticipated.

"As far as the fuel efficiency is concerned, when Air India received these planes, even at that time, we knew that the planes were heavier than what they were originally promised to be," he said.

Nandan said that Air India had already received compensation from Boeing for delivery delays. He did not put a figure on the amount.

A series of operational problems have dogged the Dreamliner, a high-tech jet largely made of carbon-fiber composite that is supposed to cut fuel consumption, since its delayed launch in 2011.

Nandan said he had been reassured that the glitches had not impacted safety. "These incidents are not unusual in a new fleet, in a new aircraft," he said.

(Tommy Wilkes - Reuters)

Skymark Airlines mini-skirts raise eyebrows of labor union

Shinichi Nishikubo (centre), president of Japan's Skymark Airlines, with flight attendants at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on March 7, 2014.
 (AFP Photo/Jiji Press)

A Japanese budget airline has flown into rough air over its decision to outfit flight attendants in revealing mini-skirts, drawing criticism that it could invite sexual harassment.

Skymark Airlines came under fire from the cabin crew's labour union, which said the super-short skirt -- with a distinctively swinging sixties look -- barely covers wearers' thighs.

"We're concerned that the design of this uniform may cause problems," including sexual harassment, the Japan Federation of Cabin Attendants said in a statement late last month.

"The airline is saying the uniform is meant to attract more customers, but this shows the company is treating women like a commodity," it added.

Comments posted on the union's website said attendants would not carry out their duties effectively owing to fears about leering stares or customers shooting pictures up their skirts with a mobile phone.

The airline, which disputes the union claims, plans to introduce the uniform as a temporary promotion for the launch of domestic routes its Airbus A330 planes in the spring.

The carrier could not be immediately reached on Tuesday.

But last week, Skymark president Shinichi Nishikubo told reporters: "We won't impose the uniform on any of the cabin attendants who refuse to wear it."
"It is disappointing that the outfit designed in part for the ad campaign is being seen in a distorted way," he added.

(Agence France-Presse AFP News)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

NIKE G650 visits Long Beach

NIKE Gulfstream G650 (c/n 6024) N1KE returns to Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on March 10, 2014 following a Gulftest flight operated as "GLF37."
(Photo By Michael Carter)
Gulfstream G650 (c/n 6027) N521HN rests on the Gulfstream Service Center ramp at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on March 11, 2014.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Alaska Airlines "Spirit of the Islands"

Rolling for take-off on Rwy 19R.

Rotates from Rwy 19R.

Alaska Airlines 737-890 (35179/2079) N560AS "Spirit of the Islands" is captured departing John Wayne Orange County Airport (SNA/KSNA) on March 9, 2014 bound for Seattle's SeaTac International Airport (SEA/KSEA).
(Photos by Michael Carter)
Southwest Airlines 737-8H4 (36919/4717) N8622A prepares to taxi for a Rwy 19R departure at John Wayne Orange County Airport (SNA/KSNA) on March 9, 2014.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

G650 out of paint shop

Gulfstream G650 (c/n 6069) N650EW ex-N669GD is now out of the paint shop and resting on the Gulfstream Service Center ramp at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB).
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Lawmakers look to remove Alaska Bush subsidies for shipping goods

The inspector general of the U.S. Postal Service and Republicans in the House of Representatives are targeting $76 million in annual subsidies that lower the cost of shipping goods to Bush Alaska, saying the struggling postal service needs to cut expenses.

Lawmakers from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing on the program Tuesday entitled "Alaska Bypass Mail Delivery: A Broken System." The chairman of the committee, California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, is pushing measures he said would reduce the subsidy and let more air carriers into the program.

Issa said the cost of the subsidy amounts to postal customers buying a giant new bridge for Alaska every six years.

"Every six years the American ratepayer is buying a new bridge to nowhere," he said.

Members of Alaska's congressional delegation defended the program during a sometimes contentious hearing. Alaska Republican Rep. Don Young accused Issa of meddling in his state, and said Issa's plans would backfire and make the program even more expensive for the postal service.

Young said the postal service is $15 billion in debt and Congress should focus on issues other than this $76 million cost.

"That's what you call picking at peanuts when you have a forest fire in your backyard," Young said.

The bypass mail system is unique to Alaska. The postal service subsidizes the shipping of pallets of goods and mail to remote rural Alaska villages by commercial air carriers.

Alaska Democratic Sen. Mark Begich said 80 percent of Alaskan communities are off the road system, so groceries and other necessities have to be shipped by mail. The bypass mail system is cheaper than if the postal service had to ship the items itself, he said, and lets Alaskans have universal postal service in the most cost-effective way.

"It's not broken, despite the title of this committee hearing," Begich said.

Begich said a bipartisan postal reform bill is moving in the Senate that deals with broader problems faced by the postal service without messing with the Alaska bypass system.

The postal service's inspector general criticized the Alaska bypass mail system in a 2011 report, saying the program has gone beyond its original purpose and seems to benefit air carriers paid to carry the goods more than anyone else.

Deputy Inspector General Tammy Whitcomb suggested at Tuesday's hearing that the state of Alaska could reimburse the postal service for its losses. She said the nearly $50 billion Alaska Permanent Fund earned $2.9 billion last year and the money could come from those earnings.

Young criticized the inspector general's report.

"He's full of it, right up to his eyeballs," Young told the committee.

The postal service's Alaska district manager, Ronald Haberman, supported the bypass mail system in his testimony. Haberman said it works well and is the most efficient way to handle the goods headed to rural Alaska. He said the postal service has a mission to provide reliable service to everyone, even if that delivery comes at a loss.

Issa said the system forces America's postal ratepayers to subsidize a select set of air carriers, and that if nothing else it needs to be opened to competition from other carriers. Begich said letting carriers in that don't have a solid share of the rural Alaska market would lead to unreliable service and higher costs.

(Sean Cockerham - Anchorage Daily News)

Read more here:

Should Qantas be allowed to fail?

Qantas A380-842 (c/n 074) VH-OQL "Phyllis Arnott" smokes the mains on Rwy 25L at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on January 25, 2012.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

John Hempton, fund manager at Bronte Capital has argued that it is time to let Qantas fail.

At this stage, it seems Qantas is not going to get any help from the government, with both Labor and the Greens opposed to any changes to the Qantas Sale Act, and the Coalition unwilling to give the airline a loan or even a debt guarantee. Qantas appears stuck trying to sort its own issues out.

In his blog, Mr Hempton says the company has been mismanaged for many years.

“Decades of incompetence has left them with the most amazingly heterogeneous fleet in the world. This airline deserves to go bust,” he says.

Mr. Hempton cites one example where Qantas uses ageing four-engined Boeing 747s on the Sydney to Los Angeles route, whereas most other airlines are using more advanced twin engine planes, that are much more fuel efficient.

Fuel is a huge cost for airlines, Qantas’s fuel bill for the last six months was $2.3 billion alone. Perhaps no surprise given the airline still uses gas-guzzling 747s.

Add in the fact that Qantas flies 11 different types of aircraft, and you can imagine the cost in spare parts, maintenance and training are likely to be much higher than if the airline had say just five or less different types.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says they are trying to rationalise the aircraft fleet, reducing the number of types down to 7.

In my view, that’s just one of the issues plaguing the airline. Buying new aircraft is hugely expensive, and airlines typically use debt or equity to buy new planes. The problem is that at the end of their active life, the planes are virtually worthless, and newer planes are much more expensive than they were previously.

As a result, most airlines build up huge piles of debt, which costs them hundreds of millions in interest costs each year, and they have no real way of making a significant dent in the debt pile. That is, unless they raise cash from shareholders of course.

Virgin Australia Holdings has split itself into two companies to cope with this issue. The domestic operation can now have significant foreign ownership, and Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines and Etihad have wasted no time taking control of over 60% of Virgin. They have also injected much needed capital into Virgin, but are likely to be forced to continue injecting capital.

(Mike King - The Motley Fool)

Global air frieght off to improved start in 2014

Nippon Cargo Airlines 747-8KZF(SCD) (36136/1421) JA11KZ turns off Rwy 25L at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on December 12, 2013.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Global air freight grew 4.5% in January over the same month in 2013, a marked improvement on the sluggish growth that has plagued the air cargo market over the last couple of years.

The IATA figures for January show growth outpaced the 2.2% increase seen in December, itself an improvement on a growth rate of just 1.4% in air freight as a whole during 2013.

IATA reports growth was solid across all region. While the Middle East carriers, led by the fast-expanding Gulf airlines, continue to grow at the fastest rate at nearly 11% in January, but there were positive signs for European and Asia-Pacific operators too.

European air freight levels were 6% higher in January as the region continues to step out from recession. "Surveys of business activity in the Eurozone show the strongest rate of increase in two-and-a-half years. If these feed through into trade volume growth, then it should be positive for European air cargo in the coming months," says IATA.

Asia-Pacific carriers - which account for around 40% of the global air freight market - increased air cargo traffic nearly 4%. This compares to a decline of more than 1% in 2013. "Trade volumes in the region have rebounded as demand from Europe and North America for Asian manufactured goods improves," IATA says.

But it was not all good news for Asia-Pacific carriers. IATA points to indications that the Chinese economy could be slowing down which would impact cargo in the coming months, while the early falling of the Chinese new year in 2014 is likely to see slower comparable growth for February.

And while the region's carriers returned growth in January, freight traffic among Asian operators continues to fall short of the additional capacity - almost 10% - added during the month.

"The improvement in demand is good news. It is a step-up in pace from the mild strengthening that we saw towards the second half of 2013. And in real terms, volumes are similar to the 2010 post-recession peak," says IATA director general Tony Tyler.

IATA has over the last six months been flagging that while passenger business fortunes have been improving, air freight has remained sluggish as global trade has not picked up in line with the economic improvement.

"Protectionist measures are part of the reason for a slower expansion of world trade than we would expect from current levels of industrial production. Companies continue to re-organise supply chains in their efforts to move manufacturing on-shore," says Tyler.

(Graham Dunn - Flightglobal Aviation News)

Qatar Airways introduces new first class cabin on A380

Qatar Airways has unveiled the cabin interior of its Airbus A380s at the ITB travel trade show in Berlin today, which features a new first-class product.

The airline plans to put the superjumbo into service this summer between Doha and London Heathrow.

Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker revealed the cabin layout at the show. The airline is configuring its A380s with a three-class, 517-seat layout incorporating first and business class on the upper deck and economy on the upper and main deck.

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The first-class cabin features an all-new lie-flat seat offering 90in pitch
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The six-abreast business-class cabin is similar to that introduced on Qatar’s 787s
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The economy cabin on the main deck has 10-abreast seating
The eight-seat first-class cabin is at the front of the upper deck and features a brand new lie-flat design offering 90in (229cm) pitch and equipped with a 48cm screen. The A380 is expected to be the only aircraft in Qatar’s fleet to feature a first-class cabin once its four A340-600s have been retired.

"It is a landmark moment to see this fantastic new first class A380 seat displayed here at ITB Berlin, the perfect event at which to announce such important innovations to our global audience," says Al Baker.

The A380’s 50-seat business-class cabin is in a six-abreast layout with seats similar to those on the airline’s Boeing 787s. Again, the seats are a lie-flat design.

The economy cabins occupy the entire main deck and part of the upper deck, comprising 459 seats in total. The main deck incorporates a 10-abreast 3-4-3 layout. The upper-deck economy cabin seats 40 passengers, with the airline's frequent flyers being given priority for these seats.

Qatar Airways is due to take delivery of its first three A380s in June, to coincide with the opening of the new Doha International airport. The delivery of the first two aircraft has been pushed back from April and May to allow the airline to introduce the type when its new hub is operational. The airline has firm orders for 10 A380s and options for three more.

Qatar Airways will bring an A380 to the Farnborough air show in July, where it will also display a Boeing 787-8 and a sharklet-equipped A320. The airline’s line-up will be completed by Airbus displaying an A350-900 in a hybrid scheme featuring Qatar Airways titles.

(Flightglobal Aviation News)

Unstable, high-speed approach contributed to Red Wings Tu-204 landing crash

Russian investigators have concluded that an unstable approach at high speed contributed to the fatal Red Wings Tupolev Tu-204 overrun at Moscow.

The aircraft’s approach speed, up to 24kt higher than it ought to have been, prolonged the Tu-204’s float before it made contact with the runway.

This resulted in a reduction in available landing distance, while the soft 1.12g touchdown in a crosswind meant weight-on-wheels switches did not activate, and the spoilers did not deploy.

This also meant the thrust-reverse system could not deploy, owing to safety logic which prevents activation while the aircraft is airborne. However, the crew did not wait for confirmation of reverser deployment before engaging high engine power, which instead accelerated the Tu-204 forwards.

Russia’s Interstate Aviation Committee, in its final report into the 29 December 2012 accident, says the crew’s failure to engage reverse thrust correctly meant the aircraft did not decelerate and eventually overran, colliding with a highway embankment.

The crew demonstrated poor resource management which allowed the approach to become unstable, the inquiry states, adding that an inadequate level of flight operations monitoring meant such deficiencies went undetected.

Despite another serious landing incident involving a Red Wings Tu-204 at Novosibirsk nine days earlier, which also related to weight-on-wheels switches, the inquiry says no “timely preventative measures” were taken.

Five of the eight occupants of the aircraft, which had been operating a positioning flight, were killed in the crash.

(David Kaminski-Morrow - Flightglobal Aviation News)

NASA threatens to ground 747SP "SOFIA"

NASA has threatened to ground a vintage Boeing 747SP equipped with an astronomical observatory unless more funding is raised by partner Germany or new sources.

The possible grounding marks the most serious threat to the Stratospheric Observation For Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) project since NASA suspended funding to the programme for five months in 2006 following a long series of delays and cost increases.

The 2.7m (100in) infrared telescope aboard SOFIA has been operational for nearly four years, but pressures on NASA’s $5 billion science budget have forced the agency to consider shelving the project, says NASA Administrator Charles Bolden in a teleconference with reporters on 4 March.

“We have a $5 billion science budget, but we – even with that large amount of money – we have to make choices,” Bolden says, explaining the decision.

Bolden says NASA already operates the world's “foremost” astronomical observatory with the Hubble Space Telescope. It is scheduled to be replaced in 2018 by the James Webb Space Telescope, which Bolden describes “the most incredible astrophysics instrument” in development by any country.

NASA will ground the SOFIA aircraft after 1 October without additional funding from sources outside the agency’s budget, he says.

Germany’s aerospace research center (DLR) contributes 20% of the cost of operating the SOFIA laboratory and NASA covers the remaining 80%.

Germany’s contributions include the assignment of 15 staff members to the SOFIA base at NASA’s Dryden Research Center in Palmdale, California, according to DLR’s web site. The DLR also pays for spare parts for the telescope and the 747SP’s engines, as well as the fuel cost for the 30% of flights assigned to German research missions.

Conceived in the late-1980s to replace a NASA-owned Lockheed C-141 equipped with a flying telescope, SOFIA has survived many delays and threatened cancellations. The reunification of Germany delayed the DLR’s involvement until 1996, when it signed an agreement with NASA to launch the project.

NASA acquired a used 747SP that originally formed part of Pan Am’s long-range fleet, and was christened the Lindbergh Clipper. But the task of installing the 19t telescope and installing an exterior door in the aft fuselage led to several delays. Plans to launch science missions were delayed from 2004 to 2010, as costs more than trebled.

(Flightglobal Aviation News)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Challenger 300 (c/n 20328) N70FS operated by Auxilent is captured resting on the Signature ramp at John Wayne Orange County Airport (SNA/KSNA) on January 22, 2014.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Sharklet'ed Interjet A320 visits Orange County

Interjet A320-214 (c/n 5665) XA-JMA taxies to Gate 13 at John Wayne Orange County Airport (SNA/KSNA) following its arrival on March 3, 2014.
(Photos by Michael Carter)

British Airways launches service between London and Austin

British Airways 787-8 "Dreamliner" (38611/114) G-ZBJC smokes the mains as it arrives at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS/KAUS) from London-Heathrow (LHR/EGLL) as "Speedbird191" on the inaugural flight between the two cities on March 3, 2014.
(Photo by Joe Fernandez)

United Airlines to enforce carry-on bag size requirements

United Airlines is getting tough on passengers with oversized carry-on bags, even sending some of them back to the ticket counter to check their luggage for a fee.

The Chicago-based airline has started a push to better enforce rules restricting the size of carry-on bags — an effort that will include instructing workers at security checkpoint entrances to eyeball passengers for bags that are too big.

In recent weeks, United has rolled out new bag-sizing boxes at most airports and sent an email to frequent fliers, reminding them of the rules. An internal employee newsletter called the program a "renewed focus on carry-on compliance."

The size limits on carry-on bags have been in place for years, but airlines have enforced them inconsistently, rarely conducting anything beyond occasional spot checks.

United says its new approach will ensure that bags are reliably reviewed at the security checkpoint, in addition to the bag checks already done at gates prior to boarding.

Passengers are typically allowed one carry-on bag to fit in the overhead bin, which can be no larger than 9 inches by 14 inches by 22 inches. Fliers can also bring one personal item such as a purse or laptop bag that fits under the seat in front of them.

People flying with oversized bags can have the suitcase checked for free at the gate, a longstanding practice. But those who get halted at the entrance to security must now go back to the ticket counter and pay the airline's $25 checked-luggage fee.

Some travelers suggest the crackdown is part of a larger attempt by United to collect more fees. The airline says it's simply ensuring that compliant passengers have space left for them in the overhead bins. In recent years, the last passengers to board have routinely been forced to check their bags at the gate because overhead bins were already full.

"The stepped-up enforcement is to address the customers who complained about having bags within the size limit and weren't able to take them on the plane," United spokesman Rahsaan Johnson said. "That is solely what this is about."

It has nothing to do with revenue, Johnson said, adding that one non-compliant bag takes up the same space as two compliant ones.

But the airline is likely to benefit financially if more passengers are turned back at security.

"This new program is primarily to drive new revenue and will likely delay the boarding process even more unless better education is provided around what is and is not acceptable," said Brian Kelly, an industry watcher who writes about flying trends at

But, he added, having fewer bags on board could also be good for passengers.

"I've been whacked more times than I can count by people loaded down with their life's worldly possessions," Kelly said.

United collects $638 million in checked-bag fees a year but wants to increase that figure. In a January earnings call, the airline's chief revenue officer, Jim Compton, said United hopes to collect an extra $700 million over the next four years from extras such as baggage fees and the sale of extra legroom.

Those fees have helped the airline industry return to profitability even as the price of fuel has climbed. While airfare has risen faster than inflation, it could have risen faster still without the added revenue.

Other airlines have bag sizers at checkpoints, but enforcement was sporadic at best.

American Airlines asks staff at some of its largest airports "to do an eyeball test" of carry-ons. The airline has even used tape measures to enforce polices.

Delta Air Lines puts agents near security to look for oversized carry-on bags "during peak times at hubs and larger airports." It has also improved technology to check bags faster at gates.

United is going further than other airlines. Its bag sizers have a space for bags going in overhead bins and another for those items going under the seats.

Christina Schillizzi, a frequent United flier from New Jersey, said she was shocked to see the flight crew stringently forcing people to check carry-on bags on a recent flight. They even questioned if her laptop would fit under the seat.

"Fliers were naturally annoyed" and did not want to give up their luggage, she said. "Ultimately, the less-than-friendly flight attendants won out."
United has also updated its website, telling passengers to use the new sizers to test their luggage "so you can check any bags that are too large right there in the lobby."

"You may have purchased a bag that claims to be 'official carry-on size,'" the airline cautioned. "However, this labeling can be misleading because it doesn't specifically represent United's size restrictions."

The process of getting on a plane dramatically changed in 2008, when U.S. airlines started charging extra to check a suitcase. To avoid the fee, more passengers started bringing suitcases into the airplane cabin, many of them overstuffing the bags. Suddenly there was not enough room in the overhead bins.

Airlines now sell priority boarding passes guaranteeing those who pay extra get some space in the overhead compartments. Everybody else is left jockeying for a position at the gate, hoping to get on board before the bins filled up.

Once on the plane, passengers take longer to sit down because they are trying to cram over-packed suitcases into the already overflowing bins. Airlines have been installing new, larger overhead bins, but it has not entirely solved the problem.

"It was getting out of control with how much people were bringing on board," said Michel Jacobson, a frequent United flier who works for a Washington D.C.-based trade group.

Jacobson isn't so worried about paying the $25 checked-bag fee — it's waived for him as an elite member of United's frequent-flier program. Instead, he fears needing to show up at the airport earlier to check a bag he's used to bringing onboard.

When Spirit Airlines started charging passengers in 2010 to place bags in the overhead bin — something only Spirit and Allegiant Air do — executives said the move helped improve on-time performance. Spirit charges $5 more for carry-on bags than checked bags.

Last year, United reconfigured its gate areas to separate the people in boarding group 1 from those in group 2 and group 3 and so on. The goal was to instill some order and speed up boarding.

Then on Feb. 21, Aaron Goldberg, United's senior manager of customer experience planning, notified frequent fliers that the airline was launching "a broad communications campaign to support awareness of our carry-on baggage policy."

And for those fliers with non-compliant bags there was a link offering discounts — and the ability to redeem frequent-flier miles — on suitcases from Tumi, Samsonite and Hartmann.

(Scott Mayerowitz - Associated Press)

Southwest Airlines announces new Mexico and Caribbean service

Beginning August 10th, the Dallas-based airline will operate daily service from Cancun, Mexico to Atlanta and Baltimore BWI, along with Saturday service to Milwaukee. San Jose del Cabo will receive daily service from Santa Ana, while Nassau, Bahamas will see Saturday only service to Atlanta.

The carrier will further expand international flights in October, operating daily service from Cancun to Denver starting on the 7th, and San Jose del Cabo to Denver on the 11th.

All of the routes are currently serviced by merger partner Air Tran. Consequently, Southwest will be assuming operations from the subsidiary as the post-merger integration continues.

The flights will be available for purchase through October 31, though post-Wright Amendment flights from Dallas Love remain unavailable.

The airline announced its first international routes in late January of 2014, all to the Caribbean. The flights, also all current Air Tran routes, will service Aruba, Montego Bay, and Nassau from several east coast cities. CEO Gary Kelly reported in a January press conference that 2015 would be the earliest it would consider adding new international destinations, stating that it would be focusing on absorbing the Air Tran network in the meantime. Houston is likely to become the first hub in 2015, followed by Fort Lauderdale, which is currently under construction to accommodate the growth, in 2017.

(Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren)