Thursday, August 31, 2017

Southwest Quietly Takes Delivery of Its First Boeing 737 Max

Southwest Airlines quietly took delivery of its first Boeing 737 Max jetliner, canceling an employee celebration in Dallas to mark the milestone because of the devastation in Houston caused by Hurricane Harvey.

The jet’s Tuesday arrival at Southwest marks the first at a North American carrier for the Max, which has shattered sales records at Boeing. Record rainfall and flooding has shut down Houston, one of Southwest’s original markets from the early 1970s.

“Respecting that many of our folks can’t get out of Houston or are impacted, it just didn’t seem right to do that,” Dan Lansdon, a spokesman for the carrier, said of the ceremony that had been scheduled for Wednesday.

The aircraft, N8710M (42567/6188), landed 16 minutes early at Dallas Love Field, as "SWA8701." That’s fitting for the Max, which glided through development months ahead of schedule, entering the commercial market in May with Malindo Airways, the Malaysian affiliate of Lion Mentari Airlines PT.

Southwest still claims the title of launch customer for the Max 8 after placing the initial order in 2011, a role it has served for three earlier 737 models as the largest buyer of the single-aisle plane. The Dallas-based carrier has 200 of the upgraded Max planes on order with Boeing and plans to take delivery of the first 14 this year. The airline’s pilots union tweeted a photo of the aircraft landing on Tuesday.

Plane Swapping

The planes will debut in the U.S. on Oct. 1 in a complex switch as the carrier retires its remaining Boeing 737-300s, the oldest planes in its fleet. The last flight of the older jets, known as the Classics, will be Sept. 29.

The Max brings Southwest fuel savings and a break on maintenance costs as the airline sheds a 737 model it has been using since Ronald Reagan was president. The newest 737 will burn more than 20 percent less fuel than the soon-to-be-retired jets, according to Southwest.

Uncertainty about Federal Aviation Administration training requirements for flying the 737-300 fleet versus the Max led to Southwest’s decision in April to retire the older planes early. Southwest and its pilots union failed to agree on terms that would have separated a group of aviators to fly only the 737-300s and simplify training for the switch in planes.

(Mary Schlangenstein & Julie Johnsson - Bloomberg News)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Unruly passenger ordered to pay airline nearly $100K

A man whose unruly behavior forced the pilot of a nonstop flight to New York to return to Honolulu owes Hawaiian Airlines $97,817, according to a new report.

James August, of New Jersey, pleaded guilty to interfering with flight crew members and attendants in February and was ordered to pay the hefty sum by a federal judge Monday, the Honolulu Star Adviser reported.

Officials said the man, who had been vacationing in Hawaii with his girlfriend and her children, acted out before the November 2016 flight even left the ground.

August, who was drinking before the flight, tried to order more alcohol on the plane and drank some he personally brought aboard.

During the meal service, his girlfriend’s son told a flight attendant he had insulted the children and threatened their lives.

When the attendant asked him to go to another part of the plane, he whacked her on the shoulder with the back of his hand and other passengers had to help restrain him.

Authorities said August then yelled, swore and threatened to punch his girlfriend in the face.

US District Senior Judge Oki Molloway ordered August to repay the airline the costs it incurred for turning the plane around, including fuel, maintenance, ground crew and costs associated with finding the passengers other flights.

The sum does not include the $46,900 of meal vouchers Hawaiian Airlines handed out to delayed New York-bound passengers.

Interfering with flight crew members and attendants is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000. The judge sentenced August to three years of probation in June.

Two women who caused a Cuba-bound flight to return to Toronto in 2016 were ordered to pay $7,500 in restitution to the airline.

A Florida man who caused a Delta Airlines flight to turn around in July when he tried to open the exit door was indicted on five counts, including interfering with a flight crew and assault.

(Tamar Lapin - New York Post)

Southwest Airlines announces major flight expansions

Southwest Airlines Co. will carry more passengers to, from and within California and bulk up its service in Mexico, according to a flight schedule the Dallas-based airline released Monday.

Southwest extended its bookable flight schedule through June 1, 2018, listing nearly 20 new nonstop routes and increasing frequency to 27 existing routes as well as opening new international gateways.

Effective March 10, 2018, new nonstop service will be offered on Saturdays between both California cities of San Jose and Sacramento and San Jose del Cabo/Cabo San Lucas, pending government approvals.

Additionally, San Diego passengers will be able to fly nonstop on Saturdays and Sundays to and from Puerto Vallarta, complementing daily international service between San Diego and San Jose del Cabo/Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Effective April 8, 2018, new daily nonstop service will begin between San Jose, California, and the following cities: Austin, Houston (Hobby), Boise and St. Louis. Also April 8, new daily nonstops will launch between Sacramento and Austin, Sacramento and St. Louis, and Fort Lauderdale and Jacksonville (three daily flights).

Effective May 6, 2018, service will start between San Jose and Orlando and Sacramento and Orlando.

Southwest, the world’s largest low-cost carrier, also announced that, beginning April 14, 2018, nonstop seasonal service will operate on Saturdays between Cancun and both Columbus, Ohio and New Orleans.

The airline also published returning seasonal nonstop routes throughout the country. Effective April 8, 2018, Southwest will operate daily service between Houston and Portland, Oregon, and weekend service between Denver and Charleston, South Carolina. Weekly service on Saturdays between Albuquerque and Orlando, and between Kansas City and Pensacola, Florida, will return beginning April 14.

Seats on these flights and others through June 1, 2018 are available now on

Despite the slew of new flights, Southwest continues to estimate its year-over-year available seat mile growth to be less than 4 percent in the first half of 2018 and its full year 2018 ASM growth to be less than its 2016 year-over-year ASM growth of 5.7 percent.

ASM measures an airline's carrying capacity or how many seat miles are available for purchase on an airline. Seat miles are calculated by multiplying the available seats by the number of miles that a plane will be flying. ASM is a carefully watched metric for investors because of the negative impact on profitability if an airline adds seats faster than it sells them.

(Bill Hethcock – Dallas Business Journal)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Southwest Still Has the Ability to Drag Down Overall Airfare Costs for Consumers

Southwest Airlines still has 'The Southwest Effect:' When it enters a market, fares fall and traffic grows, says a new report.

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-7L9 (28808/203) N7830A rolls for takeoff on Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB). The carrier commenced service in the city in June 2016 to Oakland (OAK/KOAK) with 4 flights per day. Today the carrier operates 6 flights per day to 4 destinations.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

A new report concludes that 46 years after it began flying, Southwest Airlines Co. still has a significant impact every time it enters a new market: Fares decline and passenger traffic climbs.

"The Southwest effect is alive and well," says the report, compiled by Alan Beckenstein, a professor at Darden Business School at University of Virginia, and Brian Campbell, founder of consulting firm Campbell-Hill Aviation Group.

"A few industry writers have questioned whether the Southwest effect still exists today, or has it been overtaken by the fares/traffic effect created by other low cost carriers" and by Southwest's higher operating costs, the report said.

However, it said, "we find no evidence that the Southwest effect has been eroded or overtaken in significance or magnitude by other airlines."

Rather, the introduction of non-stop Southwest service generally results in a 15% fare reduction and a traffic increase between 28% and 30%, the study said. That occurs even at airports where Southwest had already provided connecting service through one of its focus cities before it added non-stop.

On average, one-way fares are $45 lower when Southwest serves a market non-stop. If Southwest provides connecting service in a market, the average one-way fare decline is $17. Southwest produces $9.1 billion annually in domestic consumer fare savings, the study says.

In ten sample markets that Southwest entered between 2012 and 2015, the report found that the average fare declined between 8% (Chicago Midway-Pensacola) and 45% (Nashville-Pensacola.), while the number of passengers increased between 13% (Chicago-Pensacola) and 543% (Nashville-Pensacola.)

Other big fare declines: 32% in St. Louis-Grand Rapids and 30% in both Chicago-Wichita and Chicago-Memphis. Other big traffic gains: 464% in Las Vegas-Flint, Mich. and 98% in St. Louis-Grand Rapids.

In 2013, Southwest began flying to Charlotte, the second biggest hub for American Airlines Group Inc. In response, the average Charlotte-Dallas one-way fare fell 14% to $219, while Charlotte-Houston fell 18% to $237 and Charlotte-Midway fell 15% to $188.

Meanwhile, traffic rose 38% in the Dallas market, 36% in the Houston market and 15% in the Midway market.

One thing that has changed in recent years is that nearly all of Southwest's new routes have involved destinations outside the U.S.

Southwest began service to Pensacola in November 2013. Since then it has added 19 cities, including Cincinnati; Long Beach, Ca. and Richmond. The remaining 16 new Southwest cities are all in Central America and the Caribbean - starting with Montego Bay in 2014.

Chris Curry, director of aviation at Tallahassee International Airport, calls Southwest four times a year seeking service. The trend to open international markets is not "necessarily bad for Tallahassee," Curry said.

"The destinations that we would like served are focus cities -- Houston, Fort Lauderdale, BWI -- with a significant number of flights to Central America and the Caribbean," he said. "At the end of the day, they will still need service from other cities to feed the focus cities."

While it is true that Southwest costs, particularly labor costs, have risen, Southwest has nevertheless been able to retain its fare advantage, the report said.

Even in cases where Southwest competes with ultra-low-cost competitors, which "always have a zero-seniority labor cost advantage initially, this does not necessarily translate into a lower total unit cost because a large carrier like Southwest captures efficiencies and economies of scale and scope that no small start-up or early stage airline can duplicate," the report said.

On Monday, S&P Global Ratings upgraded all of its credit ratings for Southwest to BBB+ from BBB, citing some of the same factors that the Southwest effect report described.

"Southwest has maintained a substantial cost advantage over its larger competitors since it began operating in 1971, although the gap has narrowed somewhat in recent years as the company raised its employee pay and its network competitors reduced their costs in bankruptcy," S&P Global Ratings said.

"The company's operating costs benefit from its high aircraft utilization, productive employees, and relatively simple operations that focus on point-to-point (rather than connecting) flights," the ratings agency said.

(Ted Reed - The Street)

Saturday, August 26, 2017

American Airlines is eliminating U.S. jobs, say hundreds of protesters in Miami

About 400 demonstrators picketed in front of American Airline’s Terminal D at Miami International Airport (MIA/KMIA) Thursday afternoon, marking the second time the airline’s workers have protested job outsourcing this summer.

The protest, organized by the Transport Workers Union, is the latest in the ongoing saga to settle a new contract between American and its aircraft maintenance and ground support workers. Members from TWU Locals 568 and 591 and other worker unions, including the Association of Professional Flight Attendants and Allied Pilots Association, joined in the demonstration Thursday. Another rally was planned for later in the afternoon.

A similar protest in July at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport(DFW/KDFW), where American is headquartered, drew more than 1,000 protesters, according to the Dallas Business Journal.

At issue is concern that American is outsourcing 40 percent of its maintenance jobs to China, Mexico, the Caribbean and South America, where labor costs are lower, the union said. TWU points to an announcement from American Airlines that it’s building an aircraft maintenance center in Sao Paulo, Brazil, which could eliminate jobs in the U.S. — at least in the long-term.

The union puts the cost of the building the hangar at $100 million, but American said the true cost is $50 million and that all the jobs there will be American Airlines jobs. The airline added that it retains “more aircraft maintenance work in-house than all U.S. operators including our primary competitors.”

“Only a very small portion of our outsourced work is to overseas vendors and that percentage will be even smaller in September when some overseas work ends,” the airline said in a statement.

The union has been embroiled in negotiations with American for about 18 months, said Gary Peterson, president of TWU Local 591, which represents mainly American Airlines maintenance workers around the nation. Peterson estimates that more than 1,000 maintenance jobs in the U.S., most in Dallas, have been lost to outsourced work. Several workers who lost their jobs were offered other positions, many of which are in other states.

The dispute is centered around American’s bankruptcy in 2012 and near bankruptcy in 2003, when in both cases, the union and its workers gave concessions to keep the company afloat, said TWU executive vice president Alex Garcia. But now the company is free of the financial difficulties of the past (profits were $2.7 billion in 2016) and earlier this year, it offered raises for pilots and flight attendants with an average salary increase of 5 to 8 percent in hourly pay.

Now, maintenance workers say, it’s their turn.

American provided its contract proposal to the union in mid-July, the airline said.

“It proposes providing our team members with the highest pay rates in the industry, and keeping more maintenance and fleet service work in-house than any of our major competitors,” American Airlines said. “Offering a comprehensive proposal is usually one of the last steps in the negotiating process, so we are hopeful the Association will respond to our proposal soon.”

But Peterson said the contract American offered continued to include bankruptcy-era concessions, including high medical costs and a provision that some work may be outsourced. The contract is valued at $400 million and impacts more than 30,000 workers, he said.

“We can’t concede any more money,” he said. “It’s totally wrong what they’re asking.”

Peterson said American has already outsourced jobs in the U.S. to vendors who hire foreign workers — many of whom don’t undergo the same background checks and security requirements as U.S. workers — to perform security searches on aircraft and clean planes.

“It all comes down to safety,” he said. “Without us, safety goes out the window.”

But American refuted the union’s statement, saying maintenance work completed by third-party contractors “will always be subject to American’s and the FAA’s very rigorous safety standards.”
(Chabeli Herrera - Miami Herald)

Friday, August 25, 2017

Los Angeles backs upgrades for LAX terminals despite objections from El Segundo

Los Angeles lawmakers voted Friday to back the planned overhaul of two terminals at Los Angeles International Airport, overriding concerns from the nearby city of El Segundo.

Airport officials plan to tear down and rebuild parts of terminals 2 and 3 to ease crowding at security checkpoints, make it easier for passengers to get to their gates, and give aging areas of the terminals a makeover.

The renovations will nearly double the size of the two terminals to more than 1.6 million square feet.

Mark Waier, communications director for Los Angeles World Airports, said in a written statement Friday that the proposed project “will improve safety and security and provide operational efficiencies.”

“In addition to much needed renovations to aging terminal facilities, the project could include up to four additional aircraft gates to accommodate existing demand at LAX,” Waier said.

El Segundo lodged an appeal against the plan after it was approved by the Board of Airport Commissioners last month, arguing that airport officials failed to properly analyze and mitigate the effects the proposed renovation would have on its residents.

For instance, the city has raised concerns about how hauling trucks for airport construction will affect pavement conditions and safety on nearby Imperial Avenue.

“The city of El Segundo is not at war with LAX,” said Coby King, a spokesman for the city, in an emailed statement. “Improvements to the airport will bring benefits to everyone, including the residents of El Segundo. But growth at LAX has a direct impact on the city, and we are simply looking to ensure that those impacts are addressed.”

King added that the city had been engaged in “cordial, professional and productive” negotiations with the airport over the plan.

The Los Angeles City Council approved the planned overhaul of the two terminals on a 11-0 vote Friday without discussion.

LAX is currently pursuing a $14-billion renovation that includes terminal upgrades, transportation improvements and a new concourse. Airport operators are already facing a lawsuit from a parking operator over another part of the planned renovation, the Landside Access Modernization Project, which is meant to reduce traffic congestion around the busy airport.

(Emily Alpert Reyes - Los Angeles Times)

Thursday, August 24, 2017

United Airlines / Continental Airlines Boeing 737-924(ER) (33529/2916) N75435

Departs Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on August 9, 2017 bound for Seattle with the California Angels on board for a weekend series with the Mariners.

(Photos by Michael Carter)  

Gulfstream G650 (c/n 6281) N281GA tbr N811TM

Departs Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) bound for Appleton International Airport (ATW/KATW) in Wisconsin on August 24, 2017 to have her cabin interior installed.

(Photos by Michael Carter)

Former Boeing boss Phil Condit joins small plane maker’s board

Phil Condit has been an adviser to ICON Aircraft since 2010 and an investor since 2011.
(Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

Former Boeing Chairman and Chief Executive Phil Condit has joined the board of ICON Aircraft, makers of a small two-person, amphibious sport airplane that has gone through turbulent development.

Former Boeing Chairman and Chief Executive Phil Condit, who most significantly led Boeing’s merger with rival plane maker McDonnell Douglas, has joined the board of ICON Aircraft, makers of a two-person, amphibious sport airplane that has gone through turbulent development.

Based in Vacaville, California, ICON delivered its first production aircraft in July 2015 but the following year halted production, laid off workers and announced a one-year delivery pause.

The company also suffered two crashes of its plane, including a fatal crash in May that killed chief test pilot John Karkow and another employee.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation determined that the probable cause was pilot error not mechanical failure.

In June, ICON resumed deliveries to customers and now plans to ramp up production.

Condit has been an adviser to the company since 2010 and an investor since 2011.

(Dominic Gates - The Seattle Times)

Two major Southeast Asian airlines sign cooperation agreement

Vietnam’s flag carrier Vietnam Airlines and Indonesia’s flag carrier Garuda Indonesia have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to strengthen cooperation between the two airlines in the areas of codeshare partnership, services, MRO (maintenance, repair, and overhaul) and cargo. The signing ceremony was held on the sideline of General Secretary of Vietnam Communist Party Nguyen Phu Trong’s visit to Indonesia.

The MoU expands the current codeshare partnership in the following routes: Hanoi - Ho Chi Minh city, Hanoi/Ho Chi Minh city - Singapore, Singapore - Jakarta/Bali and Jakarta – Bali and enhance other areas of cooperation such as services, MRO & cargo on the basis of mutual benefits. The expansion of partnership between the two airlines is also supposed to contribute to the development of Skyteam Alliance.

“Since 2006, Vietnam Airlines and Garuda Indonesia have effectively cooperated with tangible result,” said Duong Tri Thanh, President and CEO of Vietnam Airlines. “This MoU today takes our cooperation further in the direction of a solid and mutually beneficial partnership, helping both airlines achieve the vast potential of the market. With our long-time partner Garuda Indonesia, we hope to see more passengers travelling between Vietnam and Indonesia, and our customers can benefit from more flight options as well as excellent international service quality from Asia’s two leading airlines.”

“We are pleased to announce this partnership with Vietnam Airlines which extends our network even further within the Southeast Asia,” said Pahala Mansury, President and CEO of Garuda Indonesia. “Vietnam is an important market for Indonesia and through this partnership we can offer more travel options for the increasing number of passengers travelling between the two countries. At the same time, the agreement is expected to boost trade and tourism activities by making Indonesia much more accessible for Vietnam visitors."

Southeast Asia’s aviation market

According to the Centre for Asia-Pacific Aviation, Southeast Asia’s aviation market is expanding faster than the global average across nearly every country in the region, thanks to the region’s economic and middle class growth. Six of Southeast Asia’s 10 countries enjoyed double-digit growth in passenger traffic, led by Vietnam. This trend is forecast to continue in 2017.

The need for air transport services in Indonesia is still expected to strengthen in line with improvement in economic growth. Total passengers are projected to multiply 1.00-2.5 times of Indonesia’s GDP. Based on the data from the Statistics Indonesia (BPS), total international passenger traffic in Indonesia went up 8.16% from 13.66 million in 2015 to 14.77 million in 2016. The growing size of international passengers from Indonesia were likely to be driven by the stronger economic activity and the rising number of the middle-class. It was shown by the number of domestic passengers which saw 16.97% increase from 68.78 million in 2015 to 80.45 million in 2016.

The vast growth in passengers makes Indonesia the third largest country in aircraft purchase after China and India. The strong development and growth of Indonesia’s aviation industry open up new opportunities for airline business.

(Vietnam Airlines Press Release)

EASA warns about A350-941 explosion risk, orders checks

A warning of the highest level of urgency has been issued by the European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) for the new Airbus A350-941, which was introduced to service in 2014. The air worthiness directive (2017-0154-E) was issued due to a hydraulic fluid cooling system problem, which, if not solved, could potentially lead to an engine explosion.

The trigger for the warning is, according to EASA, a recent overheating error of the plane’s hydraulic pump. If the pump fails, the temperature of the hydraulic fluid could rise rapidly. If the failure is not detected on time, a risk of the explosive mixture igniting arises.

In the A350 design, the hydraulic fluid cooling system is located in the fuel tanks,“ the EASA document states. „Recently, an overheat failure mode of the the A350 hydraulic Engine Driven Pump (EDP) has been found. Such EDP failure may cause a fast temperature rise of the hydraulic fluid.“

To address this potential unsafe condition, Airbus issued a Major Event Revision of the Airbus A350 Master Minimum Equipment List (MMEL) that incorporates restrictions to avoid an uncontrolled overheat of the hydraulic system.

Airbus states that by means of a software update the identified risk can be switched off at short notice. The operators of around 100 delivered A350s have already informed in detail.

Lufthansa, which currently operates four A350s, is already implementing the measures required by EASA. This will have no impact on the flight plan, according to a Lufthansa spokesperson.

In both civil and military aircraft, arrangements are made to prevent the ignition of the fuel-air mixture in the tank. The widespread introduction of the current tank safety systems started after the Trans World Airlines Flight TW800 crash in 1996 that took the lives of all 230 people on board. The plane crashed twelve minutes after takeoff. The investigation showed that the crash was caused by the explosion of flammable mixture of fuel and air vapors in the fuel tank, most likely triggered by a short circuit.

(AeroTime Aviation News)

First Airbus A380 parked amid search for new operator

The first Airbus A380 superjumbo to fly passengers almost a decade ago has been taken out of service by Singapore Airlines , highlighting a debate over the future of the world's largest airliners.

Singapore Airlines has already said it plans to hand back its first A380 to a German leasing company rather than extend its 10-year lease.

The move focused attention on slack demand for the 544-seat double-decker and raised the prospect that some could be headed for the breakup yard, casting a pall over celebrations to mark the airliner's 10 years of service in October.

Confirming a report in, Singapore Airlines said it had parked the aircraft ahead of the transfer back to its owner. Its last commercial flight was to London in June.

"It is correct that the aircraft has been removed from service ahead of its return to the lessor in October," a spokesperson for the airline said by email.

"We are not in a position to comment on what is planned for the aircraft after it is returned to the lessor."

The owner of the aircraft, Dortmund-based Dr Peters Group, and Airbus both declined to comment on the move.

The German owner says it is in talks with several entities who may be interested in the first aircraft, one of four due to come back from Singapore Airlines up to June next year.

In total the asset manager owns nine superjumbos including five leased to Air France .

These have been financed through the Kommanditgesellschaft (KG) market, a tax-efficient system best known for its appeal to high-income individuals.

Singapore Airlines continues to take delivery of new A380s which will be fitted with upgraded cabins.

But the problems in finding a new airline willing to operate the giant aircraft as they come off their initial leases have highlighted the lack so far of a fluid second-hand market.

That in turn weighs on fragile demand for new aircraft, which has twice forced Airbus to reduce production.

The race to find a new home for the first jet comes as Airbus tries to maintain confidence in the program and negotiate deals for new jets at the Dubai Airshow in November.

While most airliners have an economic life of 25 years and are built to last even longer, the first A380 faces an uncertain future less than 10 years after it went into service in 2007, marking what European leaders hailed as a new era in air travel.

If Dr Peters cannot find a new operator, it is widely expected to break up the first one or two aircraft for parts.

Airbus insists the A380 does have a future due to congestion and predicts 5 percent of aircraft delivered over the next 20 years will be in the same category.

U.S. rival Boeing disagrees and stopped forecasting demand for very large four-engined airplanes such as the A380 and its own 747-8 in June.

(Jamie Freed and Tim Hepher - Reuters)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

HondaJet Ranks as Most-delivered Jet in its Category During First Half of 2017


Honda Aircraft Company today announced that the HondaJet was the most-delivered jet in its category for the first half of 2017, as reported by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

Honda Aircraft delivered 24 aircraft to customers in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and countries in Europe during the first six months of 2017. The company is steadily ramping up production to meet customer demand, and is currently manufacturing the aircraft at a rate of about four per month at its world headquarters in Greensboro, North Carolina.

"Our customers are extremely pleased with the performance, comfort and superior fit and finish of the HondaJet. The HondaJet is very high tech, sporty aircraft and it is like a flying, high precision sports car," said Honda Aircraft President and CEO Michimasa Fujino. "We want to create new value in business aviation and I hope to see many more HondaJets flying all over the world."

The HondaJet is the world's most advanced light jet, and its distinctive design incorporates advanced technologies and concepts including the unique Over-The-Wing Engine Mount (OTWEM) configuration. The aircraft is the fastest, highest-flying, quietest, most fuel-efficient, and most comfortable business jet in its class, and has gained greater acceptance in the market, especially by corporate executives, business owners, corporate flight departments, charter companies, and aviation enthusiasts.

About HondaJet

The HondaJet is the fastest, highest-flying, quietest, and most fuel-efficient jet in its class. The HondaJet incorporates many technological innovations in aviation design, including the unique Over-The-Wing Engine Mount (OTWEM) configuration that dramatically improves performance and fuel efficiency by reducing aerodynamic drag. The OTWEM design also reduces cabin sound, minimizes ground-detected noise, and allows for the roomiest cabin in its class, the largest baggage capacity, and a fully serviceable private aft lavatory. The HondaJet is equipped with the most sophisticated glass flight deck available in any light business jet, a Honda-customized Garmin® G3000 The HondaJet is Honda's first commercial aircraft and lives up to the company's reputation for superior performance, efficiency, quality and value.

About Honda Aircraft Company

Honda Aircraft Company is a wholly owned subsidiary of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. Founded in 2006, Honda Aircraft is responsible for the design, manufacturing, sales, service and support of the HondaJet. The company's world headquarters is located in Greensboro, North Carolina, the birthplace of aviation. The challenging spirit upon which Mr. Soichiro Honda founded Honda Motor Co., Ltd. is alive today as Honda Aircraft fulfills one of Honda's longstanding dreams to advance human mobility skyward.

(Business Insider / PR News Insider)

Changing direction in flight: Sun Country CEO outlines no-frills strategy for MSP airline - CEO wants it to operate like a low-cost airline

Sun Country Boeing 737-8Q8(WL) (30683/1669) N809SY "Lake Nokomis" at Los Alamitos AAF (SLI/KSLI) on August 10, 2017.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Sun Country Airlines new CEO Jude Bricker told employees the carrier would cut costs, add fees and seats and look to expand its network beyond reliance on its hub at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.Sun Country Airlines’ new boss is overhauling how it operates — and customers will eventually feel the changes.

Jude Bricker, who was appointed its chief executive last month, outlined his vision for the Eagan-based carrier in a memo to staff Tuesday. He praised Sun Country’s strong reputation, but he stressed the need to cut costs, increase revenue through fees and expand beyond its hub at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Bricker’s formula mirrors the model of ultralow cost carriers like Frontier and Spirit airlines, which charge passengers for things like carry-on luggage and in-flight beverages.

Marty Davis, chairman and owner of Sun Country, hired Bricker, a former executive at Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air, in July after removing Zarir Erani from the CEO position.

Bricker’s memo to employees did not set a timetable for the changes. He stressed that Sun Country would protect its reputation of quality customer service, but he said changes are crucial for the airline to grow.

Under his plan, Sun Country will cut costs in a variety of ways and put more seats on airplanes, which provides more revenue opportunity but leaves less legroom for passengers.

The company is offering buyouts to senior employees, particularly flight attendants or nonunion full-time employees with more than 10 years of experience. The buyouts were framed as a way to give “long-tenured employees an opportunity to leave Sun Country if those individuals were not on board with the new vision,” according to a memo sent to employees Tuesday night by Dee Powers, the airline’s human resources director.

The airline is not offering buyouts to pilots. Sun Country and other U.S. airlines are coping with a shortage of pilots.

“The idea is just to buy out older, more expensive workers and replace them with younger, cheaper employees,” said Robert Mann, an aviation consultant and former airline executive. In doing so, Sun Country risks losing some of the people who built its service reputation.

“It’s a high-touch airline, so the last thing in the world you want to do is cut off the people who bring that level of customer service, which may very well be the 10-plus-year flight attendants,” he said.

Sun Country will also add new fees, including charging for overhead bin space. That means no more free carry-ons. The logic goes that an airline can lower the base airfare by taking away amenities included in the ticket price. Customers then have more choice on using — and paying for — the perks they want.

“Our customers are leisure travelers who are generally paying for their trip with their own money,” Bricker wrote in the memo. “While they value product and service, their behavior tells us that they care most about affordable airfare when making their travel decisions.”

Another key in Bricker’s strategy is to rely less on its hub at MSP, where it faces heavy competition.

The problem, as Bricker sees it, is that Sun Country isn’t a big legacy airline, like Delta, United or American, which build loyal customers through frequent-flyer programs and other incentives. And Sun Country isn’t as cheap as low-cost competitors like Spirit and Frontier. Being caught in that squeeze is one reason Sun Country’s financial performance is below its peers, he wrote.

Even if Sun Country reduces its costs per available seat mile by 20 percent, it will still be a more expensive airline to operate than Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant Air, Bricker wrote. But he suggested there was room for that by adding, “We’ll be different. We’ll continue to offer a better product.”

Because Bricker’s industry experience is chiefly at Allegiant Air, a no-frills specialist where he was chief operating officer, there’s little surprise in the direction he wants to take Sun Country.

“That’s his experience base, and that is what he does best,” Mann said. The consultant added that the challenge for Bricker is that too many changes could alienate Sun Country’s loyal customers.

Reached Wednesday night, Sun Country owner Davis stressed that this is not a downsizing and that the airline won’t become like Spirit. “We don’t want to nickel and dime customers. We want to stabilize it for long-term growth by finding the right rhythm between our pricing and customer service,” he said. “Jude very much recognizes the value that exists at Sun Country and we aren’t going to change that.”

Mann said it is easier to transition an airline gradually than to flip a switch and upend the model.

“Pivoting is so difficult. You have a brand reputation, and you have to be careful to walk away from it on the thought that you can create a better brand,” he added.

(Kristen Leigh Painter - Star Tribune)


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Hong Kong Airlines to begin flying to Los Angeles (LAX) with new Airbus A350s

Hong Kong Airlines' first Airbus A350 makes its maiden flight at the Airbus assembly line in Toulouse, France.
(Photo: Airbus)

The line-up of international airlines flying to the U.S. mainland will grow this winter.

The latest to announce service is Hong Kong Airlines, which will launch non-stop flights between Los Angeles and Hong Kong on Dec. 18 on Airbus A350 aircraft. The airline will begin with four round-trip flights a week before moving to daily service on Jan. 16.

News of the L.A. route comes less than two months after Hong Kong Airlines began flying from Vancouver, it’s first North American destination.

Beyond its new North American routes, Hong Kong Airlines -- founded in 2006 -- flies from its Hong Kong hub to more than 30 destinations across Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

“Following the success of the Vancouver route, we are excited to launch our first route in the continental United States and further expand our international network,” George Liu, Hong Kong Airlines’ chief marketing officer, said in a statement. “By strengthening the connection between North America and our Asia Pacific destinations, we can provide more options for American business, leisure, academic, and family travelers.”

Hong Kong Airlines will face competition from oneworld partners American and Cathay Pacific, which also fly non-stop on the route

While Los Angeles will be the carrier’s first route to the mainland United States, it’s not its first to a U.S. territory. Hong Kong Airlines already flies to Saipan, part of the U.S.-controlled Northern Marianas Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

As for Hong Kong Airlines, the A350s it will use for the Los Angeles route will be brand new to its fleet. The carrier's first A350 made its maiden flight at Airbus' assembly line in Toulouse, France, just last week. It's the first of 15 A350s Hong Kong Airlines has on order and is expected to be delivered to the carrier by the end of the month.

(Ben Mutzabaugh - Today In The Sky / USA Today)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Patriots buy two Boeing 767s, become first NFL team with own planes

The New England Patriots released these images via Twitter of a Boeing 767 painted in the team's colors.
(Photo: New England Patriots)

The New England Patriots have purchased two Boeing 767s to handle the team’s travel. That would make the franchise the first in the National Football League to buy its own jets, according to ESPN, which broke the news.

The defending Super Bowl champs confirmed the purchase via Twitter with a mock-up image of the planes. “New airkrafts,” the team tweeted, apparently misspelling the word on purpose in reference to Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

“Sources tell ESPN that the reigning Super Bowl champions bought two 767 Boeing wide-body jets in the offseason and retrofitted them with all first-class seats, some of which recline completely. On the outside of at least one of the planes is the team logo and five Lombardi trophies on the tail.”

Patriots spokesman Stacey James told ESPN the team would not reveal details about the purchase. But the sports network’s sources say the two 767s are extended range variants that will be based in Providence, the closest major airport to the team’s stadium in Foxborough, Mass. Fox 25 Boston said the franchise told it that it would rent the planes when not in use for the team.

The Patriots’ move comes amid changes in the market for pro sports charters. American Airlines, for example, recently ended its contracts to fly six separate NFL teams.

The carrier is still flying three teams that play in its hub cities – the Dallas Cowboys, Carolina Panthers and Philadelphia Eagles – but the company told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette earlier this year that it was ending other partnerships due to a lack of resources.

“After careful evaluation, we are reducing the number of charter operations for 2017 to ensure we have the right aircraft available for our passenger operation,” American spokeswoman LaKesha Brown added to Forbes in April.

Given the broader shake-up in the sports charter market, ESPN writes the Patriots’ decision to buy its own 767s comes as “the rising cost of chartering flights for NFL teams makes the decision to buy a plane somewhat easier. Sources with knowledge of the deals teams have done with charter companies say the 10 round-trip flights per season can cost up to $4 million.”

It was not clear who sold the Patriots the 767s – or for how much. Boeing’s website shows a list price of about $200 million for a brand new 767-300ER, but jets can come for much less than that when bought on the secondary market.

Aside from the Patriots, there have been several NFL-themed planes flying for commercial airlines during the past decade, though none were owned by a team. US Airways, and later American, have flown planes painted in the color schemes of the Eagles, Cardinals and Patriots, among others. JetBlue once painted a jet in the colors of the New York Jets.

And in 2014, Boeing rolled out a mean-looking Boeing 747 painted in the colors of the Seattle Seahawks. That jet was used for testing and was owned by Boeing, which said it gave it the unique livery to play up its ties to the Seattle area during a playoff run by the Seahawks.

(Ben Mutzabaugh - Today in the Sky / USA Today)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Long Beach added more flights at its airport and passenger volume soared 50%

A decision by the city of Long Beach to open its airport to new carriers and more flights has paid off with a nearly 50% increase in passenger volume over the last six months.

During the first half of the year, Long Beach Airport served nearly 1.3 million passengers, a 46.5% jump from the same period in 2016, according to the city of Long Beach.

By comparison, Los Angeles International Airport served nearly 41 million passengers in the first six months of the year, a 5% increase over the same period last year.

Long Beach Airport’s growth is attributed mostly to the city’s decision last year to add nine new daily departures and arrivals, bringing to 50 the total daily flights allotted to large carriers at the 1,166-acre facility.

The new slots opened the door for Southwest Airlines, the nation’s largest domestic carrier, to serve Long Beach for the first time and compete head-to-head with rival JetBlue Airways.

The increase has already boosted revenue from parking and concession operators at the airport, airport spokeswoman Stephanie Montuya-Morisky said. “It’s better overall financially,” she said, adding that the city’s financial report wouldn’t be released for several months.

The decision to add the nine slots riled some Long Beach residents worried that the extra flights would generate more jet noise. But a city study found that the airport could add the nine daily flights without violating an airport noise limit that sets a threshold tied to the airline noise generated in 1989-90.

Southwest Airlines received four daily slots, with JetBlue getting three more slots and Delta Air Lines getting two.

Southwest Airlines began serving Long Beach Airport in June of last year, handling 10,231 passengers in that first month. In June of this year, Southwest served 17,911 travelers, a 75% increase, according to city data.

“We’ve worked week by week to add additional flights utilizing unused slots that make available our low fares and ‘bags fly free’ to more people going more places,” Southwest Airlines spokesman Dan Landson said. Long Beach became the 10th California airport served by Southwest Airlines.

JetBlue, the biggest carrier at Long Beach Airport, also has experienced higher passenger volume, serving 124,065 people in June, up 23% from the 101,270 passengers handled a year earlier.

(Hugo Martin - Los Angeles Times) 

Gulfstream (IAI) G280 (c/n 2073) B-66666

Operated by Taiwanese cosmetics manufacturer Panco, the aircraft is captured departing on then returning from a short test flight at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on August 4, 2017.

(Photos by Michael Carter)

US President's future Marine One takes to the skies for the first time

Artist rendering of the VH-92A (Lockheed Martin)

The US President's next official rotorcraft ride has made its maiden flight as a 250-hour flight test program for the Sikorsky VH-92A helicopter begins. According to Sikorsky parent company Lockheed Martin, the future Marine One took to the skies at Lockheed's Owego, New York facilities on July 28, followed by a second flight the same day at Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford, Connecticut. The total sortie time of one hour included hover control checks, low speed flight, and making a pass of the airfield.

Operating under the official call sign of Marine One, the VH-92A will be used to ferry the US President, Vice President, and other officials. It's being developed under a US$1.24 billion US Navy Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) contract for the US Marine Corps' VH-92A Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program awarded on May 7, 2014. Under the contract, Sikorsky will provide two test/trainer aircraft and four production aircraft with the option for an additional 17 helicopters.

The VH-92A is based on the dual-engine, medium-lift S-92A commercial variant helicopter, which has flown over one million hours with over 200 customers in 10 countries. It replaces the current Marine One fleet made up of VH-3D Sea Kings and VH-60N WhiteHawks built in the 1960s and 1980s, which are now obsolete and long past their service lives.

The helicopters will be assembled at Sikorsky's S-92 production facility in Coatesville, Pennsylvania before being sent on to a secure facility in Stratford, Connecticut for modifications. These include integrated communications and mission systems, defensive countermeasures against missiles, hardening against electromagnetic pulses from nuclear explosions, a comfortable presidential interior, and in-flight toilets.

The current aircraft, designated Engineering Development Model 1 (EDM-1), will undergo flight tests over the next year, during which it will be joined by a second prototype, EDM-2. The first operational VH-92A will enter into service in 2020.

"This first flight of the VH-92A configured test aircraft is an important milestone for the program," says Spencer Elani, director VH-92A program at Sikorsky. "Having independently tested the aircraft's components and subsystems, we are now moving forward to begin full aircraft system qualification via the flight test program."

(David Szondy - New Atlas)

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Gulfstream G-V (c/n 526) N125GH

125GH LLC / John Wing Aviation LLC operates this lovely G-V which is captured at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on August 5, 2017 as it readies to depart on short test sortie during a visit to the Gulfstream service center.

(Photos by Michael Carter)

Emirates crash investigators focusing on pilot actions


The United Arab Emirates investigation into the 2016 Emirates crash in Dubai is focusing on pilot actions and has identified ways that air traffic control and flight crews can communicate better, an interim report said on Sunday.

The Boeing 777-300 flight from India, crashed on Aug. 3, 2016 after the pilots tried to pull out of a landing attempt.

The report raised the number of injured people to 30 from 24, but gave no reason for the increase. All 300 passengers and crew evacuated the plane but a firefighter died tackling the fire caused when it skidded along the runway on its fuselage.

Investigators were "working to determine and analyze the human performance factors that influenced flight crew actions during the landing and attempted go-around," the report from the UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) said.

An Emirates spokeswoman told Reuters it was reviewing its training and operational processes and procedures as part of its own ongoing internal investigation into the crash.

She declined to comment on whether Emirates believed pilot actions were a factor in the crash.

Unspecified "safety enhancements" have been identified by investigators related to communication between air traffic control and the flight crew, and with weather information shared with the flight crew, the report said.

A GCAA spokesman told Reuters the regulator was unable to provide specific information on the report because the investigation was still going on.

Investigators have previously said the aircraft was subjected to shifting winds as it came into land.

The report said investigators had found no pre-existing mechanical issues with the plane or its Rolls-Royce engines.

The crash forced Dubai International Airport, the world's busiest for international travel, to temporarily close, and was the worst incident in Emirates' 30-year history.

Analysts have suggested the cause of the crash should have been determined relatively quickly after the incident.

GCAA Director General Saif Mohammed al-Suwaidi said in November the investigation would take two to three years.

(Alexander Cornwell - Reuters)

Friday, August 4, 2017

Gulfstream G-VII G500 (T-3) (c/n 72003) N503G

(Photos by Michael Carter)

This gorgeous bird paid a visit to Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on August 3, 2017 to the delight of the few Gulfstream fans on hand to witness her arrival and departure.

She spent approximately two hours at the Gulfstream Service Center for employees to get a look at as this is the first time the G500 has been to Long Beach. She has been based up at Meadows Field Airport (BFL/KBFL) in Bakersfield since Sunday July 30, 2017 performing flight test work.

Congress Backs Buying Planes That Russia Abandoned to Use as Future Air Force Ones

The Pentagon moved a step closer to buying two deeply discounted 747 jumbo jets from Boeing Co. for the next Air Force One fleet after four congressional panels approved a request to shift $195 million in funding, according to congressional aides.

The deal to buy planes to be used by the U.S. president from Boeing has attracted attention because of the reason the company has them sitting in storage and available: They were originally built for Transaero Airlines, once Russia’s second-largest airline. The carrier never signed for the humpbacked passenger jets before it dissolved in late 2015.

Air Force access to the $195 million was approved by the Senate and House defense appropriations and authorization committees as part of a Defense Department request to “reprogram” $2.4 billion in previously approved defense funds for the current fiscal year, according to the aides, who asked not to be identified in advance of a formal notification to the Pentagon.

The Air Force said in its request that the shift will take advantage of a limited-time offer from Boeing that’s contingent upon a contract award his month. “This effort will ensure delivery of two aircraft by December” instead of late fiscal 2019 and early 2020 as planned now, according to the request.

Boeing is offering favorable pricing if a contract is awarded by this month, according to a government funding request. The model carries a list price of $386.8 million, but the cost to the Air Force for the planes hasn’t been set.

The planes would still require extensive -- and pricey -- modifications to turn them into the flying fortresses that ferry U.S. presidents and their entourages around the world.

Classified Capabilities

The Air Force expects the aircraft to have the range to fly between continents and provide work and sleeping quarters for the president and first family. They also have to be equipped with highly advanced, secure communications and classified defense capabilities.

“We support the reprogramming as it’s key for Air Force funding” while Boeing and the service “work toward a contract,” company spokeswoman Caroline Hutcheson said in an email.

Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said the service is now “waiting for final coordination on the contract to purchase” the aircraft and sign a preliminary design contract award by the end of September. Boeing is now operating under a $172 million contract for “risk reduction activities” for the program.

President Donald Trump has taken an active interest in the program to replace the current, aging Air Force One planes. Shortly after last year’s election, Trump tweeted that the “costs are out of control” for the new planes and wrote, “Cancel order.” He later boasted of negotiating with Boeing to reduce the expense.

The White House Military Office is working with the Air Force to define the aircraft’s requirements.

(Anthony Capaccio - Bloomberg Business News)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

USAF to buy unclaimed Russian 747s for Air Force One replacement

Before his inauguration, President Donald Trump raged about how the US Air Force's program to replace its two aging VC-25A aircraft—the heavily modified 747-200 aircraft known as Air Force One when in service—was too expensive. Via Twitter, he declared that the cost of the program was out of control and said, "Cancel order!"

But the Air Force has pressed on with its plans to purchase two newer 747-8 aircraft to replace the existing presidential transports, for good reason: the VC-25As currently in service have been flying since the George H.W. Bush administration. Fortunately, the Air Force has managed to find a way to save on the $386.8 million price tag for each of the two 747-8s needed—with a little help from Russia.

As Defense One's Marcus Weisberger reports, Boeing has two completed 747-8 aircraft that were ordered in 2013 by the Russian airline Transaero, which used to be Russia's second-largest air carrier. But Transaero went bankrupt two years after placing the order and making partial payment for the planes.

Russia's Aeroflot acquired Transaero's operations, but the airline decided not to complete the purchase of the two 747s. That left Boeing stuck with two completed, flight-tested aircraft and no buyer. Five months ago, the planes were flown to a storage facility in the Mojave Desert (Victorville (VCV/KVCV) to preserve them until Boeing could find someone to take them off its hands.

The Air Force came to the (somewhat delayed) rescue and is currently negotiating a deal for the aircraft. In a prepared statement, Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek told the press, "We're working through the final stages of coordination to purchase two commercial 747-8 aircraft and expect to award a contract soon."

(Sean Gallagher - ARS Technica)