Friday, April 29, 2011

First United Arab Emirates (UAE) C-17A takes to the skies

The first of six C-17A's destined for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Air Force departed from Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) this morning at 1155 PST on its first pre-delivery test flight. C-17A (F-234/UE-1) N9500N tbr 1223 upon delivery, headed out to "Shots" on a 4 hour flight returning at 1553 PST. At 1617 PST, the aircraft departed on the second leg of the first flight activities bound for Palmdale Airport (PMD/KPMD) where the aircraft would perform engine out take-offs and landings. At 1757 PST the C-17A returned to Long Beach Airport touching down on Rwy 30 completing her first series of flight tests.    

 "Boeing 401 Heavy" departs from Rwy 12 at 1155 PST.

 Climbs into the skies above Long Beach bound for "Shots" intersection.
 Approaching Rwy 30. 

 Short final to Rwy 30 following a successful first pre-delivery flight.

Smokes the mains on Rwy 30 at 1553 PST.

(Photos by Michael Carter)

APF congratulates the Royal couple William and Kate

Monarch Airlines A320-212 (c/n 389) G-OZBB is captured at Manchester International (Ringway) (MAN/EGCC) sporting commemorative titles in celebration of the Royal Wedding.

(Photo by Nik French)

Gulfstream action at Long Beach this morning

New G550 (c/n 5327) N772GA arrived from Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport (SAV/KSAV) at 0925 PST.

United States Air Force C-20H (c/n 1181) N906GA (90-0300) departed at 0917 PST as "Gulftest 37" bound for "Shots" on a maintenance test flight.

(Photos by Michael Carter)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

 Taxies on "Lima" towards a Rwy 30 departure.

Delivered on March 8, 2011, jetBlue A320-232 (c/n 4612) N789JB "What's Blue and White and Flies All Over?" rolls for take-off on Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on April 27, 2011.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Delta rampers arrested at Detroit Metro Airport for drug smuggling

Federal agents toppled two separate drug rings today run by baggage handlers who allegedly imported marijuana and cocaine from Jamaica and Houston while working at Detroit Metro Airport.

Twelve people — including 10 baggage handlers — were arrested early today in an investigation dubbed "Operation Excess Baggage" and accused of exploiting weaknesses at several airports to run drug-smuggling pipelines since at least 2009.

Complaints filed in federal court in Detroit — where nine defendants were ordered held behind bars until at least Friday — describe intricate drug-smuggling rings that used crude tactics, an exotic locale and employee access to bypass security and transport hundreds of pounds of illegal drugs to Detroit's streets.

The arrests follow an investigation that has lasted more than a year and involves investigators from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

"We can't have people working in and around aircraft exploiting their positions for criminal ends," ICE Director John Morton said. "For those on the inside thinking about abusing their access to planes for money, think again. We are watching. We are looking."

The 10 Delta employees worked as baggage handlers and were aided by two associates. Of those arrested, 10 are from Michigan, one is from Houston and one is from California.

"We have fully cooperated with federal authorities in this matter," Delta spokeswoman Susan Elliott said. "Delta does not tolerate employees found using their position for illegal activity and these employees have been suspended without pay. Additional disciplinary action could be taken pending the final outcome of the investigation."

The defendants are accused of drug trafficking and facing charges that include drug conspiracy, possession with intent to distribute and illegal importation of narcotics.

Possible penalties vary by drug amounts. If convicted, the defendants face anywhere from five years to life in prison and up to a $10 million fine.

The Jamaica case dates to January 2010 when a federal agent in Jamaica contacted another agent locally about the seizure of about 53 pounds of marijuana discovered inside a suitcase that was about to be placed on Northwest Airlines flight No. 2321 bound for Detroit.

The suitcase had a seemingly legitimate baggage tag bearing the name of an unidentified person who was an unwitting participant in the smuggling attempt, according to court records.

Federal agents let the plane depart for Detroit.

While in the air, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers and the Homeland Security Department decided to intercept all baggage once the plane landed in Detroit before baggage handlers could touch them.

Investigators focused on five suitcases. Inside, agents found approximately 35 pounds of cocaine and almost 284 pounds of marijuana, according to court records.

Investigators soon learned each of the suitcases carried tags prepared by an airline employee named Marion Minto-Goolgar, 38, stationed in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

The Jamaica case relied on several handlers in Detroit who were born in Jamaica.

The handlers used crude methods to identify drug-filled suitcases. The luggage was marked with either a red X or had white and black bags wrapped around the handles or zip ties.

Glenford Earl-Anthony Stephens, a Jamaican-born naturalized U.S. citizen working at Detroit Metro Airport, coordinated shipments into Detroit, according to court records. He paid fellow baggage handlers to remove luggage from the belly of flights landing in Detroit, according to court records.

The bags were placed on domestic conveyer belts instead of international baggage belts to avoid detection.

Stephens, who lives in Lathrup Village, or others would then remove the bags and place them in vehicles, according to court records.

Prosecutors say Stephens was involved in smuggling since at least 2009.

Other defendants arrested Thursday used similar methods.

Dearborn Heights resident Kevin Jernigan took over for Stephens in early 2010, according to court records. An informant told investigators Jernigan would place drug-filled luggage into a pick-up truck before delivering it to unknown recipients in Metro Detroit, according to court records.

Three other Detroit baggage handlers who hailed from Jamaica also received drug shipments, according to court records.

Dearborn resident Rex Lee, another baggage handler of Jamaican descent, also was involved with his fellow countrymen, according to court records.

The Houston pipeline used similar methods and operated separately, but simultaneously, according to prosecutors.

Court records chronicle a key date in the Houston-to-Detroit pipeline in March 2010.

On March 18, undercover investigators watched Saginaw resident Kelvin Atwater pick up two black duffle bags from the luggage carousel at Detroit Metro Airport and load them into a black Chevrolet Tahoe. Behind the wheel was a second man, Detroit resident Clifford Skinner, according to court records.

Agents trailed the men as they traveled along the Southfield Freeway. Detroit police pulled them over north of Fenkell, searched the SUV and found two large bricks inside the duffel bags containing more than 45 pounds of marijuana, according to court records.

Skinner was arrested and told investigators that for approximately 18 months, he had been involved in a drug smuggling ring.

Skinner said the ring relied on a third man, LaDale Callaway, who worked as a baggage handler at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. Callaway would put bags packed with drugs onto planes bound for Detroit.

Skinner or Atwater would unload the bags in Detroit and leave using the employee exit. Sometimes, the men put the luggage on domestic baggage conveyer belts to avoid close inspection.

Skinner told investigators he often delivered the bags to Detroit-based drug distributors. One of those distributors was Callaway, according to court records.

The drugs would be prepared for distribution at Callaway's house on Ilene Street in Detroit, according to court records.

Skinner also delivered drug-filled luggage to another man, Floyd Adams of Brawley, Calif., and his girlfriend, Cher Denton of Detroit. In return, they would give Skinner cash, according to court records.

The money would then be flown back to Houston aboard Delta flights, Skinner said.

The money-changing often relied on surreptitious techniques, according to court records.

In one scenario, Adams and Skinner would meet in a bathroom inside a terminal at Detroit Metro Airport. Adams took the cash and boarded a flight to Houston.

The Houston-Detroit pipeline relied on two baggage handlers who transferred from Detroit to Texas so they could arrange the drug shipments, according to court records. Those handlers were Yohanis Watson and Callaway, prosecutors claim.

For every bag successfully delivered, Callaway would pay Skinner $1,000, according to court records.

Skinner was paid an average of $15,000 a month during an 18-month period, according to records.

(Robert Snell - The Detroit News)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

This morning (April 27) at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB)

Nigerian Air Force G550 (c/n 5310) N510GA tbr 5N-FGW taxies to Rwy 30 as it departs on a pre-delivery test flight.

 G550 (c/n 5269) B-8122 operated by the Wanda Group turns on to Rwy 30.

 "I Love New York" 

jetBlue A320-232 (2160) N586JB "I Love New York" holds short of Rwy 30 as it readies for departure.

(Photos by Michael Carter)

Southwest Airlines 737-300 rivet/rivet hole alignment issues discovered by NTSB

US National Transportation Safety Board said its investigation of the April 1 midair fuselage skin rupture on a Southwest Airlines 737-300 has found alignment issues with rivets and rivet holes in the area of the fracture, raising the prospect that manufacturing problems could have played a role in the incident in addition to, or instead of, aircraft fatigue.

A portion of the fuselage skin that contained the 9-inch wide, 59-inch long hole and another section of skin located forward of the hole were excised from the 737-300 and moved to NTSB's Materials Laboratory in Washington. "Non-destructive eddy current inspections conducted around intact rivets on the removed skin section forward of the rupture revealed crack indications at nine rivet holes in the lower rivet row of the lap joint," NTSB said in an investigation update. Further inspection "revealed gaps between the shank portions of several rivets and the corresponding rivet holes for many rivets. Upon removing selected rivets, the holes in the upper and lower skin were found to be slightly offset relative to each other and many of the holes on the lower skin were out of round."

In addition, it said "evidence of blue paint was … found inside the joint between the upper and lower skin and on several areas of the skin fracture surface," which suggests there could have been gaps or overlaps that allowed livery paint from the fuselage surface to seep through.

NTSB noted that electrical conductivity measurements, hardness tests and X-ray energy dispersive spectroscopy elemental analysis of the skin in the area of the fuselage hole "revealed that the aluminum skin material was consistent with the specified material. The skin was the specified thickness."

The board said that 136 aircraft worldwide have been inspected since US FAA issued an April 5 emergency airworthiness directive requiring operators of "specific" 737-300/400/500 series aircraft to conduct initial and repetitive electromagnetic inspections for fatigue damage."Four of these airplanes were found to have crack indications at a single rivet and one airplane was found to have crack indications at two rivets," NTSB stated.

Boeing said in a statement that it would be "premature and speculative" to reach any conclusions from NTSB's investigation.

(Aaron Karp - ATWOnline News)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

First 747-8I for Lufthansa takes to the skies

The first 747-8I for launch customer Lufthansa Airlines made her first flight today from Boeing-Paine Field (PAE/KPAE). 747-830 (37826/1435) N6067U tbr D-ABYE departed at 0927 PST returning at 1149 PST.

(Photo by Joe G. Walker) 

DOJ gives blessing to Airtran Airways sale to Southwest Airlines

AirTran Airways' sale to Dallas-based Southwest Airlines got the all-clear from the U.S. Department of Justice Tuesday, removing the last major hurdle before the deal closes next Monday.

The Justice Department's antitrust division said it determined that the merger "is not likely to substantially lessen competition." "The merged firm will be able to offer new service on routes that neither serves today, including new connecting service through Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport from cities currently served by Southwest to cities currently served by AirTran," the Justice Department's statement said. It added that "the presence of low cost carriers like Southwest and AirTran has been shown to lower fares on routes previously served only by incumbent legacy carriers."

Despite overlaps, the Justice Department's antitrust division did not challenge the deal "after considering the consumer benefits from the new service." It added that airports affected by the overlaps are not subject to restrictions on slots or gate availability.

The two airlines expect to officially complete the acquisition May 2. After that, it could take up to two years to fully combine the two carriers under the Southwest name. Southwest expects to complete its work for a single operating certificate in the first quarter of 2012.

The deal will bring Dallas-based Southwest to Atlanta, bringing a bigger competitor to go up against Delta Air Lines. It will eventually spell the end of Orlando-based AirTran as its operations are folded into Southwest. Southwest is expected to eventually eliminate AirTran's baggage fees to align it with Southwest's free checked bags policy, but that won't happen immediately.

Southwest is known for its open seating and its role as an all-domestic airline that pioneered the discount carrier model.

“We are pleased that this merger is going to move forward,” Hartsfield-Jackson general manager Louis Miller said.

“It will ultimately provide additional routes, services and choices for our customers,” Miller said. “It will help stimulate more traffic.”

The merger of two low-cost carriers was not expected to raise much resistance from antitrust enforcers, though the American Antitrust Institute in a report late last year said price increases after the merger might not be captured by a standard analysis of market share and concentration.

(Kelly Yamanouchi - Atlanta Journel-Constitution) 

Heavy rain and strong crosswinds may have contributed to Southwest 737's departure from Rwy in Chicago

(Photo by NBC Chicago)

Southwest Airlines 737-7Q8 (28209/14) N799SW slid off the runway at Chicago's Midway Airport (MDW/KMDW) during landing this afternoon.

Initial reports say that none of the 134 passengers or five crew were harmed; damage to the aircraft is unknown at this time but none was immediately evident in photographs of the scene.

Initial reports said Southwest flight 1919 from Denver International Airport (DEN/KDEN) approached and landed on Midway's runway 13C at approximately 1:33pm CDT during crosswind conditions and heavy rain.

Southwest Airlines says that passengers were deplaned and bussed to the terminal.

"The airline is making outreach to each customer onboard the flight to refund their roundtrip and issue them two complimentary roundtrip passes as a gesture of goodwill," the carrier says.

NTSB released a statement confirming the incident, and declared its intent to secure the cockpit voice and flight data recorders and interview the pilots.

(Air Transport Intelligence News)

***This aircraft was originally delivered to TEA - Trans European Airways Switzerland as HB-IIH. It was later operated by BWIA International as 9Y-TJI before coming to Southwest Airlines in early 2001.

Monday, April 25, 2011

All Nippon Airways (ANA) pilots commence 787 Dreamliner training

Boeing last week said 787 training campuses in Seattle, Singapore, Tokyo, London and Shanghai have received approval from US FAA, UK CAA, EASA, CAAC and the Japanese Civil Aviation Bureau. Meanwhile, 10 pilots from Dreamliner launch customer All Nippon Airways last week entered a Boeing Training & Flight Services 787 training program.

Boeing said that it demonstrated to regulators that "the training devices located at the five campuses around the world were similar or identical in the way they operate … [which] will allow [BTFS] to deliver the same quality of training at all locations."

BTFS VP Sherry Carbary said 787 flight training will be "changing the game through continued innovation in our advanced suite of training technologies. By bringing this cutting-edge training directly to airlines in the regions of the world where they're based and serve their passengers, we're offering our customers the flexibility and efficiency of flight crew training where they need it, when they need it."

CCO Roei Ganzarski added, "We've invested in world-class courseware, trained a global team of experienced instructors, and now have certified a worldwide network of simulators." ANA said its 10 pilots who entered the program last week will use BTFS's "highly sophisticated simulators and flight training software." The pilots are expected to complete training on May 17.

"The [787 FFS] is significantly more energy efficient and environmentally friendly, using 80% less electricity than previous models," ANA stated. "Furthermore, the high degree of commonality between the cockpits of the Dreamliner and the Boeing 777, which is already in use in the ANA fleet, will assist in making the training program more efficient."

Boeing in January announced the seventh delay in the Dreamliner program, pushing ANA's first delivery to the third quarter.

(Christine Boynton - ATWOnline News)

Photo of the Day / Air Zimbabwe 767-2NO/ER

Air Zimbabwe 767-2NO/ER (24867/333) Z-WPF taxies at London-Gatwich (LGW/EGKK) sporting a rather new livery and a very smart re-design of the tail logo.

(Photo by Tony Best)   

Saturday, April 23, 2011

New Polish start-up Yes Airways

A320-214 (c/n 533) EI-DDL (tbr SP-IAA) of new Polish start-up Yes Airways is seen on April 23, 2011 prior to delivery at Southend-Rochford (SEN/EGMC).

(Photo by Terry Wade)  

Qantas 737-838 returns to Seattle on delivery flight due to techical problem

Qantas 737-838 (34194/3621) VH-ZVL "Newcastle," rolls for take-off on Rwy 31L at Seattle-Boeing Field (BFI/KBFI) bound for Honolulu (HNL/PHNL), Hawaii on the first leg of it's delivery flight to the carrier as "QFA6024. The aircraft was off the deck at 1815 PST but returned to Boeing Field 4 1/2 hours later arriving at 2154 PST due to technical issues.

(Photo by Joe G. Walker)  

A few military movements at RAF Mildenhall, March 23, 2011

 Lockheed C-5B (c/n 500-0124) 87-0038 is based at Westover AFRB in Westover, Massachusetts.
Lockheed C-5A (c/n 500-0039) 69-0008 is assigned to the 105th Airlift Wing based at Stewart ANGB in Stewart, New York.

 Boeing KC-135R (717-148) "Stratotanker" (18532/600) 62-3549 of the 927th Air Refueling Wing (927 AFW) is based at MacDill AFB near Tampa, Florida.

 Boeing KC-135R (717-148) "Stratotanker" (18534/602) 62-3551 of the USAFE 3rd AF, 100th Air Refueling Wing (100 ARW) is based at RAF Mildenhall (MHZ/GXH/EGUN)
Boeing 707-329C (TCA) (20199/816) LX-N20199 is operated by NATO and based in Luxembourg.

(Photos by Keith Burton)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Southwest Airlines maintenance training ramping up for addition of MD-95 (717-200) to fleet

Southwest Airlines' maintenance organisation is creating as many as 10 new maintenance training lines in large part to accommodate AirTran's fleet of Boeing 717 narrowbodies.

The low-fare carrier announced plans to acquire AirTran in September 2010, which will augment its all-Boeing 737 fleet with Air Tran's 52 Boeing 737-700s and 88 717-200s when the deal is completed, reportedly sometime during this quarter.

"You think it'd be relatively simple. We operate all 737 exclusively and AirTran operates 737NG and Boeing 717 aircraft," says Dennis Pelletier, manager of maintenance training for Southwest Airlines. "For the Southwest mechanics, that means we have to train them on the 717, right?"

But Pelletier says it's not that simple as subtle differences in the aircraft and operation are requiring all-new training.

One example that Pelletier revealed at the World Aviation Training conference in Orlando, Florida on 19 April was that Southwest's Category 3 instrument landing system uses head-up displays (HUDs) for pilots to perform the landings. AirTran however uses the 717's autoland system for the same approaches.

"We have to train our mechanics on their autoland, and we've got to train their mechanics on our HUD Category 3 landings," says Pelletier, adding that "maintenance control" will now have to maintain two separate Category 3 systems going forward as the 717s will not get HUDs retrofitted.

(John Croft - Air Transport Intelligence News) 

Virgin America to defer some future Airbus deliveries

Virgin America is deferring some of its Airbus narrowbody deliveries scheduled for 2012 and 2013 to ease fuel cost volatility.

Virgin America's fuel costs in 2010 increased 65.3% to $246 million and carrier CEO David Cush warns in a statement that "oil prices remain a concern", and a result the carrier plans to "tap the brakes slightly on our 2012 growth plans".

A carrier spokeswoman explains Virgin America is deferring six A320 family aircraft scheduled for the latter half of 2012 and seven aircraft scheduled for delivery in 2013.

Virgin America ended 2010 with 34 aircraft and now operates a total of 39 Airbus narrowbodies. By year-end 2011 its fleet will grow to 46 aircraft, and "continue to grow overall in 2012-2013", the carrier's spokeswoman explains.

(Lori Ranson - Air Transport Intelligence News)

Sun Country CEO puts buy out rumors to rest

Sun Country Airlines will be sold, but a deal is not “imminent,” the carrier’s CEO, Stan Gadek, said at a Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal executive briefing event Thursday morning.

Speculation that the Mendota Heights-based airline would change hands heated up in March. At the time, the trustee handling the bankruptcy case for the airline’s former owner, Tom Petters, reported in a court filing that he was “anticipating accepting a letter of intent from a proposed purchaser shortly.”

Suitors have pursued the airline since 2008, when the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Gadek said. However, company officials are waiting for the right buyer, one who will support the airline’s strategy and employees, before closing a deal, he added.

Sun Country’s bankruptcy came on the heels of Petters’ arrest. Prosecutors charged the former Minnesota businessman was orchestrating a multbillion-dollar Ponzi scheme. He was later convicted and imprisoned.

Despite the turbulence of recent years, Gadek sees a bright future for the airline. “We’re profitable, out of bankruptcy and poised for growth,” he said.

Some other highlights from the event:

• Sun Country may start service to Hawaii this coming winter, though the carrier hasn’t made a final decision, Gadek said. Service from Minneapolis would include one stop on the West Coast. The carrier specializes in warm-weather destinations, including Mexico, though it serves many other domestic destinations.

• On coping with the Petters bankruptcy and trial, Gadek said: “Tom had an exciting vision of what he wanted to do. When his problems came crashing down, it was a huge let-down. People had been sold a dream and they bought into it heart and soul.” The airline’s employees deserve “virtually all the credit” for the company's successful exit from bankruptcy, he added. They maintained strong customer service, helping the business retain loyal passengers.

• On business strategy, Gadek said one of top priorities has been to diversify. In addition to regular consumer air service, the carrier offers charter flights and travel-management services. Sun Country plans to expand its charter business via deals with the military, providing overseas service to small groups of soldiers, he said. Sun Country’s recent foray into international service, including its new route to London, is part of that plan. The carrier’s upcoming flight to Germany, which will give passengers 30 hours in the country before returning home, will double as a “demonstration” flight for the U.S. Department of Defense, he said. Sun Country also has succeeded by expanding service to cities such as Lansing, Mich., where major airlines have cut back on flights.

• Sun Country is known for its successful branding campaigns, including its “hometown airline” tagline. (The carrier started that campaign shortly after Northwest Airlines was sold to Delta Air Lines Inc.) The company is embarking on another campaign, which will center around the theme of “soar,” Gadek said. One tag line will be: “They fly. We soar.” Gadek also held up a sign (which won't be part of an actual campaign) depicting a large rat with a 'prohibited' slash — a dig at Delta’s recent troubles with a rat-infested plane.

(Katharine Grayson - Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal)

Suspicious photographers pulled from United flight at Denver (DEN/KDEN)

Here we go again! Dangerous photographers being pulled off a plane for taking a photo or shooting video all because some dogooder, ignorant passenger has to play hero and report the pressing of shutter release. Although the incident did happen at 2200 so it would have been dark outside, so maybe I would have reported them too for shooting in the dark from an aircraft window...hahahahaha!

Just my two cents.

Michael Carter 
APF Editor 

A United plane taxiing on the runway at Denver International Airport returned to its gate Thursday night after a passenger notified a flight attendant of three suspicious passengers on board.

United Flight 593 was met at the gate by Denver police and the Transportation Security Administration, said United Airlines spokesman Charlie Hobart.

The three suspicious passengers and the male passenger who made the report were removed from the plane and questioned, Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson said.

All four men were eventually cleared and all four men were rebooked on later flights, he said. No arrests were made.

It's believed that a couple of the passengers were taking photographs, or something like that, while the plane was taxiing, and that raised suspicion, said DIA spokesman Jeff Green.

He said it appeared to be a simple misunderstanding.

During the incident, which occurred around 10 p.m., all passengers were deplaned while the aircraft was swept for suspicious devices, TSA spokeswoman Carrie Harmon said.

Those passengers continued on their flight after a 2½-hour delay. The flight, bound for Santa Ana, Calif., took off again shortly after midnight.

Because of the late hour and timing, the flight had to stop in Los Angeles before it could continue to its intended destination of Santa Ana, Hobart said.

(Kim Nguyen - ABC News / 

Investigation into crash that killed ex Alaska Senator Ted Stevens indicates pilot was in control

The pilot of a plane carrying former Senator Ted Stevens was apparently in control of the aircraft and trying to climb just before it slammed into a mountain slope, killing Stevens and four others, according to files released on Thursday.

The DeHavilland Otter crashed on August 9, 2010 while carrying Stevens and eight others back from a fishing lodge owned by the Alaska telecommunications company GCI.

Pilot Theron “Terry” Smith also died in the crash, along with a GCI executive and her 16-year-old daughter and a Washington, D.C.-based lobbyist who was a former Senate aide to Stevens.

Stevens was the longest service Republican in Senate history, and held several leadership positions. He was known for getting federal money for Alaska.

An analysis of the plane’s speed and angle when it hit a mountain slope near southwestern Alaska’s Bristol Bay showed that “control/input maneuvering prior to terrain contact was probable and aerodynamic stall was improbable,” said one of the reports, which was among more than 700 pages of documents released on Thursday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

If an altitude alarm was sounded in the plane, it would probably have done so four to six seconds before impact, according to the documents.

Smith was a well-respected and decorated Alaska pilot, but he had potential health problems that have been investigated as a possible contributing factor.

Smith, 62 at the time of his death, suffered a stroke in 2006 that prevented him from flying for two years.

Although his wife and some colleagues considered him to be fully recovered from the stroke, one of the newly released reports discusses a July 4 incident in which the veteran pilot appeared to struggle to understand a hydraulic system that he had used many times before.

He had been stopped at least once after his stroke by a law-enforcement officer who suspected him of impaired driving, according to one of the reports.

Smith had been a commercial pilot for Alaska Airlines, a staff pilot for ConocoPhillips Inc., which flies workers to the North Slope oil fields, and had served as a director of the Alaska Aviation Safety Foundation and the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum.

He had won numerous awards and commendations and flown with former Federal Aviation Administrator Marion Blakey.

He was known as a cautious pilot and his health habits were good, according to the files. He did not smoke or drink coffee, and only rarely consumed alcohol, according to the files.

But he had a substantial family history of stroke, according to the files.
The probe of the crash continues, said Terry Williams, a spokesman for the NTSB in Washington.


AirTran flight attendants okay new contract

AirTran Airways announced its flights attendants, represented by the Assn. of Flight Attendants, ratified a new collective bargaining agreement, which will take effect May 1. In a statement, AirTran said that 96% of its 2,200 voting members approved the agreement, which provides for “increased compensation, improved benefits and preservation of key service and reliability functions.”

"It is extremely gratifying to come to this agreement which benefits our dedicated flight attendants, our company and all crew members," said AirTran Chairman, President and CEO Bob Fornaro.

(Linda Blachly - ATWOnline News)

Tiger Airways under investigation by Australia's Civil Aviation Authority (CASA)

Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority is investigating Tiger Airways Australia over “a variety of issues,” according to insiders at the safety regulator. Details of CASA’s investigation emerged Thursday as the airline, owing to an unrelated problem, was forced to cancel several flights, disrupting Easter travel plans for hundreds of passengers. Perth services continue as scheduled.

CASA issued a "show cause" notice to Tiger over a series of concerns related to safety and maintenance, according to insiders who noted the concerns were more related to paperwork and not considered serious.

CASA issues “show cause” notices “where there is not a serious and imminent risk to safety,” according to the regulator, which pointed out the notices “set out the facts and circumstances of the matter ... and provides the operator with an opportunity to explain their own view of those facts and circumstances."

A Tiger spokesperson said the airline "has responded promptly and in full to CASA's inquiry ... Safety underpins Tiger's operations at all times and Tiger continues to operate normally with CASA's approval," the spokesperson said. Tiger is partly owned by Singapore Airlines.

The last time CASA issued a "show cause" notice to a major airline was to Ansett in 2001 over safety breaches with its Boeing 767s.

(Geoffrey Thomas - ATWOnline News)

Alaska Airlines reports huge 1st quarter earnings

Alaska Airlines 737-490 (29318/3042) N705AS "Spirit of Alaska" taxies at John Wayne Orange County Airport (SNA/KSNA) on February 21, 2011.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Alaska Air Group, parent of Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, earned $74.2 million in first-quarter net income, considerably widened from a $5.3 million net profit in the year-ago period. Revenue lifted 16.3% year-over-year to $965.2 million.

Excluding mark-to-market fuel hedge gains of $82 million ($51 million after tax) and a $10.1 million charge ($6.3 million after tax) for retiring CRJ700s, AAG reported first-quarter net income of $29.5 million, more than double net income of $13.1 million on a similar basis in the 2010 March quarter.

"These results are due to strong passenger demand," Chairman and CEO Bill Ayer told analysts and reporters on Thursday. "Our results were driven by record load factors and improving yield, partially offset by a significant increase in fuel costs … We had 80% or higher load factors at Alaska in both January and February for the first time ever … We are optimistic but also cautious about the rest of the year … We know that as fares go up with rising fuel prices, demand will be impacted at a certain point."

He noted that the plan to phase out Horizon-branded flying this year is progressing smoothly. The regional affiliate's last nine Bombardier CRJ700s will be retired by the end of the current quarter as it transitions to an all-Q400 fleet.

First-quarter expenses rose 3.4% to $831.4 million and operating income was $133.8 million, a more than five times increase over a $25.7 million operating profit in the year-ago quarter. Mainline traffic jumped 18% to 5.28 billion RPMs on a 14.7% rise in capacity to 6.35 billion ASMs, producing a load factor of 83.1%, up 2.4 points. Yield improved 1.4% to 13.31 cents as RASM increased 3.6% to 12.36 cents. CASM ex-fuel lowered 6.8% to 7.83 cents.

(Aaron Karp - ATWOnline News)

jetBlue post modest 1st quarter gain

JetBlue Airways overcame soaring fuel prices and severe winter weather on the East Coast to eke out a modest net profit of $3 million in the three months ended March 31, a $4 million positive swing from a loss of $1 million in the year-ago period.

"Despite significantly higher fuel prices, we are pleased to report a profit in the first quarter," President and CEO Dave Barger said. Operating revenues surged 16.3% to $1.01 billion, "as a stronger fare environment contributed to significant year-over-year revenue gains," Barger told analysts during a conference call that was also webcast.

Operating expenses, propelled by a 34.5% rise in the cost of a gallon of fuel, jumped 16.8% to $967 million. Operating profit climbed 5.5% to $45 million from $43 million but EBIT margin slipped 0.5 points to 4.4%. B6 said it hedged approximately 37% of its fuel consumption in the first quarter and recorded $2 million in gains from hedges. It has hedged 43% of projected second-quarter fuel requirements and 35% of remaining 2011 estimated requirements.

The carrier flew 6.92 billion RPMs in the period, up 7%, on just a 1% rise in capacity to 8.5 billion ASMs, pushing load factor up 4.6 points to 81.4%. Yield was 13.08 cents, up 7.7% while passenger RASM climbed 14.1% to 10.64 cents and total RASM rose 15.1% to 11.89 cents.

Cost per ASM rose 15.6% to 11.37 cents, but 6.1% ex-fuel to 7.22 cents. Part of the CASM rise was attributed to severe winter weather that resulted in B6 flying approximately 1% less capacity in February. For the second quarter ending June 30, CASM is expected to rise 18%-20% over the year-ago period but 3%-5% ex-fuel on a 7%-9% rise in capacity. Capacity is forecast to be up 6%-8% for the full year, which represents a 1% reduction from guidance in January. It will be reduced primarily by trimming utilization and day of week pull-downs, Barger said.

JetBlue added one Embraer E-190 and two Airbus A320s during the quarter. It will take two more A320s and four additional E-190s this year while returning a leased E-190. It expects to end the year with 169 aircraft, comprising 120 A320s and 49 E-190s. It has exercised an option to opt out of two E-190s scheduled to arrive in 2013, leaving deliveries that year of five E-190s and seven A320s that year.

(Perry Flint - ATWOnline News)

UA/CO reports big 1st quarter loss

United Continental Holdings, parent of merger partners United Airlines and Continental Airlines, incurred a first-quarter net loss of $213 million, widened from a $183 million pro forma net deficit reported by the two carriers in the March 2010 quarter.

UCH was profitable on an operating basis in the first quarter as revenue increased 10.8% year-over-year to $8.2 billion and expenses heightened 11.2% to $8.17 billion. Operating income of $34 million was down 41.4% from a pro forma operating profit of $58 million in the year-ago quarter. Rising fuel costs, Japan's disaster and unrest in North Africa made the first three months of 2011 "a challenging quarter and, with high fuel prices, we expect challenging quarters ahead," President and CEO Jeff Smisek told analysts and reporters on Thursday. "During the first quarter, [fuel prices] rose to levels not seen since 2008. These are very tough times." UCH's first-quarter fuel costs jumped 28.4% to $2.67 billion compared to the year-ago period even including a $154 million offset from hedging.

But he pointed to the UA/CO merger, which closed last year, as strengthening UCH to "muscle through tough times." The combined UA/CO network is a "potent" draw for business passengers, he asserted, adding that UCH will adjust flight schedules and offer ancillary services to entice business flyers. "I think you're going to see us do considerably more targeting to customers," Smisek said, explaining that fares that have been broken down into a la carte offerings could be "re-aggregated" into tailored packages for different types of passengers. "There's a lot of technological sophistication that will help us do this," he noted. UCH generated $16 per passenger in ancillary revenue in the first quarter, up 15% year-over-year.

Smisek said passengers will start seeing more evidence of UA/CO integration at airports and online starting in mid-May. A merged, refashioned loyalty program will be announced in the third quarter. "It won't be your grandfather's frequent flyer program," he commented. The company aims to have a single operating certificate and unified reservation system in 2012.

Regarding its fleet, CFO Zane Rowe said UCH has "significant flexibility" given that "nearly half of the mainline fleet is either unencumbered or coming off lease by 2013." It expects to take delivery of its first Boeing 787 in the first half of 2012, with six Dreamliners in total to be delivered next year.

UCH first-quarter mainline traffic decreased 1% year-over-year to 41.27 billion RPMs on a 1.5% lift in capacity to 52.38 billion ASMs, producing a load factor of 78.8%, down 1.9 points. Yield increased 13% to 13.97 cents as PRASM rose 10.2% to 11 cents and CASM heightened 9.4% to 12.7 cents. CASM ex-fuel rose 2.2% to 8.48 cents.

The company said it lost around $30 million in first-quarter passenger revenue, owing to disruptions/traffic drops caused by the March 11 Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

(Aaron Karp - ATWOnline News)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Southwest reports first quarter earnings and a May 2 target for DOJ approval of AirTran purchase

Southwest Airlines 737-7BX (30744/989) N552WN, ex Virgin Blue VH-VBQ taxies at John Wayne Orange County Airport (SNA/KSNA) on April 10, 2011.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Southwest says it eked out a profit for the first quarter, adding that it expects its merger with AirTran to close in less than two weeks.

The nation's largest low-cost carrier reported earnings of $5 million for the January-to-March quarter, saying growing passenger numbers and fare increases helped it narrowly stay ahead of rising fuel costs.

The Associated Press writes Southwest's profit came out to "a penny per share." The Fort Worth Star-Telegram adds "excluding one-time accounting items such as 9 million in charges related to consulting fees for its AirTran purchase, Southwest posted a profit of $20 million, or 3 cents per share, matching Wall Street analysts' earnings expectations."

As for the AirTran deal, CEO Gary Kelly says he expects Southwest's acquisition of the carrier to close on May 2.

"We anticipate that all regulatory approvals needed to move forward will be obtained by that date," Kelly says in a release detailing Southwest's earnings report. "We look forward to that milestone day, first and foremost, to finally welcome the AirTran Crew Members to the Southwest family. Together, we can then begin the exciting work to integrate AirTran into Southwest."

The Dallas Morning News notes the airlines need "approval from the U.S. Department of Justice's antitrust division," though most industry observers do not expect that to tie up the deal.

As for passenger and fare figures, The Wall Street Journal notes that Southwest's "passenger revenue per available seat mile increased 8.7%, as the average seat price grew 11%. … Earlier this month, the company reported that traffic rose 12% as load factor—the percentage of available seats filled—grew to 78.3% from 75.9% and capacity jumped 8.3%."

(Ben Mutzabaugh - USA Today)

First new 737-800 for S7 Airlines

The first factory fresh 737-800 destined for S7 Airlines, 737-8ZS (37084/3605) VQ-BKV is captured at Seattle-Boeing Field (BFI/KBFI) on April 19, 2011 as it readies for delivery to the carrier.

(Photo by Joe G. Walker) 

UPS commences seasonal BFI / ANC MD-11F service

United Parcel Service (UPS) has commenced it's seasonal MD-11F service between Seattle-Boeing Field (BFI/KBFI) and Anchorage (ANC/PANC). In the above photo, MD-11F (48473/481) N293UP departs a rainy BFI evening on April 6, 2011.

(Photo by Joe G. Walker) 

Hawaiian Airlines and Virgin Blue discuss possible codeshare partnership

Virgin Blue is set to announce another significant partnership, this time with Hawaiian Airlines. Addressing the Australian-British Chamber of Commerce in Sydney on Wednesday, Virgin Blue CEO John Borghetti said the airline was in the "process of having advanced discussions with Hawaiian Airlines" on codeshare flights to Hawaii.

The Australian carrier has successfully completed alliances with Etihad and Air New Zealand; a third partnership with Delta Air Lines is awaiting US regulatory approval.

Borghetti also flagged a big move into Asia, saying "We're not going to leave it alone." But he added it was too early make announcements. He also served up a warning to Qantas that the "born again" low-cost airline will increase its share of the corporate market from 12% to 20% within three years.

A key platform for that increase is the launch of Virgin Blue’s first flights with business class on May 26 on the Sydney-Perth route using its new Airbus A330s.

"Virgin has it in its DNA to break monopolies, or near monopolies, and that is exactly what we are going to do," Borghetti told the Sydney Morning Herald. "We want to be the best airline and the airline of choice in this country and we will be within three years."

(Geoffrey Thomas - ATWOnline News)

Boeing in hot water over second 787 production site

This story sounds very familiar as this is what happened when Boeing planned to have a 737-900 and BBJ line here in Long Beach. The Seattle unions complained that the move would take work away from union members in the Puget Sound area. They sure didn't care about union workers here in Long Beach, who are now out of work union members........thanks AMAW for your concern!

My two cents


Boeing said it would fight a National Labor Relations Board complaint originally lodged by one of its unions that challenges the aircraft maker's 2009 decision to establish a second assembly line in South Carolina for the 787 Dreamliner.

The NLRB complaint says Boeing engaged in unfair labor practices against the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union by moving the 787 work to discourage union strikes, a protected activity.

The NLRB scheduled a June hearing on the matter.

Boeing, the world's second-largest commercial plane maker, said it would "vigorously contest" the complaint.

"Boeing has every right under both federal law and its collective bargaining agreement to build additional US production capacity outside of the Puget Sound region," said Boeing General Counsel J. Michael Luttig in a statement.

The complaint says Boeing "made coercive statements to its employees that it would remove or had removed work from the unit because employees had struck," the NLRB complaint states.

In 2008, Boeing endured a 58-day strike over a contract dispute.

The federal labour board is seeking an order requiring Boeing to operate the second 787 line in Washington state, where union workers build the company's commercial planes. Boeing Commercial Airplanes is based in Washington, where its primary assembly plants are in Everett and Renton.

Boeing opened a second, non-union production line for the 787 in South Carolina after an aggressive campaign by workers in Washington's Puget Sound area to keep the project there.

"By opening the line in Charleston, Boeing tried to intimidate our members with the idea that the company would take away their work unless they made concessions at the bargaining table," said Tom Wroblewski, president of Machinists Union District Lodge 751 in Seattle.

The Dreamliner is about three years behind its original schedule because of problems with the extensive global supply chain. Boeing also blames the 2008 strike for one of the delays.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Alaska Airlines introduces new "touch screen" digEplayer

Alaska Airlines 737-890 (35692/2859) N525AS departs from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX/KPHX) on November 10, 2010.
(Photo by Michael Carter) 

Alaska Airlines last week launched its new and enhanced touch-screen digEplayer inflight entertainment devices, which boast a lighter weight and smaller size than its predecessor that debuted in 2003. At the time of its introduction eight years ago, AS "was the first carrier in the world to offer customers portable video-on-demand technology from a convenient handheld device," it said.

The upgraded IFE devices, available on "most" AS flight longer than 3 hr., provide "more" new-release movies and TV shows as well as games. For an additional fee, the devices can connect to the Internet via the carrier's Gogo inflight Wi-Fi network.

"The new digEplayer is smaller and lighter than a laptop, has a much longer battery life, and provides exciting and unique content for our travelers," said AS VP-Marketing Joe Sprague.

Pricing is based on flight time, costing travelers $14 on flights longer than 4.5 hrs. and $8 on flights under the 4.5 hr. mark. A $2 discount is available to those who reserve a digEplayer in advance online.

(Christine Boynton - ATWOnline News)

Sukhoi poised to deliver first Superjet 100

Russia's state-owned plane maker Sukhoi will deliver its first Superjet regional airliner to Armenian airline Armavia on Tuesday, bringing to an end a more than two-year wait.

The plane will be the first newly designed passenger aircraft built by Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union, and is aimed at challenging Canada's Bombardier and Brazil's Embraer in the regional airliner sector.

"Sukhoi plans to transfer 13 Superjets this year: two to Armavia, the first on Tuesday and the second in the summer, and 11 to Aeroflot," Sukhoi spokeswoman Olga Kayukova said.

Sukhoi was scheduled to deliver the first planes to Aeroflot and Armavia by the end of 2008 or beginning of 2009, but had to delay the delivery due to complications with engine production by French-Russian joint venture Powerjet, Kayukova said.

Aeroflot has said it would seek compensation from Sukhoi for the delay in deliveries.

"They remain threats, and Sukhoi will not be paying anything," Kayukova said.

Armavia has never complained about the delay, she added.

Sukhoi sells its Superjets at the list price of USD$31.8 million, but will offer a 10-15 percent discount to its customers at the initial stage, the company's chief executive said in December.

Sukhoi's Superjet 100, with a capacity of 68-103 passengers, was developed in partnership with Boeing and Italy's Finmeccanica.

Sukhoi, which has orders for 170 planes, plans to produce up to 1,000 superjets, primarily for foreign markets.


Boeing 787 flight training gears up

Boeing said on Monday that it had received approval from regulators in several countries for flight training campuses for its 787 Dreamliner, which is due for first delivery this year.

Boeing said its 787 training devices -- including flight simulators -- were ready to be used with training courses. The company has training courses in Seattle, Singapore, Tokyo, London and Shanghai.

Full-flight simulators and other flight training devices for commercial pilot training require approval from each airline's home country.

The 787 is about three years behind its original schedule, but Boeing is set to deliver the first plane to All Nippon Airways in the third quarter.


Royal Australian Air Force announces purchase of 5th C-17A

Australia is purchasing its fifth Boeing C-17 jet, which the country intends to use for its increasing role in international relief operations.

The Royal Australian Air Force purchased its first Long Beach-built C-17 in 2006, with the latest purchase set for delivery in August.

Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith praised the C-17 in a recent speech, saying the huge aircraft has played "an essential part in Australia's capacity to respond to natural and regional disasters."

The price tag was not released, though C-17s cost anywhere from $250 million to $800 million, depending on warranties, options and other factors.

Australia's existing C-17 fleet has been in near-constant use in recent months, helping deliver medicine, food, water, vehicles and other equipment to earthquake disaster zones in New Zealand and Japan.

In just two weeks in March alone, RAAF C-17s ferried 1 million pounds of cargo, including pumps to help cool Japan's devastated Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Australian officials are also reportedly considering purchasing a sixth C-17, which may be stationed at a base in neighboring New Zealand, a close ally.

"Given the significant work that is being undertaken by our current fleet of C-17 aircraft in support of operations, including recent disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, and the unpredictable nature of some these events, we are considering the acquisition of an additional C-17 now," Smith said.
The airlifter, which can take off and land on short unpaved runways and in extreme climates, will be based near Brisbane on the country's east coast.

The C-17 can transport large payloads across vast ranges, land on short, austere runways, and operate in extreme climates. On April 14, Boeing delivered to the U.S. Air Force, its 210th C-17. Other countries owning C-17s are Canada, United Kingdom, Canada, Qatar and NATO. In total, Boeing has delivered 230 of the jets.

In addition, the United Arab Emirates has ordered six for delivery this year and in 2012, while India and Kuwait have placed orders for a total of 11.

Several other countries are also reportedly interested, though no firm commitments have been announced.

The C-17 plant next to Long Beach Airport is California's last fixed-wing aircraft assembly plant and one of just three left in the nation.

It supports nearly 5,000 jobs in Long Beach, including about 1,800 on the assembly line.

International orders have pushed scheduled production into late 2013, though more purchases are needed to keep the plant open beyond 2014.

(Kristopher Hanson - Long Beach Press Telegram)