Monday, April 29, 2013

LOT prepares for 787 return to service

Polish flag-carrier LOT is preparing to send two Boeing 787s to Ethiopia for battery modification, as carriers begin resuming commercial services with the type.

Ethiopian Airlines conducted the first passenger flight since the mid-January grounding when one of its 787s operated from Addis Ababa to Nairobi as flight ET801 on 27 April.

Among those on board was Boeing vice-president of marketing Randy Tinseth, who said that many passengers "had no idea they'd be flying on the 787 until the bus dropped them off at the air stairs". Tinseth added that the flight departed on time, arrived early, and was "truly perfect".

Ethiopian's base at Addis Ababa will be the location to which both LOT 787s will be sent - one from Warsaw and one from Chicago - to undergo the modification designed to address thermal problems with the type's battery which resulted in the three-month grounding.

LOT confirms that the aircraft will be flown to Ethiopia but declines to comment on when they will depart. The airline says, however, that it will restore 787 services on 5 June.

Ethiopian has four 787s which will similarly undergo the modification work. "We are excited to resume our service with the 787," says chief executive Tewolde Gebremariam.

"During the five months our four aircraft were in service, we were very pleased with their performance, and the feedback from our passengers has been overwhelmingly positive."

             (David Kaminski-Morrow - Flight Global News)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Allegiant Air posts 41st consecutive profitable quarter

Las Vegas-based Allegiant Travel Co., parent of Allegiant Air, reported first-quarter net income of $31.9 million, up 47.1% compared to $21.7 million in the year-ago period.

Total operating revenue was $273 million, up 14.8% year-over-year, while expenses climbed 9.5% to $220.6 million, producing an operating income of $52.37 million, up 44.2% from $36.3 million in the year-ago quarter.

Chairman and CEO Maurice Gallagher noted it was Allegiant’s 41st consecutive profitable quarter.

Allegiant said during the quarter it added eight routes, including two new routes to Provo, Utah and Reno, Nev.

Scheduled traffic during the quarter rose 15.4% to 1.88 billion RPMs on a 17% increase in capacity to 2.09 billion ASMs, producing a load factor of 89.8%, down 1.3 points compared to the first quarter of 2012. Yield lowered 3.5% to 9.58 cents.

(Linda Blachly - ATWOnline News)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Ethiopian 787 returns to the skies


(Photo by Elias Asmare - Associated Press) 

A Boeing 787 operated by Ethiopian Airlines flew from Ethiopia to Kenya's capital Saturday, the first commercial flight since air safety authorities grounded the Dreamliners after incidents with smoldering batteries on two different planes in January.

The Boeing 787 passenger jet arrived in Nairobi on Saturday afternoon after a two-hour trip from Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, according to the Kenya airport website. The Dreamliner arrived at Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 12:40 p.m. local time, according to the Kenya Airports Authority.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has approved Boeing's redesigned battery system, which the company says sharply reduces the risk of fire.

Richard J. Horigan, a Boeing engineer, told reporters in Nairobi this week that all potential causes of battery fire have been eliminated with the new system. But he noted that the root cause of smoldering batteries experienced by the two different 787s may never be known because the evidence was destroyed by heat.

"We would like to thank Ethiopian Airlines for the patience, support and leadership shown throughout the period that the 787 Dreamliner has been grounded," Boeing Commercial Airplanes President Ray Conner said in a news release.

There are 50 Dreamliners in service around the world. Once the FAA approves the fix on individual planes, airlines can start flying them again. United Airlines, the only U.S. airline with the planes, moved one of its six 787s to a Boeing facility in San Antonio, Texas, on Tuesday so it can get the battery fixed. Neither of the battery incidents involved a United jet.

Boeing said Wednesday that deliveries of the 787 should resume in early May.

(Rodney Muhumuza - Associated Press) 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

New C-17A on the Long Beach flight ramp

C-17A (P-222) 10-0222 "Charleston" AFB, is the latest a/c on the flight ramp at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB). The next C-17A to exit the production building will be the last C-17A destined for the USAF. The aircraft pictured above originaly would have been the last aircraft but P-223 was orderd to replace the C-17A lost at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage, Alaska a couple years ago.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Southwest Airlines reports 1st quarter profits

Southwest Airlines Co. today reported its first quarter 2013 results. First quarter 2013 net income was $59 million, or $.08 per diluted share, which included $6 million (net) of favorable special items.

This compared to net income of $98 million, or $.13 per diluted share, in first quarter 2012, which included $116 million (net) of favorable special items. Excluding special items, first quarter 2013 net income was $53 million, or $.07 per diluted share, compared to a net loss of $18 million, or $.02 loss per diluted share, in first quarter 2012.

This exceeded the First Call consensus estimate of $.02 per diluted share. Operating income for first quarter 2013 was $70 million, compared to $22 million in first quarter 2012. Excluding special items, operating income was $112 million for first quarter 2013, compared to $10 million in the same period last year. Additional information regarding special items is included in this release and in the accompanying reconciliation tables.

Gary C. Kelly, Chairman of the Board, President, and Chief Executive Officer, stated, "The significant year-over-year improvement in our first quarter results (excluding special items) was driven by record first quarter revenues and a better-than-expected cost performance. On relatively flat available seat miles year-over-year, total operating revenues of $4.1 billion increased 2.3 percent, or 1.8 percent on a unit basis, compared to first quarter last year.

Passenger revenues were boosted significantly by continued progress on the AirTran integration, fleet modernization efforts, and the Rapid Rewards loyalty program. Year-over-year passenger unit revenue trends were relatively stable through February, and while worse than expected, March passenger unit revenues outperformed the domestic industry, on a capacity adjusted basis. Soft revenue trends have continued, thus far, in April, and we expect a year-over-year decline in our April passenger unit revenues.

While we are cautious about April trends and the potential effects from government sequestration, recent bookings for May and June have been solid, and lower fuel prices have roughly offset the revenue weakness thus far in April.

"Based on market prices as of April 22nd, second quarter 2013 economic fuel costs, including fuel taxes, are expected to be in the $3.00 to $3.05 per gallon range, well below second quarter 2012's $3.22 per gallon, including fuel taxes, and below the original forecast included in our 2013 plan1.

Also, we now have derivative contracts in place for the remainder of the year that support estimated fuel costs per gallon below our 2013 plan. First quarter 2013 economic fuel costs were $3.29 per gallon, which was in line with our expectation, and 4.4 percent lower than first quarter 2012's all-time high $3.44 per gallon.
"We are pleased with the early results from revenue initiatives implemented in first quarter 2013 and are excited about the incremental benefit expected for future periods. We launched some of our new 2013 ancillary revenue streams, including selling open premium boarding positions at the gate, increasing our EarlyBird Check-In™ charge, and increasing certain other fees.
"We also phased in the ability for our Customers to fly connecting itineraries between the Southwest and AirTran networks, our top priority this year. As of April 14th, all 97 destinations within the combined networks can be flown on a single itinerary, a key milestone of our AirTran integration.
Bookings on these connecting itineraries, thus far, have been strong, giving us further confidence in our plan to achieve $400 million in net, pre-tax, AirTran synergies in 2013 (excluding acquisition and integration costs). With connecting capabilities in place, our ability to optimize the combined networks and operations is enabled, particularly in Atlanta. This is a significant milestone. 

We are now in a position to evolve Atlanta to a point-to-point operation in fall 2013, similar to our other top ten Southwest cities. This will allow our People to be substantially more productive through scheduling our aircraft, flight crews, and ground staff more constantly throughout the day.

Our November schedule (which will open next month) will offer our Atlanta Customers a wider selection of departure times throughout the day, with roughly the same number of daily departures. We expect these changes will grow our local Atlanta traffic.

"We are enthused about planned initiatives for the remainder of the year. Today, we are announcing details of a new No Show policy that will apply to Southwest reservations that include Wanna Get Away® or DING!® fares and are made on or after May 10, 2013, for travel on or after September 13, 2013. The policy is intended to alter behavior, encouraging Customers to cancel unused nonrefundable fares prior to a flight's departure, allowing us to better predict future inventory and reduce the number of empty seats on aircraft. Also, later this quarter, we will implement phase one of our new revenue management system.

"While we continue to optimize our network and maintain a relatively flat fleet in 2013, we are also making excellent progress on our fleet modernization efforts. Thus far this year, we have taken delivery of nine new Boeing 737-800s and two used Boeing 737-700s, retired three older Boeing 737-300s and one Boeing 737-500, and retrofitted more -700s with our new Evolve interior. As of
March 31, 2013, nearly 90 percent of the Southwest -700 fleet had the Evolve interior, and we expect to complete the remainder of the Southwest -700 retrofits in second quarter 2013. Further, all of Southwest's -800s and -700s are now equipped with WiFi technology.

"We began operating Southwest's first scheduled service outside of the continental United States on April 14th, with daily service to San Juan, Puerto Rico, from Orlando and Tampa Bay, Florida. These flights augment AirTran's existing service between San Juan and Atlanta, Georgia; Baltimore/Washington; and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Since the beginning of the year, Southwest has also launched service to Branson, Missouri; Charlotte, North Carolina; Flint, Michigan; Portland, Maine; and Rochester, New York.

We are excited about our growing network and opportunities ahead. Further, as part of the Dallas Love Field Modernization project, we reached a significant milestone at our hometown airport with the opening of 11 brand new Southwest gates and new concessions on April 16th. This impressive project is on budget and on track for full completion in second half 2014.
"Our balance sheet and liquidity remain strong with approximately $3.1 billion in cash and short-term investments at March 31, 2013. Earlier this month, we replaced our $800 million revolving credit facility with a new $1 billion five-year revolving credit facility. The $200 million increase enhances our liquidity and financial flexibility.

Despite the uncertainties surrounding the impact to travel demand from government sequestration and increased consumer taxes, we remain focused on our 2013 plan to achieve a 15 percent pre-tax return on invested capital. In first quarter, we returned $115 million to our Shareholders through repurchasing $100 million of common stock (approximately 9 million shares) and distributing $15 million in dividends."
No Show Policy
Southwest is implementing a No Show policy that applies to nonrefundable fares that are not canceled or changed by a Customer prior to a flight's scheduled departure. If a Customer has booked a nonrefundable fare anywhere in his/her itinerary and that portion of the flight is not used and not canceled or changed by the Customer prior to scheduled departure, all unused funds on the full itinerary will be lost, and the remaining reservation will be canceled.

The policy applies to reservations made or changed on or after Friday, May 10, 2013, for travel on or after Friday, September 13, 2013. This policy does not apply to military fares, senior fares, or travel during certain irregular operations, including severe weather conditions.

The No Show policy will not impact Customers who simply cancel a Wanna Get Away or DING! fare prior to scheduled departure; in this case, Customers may reuse their funds toward future travel on Southwest, without a change fee, as they have always done. Customers who are traveling on a fully refundable itinerary that does not contain a Wanna Get Away or DING! fare will continue to have the option of either requesting a refund or holding funds for future travel.

Financial Results and Outlook
The Company's total operating revenues in first quarter 2013 were $4.1 billion, compared to $4.0 billion in first quarter 2012. Operating unit revenues increased 1.8 percent from first quarter 2012. Total first quarter 2013 operating expenses of $4.0 billion were comparable to first quarter 2012.

The Company incurred $13 million in special charges (before taxes) during the first quarters of 2013 and 2012 associated with the acquisition and integration of AirTran. Cumulative costs associated with the acquisition and integration of AirTran, as of March 31, 2013, totaled $337 million (before profitsharing and taxes). The Company expects total acquisition and integration costs to be no more than $550 million (before profitsharing and taxes). Excluding special items in the first quarters of 2013 and 2012, operating expenses were approximately $4.0 billion in both periods.
First quarter 2013 economic fuel costs, including fuel taxes, decreased 4.4 percent to $3.29 per gallon, compared to $3.44 per gallon in first quarter 2012. The Company now has derivative contracts in place for approximately 95 percent of its estimated fuel consumption for the remainder of the year. As of April 22nd, the fair market value of the Company's hedge portfolio through 2017 was a net liability of approximately $151 million, compared to a net asset of $200 million at March 31st.

First quarter 2013 profitsharing expense was $15 million, compared to no profitsharing expense in first quarter last year. Excluding fuel, profitsharing, and special items in both periods, first quarter 2013 unit costs increased 2.8 percent from first quarter 2012, which was better than expected largely due to lower workers' compensation claims, favorable airport settlements, and lower advertising expense.

Based on current cost trends, the Company expects a similar year-over-year increase in its second quarter 2013 unit costs, excluding fuel, profitsharing, and special items in both periods. Operating income for first quarter 2013 was $70 million, compared to $22 million in first quarter 2012. Excluding special items, operating income was $112 million for first quarter 2013, compared to $10 million in first quarter 2012.

Other income for first quarter 2013 was $24 million, compared to $137 million in first quarter 2012. This $113 million decrease primarily resulted from $46 million in gains recognized in first quarter 2013, compared to $170 million in gains in first quarter 2012.

In both periods, these gains primarily resulted from unrealized mark-to-market gains/losses associated with a portion of the Company's fuel hedging portfolio, which are special items. Excluding these special items, other losses were $5 million in first quarter 2013, compared to $6 million in first quarter 2012, primarily attributable to the premium costs associated with the Company's fuel derivative contracts.

Second quarter 2013 premium costs related to fuel derivative contracts are currently estimated to be approximately $12 million, which is comparable to second quarter 2012. Net interest expense declined to $22 million in first quarter 2013, compared to $33 million in first quarter 2012, primarily as a result of the Company's repayment of its $385 million 6.5 percent notes in March 2012.
Net cash provided by operations was $983 million, and capital expenditures were $534 million, resulting in $449 million in free cash flow2 in first quarter 2013. The Company repaid approximately $164 million in debt and capital lease obligations during first quarter 2013, and intends to repay approximately $149 million in debt and capital lease obligations during the remainder of the year.

As of April 23rd, the Company had approximately $3.2 billion in cash and short-term investments, and a fully available unsecured revolving credit line of $1 billion.

The Company's return on invested capital (before taxes and excluding special items) was approximately 8 percent for the twelve months ended March 31, 2013. Additional information regarding pre-tax return on invested capital is included in the accompanying reconciliation tables.

(Southwest Airlines Press Release)

Flirting encouraged on Virgin America

If you're taking a Virgin America flight and have a "single-and-looking-to-mingle" vibe, a free drink may be coming your way. Sir Richard Branson, chairman and founder of Virgin Group, recently announced that passengers will be able to buy each other drinks and snacks via the in-flight entertainment system.

Here's how it works. You spy a hottie in 22B. Is he or she with anyone? Doesn't look like it. You order the object of your affection a Funkin Margarita Mixer and some Chex Mix (large bag), because you know a thing or two about the art of seduction. Then you include a note: "Maybe this is the recycled air talking, but I'd love to browse SkyMall with you."

Or something. In a video explaining the new feature for flirting with other passengers (whether they're interested or not), Branson says, "I'm not a betting man, but I'd say your chance of deplaning with a plus-one are at least 50 percent."

We'd say that's a tad optimistic. Comments on the clip's YouTube video are heavy on the snark. One person writes, “Here's a suggestion. Get rid of this service, take down this embarrassing video, and try to forget this ever happened.” Another asks: “This could get really complicated and awkward. Can you deny the service?”

And this sarcastic comment sums up the feelings of the dissenters. "Because hitting on people in an enclosed space where nobody can possibly leave if they're made to feel uncomfortable for several hours is obviously a really good idea."

We know at least one guy who thinks so.

 (Mike Krumboltz - Compass)

JetBlue 1st quarter profits take 53% nosedive

JetBlue Airways Corp.'s first-quarter profit fell 53 percent, which the airline blamed on higher maintenance spending and weaker travel demand in the Northeast over a February holiday.
Profit fell short of Wall Street expectations, and JetBlue shares fell 33 cents, or 4.6 percent, to close at $6.85. The shares are still up 20 percent so far this year, however.
Airline stocks have rallied as carriers have reported full planes and investors wait for mergers to improve the companies' ability to raise fares.
JetBlue said Thursday that net income totaled $14 million, or 5 cents per share, down from $30 million, or 9 cents per share, a year earlier. Analysts expected 10 cents per share, on average.
The average fare rose about 2 percent to $162.53 each way, up from $159.93 a year ago. That helped boost revenue by 8 percent to $1.3 billion from $1.2 billion. Analysts expected $1.29 billion, according to a FactSet survey.
Higher revenue was offset by an 11 percent increase in operating costs. Maintenance costs jumped nearly 30 percent to $114 million as JetBlue spent more than it expected for work on General Electric engines on its 100-seat Embraer 190 jets. Fuel costs rose 8 percent to $467 million, and labor expenses went up about 10 percent to $280 million.
CEO Dave Barger said the first-quarter results were "solid" but below those of a year ago, mostly due to a weak President's Day travel holiday in the Northeast after Hurricane Sandy. The New York-based airline expects costs per mile to rise during 2013 partly because of higher maintenance spending.
While other airlines have been contracting to reduce costs and push up fares, JetBlue has expanded aggressively. The company said that it expects passenger-carrying capacity to grow between 6.5 and 8.5 percent in the second quarter and between 6 and 8 percent for all of 2013.
In an interview, Barger joined other airline executives in criticizing Congress, the White House and the Federal Aviation Administration for allowing furloughs of air traffic controllers to cause widespread delays at many airports this week.
Momentum gathered Thursday for a bill in Congress to roll back budget cuts for the FAA. Barger said Congress should remain in session until it passes the measure.
"They should delay their recess," he said. "And if they don't, their flights should be delayed so they can experience what we're experiencing."

(Associated Press)

A wild update to the "Flying Tigers" livery!

Beech A60 "Duke" (c/n P-200) N1644W was captured at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on Tuesday April 23, 2013 sporting this very eye-catching livery.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

FAA formally approves Boeing's Lithium-ion battery fix

The Federal Aviation Administration gave formal approval on Thursday for a new lithium-ion battery system for Boeing Co's 787 Dreamliner, ending a three-month ban and clearing airlines to fly the plane with passengers again.

The FAA's "airworthiness directive" technically applies just to United Airlines, which so far is the only U.S. carrier with the new high-tech jet, but it will set the standard that regulators in Japan, Europe and elsewhere will follow. Other U.S. carriers with 787s on order will eventually come under the new rule.

The FAA pegged the cost of repairing United's six jets at about $2.8 million.

The approval caps a tumultuous period for Boeing and its airline customers, beginning when two lithium-ion batteries overheated on two Dreamliners in separate incidents less than two weeks apart in January.

The two planes are owned by Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, which together own nearly half the fleet of 50 Dreamliners delivered so far. The ban on flights effectively halted deliveries of new planes to customers.

Boeing devoted thousands of hours to developing a fix, even before investigators determined what caused the batteries to overheat, emit smoke and, in one instance, catch fire. That investigation continues, led by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, which held hearings this week on the issue.

Last week, the FAA gave Boeing permission to begin installing the new battery system on planes. On Wednesday, the company said it expected to resume deliveries early next month and finish retrofitting the 50 customer planes by mid-May.

(Alwyn Scott - Reuters)

FAA lifts 787 flight ban

Federal regulators are telling airlines they can fly Boeing's 787 Dreamliners again as soon as they replace its problematic lithium ion batteries with a revamped battery system.

A Federal Aviation Administration safety order posted online Thursday applies to all U.S. airlines, but only one airline — United — currently has 787s in their fleet. They have six. The FAA estimated the repair costs for those planes at $2.8 million.

The planes have been grounded since mid-January, following a battery fire on a 787 parked at Boston's Logan International Airport, and a smoking battery that led to an emergency landing by another 787 in Japan.

There are 50 of the planes in service worldwide, but Boeing has purchase orders 840 more planes. Newly delivered will come with the revamped system.

(Associated Press)

Southwest Airlines modifies Atlanta flight schedule

Southwest Airlines is shifting its flight strategy at the Atlanta airport, the world’s busiest, in an escalating challenge to larger Delta Air Lines for local traffic.
No more than 20 planes will be on the ground at any one time instead of 30 now, so the daily schedule of 175 flights can be spread more evenly into times desirable for business fliers, Dallas-based Southwest said today. The new timetable will take effect in November.
Southwest’s changes will adapt Atlanta to the point-to-point flying model, instead of using the airport as a base to collect passengers bound for other hubs. That was the approach at AirTran Holdings Inc., which Southwest acquired in 2011 to grab a foothold in Delta’s home airport.
“It’s going to allow us to compete even more effectively with Delta,” Chief Commercial Officer Bob Jordan said in an interview. “We’re doing really well today, actually gaining local market share. That’s the name of the game. It’s higher-yielding passengers too.”
Delta is the world’s second-biggest carrier by passenger traffic, while Southwest is No. 4 in the U.S. Even after adding AirTran and a network that includes service to Mexico and the Caribbean, almost all of Southwest’s flights are in the U.S., making it the largest airline on domestic routes by passengers.
AirTran had half its capacity in Atlanta in an operation that was “not successful,” Chief Executive Gary Kelly said.

Competitive Schedule

“We will have a more competitive local schedule to compete in Atlanta and for customers flying to Atlanta,” Kelly said in an interview. “My prediction is we will win a lot more customers.”
For example, the current timetable calls for three Atlanta departures a day to Kansas City, Missouri, at 10 a.m., 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., said Jordan, who also runs the AirTran unit. The new lineup will put those flights at 8 a.m., noon and 6 p.m., meeting business fliers’ needs, he said.
Corporate passengers are prized by airlines because they typically fly the most and do so on short notice, paying the highest fares.
“Our Atlanta customers, particularly business travelers, choose to fly Delta because we offer what other airlines can’t,” said Trebor Banstetter, a Delta spokesman. He cited 1,000 daily nonstops from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to more than 200 destinations.
Delta dominates Atlanta with 66 percent of passengers there in the 12 months ended in January, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Southwest and AirTran combined had about 16 percent.
Southwest’s move will eliminate 300 jobs for ground workers, who will be offered transfers, Kelly said. The change puts Atlanta staffing in line with other cities in the carrier’s system, Kelly said. “We’ll find them a job,” he said of displaced workers.“In fact, we have been holding off filling positions throughout the company to make sure we have spots for everybody.”
(Mary Schlangenstein - Bloomberg News) 

Monday, April 22, 2013

The travel word of the day is........."Delay"

It was a tough start to the week for many air travelers. Flight delays piled up all along the East Coast Monday as thousands of air traffic controllers were forced to take an unpaid day off because of federal budget cuts.

Some flights into New York, Baltimore and Washington were delayed by more than two hours as the Federal Aviation Administration kept planes on the ground because there weren't enough controllers to monitor busy air corridors.

One out of every five flights at New York's LaGuardia International scheduled to take off before noon on Monday was delayed 15 minutes or more, according to flight tracking service FlightAware. Last Monday morning, just 2 percent of LaGuardia's flights were delayed. The situation was similar at Washington's Reagan National Airport, in Newark, N.J. and in Philadelphia.

Some flights were late by two hours or more. For instance, the 8 a.m. US Airways shuttle from Washington to New York pushed back from the gate six minutes early but didn't take off until 9:58 a.m. The plane landed at 10:48 a.m. — more than two and a half hours late.

If travelers instead took Amtrak's 8 a.m. Acela Express train from Washington, they arrived in New York at 10:42 a.m. — 4 minutes early.

The furloughs are part of mandatory budget cuts that kicked in on March 1 after Democrats and Republicans missed a deadline to agree on a long-term deficit reduction plan.

FAA officials have said they have no choice but to furlough all 47,000 agency employees, including nearly 15,000 air traffic controllers. Each employee will lose one day of work every other week. The FAA has said that planes will have to take off and land less frequently, so as not to overload the remaining controllers on duty.

Critics have said the FAA could reduce its budget in other spots that wouldn't delay travelers.
Monday is typically one of the busiest days at airports with many business travelers setting out for a week on the road. The FAA's controller cuts — a 10 percent reduction of its staff — went into effect Sunday but the full force wasn't felt until Monday morning.

Some travel groups have warned that the disruptions could hurt the economy. "If these disruptions unfold as predicted, business travelers will stay home, severely impacting not only the travel industry but the economy overall," the Global Business Travel Association warned the head of the FAA, Michael P. Huerta, in a letter Friday.

Deborah Seymour was one of the first fliers to face the headaches. She was supposed to fly from Los Angles to Tucson, Ariz., Sunday night. First her 9:55 p.m. flight was delayed four hours. Then at 2 a.m., Southwest Airlines canceled it.

"It's pretty discouraging that Congress can't get it together and now it's reached the point that we can't get on an airplane and fly," Seymour said.

One thing working in fliers' favor Monday was relatively good weather at most of the country's major airports. A few wind gusts in New York added to some delays, but generally there were clear skies and no major storms.

Delta Air Lines said it was "disappointed" in the furloughs and warned travelers Monday to expect delays in the following cities: New York, Philadelphia, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.

Many flights heading to Florida were seeing delays of up to an hour. Raymond Adams, president of the air traffic controllers union at New Jersey's Newark airport, said on Twitter than a few flights out of Newark to the south got sent back to Newark because the Washington area air traffic control system was overwhelmed.

The FAA has also furloughed other critical employees including airline and airport safety inspectors.

The country's airlines and some lawmakers have suggested the White House is causing misery for fliers to put pressure on Republicans in Congress to rescind the cuts. They say the FAA is ignoring other ways to cut its $16 billion budget. Two airline trade associations and the nation's largest pilots union filed a lawsuit Friday asking the U.S. Court of Appeals to halt the furloughs. No hearing date has been set.

In a letter to the FAA Friday, Delta's general counsel Ben Hirst asked the agency to reconsider the furloughs, saying it could make the cuts elsewhere and could transfer funds from "non-safety activities" to support the FAA's "core mission of efficiently managing the nation's airspace."

(Scott Mayerowitz - Associated Press)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Gulfstream G450 N1963N

Gulfstream G450 (c/n 4268) N1963N operated by Water Force One LLC, taxies towards a Rwy 19R departure at John Wayne Orange County Airport (SNA/KSNA) this morning (4/20/2013) bound for Lic. Gustavo Diaz Ordaz International Airport In Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco (PVR/MMPR), Mexico.
(Photos by Michael Carter) 

Gulfstream G650 N603GA tbr VP-CNR

G650 (c/n 6034) N603GA tbr VP-CNR was scheduled to depart for Outagamie County Regional (ATW/KATW) Appleton, Wisconsion on April 19, 2013 but due to tech issues returned to the Gulfstream service center delaying the flight for one day.
(Photos by Michael Carter)

Latest "Green" G550 at Long Beach

Gulfstream G550 (c/n 5423) N423GA rests on the Gulfstream service center ramp on April 18, 2013.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Solar Impulse takes to the skies over San Francisco

The Solar Impulse at Moffett Field (NUQ/KNUQ)
(Photo by Jeff Chiu)

A solar-powered plane that has wowed aviation fans in Europe took to the skies Friday over the San Francisco Bay area in a successful test flight.

Considered the world's most advanced sun-powered plane, the Solar Impulse took off from Moffett Field (NUQ/KNUQ) in Mountain View at first light for a two-hour practice run in advance of a planned multi-city, cross-country tour.

"That's a mythical step in aviation," André Borschberg, one of the plane's pilots and creators, said about flying cross-country. "We are something like between 1915 and 1920, compared to traditional aviation, when pioneers tried these non-stop flights."

He said a flight around the world could occur in two years.

The Solar Impulse is powered by about 12,000 photovoltaic cells that cover massive wings and charge its batteries, allowing it to fly day and night without jet fuel. It has the wing span of a commercial airplane but the weight of the average family car, making it vulnerable to bad weather.

Its creators say the Solar Impulse is designed to showcase the potential of solar power and will never replace fuel-powered commercial flights. The delicate, single-seat plane cruises around 40 mph and can't fly through clouds.

Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, Solar Impulse co-founder and chairman, said the plane should be ready for the cross-country journey on May 1, depending on the weather.

"We like nice weather. We like sunny days," Borschberg said.

Stops are planned in Phoenix, Dallas, Washington, D.C., and New York. Each flight leg will take 20 to 25 hours, with 10-day stops in each city.

Between Dallas and Washington, the plane will also stop at one of three other cities — Atlanta, Nashville or St. Louis.

Borschberg said the plane's creators are close to being able to launch the non-stop flights needed to go around the world.

Using solar power, "we are close to the notion of perpetual flight," he said.

(Haven Daley - Associated Press)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Yes, airline employees do care!

JetBlue likes to talk about its "humanity" and they walked the walk this week after the horror of the Boston Marathon bombings with small personal touches like waiving bag fees at Logan and providing free coffee and donuts throughout the terminal. The CEO even showed up to remind the troops in Boston - and the rest of the city - that the company was thinking of them.

It's not the only airline that acts human now and again, yes, even in this era of automated kiosks, do-it-yourself ticketing, smartphone this and online that, not to mention life-size avatars or Alaska's robotic 'Ask Jenn' and her equally cheery United twin, 'Ask Alex'.

Here are a few stories about real live people who work for airlines and the lengths they sometimes go to, up to and including dumpster diving (I'll explain). Maybe you'll still hate your airline after sitting on the tarmac for an hour or so, but maybe a couple of teddy bear stories will remind you the human touch has not disappeared entirely.

Yes, I said teddy bears. The first incident involves a pilot who blogs as JetHead, a self-described veteran American Airlines captain. Last month, he saw a little girl crying at the boarding gate in Dulles. Long story short, the child left her backpack at security (with teddy bear inside) and the pilot risked a late departure to go back and get it. "We don't just fly jets," he wrote, "we fly people. And the occasional teddy bear." The plane departed on time.

The second incident involves a non-recovered bear despite the heroic efforts of JetBlue employees, so they did the next best thing: they sent the lost bear's owner a new one which at four-and-a-half-feet tall, was bigger than the child. The delighted youngster promptly dubbed him "Fatty."

But suppose you don't care about stuffed animals. What humanity do the airlines offer you?

Fly Delta on an international route and you may find out. They have dedicated teams of employees who specifically keep an eye out for delayed flights so they can physically shepherd travelers with tight connections to customs and/or immigration, getting them into shorter lines via bright orange 'Quick Connect' cards. It can be a lifesaver.

American has a similar program with its Oneworld alliance partners, and you'll recognize these folks by their purple vests. I saw these Global Support Center employees in action myself and was impressed at how they help fast-track delayed passengers thanks to real live humans bearing 'Express Connection' cards (also orange, in case you're wondering). "What really resonates with our customers," an American spokesman told me, "is being met proactively by a human being." There it is again, the human touch. Big or small, it makes a difference.

A couple aboard a Virgin America flight were planning to renew their vows in Vegas, but once the cabin crew heard about this, they figured, why wait? The human touch played out in a spontaneous mid-air ceremony complete with free drinks for all. Something similar happened during a long wait at the gate in San Francisco (blame the famous fog). The Virgin in-flight crew swung into action, hauling out the drink cart to serve pre-flight cocktails. I suspect that was one delay few complained about.

But my favorite 'human touch' story has to do with the dumpster diving I mentioned earlier.

As reported by a North Dakota TV station, Brian Holzer died in a freak accident a couple of years ago while putting up Christmas lights. Ever since, his 7-year-old son Cole has clung to the shirt his dad was wearing, a now well-worn but much loved reminder of the man he misses so much. Cole takes it everywhere, including a recent family trip to San Diego on Delta.

Somehow, the shirt got lost. The boy was inconsolable. A family friend called Delta asking, could they help? They could. Delta spokesman Michael Thomas told me they had pilots looking, they put out word on Facebook, gate agents dug through trash, ground crews went diving in dumpsters - and that's where the shirt was found. The priceless artifact was returned to its owner. "A touching, heartwarming story that really speaks volumes about our employees," said Thomas.

(Rick Seaney - FareCompare)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

"Doolittle Raiders" final reunion

(Photo by Nick Tomecek - Northwest Florida Daily News)

At 97, retired Lt. Col. Richard Cole can still fly and land a vintage B-25 with a wide grin and a wave out the cockpit window to amazed onlookers.

David Thatcher, 91, charms admiring World War II history buffs with detailed accounts of his part in the 1942 Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, in which he earned a Silver Star.

Retired Lt. Col. Edward Saylor, 93, still gets loud laughs from crowds for his one liners about the historic bombing raid 71 years ago Thursday that helped to boost a wounded nation's morale in the aftermath of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.

Cole, Thatcher and Saylor — three of the four surviving crew members from the history-making bombing run — are at Eglin Air Force Base in the Florida Panhandle for a final public reunion of the Doolittle Raiders. They decided to meet at Eglin because it is where they trained for their top-secret mission in the winter of 1942, just weeks after the Japanese devastated the American fleet at Pearl Harbor.

The fourth surviving raider, 93-year-old Robert Hite, could not make the event.

"At the time of the raid, you know the war was on and it was just a mission we went on, we were lucky enough to survive it but it didn't seem like that big of a deal at the time.

I spent the rest of the war in Europe and with the guys in Normandy and taking bodies out of airplanes and stuff and I didn't feel like a hero," Saylor said Wednesday following a ceremony in which an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter maintenance hangar at the base was named in his honor.

Saylor joked with the audience of young airmen and local dignitaries.

"My reaction when I out found out we were bombing Japan from an aircraft carrier was that it was too far to swim back home so we might as well go ahead with it," he said.

The 16 planes, loaded with one-ton bombs, took off from the aircraft carrier on less than 500 feet of runway. They had only enough fuel to drop their bombs and try to land in China with the hope that the Chinese would help them to safety.

"We were all pretty upbeat about it, we didn't have any bad thoughts about what was going to happen. We just did what we had to do," said Cole, who was Doolittle's co-pilot.

Wednesday's event at the base is part of a weeklong series of activities planned by the military and community leaders to honor the men.

Thomas Casey, business manager for the Raiders and a longtime fan of the men, said the four survivors have decided they can no longer keep up with the demands of group public appearances.

"The mission ends here in Fort Walton Beach on Saturday night, but their legacy starts then," he said.

Casey said he hopes everyone who has had a chance to interact with the men will keep their legacy alive. "I want them to tell the story to their children, their grandchildren, their neighbors and keep their story going because their story is worthwhile telling."

At each reunion is a case containing 80 silver goblets with the name of each raider inscribed right-side up and upside down on a single goblet. The men toast their fallen comrades each year and turn their goblets upside down in their honor.

They have also saved a bottle of Hennessy cognac from 1896, the year mission commander James Doolittle was born. The Raiders had said the final two survivors would open the bottle, but they have since decided that the four survivors will meet in private later this year for the toast.

At Wednesday's dedication of the Saylor Hangar, the three men posed for pictures beneath a vintage B-25 bomber and an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that sat beside it.

Col. Andrew Toth, commander of the F-35 squadron at Eglin, told the men, "You boosted the morale of this nation just four months after Pearl Harbor. Thank you for your dedication and service."

Young airmen and women obtained the old veterans' autographs and thanked them for their service.

"I've seen the movies — you know, 'Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo,'" said Air Force Lt. Col. Mike Matesick. "I think this is awesome because they actually trained here at Eglin and they did the ceremony to actually name a hangar after one of the guys. It's pretty cool."

Larry Kelley owns the vintage B-25 aircraft that Cole flew a day earlier during a demonstration of four restored B-25s from the World War II era.

Kelley choked up when trying to explain what it has meant to him to meet Cole and the other raiders over the past several years and to have the men fly in his aircraft.

"Here are some of the most famous aviators that came out of World War II and they've never put a nickel in their pocket" as a result of their fame, he said. Instead, he said, any money from book signings and appearances has always gone to the James H. Doolittle Scholarship Fund for aviation students.

Kelley said sitting beside Cole while Cole took the controls of the B-25 and landed the aircraft was a highlight of his life as a World War II and aviation buff.

"Oh yeah, he did most of the flying today. He did the landing. He's dead on. I kept looking over the altimeter. I told him to hold 1,500 feet and I kept looking at the altimeter and it was dead on: not 1,499 feet, not 1,501 feet. He had the altimeter pegged at 1,500 feet," he said.

(Associated Press)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

DeerJet G550 receives registration

Spotted G550 (c/n  5399) N399GA destined for DeerJet at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) this afternoon having her Chinese registration (B-8273) being applied.

(Michael Carter - Editor APF)

Indonesian pilots may use meth due to exceptionally long work hours!

The lackluster safety record of Indonesian airlines, highlighted by a recent non-fatal Lion Air crash in Bali, includes a troubling history of pilots using methamphetamine.

At least three Lion Air pilots have been arrested for either consumption or possession of meth since 2011, The Jakarta Globe reported.

The pilots flying the Lion Air Boeing 737-800 that crashed in Bali both passed initial drug tests .

In February 2012, a Lion Air pilot was arrested after being found with .4 grams of meth, testing positive for the drug hours before he was supposed to fly. His license was revoked and he was sent to rehabilitation, according to the Jakarta Globe.

In an article at the time, the New York Times suggested too much work as a potential motive for using meth, which increases concentration and alertness.

The Indonesian air travel industry is rapidly expanding, and may be understaffed. A Transportation Ministry spokesperson told the Times that the 7,000 pilots working for the country's 57 airlines are "not enough."

Lion Air, which has recently signed major deals to buy jets from Boeing and Airbus to match its growth, denied its pilots do not get enough time to rest on the ground.

Another possible reason for using the drug is simply to have fun. Last year, crystal meth became the number one drug in Indonesia, where it is known as "shabu-shabu," according to Reuters.

In 2012, Benny Mamoto, the head of Indonesia's National Narcotics Agency (BNN), said a large number of pilots, who have the money to buy drugs, could be users.

According to the BNN, "pilots considered crystal meth as being part of their lifestyle," the Jakarta Post reported.

"There is a possibility that airline crews are linked to drug networks," Mamoto told that newspaper.

Nearly all Indonesian airlines are banned from flying in European Union airspace because they are deemed "unsafe." The State Department suggests Americans traveling to Indonesia avoid local carriers.

Methamphetamine use by pilots in the U.S. is considerably lower than in Indonesia, though not insignificant. The drug was detected in at least one pilot every year from 1991 to 2002, and in 2004 and 2005, according to a 2008 Federal Aviation Administration report.

(Alex Davies - Business Insider)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Best run U.S. Airline.............and the winner is...........Southwest Airlines!

Most of the news involving the airlines lately has centered on the merger of American Airlines (NASDAQOTH: AAMRQ.PK) and US Airways Group (NYSE: LCC), which will create the world’s biggest airline when the deal is complete.

The other airline-related news recently has been about how frustrated customers are getting with the airlines; more passengers are getting bumped off of flights, there seem to be new fees every few months, etc. Very little has been in the news lately about the best-performing airline in recent history, Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV). With the company set to report its first quarter results on April 25, I thought a little reminder about this great company was in order.

What Makes Southwest Unique?

Southwest offers mainly shorter flights that don’t require a connection, and about 71% of its passengers fly nonstop to their destinations. By generally avoiding the congested-hub setup that most other airlines embrace, Southwest has been able to keep turnaround times low, keep their planes in the air more, and keep their fares low due to lower expenses.

With one of the lowest cost structures in the industry, Southwest has been able to maintain an excellent balance sheet (especially for an airline), and the company actually has positive net cash (cash minus debt). The company has recently expanded its service through its acquisition of AirTran Airlines, and Southwest is currently in the process of integrating and re-branding AirTran’s operations as their own.


At just 12.8 times forward earnings, I believe Southwest is still somewhat undervalued, even after the share price has risen over 50% since last year. Revenues continue to rise as AirTran is integrated, and travel demand is on an uptrend recently. Southwest is expected to earn $1.00 per share this year, and this is expected to rise by almost 14% annually going forward. As long as the company is on pace to meet expectations for this year when first quarter earnings are released, I’d say the current valuation is more than justified.


The obvious alternatives are to invest in another of the airlines (there are only a few majors), however it is my adamant opinion that Southwest is the best-run by far, and the most worth of long-term investment consideration. Just take a look at this chart of the net cash position of some of the major airlines:

For the purposes of this comparison, we’ll consider American and US Airways to be the same company since they soon will be. My general attitude toward this merger is to wait and see. First of all, AMR, the parent company of American Airlines, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection (that’s what the “Q” at the end of a ticker symbol means, by the way), and is hoping to emerge from bankruptcy later this year. Call me old-fashioned, but I generally don’t put money into companies in bankruptcy.

The best candidate out of the rest of the airlines is Delta (NYSE: DAL), which despite its high debt loads is doing a good job of growing revenues and earnings, and has taken measures to reduce its debt load, down over $3 billion in the past two years. Although I see Delta as a risky and volatile stock, at just 4.7 times forward earnings, it may be so cheap that it’s worth a look. Delta is projected to grow its earnings at an average of 7% annually going forward. If all goes well with Delta, shareholders could be handsomely rewarded; however that is a big “if.”


Not only is Southwest the best-run airline in the market today, it is also very attractively valued. As far as long-term investibility goes, Southwest is the only airline stock that I could own and still sleep well at night.

(Matthew Frankel - Motley Fool Blog Network)

New C-17A prepares for first flight

C-17A (P-221) 10-0221 "Charleston" AFB performed engine runs on the old commercial blast fence and a high speed taxi this afternoon as she prepares for her first flight. She is captured returning to the Boeing flight ramp following pre-flight testing.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Gulfstream G-IVSP N119FM

G-IVSP (c/n 1464) N119FM operated by KM Ventures LLC arrives at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) as"RJC464" from Stewart International Airport (SWF/KSWF) on April 10, 2013 at 12:27pm.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Friends of Long Beach Airport welcome Clay Lacy to April meeting

Tonights meeting of the Friends of Long Beach Airport welcomed guest speaker Clay Lacy. I learned some great history about Mr. Lacy who is retired from United Airlines. He was with the carrier for 41 years after being hired at the age of 19, he number one in senority when he retired. 
 Clay Lacy relates some great stories from his many years in aviation.
(Photo by Michael Carter)
 APF Editor and Chief Michael Carter thanks Clay.
(Photo by Douglas Kerr)
 Long Beach Airport Operations Superintendent Carl Zittel and Clay.
(Photo by Michael Carter)
Long Beach Airport Operations Superintendent Karl Zittel (left) and Airport Director Mario Rodriguez (right) take questions from the friends of Long Beach Airport group.
(Photo by Michael Carter)