Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Third Indian Air Force C-17A makes maiden flight

The third C-17A (F-259) CB-8003 destined for the Indian Air Force (IAF) took to the skies at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) this afternoon for the first time departing at 13:23 pst returning at 17:01 pst.
(Photos by Michael Carter)

United Customer service agent arrested for Asiana bag theft

A United Airlines customer service representative and his girlfriend have been charged with grand theft and commercial burglary for allegedly stealing luggage from San Francisco International Airport in the aftermath of the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash.
Sean Sharif Crudup, 44, and Raychas Elizabeth Thomas, 32, both of Richmond, Calif., were arrested at a United Airlines gate awaiting a flight to Hawaii at San Francisco International Airport on July 25, Detective Sgt. Wes Matsuura of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office told
While Matsuura said there is no evidence at this point in time that Crudup and Thomas were specifically targeting Asiana Airlines passengers who endured the crash, "it could still play out that way."
"The unfortunate coincidence is that Asiana was on July 6, and this crime was on July 8," Matsuura said. "It was a crime of opportunity. A lot of bags were down there."
Luggage had been piling up in the terminal because of the Asiana Airlines plane crash, which closed some of the San Francisco airport's runways and caused passengers flying in to be delayed or diverted for days after the accident occurred, Matsuura said.
Airport surveillance footage obtained by police shows Crudup, who was working at baggage claim, rifling through a bag stranded at the airport's United Airlines terminal on July 8, according to Matsuura.
Later, the same bag is seen with two separate women, who are also holding another bag, Matsuura said. One of the women was later identified by police as Crudup's girlfriend, Raychas Thomas. It is unclear who the other woman in the footage is at this time, he said.
The victim whose bag was stolen and her family were scheduled to fly back to San Francisco from the Cayman Islands on July 6, Matsuura said. But their flight was rerouted to Houston as a result of Asiana Airlines Flight 214's crash landing onto the runway.
Upon landing in Houston, the family checked their bags to arrive at San Francisco, according to Matsuura. But when they learned they would be unable to fly into the airport until July 9, they booked a flight to Los Angeles and drove up to the San Francisco Airport to pick up their bags from the United terminal instead.
"There were some issues with the bags being located and one of their bags was missing," he said. "All the airports were a mess that weekend."
But days after the luggage was reported missing, the victim got a phone call from her personal shopper at Nordstrom's to ask how her trip was and for an explanation as to why her sister returned $6,000 worth of clothing.
"The victim said, 'I don't know what you're talking about, I don't have a sister, I didn't return any clothes,'" Matsuura said.
The victim, who declined to be identified, then contacted investigators, who obtained Nordstrom's surveillance footage, Matsuura said.
Police later determined through Nordstrom's surveillance that a woman, who was later identified as Thomas, was able to return the clothing to Nordstrom's without a receipt, and asked for the refund in cash. The money has yet to be recovered, Matsuura said.
San Mateo Sheriff's deputies later searched Crudup and Thomas' home and found electronics, laptops, jewelry and clothing, Matsuura said. Some of the clothing found in their home belonged to the same woman who had her bag stolen.
Crudup pleaded not guilty to one count of grand theft and two counts of commercial burglary when he was arraigned on July 26.
He posted $75,000 bail the same day, Matsuura said. He is due back in San Mateo County Court in Redwood City, Calif., on Thursday.
Thomas, who was released from jail on July 25 on $50,000 bail, is scheduled to be arraigned in Aug. 26 in San Mateo County Court.
San Mateo County District Attorney Stephen Wagstaffe told that Crudup had not been assigned a public defender as of Monday afternoon.
United Airlines issued a statement as a result of the alleged stealing.
"We hold our employees to the highest standard and have zero tolerance for any theft," the airline said. "We are assisting the San Francisco Police Department in this investigation, and this employee has been held out of service."

 (Alexis Shaw - ABC News)

Frontier may become "Ultralow-cost carrier"

The low-fares, high-fees business model is expanding across the airline industry, and now a third ultralow-cost carrier appears ready to enter the battle between Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Travel for America’s cheapest travelers.

Frontier Airlines, the Denver-based airline known for the majestic wild animals painted on its jets’ tails, may soon become a legitimate down-market competitor. For years, Spirit and Allegiant have seen torrid growth in that segment of the U.S. market, as legacy airlines such as Delta, United and American have merged, trimmed capacity, boosted fares, and aggressively sought high-paying business travelers.

William Franke, Spirit’s chairman and managing partner of Indigo Partners, a private equity firm that focuses on airlines, is negotiating to acquire Frontier Airlines from Republic Airways Holdings and turn it into the same type of operation he pioneered at Spirit, Dow Jones reported this week.

Indigo will sell its 16 percent stake in Spirit, and Franke and another Indigo partner, John Wilson, will resign from Spirit’s board next month. The pending sale of 12 million shares prompted an 8 percent drop in Spirit’s stock price on July 30.

Republic, which flies regional jets on behalf of the major airlines, acquired Frontier in August 2009 as a way to diversify its revenue beyond the contracts it signs with the large hub-and-spoke airlines. But that experiment largely failed, and Republic has been trying to sell the airline for more than a year while cutting costs and flights at Frontier.

Last week Republic told investors it had signed a nonbinding agreement with a buyer to negotiate Frontier’s sale and delayed its shareholder meeting into September, presuming a deal could close in August. A Republic spokesman declined to comment, and a Spirit spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

Frontier could present Phoenix-based Indigo an opportunity to expand the leisure-travel model in the U.S. that has enjoyed immense popularity worldwide, with players such as Ryanair Holdings, EasyJet, Wizz Air, and Volaris.

Such airlines offer low fares but then assess fees for nearly every aspect of a flight, from water to carrying aboard a bag. Frontier also has an attractive asset in its early orders for new versions of Airbus’s A320neo and A319neo models.

Two years ago Republic placed 40 firm orders and 40 options for the new planes, giving it a lucrative placement in the order queue for a hot-selling airplane, Cowen & Co. aviation analyst Helane Becker says.

Franke, a former chief executive of America West Airlines, has compiled “a really good track record” in the industry, Becker says, calling Frontier “definitely a turnaround story” that could eventually be sold to a larger carrier or taken public in three to five years if any revamp is successful.

Southwest Airlines  bid unsuccessfully for Frontier in 2009.) “I think they’ve got a following,” the analyst says of Frontier. “There are people, in Denver especially, who are loyalists. They like the airline and would continue to support it.”

Still, even amid all the new leisure travel Spirit and Allegiant have stimulated in recent years, there could be a limit to the ultralow-cost model’s U.S. growth, says George Ferguson, an airline analyst with Bloomberg Industries.

“I think we like a bit more of a refined flying experience, as we typically get two to three weeks of vacation per year, where Europeans get five or six weeks and need to stretch the vacation dollar a bit more,” he wrote in an e-mail today. “We are much more of a car culture and will drive down 95 to Disney World, so we have all our junk with us when we get there.”

(Justin Bachman - BloombergBusinessWeek)

Grounded Qatar Airways 787 "Dreamliner" returns to the skies

Qatar Airways, which pulled one of its Boeing 787 Dreamliners out of service ten days ago, said the plane resumed flying today after replacing some parts.

A delay in shipping one of the components to Qatar Airway’s hub in Doha, Qatar, caused the plane to be taken out of service since July 22, the carrier said in an e-mailed statement today, without specifying which parts were required.

“Qatar Airways confirms that its Boeing 787 Dreamliner A7-BCB has reconvened service after a number of technical components required replacement,” it said. Once the component had arrived, it required three days of post-assembly and testing.

Qatar Airways said last week that it found a “minor” technical issue while the plane was on the ground, without providing details. The incident followed a spate of mishaps for the Boeing 787, including a fire on board an Ethiopian Airlines-owned Dreamliner this month at Heathrow Airport, and a three-month grounding of the global fleet after batteries caught fire.

Qatar Airways currently has six Boeing 787 Dreamliners in its fleet and 54 on order, according to its website.

(Deena Kamel Yousef - Bloomberg)

Delta CEO urges open skies in Japan

The CEO of Delta Air Lines is urging the Japanese government to open the country's skies to greater competition from foreign airlines.

Richard Anderson said Wednesday that protection of domestic carriers is holding back foreign airlines such as Delta. Japan is a key Asian market for the U.S. airline.

He told a press conference he wants to move Delta's Tokyo base to Haneda Airport from Narita International Airport because Haneda is closer to downtown Tokyo, but the government is creating obstacles.

He cited plane slot restrictions at Haneda and said the government is prioritizing domestic carriers such as All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines.

"I think their measured approach is that they'd like to leave us at the less preferable airport outside of town to advantage the two incumbent flag carriers," said Anderson.

But Hirokazu Kaneko from the Aviation Industries division of the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau said Haneda is at full capacity based on the bureau's calculations.

"We're reaching a point where adding more slots would become an issue of safety," said Kaneko.

Anderson said Delta moved its Tokyo hub to Narita in 1976 at the government's request. Now Delta wants to be based in Haneda again because it is closer to central Tokyo and draws more business.

Narita is 68 kilometers (42 miles) from central Tokyo, about three times further away than Haneda.
Anderson said Delta needs 25 additional plane slots to move back.

Haneda will be adding 42 daytime slots for long distance flights in the Spring of 2014.

"Slots in Haneda are extremely valuable because it draws so many travelers so naturally, it's very competitive," said Yoshihisa Akai, head of research at Japan Aviation Management Research. "With so much competition as is, it's unlikely Delta will be able to get all the slots it wants."

Anderson said he will keep voicing his concerns.

"We look forward to the Japanese government opening up the skies, because we do not have open skies in Japan right now," he said.

At the press conference, Anderson also said Delta is open to forming an alliance with a Japanese carrier in the future. In 2010, Japan Airlines spurned Delta's promises of cash and a broad global network to stay in its alliance with American Airlines.

(Azusa Uchikura _ Associated Press)

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

FAA advises international carriers to use GPS approach system at SFO

Federal aviation officials have advised all foreign airlines to use a GPS system instead of visual reckoning and cockpit instruments when landing at San Francisco International Airport (SFO/KSFO) in the wake of the deadly Asiana Airlines crash.
The Federal Aviation Administration issued the recommendation on Sunday involving main runways at the airport, saying in a statement that it took the action after noticing an increase in aborted landings by some foreign carriers flying visual approaches into the airport.

Pilots on Asiana Airlines Flight 214 had been cleared to make a visual approach when the plane crash-landed on July 6. Three people died, and 180 others were injured among the 307 aboard the flight that came in too low and too slow, slamming its landing gear into a seawall well before the actual runway.

Seconds before the accident, the pilots called for a go-around, meaning they wanted to abort the landing and circle for another approach.

The FAA said such maneuvers are "routine, standardized procedures that can occur once a day or more at busy airports for various reasons."

Two weeks after the crash, another Asiana flight aborted its landing, San Francisco airport officials said. In addition, they said a Taiwanese EVA Air flight approached too low last week then aborted and began another approach.

The FAA said it was investigating the EVA flight. It did not say how many other such incidents have occurred.

Airport officials met with Asiana managers and FAA representatives after the July 19 aborted landing by the Asiana aircraft to see if any additional measures were necessary, airport spokesman Doug Yakel said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein also has met with federal and local officials about improving airport safety. Spokesman Brian Weiss said Monday that Feinstein also spoke with the South Korea ambassador. Asiana is based in that country.

In clear weather, it's not unusual for pilots to make a visual approach, using the view through their windshield. They also can use an instrument system called a glide slope indicator, although that has been out of service in San Francisco since June 1 because of ongoing runway improvements.

The FAA said all foreign carriers should continue to use alternate instrument approaches until the glide slopes return to service in late August.

The advice came from "an abundance of caution," the FAA said in its statement.

However, it's not a requirement. Foreign pilots can choose to fly visual approaches, but they typically accept air traffic control assignments.

(Associated Press) 

American MD-80's make a come back

American Airlines MD-82 (53031/1819) N7549A smokes the mains on Rwy 25L at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS/KLAS) on December 16, 2011.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

For years, American has focused on getting rid of its McDonnell Douglas MD-80. the planes that made it great in the 1980s and 1990s but today are aging and inefficient.

But this summer, American has brought back three MD80s to serve on routes between Dallas/Fort Worth and three cities: Corpus Christi and Lubbock, Texas, and Guadalajara Mexico.

The MD80s replaced regional jets flown by American Eagle and were scheduled to be in use from June 12 through August 26.

Powell said the planes had been designated as spares but had not been decommissioned.

Former CEO Robert Crandall placed a historic order for MD80s in 1984.

Today American still operates about 200 MD-80s, with all but 45 to 60 of them scheduled to come out of the fleet by 2016, when new Boeing and Airbus jets replace them.

 The newer MD-80s, which came from TWA in the 2000 merger, are only 12 to 16 years old, Powell said.

American has orders for 260 new Airbus jets and 260 new Boeing jets, all set to join the fleet by 2016. Last week, American took possession of its first A319.

“We are in the midst of a very exciting time at AA with new aircraft coming online nearly weekly,” Powell said. “Starting in August, we take delivery of three new A319s every month. Starting in November, we’ll bring on the 321s – and this on top of our 737-800s we’ve been taking from Boeing since last year.

“Last Thursday we took delivery of number 21 of these new BSI Sky Interior aircraft and we anticipate ten more yet this year,” he said. “I say all this to underscore this summer’s temporary move to fulfill seasonal demand in heavy markets out of our hubs as we await these new aircraft.”

The new 737 Boeing sky interior has sculpted sidewalls, bigger windows, LED lighting and larger, pivoting overhead storage bins.

Among U.S. carriers, only American, Allegiant and Delta fly the MD 80. Delta, in fact, not only flies 117 MD 88s, but also still flies 17 DC-9s, with an average age of 34.6 years. The DC9, the MD-80 predecessor, was discontinued in 1982.

“They primarily fly out of Atlanta,” said Delta spokesman Anthony Black. “We are phasing them out through very early 2014.”

(Ted Reed - Forbes)

Southwest Airlines fined by Department of Transportation over fare issues

The Department of Transportation fined Southwest Airlines $200,000 for violating federal airline advertisement rules by not making enough seats available at advertised prices.

DOT said Southwest advertised one-way, nonstop fares “for $100 or less” for travel on Feb. 14, but “failed to include a reasonable number of seats available in a significant number of city-pair markets in the fare sale.” The DOT generally requires that 10% of an airline’s seats in inventory be available at sale prices, though not all flights need to have seats available at the advertised fare.

Southwest responded to the DOT saying that the “Luv a Fare’’ sale “was very beneficial to consumers’’ and that sale fares in many markets didn’t even sell out.

DOT also found that on Jan. 30, Southwest advertised $66 one-way fares from Dallas Love Field to Branson, Mo., for travel between March 1 and March 21. The agency said its investigation showed, however, that there were no seats available at the sale fare on any day during the sale period.

A spokesman for Southwest said that problem resulted from computer problems with its DING! offer. “These were temporary and unintentional circumstances that were aggravated by a technical glitch in our inventory and sales systems,’’ spokesman Brad Hawkins said.

“We’ve worked with the DOT to address their concerns and have corrected the issues internally to prevent this from happening again.’

(Scott McCartney - The Wall Street Journal)

Friday, July 26, 2013

G650 N673HA

Operated by Hamilton Aviation, G650 (c/n 6018) N673HA is captured on short final to Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on July 25, 2013.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

G450 N129MH

Gulfstream G450 (c/n 4232) N129MH operated by Leading Edge Operations Company rolls for takeoff on Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on July 25, 2013.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

FAA may fine Boeing for prolonged fixes

The Federal Aviation Administration on Friday said it proposed penalizing Boeing's commercial airplane unit $2.75 million for taking nearly two years to fix a problem with fasteners on its 777 widebody airplanes.

The penalty was unusual in its size and for the fact that it comes nearly three years after Boeing said it addressed the FAA's concerns, which stem from 2008. The FAA regularly imposes smaller penalties for rule violations, but multimillion-dollar amounts are far less frequent.

The action came as Boeing's 787 Dreamliner aircraft has suffered a series of mishaps in recent weeks, including a spontaneous fire on an Ethiopian Airlines-owned 787 that was parked at a remote stand at London's Heathrow Airport.

"Safety is our top priority and a robust quality control system is a vital part of maintaining the world's safest air transportation system," U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement announcing the action.

"Airplane manufacturers must take prompt and thorough steps to correct safety and compliance problems once they become aware of them," Foxx said.

Boeing said it took corrective action and closed the matter in November 2010 and is working with the FAA to "understand and address any remaining concerns."

Boeing said its actions included greater management oversight, a database for tracking issues and regular meetings with the FAA to ensure any open cases were closed on time.


The FAA said Boeing discovered in September 2008 it had been installing non-conforming fasteners on its 777 airplanes, but then took more than two years to implement a plan to correct the problem, which violated regulations by failing to maintain its quality control system.

Boeing stopped using the bad fasteners after the problem was discovered, but some manufacturing issues continued until after the corrective action plan was in place, the FAA said.

"Manufacturers must make it a priority to identify and correct quality problems in a timely manner," FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said in the statement.

The violation carries a penalty of $25,000 a day, but the FAA said it would be willing to settle for $2.75 million and gave Boeing 30 days to respond.

Industry experts said the proposed penalty appeared unusual, not least because it came years after Boeing came into compliance. Some suggested that the FAA may be toughening its stance after being criticized for lax oversight of the 787 by the National Transportation Safety Board earlier this year.

"The headline is so out of sync with the size of the penalty, I'm inclined to view this as muscle flexing by the FAA," said Carter Leake, an investment banker with BB&T Capital Markets/Windsor Group.

The NTSB raised concerns after lithium-ion batteries burned on two 787 jets within two weeks in January. The FAA and other regulators grounded the global fleet of 50 Dreamliners for 3-1/2 months while Boeing redesigned the battery system.

"That's a pretty big fine for the FAA," said Mary Schiavo, a former Department of Transportation Inspector General. She said fasteners were a concern when she was inspector general in the 1990s, and were difficult to police because the parts don't have serial numbers.

"In this case, Boeing was cited for quality control, which suggests bad fasteners were coming in and they didn't have a system in place to catch them," she said.

The FAA's most recent large proposed penalty was a $4 million civil penalty against United Parcel Service for alleged improper maintenance of four cargo aircraft. That case stemmed from 2008 and 2009. In 2012, it proposed a $1 million penalty against Horizon Air for allegedly operating planes that were not in compliance with regulations.

The violations spanned 2007 to 2011.

(Alwyn Scott and Doug Palmer - Reuters)

Qatar Airways ground 787

Qatar Airways said on Friday it had taken one of its Boeing 787 Dreamliners out of service following what it described as a "minor" technical issue, as pressure mounted on the plane maker over possible new electrical problems with the advanced jet.

The airline and Boeing Co declined to give further details but industry sources said they were treating seriously reports that the aircraft had been grounded for days after smoke was seen near an electrical panel.

The 787 has suffered a spate of mishaps in recent weeks, including a spontaneous fire on an Ethiopian Airlines-owned 787 that broke out while the plane was parked at a remote stand at London's Heathrow airport for eight hours on July 12.

According to Web-tracking service Flightaware, the Qatar Airways aircraft, registered as A7-BCB (38320/58), has not flown since Sunday, an unusually long downtime for a long-haul jet designed to save on fuel bills.

Qatar Airways confirmed an aircraft had been taken out of service, but said no flights had been cancelled as a result.

"This is a minor issue for us, and not an incident, so we are not commenting," an airline spokeswoman said.

A spokeswoman for Boeing said, "We request that you channel all your enquiries to Qatar Airways."

Two people familiar with the matter, asking not to be identified, said smoke had been reported near an electrical compartment while the jet was on the ground in Doha. A failure in a similar bay caused a fire during a test flight in 2010, and three of the jets, including one owned by Qatar Airways, had electrical problems last December.

A fire-brigade supervisor in Doha said it did not have any record of an incident with an airport-related call last week.

India's aviation regulator said earlier it had started an investigation after an oven in a 787 operated by Air India overheated during a domestic flight, causing smoke.

There was no interruption to services.

Japan's ANA Holdings Inc, which operates the world's biggest fleet of Dreamliners, also said on Friday it had found damage to the battery wiring on two 787 locator beacons, made by Honeywell International Inc.

United Airlines said on Friday it also found a pinched wire in one of its locator beacons on one 787 in its fleet of six. It replaced the beacon and sent the defective unit to Honeywell for inspection. The work did not interrupt its schedule, it said.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing instructed airlines to inspect or remove the beacons, after UK investigators found two wires pinched together in the beacon inside the Ethiopian Airlines Dreamliner at Heathrow. The resulting fire caused extensive damage to the plane.


Last December, three 787s had electrical problems that were made public. United Airlines experienced problems with electrical panels on two 787s, one of which diverted to another airport during a flight from Houston. Qatar Airways said that month that it grounded one of its 787 jets because of the same problem United had experienced. Boeing later traced the problem to faulty circuit boards in the panel.

In January, regulators grounded the global fleet of 50 Dreamliners after batteries burned on two jets within two weeks. Regulators lifted the grounding in April after Boeing redesigned the battery system, which supplies backup power to the jet and is unrelated to the emergency beacon, known as an emergency locator transmitter, or ELT, that is designed to send out a signal to help rescuers locate an aircraft wreckage.

Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said in May that the airline had to forego $200 million in lost profit because of the grounding of 787 planes, but has received compensation from Boeing for the losses. At least one other airline says it is still seeking compensation.


Aviation experts say it is common for the reported number of incidents to rise when an aircraft is in the spotlight, and that all new aircraft models have incidents when they first enter service. The 787 began service in the fall of 2011.

Even aircraft with decades of service regularly suffer glitches that go unreported and rarely pose a direct threat to safety.

However, aviation experts say U.S. and British authorities investigating the previous fires may seek to establish whether anything can be learned from a pattern of reported incidents connected in various ways to the jet's electrical systems.

Boeing Chief Executive Jim McNerney said this week he remained "highly confident" in the future of the 787 Dreamliner program and the integrity of the company's newest airplane.

The 787 incorporates a raft of changes in the way passenger jets are designed, including greater use of electrical systems that save weight compared with older hydraulics. It is the first passenger jet built mainly from lightweight carbon-composites.

Boeing shares ended 1 percent lower at $105.60 on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday.

 (Praveen Menon and Siva Govindasamy - Reuters)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly comments on Mondays landing incident

Southwest Airlines Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly told CNBC on Thursday that he's thankful there were only minor injuries as a result of a hard landing of one of the carrier's jets at New York's LaGuardia Airport on Monday evening.
"Of course, any injuries are too many, and we'll be working very diligently to make sure we understand what happened and make sure it doesn't happened again," Kelly said.
The National Transportation Safety Board said the Boeing 737 operated by Southwest skidded 2,175 feet on its nose after the front gear collapsed backwards into the fuselage, damaging avionics and electronics.
Out of the 150 passengers and crew on board, nine people were hurt.
The NTSB is reviewing the flight data and cockpit voice recorders. For its part, Boeing said it also has people at the airport-supporting Southwest and providing technical assistance to the NTSB.
Kelly said he's "very pleased" with how the investigation is going. "Our primary objective is the safety of our customers and our crew," he stressed in a " Squawk Box " interview Thursday, shortly after the company reported earnings that were in-line with Wall Street expectations. 

Southwest posted second-quarter earnings excluding items of 38 cents per share, up from 36 cents a share in the year-earlier period. Revenue increased to $4.64 billion from $4.62 billion a year ago.
Analysts had expected the airline company to report earnings excluding items of 38 cents a share on $4.66 billion in revenue, according to a consensus estimate from Thomson Reuters.

Kelly said that the company saw headwinds this quarter because of the economy "seeing affects from sequestration, seeing affects from consumer tax increases earlier in the year."
"We saw trends significantly off-course beginning in March," he continued, "despite the fact that March was augmented this year by Easter and Passover traffic."
He was pleased that fuel prices are lower than a year ago, but acknowledged that the recent trend higher for oil prices could be problematic in the future.

"We never like seeing fuel prices going up, but the nice thing is we've been able to adjust our business to energy prices at these levels. If we can kind of them in this range, I think we'll do well."
Southwest has no plans to charge baggage fees this year, Kelly said, adding that the merger integration with AirTran is on track for completion by the end of 2014 as planned.

(Matthew J. Belvedere - CNBC)   

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

G650 N1AL departs Long Beach

Gulfstream G650 (c/n 6015) N1AL ex-N615GD operated by ALC 6015 LLC departed Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) this evening at 17:06 pst bound for an unknown destination.
(Photos by Michael Carter)

G550 N120GA performs test flight

 Taxies on "Delta" to Rwy 30.
 Rotates from Rwy 30.
Short final to Rwy 30.
Gulfstream G550 (c/n 5420) N120GA tbr G-GENT, departed Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) as "GLF37" at 16:18 pst on a test sortie to "SHOTS" returning at 19:37 pst on July 23, 2013.
(Photos by Michael Carter)

First Aeromexico 787 takes to the skies

The first Aeromexico 787-8 (35306/115) N961AM performed its maiden flight from Paine Field (PAE/KPAE) in Everett, Washington this past Monday July 21, 2013 as "BOE561".
The carrier is leasing the aircraft from ILFC.
(Photo by Joe G. Walker)

Recent cargo aircraft crashes due to fire spark calls for pilot oxygen mask improvements

A Boeing Co. 747 freighter crash in which two pilots died after inhaling fumes from a cargo of lithium batteries prompted investigators to call for full-face oxygen masks to be made mandatory in cockpits.

Development of mask-mounted thermal-imaging gear should also be explored, together with technology to improve visibility in smoke-filled cockpits and fire-suppression systems avoiding the need for crew to enter blazing cargo bays on larger planes, the United Arab Emirates General Civil Aviation Authority said.

The findings come after a United Parcel Service (UPS) 747-400F crashed near Dubai in September 2010 when its crew became incapacitated following a cargo fire originating from a deck carrying a load of lithium batteries. The European Aviation Safety Agency and U.S. Federal Aviation Administration should also work with Boeing to assess whether the plane itself requires safety enhancements, the GCAA said on its website.

“If a deficiency in the current level of critical systems protection is determined, provide regulatory oversight to mitigate the risk of control and systems damage that can result from large cargo fires,” the GCAA said in the report today.

Two other freighter blazes have been linked to lithium battery shipments, according to the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board. An Asiana Airlines 747-400 went down in the South China Sea in 2011, killing both pilots, and a UPS Boeing DC-8 was destroyed by fire in 2006 after making an emergency landing in Philadelphia, with three crew members escaping.

Solo Pilot

The FAA and EASA should also draw up procedures for a scenario in which a crew member is incapacitated and the plane left with a single pilot. Cargo operators should be required to give instruction in a smoke simulator with full immersion training to replicate levels of continuous fumes, the GCAA said.

Since the Dubai crash, UPS has added full-face oxygen masks for pilots on all of Boeing 747 and MD-11 jets, the wide-body planes typically used on the longest freight routes.

UPS is adding the masks to other models including 767s and 757s, and they are pre-installed on Airbus A300 aircraft, the Atlanta-based company said in an e-mailed statement.

The cargo carrier has also installed a vision assurance system -- which lets pilots see clearly through smoke -- on its 747s, and has added oxygen masks for the jump-seat pilot.

UPS has separately purchased about 1,600 metal containers that can contain a fire for as many as four hours, plus 575 blaze-resistant covers for pallet-sized shipments. Enhanced employee training will also ensure workers recognize hazardous materials and undeclared shipments of flammable goods, it said.

While the GCAA said the cause of the Dubai fire was unclear, it suggested the FAA, EASA and Boeing evaluate the 747’s cargo bay to determine if a transfer of energy from the vibration of the fuselage to the batteries could somehow have ignited them.

 (Deena Kamel Yousef  - Bloomberg)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Gulfstream G550 N517GA

 Taxies on "Delta" to Rwy 30.

Rotates from Rwy 30.
 Positive climb!
Short final to Rwy 30.
Gulfstream G550 (c/n 5417) N517GA tbr N517DW performed a pre-delivery test flight on Thursday July 18, 2013.
(Photos by Michael Carter)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

787 "Dreamliner" down but not out (of the sky)

The Boeing Company has had a turbulent couple of weeks, and while the airline manufacturer continues to come under fire for the 787 fire aboard an empty Ethiopian Airlines plane Friday at Heathrow airport in London, it still doesn’t look like its fleet of 787s will face another long-term grounding just yet.

According to Bloomberg, up through June Boeing had delivered 66 Dreamliners to 11 airlines. The 787′s listing price comes out at $206.8 million in its cheapest version, but many airliners are now learning that this lofty cost is the least of their worries.

Ever since May, when the fleet of 787s were given back their wings after a three month grounding, Boeing has made headlines almost weekly with the various technical difficulties that the planes have been experiencing.

The most serious news, however, came last week when an empty Dreamliner caught fire in London for an unidentified reason. Now, a safety investigation has been launched by the U.K. Air Accidents Investigation Branch, and the investigator is also receiving assistance from the European Aviation Safety Agency.

As of right now, sources report that Boeing’s 787s aren’t in immediate danger of a grounding, and high profile operators such as ANA Holdings Inc. and United Airlines, along with Thomson Airways, LOT Polish Airlines, and Air India Ltd continue to fly their Dreamliners.

United, the world’s largest carrier and a unit of United Continental Holdings, owns six of the 787 aircrafts, and is an example of an airline company which has resolutely stood its ground on Boeing safety despite the company’s many setbacks.

United’s stance on Boeing security is shared by many other airlines. A spokesman from TUI Travel, the latest to be affected by Dreamliner drama when it was forced to turn back a plane Friday due to unspecified technical issues maintained, “We want to reassure our customers that we have every confidence in this aircraft and would never operate it if we weren’t 100 percent sure of its safety.”

Other than Boeing, U.S. safety specialists, and Ethiopian Airlines, so far the only outside company to be invited into the investigation is Honeywell International Inc. Honeywell is the manufacturer of the emergency locator transmitter located in the upper rear part of the new airline that was near the site of the fire. These transmitters could be removed from future 787s as a precautionary measure, but the company has not yet been ordered to do so.

(Emily Coyle - Wall Street Cheat Sheet)

Interesting Learjet 25 visits Long Beach

Learjet 25 (c/n 25-050) N999MF operated by Ice Niner LLC arrives at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) this evening 18:54 pst from Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS/KLAS) as "Ice9."
(Photos by Michael Carter)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


G-IVSP (c/n 1212) N502JT operated by G4 JAH LLC rolls for takeoff on Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on July 16, 2013.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Monday, July 15, 2013

G550 N550PR

G550 (c/n 5121) N550PR captured on short final to Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) as it returns from a test flight as "GLF88" on July 15, 2013.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Bizjet Market still sluggish according to J.P. Morgan

Second-quarter 2013 earnings are likely to bring few signs of recovery for aviation, according to the July Business Jet Monthly report from analyst J.P.Morgan, which highlighted several manufacturers.

The report predicts that demand for smaller Cessna Citations will remain depressed but “we will look for more color on the Sovereign and XLS, key midsize offerings.” While Gulfstream has expressed satisfaction in the near-term outlook for G450 and G550 sales, J.P.Morgan notes that China has accounted for 20- to 25 percent of deliveries in each of the past two years and a slowing business jet market there is “a source of risk.”

The analysts further expect Bombardier will “once again stand out from a book-to-build standpoint, thanks to the 30 Challenger 350s VistaJet ordered.” However, they add, “we will see a hole to fill for Challenger deliveries this year.” Also, Bombardier’s overall 2013 delivery target depends on a large number of Learjet 70s and Learjet 75s in the fourth quarter when the two aircraft are scheduled to enter service. In other industry observations, the report points out that used inventories declined 10 basis points in June, the average asking price declined 3.2 percent in June, and the increase in flight operations was modest.

(Aviation International News)

Alaska Airlines pilots agree to new contract

Alaska Airlines pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), have ratified a new five-year contract.

ALPA said of the nearly 94% of 1,343 eligible pilots casting a ballot, 67% voted in favor of the agreement. The contract increases pay by nearly 20% over the life of the agreement and contains job security and work rule improvements. It also protects pilots’ retirement and insurance benefits.

The airline’s last labor contract with its pilots was ratified in May 2009 and became amendable April 1.

“Alaska’s pilots and management now will begin the process of implementing the new agreement and preparing to discuss changes needed to accommodate new flight-time/duty-time rules that are scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 4, 2014,” the carrier said in a statement.

(Linda Blachly - ATWOnline News)

Has United canceled A320 orders?

United Airlines appears to have cancelled orders for a dozen Airbus A320-family jets, the airframer's latest backlog data shows.

While customers placed gross orders for 650 A320-family aircraft over the first six months of 2013, Airbus recorded cancellations for 12 in its June figures.

These comprised seven A319s and five A320s.

Airbus's backlog data for the month shows United Airlines' overall A319 order has reduced by seven, to 71, and its A320 order cut by five, to 112, since the end of May.

United had taken delivery of 55 A319s and 98 A320s, from its revised order of 183 aircraft, by 30 June.

Airbus secured net orders for 618 A320-family aircraft during the first half of the year including 358 A321s.

United's changes result in a net order deficit for the A319. Just one customer, a private operator, has ordered the A319 - a single airframe - over the period.

             (David Kaminski-Morrow - Flight Global News)

2013 U.S. Airline on-time performance suffering

Summer travelers should pack plenty of patience: More flights are running late this year than in 2012.

The U.S. Department of Transportation says that only 79.4 percent of domestic flights arrived on time in May, down from 83.4 percent in the same month last year.

Hawaiian Airlines was most likely to arrive on-time, while American Eagle, the regional-flying affiliate of American Airlines, had the worst rate.

Five planes were stuck on airport tarmacs for more than three hours, which is longer than allowed by federal regulations.

Cancelations ticked up slightly from a year ago. In the last five years, mergers have reduced the number of U.S. airlines and flights, which should help the carriers stay on schedule. But flights are extremely full — average occupancy on all the major U.S. airlines topped 85 percent in June — which means it can take longer for passengers to get on and off the plane.

The May results were still better than April, when airlines blamed furloughs of federal air traffic controllers for causing nearly one in four flights to be late and nearly one in 50 to be canceled.

"On-time performance was still pretty solid at nearly 80 percent as airlines navigated (stormy) summer weather," said Jean Medina, a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, a trade group of the largest U.S. carriers. "It's also important to note that customer satisfaction, as ranked by lower complaint rate, is improving."

Look at Twitter and you'll see that many travelers gripe about airlines, but few of them bother to file a formal complaint with the Transportation Department. In May, there were 561 complaints against U.S. carriers, or one for every 100,000 people who got on a plane. That was down by about one-third from the rate in May 2012.

Consumers were most likely to complain about United Airlines or American Airlines and least likely to kvetch about Alaska or Southwest.

Hawaiian, which benefits from favorable flying weather, held its usual spot at the top of the on-time rankings, with 92.4 percent of its flights arriving within 14 minutes of schedule — that's the government's definition of on-time. Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines were next.

At the other extreme, just 69.9 percent of American Eagle flights were on-time. ExpressJet and Mesa, which both operate regional flights for bigger airlines, and Frontier Airlines all scored below 75 percent.

Among the five largest U.S. airlines, Delta had the best on-time record, followed by US Airways, United, Southwest and American.

Two of the five flights that sat on the tarmac for at least three hours were operated by American. The others were Alaska, Shuttle America and ExpressJet.

Another 345 flights sat on the ground for at least two hours, including 93 operated by American, 59 by American Eagle, 49 by United, and 35 by US Airways.

(David Koenig - Associated Press)

New FAA Part 121 rules require 1,500 flight hours to become first officer

FAA has issued a new final rule requiring pilots to accumulate 1,500 flight hours before becoming a first officer at a Part 121 US airline, but the agency does allow for some exceptions.

FAA was mandated to raise commercial airline pilot training requirements by Congress, which passed aviation safety legislation in 2010 in response to the 2009 Colgan Air crash. FAA’s proposed rule on pilot certification calling for the 1,500-hours requirement, issued early in 2012, has been criticized by many regional airlines and pilot training instructors as creating a hurdle that is too high and too expensive for many aspiring pilots to clear.

The final rule, which had been long-awaited, requires first officers at Part 121 US airlines to hold an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, which demands that a pilot be at least 23 years old, pass a test demonstrating knowledge of the aircraft category and class he or she will be operating, and have accumulated a minimum of 1,500 flight hours.

First officers currently must have only an instrument rating and commercial pilot certificate requiring just 250 hours. The 24-year-old first officer in the Colgan Bombardier Q400 crash, which killed 50 people, had a commercial pilot certificate but not an ATP certificate.

New US transportation secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement that “safety will be my overriding priority,” adding, “We owe it to the traveling public to have only the most qualified and best trained pilots.”

FAA administrator Michael Huerta said, “The rule gives first officers a stronger foundation of aeronautical knowledge and experience before they fly for an air carrier.”

The final rule’s enhanced requirements for an ATP certificate include “50 hours of multi-engine flight experience and completion of a new FAA-approved training program,” FAA said.

The exceptions, which will allow pilots to gain “restricted privileges” ATP certificates, include two that were part of the 2012 proposed rule: military pilots with 750 flight hours and graduates of a four-year baccalaureate aviation degree program with 1,000 hours. Other exceptions include graduates of associate’s degree programs—usually involving two years of college/university training—with a major in aviation that have accumulated 1,250 hours and pilots who are at least 21 years old—but  not 23—with 1,500 flight hours.

US Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA), the ranking member of the House of Representatives’ aviation subcommittee, said in a statement praising the final rule, “Flying in America has never been safer, but the tragic crash of Asiana Flight 214 is an urgent reminder that we must still constantly look for ways to make it even safer.”

Regional Airline Association (RAA) president Roger Cohen has been highly critical of the 1,500-hours requirement, telling ATW earlier this year, “The 1,500-hours requirement has, in our view, almost denigrated safety and created potential new problems … [Aspiring airline pilots are] going to gain those hours in likely the fastest and cheapest way possible. That would be flying around in a single-engine aircraft towing banners along the beach in places like Ocean City, Md. That is not the best kind of training to train an airline pilot.”

Cohen and others would like to see FAA allow pilots to use simulator time and other kinds of training to meet some of the 1,500 flight hours-requirement.

FAA’s rule also includes a requirement that pilots accumulate 1,000 hours of flight time as a first officer before becoming a captain at a US airline.

(Aaron Karp -ATWOnline News)

Philippine Airlines and Conviasa okay to resume European Union services

Venezuelan carrier Conviasa and Philippine Airlines have been cleared to resume services to the European Union in the latest EU blacklist update.

All carriers from the Philippines were banned from European airspace in 2010, but the Commission said the Philippine authorities have improved their safety oversight and Philippine Airlines has met the standards needed for the ban to be lifted. “For all other carriers registered in the Philippines the ban remains,” the Commission said in its first blacklist update since December 2012.

Conviasa, which has been on the list since April 2012, has now resolved its “serious safety deficiencies” following an European Aviation Safety Agency audit in Spain and an ICAO check in Venezuela, according to the Commission.

It also praised Libya’s progress, but said Libyan authorities have agreed to maintain a voluntary ban on their airlines operating to Europe until they reach full compliance with international safety standards.

Sudan and Mozambique were likewise highlighted for their “good progress” and the Commission recognized reform efforts in Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Libya, Mauritania, Mozambique, Philippines, Russia and Sudan.

“Today we confirmed our willingness to remove countries and airlines from the list if they show real commitment and capacity to implement international safety standards in a sustainable manner. Beside Philippines, Venezuela and Mauritania, good signs of progress are also coming from a number of other African countries,” European Commission VP-Transport Siim Kallas said.

Air Madagascar, which is not banned but remains under strict limitations and restrictions, was granted permission to operate another aircraft.

The EU has a blanket ban on 20 countries covering 278 airlines with a few named exceptions. It has also banned two individual airlines—Surinam’s Blue Wing Airlines and Meridian Airways from Ghana—taking the blacklist total to 280 airlines. A further 10 airlines are allowed to operate under strict conditions.

Countries where all operators are banned comprise Afghanistan, Angola, Benin, Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon (with three exceptions), Indonesia (with five exceptions), Kazakhstan (with one exception), Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Mozambique, Philippines (with one exception), Sierra Leone, Sao Tome and Principe, Sudan, Swaziland and Zambia.

(Victoria Moores - ATWOnline News)