Thursday, April 30, 2015

Boeing 737-700 faces uncertain future

Boeing Co.’s smallest version of the 737 jetliner faces an uncertain future as Southwest Airlines Co., the carrier that championed the plane, focuses on larger models.

Southwest is talking with Boeing about switching some or all of its remaining 56 orders for the 737-700 to a version that seats 32 more passengers, Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven said in an interview. The Dallas-based carrier last took delivery of a new -700 in 2011.

Airlines and planemakers are watching to see whether Southwest, Boeing’s biggest narrow-body customer, will also amend its plans to receive the 737 Max 7, an update to the -700 that is due to enter service late this decade. The airline accounts for almost half of the Max 7 aircraft on order -- but has fewer of those than the larger Max 8 model.

“If Southwest converts to the Max 8, then it puts a significant dent into the business case for the Max 7,” said Michel Merluzeau, vice president for global aerospace strategy and business development with consultant Frost & Sullivan.

Boeing isn’t backing off from its plans to offer the Max 7, whose orders account for about 2 percent of the backlog of 2,715 of the redesigned 737s. The most-popular variant is the Max 8, a new plane equivalent to the bigger 737-800s that Southwest has been emphasizing in recent years.

“It’s clear to us there is a place for the Max 7,” Boeing Marketing Vice President Randy Tinseth said Wednesday in an interview. “It’s something that’s not going away.”

Competitors Circle

Without more demand for the Max 7, Boeing risks seeing its narrow-body lineup shrink to essentially one model at a time when planemakers from Brazil, Canada and China are targeting the same market segment, according to Frost & Sullivan’s Merluzeau.

Demand for the 737 is now concentrated around variants including the -800 and Max 8 that share the same fuselage, with less interest in the relatively petite -700 and Max 7. Airbus Group NV, which has overtaken Boeing in single-aisle sales, has orders more evenly distributed between its two largest A320-family aircraft, Merluzeau said.

Southwest’s support for the 737-700 has been critical. It provided input during the jet’s development, was the first operator and relies on the plane for two-thirds of its fleet, even adding 45 used models while deferring deliveries of new planes. The airline is due to be the Max 7’s initial user.

The carrier also has made clear that its future lies with roomier planes. Southwest is buying 170 Max 8 models and has rights to convert some of its 30 Max 7’s on order into the larger version. The Max 8 will be similar to the 737-800, which Southwest flies with 175 seats, 22 percent more than its -700s.

No Hurry

“We really don’t have a decision on whether we want 8s or 7s because the 7 is not available until 2019,” Van de Ven said Tuesday.

Southwest has been taking the larger 737-800s to handle traffic growth at its Dallas home base, where gates are limited, and the expansion of its network beyond the contiguous U.S. to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

“It’s a very economical airplane for us,” Van de Ven said. “It’s larger. There’s a nice revenue increase on the airplane and it’s minimal in terms of additional costs. If we think we have market opportunities that will fill up that demand, that’s when we would pick an -800.”

Boeing’s order book reflects the industry’s tilt toward larger narrow-body aircraft.

Since the start of 2011, Boeing has orders for just 36 737-700s, compared with 1,408 sales for larger versions of the current 737. If Southwest decided to shift all its orders to the -800, the smaller plane’s backlog would dwindle to just 32 jets.

“Southwest was the bell-cow customer for the -700,” said George Hamlin, who runs Hamlin Transportation Consulting. “They’ve moved on.”

(Julie Johnsson - Bloomberg)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ditching Dreamliners: Here's Why United Just Bought a Bunch of Older Airplanes

United Airlines loves the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. It became the first U.S. carrier to fly the long-haul jet and takes every opportunity to proclaim the Dreamliner's passenger-friendly features and attractive operating costs. Yet price trumps all in airline economics, which is why United has scrapped an order for 10 new 787s to buy an equal number of older, larger, less-fuel efficient airplanes.

The switch to 777-300ERs comes as happy news for Boeing. The manufacturer has been desperately seeking more orders as it shifts to a complete update of the plane with the 777X, which is scheduled to enter commercial service in 2020.

United’s decision to ditch Dreamliners was driven by two primary factors. First, Boeing’s 777 production line is only 50 percent filled in 2017, with even more open slots the following year.

Boeing has collected 25 orders for the 777 this year, about half its goal. Second, the collapse of jet fuel prices makes a jumbo jet like the 777 far more attractive. United's fuel bill dropped more than 36 percent in the first quarter from the same period of 2014—a decline of more than $1 billion. Boeing also plans to shed about 1,200 pounds from 777s by late next year, along with further aerodynamic improvements, which will offer about 2 percent more fuel efficiency.

The order swap “gives lie to the idea that the 787 was a game-changing aircraft,” says Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst with Teal Group. “The 787 is a great plane, but is it a quantum leap better than the 777-300ER? Clearly not.” 

Boeing was also keen on the aircraft swap due to a shortage of delivery slots on the 787 production line. Airlines looking to take possession of new planes sooner are eager to move ahead in the delivery queue whenever possible, and Boeing is now gearing up to deliver the largest 787 model, the 787-10, in 2018.
“We’re still a big believer in the 787,” John Rainey, United’s chief financial officer, said today on an earnings call with analysts. “It’s a great airplane.” He said the 777-300ER is better for some markets than the 787, given its larger capacity. The new 777 is likely to be deployed at United’s Newark hub, from which the airline flies to several Asian destinations and five times daily to heavily congested London Heathrow.

United officials declined to comment on its discount for the order, as did a Boeing spokesman. The airline also declined to specify which of two 787 versions it had scrapped in the change. United has 17 of the 787s in its fleet, with 38 still to be delivered. The airline was also the launch customer for the 777, which it first ordered in 1990, and now has 74 of the planes in its fleet. It will become only the second U.S. airline to fly the 777-300ER.

For several years, the 777-300ER has served as the financial bread and butter in Boeing’s wide-body production line. Pricing for the popular airplane, which can carry as many as 386 people up to 7,800 nautical miles, “was about the best in the industry,”

Aboulafia said. Traditionally, Boeing has offered discounts of only about 40 percent off the plane’s $330 million list price, he added, better than other wide-body models in the industry. With the order book slowing ahead of the new 777X, Boeing’s discounts on the 777-300ER have moved closer to 50 percent and higher in some deals, he said.

The 787 order swap is part of a larger fleet revamp at United, which is culling 50-seat regional jets from its fleet in favor of 76-seaters as quickly as possible and reconfiguring 10 of its international 777-200s for domestic service, for flights between its hubs and to Hawaii.

United also will keep flying 21 of the 767-300s longer than expected, moving them to trans-Atlantic service to replace several 757s, which will move to Latin America. On westbound flights, the 757s used on European routes need to stop regularly to refuel during winter due to high winds.

(Justin Bachman - Bloomberg)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

United Airlines Boeing 737-924(ER) N68453

United Airlines Boeing 737-924(ER) (41742/4052) N68453 is caught rolling for takeoff on Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on April 12, 2015 operating a sports charter flight.
It arrived from San Francisco International Airport (SFO/KSFO) as "UAL2247" arriving at 15:45 pst and parking on the Signature Flight Support. The outbound flight, would be taking the California Angels to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW/KDFW) as "UAL2216" departing at 17:46 pst.
(Photo by Michael Carter)  

Passenger complaints soar for Frontier Airlines

As Denver-based Frontier Airlines continues the transition to becoming the nation’s newest ultra-low-cost carrier, the rate of passenger complaints has soared.

In the latest data reported by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Frontier had 123 complaints filed in February, or 14.4 complaints for every 100,000 passenger boardings. In contrast, the top 13 airlines in the country had a combined rate of 1.97 complaints for every 100,000 passenger boarding's.

The complaint rate for Frontier has been on the rise. In November, the rate was 3.3 complaints for every 100,000 boardings, before rising to 4.14 in December and then 8.61 in January, according to the Department of Transportation.

The carrier was purchased in 2013 by the same private investors who helped convert Florida-based Spirit Airlines into an ultra-low-cost carrier with dozens of passenger fees. Frontier has already adopted new fees for carry-on bags and other extras.

Frontier acknowledges that “some complaints stem from our transition into an ultra-low-cost carrier as we focus on bringing everyday low fares to more of the country,” Frontier spokesman Todd Lehmacher said in a statement.

He said many complaints were the result of long delays that customers had to endure trying to talk to reservation agents — a problem the carrier hopes to address by hiring more staff for its call center.

But another reason for complaints may be Frontier’s below-par on-time performance rate. In February, Frontier arrived on time an average of 59% of the time, the second-lowest rate for all major airlines in the country.

Lehmacher expects complaint numbers to also be high for March but to drop for April.

“We are focused on improving and believe we have turned a corner,” he said.

(Hugo Martin - Los Angeles Times)

Airbus needs more time to decide on A380 changes

Airbus will not abandon its A380 jumbo jet program despite slow sales, its chief executive told Les Echos newspaper, and needs more time to decide whether to redesign its engines as major customer Emirates Airline has requested.

Emirates, the leading buyer of the existing A380 jet with 140 orders, has been pushing Airbus to revamp the plane with newer engines, a move that could lower the number of seats airlines must sell to break even.

Airbus boss Fabrice Bregier appeared to rebuff the request in the interview with Les Echos published online on Sunday.

"We are already working on ways to make the A380 more attractive economically by adding seats while preserving the amazing comfort of the plane," he said.

"Long-term, the question will be how to improve its performance by working on aerodynamics and motorization. But we will not do that until a good business plan can be found. That is not the case now and we have no intention to spend indiscriminately."

The CEO added that the A380 program would break even by the end of the year, and that Airbus hoped to maintain its financial performance.

On Airbus' other new relatively new model, the A350, Bregier said that Qatar Airways has seen no issues with the plane after two months of service. Airbus aims to deliver about 15 A350s this year and eventually up to 10 per month by 2018.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Everts Air Cargo MD-82(SF) N73444

Everts Air Cargo MD-82(SF) (49470/1417) N73444 returned home to Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) this evening arriving from Oakland County International Airport (PTK/KPTK) Pontiac, Michigan as "VTS9269" operating for Tatonduk Outfitters.
The MD-82 was originally delivered to American Airlines as N73444 on October 26, 1987.  
(Photos by Michael Carter) 

Is In-Flight Refueling Coming to Commercial Airlines? (Op-Ed)

There’s real pressure on the aviation industry to introduce faster, cheaper and greener aircraft, while maintaining the high safety standards demanded of airlines worldwide.

Airlines carry more than three billion passengers each year, which presents an enormous challenge not only for aircraft manufacturers but for the civil aviation infrastructure that makes this extraordinary annual mass-migration possible.

Many international airports are close to or already at capacity. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has estimated that, without intervention, many global airports – including major hubs such as London Heathrow, Amsterdam Schiphol, Beijing and Dubai – will have run out of runway or terminal capacity by 2020.

The obvious approach to tackling this problem is to extend and enlarge airport runways and terminals – such as the long-proposed third runway at London Heathrow. However there may be other less conventional alternatives, such as introducing in-flight refuelling for civil aircraft on key long-haul routes.

Our project, Research on a Cruiser-Enabled Air Transport Environment (Recreate), began in 2011 to evaluate whether this was something that could prove a viable, and far cheaper, solution.

If in-flight refuelling seems implausible, it’s worth remembering that it was first trialed in the 1920s, and the military has continued to develop the technology ever since. The appeal is partly to reduce the aircraft’s weight on take-off, allowing it to carry additional payload, and partly to extend its flight range.

Notably, during the Falklands War in 1982 RAF Vulcan bombers used in-flight refuelling to stage what was at the time the longest bombing mission ever, flying 8,000 miles non-stop from Ascension Island in the South Atlantic to the Falklands and back.

Reducing take-off weight could offer many benefits for civilian aircraft too. Without the need to carry so much fuel the aircraft can be smaller, which means less noise on take-off and landing and shorter runways. This opens up the network of smaller regional airports as new potential sites for long-haul routes, relieving pressure on the major hubs that are straining at the seams.

There are environmental benefits too, as a smaller, lighter aircraft requires less fuel to reach its destination. Our initial estimates from air traffic simulations demonstrate that it’s possible to reduce fuel burn by up to 11% over today’s technology by simply replacing existing global long-haul flight routes with specifically designed 250-seater aircraft with a range of 6,000nm after one refuelling – roughly the distance from London to Hong Kong.

This saving could potentially grow to 23% with further efficiencies, all while carrying the same number of passengers the same distance as is possible with the current aircraft fleet, and despite the additional fuel burn of the tanker aircraft.

However, this is not the whole picture – in-flight refuelling will require the aerial equivalent of petrol stations in order to deliver keep passenger aircraft in the sky. With so much traffic it simply wouldn’t be possible to refuel any aircraft any time, anywhere it was needed.

The location of these refuelling zones, coupled with the flight distance between the origin and destination airports can greatly affect the potential benefits achievable, possibly pulling flights away from their shortest route, and even making refuelling on some routes impossible – if for example the deviation to the nearest refuelling zone meant burning as much fuel as would have been saved.

Safety and automation

As with all new concepts – particularly those that involve bringing one aircraft packed with people and another full of fuel into close proximity during flight – it’s quite right to ask whether this is safe.

To try and answer this question, the Dutch National Aerospace Laboratory and German Aerospace Centre used their flight simulators to test the automated in-flight refuelling flight control system developed as part of the Recreate project.

One simulator replicated the manoeuvre from the point of view of the tanker equipped with an in-flight refuelling boom, the other simulated the aircraft being refuelled mid-flight. Critical test situations such as engine failure, high air turbulence and gusts of wind were simulated with real flight crews to assess the potential danger to the operation.

The results were encouraging, demonstrating that the manoeuvre doesn’t place an excessive workload on the pilots, and that the concept is viable from a human as well as a technical perspective.

So far we’ve demonstrated the potential aerial refuelling holds for civilian aviation, but putting it into practice would still pose challenges. Refuelling hubs would need to be established worldwide, shared between airlines. There would need to be fundamental changes to airline pilot training, alongside a wider public acceptance of this departure from traditional flight operations.

However, it does demonstrate that, in addition to all the high-tech work going into designing new aircraft, new materials, new engines and new fuels, the technology we already have offers solutions to the long term problems of ferrying billions of passengers by air around the world.

(Juliana Early - Queen's University Belfast)

Copa Airlines of Panama announces purchase of 61 Boeing 737s for $6.6 billion

Panamanian carrier Copa Airlines signed a deal worth an estimated $6.6 billion to buy 61 Boeing 737 aircraft Friday, during President Barack Obama's visit to the country.

The companies said the deal was the "largest commercial transaction between a Panamanian and a US-based company ever."

Obama is in Panama to take part in a Summit of the Americas, which brings regional leaders together to discuss trade, job creation and a host of political issues.

The US president attended a ceremony to mark the deal, alongside Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela, Boeing Chairman and CEO Jim McNerney and Copa CEO Pedro Heilbron.

Obama hailed news that the deal would create "12,000 jobs in the United States."

Copa will in total buy 61 of Boeing's 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 airplanes.

"The Next-Generation 737 is the backbone for our fleet today, and our order for the 737 MAX shows our continued commitment for the future," said Heilbron.

Copa has pursued an aggressive bid to make Panama the "hub of the Americas" and is one of the region's largest airlines.

The time frame for the purchase was not immediately clear, but Boeing says it has 2,715 orders for the 737 MAX planes from 57 customers around the world.

(Yahoo Business News)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Why the FAA is very worried about United Airlines

The Federal Aviation Administration is watching United Continental a little more closely these days due to violations regarding pilot qualification and scheduling.

The FAA listed its issues with the airline in a Feb. 6 letter, The Wall Street Journal reports. According to the article:
The letter, which called for a thorough overhaul of parts of United’s process for qualifying crew members, represents the most detailed indication yet of FAA worries about United’s internal safety oversight.
The letter was sent after warnings in January because of “four recent and separate ‘safety events and near misses.'” The letter also discusses scheduling issues, “which could include flying longer than the FAA allows,” per the Journal.

But a United spokeswoman told the newspaper that the FAA hasn’t taken action on the letter it sent. Additionally, she said that the FAA hasn’t “proposed any financial civil penalties,” but that the airline “fully supports” the FAA’s safety program.

In January, United reported that total revenue was $9.3 billion for the fourth quarter, a 0.2% decrease year-over-year.

(Benjamin Snyder - Fortune)

Boeing Files Patent for Upright Sleep System

If you fly economy, you know that sleep is elusive sans medication. There is simply no comfortable place to rest your head. Maybe you’ve seen people -- or have even tried -- resting your head on the tray table? Or sleeping on the shoulder of the person next to them?
It doesn’t have to be this way. And it won’t, if a patent recently filed by airplane designer and manufacturer Boeing actually gets produced.

The patent, filed late last month, is called the Transport Upright Vehicle Support System. No doubt that by the time it gets made, Boeing will have come up with a much snazzier name.

(ABC News)

Here’s how it works: The “upright sleep system incorporates a head cushion having a face relief ... with a hinge support structure for angular adjustments, sleeves that open in front to support the passenger’s arms and a chest cushion on the back of the device. The cushion receives the passenger’s chest in a forward leaning position. The head cushion is deployable from a backpack and the chest cushion is integrated into the back of the backpack.”

An easier way to think about it: If you’ve ever sat in one of those massage chairs at the nail salon where you lean on a support board with a face opening, it’s very similar to that.

So how likely is the Transport Upright Vehicle Support System to be integrated into Boeing’s next generation of airplanes? The company won’t comment, but Deepak Gupta, managing director of PatentYogi, told ABC News, “The invention looks feasible indeed. Air travel companies may offer this service for an additional cost to customers. Tissue based covers may be used to take care of hygiene concerns.”

Gupta calls them “cuddle seats.”

(Genevieve Shaw Brown - Good Morning America / ABC News)

Japan's Mitsubishi sets sights on niche in aircraft sector

Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ)
(Mitsubishi Group) 

At a tightly guarded factory in central Japan, Mitsubishi, a maker of the Zero fighter planes of World War II, is launching its MRJ regional jet and aiming to fulfill Japan's long-cherished ambitions to regain status as a major aviation power.

The company said Friday that a recent decision to push back the jet's maiden flight from this spring to a few months later would not delay its commercial deliveries. Workers were conducting hydraulic and other tests on two of the test jets in a cavernous assembly facility; another jet had been sent out for painting.

Nobuo Kishi, a vice president of Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp., said the latest delay could speed things along because it is intended to allow for modifications that otherwise would be needed later.

"We don't see the change in the test flight as a delay, but as an improvement," Kishi told visiting reporters. "We want to continue the test flights without interrupting them for modifications."

Still, company executives are emphatic about their determination and urgency to get the job done.

"This is the last chance to get into real aircraft manufacturing. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has a long-term vision to get into the aircraft assembly industry," Hideyuki Kamiya, head of marketing for Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. said in an earlier briefing.

"We think we have a lot of potential to give this industry. This is very high tech work requiring skilled workers and engineers. We can compete in this area," he said.
The quest reflects a yearning to translate Japan's engineering and manufacturing prowess into a first-tier aircraft industry with global reach, an ambition subsumed for decades after Japan's 1945 defeat.

The plan dovetails with a national blueprint for turning the area near Nagoya into an aerospace hub on par with Boeing's manufacturing base near Seattle, Washington.

It also fits Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's vision for restoring the country's manufacturing tradition of "monozukuri," or "making things," that roughly translates into the craft of making excellent products through continuous improvement.

Developed partly with government support, the 70- to 90-seat jet project also parlays previous work by Mitsubishi on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

But years of delays are adding to the challenge of competing with Brazil's Embraer, which dominates the difficult regional jet market, making the project a risky one.

"It's easier to put a man on the moon than to build an airliner that airlines want to buy," said Greg Waldron, Asian managing editor at Flightglobal in Singapore. "It's an extremely high risk, extremely costly endeavor. There's going to be delays. There's going to be problems and you have to develop something that people want to buy."
Mitsubishi executives stress that their product is 20 percent more fuel efficient than other leading single-aisle jets, because it was engineered specifically to work with a Pratt and Whitney high-bypass geared turbofan engine.

Such engines are more efficient because they require less jet thrust to propel them through the air. It will be quieter and slightly roomier than competitors' aircraft, they say.

The Mitsubishi regional jet is the successor to a failed attempt in the 1960s to break into the international commercial market with the 64-seat turboprop YS-11. The aim this time is finally to win Japan a foothold in the lucrative commercial passenger jet market.

Mitsubishi and Nakajima Aircraft Co. — predecessor to Fuji Heavy Industries, the parent company of Subaru — produced nearly 11,000 Zero fighters. Toward the war's end, hundreds were used in kamikaze suicide attacks.

After Japan's defeat, the U.S. occupation initially banned aircraft making. It was revived in the 1950s.

The aviation industry is a key supplier of components for passenger jets, most significantly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, but mainly makes military aircraft for Japan's own defense force. 
While it holds leading technologies in avionics, materials and other key aircraft-related know-how and products, Japan has yet to integrate them into an entire commercialized passenger aircraft.

"The real prestige in all this comes from being the systems integrator," Waldron said.  "You design the aircraft and then you integrate it, which is where the value really comes in, and then can sell that abroad. It's like a symbol of your country's prowess."

Airbus estimates demand for new passenger and cargo aircraft in 2014-2033 at 31,350, worth nearly $4.6 trillion. Mitsubishi says it hopes to win 20 percent of the global market for single-aisle passenger jets.

The company has 223 firm orders and 184 options, close to the scale that might enable it to begin recouping the 180 billion yen ($1.5 billion) it has spent developing the jet, based on the experience of other projects. SkyWest Inc. has made firm orders for 100 and took 100 as options, in a big boost for the project.

But delays in testing mean the jet's maiden flight has been pushed back to the July-September quarter from the current quarter. Mitsubishi says it will stick to its schedule for delivery to leading customer All Nippon Airways in the spring of 2017.

That may not allow enough lead time to make a dent in the overwhelming dominance of Embraer, which reports 1,549 firm orders and 772 options for its E-jet.

Earlier, the project suffered delays due to difficulties in getting deliveries of the hundreds of thousands of aircraft parts, about 70 percent of which are sourced from overseas.

Although the jet is "made in Japan" that refers only to its final assembly. Apart from the wings and other structural materials that are made by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, and the landing gear, which is made by Sumitomo Precision Products, from the avionics in the cockpit to the galleys in the back, the plane mostly is built from foreign parts and equipment.

It's not that Japanese companies lack the capacity: Mitsubishi and other major Japanese companies make about 35 percent of the Boeing 787 "Dreamliner," providing the titanium alloy used for the body of the aircraft, carbon fiber composite material for its outer surface, wings, engines, tires, kitchen, audio visual system, batteries and wiring. But the aircraft industry is among the most globalized.

Japan has invested heavily in nurturing Nagoya as an aerospace hub. Home also to Toyota Motor Corp. and much of the auto parts supply chain, the region is a stronghold despite the shift of much Japanese manufacturing overseas.

The region provides more than two-thirds of the output value for airframe parts and has a GDP ranking 20th in the world, behind Switzerland but ahead of Belgium.

(Elaine Kurtenbach - Associated Press)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

PM confirms two extra C-17s for the RAAF

Operation SLIPPER

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has confirmed Australia will acquire two additional Boeing C-17 airlifters.

The Royal Australian Air Force’s 36 Squadron already operates a fleet of six C-17 Globemasters from its Amberley base, with the seventh to be delivered in July/August and the eighth aircraft to be delivered by the end of this year, the Prime Minister announced at Amberley on Friday.

The $1 billion acquisiton comprises $700 million for the two aircraft plus sustainment, and a further $300 million for a new, dedicated C-17 maintenance hangar and aircraft hardstand and taxiway upgrades at Amberley. Currently 36SQN utilises the KC-30 maintenance hangar at Amberley when needed.

“The two additional C-17s will provide vital heavy airlift support to a range of regional and global coalition operations and greatly increase Australia’s ­capacity to provide rapid and effective disaster rescue and relief and humanitarian aid,” Prime Minister Abbott said.

The acquisition of the two extra C-17s was first announced by then Defence Minister Senator David Johnston last October. At the time Johnston said Australia would also consider the acquisition of an eighth and ninth C-17, with decisions regarding the acquisition of the ninth and tenth aircraft are to be informed by the Force Structure Review being developed as part of the 2015 Defence White Paper process.

Then on November 12 a US Defense Security Cooperation Agency notification revealed Australia had formally requested “up to four” more C-17s from the US government.

With production of the C-17 ending this year, Boeing has built about 10 “white tail” aircraft in anticipation that these could be sold to new or existing customers of the airlifter. New Zealand has shown interest in two while there is believed to be interest for additional aircraft from India, Canada and the UK, as well as new customers in the Middle East.

Australia initially ordered four C-17s in 2006 which were delivered between December that year and January 2008. The fifth and sixth aircraft were delivered in 2011 and 2012.

“Boeing is honoured by Australia’s decision to acquire two additional C-17A Globemaster III aircraft, which further highlights the enduring relationship between Boeing and the Commonwealth,” Boeing said in a statement welcoming the announcement of the additional aircraft.

“Since 2006, the Royal Australian Air Force has operated its six C-17s on the frontlines of military operations and humanitarian missions. As Australia and customers around the world have experienced first-hand, the C-17 remains unmatched in its ability to transport troops and heavy cargo, support airdrops and aeromedical evacuations, and land and takeoff in remote airfields.”

(Australian Aviation)

Southwest Airlines has fuller planes as it adds new destinations at Love Field

Southwest Airlines carried 10.3 million revenue passengers in March, up 5.7 percent from the same month in 2014, according to traffic results released Wednesday.
Dallas-based Southwest had fuller planes, too, with load factors at 84.5 percent, up 1.8 points from the same month in 2014.
The load factor is calculated by taking the revenue passengers carried multiplied by miles traveled and divided by the total available seat miles.
The average Southwest flight was 988 miles in March, up .9 percent from March, 2014. The total amount of trips flown decreased 2 percent.
Southwest also released its first-quarter traffic results.
The load factor for the first quarter was 80.1 percent, up .8 points from the first quarter of 2014.
The airline carried 5.5 percent more revenue passengers, had its revenue passenger miles increase 7 percent and total capacity miles jump by 6 percent.
That includes the launch of new flights to San Francisco and Oakland from Dallas Love Field.
Southwest has been growing quickly at Love Field, adding flights to new destinations since the Wright Amendment flight restrictions were lifted in October. Southwest had nearly 91 percent market share at Love Field in February, according to the airport’s traffic statistics.
Southwest had 832,121 passengers come and go from Love Field in February, up 36 percent from the same period in 2014.
Going back to Oct. 1, Southwest’s traffic is up 30 percent. The Wright Amendment flight restrictions were lifted on Oct. 13.
This week, Southwest is adding new flights to:
  • Charleston, S.C.
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Memphis, Tennessee
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Seattle/Tacoma, Washington
  • Sacramento, California
  • San Jose, California
  • Panama City, Florida
With these additions, Southwest now launches 166 daily departures from Love Field. Prior to the lifting of the Wright Amendment, the airline was limited to flights within Texas and adjoining states and only had 118 take-offs per day.
Southwest will add eight more cities in August, bringing the total take-offs to 180.

Those cities will be:
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Charlotte, North Carolina
  • Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina
  • Detroit, Michigan
  • Omaha, Nebraska
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Salt Lake City, Utah
(Nicholas Sakelaris - Dallas Business Journal)

Long tarmac delays at US airports spiked in February

There was a surge in long tarmac delays at the nation's airports in February, including several during a snow storm in Dallas.

But consumers' biggest gripe was aimed at United Airlines for refusing to honor super-cheap first-class fares that mistakenly appeared on its website for Denmark on Feb. 11. More than 15,000 people contacted the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The department eventually declined to force United to honor the mistaken fares, noting that "a large majority" of ticket buyers lied when they gave billing addresses in Denmark.

The department said Thursday that 16 domestic flights were stuck on the ground for more than three hours and eight international flights were delayed more than four hours in February.
Federal rules prohibit airlines from holding planes on the tarmac that long, and the department could issue fines.

Eleven of the long delays were American Airlines or American Eagle flights to or from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport during a Feb. 27 snow storm, the government said.

Overall, 72.8 percent of flights arrived on time in February, down from 76.8 percent in January but up from 70.7 percent the previous February.

Among the 14 airlines that carry enough traffic to report figures to the government, Alaska Airlines had the best on-time rating at 85.1 percent.

Envoy Air, which operates many American Eagle flights, had the worst rating at 53.3 percent. The government said 44 Envoy flights were late at least half the time in both January and February, far more than any other carrier.

A spokeswoman for American Airlines and Eagle, Martha Thomas, said Eagle flights were affected by bad weather and congested airports in the Northeast and Midwest. She added that when airport operations are limited, Eagle flights that use smaller planes tend to be canceled or delayed before American Airlines flights to inconvenience fewer passengers.

Frontier Airlines and JetBlue Airways had the next-worst on-time ratings, both under 60 percent.

The government counts a flight on-time if it arrives within 14 minutes of schedule.

The reporting airlines canceled 4.8 percent of their U.S. flights in February, up from 2.5 percent in January but down from 5.5 percent in February 2014.

Two airlines had much higher complaint rates than the rest — Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines. The lowest rate of complaints was at Alaska Airlines, followed by Hawaiian Airlines and Southwest Airlines. The complaint rates didn't include consumer comments about United's mistaken fare, which the department called "opinions."

(Associated Press)

Passenger traffic rises on Southwest, slips on United

Southwest Airlines carried more passengers for more miles in March than a year ago, while United Airlines reported lighter traffic but offered a more upbeat forecast of first-quarter revenue.

Southwest said Thursday that it carried 10.4 million passengers last month, up 5.7 percent from March 2014, and they flew 10.24 billion miles, a 6.7 percent increase. Traffic rose 7.1 percent in the first quarter.

Southwest, the nation's fourth-biggest airline, added flights compared with a year ago, especially at its Dallas base. Still, the average plane was 84.5 percent full last month, up from 82.7 percent in March 2014.

Passenger revenue for every seat flown one mile, a closely watched figure in the airline business, rose about 1 percent in March, Southwest said. That number rises when an airline fills more seats or charges higher average fares.

In late-morning trading, shares of Dallas-based Southwest Airlines Co. were down 60 cents to $42.25.

United Continental Holdings Inc., the second-biggest airline operator behind American, said in a regulatory filing that the revenue per seat figure was between flat and up 5 percent for the first quarter, which was more upbeat than a January forecast of down 1 percent to up 1 percent. The modest improvement in outlook cheered investors.

March traffic on United fell 0.7 percent as passengers flew more on international routes but less on domestic ones. Regional flights on United Express carried 9.9 percent fewer passengers. For the whole first quarter, United's traffic rose 0.1 percent due to less travel on United Express.

The company's average March flight was 82.7 percent full, compared with 82.8 percent a year earlier.

Shares of Chicago-based United were up 63 cents to $61.18 late Thursday morning.

(Associated Press)

U.S. Navy F/A-18F "Super Hornet" 166882

Taxies on "Delta" towards a Rwy 30 departure.

Just off the deck!

Climbs from Rwy 30.
Positive climb, Gear up! and look, just below the departing "Super Hornet" you can see a Norwegian Air Shuttle 787-8 on downwind for Rwy 24R at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX). On a clear day in SoCal you can see forever!
United States Navy F/A-18F "Super Hornet" 166882 NH-111 of VFA-154 "Black Knights" departs Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on April 8, 2015 following an afternoon visit.
(Photos by Michael Carter)

Britain just discovered 100 billion barrels of oil near Gatwick Airport

(Getty)UK Oil & Gas Investments, the exploration, development, and production group, just revealed that it discovered about 100 billion barrels of oil near Gatwick Airport.

The group said in a regulatory statement that up to 100 billion barrels of oil could be onshore beneath the South of England, after it drilled a well at Horse Hill near Gatwick Airport, West Sussex, last year. The number comes from the fact that UKOG said that the local area could hold 158 million barrels of oil per square mile and from management estimates confirmed this morning on the BBC.

"Drilling the deepest well in the basin in 30 years, together with the ability to use concepts, techniques, and technology unavailable in the 1980s, has provided new cutting-edge data and interpretations to comprehensively change the understanding of the area's potential oil resources," Stephen Sanderson, the CEO of UKOG, said in a statement.

He added in an interview with the BBC (emphasis ours): "Based on what we've found here, we're looking at between 50 and 100 billion barrels of oil in place in the ground. We believe we can recover between 5% and 15% of the oil in the ground, which by 2030 could mean that we produce 10%-to-30% of the UK's oil demand from within the Weald area."

UKOG acknowledged, however, that by its estimates only 3% to 15% of the oil could be recovered, when compared to similar geology in the US and West Siberia.

But this is a boon for Britain as Scotland's North Sea oil industry continues to battle dwindling oil production. It has produced only about 45 billion barrels in the past 40 years.

In 2014, the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries laid out how the North Sea oil industry was in dire straits. The average oil output in 2013 from the North Sea clocked its lowest level since 1977.

(Lianna Brinded - Business Insider)

Bombardier Shuffles Leadership as Russia CSeries Order in Doubt

Bombardier Inc. is bringing in a new leader for its commercial aircraft business and another chief financial officer as the planemaker faces fresh doubts about one of the largest orders for its troubled CSeries jetliner.

Fred Cromer becomes president of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft effective immediately as Mike Arcamone departs, the company said Thursday, and a search is under way for a new CFO as Pierre Alary retires. Alary will stay on the job until his replacement is hired.

The moves will let new Chief Executive Officer Alain Bellemare put his stamp on Bombardier after Pierre Beaudoin stepped aside in February amid slow sales and delays on the flagship CSeries model.

Cromer comes to the job after serving as president of International Lease Finance Corp., the jet-leasing company now owned by AerCap Holdings NV.

Bombardier announced the moves hours after saying it was confident it can resolve any financing issues from a Russian customer that warned it’s reconsidering an order for 39 CS300 planes.

There is a “firm agreement” for Ilyushin Finance Co. to buy the planes “and as such we are confident we can work together to overcome any concerns,” Marianella de la Barrera, a spokeswoman for Montreal-based Bombardier, said in an e-mail.

Ilyushin, among the top customers for Bombardier’s CSeries planes, is rethinking its purchase and will make a decision by the Paris air show in June, the company’s general director told London-based aviation journal Flightglobal.

Bombardier’s Class B shares fell 1.9 percent to C$2.55 at 9:32 a.m. in Toronto. The stock’s 37 percent slide this year through Wednesday was the steepest among major Canadian industrial companies, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

A cancellation would be another setback for Montreal-based Bombardier, which is betting on the CSeries to drive sales growth over the next decade. Running more than two years late and $2 billion over budget, Bombardier is short of its order target and has yet to name a launch operator after its original customer, Sweden’s Braathens Aviation AB, backed out last year.

Ilyushin Finance is growing impatient with a number of delays that have pushed back delivery, spokesman Andrey Lipovetsky said, confirming General Director Alexander Rubtsov’s comments. The cost of the deal has risen, Lipovetsky said, citing limited access to capital markets after the U.S., Canada and the European Union imposed sanctions to force Russia to drop support for separatists in Ukraine. The Canadian government has barred Russian companies from taking advantage of cheap export-bank financing.

Financing Challenges

“There are financing challenges anticipated as a result of Canada’s sanctions,” de la Barrera said. “There is time however for IFC to source third-party financing solutions.”

Ilyushin Finance may cut the number of airplanes ordered or swap some for other types of planes, Lipovetsky said.

Bombardier is working to complete CSeries flight tests this year, with its 243 firm orders still short of a target of 300 by the time the planemaker’s largest-ever jetliner enters service. Bombardier now envisions a commercial debut in 2016 for a plane that was once supposed to be in use with airlines by 2013.

Other CSeries customers include Republic Airways Holdings Inc. and Macquarie AirFinance, both with firm orders for 40 planes. Republic said last year it’s considering whether to take the planes after a change in its airline strategy.

Qatar Airways Ltd said last month that it was also tired of waiting, seven years after Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker first said he planned to order 20 jets, and will stick with a revamped Airbus Group NV plane due to come out before the end of the year.

(Bloomberg Business)

Emirates Fits A380 With 615 Seats for High-Density Danish Trips

Emirates will start its highest-capacity Airbus A380 service this year, fitting the world’s biggest passenger model with 615 seats for flights to Copenhagen.

By reducing the number of classes to two from three, Emirates will beat its previous maximum of 517 seats on A380s plying medium-haul routes. The first superjumbos it deployed featured only 489 seats on longer-distance flights.

While the A380 is cleared to carry 853 people in a single-class layout and is being pushed by Airbus as a high-capacity workhorse, most operators have deployed it as a luxury flagship.
Air Austral, which specified a 840-seat design, has no firm delivery date, leaving 652-seaters ordered by Russia’s Transaero Airlines as set to mark the next peak should it take the planes.

Emirates began Copenhagen flights in 2011 with Airbus Group NV A330 wide-bodies before moving to larger Boeing Co. 777s. “Based on strong load factors, we are happy to further upgrade the route,” President Tim Clark said in a statement.

With its fleet of 59 A380s -- out of 140 it has ordered -- Emirates has siphoned inter-continental traffic through its Dubai hub and away from European legacy carriers including Deutsche Lufthansa AG and Air France-KLM Group.

The Gulf carrier will offer one A380 flight a day to Copenhagen starting in December, providing Scandinavia’s first superjumbo service. The aircraft will feature 58 flat-bed berths in business class and 557 seats in economy, giving a total capacity of 4,305 passengers a week in each direction.

Leading local operator SAS AB doesn’t serve the route.

(Deena Kamel - Bloomberg Business)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Gulfstream G650 N633GA tbr N651AV

Gulfstream G650 (c/n 6133) N633GA tbr N651AV when delivered, is caught making it's way onto Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) April 1, 2015 as she prepares to depart for Outagamie County Regional Airport (ATW/KATW).
(Photos by Michael Carter)

Gulfstream G650 VT-NKR

Gulfstream G650 (c/n 6115) VT-NKR ex-N615GD is captured resting on the Gulfstream service center ramp on March 27, 2015 sporting her stunning livery.
(Photo by Michael Carter) 

Gulfstream G550 N593GA tbr 9M-TMJ

Taxies on "Delta" towards a Rwy 30 departure.

Rolling for takeoff on Rwy 30.

A close look at the tail art.

On short final to Rwy 30.

Just about to touchdown on Rwy 30.
Gulfstream G550 (c/n 5493) N593GA tbr 9M-TMJ upon delivery is captured at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on April 2, 2015 as she performs a pre-delivery test flight.
(Photos by Michael Carter) 

Gulfstream G450 N268RB

Gulfstream G450 (c/n 4281) N268RB operated by Gaby N268RB LLC, arrives at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on the evening of April 8, 2015.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Delta Air Objects to ‘Draconian’ U.S. Terms to Keep Tokyo Route

After beating American Airlines for the right to keep flying to Tokyo’s close-in airport, Delta Air Lines is objecting to the proposed U.S. terms to do so.

The Transportation Department wants to set a “draconian” standard in insisting that a flight between Seattle and Haneda airport operate every day, Delta said in a filing. Failing to do so could mean ceding Haneda access to American, Delta said.

“At the most basic level, the proposed condition deviates from past practice because, as far as Delta is aware, the department has never previously imposed such a strict 365-day-a-year service requirement,” Delta Associate General Counsel Alexander Van der Bellen wrote in the April 6-dated filing.

The document adds to the spat between American and Delta over the limited flying rights to Haneda, which is generally preferred by business fliers over Narita International Airport. Last month, the department let Delta retain its Haneda business after American tried to wrest away that access so it could start service from Los Angeles.

American, the world’s biggest airline, and No. 3 Delta are fighting over Haneda because U.S. carriers have only four so-called flight slots at the airport, which is about 16 kilometers (10 miles) from downtown Tokyo. Narita is about 64 kilometers away.

Haneda Argument

United Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines each hold one Haneda flight slot, and Delta has two. American argued that Delta had let its Seattle flight to go dormant in recent months and should be stripped of its route authority.

A call and e-mail message requesting comment from the Transportation Department in Washington weren’t immediately returned.

In its filing, Delta doesn’t say it will ignore the proposed 365-day requirement. It said compliance would be difficult, partly because of potential mechanical or weather difficulties. Atlanta-based Delta said it wouldn’t want to invest in the route because access to Haneda would be in “perpetual jeopardy.”

“Any two days of non-service in a seven-day period would summarily strip Delta of slot authority,” Delta said. “Faced with that exacting threat, the condition would create improper incentives to maintain scheduled service at all costs, when flights might otherwise be canceled, delayed, or rescheduled out of safety or other operational concerns.”

In its own filing on April 6, American urged the Transportation Department to enforce its year-round requirement.

“Undoubtedly, Delta will request the department eliminate or reduce these necessary safeguards on its use of the Seattle-Haneda slot pair,” Fort Worth, Texas-based American wrote. “The more Delta protests these safeguards, the more skeptical the department should be of Delta’s willingness to abide by its daily year-round service commitment.”

(Michael Sasso - Bloomberg Business)