Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Don't Open Plane's Emergency Door for the Toilet!

As VietJet Air flight 175 prepared to leave Hanoi for Ho Chi Minh City, a 43-year-old passenger opened the emergency exit door because he wanted to go to the bathroom.

Nguyen Thanh Chuong, a farmer from a village on the outskirts of Hanoi, activated the Airbus A321’s evacuation slide, causing a three-hour delay and costing the airline tens of thousands of dollars. He’s not alone. The sudden creation of a middle class and the rise of discount carriers is causing headaches for flight crews and ground staff across Asia as the world’s fastest-growing region for aviation welcomes 100 million new fliers every year.

“People are now more mobile than they have been in the history of mankind,” said Graham Hunt, head of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Asia in Singapore. “The fact that you have people who have never before seen an airplane getting on airplanes is a real challenge.”

Vietnam will be among the 10 fastest-growing aviation markets in the world in the next two decades, according to the International Air Transport Association. One in five of the nation’s 90 million citizens flies today and within two decades virtually all Vietnamese are expected to travel by air, according to Airbus Group SE.

Chuong’s decision to open the emergency-row door in April cost VietJet about $30,000 and a chain-reaction of flight delays, Managing Director Luu Duc Khanh said in an e-mail. The airline, which has been operating for almost four years, says at least 30 percent of the 10 million passengers it will handle this year will be first-time fliers.

‘Sterner Warnings’

Khanh advocated better communication and education for the public, as well as “sterner warnings from airlines and aviation regulators” to reduce the number of such incidents. Chuong was fined $687, but was excused after he showed that he lives below the poverty line and his family is recognized for contributing to the nation’s revolution.

While opening an emergency door costs time and money, aircraft design makes it impossible to do so while the plane is in the air. Yet other blunders occur that compromise safety as well as profits.

Among 300 air-security violations last year, Vietnam had two near-collisions, two incidents where air traffic controllers lost contact with planes preparing to land, one plane that went to the wrong airport and a hijacking scare when a pilot accidentally pushed the wrong button, according to reports in Tuoi Tre newspaper.

Aviation security violations jumped 96 percent in the first half of 2014, Vietnam News reported in July.

Fresh Air

Stories of confused and errant first-timers meddling with emergency exits regularly crop up. A 61-year-old opened one in July in Thanh Hoa province, claiming he forgot Vietnam Airlines’ instruction not to do so without a cabin attendant’s permission, while a farmer opened another one in April to get some fresh air, according to local media.

“We’re trained to keep a close eye on passengers sitting near the exit doors,” said Huong Nguyen, 32, who has worked as a flight attendant for two carriers, including one based in Vietnam.

VietJet said it also stations cabin crew outside bathrooms to avoid mishaps when first-time fliers fail to lock the door, and tells passengers to use airsickness bags to dispose of chewing gum.

Lost Passenger

“It took me a while to figure out what to do,” said Le Ngoc Linh, a 24-year-old Hanoi hairdresser who boarded her first flight about five months ago. “I saw a woman walking back and forth down the aisle, looking for the toilet.”

Some passengers argue loudly with flight attendants because they don’t understand instructions, others take life jackets from under seats, assuming they are included in the ticket, Huong said.

Cases of passengers harassing or abusing staff are common. A 35-year-old Hanoi resident was barred from flying for six months for slapping an airport employee in April after being told her carry-on luggage exceeded weight limits, Thanh Nien newspaper said. Another woman was fined $344 for kicking a VietJet employee in June, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.

Flight attendants are trained in martial arts to fend off unwanted touching, Huong said.

Cheaper Tickets

Vietnam gradually liberalized its aviation market, fostering low-fare airlines such as Jetstar Pacific Airlines Aviation JSC and VietJet that have brought air travel within the reach of millions. A round-trip ticket between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City -- the distance from London to Oslo -- can cost as little as $108.

“Suddenly you have a lot of lower-income families who can afford air travel,” said Nguyen Xuan Thanh, a Ho Chi Minh City-based senior fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in Vietnam. “This is similar to what is happening in China.”

Things have gotten so bad there that China’s National Tourism Administration created a “National Uncivilized Traveler Record” for the travel industry. In January, members of a tour group angry about a weather delay opened emergency exits on a China Eastern Airlines Corp. flight in Kunming just before takeoff. The previous month, a first-time flier opened an emergency door on a Xiamen Airlines Co. to get some fresh air as the plane was taxiing for takeoff.

Visa Surge

As more people travel in Vietnam, more are also heading abroad for the first time. Visa applications to the U.S. jumped 50 percent this year, leading to a two-month waiting period, said David McCawley, U.S. countrywide consular coordinator in Vietnam.

Vietnam is asking the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to upgrade its safety ranking so its carriers, such as Vietnam Airlines, can fly to the states. Joost van der Heijden, head of Asia marketing for Airbus, said he expects air travel “to, from and within Vietnam” to grow more than 10 percent a year over the next two decades.

Meanwhile flight attendant Huong and her colleagues are keeping an eye out for those newbies. Most are easy to spot because they look nervous or excited, she said. “Some of them carry helmets and sometimes they put their helmets on when the plane is landing.”

(John Boudreau - Bloomberg News)

The Economics Of Private Jet Charters

Dassault Falcon 50EX (c/n 254) N94PC jumps off Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on March 3, 2008.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

When you think about private jets, you probably fall into one of two categories: Either you don’t know how expensive it is to own and operate a jet or you do know and don’t understand how anybody, even the rich, could afford to fly privately.

If you’re the former, here are some fun facts. The cost of a new jet will range from $3 million to $90 million or more.

The world’s most expensive private jet belongs to Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal. This $500 million aircraft includes a two-car garage, a stable for horses and camels, and a prayer room that rotates so it always faces Mecca.

But the cost to purchase a jet isn’t the real money drain. Operating it will set you back $700,000 to $4 million per year.

Although most jet owners purchase used models, the cost puts private ownership out of the price range of everybody but the smallest fraction of the world’s richest people – and some large corporations.

According to Greg Raiff, founder and CEO of New Hampshire-based Private Jet Services, owning an aircraft isn’t a good financial decision for anybody.

“Much like cars, planes start depreciating the minute they’re purchased. From the initial cost to ongoing maintenance, planes are not a wise investment for individuals. You’re always losing money.

When you own the aircraft you are always paying for it, even when it's not in use. Not only is it depreciating, but you're paying for hangar fees to store it, you're paying insurance, and you're paying to keep your crew around and at the ready.”

In 2009, the heart of the financial collapse, only 870 new business jets were delivered – a nearly 34% drop from 2008 levels, according to the National Business Aviation Association. But as the economy has improved, so has the business. According to Bill Papariella, president and CEO of Jet Edge, the industry is growing about 2% each year but still remains down 14% from pre-recession levels.

Why Do They Need to Fly Privately Anyway?

Nobody is going to deny that a large part of the reason the rich fly privately is, “because they can,” but before you criticize them for not wanting to set foot on the same plane as ordinary people, industry experts point out the many advantages of flying privately.

For CEOs and other higher-up executives, private jets are a risk mitigator of sorts. According to Raiff, “Clients choose private travel to ensure they arrive at a destination on time, and in the best possible physical and mental shape.

Busy executives cannot afford to show up late for an important meeting or to feel sluggish because of the rigors of commercial travel. They know that the cost of failure far exceeds the cost of private jet travel.”

Proximity to airports and flexibility are big advantages too. Adam Twidell, CEO of private jet booking platform PrivateFly says, “…your itinerary is completely flexible based on your needs. Since many private-jet customers tend to be business travelers, this is a huge advantage, especially when important meetings run longer than expected, the aircraft will still be at the airport waiting for you, rather than needing to book a new flight as you would with a commercial airline.

Additionally, private jets can land at many more airports compared to commercial aircraft, allowing customers to land closer to where they need to be.”

And since some jets are equipped with fax machines, Wi-Fi, and other office amenities, executives can work while en route in a safe, secure environment.

How Much Does It Cost?

If you’ve decided that purchasing a plane is a little out of your price range, you’re going to do what most of the world’s wealthy do: charter a plane. How much does that cost? Depending on the type of aircraft, costs could be $8,000 per hour or more, according to Twidell. A short flight from New York City to Boston could be as little as $5,000, but a longer flight from New York City to Moscow starts at around $118,500.

Unlike commercial aviation, however, you’re not paying for a seat, you're paying for the plane. That means no matter how many people you take with you, the price is the same. A company taking a team of eight people to Boston is paying $625 per person. Thinking of it as a per-person cost, the price is much more reasonable than the eye-popping $5,000 price tag.

But let’s not kid ourselves: If you want to travel in style, a private jet is the ultimate extravagance. Want to impress a potential client or that special someone in your life? It's not just the aircraft; it's the concierge service too.

According to Raiff, “Anything our clients want or need for the flight is provided to them, including specialty foods and accommodations for pets. Our employees have decorated a plane for an in-flight Pirates of the Caribbean-themed party. An employee has traveled out of state to stock the plane with special half-moon cookies because a client once mentioned that it was their favorite.

Sometimes clients will ask us to meet them on the runway with gifts or flowers for their spouses. We will arrange to have planes deep cleaned if someone on board has a peanut allergy. The list goes on and on. It’s not uncommon for our employees to stay up all night to prepare or fly along to make sure the experience is flawless.”

Saving Money on Private Jet Flights

Not all clients are looking for luxury jets stocked with their favorite type of caviar. That’s where companies like Hopscotch Air enter the market. Instead of jets, the company offers chartered services using turboprop aircraft – translation: aircraft with propellers. They aren’t going to decorate your plane or cater to your expensive tastes and you won’t find any tables made of rare wood from some faraway land.

But according to Capt. Chris Dupin, of the air-taxi service, Hopscotch Air, “The biggest amenity is the aircraft itself. In larger private jets, the customer is not allowed on the flight deck. In our aircraft, the client sits in the right front seat next to the captain. Many of our clients spend the entire flight asking questions about the airplane and how the air-traffic system works.”
Prices are generally $500 to $2,000 per hour. Add multiple people to the trip and you could wind up paying less per person than business-class pricing on a commercial aircraft. Options like this only work for more regional trips. For people not looking to throw down $5,000 for a quick flight to a neighboring city, these no-frills options offer value while still giving the advantages of private air travel.

There are also empty-leg flights that are priced as much as 75% off the normal cost of a trip. When a jet is booked for a one-way trip, it has to return home empty. For the company, that’s a lot of money without any return on its investment. Putting people on board at any price is better than nothing so firms offer empty-leg flights at a deep discount. Apps like Jetsmarter help connect customers with companies offering empty-leg flights.

The Bottom Line

Ever wonder why you probably can't set foot on a commercial aircraft without paying a couple of hundred dollars? Because air travel is expensive. Putting a jet in the air costs a lot of money after paying for the crew, maintenance, airport fees and more. Although there are now more affordable prices for private travel, it’s still mostly reserved for the richest of the rich who can afford the often multi-thousand–dollar hourly price tag.

(Tim Parker - Investopedia)

Virgin Atlantic to cut 500 jobs reports Wall Street Journal

Virgin Atlantic Airways, owned by its British billionaire founder Richard Branson, is cutting about 500 jobs as it seeks to reduce costs and improve its financial resilience, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The cuts will be done through layoffs, moving staff, or not filling vacancies and will be implemented by the end of the year, the newspaper reporter.

The 30-year-old airline is looking to boost earnings after it reported a 14.4 million pounds (US$22.62 million) profit for 2014, its first in four years.

Virgin is in the throes of a two-year turnaround plan that includes shutting its Little Red domestic airline to concentrate on long-haul flights.

The airline is increasing its transatlantic flights while cutting back on some routes elsewhere. It is also contemplating how to replace seven Boeing 747s it flies from London's Gatwick Airport, and could expand its overall fleet in the process.

Virgin Atlantic was not immediately available to comment on the report.


Hail pummels Delta 747 over China; NWA's "Spirit of Beijing" may face scrapyard

The severely damaged nose cone is clearly apparent in this photo.   
(Photo by Brian Walker)

A mothballed Delta Air Lines Boeing 747 is at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP/KMSP) and likely under maintenance to replace another 747 that was damaged by hail while flying over China.
The damaged plane, a 26-year-old Boeing 747-451 (23819/721) N644US, was dubbed "The Spirit of Beijing" by Eagan-based Northwest Airlines Corp. before Delta bought the airline in 2008.
It was flying from Detroit to Seoul two weeks ago when it encountered a hailstorm. It's not clear whether the plane, will return to service (Delta is phasing out its 747 fleet by 2017).
Flight 159 was about two-and-a-half hours from landing at South Korea's Incheon International Airport June 16, passenger Brian Walker said, when the pilot warned passengers to sit down and buckle up. "Then it hit," the Chicago resident said, describing hundreds of passengers screaming as the plane rolled, pitched and yawed, at times seemingly out of control.
"The plane was dropping vertically then 'slamming' into something," said Walker, who used to hold a private pilot's license. "This happened about seven times. The few unbuckled (passengers) initially flew up to hit the overhead bins. Anything loose in the cabin flew. All of the meal and beverage carts were spilled. My glasses flew off my face and luckily were recovered several rows away. Luggage was tossed out of overhead bins onto the heads of passengers."
Afterward, the captain told passengers he was unable to get permission from Chinese air traffic controllers to fly around the weather, Walker said.
"I'm sure if we were in U.S. and sustained this damage we would have made an immediate emergency landing," he said. "Being over China and near North Korea, I assume that it was decided to continue" to Incheon International.
Walker snapped photos of the damage when he got off the plane in Seoul. Ice chunks obliterated the nosecone and hit the leading edges of the wings, grounding the aircraft for repairs.
He said Delta gave him and other passengers 15,000 miles for the scare, but hasn't responded to his request for an explanation.
Delta notified the the National Transportation Safety Board about the incident, but reported no injuries, "no substantial damage" to the aircraft and no airframe penetration, NTSB spokesman Eric Weiss said. The incident is not under investigation, he added. He declined to provide more information.
Delta spokespeople this week said they were not immediately able to provide more information about the incident.
The damaged plane's replacement, Boeing 747-451 (26477/1206) N671US, was also a Northwest Airlines jet, which Delta retired in 2014. Since then it's been parked at an aircraft "boneyard" in the Arizona desert until Sunday night, when it flew to Minneapolis.
Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines no longer schedules regular 747 passenger service through Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP/KMSP), its biggest hub after its headquarters, but flies 747s through the airport occasionally to handle high passenger volumes, for private charters and aircraft maintenance.
About a dozen Delta 747s are in operation, with all scheduled to be retired by 2017.
Northwest Airlines was the first carrier to own a Boeing 747-400. Delta's 747-400s carry 376 passengers and cruise at about 560 mph. The double-decker jet has four turbofan engines on the wings and a range of nearly 7,400 miles.
The damaged 747 was still in Seoul as of Tuesday, possibly only getting the necessary repairs to fly back to the U.S. and directly to the boneyard.
Delta has a Federal Aviation Administration ferry permit to fly damaged or otherwise un-airworthy aircraft for repairs or salvage in the U.S. as long as they can still fly safely, FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said.
Based on its age, the 747 was probably worth about $8.5 million before incurring the damage, according to George Dimitroff, head of valuations at Flightglobal in New York.
That estimate could vary from around $6 million to $10 million based on the maintenance condition of the aircraft and its engines, he emailed, and the insured valued "could have been totally different."
(Jim Hammerand - Minneapolis / St Paul Business Journal)

Air Canada’s improved results supported by rouge concept

Air Canada rouge Airbus A319-114 (c/n 697) C-FZUG arrives at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on January 24, 2015.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Air Canada leisure affiliate rouge has “proven its case” by lowering costs for the Canadian flag carrier, CEO Calin Rovinescu told ATW last week on the sidelines of the Star Alliance meeting in Warsaw.
The Montreal-based flag carrier posted a 2014 net income of C$105 million ($90.3 million), more than a tenfold improvement over full-year net profit of C$10 million in 2013. Its first-quarter 2015 net loss of C$309 million was narrowed from a C$341 million loss in the year-ago quarter.

“We had a record year in 2014 and a very strong first quarter in 2015, rouge have proven its case with a CASM reduction of about 30% versus mainline aircraft,” Rovinescu said.

He added that the rouge concept will be permanently updated. “We are taking out the IFE [inflight entertainment] systems and brought in iPads. This makes them lighter, more fuel-efficient. We took out tons of equipment. Pilots and flight attendants are working under different rules. All this combined has delivered these results,” he said.

Air Canada rouge, which is currently operating a mix of Boeing 767-300 and Airbus A319s, should grow from 30 to 50 aircraft.

“Once [we take delivery of new fuel-efficient aircraft Boeing 787-8s and -9s], we will send the 767s to rouge,” he said.

Rovinescu is pleased that Air Canada, as a Star Alliance member, continues to grow on North Atlantic routes.

“North Atlantic continues to be very strong. We added tactical capacity and sent rouge to destinations like Venice, Athens and Barcelona. It is paying off big time, because with the leisure segment rouge we can offer this kind of direct service.”

He said rouge allows Air Canada enormous swing-capability for seasonal demand that the company had never seen before. “We can swing from a European leisure capacity in the summer to Caribbean and Mexico capacity in the winter,” Rovinescu said.

(Kurt Hofmann - ATWOnline News)

Report Shows Benefits of 'Greener Skies' approaches at Sea-Tac Airport

Alaska Airlines is on track to save 87 gallons of fuel, shorten flight times by about nine minutes and reduce carbon emissions by nearly 1 metric ton, every time one of its planes land at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA/KSEA) using new, operations-enhancing Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) procedures.

That's the equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide produced from driving about 1,800 miles in a passenger car, according to a new Boeing Company report.

The benefits are about 28 percent greater than what was initially projected in 2010.

(Alaska Airlines)

Typically large airports like Sea-Tac require planes landing on parallel runways to maintain either a 3-mile lateral or 1,000-foot vertical separation on approach into the airport until they are lined up with the runway. Since April, equipped and trained carriers, such as Alaska, can land at Sea-Tac with pinpoint precision with just half the lateral separation, before they are lined up with the runway. The key benefit of reduced separation is increased airspace efficiency.

"About 80 percent of the aircraft landing at Sea-Tac are equipped with avionics to use the Greener Skies approaches and can take advantage of the cost and environmental benefits of flying more efficiently," said Gary Beck, vice president of flight operations for Alaska Airlines. "This project is proof that when airlines partner with the FAA and air traffic controllers, airplane manufacturers and airports, great things can happen. What we've done here in Seattle is a blueprint for how our industry can help modernize the national airspace for future generations."

Implementing the final phase of the seven-year "Greener Skies Over Seattle" initiative allows an aircraft on West side approaches to Sea-Tac, and landing south, to fly the most environmentally friendly track over Elliott Bay. These aircraft can fly the approach procedure to the runway concurrently with another aircraft on the parallel runway in both high and low visibility conditions alike. Alaska estimates the new flying is saving the airline about $200 in fuel per flight.

If all equipped airlines at Sea-Tac used the Greener Skies procedures on all flights from the southwest landing south, it would cut fuel consumption by 2.7 million gallons a year and reduce carbon emissions by 25,600 metric tons, the equivalent of taking 5,400 cars of the road each year. As the use of the procedures increase, so do the environmental benefits.

"The Port of Seattle is glad to be a partner in this effort to reduce the environmental footprint of our airport and create increased efficiencies for current flight corridors that benefit operations and surrounding communities," said Mike Ehl, Sea-Tac Airport director of operations and customer service. "Whenever we consider airport improvements our goal is to be the most energy efficient we can be."

The procedures implemented in Seattle can also be used at certain U.S. airports that have comparable runway configurations, including Portland International Airport.

Typically, commercial aircraft follow a series of stair-step descents and a lengthy approach pattern before landing. With "Greener Skies," airlines use satellite technology and a continuous descent to go from cruising altitude to the airport runway, along a shorter flight path, at low power, which also reduces travel time.

"Flying more precise approach procedures will help Alaska Airlines and others achieve greater operational efficiency, by reducing fuel consumption, flight times and emissions," said Julie Felgar, Boeing Commercial Airplanes managing director‎ of environmental strategy and integration. "The Greener Skies initiative is leading the way to establish environmentally progressive procedures for the next generation of flight."

The "Greener Skies" procedures are part of the FAA's Next Generation Air Transportation System, replacing legacy ground-based equipment with satellite-based technology and aircraft navigation capabilities.

"The NextGen procedures that we're implementing nationwide and here in the Seattle area are helping to create a better environment while improving safety and efficiency," said FAA Northwest Mountain Regional Administrator Kathryn Vernon. "By reducing fuel burn, they're helping to reduce greenhouse gases while providing benefits to everyone who uses the airspace system - from airlines and general aviation operators to tourists, business travelers and cargo shippers."

Alaska Airlines pioneered the technology being used in the "Greener Skies" initiative in the mid-1990s to help its planes land at some of the world's most remote and geographically challenging airports in the state of Alaska. Required Navigation Performance, or RNP, provides precise runway paths by using a combination of onboard navigation technology and the GPS satellite network. It improves safety and reliability in all weather, and reduces reliance on ground-based navigation aids. Alaska Airlines currently uses RNP procedures at 30 U.S. airports.

In addition to Seattle, Alaska and its sister airline, Horizon, are working with the FAA to increase use of similar procedures in Portland, Oregon, where RNP is helping equipped carriers fly more direct routes that burn less fuel, and reduce overhead noise and travel time. On a typical day, NextGen procedures are saving Alaska Airlines 45 gallons of fuel per flight, or the CO2 savings equivalent to driving 950 miles a passenger vehicle.
In addition to using NextGen procedures at airports in the Pacific Northwest, Alaska is leading the industry in environmental responsibility and its investments are paying off. Alaska has been ranked highest for fuel efficiency four years in a row among major North American airlines by the International Council on Clean Transportation. Alaska has set an ambitious goal of reducing its carbon footprint by 20 percent by 2020 (on a per passenger mile basis). Learn more about these initiatives at http://www.alaskaair.com/sustainability.

(Alaska Airlines)

Airbus plans to open A330 China plant, upbeat on output -CEO

Airbus plans to build a second plant in China after winning an order for at least 45 jets that underpins its production goals for the wide-body A330, chief executive Fabrice Bregier said on Tuesday.

Airbus has been negotiating for about 18 months to establish an A330 'cabin completion centre' in China alongside an existing final assembly plant for smaller A320 jets in Tianjin.

An agreement to build a plant capable of fitting out 2 A330s a month is expected to be signed during a visit to Toulouse by Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang on Thursday.

"We are going to launch the project. I think we have a good base. We hope to have more orders in the future, but it's a project which makes a lot of sense and which gives us an advantage against our competition," Bregier told Reuters after a signing ceremony.

Bregier was speaking shortly after China placed an order for 45 A330 aircraft worth at least $11 billion, together with provisional purchases of another 30 planes.

The deal, coming on top of a recent sale of 20 planes to Saudi Arabia, lifts uncertainty over production levels of the A330, which Airbus has been forced to reduce while preparing to revamp the profitable but ageing jet with new engines.

"This should help us a lot to maintain a production rate of six a month that we announced for the transition," Bregier said.

(Tim Hepher - Reuters)

United Airlines invests $30 million for stake in Fulcrum BioEnergy

United Airlines Boeing 737-924(ER) (32835/2817) N75432 sports the carriers "Eco-Skies" livery.
(Photo - United Airlines)

United Airlines has invested $30 million for a stake in renewable fuels producer Fulcrum BioEnergy in a deal that could see the carrier buy 90 million gallons a year of jet fuel made from municipal waste.

The equity stake in Fulcrum is the largest single investment by a US airline in alternative fuels, United EVP and general counsel Brett Hart said. Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways made an undisclosed equity investment in Fulcrum in August 2014.

United has also signed a long-term supply agreement with Fulcrum giving it the opportunity to purchase at least 90 million gallons of sustainable jet fuel a year for a minimum of 10 years, beginning in 2018, at a cost competitive with conventional jet fuel.

Cathay has negotiated a supply agreement for an initial 375 million gallons over 10 years. This would be supplied by Fulcrum bio-refineries at multiple locations, primarily in North America, described as strategic to the airline’s network.

The United agreement covers the joint development of up to five refineries located near the airline’s US hubs, with the combined capacity to produce up to 180 million gallons a year. Fulcrum CEO Jim Macias says the five locations are “complementary” to those covered by the Cathay agreement.

Macias says the five locations for United are included in the eight US plants included in Fulcrum’s initial build-out plans. “We have secured all the feedstocks necessary for the first eight plants under 20-year contracts that guarantee our costs and eliminate volatility,” he says.

Fulcrum’s process gasifies pre-sorted municipal solid waste to produce syngas, which is then converted to liquid fuels using the Fischer-Tropsch (F-T) process. Synthetic paraffinic kerosene produced via F-T is already approved for use in aircraft in blends up to 50% with conventional jet fuel.

Fulcrum has just awarded contracts to begin constriction of its first commercial-scale biorefinery in Reno, Nevada, which is scheduled to become operational in 2017. The majority of initial jet-fuel production is committed to Cathay and United, says Macias.

Based on Fulcrum’s build-out plans, United expects to reach the 90 million gallons a year purchase level—enough to fuel 20,000 flights—by 2021, says Angela Foster-Rice, United’s managing director of environmental affairs and sustainability.

The waste-to-jet fuel will reduce life-cycle carbon emissions by more than 80% compared with conventional jet fuel, she says, adding that Fulcrum process meets its sustainability, fuel cost and commercial scalability requirements.

United in 2013 signed the airline industry’s first long-term biofuel offtake agreement with a three-year deal with AltAir Fuels. Foster-Rice says AltAir will finish upgrading its refinery in the next few weeks and United expects to begin biofuel flights out of Los Angeles “later this summer.”

Hart says United has invested in Fulcrum “to help make biofuels salable and scalable” and to provide “a hedge against future fuel price volatility and carbon regulation.” Foster-Rice says “we need to be willing to invest to take out some of the risk” in scaling up to commercial quantities.

(Graham Warwick - ATWOnline News)

Boeing launches BBJ Max 9

Boeing officially launched its BBJ Max 9 at the Paris Air Show, following an order for the 737 Max 9-based VIP airliner from an unnamed European customer.

BBJ president David Longridge says the first aircraft is scheduled for delivery to the “customer’s completion center of choice" in 2020.

The sale comes a little over a year after the BBJ Max 8 program was launched with a single order. Boeing has since notched up four sales for the 737 Max 8-based aircraft, the first of which will be delivered “green” in 2018.

asset image

Boeing and General Electric teamed up in 1996 to develop the BBJ version of the 737. The baseline family – consisting of the BBJ, BBJ2 and BBJ3 – will be replaced by the new generation models.

The 737 Max-based BBJs will have CFM International Leap-1B turbofans and split-tip winglets, giving the aircraft 14% better fuel efficiency than the standard BBJ range, says Longridge.

The BBJ Max 9 – which will replace the BBJ3 - has a range of 6,325nm (11,700km) – some 800nm more than its outgoing stablemate – a maximum take-off weight of 88,314kg (195,000lb) and a 1,120ft2 (104m2) cabin.

First flight of the 737 Max is scheduled for 2016 and deliveries to commercial customers are pegged to begin in 2017, Boeing says.

(Kate Sarsfield - FlightGlobal News)

Alaska Airlines Announces New Regional Flying from Los Angeles, Boise

Alaska Airlines today announced two new routes from Los Angeles, and one new route from Boise, Idaho. New daily roundtrip service between Los Angeles and Monterey, California; and Boise, Idaho and Reno, Nevada begin Nov. 5. A new seasonal flight between Los Angeles and Gunnison/Crested Butte will shuttle skiers and snowboarders from California to Colorado starting in December.

We continue to invest in our Los Angeles focus city and in expanding our regional route network," said John Kirby, Alaska's vice president of capacity planning. "These new flights will connect key cities in California, Idaho and Nevada, not to mention offer a thrilling new ski destination for our customers in Southern California."

To inaugurate the new service, Alaska is offering introductory one-way fares as low as $79 on flights between Los Angeles and Monterey and between Boise and Reno, and one-way fares as low as $119 between Los Angeles and Gunnison/Crested Butte.* To take advantage of these fares, customers must purchase tickets by July 7 and travel by Feb. 7, 2016, for Los Angeles-Monterey and Boise-Reno. Tickets between Los Angeles and Gunnison/Crested Butte must be purchased by July 7 and travel completed by March 12.

Alaska is also offering members of its Mileage Plan double miles when they fly a qualifying nonstop between Los Angeles and Monterey between Nov. 5 and Dec. 5.** To qualify, travelers must be members of Alaska Airlines' Mileage Plan and register at www.alaskaair.com. Customers who have not yet joined Mileage Plan can enroll at no cost online. Mileage Plan members can book award travel between Los Angeles and Monterey for as little as 7,500 miles one-way. Award fares between Boise and Reno and Los Angeles and Gunnison start from 12,500 miles one-way.

Summary of new Los Angeles - Monterey flying:
Start date
City pair
Nov. 5
Los Angeles-Monterey
7:40 p.m.
9:05 p.m.
Nov. 6
Monterey-Los Angeles
6 a.m.
7:18 a.m.
Summary of new seasonal Los Angeles – Gunnison/Crested Butte flying:
Start date
City pair
Dec. 16-30
Los Angeles-Gunnison
9:30 a.m.
12:55 p.m.
Dec. 16-30
Gunnison-Los Angeles
1:35 p.m.
3:10 p.m.
Dec. 19-Jan. 2
Los Angeles-Gunnison
1:15 p.m.
4:40 p.m.
Dec. 19-Jan. 2
Gunnison-Los Angeles
5:20 p.m.
6:55 p.m.
Jan. 6-March 26
Los Angeles-Gunnison
1:15 p.m.
4:40 p.m.
Wednesdays, Saturdays
Jan. 6-March 26
Gunnison-Los Angeles
5:20 p.m.
6:55 p.m.
Wednesdays, Saturdays
Summary of new Boise-Reno flying:
Start date
City pair
Nov. 5
6:15 p.m.
6:44 p.m.
Nov. 5
4:35 p.m.
6:55 p.m.
*Flight times based on local time zones

The flights will be operated by Alaska's sister carrier Horizon Air, using a 76-seat Bombardier Q400 aircraft. Customers flying on flights operated by Horizon can enjoy free soft drinks and Starbucks coffee, a la cart planeside baggage service, and complimentary Northwest wine and microbrews for passengers 21 years and older.

Alaska also announced today that it will upgauge its flights from Los Angeles to Loreto, Mexico, beginning Nov. 1. The flights are currently operated daily, using 76-seat Bombardier Q400 aircraft. Beginning in November, they will be operated Thursday-Sunday using Boeing 737 jets, adding about 70 additional seats each week.

(Alaska Air Group / Yahoo Finance News)

iHeartRadio and Virgin America Join Forces to Bring New Music Offerings up in the Air

iHeartRadio, iHeartMedia’s all-in-one digital music and live streaming radio service, today announced it has joined forces with Virgin America to bring a new music selection to 35,000 feet – curated for the airline by iHeartRadio and Virgin Produced (Virgin Group’s entertainment arm).

The partnership will integrate iHeartRadio-branded music stations into Virgin America’s award-winning Red® in-flight entertainment system at every seatback and will also be available through iHeartRadio, allowing travelers to continue listening everywhere they go after landing via their own computer, tablet or mobile devices.

“We’re excited to partner with one of the most innovative and popular airlines to bring quality music and entertainment to consumers – even at 35,000 feet,” said Michele Laven, President of Business Development and Partnerships at iHeartMedia. “This is the first step in a robust partnership between Virgin and iHeartMedia and it paves the way for more exciting integrations in the near future.”
Earlier this month, Virgin America also announced the beta launch of the next generation of its Red in-flight entertainment system that creates even more of an immersive in-flight entertainment experience with higher resolution capacitive touch screens, Android-based software that will allow for faster, real-time updates, three times more content – including full seasons of favorite television shows, more interactive maps, video games including classics like Pac Man and Asteroids – and more.

Virgin America features the largest in–flight entertainment library in the domestic skies via the touch screen Red platform. In addition to a more than 25–film library, live television, music videos and video games at every seat, Red offers more than 3,000 MP3s and allows guests to create their own playlist in–flight. The airline is known for featuring an eclectic and diverse range of artists in its onboard library.
Beginning immediately, iHeartRadio will bring six curated and branded stations to Virgin America’s Red in-flight entertainment system including:

Atmospheres: This perfect meditation station features mellow songs like “Healing” by Kamal that will help relax the body, mind and soul.

Dub & Dubber: Reggae sounds that features stripped raw elements, clear bass and low end. King Tubby & Friends, a Dub music originator from Kingston, Jamaica known for his groundbreaking techniques and raw elements, is one of the featured artists.

Dyna-Mic Flows: Trailblazing hip-hop that looks forward while also paying respect to its history – this station includes talented performers like Del tha Funky Homosapien & Parallel Thought.

Pop, Skip & A Jump: Hear the best new “Alterna Pop” artists like Nosaj Thing – a Los Angeles-based artist known for creating music compositions to groove along to – in this pop music station that leans just left-of-center.

Lat-Indie: Playing songs that embrace old traditions like música norteña and polka, but with a modern, indie-rock twist. Artists like Fernanda Ulibarri will make you shake your hips, even if you are in an airplane seat.

Soul-igarchy: Soul and classic R&B that takes you back to the golden age of rhythm and blues. Featured artists include Brownout, a band out of Austin, Texas whose music has an ultra hip funk-Latin-vintage-soul kind of style.
The stations will also be available everywhere iHeartRadio is including online, mobile devices, wearables, in-car, in-home, gaming consoles and more. When accessed through the iHeartRadio platform, listeners will also have access to its interactive station features such as Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down feedback and skip.
“As the music fan’s airline of choice, we’re thrilled to partner with iHeartRadio to offer more variety to our flyers with these curated music stations,” said Alfy Veretto, In-flight Entertainment Manager at Virgin America. “And as we begin to roll out the next iteration of our in-flight entertainment system, Red, this month – our guests can expect an even more immersive experience onboard with new features like faster, higher resolution capacitive touch screens and even more entertainment content at their seatback.” 

“Music and entertainment have always been an integral part of the DNA of our brand,” said Jason Felts, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Virgin Produced. “In addition to developing and producing our own content, we work closely with like-minded partners such as iHeartRadio to produce fresh entertainment offerings.” 
Virgin America and iHeartRadio will roll out several promotions in 2015 to introduce the iHeartRadio branded stations to passengers, including videos on Red and more.

(iHeartMedia - Yahoo Finance New / Business Wire News) 

Vietnam Airlines takes delivery of first Airbus A350


Airbus has handed over the first Airbus A350-941 XWB (c/n 14) VN-A886 (ex F-WZFI) to its second customer, Vietnam Airlines.

The aircraft is the first of a 14-aircraft order; the deal is for 10 to be purchased directly by the carrier and four supplied through lease companies. This aircraft is on lease from AerCap.

The aircraft will be used for a new nonstop A350 Noi Bai International, Hanoi to Charles de Gaulle International, Paris schedule.


The airline previously cited September as the start date for its Paris schedule to replace the current 6X-week service using a Boeing 777. The new A350 flights will use a three-class layout, with 29 seats that convert to full flat beds in business class, 45 seats in premium economy and 231 in economy.

Airlines EVP Commercial, Trinh Ngoc Thanh said the handover of the A350 marked the start of a major upgrade of Vietnam Airlines’ long-haul fleet. The new aircraft will join Vietnam Airlines’ existing Airbus fleet of 59 aircraft, comprising 49 A321s and 10 A330s.

Qatar Airways was the first carrier to take delivery of the A350 earlier this year.


Two more airlines are scheduled to take delivery of A350s later this year—Finnair and TAM.

To date, Airbus has seen strong demand for the A350 from Asian carriers. Orders have been also placed by Air China, Asiana Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, China Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines, Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines, SriLankan Airlines and Thai Airways.

However, AirAsia X, the Malaysia-based long-haul, low-cost carrier has hinted it may delay its 10-strong order for A350s due to the slowdown in the region following several recent fatal accidents.

(Jeremy Torr - ATWOnline News)

London Heathrow turns out the lights in Terminal 1

(Photo - London-Heathrow Airport)

The last flight will depart from London Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 1 late Monday as the airport prepares to decommission the facility after 47 years of operation.

Opened as a domestic facility in May 1968, the terminal has now been superseded by the new Terminal 2, which was built as part of an £11 billion ($17.3 billion) investment program aimed at transforming the London hub.

Over the last year, the majority of flights have moved from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2, meaning that more than 60% of Heathrow passengers now travel through the new terminals 5 and 2.

The final departure from the terminal was a British Airways (BA) flight to Hanover. BA, in the guise of regional carrier British European Airways (BEA), was also the first airline to operate from the terminal in 1968. Its opening led to the renaming of all three terminals in Heathrow’s Central Terminal Area: the Europa Terminal became Terminal 2 and the Oceanic Terminal became Terminal 3.

Heathrow said the terminal closure would “make way for improved service and way finding around the airport,” and the site will eventually be used to build an extension of the new Terminal 2 with enough capacity to eventually replace Terminal 3. The airport said that, if the government supports development of a third runway at Heathrow then Terminal 2 would be extended to provide “enough capacity to connect Britain to the world for the 21st century.”

In its heyday, Terminal 1 was the biggest short-haul terminal of its kind in Western Europe and handled approximately nine million passengers at peak capacity. BA also operated its Concorde charter flights—champagne specials that flew around the Bay of Biscay and back again—from the terminal. In the last few weeks, the terminal has been home to just 17 BA flights and around 1,700 passengers a day as airlines were phased out of the terminal. The last remaining BA operations have been transferred to terminals 3 and 5.

Heathrow CEO John Holland Kaye said: “The closure of Terminal 1 marks another important milestone in the transformation of Heathrow. Terminal 1 has served Britain well for nearly 50 years, but will soon make way for the expansion of Terminal 2, giving Britain a world class airport that we can all be proud of.”

(Anne Paylor - ATWOnline News)

Embraer to fly ecoDemonstrator with Boeing

Boeing will collaborate with Embraer to fly a test bed for environmental technologies in Brazil in 2016, as a follow on the US manufacturer’s series of ecoDemonstrators.

The unspecified Embraer aircraft will be flown as part of Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator program, which was begun in 2011 and so far has involved flight tests of more than 60 technologies first on a 737-800, then a 787-8 and most recently on a 757, which is just wrapping up flights.

The technologies to be tested on Embraer’s demonstrator are being assessed and will be announced at a later date, says Boeing.

The companies announced a collaboration in 2012, under which they have developed runway situational awareness tools to prevent incursions. Boeing has provided support for Embraer’s KC-390 military airlifter program and in January they opened a joint biofuel research center in Brazil.

Under the ecoDemonstrator program, Boeing flew the 737 in 2012 and 787 in 2014. This year, the 757 demonstrator has tested an active-flow-control vertical tail, insect mitigation for laminar-flow wings, dimmable windows powered by harvested energy and other technologies.

The three campaigns have included other agencies, companies and airlines including the FAA, NASA, Honeywell, Panasonic, Rolls-Royce, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Japan Airlines and the TUI Group.

(Graham Warwick - ATWOnline News)

Italy seeks buyer for Blue Panorama

The Italian government is seeking a buyer for Blue Panorama by the end of the summer season at the latest.

The airline entered bankruptcy protection for the second time in less than two years in March 2014. It was placed in an insolvency procedure known as Amministrazione Straordinaria, which is similar to the US Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, by which a company is given a chance to reorganize in the hope of being able to carry on business.

The Italian government has taken control of the airline’s affairs as the former searches for a suitable purchaser. The aim is to sell the airline as a going concern via a tender process; services have been maintained while this search proceeds.

A spokesman for the airline said the aim is “to complete the procedure, with any required assessment and authorization, by the end of the current IATA Summer Season at latest.”

The airline, founded in 1998, operates a fleet consisting of three Boeing 767-300ERs three Boeing 737-300s, one -400 and one -500 from bases at Rome Fiumicino and Milan Malpensa airports to a variety of leisure destinations in the Mediterranean, East Africa and the Caribbean.

(Alan Dron - ATWOnline News)

Embraer E190-E2 to have steep approach capability

Embraer is to seek steep-approach certification for its E190-E2, although the other two E2 family members are not currently slated for the approval.

Some airports, such as London City in the UK, have steep approaches that require specialized approval. For example, to gain steep approach certification into London City, which is located close to a series of skyscrapers in the heart of London’s business district, aircraft must be capable of performing an approach of up to 7.5 degrees.

The current generation Embraer E170 and E190 are approved for London City operations, but the E170 has been dropped from the second generation of E-Jets. This means that only one E2 is slated for steep-approach compliance. Speaking at the Paris Air Show, Embraer COO Luís Carlos Affonso said: “As of now, it will apply to the E190-E2 only.”

Embraer believes the certification will be a fairly simple process. “We will have to re-qualify the airplane [E190-E2] for steep approaches. Because of the new wings, it flies differently, but we have developed the process to do [the steep approach] by using our fly-by-wire system and deploying the spoilers on the approach. We believe it will be a straightforward process, but we will have to redo the campaign,” Affonso said.

The Brazilian aircraft manufacturer launched the three-member E2 family in 2013, revamping three of its original four E-Jets to create the E175-E2, E190-E2 and E195-E2. The E190-E2 is expected to enter service in the first half of 2018, followed by the E195-E2 in 2019 and the E175-E2 in 2020.

Rival regional jet manufacturer Mitsubishi has previously said it is planning to gain steep approach clearance for both the MRJ70 and 90, although there may be a payload penalty on the larger variant.

(Victoria Moores - ATWOnline News)

Emirates rebuts subsidy claims, says US airlines have ‘unclean hands’

Emirates Airline has issued a 192-page report rebutting subsidy allegations lodged against it by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, calling the US carriers’ argument “a mess of legal distortions and factual errors.”

Emirates president Tim Clark spent more than 90 minutes briefing reporters and fielding media questions Tuesday morning in Washington DC, pushing back strongly against American, Delta and United. “We will not be subjected to bullyboy tactics and browbeating,” he said. “We have to stand our ground on this … There must be a line drawn in the sand … In the end, enough is enough.”

Clark said he met Monday with representatives of the US Departments of State, Commerce and Transportation and presented them with Emirates’ rebuttal report. “They assured us they would evaluate this case on the facts,” he said. “They won’t be influenced by theatrics … They’ve been receptive, they’ve been listening.”

In the report, Dubai-based Emirates categorically states that it is not subsidized and charges that the “Big Three” US airlines “come to this debate with unclean hands. They have received billions of dollars in government support, including US government assumption of airline pension obligations, airline stabilization grants, loan guarantees, grandfathering of airport slots, bankruptcy relief from debt and other obligations, direct grants and tax exemptions to support airport development, grants of antitrust immunity to form market-dominant alliances, protection of the US market from foreign competition, and the prohibition against majority foreign ownership.”

Clark said the three US airlines “have received more than $100 billion in government support since 2002.” In the report, Emirates charges that the US airlines “are asking the United States to undertake a massive departure from Open Skies policy.”

Clark asserted that “there is no facility within the [US-United Arab Emirates Open Skies] document” to reopen the agreement over the subsidy dispute between the US airlines and Emirates. (The US carriers also allege Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways have benefited from subsidies that violate Open Skies accords.)

While Emirates is owned by the Dubai government, “Emirates has earned a profit for 27 straight years” and “is a financially transparent business with nothing to hide,” Clark said. He acknowledged that Emirates has benefited from the Dubai government’s “visionary policies in aviation” that are “envied by the European Union and the US,” adding, “Of course the state, as it does in the United States, provides aviation infrastructure.”

But he said such government backing is in no way a justification for disrupting Open Skies agreements, noting that many airlines around the world are owned or partly owned by governments.
“Where does it end?” Clark asked. “Where do the [US] legacy carriers cherry pick? There are many, many state carriers now flying to the US … You start on this path of interdicting Open Skies, it will never end … Once it starts with us, what are you going to do with the Chinese carriers?”

Jill Zuckman, a spokesperson for the Partnership for Open & Fair Skies coalition backing the US airlines’ campaign against the Gulf carriers, said, “Emirates can submit as many pages as it wants, but it still won’t paper over what has been well-documented: Emirates has received billions in subsidies and unfair benefits from the treasury of the UAE … We respectfully ask that the US government request consultations with Qatar and the UAE, and stand up against these unfair government subsidies that violate our Open Skies agreement.”

(Aaron Karp - ATWOnline News)