Thursday, April 28, 2016

Boeing Gets 15 787-9 Dreamliners Orders From China Eastern Airlines

Boeing and China Eastern Airlines disclosed that both have finalized an order for fifteen 787-9 Dreamliners. According to the company, the order was valued at nearly $4 billion at current list prices, and strengthens China Eastern's expanding long-haul fleet.

Boeing said 787 family proved to be an unmatched market opener, with over 100 new nonstop routes already in service or announced, as well as an effective tool to boost frequency profitably, often in conjunction with the 777.

The company stated that 787-9 complemented, as well as, extended the super-efficient 787 family. The aero plane maker also indicated that with the fuselage stretched by 20 feet (6 meters) over the 787-8, the 787-9 could fly more passengers and more cargo with the same exceptional performance, i.e. 20 percent less fuel use and 20 percent fewer emissions than the airplanes they replace.

The American firm's SVP for Northeast Asia Sales Ihssane Mounir commented, "China Eastern has been a long-standing Boeing customer and we are honored that the passenger-preferred 787 Dreamliner will join their world-class fleet.

The combination of both the 777-300ER and 787-9 will provide the airline with market-leading economics as well as flexibility that will contribute significantly to their success operating long-haul flights to North America."

China Eastern Airlines Chairman Liu Shaoyong said, "We are very happy to introduce the new 787 Dreamliners into our long-haul fleet. "The addition of these next-generation, fuel-efficient airplanes will play a key role in supporting China Eastern's strategy for international expansion, and enable us to realize profits in point-to-point routes across the Pacific Ocean, and between China and Europe."

(R. Chandrasekaran - Benzinga / Yahoo Business)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Qatar Airways talks to Boeing after more Airbus A320 problems

Qatar Airways is speaking to Boeing to secure substitute aircraft after further problems were discovered with the Airbus A320neo , the airline's chief executive said on Monday.

The Gulf airline could walk away from between four and six aircraft orders that have yet to be delivered after problems affected the A320s hydraulics and software, Akbar al-Baker told reporters at a media roundtable in Dubai.

Baker criticized U.S engine maker Pratt & Whitney last month, saying the engines it supplied for the A320neo were inadequately tested for the high temperatures experienced in the Gulf region.

"They have indicated they will have all those fixes by the end of the year," Baker said of Airbus on Monday.

"We have talked to Airbus, they know very well that we're a very unhappy, very unhappy customer."

Baker said it could turn to the Boeing 737NG as a replacement, noting the U.S. aircraft maker was "trying to oblige and give us the aircraft that we require."


Friday, April 22, 2016

Don’t Try to Pin This One on Southwest

The airline’s staff isn’t in LUV with management’s new emblems marking their years of service.

Southwest Airlines prides itself on its "warrior spirit.'' Now employees of the Dallas carrier are fighting mad about a hallmark of the corporate culture: the company's service-anniversary pin.

At airlines, a worker's years of service are more visible than, say, at a law firm, often displayed on a pin. A new pin design unveiled at Southwest earlier this year generated a "significant response'' from employees, the airline said in an internal message to workers.

"We listened, and we are going to give it another shot,'' Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelly told workers in a regularly recorded message this week.

Prior versions of the service pin include (from top) a belt-buckle shape, from 1981 to 1985; a trio of slanted bars emblazoned with the company's name, from 1986 to 2001; and an emblem fashioned to look like pilot's wings, with a big heart in the middle, issued from 2001 through last year.

(Southwest Airlines)

Southwest, whose stock ticker symbol is LUV and calls itself the "LUV airline," has long incorporated the heart in its branding, from swizzle sticks and bags of peanuts handed out on flights to television and billboard advertisements. A new three-color version it adopted about 18 months ago is painted on the belly of its planes. The bottom row shows the new pin the staff rejected.

The Culture Services Team, charged with creating the pin, said employees it talked to had overwhelmingly asked for "a sturdier, quality piece incorporating our new, bold colors and Heart branding'' and wanted the years of service to be more visible. The resulting design went over like a lead balloon.

"Just like you all, I really cherish these pins that I've received,'' said Kelly, who will celebrate his 30th anniversary with Southwest this year. "The pins have evolved over the years, just like our brand image and our company. But what hasn't changed is the passion and the love we all feel for this great company."

Symbols can take on outsize importance in an industry that's been through the wringer, with staff enduring pay cuts and layoffs as most of the biggest U.S. airlines reorganized in bankruptcy and then merged. American Airlines, for example, had to rework a new, gray uniform design after workers last year complained about the material and the color.

Southwest employees identify strongly with their upstart brand, symbolized by the wings and heart, that had to fight a legal battle just to gain the right to fly and has sustained the longest string of annual profits in the industry as rivals staggered.

Unlike in other industries that feature uniforms, such as hotels and restaurants, airline workers may spend decades at a single carrier, making the uniform that much more important, said Henry Harteveldt, founder of the aviation advisory firm Atmosphere Research Group.

Flight attendants and pilots in particular are likelier to stay at one airline for their whole career, and their uniforms become a part of their identity. Some airlines have kept their service pins consistent for decades even as they tinkered with their corporate image.

"They are small but meaningful touch points to the airline's own history,'' Harteveldt said. "Airlines are more than brands. They're a mix of tribes and theater.''

In his recorded message, Kelly encouraged Southwest employees to take part in the redesign process and "be respectful of other opinions.''

Southwest is collecting suggestions until Monday. The top three will be included in an employee vote in mid-May.

"This time you will decide on the design."

(Mary Schlangenstein - Bloomberg Business)

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Boeing mulls new 737 jet variant, airlines interested

Boeing is studying whether to revise one version of its best-selling 737 aircraft in a bid to fend off competition, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The U.S. planemaker's concept of a slightly larger version of its 737 MAX 7 jet with more seats and range drew airline interest on Thursday.

The plans are preliminary, without many specifics, the sources said. But Boeing has a product study underway to determine if such a jet would make sense, they added.

The plane could perk up relatively slow sales for the 737 MAX 7 and help Boeing's market share battle with Airbus Group SE, which has outsold it with its competing A320 jet.

Boeing's tweaked 737 also would help fight back competition from Bombardier Inc's fledgling CSeries aircraft, which appears poised to win a large order from Delta Air Lines Inc.

Chicago-based Boeing declined to comment on the plan, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Boeing needs to win support for the proposed plane from Southwest Airlines, which has ordered the smallest model 737s, as well as United Continental Holdings Inc, the Journal reported.

Southwest, which only flies 737s, said on Thursday it would consider the plane. Asked if it would convert some orders to a new 737 variant, Chief Operating Officer Mike Van de Ven said no decisions have been made.

"Absolutely we would want to go and consider different options out there," he told reporters in a conference call.

United did not respond to requests for comment.

American Airlines said: "We always look at new offerings from airplane makers, but we don't have anything more to say about these reports right now."

Boeing has officially called the model under consideration the 737 MAX 7X. It would seat around 150 passengers rather than 126, according to the Journal.

To make such an idea work, Boeing would have to juggle costs and operating efficiency for airlines. Technically, the new model would be a "shrink," or shorter-fuselage version of the 737 MAX 8.

Analysts say shortened aircraft tend to be difficult to sell because they inherit part of the extra structural weight of the larger plane and are often considered inefficient.

Using the best-selling 737-8 as the starting point for a new type of 737 could pose such challenges, but may also be cheaper to make because of economies of scale in busy 737-8 production.

Two industry sources said Boeing may have pitched this idea to Delta without so far winning a favorable response.

(Alwyn Scott and Jeffrey Dastin - Reuters / Yahoo Business)

Southwest Tops Estimates on Higher Traffic, Lower Fuel Costs

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-3H4(WL) (26593/2642) N390SW on short final to Rwy 25L at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on December 26, 2013.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Southwest Airlines Co. reported first-quarter profit that beat analysts’ estimates and said it would speed retirement of its oldest Boeing 737s to better manage pilot training for a new model of the plane.

Earnings excluding some items climbed 88 cents a share, beating the 84-cent average of analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Sales rose 9.3 percent to $4.83 billion, Dallas-based Southwest said in a statement Thursday. Analysts had predicted $4.81 billion. Profit increased 26 percent to $567 million.

The least-expensive fuel in more than a decade and continued strong demand in the U.S. have helped Southwest and other carriers post record profits. The airline said it expects “modestly positive” unit revenue this quarter compared with a year earlier. The industry benchmark, which was unchanged from the 2015 first quarter, has climbed only twice in the past eight quarters at the carrier, partly because of aggressive discounting in some markets.

“Everybody was a little worried with the start to the year with the stock market performing so weak and oil prices being so weak,” Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelly said in an interview. “Relative to that, we’ve been pleasantly surprised travel demand hasn’t been on that same roller coaster.”

Southwest rose 1.7 percent to $47.87 at 9:35 a.m. in New York. The shares were up 9.3 percent this year through Wednesday.
Fleet Retirement

The airline said it will move up the retirement of its Boeing Co. 737-300 fleet to no later than the third quarter of next year, just four months after announcing plans to remove the planes by mid-2018.

Uncertainty about Federal Aviation Administration training requirements for flying the so-called Classic fleet and the 737 Max -- which will join the fleet next year -- led to the decision. Southwest and its pilots union also have been unable to agree on terms that would have separated a group of pilots to fly only the 737-300s.

“This is a viable and manageable solution, although not preferred,” Kelly said in the statement. “This accelerated retirement of the Classics will result in fewer aircraft and lower available seat mile growth in 2017 than previously planned.”

Increases in capacity over the period will fall below the 5 percent to 6 percent expected for this year, the airline said. It’s too early to comment more precisely on 2017 growth, Kelly said.

Southwest paid 11 percent less per gallon of fuel in the quarter, although it didn’t get the full benefit of lower prices because of wrong-way bets on some advance purchases. Passenger traffic increased 10 percent as the airline added capacity and fares dropped amid competition from Spirit Airlines Inc. and Frontier Airlines Holdings Inc. in some areas of the U.S.

The airline also said it would initiate a $200 million accelerated share-repurchase program this quarter after completing an existing buyback plan by April 25. The latest effort will exhaust a $1.5 billion repurchase authorization from May 2015.

(Mary Schlangenstein - Bloomberg Business)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Allegiant Air softens image as it moves into larger markets

Allegiant Air McDonnell Douglas MD-83 (53469/2116) N876GA holds short of Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on October 26, 2011.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air is increasing its marketing budget and investing more in customer service as it moves into larger markets, such as Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Memphis, executives said in a briefing at the carrier’s headquarters.

Five years ago, Allegiant’s marketing strategy was simple. It would start a new leisure-focused route from a place like Casper, Wyoming, and perhaps spend $25,000 to tell local residents about it. Consumers would be so excited about any air service that they would book flights. It did not matter that Allegiant would launch only two weekly flights, or that passengers would have to adjust their schedule to match the carrier’s service pattern.

“Just by us showing up, it was news enough to get the word out,” COO Jude Bricker said.

But a couple of years ago, the airline’s network team realized it was running out of logical small-market routes. The team suspected Allegiant’s low-fare, leisure-focused network would translate into larger markets, as long as customers learned about Allegiant’s value.

But Allegiant’s senior executives knew they would start from scratch in markets where customers had options. They feared they might not be successful.

“We were always concerned that without the advantage of GDS [global distribution system] distribution, we would have a really hard time building up customer awareness,” Bricker said. “What we found out was that the product is well received in these communities.”

Winning new customers

The new markets “build more slowly,” Bricker explained, but most have been successful. The airline’s upcoming growth will occur mostly in larger markets. “We found a new pot of gold with these middle markets,” CEO Maury Gallagher said. “Five years ago, we would have told you we would never go there.”

As Allegiant entered larger cities, it has used a multi-pronged strategy to win new travelers.

• First, it spent more on advertising, adding national commercials mainly targeted to women, who are believed to control their families’ budgets.

• Second, it focused on customer service, adding a 24/7 call center, updating its website, increasing its customer care team 22% and adding a post-travel survey for passengers.

• Third, it simplified how it marketed itself. Allegiant’s official name is “Allegiant Travel Co.,” and at times it has taken that moniker seriously, expending a considerable effort selling vacation packages. But in the new, larger markets, Allegiant is advertising itself as an airline.

“Introducing ourselves as ‘Allegiant Travel’ was causing confusion,” among consumers, Allegiant VP-marketing and sales Brian Davis noted.

Just as in smaller markets, the bulk of Allegiant’s passengers are families traveling on the occasional vacation to popular spots like Las Vegas and Orlando, Florida. But being in larger cities has allowed Allegiant to carry different demographics, Davis said.

Now, Allegiant’s fastest-growing segment is younger people with disposable income and an appetite for travel. Davis calls this group “Erica and Brian.” The segment, he said, accounts for 15% of Allegiant’s business. “The key to understanding ‘Erica and Brian’ is that . . . they will watch prices and when the price is right they will spontaneously take a trip,” Davis added. “[They will say,] ‘We’ve never been to Austin. Let’s go spend the weekend.’”

(Brian Sumers - ATWOnline News)

Flydubai crash investigators suggest pilot go-around errors

Russian’s Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC) has issued five “prompt” safety recommendations in its interim report on the crash of Flydubai flight 981, a Boeing 737-800 that plunged into the ground after a second missed approach at the Rostov-on-Don airport early on the morning of March 19, killing all 62 aboard.

Potential disorientation

Four of the recommendations address pilot actions and potential disorientation during go-arounds (or missed approaches) with both engines operating near the end of a flight, when aircraft weight is lower and the engines provide more acceleration. A fifth recommendation calls for Boeing 737-800 operators to take note of the findings.

The early recommendations hint that disorientation as a result of the dynamic maneuver—a full-power go-around with both engines operating and low aircraft weight after six hours of flying—could have played a major role in the crash. Fatigue or circadian rhythm issues could also be involved, given the aircraft was attempting the second landing at approximately 3:30 a.m. local time.

Flight recorders

Based on flight data recorder (FDR) and cockpit voice recorder information, an international team of investigators determined that crew abandoned the second instrument landing system approach to Runway 22 at a height of 722 ft., then climbed to steeply to approximately 3,280 ft. before entering a steep dive and crashing 400 ft. past the threshold of Runway 22.

What happened during that climb will be key to solving the mystery. Data shows pilots may have initiated the second abort due to an abrupt 20 kt. increase in indicated airspeed, possibly signaling wind shear. The pilots in response set maximum power to the engines, raised the landing gear and began climbing at approximately 4,000 ft./min. Investigators said the final portion of both approaches had been flown with the autopilot and autothrottle systems turned off, but the flight director turned on. The flight director provides a visual indication on the primary flight display of how the pilot should control the aircraft to follow a pre-programmed course.

At a height of 1,900 ft. with a pitch attitude of 18 degrees nose-up, the pilot-flying pushed forward on the control column, causing the flaps, which had been set at 15 degrees, to automatically retract to 10 degrees to prevent over-speed damage. After a reduction in power, the crew then restored full power and the pilot-flying pulled back on the control column resulting in a climb rate of about 3,200 ft./min.

At approximately 3,000 ft. height, investigators said there was a “simultaneous” control column nose-down input and stabilizer nose-down deflection. Pilots use the control column to deflect the elevator while an electrical switch on the control column can be used to move the stabilizer to provide trim control. The FDR showed that the stabilizer nose-down trim control input lasted 12 seconds, and the CVR verified the sound of the trim system in motion. The combination of control inputs resulted in a -1G push-over that resulted in a steep dive from which the crew did not recover.

Additional training on go-arounds

Two recommendations call for airlines to provide “additional training,” including simulator scenarios, on go-arounds with two engines operating from various heights and lower aircraft weights.

The IAC also wants airlines to study the safety recommendations it issued after the November 2013 crash of a Tatarstan Airlines Boeing 737-500 at Kazan, and the May 2006 crash of an Armavia Airbus A320 near Sochi. Both crashes involved crew mistakes in part caused by higher than normal accelerations caused by two-engine go-arounds. Potential illusions include somatogravic illusions, which can lead a pilot to believe that forward acceleration is causing the aircraft is pitch up steeply.

Another recommendation calls on airlines to analyze recommendations made by the French safety agency BEA in its August 2013 Aeroplane State Awareness during Go-Around (Asaga) study.

BEA concluded that pilots are ill-prepared for go-arounds, relatively rare events where many actions must be completed in a short time, leaving little margin for error in handling automation and control of the aircraft. Failure to handle either can lead to a loss of control.

Along with calling for somatogravic illusions to be incorporated into simulators, the BEA also recommended more training for go-arounds, particularly with both engines operating, and installation of devices to limit thrust during go-arounds.

(John Croft - ATWOnline News)

Boeing Falls After Analyst Sees `Unachievable' 787 Cost Recovery

Boeing tumbled after an analyst downgraded the stock to “underperform” and said the U.S. planemaker stood little chance of fully recovering almost $29 billion that’s been sunk into producing the 787 Dreamliner jet.

The shares fell 2.7 percent to $129.15 at 10:04 a.m. Wednesday in New York. The stock earlier dropped 3.2 percent, the most intraday since Feb. 24. Boeing had declined 8.2 percent this year through Tuesday, the fourth-worst performance among the 30 members of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

The manufacturer has touted the substantial cash it stands to generate as it produces jets from a near-record order backlog and starts to turn a profit on the 787, its marquee aircraft.

But Ron Epstein, an analyst at Bank of America, estimated that cash flowing from the Dreamliner by 2022 will be $14 billion rather than the $29 billion assumed in Boeing’s outlook.

To reach that number and eliminate the nearly $29 billion in deferred production costs already accumulated by the 787 program, Boeing would need to generate a profit of $30 million for each of the 907 Dreamliners it projects making for accounting purposes, Epstein wrote.

That profit goal is “unachievable,” he said. Generating $16 million in profit per plane was more realistic, Epstein wrote.

Boeing is likely to take a charge on the 787 program or increase the projection of 1,300 jets it is using to estimate future profits under U.S. program accounting rules, Epstein said.

SEC Investigation

Bloomberg reported in February that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Boeing’s forecasts regarding the profitability of the Dreamliner and the 747 jumbo jet.

Boeing has maintained that it expects the 787 to recoup its costs and turn a slight profit under its current projections. The effort should be bolstered as the planemaker speeds Dreamliner production to 12 jets a month this year, a record for long-range aircraft, and as it manufacturers more of the largest and priciest 787 models. A Boeing spokesman wasn’t immediately available to comment.

(Julie Johnson - Bloomberg Business)

Déjà Vu for the F-22? Why the Air Force Could Bring Back the Raptor

U.S. Air Force Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor (c/n 645-4103) 05-4103 touches down on Rwy 14 at Anchorage-Ted Stevens International Airport (ANC/PANC) on May 2, 2008.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

An influential House panel wants the U.S. Air Force to consider restarting the long-dormant F-22 Raptor production line, potentially buying 194 more copies of the advanced – and very expensive -- fighter jet.

The House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subpanel on Tuesday unveiled language that could wind up in the fiscal 2017 defense policy bill directing the Air Force to examine the costs of getting the production line for the twin-engine, fifth-generation aircraft humming again, and then buying the additional aircraft from manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

Lawmakers noted that production of the F-22 concluded in 2011 and only 187 aircraft were purchased, far short of the original program goal of about 750 aircraft, and just over half of the stated requirement by Air Combat Command for 381 warplanes. The Government Accountability Office estimates that each plane cost $412 million.

"The committee also understands there has been interest within the Department of the Air Force, Department of Defense, and Congress in potentially restarting production of the F-22 aircraft," the subcommittee writes.

"In light of growing threats to U.S. air superiority as a result of adversaries closing the technology gap and increasing demand from allies and partners for high-performance, multirole aircraft to meet evolving and worsening global security threats, the committee believes that such proposals are worthy of further exploration,” the bill states, with a nod to advances made by Russia and China in recent years.

Therefore, “the committee directs the Secretary of the Air Force to conduct a comprehensive assessment and study of the costs associated with resuming production of F-22 aircraft and provide a report” back by January 1, 2017.

Lockheed delivered the last F-22 in 2011 and then took apart its assembly

lines in Georgia and Texas. The Pentagon has labored in the last two years to put the effort’s troubled past behind it, deploying the jet against ISIS and sending it on training assignments to Europe in a move aimed at calming allies worried by Russia’s increasingly aggressive behavior.

Aside from the staggering price tag of buying 194 new aircraft at $412 million apiece – which back-of-the-envelope math shows would cost U.S. taxpayers roughly $80 billion – there are other substantial costs associated with getting the F-22 line back online.

For example, in 2010 a service-commissioned RAND study found that the cost to restart the F-22 production line just to buy an additional 75 aircraft to be $17 billion in fiscal year 2008 dollars. That figure has in all likelihood increased over the last six years as the cost of parts and technology has risen.

Still, that isn’t stopping lawmakers from at least asking the Air Force to study the idea.

Specifically, wants the report to address "anticipated future air superiority capacity and capability requirements, based on anticipated near-term and mid-term threat projections" and " estimated end-of-service timelines for existing” F-22s.

Congress also wants to know the cost to buy the additional 194 aircraft and to detail opportunities for potential exports. Unlike the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, current law forbids the Raptor from being sold to allies, leaving the U.S. on the hook for all of the F-22’s costs.

The House Armed Services subpanel will mark up its portion of the fiscal 2017 national defense authorization act on Wednesday and the full committee will take up the measure on April 27.

(Martin Matishak - The Fiscal Times)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Behind Embraer's Milestone

Fractional ownership provider Flexjet took delivery of Embraer’s 1,000th business jet on April 19, a major milestone for the Brazilian manufacturer.

Embraer Executive Jets celebrated a milestone of its own today when Cleveland-based Flexjet took delivery of Embraer’s 1,000th business jet, a midsize Legacy 500, the fourth of its kind to join the Flexjet fleet. The milestone comes slightly more than a decade after Embraer fully committed to the business aviation market.

The company’s first business jet program, the Legacy, was officially launched in July 2000 during the Farnborough Air Show, and the first aircraft was delivered two years later. It was built on the successful EMB-135 regional airline platform and featured, among other things, the largest baggage compartment of any business jet at the time and the robust standards of commercial aviation that Embraer brought to the business jet market.

At an event where there are more press conferences scheduled on any given day than any self-respecting journalist could cover on his/her own, Embraer’s announcement that it planned to enter the business aviation market was one of the more news-worthy press conferences at the show. The announcement was met with considerable skepticism. The general sense among the trade press, in particular, was how could this Brazilian commercial and military airframe manufacturer possibly hope to compete against established iconic institutions like Cessna, Dassault, and Gulfstream that dominated the field?

But it forged ahead, and in 2005 reaffirmed its commitment to the market with the creation of a new business unit specifically for the development of a broad portfolio of innovative, in some cases revolutionary purpose-built jets. It also marked the implementation of Embraer’s highly successful diversification strategy. It first clean-sheet design was the Phenom jet family, which was introduced in 2008 and 2009; the model 300 now dominates its market niche. Other innovative aircraft have followed that have allowed Embraer to become a strong competitor in the midsize and super-mid-size categories as well.

That is what has made Embraer such a fascinating OEM (original equipment manufacturer) to follow since its refreshingly bold announcement 16 years ago—the idea that that this new market entrant would be so audacious to think it could challenge the status quo. The aviation industry is better off for it, and so are business aviation users. It should also be a constant reminder to players who are much older—and instructive for Embraer as well—that competitive position is no birthright. Take your position in the marketplace for granted, be lulled into a false sense of complacency, and you’re liable to find yourself playing catch up. Make no mistake; there will always be room for the proverbial better mousetrap.

As a market research analyst recently observed discussing the Brazilian OEM, “Hats off to Embraer.”

(Tony Velocci - Forbes)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

After 16 Years, Vindication for Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey Pilots

U.S. Marine Corps Bell-Boeing MV-22B Osprey (c/n D0219) 168302/6 HMX-1 "Nighthawks" is captured at Bob Hope Burbank Airport (BUR/KBUR) on February 9, 2016 in support of a presidential visit to SoCal.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

In a victory rare to U.S. military aviation, two widows of Marine Corps pilots have won a 16-year fight to lift blame from their husbands' shoulders for a 2000 Osprey crash that killed 19 people, including 15 Marines from San Diego County.

Test pilots Lt. Col. John Brow and Maj. Brooks Gruber were at the controls of the MV-22 aircraft when it crashed in the Arizona desert during an exercise.

The revolutionary aircraft -- which travels like an airplane but lands vertically like a helicopter -- was still in the operational evaluation stage. The Marine Corps had a lot of money and time invested in the controversial airframe, which at one point had enemies as high as then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, who tried to kill the program in the early 1990s.

Marine officials viewed the Osprey, with its speed and maneuverability, as a game changer for the battlefield -- and eventually the aircraft did prove itself in Afghanistan by moving troops quickly in and out of harm's way.

U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, the North Carolina congressman who doggedly championed the widows' cause, said the Marine Corps pushed blame on the pilot and co-pilot back in 2000 because it needed the troubled program to continue and succeed.

"It was too easy to let the blame be on those who can't defend themselves, so the plane can't be blamed and the software can't be blamed," Jones said this week.

His efforts -- which included entreaties across several Pentagon administrations and Marine Corps commandants -- finally paid off last month. That's when Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work, a retired Marine officer himself, wrote a letter acknowledging that "it's impossible to point to a single 'fatal factor' that caused this crash."

Gruber's widow, Connie, said the letter settles an injustice.

"It's just a burden lifted. Because for all these years, we've had to feel the weight of, not only did they cause their own deaths, but the deaths of 17 other Marines. That was hard to bear," Connie Gruber said from her home in North Carolina.

"They could not rest in peace until this record was set straight."

Brow's widow, Trish, still lives outside Patuxent River, Md., a hub of naval aviation. She said she was treated differently for years by other military families, including people who would hear her name and turn away.

"I can go on base with my head held high," Brow said this week.

The anniversary of the deaths is April 8, and the sting was slightly softened this year.

"It's not quite as painful. There's not quite the injustice," said Brow, whose sons were ages 7 and 8 when their father died. "We still miss him every day."

It's a hard-won reversal, and not an everyday occurrence in the annals of American military aviation.

"I would think it is very rare," said Bob Butcher, the retired Marine major general who is chairman of the Flying Leathernecks Aviation Museum foundation in San Diego.

Killed in the crash were 14 young Camp Pendleton Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, and one stationed at Miramar Marine Corps Air Station.

They were Sgt. Jose Alvarez, 28; Pfc. Gabriel C. Clevenger, 21; Pfc. Alfred Corona, 23; Lance Cpl. Jason T. Duke, 28; Lance Cpl. Jesus Gonzalez Sanchez, 27; Lance Cpl. Seth G. Jones, 18; 2nd Lt. Clayton J. Kennedy, 24, platoon commander; Lance Cpl. Jorge A. Morin, 21; Cpl. Adam C. Neely, 22; Pfc. Kenneth O. Paddio, 23; Pfc. George P. Santos, 19; Pfc. Keoki P. Santos, 24; Cpl. Can Soler, 21; Pvt. Adam L. Tatro, 19; and Cpl. Eric J. Martinez, 21.

The two remaining members of the Osprey crew were Cpl. Kelly S. Keith, 22, and Staff Sgt. William B. Nelson, 30.

The Marine Corps referred request for comment on Work's letter to the defense secretary's office.

In a written statement, the Marine headquarters only expressed sadness for the losses.

"This was a tragic event that occurred nearly 16 years ago, and we continue to mourn the loss of our Marines, as we have every day since the event," the release said.

What aggrieved the families was a Marine Corps press release following the official legal investigation into the crash.

The investigation said the cause of the crash was a too-rapid descent while flying at too slow an airspeed, which caused the Osprey to go into "vortex ring state," also known as power settling. With one of its two rotors stalled, the aircraft flipped over and crashed.

The report said a contributing factor was decisions made by the pilots, who had been warned about the descent and flight speed issues with the new aircraft.

But the official press release appeared to lay blame squarely at the pilots' feet. It concluded that, "Unfortunately, the pilots' drive to accomplish that mission appears to have been the fatal factor."

But the Osprey went on to have more trouble. Another crash in December 2000 killed four Marines and grounded the aircraft for a time.

The next month, the MV-22 squadron commander admitted to falsifying V-22 maintenance records while the program was under scrutiny.

And, a May 2001 Blue Ribbon Panel called for cutting back and restructuring the Osprey program after numerous problems with safety, training and reliability. One of the things to be addressed: Creating a warning system for the "vortex ring state" syndrome seen in April 2000.

The program trudged along. A few years later, MV-22 squadrons began to appear on the West and East Coasts, replacing the Vietnam-era CH-46 aircraft.

With his long battle now done, Jones -- the Republican congressman who finally got someone at the Pentagon to listen to his argument -- said he remembers how he started down this road.

It was a 2002 letter from Connie Gruber, the co-pilot's widow, who lives in his district. Jones still has it and read aloud the part that hooked him: "If you are a man of integrity, you must help me clear the name of my husband.

(Jeanette Steele - The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Surviving crew of doomed United Flight 232 reunites for play

Survivors and family of the crash of United Flight 232 gathered at the Chopin Theatre on Friday to see a play about the crash produced by House Theatre Company. (James Foster-Sun Times)

At 2:09 p.m. on July 19, 1989, United Airlines Flight 232 took off from Denver’s Stapleton International Airport, bound for O’Hare Airport, with continuing service to Philadelphia.

At 3:16 p.m., a fan disk on its tail-mounted engine failed, disintegrating at 37,000 feet. The 296 people on board — including four pilots and nine flight attendants — felt a sudden jolt.

“There was a loud noise. The No. 2 engine exploded. Then, the plane dropped. We had been handing out lunch service, with drinks behind it,” says Timothy Owens, of Glendale Heights.

Owens was a 27-year-old flight attendant back then who’d been on the job for two months.

The DC-10 would crash-land in a cornfield in Sioux City, Iowa, killing 110 passengers and one flight attendant. Amazingly, though, 184 people would survive, thanks to the heroic work of the pilots and a flight instructor, who happened to be on board, and rescue work on the ground by the crew.

Janice Brown, now 75, of Schaumburg, was the chief flight attendant.

“We had all been flying together for four days. It was our last leg. We were coming home,” says Brown, who was 48 at the time and had been flying for United for 14 years. “The service was organized. We were humming along. Everything was great. And, in one second, the world exploded.”

Eight survivors from Flight 232’s 13-member crew converged on Chicago for a reunion this weekend to see a theatrical adaptation of the tragedy they lived through.

The play — “United Flight 232” by Vanessa Stalling, which continues at House Theatre of Chicago through May 1 — is based on the 2014 book by Evanston writer Laurence Gonzales “Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival.”

The accident is cited in aviation annals as an example of successful crew management and ground rescue — factors credited with preventing even greater loss of life.

Bonded by the tragedy, the crew have become family to each other, sharing momentous life occasions. And they remember the crash like it was yesterday.

“When the plane leveled off, everyone was trying to figure out what was going on,” says Owens, who’s still a flight attendant with United. “The captain didn’t know what was going on. The initial thought was we’d just lost one engine. A few minutes later, we learned there was no hydraulics left to control anything.”

Janice Brown, 75, of Schaumburg, and Tim Owens, 54, of Glendale Heights, seen at Brown’s home, were flight attendants who survived doomed United Flight 232. (Tim Boyle - Sun Times)

Alfred C. Haynes was 232’s captain. His first officer was William R. Records and second officer was Dudley J. Dvorak.

Dennis E. Fitch, a DC-10 flight instructor who happened to be on board, is credited with helping the pilots guide the crippled plane through the emergency landing. He died of brain cancer in 2012.

“We put on our game faces,” says Brown, who flew nine more years for United before retiring in 1998. “I was determined to have calm, which gives a chance for survival. I briefed flight attendants, and we started picking up service items. We moved through emergency evacuation procedures.”

The flight attendant who died was Rene LeBeau, who was on-duty though not assigned to the flight.

Attendants who worked the four-day leg with Brown and Owens were Georgeanne Del Castillo, Barbara Gillaspie, Donna McGrady, Virginia Jane Murray and Susan L. White. Also on board was off-duty flight attendant Kathy Shen.

“Attendants are in the aisle checking seat belts and brace positions,” Brown recalls. “I’m thinking, ‘Have I covered everything?’ Then, I remembered we had four children on parents’ laps.

“I say, ‘Place your baby on the floor.’ As I’m saying this, I’m thinking, ‘In a classroom situation, that might sound fine. But in a real-life situation, this has got to be the most ludicrous thing I’ve ever said.’ It’s like, ‘Put your most prized possession on the floor, and let’s hope for the best.’ ”

Federal Aviation Administration procedure calls for infants to be swaddled in blankets and pillows, placed on the floor and held down by parents bent over them in brace position.

A chubby-cheeked 22-month-old named Evan — a baby Brown remembers interacting with during the flight — didn’t survive. That’s what led to her 27-year mission — so far, unsuccessful — to get the FAA to require safety seats for infants.

“We were waiting for the brace signal from the cockpit,” Brown says. “Over the PA, it came: ‘Brace!’ We started yelling, ‘Brace! Brace!’ ”

And the jet torpedoed down, toward Sioux Gateway Airport.

“Without ailerons, rudders, flaps, spoilers — any of the things allowing you to control pitch or altitude — we were coming in 100 miles an hour faster than we should,” says Owens. “The whole situation was approximately 40 minutes from when the engine exploded, to when we told passengers to brace, to impact.”

On touchdown, the DC-10 rolled, split into four pieces and erupted in fire.

“I couldn’t believe how hard we smashed into the earth,” says Brown. “I passed out. As my head went down, a flash fire rolled over me. My passenger across from me said, ‘You disappeared in the flames, and I thought you were a goner.’ ”

But she came to. “First, I’m thinking, ‘I must still be alive,’ ” she says.

Photographs, paperwork and news clippings that United Flight 232 flight attendant Janice Brown has kept at her home in Schaumburg. (Tim Boyle-Sun Times)

“Next thought: ‘OK. We’re out of here.’ ”But she had a problem.

“I couldn’t unfasten my harness. That same passenger helped me. We didn’t realize we were upside-down. I fell on him. It was pitch black.

“Behind me, someone says, ‘There’s an opening.’ I went to it. I held back debris and wires as my passengers exited. After people stopped coming, I thought of going back to see if there was anybody else. I looked back and saw gray-black smoke.

“You know how a tornado looks? It was like that — just roiling, coming along the ceiling, which was now the floor. We’re trained that you leave the airplane when the water’s too deep, the fire’s too hot or the smoke is too thick. So I left.”

Echaka Agba (from left) as flight attendant Susan White, Alice da Cunha as flight attendant Jan Murray and Brenda Barrie as chief flight attendant Janice Brown in the House Theatre production of “United Flight 232.” (House Theatre photo)

Most of the survivors, including Brown and Owens, were seated behind first-class, ahead of the wings.

Owens remembers being blinded by sunlight.

“The section I was in was the largest part of the fuselage still intact,” he says. “The tail section had broken off. First-class had broken off. The cockpit was in a different section. We’re in the cornfield, upside-down. There’s a wall of debris.

“I hear people but can’t see anything. I undo my seat belt and fall onto debris. I look behind me. That’s where I see daylight. I begin the process of trying to get out.

“It was basically climbing an obstacle course, along the ceiling of the plane.

“The cabin begins to fill with smoke. I couldn’t see or breathe. I probably still had a good 70 or 80 feet to go.

“The smoke dissipates some, allowing me to proceed. I was one of the last ones out in that part of the plane.”

Survivors gathered on a hillside away from the burning plane.

The National Transportation Safety Board later determined the crash was caused by failure to detect a fatigue crack in the fan disk. When it disintegrated, metal fragments damaged the plane’s hydraulic lines.

Brown at the time was a single mother of three and Owens a single father of one.

Guardsman Dennis Nielsen carries passenger Spencer Bailey away from the wreckage of United Airlines Flight 232 after the plane crashed at Sioux Gateway Airport in Sioux City, Iowa, on July 19, 1989. (AP file photo)

Today, Brown is remarried. Ever the den mother, she bustled about in preparations for Friday’s reunion, cooking, cleaning. A father of three now, Owens made arrangements to pick up out-of-towners at the airport. Several of them stayed at Brown’s home.

All but Dvorak, Gillaspie and Murray came to see the play.

“We’re close,” Brown says. “We’ve been getting together for years. I always look forward to seeing them. When you share a common event like that, you understand each other.

“Sometimes, you say, ‘Oh, I should have done this, or that.’

“Then, I say, ‘Hold it. Can you change anything?’

“I had a great crew. We just all did our best with what we had.

“You do what you can. God always has other plans.”

Alice da Cunha (from left), James Doherty, Elana Elyce and Michael E Martin in the House Theatre production of “United Flight 232.” (House Theatre photo)
Dennis Fitch, an off-duty United Airlines DC-10 flight instructor who was seated in first-class, helped save 184 people in a catastrophic crash on the runway at Sioux City, Iowa. (Sun Times file photo)

(Maudlyne Ihejirika - Chicago Sun Times)

Friday, April 15, 2016

G650 Outlook Troubling

Gulfstream G650 (c/n 6194) N694GA arrives at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KGB) from the factory at Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport (SAV/KSAV) on March 9, 2016.
(Photo by Michael Carter) 

No business jet manufacturer has been spared the impact of currency fluctuations and a weak economy in key general aviation markets outside the U.S., but the cause-and-effect relationship seems to have been particularly onerous for the G650, the flagship of Gulfstream Aerospace.

“The G650 is unique because of how it was brought to market when demand was very strong—a lottery system,” said James Haggerty, President and CEO of Haggerty Jet Group, an aircraft brokerage firm dedicated mainly to Gulfstream jets.

Most G650 buyers expect to put their aircraft into service when they place an order, but just prior to the recession of 2008 many of the first 20-30 customers were speculators whose real intent was to re-sell them for premiums of as much as $10 million.

The price for the G650 started in the high $60-million range and rose as high as the mid-$70s in early 2015. Position holders who no longer needed or wanted their G650s when prices peaked proceeded with their contractual obligations, expecting to turn a large profit, according to Haggerty. Then the supply started to increase in mid-2015, and now speculators are struggling to sell the aircraft, having lost nearly 50% of their value in the last five years.

Meanwhile, the market for large-cabin business jets in general has softened due mainly to weak foreign demand, exacerbating the problem of an oversupply of used G650s even as Gulfstream continues to build new ones. “With increased market weakness, there’s a good chance that Gulfstream will begin to see a trend of cancelled orders for new G650s, based on the increased market weakness.”

The used G650 inventory has “skyrocketed” in the last 12 months, observed Andrew Steward, market analyst for Haggerty Jet Group. As of today, 20 used G650s or about 13% of the current fleet—including four ER models—are for sale. Since 2013, there have been about 36 G650 resale transactions. “We’re talking about a used-airplane inventory that will take the market nearly  two years to absorb.”

Haggergy foresees the potential for used G650 prices to drop below $50 million before the G500 goes into service in 2018—with ominous implications for the next generation aircraft now in development. “The G5oo and G600 have more technology, which will appeal to some buyers, but a used G650 will still offer greater range and speed, even for a used aircraft,” he said. “It’s possible that potential G500 and G600 buyers will be cannibalized by pre-owned G650s that will sell for less and offer greater cabin size and capability.”

(Tony Velocci - BusinessAviation / Forbes)

Aeroflot's Transaero Jet-Rush to Crimp Airbus, Boeing Orders

Aeroflot PJSC plans to review fleet requirements after agreeing to take up to 35 jets ordered or operated by failed rival Transaero Airlines in a move that will impact deals for new jets from Boeing Co. and Airbus Group SE.

Russia’s biggest airline is taking over Transaero contracts for 16 Boeing 737-800 and Airbus A321 single-aisle aircraft and will also begin operating as many as 19 Boeing 747 and 777 wide-bodies that were already in service with its competitor, which folded last year as a weaker ruble weighed on demand.

The narrow-body purchase means the main Aeroflot brand is unlikely to need as many new planes as envisaged in a fleet plan in May, Deputy Chief Executive Officer Giorgio Callegari said in an interview. The unit is also reviewing its order for 22 A350s from Airbus and has reached terms with Boeing over the same number of 787 Dreamliners which it said in 2015 were no longer wanted.

“The overall fleet plan needs some corrections and updates,” Callegari said Thursday in London. “It would be inaccurate and unprofessional to say that if I put 19 wide-bodies into my group then the plan stays the same. It cannot be”

Far East Flights

The five 777s and eight to 14 747-400s that Aeroflot is taking from Transaero will be deployed mainly on routes to Russia’s Far East, where the defunct operator had an extensive network serving locations including Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, and the Kamchatka peninsular, Callegari said.

They’ll be operated by the Rossiya arm, around which Aeroflot is consolidating regional operations, though some of the jets will also provide charter services in collaboration with Russian tour operators. The company isn’t interested in four brand-new 747-8s that Transaero ordered, some already built, he said.

Among the A350s ordered by Aeroflot, eight were due to be -800 variants, a type Airbus will no longer make, so that taking only the 14 larger -900 planes would be one solution, Callegari said. Discussions are under way and planes wouldn’t be required until 2018, when Russia hosts the soccer World Cup and Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport is due to have been expanded.

The 10 737-800 and six A321 jets for which Aeroflot has taken over orders could be deployed on flights to a host of European destinations vacated by Transaero, he said, including Paris, Rome, Athens, and Geneva, as well as to Kazakhstan. Deliveries will span two or three years.

Consolidation Trend

Transaero’s demise accelerated a process of consolidation among Russian carriers that’s likely to leave the country with two or three network carriers and a handful of discount operators within five years, Callegari said, compared with the 150 companies holding air operating certificates in 2011.

Of Russia’s top carriers by market share, Aeroflot and Rossiya ranked No. 1 and 2 in 2015, with the company’s Pobeda discount arm in fifth. S7, or Siberia Airlines, UTair Aviation PJSC and Ural Airlines JSC were third, fourth and sixth.

Aeroflot actively resisted buying Transaero outright and the carrier “is not actively pursuing additional consolidation,” said Callegari, who was in London for a ceremony at which it was awarded a four-star grade from ratings firm Skytrax, putting it on a par with British Airways and Deutsche Lufthansa AG.

The Deputy CEO said Aeroflot’s 2016 operating result will likely match the 44 billion rubles ($665 million) reported last year, when it was pushed to a net loss by fuel-hedging positions and costs from obligations to carrying people who booked with Transaero. That could indicate Aeroflot will post a profit on a net basis as its hedges unwind. All units will be positive except Rossiya, which has integration costs, and passenger numbers should grow 10 percent, he said.

No dividend will be paid for last year because of the net loss, based on a policy set by the carrier’s controlling government shareholder.

Callegari declined to comment on whether the company could be privatized this year, saying the matter is one for the state. “I’m sure that there are debates in the government,” he said.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

"Ed Force One" arrives at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX)

(Photos by Michael Carter)

British Heavy Metal band Iron Maiden arrived in "Ed Force One" at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) this afternoon at 13:32pst from Denver International Airport (DEN/KDEN) as "ABD666" with the bands front man Captain Bruce Dickenson at the controls. In the above photos the aircraft is caught on short final to Rwy 25L.

Boeing 747-428 (32868/1325) TF-AAK has been leased by the band from Air Atlanta Icelandic for the groups current world tour "The Book of Souls World Tour" and is piloted by the bands lead singer Bruce Dickenson who is a huge aviation fanantic and of course pilot.

The aircraft itself was originally delivered to Air France as F-GITH on March 31, 2003 and operated with the carrier until being retired late last year then bought by Air Atlanta Icelantic.   

Here's the simple reason planes have winglets


Ever look out the window of a plane or watch as it pulls up to the gate?
Have you ever wondered why some planes have pointy bits at the ends of the wings?

What you see are "winglets," and they have essentially become standard equipment on all new airliners.

Why are they there?

"Winglets help reduce the drag associated with the creation of lift," Robert Gregg, Boeing's chief aerodynamicist, told Business Insider. That's the technical answer!

Gregg said the practical reason behind winglets is easier to comprehend.

Winglets allow the wings to be more efficient at creating lift, which means planes require less power from the engines. That results in greater fuel economy, lower CO2 emissions, and lower costs for airlines.

Boeing claims that winglets installed on its 757 and 767 airliners can improve fuel burn by 5% and cut CO2 emissions by up to 5%. An airline that installs winglets on its fleet of 58 Boeing 767 jets is expected to save 500,000 gallons of fuel annually.

Winglets help mitigate the effects of "induced drag." When an aircraft is in flight, the air pressure on top of the wing is lower than the air pressure under the wing. Near the wing tips, the high-pressure air under the wing rushes to the lower-pressure areas on top, which results in the creation of vortices.

The vortices flow in a three-dimensional manner over the wings. They not only pull air up and over the wing, but they also pull air back. That third component is induced drag.

With the advent of winglets, the aircraft is able to weaken the strength of wingtip vortices and, more important, cut down on induced drag along the whole wing.


Induced drag can be overcome by making the wing longer.
In fact, the general rule is, the longer the wingspan, the lower the induced drag, Gregg said. But in many instances, airplane makers simply don't have the option of making the wings longer.

For example, narrow-body airliners such as the Boeing 737 and 757 often operate from gates at airports designed for short-to medium-range domestic flights. Since these flights usually require smaller aircraft, they have less room apportioned to them. As a result, wingspan is effectively limited by the size of the parking space the plane is allotted at the gate.

So instead of the adding wingspan by making the wings longer, Boeing adds wingspan by going vertical with winglets.

In some instances winglets aren't necessary, because there are no constraints on space. For example, Boeing's hot-selling 777 wide-body airliner does not have winglets. According to Gregg, that's because the 777 operates from international terminals designed for larger jumbo jets. As a result, Boeing found the performance it was seeking without the need for vertical extensions.

Since they were first developed by Richard Whitcomb at NASA's Langley Research Center in 1976, airplane makers have steadily worked to improve the design and effectiveness of winglets.

According to Gregg, the first-generation winglets fitted to aircraft such as the Boeing 747-400 and the McDonnell Douglas MD11 offered up to 2.5% to 3% improvement in fuel burn compared with aircraft not equipped with the option.

Second-generation winglets, such as those found on Boeing's workhorse 737, 757, and 767 aircraft are much larger than the first-gen models, with greater curvature. Second-generation winglets offer a 4% to 6% improvement in fuel burn.

Boeing's new 737 Max airliners are equipped with third-generation winglets that offer a 1% to 2% improvement over the second-gen models.

(Benjamin Zhang and Dragan Radovanovic - Business Insider Insider)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Gulfstream G500 and G600 Achieve Program Milestones

(Gulfstream Aerospace)

Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. has announced it recently joined the wing to the fuselage on the first Gulfstream G600 flight-test article, signifying steady progress in the G600 program.
As production continues for the G600, the Gulfstream G500 flight-test program also achieved several milestones to include receiving the program’s first Type Inspection Authorization (TIA) from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA issued the TIA for inlet compatibility and allowed Gulfstream to perform this testing for certification credit.
The G500 flight-test program officially began May 18, 2015, when the first G500 flight-test article, T1, completed its first flight. Since then, T1 has reached a maximum speed of Mach 0.995, a maximum altitude of 53,000 feet/16,154 meters and recently completed its 100th flight. The test fleet, which includes four flight-test articles (T1-T4), has accumulated more than 800 hours of flying time.
“Achieving these milestones speaks to the maturity of both programs and demonstrates our commitment to ensuring these aircraft deliver the performance, safety and reliability we promised,” said Mark Burns, president, Gulfstream. “The wing-to-fuselage join is a significant step in manufacturing the first G600 and reflects our continued steady progress toward first flight.

The official launch of certification testing on the G500 highlights the efforts being made to achieve certification in 2017. Together, these accomplishments attest to why Gulfstream is the leader in business aviation.”

T1 is focused on envelope expansion and is currently conducting flying qualities testing. The aircraft has also completed flutter testing and initial stalls and ice shapes testing.

T2 recently completed inlet compatibility testing at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The test exposed the G500’s Pratt and Whitney Canada PW814GA engines to high wind conditions by using a large blower, which artificially generates winds of up to 45 mph (72 km/h).

The aircraft was positioned at various angles to demonstrate the engine functions properly from idle to takeoff power during crosswind and tailwind conditions. With the completion of inlet compatibility testing, T2 returned to flight loads validation and aircraft systems testing.

T3 will begin testing wing anti-ice systems after just recently completing cold soak testing. As part of that testing, the aircraft made its first flight outside the United States, reaching into Canadian air space to complete the cold soak evaluation. T3 is focused on testing the all-new Symmetry Flight Deck™, the ice-protection system and various other mechanical systems.

T4, the test-bed for avionics, flammable fluid drainage, water ingestion and select systems (water/waste, lighting, fire protection), just received the latest software update in order to begin testing the updated avionics system. 

The fifth test aircraft, P1, is at the Savannah Completions center, where it is receiving an outfitted interior and will be used to test the cabin elements.

(Gulfstream Aerospace)

Extensive work also continues in the state-of-the-art G500 and G600 lab facilities, where more than 47,200 hours of testing having been completed. In February, the G600 iron bird made its first flight, setting in motion the testing and validation required for the G600’s actual first flight. The iron bird allows engineers to test the flight control and mechanical systems, including landing gear, brakes and hydraulics.

The G500 can fly 5,000 nautical miles/9,260 kilometers at Mach 0.85 or 3,800 nm/7,038 km at Mach 0.90. The G600 is capable of traveling 6,200 nm/11,482 km at Mach 0.85 or 4,800 nm/8,890 km at Mach 0.90.

Both aircraft feature Gulfstream’s revolutionary new Symmetry Flight Deck™, which incorporates active control sidesticks, integrated touchscreen panels, a next-generation enhanced vision system (EVS III) and Honeywell Primus Epic avionics.

The cabins for the G500 and G600 are optimized for safety, comfort and reliability. The aircraft can carry up to 19 passengers, have forward and aft lavatories and include a full-size galley that can be located in either the forward or aft portion of the aircraft. The G500 and G600 feature an industry-leading cabin altitude of 4,850 ft/1,578 m at FL510 and 100 percent fresh air that circulates every two minutes.

The G500 is slated to receive type certification in 2017 and deliver in 2018. The G600 is projected to enter service in 2019.

(Gulfstream Aerospace)

Emirates orders two A380s built for bankrupt Skymark Airlines

Dubai's Emirates emerged on Wednesday as the buyer of two new Airbus A380s, stepping in to add to its large fleet of superjumbos after the recent bankruptcy of a Japanese carrier.

Airbus, which had been left holding onto the two mammoth planes after clashing with failed Japanese carrier Skymark Airlines over unpaid debts, announced the sale of two planes to an undisclosed customer earlier this week.

On Wednesday, Emirates revealed itself as the buyer.

The order is worth $865 million at list prices, but industry sources estimate Emirates picked up a bargain worth much lower than half-price as Airbus sought to close the Skymark saga.

It brings to 142 the total number of A380s Emirates has ordered and extends its lead as the biggest customer of the jet, which has struggled to find the same mass-appeal with other airlines.

The Dubai-based carrier said it would take delivery of the two extra A380s in the fourth quarter of 2017.

It already operates 75 of the superjumbos, while the addition of these two -- which will have Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines -- takes its remaining order book to 67.

The reshuffling of orders capped weeks of contrasting announcements after Airbus said it had lost an order for another two A380s to Reunion-based budget carrier Air Austral, while Air France said it was planning to cancel another two.

Emirates is a vocal supporter of the 500-600-seat jet, which it says lures passengers and multiplies traffic through its hub, prompting it to call for an upgraded version with new engines.

Airbus, facing a shortage of sales to other airlines worried about the risks of filling such a large plane, and increasingly focused on a potential new version of its smaller A350, has shelved the idea of putting new engines on the A380 for now.

However, the postponed 'A380neo' plan created the flexibility for Emirates to come to Airbus's rescue for Skymark, since it has already added Rolls-Royce as an A380 engine supplier in preparation for a possible re-engineering project.

Reconfiguring the jets to take U.S.-built engines previously used by Emirates would have been much too costly, analysts say.

For Airbus, the sale resolves the problem of what to do with two aircraft that have been sitting outside its plant in blue tails and green primer paint for months, diverting cash.

They are brand new, having never been flown, but will need significant work to install luxury interiors used by Emirates.

With significant deposits forfeited by Skymark, Airbus will have had flexibility to offer improved discounts to Emirates and possibly subsidise the costly interior conversion, analysts said.

Airbus confirmed the two latest A380 jets sold to Emirates were the same two originally completed for Skymark, but declined further comment on the deal.

(David French and Tim Hepher - Reuters / Yahoo Business)

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Pilot refuses to fly without favourite female co-pilot, keep passengers waiting for 2 hours

Around 110 passengers had to wait in a grounded Air India aircraft for nearly two-and-a-half hours after its commander refused to take off without his favourite female co-pilot.

The passengers were travelling on the Air India flight from Chennai to Male via Thiruvananthapuram. The ensuing delay resulted in the flight departing at 9.13 a.m. instead of the scheduled time of 7 a.m.

According to reports, the Air India commander in question had resigned last week and was serving his notice period. On Tuesday, he asked for the woman officer to fly with him on the same flight. However, when the request was denied by the airlines, the official threatened to report sick.
When he appeared for duty on Wednesday, he refused to fly until he was accompanied by the female co-pilot in question. In the end, the airlines was forced to arrange for the co-pilot.

Air India has a notorious record for delayed flights and leaving passengers stranded within the aircraft. In 2016 alone, flights have been delayed after a fight broke out between two flight attendants, because the plane did not have a pilot ready, or because the pilots were diverted to another flight carrying politicians and judges.

Last month, passengers on a two-hour flight from Delhi to Kolkata were stranded for close to 13 hours due to a technical snag.

An official aviation report in 2015 had revealed that Air India tops the list of Indian airlines with the maximum cancelled and delayed flights.

(Sonam Joshi - Mashable)