Monday, July 31, 2017

Ruling eliminates seniority protections for ex-TWA pilots in St. Louis

Sixteen years after American Airlines’ takeover of Trans World Airlines, the deal is stirring some new fallout at St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

An arbitration ruling this month could result in a loss of seniority, pay cuts or moves to other cities for many of the ex-TWA pilots still working for American, including more than 100 here.

That’s according to Allen Press, a Clayton attorney representing three former TWA pilots who on July 20 asked a federal judge in Dallas to block the ruling. The three earlier had sued American and its pilots union over the issue.

Press said pilots tell him they also expect American to shut down its pilot base at Lambert, which is among 11 maintained by the airline. However, a spokeswoman for the airline said there are no plans to do so.

The ruling would end the last remaining seniority protections that ex-TWA pilots received when American took over the bankrupt TWA in 2001.

Some other seniority rights for former TWA pilots ended following a new labor agreement worked out in 2013 as part of American’s bankruptcy reorganization. At issue now is when the more limited protections cease to exist.

Press said there are currently 162 ex-TWA pilots working for American out of St. Louis — 80 captains and 82 first officers who function as co-pilots.

“They ultimately will be affected one way or the other,” he said.

In all, the legal challenge to the ruling contends, more than 900 former TWA pilots across the country would “suffer substantial and irreparable harm.”

The challenge asserts that at least 85 ex-TWA captains could be demoted to first officer because of the loss of seniority, resulting in a loss of pay of about $70,000 a year.

Among them is plaintiff Kevin Horner of Bowling Green, Mo.

However, under a new agreement between the union and the airline, they could avoid pay reductions by opting to become captains on smaller former US Airways planes, known as E-190s. Those planes were added to American’s fleet in the American-US Airways merger in 2013.

But such pilots would have to move or commute to Philadelphia, where those planes are based.

In addition, the suit says, many of the 150 other captains likely to retain that rank may have to shift to on-call positions outside their current home base, requiring them to move or commute to other base cities. Commuting pilots typically maintain apartments.

Many of the more than 650 former TWA first officers, the suit says, would also shift to on-call positions and see their paths to captain “yet again extended beyond that of any other American pilot.” This group includes plaintiff John Krakowski of Ballwin.

At issue is a provision that says the seniority protections would end when a particular ex-TWA pilot hired in 1997, Magnus Alehult, accumulated enough seniority to get a captain position on any aircraft.

The arbitrator said that occurred last September when Alehult qualified to become a captain on American’s former US Airways E-190 planes. The arbitrator agreed with three American pilots who had made that point in a grievance.

Press’ clients say the protections end only when Alehult gathers additional seniority needed to be a captain on larger planes that were in American’s fleet at the time the provision was worked out.

An earlier lawsuit filed by some former TWA pilots against American and the pilots union — the Allied Pilots Association — is pending before a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in New York, Press said. The case was shifted there from a federal court in St. Louis.

Press said closing of the pilot base at Lambert could result in some smaller planes being used on certain flights.

American, in a bankruptcy court filing in 2012 seeking an end to its post-TWA labor agreement regarding pilots here, said “hundreds of American’s pilots and many of its aircraft are committed to operations out of that facility that make no economic sense. These assets could generate a far greater return if redeployed.”

However, airline spokeswoman Leslie Mayo said last week that American has no plans now to shut down any pilot bases, including the one here.

American now operates 42 daily flights from Lambert, down from 417 in 2003. “I don’t see how (the arbitration ruling) would have any impact on St. Louis or the airport,” Mayo said.

A pilots association spokesman declined to comment.

Lambert’s director, Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge, said American hasn’t notified the airport of any plan to close the base or make other operational changes. “They just opened a brand new pilots’ lounge,” she noted.

Even if the base eventually closed, she added, there might be no impact on the airport itself. “At the end of the day, they operate flights,” she said of American. “They could operate that without a base here.”

(Mark Schlinkmann - St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Saturday, July 29, 2017

‘Incredible shrinking airline seat’ draws U.S. appeals-court rebuke

Blake Emery, who headed interior cabin redesigns at Boeing, inside the passenger cabin of a Boeing 737-900ER . The issue of passenger legroom has boiled over as some carriers consider adding more seats.
(Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times)

The court found in favor of Flyers Rights, a nonprofit advocacy group, which had argued that steadily shrinking legroom and seat size created a safety hazard and that the Federal Aviation Administration should impose new restrictions.

If you think the government should do something about the cramped legroom on airplanes, you’ve got a friend in a federal court.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., on Friday ordered aviation regulators to consider setting minimum standards for the space airlines give passengers.

“This is the Case of the Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat,” Judge Patricia Ann Millett wrote on behalf of the three-judge panel. “As many have no doubt noticed, aircraft seats and the spacing between them have been getting smaller and smaller, while American passengers have been growing in size.”

The court found in favor of Flyers Rights, a nonprofit advocacy group, which had argued that steadily shrinking legroom and seat size created a safety hazard and that the Federal Aviation Administration should impose new restrictions.

The issue of airline-passenger legroom has boiled over this year as some carriers said they plan to add more seats to planes. American Airlines in May announced it would shrink the space between most rows to 30 inches on its newest Boeing 737 MAX jetliners, while later dropping a move to cut the distance in some rows to 29 inches in the face of criticism from employees and customers.

Flyers Rights argued that the average seat width has narrowed from approximately 18.5 inches in the early-2000s to 17 inches in the early to mid-2010s. In recent decades, the distance between seat rows, known as “seat pitch,” has gone from an average of 35 inches to 31 inches, and as low as 28 inches at some airlines, the group said in the suit.

While the FAA has contended its standards for safely evacuating an aircraft are adequate, U.S. lawmakers have grilled members of the administration and airline executives on the issue at several hearings this year, and some have drafted legislation to address the issue.

The court said the FAA had used “off-point” studies and “undisclosed tests using unknown parameters” to justify its initial refusal to review the rules. “That type of vaporous record will not do,” the court said.

The combination of less legroom and larger passengers has created a safety hazard, Flyers Rights argued, making it more difficult to exit a plane in an emergency and heightening the risk of deep vein thrombosis, a potentially fatal condition of blood clots in the legs that has been associated with longer flights.

“We’re really gratified,” Paul Hudson, president of Flyers Rights, said in an interview. “We hope the FAA will now take it up as a proper rulemaking.”

The FAA said in an emailed statement that the agency “does consider seat pitch in testing and assessing the safe evacuation of commercial, passenger aircraft. We are studying the ruling carefully and any potential actions we may take to address the court’s findings.”

The long-term impact of the court rules remains unclear. It stopped short of ordering the FAA to create new rules, so the agency could conduct a review and decide not to act.

In a statement last May, the agency said it had already conducted evacuation tests on the smaller-seat configurations to ensure they are safe. The agency has no rules on seat width or the distance between rows, relying instead on the evacuation standards.

After American’s initial announcement it was shortening the distance between seats, the agency said Boeing in 1998 successfully performed evacuation tests on the 737-400 with seats spaced 28 and 29 inches apart. As a result, the agency had certified up to 189 passengers aboard the 737 MAX that American is buying.

(Alan Levin - Bloomberg News / The Seattle Times)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Airbus delivers its 100th A350 widebody jet

Airbus celebrated the delivery of its 100th A350 at a delivery ceremony in Toulouse, France, on July 26, 2017. The milestone aircraft went to customer China Airlines.
(Photo: Airbus)

Airbus delivered its 100th Airbus A350 on Wednesday, handing over the milestone aircraft to customer China Airlines during a ceremony at the jetmaker’s assembly line in Toulouse, France.

“The 100th A350 XWB milestone comes as we reach our fastest widebody production ramp-up, on track to meet the target of 10 A350 deliveries per month by the end of 2018,” Airbus COO Fabrice Bregier said in a statement. “We are especially proud to deliver today’s aircraft to our long-standing customer China Airlines. The A350 is setting new standards for long haul air travel in terms of efficiency and comfort, thus being the perfect aircraft for China Airlines to expand its long-haul network.”

Airbus' inaugural A350 delivery was just in December 2014, when launch customer Qatar Airways became the world’s first carrier to take one of the jets.

Since then, Airbus has delivered A350s to a total of 14 airlines. Among the others that now have A350s in their fleets: Cathay Pacific, Finnair, LATAM Airlines, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines.

In fact, it was a Singapore Airlines A350 that helped Airbus mark another milestone just this past October. That came when Singapore Airlines took possession of an A350 that Airbus commemorated as the 10,000th all-time aircraft to roll off its assembly lines.

In the USA, Delta took delivery of its first A350 earlier this month. American and United also have ordered the Airbus A350. However, each has since deferred their initial delivery schedules for the plane, raising uncertainty about the status of those orders.

(Ben Mutzabaugh - Today in the Sky / USA Today)

Airbus Reports Cut to A380 Production, More Worries Over A320neo

China Southern Airbus A380-841(c/n 31) B-6136 arrives at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on June 27, 2017.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

European aircraft maker Airbus reported first-half 2017 results Thursday morning, and the news was almost uniformly weak. The company’s revenues for the first half of the year totaled €28.71 billion, essentially flat year over year (€1 = $1.17). That was the good news.

Adjusted EBIT totaled €1.1 billion, a drop of 35% year over year, and net income fell 15% to €1.5 billion. Airbus took a €70 million charge on its A400M military transport, which the company can add to a charge in the fourth quarter of 2016 totaling €2.2 billion. Earnings per share (EPS) also fell 15% to €1.94.

The value of the company’s order book dropped 8%, from €1.06 trillion to €980.9 billion and net cash slipped by 29% to €7.9 billion.

For the second quarter, net income and EPS fell 34% to €895 million and €1.16, respectively. Adjusted EBIT slipped 27% to €859 million.

For the first half of the year, Airbus delivered a total of 59 A320neos against a full-year target of 200. The primary cause of the lower numbers is a problem with the Pratt & Whitney engine that Airbus offers on its A320neo single-aisle commercial jet. The company has delivered just 16 of the Pratt & Whitney-engined planes in the first half of the year, according to a report from Reuters. Qatar Airways already has cancelled delivery of four of the planes.

Airbus also announced a cut in production of the A380 super-jumbo jet from 12 per year to eight per year beginning in 2019. The company had previously announced a cut from 15 this year to 12 in 2018. Last year Airbus delivered 26 of the giant planes.

A single airline, Emirates, has been pressing Airbus for a couple of years now to put new, more fuel-efficient engines on the A380, promising to order 200 of the new planes. Airbus has demurred and it is not clear any longer that Emirates could make good on its promise.

Shares of Airbus traded down about 3.4% in Paris Thursday, at €71.63 in a 52-week range of €49.51 to €$77.25. The 12-month price target on the stock is €81.67.

(Paul Ausick - 24/7 Wall St.)

Novus sells B777-200ER to Air Peace

Novus Aviation has arranged the sale of one B777-200ER to Air Peace in Nigeria. The aircraft was on lease to Emirates Airlines until January 2017. The transaction marks the first B777 aircraft to be operated in Nigeria.

“We are very pleased to support Air Peace’s development through the sale of this 777-200ER. This asset provides excellent cost economics and is an ideal platform for Air Peace to pursue their strategic growth ambitions across Africa, Europe and Asia,” said Mamoun Kuzbari, Managing Director at Novus Aviation Capital. “We are also satisfied that we are extending the customer base of the 777 aircraft which Novus looks to continue to invest in.”

"We are pleased to have acquired this aircraft from Novus; the acquisition forms part of our strategy to increase the Air Peace fleet size and expand the airline’s international operations,” said Allen Onyema, CEO of Air Peace. “The aircraft happens to be our first wide body and is the first of four B777s expected to join the Air Peace fleet between now and February 2018.”

“We greatly appreciate the professionalism and transparency displayed throughout the transaction by Novus and its subsidiaries, and we look forward to working with them again in the future,” Onyema added.

(AeroTime News /Novus Aviation)

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-3H4 (28401/2932) N656SW (Retired)

N656SW smokes the mains on Rwy 25L at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS/KLAS) on December 16, 2007 still in her original livery. This was the last 737-3H4 delivered factory fresh to the carrier on September 26, 1997 ex Boeing N1786B.

I remember this aircrafts first flight into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) as I was the Operations Agent assigned to her flight and being the avgeek that I am knew the significance of this lovely bird.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Yesterday July 27, 2017 Southwest Airlines retired 3 Boeing 737-3H4 aircraft, N361SW, N655WN, and N656SW. Aircraft info as follows:

N361SW (26572/2309) Delivered June 18, 1992. Ferried July 27 DAL-SBD.

N655WN (28400/2931) Delivered September 10, 1997. Ferried July 27 DAL-VCV.

N656SW (28401/2932) Delivered September 26, 1997. Ferried July 27 HOU-VCV.

Sadly, the entire Southwest Airlines 737-300 fleet will be retired no later than September 30 of this year which is the day before the carriers first 737-8MAX enters service. 

(Michael Carter - Editor - Aero Pacific Flightlines) 

Marines ground KC-130T planes after deadly crash

United States Marine Corp (USMC) Lockheed Martin KC-130J (c/n 382-5565) 166765 / QB VMGR-352 "Raiders" on short final to Rwy 7 at Palmdale Regional Airport / USAF Plant 42 (PMD/KPMD) on November 17, 2016.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

The Marine Corps has grounded its KC-130T aircraft following a crash that killed 15 Marines and one sailor in Mississippi.

"Out of an abundance of caution, the Marine Corps took the prudent action not to fly our KC-130T aircraft in the wake of the mishap on July 10 until further notice," the Corps said in a statement Thursday.

The plane is often used for airborne refueling, and can also deliver cargo, troops and equipment.

The transport plane, which was carrying 15 Marines and a Navy corpsman, was moving personnel and equipment from North Carolina to a western base to train before deploying, the Marine Corps said. It has 12 of the aircraft in its fleet.

The crash remains under investigation. The Federal Aviation Administration reported it lost contact with the plane when it was flying at an estimated altitude of 20,000 feet.

Andy Jones, a witness to the crash, described the moments before the plane struck the ground.

"At first it looked like an acrobatic plane, like a stunt plane, blowing the smoke out the back," Jones said. "Then all of a sudden you realized that the smoke was coming off one of the sides of the wing."

(Barbara Starr and Paul LeBlanc - CNN)

Sukhoi refutes reports of SSJ100 deal with Iran

Earlier this week, the Iranian news agency Fars reported that Russia and Iran signed a contract on deliveries of several SSJ100 planes during the MAKS-2017 air show, according to Sputnik.

"The Russian Sukhoi Civil Aircraft company, manufacturer of Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft, officially refutes the media reports on signing the contract on SSJ100 deliveries to Iran," the company said in a statement.

In February, 2016, Russia's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) Vice-President Vladislav Masalov said the delivery of SSJ100 planes to Iran could only be made after the approval of US component manufacturers. The approval has not been given yet.

The SSJ100 is a twin-engine plane made by Russia's Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company. It can transport up to 98 passengers and fly distances of up to 2,470 miles. The jet made its maiden flight in May 2008.
(Sputnik / (AeroTime News)

Southwest 2Q net profit down 9%; ready to add 737 MAX 8

Southwest Airlines reported a $746 million net profit in the second quarter, down 9% from net income of $820 million in the 2016 June quarter, as it prepares for big fleet changes in the third quarter.

The Dallas-based carrier still has 67 Boeing 737 Classics in its fleet after retiring 10 in the second quarter, but all 67 are scheduled to be retired by the end of the third quarter, marking the largest number of aircraft retirements in a single quarter in Southwest’s history. It is also taking delivery of its first 737 MAX 8 next month, and will receive 10 737 MAX 8s by the end of September and 14 by the end of 2017. Southwest will place the MAX 8 into revenue service Oct. 1.

The airline plans to have a fleet of 707 aircraft by the end of 2017 comprised entirely of 737-700s, 737-800s and 737 MAX 8s.

Company executives said the gains in aircraft fuel efficiency from retiring older 737 Classics and adding MAX 8s will help Southwest improve its cost performance, which was a negative mark in the second quarter as both labor costs and fuel expenses increased year-over-year (YOY). Southwest’s unit cost pressure will “begin to ease in the third quarter,” CEO Gary Kelly told analysts and reporters.

Southwest will also fix some minor “design issues” in the Amadeus reservation system it transitioned to in May, Kelly said. He praised the “flawless deployment” of the new reservation system and said the few quirks will be “remedied quickly.” The issues have “nothing to do with the elegance of the system” and are “a couple of one-off items that we’ve found and we’ll fix and get behind us,” Kelly said.

Rising costs and reservation system cutover issues are largely being overcome by a strong revenue performance, evidenced by Southwest’s average fare rising 1.5% YOY in the second quarter, the first average fare increase for Southwest in two years.
“The second quarter was a very strong revenue performance and the third quarter outlook is more of the same,” Kelly said, adding, “The majority of our markets are showing unit revenue gains year-over-year. For a while, it had been the minority.” The carrier’s YOY RASM growth turned positive in the second quarter, rising 1.5%.

Southwest’s second-quarter revenue rose 6.7% YOY to $5.7 billion while expenses increased 9.4% to $4.5 billion, producing operating income of $1.25 billion, down 2% from an operating profit of $1.27 billion in the 2016 June quarter. Labor costs rose 13.9% YOY and fuel costs heightened 9.6% YOY in the second quarter.

Southwest’s second-quarter traffic rose 5.1% YOY to 34.4 billion RPMs on a 5.1% increase in capacity to 40.2 billion ASMs, producing a load factor of 85.6%, flat YOY. Yield rose 1.5% to 15.2 cents.

(Aaron Karp - ATWOnline News)

Fiji Airways to help Samoa relaunch national airline

Fiji Airways has signed an agreement confirming that it will help the government of Samoa relaunch its national airline.

The Fijian carrier has signed an agreement with state-owned Samoa Airways, which intends to resume international services. Under the agreement, Fiji Airways said it would “provide initial support” to help Samoa Airways introduce flights to New Zealand and Australia. It will do this “through the use of [Fiji Airways’] established infrastructure in sales, commercial operations and maintenance.”

Following the agreement, the two carriers said they are now negotiating the “separate commercial and operations agreements” that will form their alliance. Samoa Airways said it will “solely manage” routes from Samoa to Australia and New Zealand, but other routes will be jointly managed through codesharing and interlining.

The Samoan government said partnering with Fiji Airways was “driven mainly by the critical need to look beyond New Zealand and Australia.” The intention is to gain connectivity to broader markets through Fiji Airways’ international network and its alliances with other carriers.

The Samoan government recently approved the name change of Polynesian Airlines to Samoa Airways. It is still unclear what aircraft will be used to launch Samoa Airways’ international flights, as it currently operates only turboprop aircraft. The carrier has indicated it will operate its own jet aircraft, but has also raised the possibility of leasing arrangements with Fiji Airways.

(Adrian Schofield - Aviation Daily / ATWOnline News)

Air Partner remarkets 15 Saudia Boeing 777-200ERs

Air Partner’s Aircraft Remarketing division (formerly Cabot Aviation) has been appointed by Saudi Arabia’s national carrier Saudia as its exclusive remarketing agent for 15 Boeing 777-200ERs.

The 15 new aircraft, which were delivered to Saudia from 1997 onward, are powered by GE90 engines and have a total of 232 seats in a three-class configuration, comprising 24 first-, 38 business- and 170 economy-class seats.

Air Partner Remarketing divisional MD Tony Whitty said, “This appointment follows a successful period for our remarketing services, during which we have also completed the sale of two Boeing 737-700s and a new GE90 engine on behalf of Kenya Airways and two 747-400s for China Airlines.”

Saudia is undergoing a fleet revitalization, which includes phasing out the 777-200ER. As part of the airline’s SV2020 transformation plan, multiple new aircraft are joining the Saudia fleet monthly, including Airbus A330-300s, Boeing 787-9s and 777-300ERs. The ongoing fleet investment will bring the airline’s average aircraft age to 3.75 years by the end of this year, which is a key element of Saudia’s targeted strategy to operate one of the youngest fleets in the skies.

By 2020, the Saudia is set to operate 200 aircraft in its fleet. The SkyTeam member currently operates to 86 destinations worldwide.

UK charter broker Air Partner acquired aircraft remarketing specialist Cabot Aviation in May 2015 for up to £1.2 million ($1.9 million).

(Kurt Hofmann - ATWOnline News)

Hawaiian Airlines posts $80.4 million 2Q net profit

Hawaiian Holdings, parent of Hawaiian Airlines, posted $80.4 million net income for the 2017 second quarter, up 1.1% from $79.6 million net profit in 2Q 2017.

The airline is gearing up for the delivery of its initial two Airbus A321neos, scheduled for October and November, the first of 18 A321neos the carrier plans to receive through 2020.

“It allows us to begin our plans to transform our service between Hawaii and the US west coast [and earlier this week] we announced the first route extensions associated with the arrival of our first neos,” Hawaiian Airlines CEO Mark Dunkerley said.

“The A321neos will provide us with a combination of growth and replacement, enabling the retirement of the remainder of our [Boeing] 767 fleet by the end of 2018 and capitalizing on our … unit revenue performance between the west coast and Hawaii,” Hawaiian EVP and CCO Peter Ingram said. “The smaller gauge and next generation economics of these aircraft make them ideal for the routes we fly with wide-bodies today.”

Ingram elaborated on route expansions announced July 24. “Starting in January 2018 we will be introducing new nonstop service between Portland and Maui, taking advantage of the arrival of our first A321neo,” Ingram said, adding an extension of seasonal service between Los Angles and Kona will go year-round beginning in March, “first with our 767s and later with the A321neos.” Additionally, the carrier’s seasonal Oakland to Kaua’i service will transition to year-round nonstop service in April 2018, also utilizing a new A321neo. Hawaiian’s Oakland-Maui service will switch over from its existing wide-body aircraft to A321neo in January, Ingram said.

“While delays of the delivery of the first units of this type have been extremely disappointing, we remain committed to the A321neo as it is the aircraft optimally configured for service between Hawaii and the mainland,” Dunkerley said.

Dunkerley also addressed increased competition and capacity scheduled for the coming peak winter-travel season, courtesy of United Airlines’ recently announced expansion of nonstop Hawaii service from its Chicago, Denver and west coast hubs, set to begin Dec. 20.

“Total industry capacity [between North America and] Hawaii has ebbed and flowed over the 15 years that I’ve led Hawaiian. The North America to Hawaii capacity growth scheduled for next year, while more than we’ve seen over the past 18 months, is not, in fact, unprecedented,” Dunkerley said.

“Our perspective on this [is] … no airline is better positioned to serve Hawaii than Hawaiian,” Dunkerley said. “We have studiously diversified our business, precisely to make sure short-term conditions in one of our geographies do not overwhelm our overall performance … we have a number of capabilities that will mitigate the impact of rising industry capacity -- aircraft better suited to the markets we serve, product improvements already delivered and on the way, … organizational strengthening, [these] will all help. None of these were at hand the last time industry capacity increased markedly a few years ago.”

Hawaiian’s second-quarter revenue increased 13.6% year-over-year (YOY) to $675.3 million, outpacing expenses, which grew 13.2% YOY to $532.8 million during the quarter. Operating profit came to $142.6 million, up 15% from a year ago.

Fuel expenses for the quarter increased 22.6% to $102.8 million, compared to $83.8 million in 2Q 2016.

Hawaiian’s passenger traffic increased 6.6% during the quarter to 4.1 billion RPMs, as capacity grew 4.1% to 4.7billion ASMs, resulting in a passenger load factor of 86.6%, up 2.1 points YOY.

Yield increased 7.3% YOY to 14.47 cents. PRASM was up 10% YOY to 12.53 cents. CASM ex-fuel was up 5.6% to 8.98 cents.

(Mark Nensel - ATWOnline News)

SkyWest attributes $51 million 2Q net profit to fleet transition

Utah-based SkyWest Inc., parent of regional carriers SkyWest Airlines and ExpressJet Airlines, reported a $50.5 million net profit for the 2017 second quarter, up 25.4% over $40.2 million net income in 2Q 2016.

SkyWest’s second-quarter revenue increased 1.1% year-over-year (YOY) to $809.8 million while expenses fell 2% to $703.2 million, producing $106.6 million in operating profit, a 26.7% rise.

“Our [2Q] results reflect strong production, solid operating performance and ongoing fleet improvements,” SkyWest CEO Chip Childs said, attributing the net growth primarily to SkyWest’s continued fleet transition, including the net impact of the addition of 47 new Embraer E175s, partially offset by the removal of 76 “unprofitable or less profitable aircraft”, including 51 ERJ-145s, 18 Bombardier CRJ200s and seven CRJ700s, since Q2 2016.

SkyWest added five E175s into service with United Airlines and another five E175s into service with Delta Air Lines during the second quarter. An additional E175 will be delivered in the fourth quarter; the company will close out the year with a total of 104 E175s.

During the quarter, SkyWest and ExpressJet completed the transition of 49 CRJ700s from un-named “other major airline partners” to American Airlines under a multi-year contract, “further reducing fleet risk,” the company said.

SkyWest attributed its decrease in expenses to lower direct operating costs related to having 29 fewer aircraft in service, as well as a 5% reduction in block hour production. The cost cutting, however, was partially offset by higher crew training expenses associated with the new E175s.

Also during the quarter, SkyWest pilots agreed to extend their current salary contract for four years, effective July 2017 through mid-2022, and will receive additional compensation primarily in profit sharing and 401(k) matches.

(Mark Nensel - ATWOnline News)

Falcon Sales Boost Dassault First-half Results

Dassault delivered 17 Falcons in the first half of this year, up from 15 in the same period a year ago. It also achieved a 0.9:1 book-to-bill ratio, logging net orders for 14 Falcons in the first six months.
(Photo: Dassault Falcon)

An increase in new and pre-owned Falcon business helped lead to a 23.5 percent jump in Dassault Aviation’s first-half results, from €1.66 billion ($1.94 billion) in 2016 to €2.05 billion ($2.40 billion) in 2017, the company reported.

Operating income was stable at €123 million ($144 million), while net profit rose 7.5 percent thanks to the contribution of Thales' half-year results. Total order intake reached €1.38 billion ($161 million), of which 83 percent involved exports.

Deliveries of Falcons increased from 15 to 17 year-over-year. And the pre-owned aircraft business was better, the company reported.

Net Falcon order intake was also positive, with 14 aircraft sold in the first half versus 11 in the same period last year. The orders included a fourth maritime surveillance Falcon 2000 ordered by the Japanese coast guard. Including new and pre-owned, the order intake for just Falcons amounted to €1.029 billion ($1.20 billion) in the first half, compared with €778 million ($909 million) a year ago.

“The market for business jets is still difficult,” said Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier, who noted that depressed prices in pre-owned business jets are still hampering new sales. “There are some positive signs on the pre-owned market. They are starting to sell a little better.”

Trappier confirmed Dassault's forecast for 2017: an increase in total sales, with an anticipated 45 Falcon deliveries and nine Rafale fighters.

“We are approaching the launch of a new Falcon,” he said, without specifying when the aircraft would be launched or any of its designcharacteristics.

Meanwhile, the Falcon 5X test campaign with temporary Silvercrest engines, manufactured by Safran, will allow Dassault to speed up the integration with the aircraft in the face of the four-year delay in the engine program, Trappier explained. The 5X flew for the first time on July 5 with “preliminary engines.”

Sales at the Defense division increased by 16.5 percent, to €943 million ($1.102 billion), thanks to the Rafale export support activities for Egypt and the Mirage 2000 for the French Air Force. On the other hand, Rafale deliveries dropped: Dassault delivered three Rafales to Egypt, unchanged from the year-ago period, and one Rafale to France versus four in the first half of 2016.

Trappier expressed interest in participating in the European MALE (medium-altitude long-endurance) drone, UCAV and Future Combat Aircraft System (FCAS) projects. The CEO reaffirmed its willingness to sell Rafales to Malaysia, even though the country has reportedly delayed the decision to buy new combat aircraft. “There is no cancellation of this project as far as we know,” Trappier said.

In India, the creation of a joint venture with the Indian group Reliance will support the policy of “Make in India” related to the sale of 36 Rafales there. But the aircraft manufacturer also wants to sell the marine version of the Rafale to India, with 57 aircraft currently in negotiation.

(Guillaume Lecompte-Boinet - AINOline News)

2Q17 Deliveries Down, but Sales Steady, at Gulfstream

Deliveries at Gulfstream fell 17 percent in the second quarter from a year ago, but Phebe Novakovic, chairman and CEO of parent company General Dynamics, said today during an investor conference call that she expects overall shipments at the Savannah, Georgia-based business jet manufacturer to be on par with last year, when it delivered 115 aircraft (88 large-cabin and 27 midsize jets).

During the quarter, Gulfstream delivered 30 jets (23 large and seven midsize) versus 36 in the same period last year (29 large and seven midsize). In the first six months, it has shipped 60 airplanes (46 large and 14 midsize), compared with 64 (49 large, 15 midsize) in the first half of last year.

Novakovic said that Gulfstream has seen “steady demand” for its airplanes, recording a 0.9:1 book-to-bill ratio in the second quarter. Notably, she said, “In this quarter, we had the highest number of orders that we've seen in the last six quarters for the G650/650ER.” The G650/650ER, as well as the G550, built backlog during the quarter, she added.

Second-quarter revenues at General Dynamics’ aerospace division, which also includes Gulfstream sister company Jet Aviation, were down $206 million year-over-year, to $2.078 billion. However, comparative earnings increased by $1 million, to $425 million, thanks to a “more advantageous mix.”

(Chad Trautvetter - AINOnline News)

FAA Dismisses Signature Santa Ana FBO Lease Complaint

Signature Flight Support expressed disappointment in the U.S. FAA’s decision to dismiss its Part 16 complaint over the ending of its leasehold at John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Santa Ana, California, but vowed to continue pursing all legal options to regain its position as an FBO provider on the airport.

Signature filed the complaint to the FAA earlier this year, alleging that the Orange County Board of Supervisors had violated Grant Assurance 22 regarding economic nondiscrimination. It argued that the county had discriminated against Signature by awarding a lease that it had held for two decades at SNA to ACI Jet. Signature said the request for qualification process used was discriminatory and that the county failed to negotiate renewal in good faith.

But in a July 21 determination, the FAA disagreed that the county had violated its grant assurances, saying, “Grant Assurance 22 does not require that an airport adhere to any particular methodology for letting or assigning leases. Discretion is left to the airport sponsor using practices that support its individual needs.”

The agency added it does not arbitrate lease agreements through Part 16, nor does it enforce lease terms through that complaint process. Rather, Part 16 is aimed at contracts between the federal government and airport sponsors.

“Signature Flight Support is disappointed by the decision,” the company said in a statement. “We continue to steadfastly stand by our position that the 2016 SNA RFP process was flawed, and did not provide a level playing field for those who participated; ultimately penalizing Signature, the airport’s customers and constituents.”

Signature ended its 20-year tenure at SNA on March 31 after the Orange County board of supervisors in late February reaffirmed its decision to award leaseholds for the two FBOs at SNA to Atlantic Aviation and ACI Jet. The board had cited pricing concerns and a desire for a more local company in its decision to switch vendors. Signature, however, accused the board of illegal and unfair bidding processes.

Signature said it was nearly complete on a contract extension when a third party expressed an interest in becoming an interim FBO provider. The county then issued an RFQ, and during the initial evaluations, Signature ended up as the top ranked qualifier, the company noted. However, the county chose to award the leasehold to a lesser-ranked bidder that did not, at the time, provide the requisite audited financial statements.

Orange County, however, argued that it used a “deliberative, thoughtful and transparent process” and charged that Signature wanted to reverse the leasing process to continue its “anti-competitive position and excessive pricing.”

“While others may have made a different decision than the board,” the FAA said in response to the arguments, “we find nothing in the procedures followed by the board or its ultimate decision that violates Grant Assurance 22.”

The FAA added that airport sponsors “have a right and responsibility to consider pricing in FBO selection.” Signature has argued that the pricing picture presented by the county did not take into account its full approach to pricing.

(Kerry Lynch - AINOnline News)

JStars Contenders Argue Merits of Business Jet Versus Airliner

Gulfstream and Northrop Grumman propose a modified G550 business jet for the JStars program. (Image: Northrop Grumman)

Gulfstream and Northrop Grumman are making their case for hosting the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JStars) on a business jet as the U.S. Air Force nears a decision on the JStars recapitalization program. The companies are proposing the Gulfstream G550 to replace the service’s Boeing E-8C JStars fleet; they face competition from Boeing, offering a system based on the 737-700 airliner, and a team led by Lockheed Martin proposing the Bombardier Global 6000 business jet as a host platform.

“The real discussion is whether or not these next-generation assets should be on a business jet or continue to be on an airliner,” said Troy Miller, Gulfstream regional vice president for military and special mission sales, during a mid-July briefing in Savannah, Georgia, Gulfstream’s headquarters. “In broad terms, we think a business jet compared to an airliner can do these missions higher, faster, farther, better [and] less expensively.”

Responding separately to an AIN inquiry, Northrop Grumman concurred that a 10-station JStars battle management command and control (BMC2) system hosted on the large-cabin, ultra-long-range G550 “can fly higher and see more to prosecute more targets without any added cost.”

The G550’s “agility and size allow it to be closer to the fight because it can base at two times the number of bases that heavy aircraft can fit in,” Alan Metzger, Northrop Grumman vice president for next generation surveillance and targeting, stated in an email. “Our Recap offering uses substantially less fuel, can generate substantially more mission on-station time while flying at threshold altitude, and provides crews with greater comfort due to the better cabin pressure than a commercial airliner would.”

Northrop Grumman expects the Air Force will select a JStars weapons system provider “sometime after late October.” The service plans to award an engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) contract valued at $6.9 billion. The EMD phase calls for the delivery of three test aircraft, with options for two low-rate initial production and 12 production aircraft over three lots, for a total of 17. Separately, the service has awarded Raytheon and Northrop Grumman contracts to develop competing designs for the JStars radar subsystem.

Miller offered a number of comparisons between a nominal narrowbody airliner and a G550. Airliners traditionally are certified to fly no higher than 41,000 feet; the G550 is certified to fly up to 51,000 feet, offering a better field of view for ground surveillance. An airliner’s maximum speed is Mach 0.82; the G550 cruises at Mach 0.85. An airliner can fly to 6,200 nm; the G550’s range is 6,750 nm.

Comparing commercial aircraft platforms, the fuel burn of an airliner is almost double that of a G550 business jet, Miller said, citing figures from the firm Conklin & de Decker of Orleans, Massachusetts. The operating cost of a G550 is $9 per nm versus just under $15 for an airliner.

Gulfstream has produced 207 business jets for government and special-missions purposes in 39 countries, including 70 U.S. government and military aircraft. Working with a prime contractor, it modifies green aircraft off its Savannah production line to accommodate mission equipment.

The companies offered the Air Force multiple configurations to satisfy the requirement of the JStars recapitalization program for an aerial refueling receptacle; of those the preferred option was a nose-mounted configuration—the same location used on aircraft including the A-10 Thunderbolt II, B-1 bomber and Air Force One, Northrop Grumman said.

The latter company has flight-tested its G550 testbed behind a surrogate tanker “with no adverse handling issues.” It has also conducted in-flight refueling of the G550 behind both KC-135 and KC-10 tankers in a full-motion simulator to evaluate flight crew field of view. “Results were excellent for both a nose-mounted and crown-mounted UARRSI (Universal Aerial Refueling Receptacle Slipway Installation),” the company said.

Northrop Grumman bases the G550 JStars testbed and a mission crew trainer at its Manned Aircraft Design Center of Excellence in Melbourne, Florida. The company says it has flown the aircraft about 500 hours each year since 2011 as it has matured its offering for the JStars recapitalization program. During that time, it has displayed the testbed and mission crew trainer at Langley, Andrews, Hanscom and Robins air force bases.

Boeing Defense has a case of its own to make about replacing aging, Boeing 707-based E-8C JStars and E-3 AWACS as well as C-135 Rivet Joint, Combat Sent, Cobra Ball, Open Skies and Constant Phoenix mission aircraft with the 737. “What we believe is that the 737-based platform is the right solution for the recapitalization of all of these aircraft moving forward,” said Jamie Burgess, Boeing Defense program manager for mobility, surveillance and engagement, during a briefing in Seattle in May.

Fleet size and parts and service availability rank high among reasons for adapting the 737, which already serves as the platform for the U.S. Navy’s P-8 Poseidon. Boeing reports delivering more than 8,000 737s with another 4,000 on order. Over 65 years, it has delivered 1,200 militarized derivatives to customers in 21 countries.

“When you think about militarizing an airplane like a 737 you don’t really lose much performance in terms of mission capability and aero performance due to considerations like weight [and] mass properties,” Burgess argued. “When you start militarizing a smaller luxury business-jet class airplane, you do start to see degradation in aircraft performance. They’re just not designed to carry as much weight for as long a mission as the 737.”

Gulfstream’s Miller would disagree. “A business jet is going to be more right-sized for these types of missions,” he said. “The airliner community routinely talks about how much bigger their aircraft is than the mission requires. They use the phrase all the time ‘that gives us room for growth.’ What 'room for growth' means is that they’re offering way more aircraft than the mission requires.

“If we concede that a business jet offers better performance and lower costs and we’re right-sized for the mission, it’s really difficult to understand why an airliner would be appropriate,” he added.

(Bill Carey - AINOnline News)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

United States Navy Boeing EA-18G Growler (c/n G-12) 166900 / 504

First time seeing this squadron, VAQ-209 "Star Warriors" at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB)! Caught one of their Growlers departing from Rwy 30 on July 25, 2017 even got a little afterburner!!

(Photos by Michael Carter)

United States Navy Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet (c/n E209) 168359 / 410

Captured departing Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on July 25, 2017, this Rhino of VFA-25 "Fist of the Fleet" makes a fast climb out as it departs from Rwy 30.

(Photos by Michael Carter) 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Antonov to be liquidated

On July 19, the Government of Ukraine passed resolution No. 546 on the liquidation of the state-owned aircraft holding Antonov. Interestingly, a year and a half ago the government already had a similar solution, but for some reason, it has not been possible to abolish the company for the time being.

According to the new resolution, a commission responsible for the liquidation of the company will be set up, it will be headed by Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Trade Yuriy Brovchenko. Within two months he must prepare the liquidation and accept claims from the creditors. 

In three months, Brovchenko must introduce the liquidation balance sheet to the Government.

In total, the commission will consist of 8 people, including the chairman.

The decision to dissolve Antonov should not affect the production processes in the industry, since it has been inactive as in March-April 2015 all its participants were incorporated into another state enterprise, Ukroboronprom.

Antonov holding was established in 2008 when it included the developer and manufacturer of Antonov aircraft, based in Kiev, the Kharkov State Aviation Production Company (KSAMC) and the Kiev Aircraft Repair Plant 410.

(AeroTime News)

China Air Cargo prepares for takeoff

China Air Cargo takes re-delivery of its first 757-200PCF, with the second lurking in the background.
(China Air Cargo)

Eight months ago, we reported that startup Chinese all-cargo carrier China Air Cargo Co. Ltd was about to take to the skies. It had taken re-delivery of its first freighter – a Precision-converted 757-200PCF, and was within weeks of receiving its Operating Certificate.

As is often the case, the final step, the dotting of the last “I” and crossing of the last “t” on the AOC, took months, not weeks, and that first freighter stayed on the ground at the HAECO facility in Xiamen (XMN) where it was converted, with ceremonial re-delivery temporarily on hold.

But the first flight now seems imminent, and it looks as if it will involve two freighters, not one. The carrier has printed a “First Re-delivery” banner to celebrate the “official” re-delivery of the first freighter, but the imminent re-delivery of the second is more than hinted at in the above photo.

The aircraft in the front is 27513, an ex-Xiamen Airlines aircraft, converted to PCF freighter configuration last year at HAECO Xiamen by Precision Aircraft Solutions, the aircraft at the back is 27517, also ex-Xiamen Airlines, also now converted to PCF freighter configuration and fresh out of the paint shop in its new livery.

China Air Cargo Co Ltd, a joint venture of Joy Air Holding, Guangzhou Donlinks Group, and Beijing Fuda Asset Management, received initial approval from the Civil Aviation Authority of China in late 2015, but, in mid-2016, the CAAC put the approval process for new airlines on hold, partly to weed out applications from carriers trying to use the relatively easy path to all-cargo certification with the intent of switching to passenger operation following approval, and China Air Cargo was left in limbo.

The CAAC eventually lifted its hold, but, as mentioned above, the approval process for China Air Cargo Corp did not happen overnight, and it is only now that the company feels confident enough in being able to fly “soon” that it has held a formal re-delivery celebration.

As to the carrier’s plans for the aircraft, nothing has been announced, but Cargo Facts believes China Air Cargo will, initially at least, fly in support of one of the big Chinese express companies.

(David Harris - Cargo Facts) 

EASA issues emergency AD for SSJ stabilizer inspection

On July 25, the emergency airworthiness directive (AD) issued by European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) came into power, requiring airlines operating Russian-made Sukhoi Superjet 100-95B aircraft to inspect the horizontal stabilizers for possible cracks.

In the directive, EASA reported that cracks had been found on Sukhoi Superjet 100-95B aircraft in service in the rear spar of the horizontal stabilizer between ribs 0, 1 and 2. According to the document, such a condition, if not detected and corrected on time, might affect the structural integrity of the horizontal stabilizer.

The directive calls for a non-destructive testing (NDT) borescope inspection of the horizontal stabilizer, before exceeding 1300 flight cycles or within 7 calendar days after the effective date of the airworthiness directive (whichever occurs later), and, thereafter, at intervals not to exceed 300 FC.

Operators are required to contact Sukhoi Civil Aircraft for approved repair instructions, if a crack, fastener failure or corrosion is detected during the NDT inspection.

Earlier in 2017, Sukhoi SuperJets were grounded due to the need to inspect for possible defects in the plane’s stabilizer attachment unit.

(AeroTime News)

Delta just unveiled a new plane that features totally private first class suites


Delta became the first North American airline to take delivery of Airbus’s new A350 last week.

It is the first of 25 new A350s that Delta has ordered to replace its fleet of Boeing 747-400 aircraft. The new plane expands upon Delta’s higher-end in-cabin offerings while updating the engines and airframe for a more fuel-efficient aircraft.

“Our new flagship A350 fits well in Delta’s long-haul network, combining an exceptional customer experience with strong operating economics and fuel-efficiency as we retire older, less-efficient aircraft,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a statement.

The long-range A350 is expected to present a 20 percent improvement in the airline’s operating cost per seat, as compared to the Boeing 747-400.

Delta One first class suites. The main selling point of the suites is a full-height door for complete privacy while flying. Delta’s new A350 features 32 new Delta One suites and 48 seats in Delta Premium Select. And back in the main cabin, there is enough seating for 226 passengers. The seats are the largest in economy in Delta’s fleet and feature memory foam cushions.


The A350-900 will be the first fitted with the airline’s new

The plane will begin service between Detroit and Tokyo-Narita on October 30. From there, the plane will fly mostly on routes across the Pacific, including service to Seoul and Beijing.

(Cailey Rizzo - Travel + Leisure / Business Insider)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Boeing reducing staff at a record pace

Boeing has been reducing staff at the fastest pace in more than a decade, the Wall Street Journal reports. During the first half of the year, the aerospace giant has parted with about 4% of its employees, most of whom have worked at large enterprises in the state of Washington.

Boeing says it must increase efficiency and more actively automate plants to build next-generation aircraft. The backlog of orders currently exceeds 5700 aircraft.

The management of the company considers cost reduction imperative to maintaining competitiveness. Airbus, Boeing's arch rival, has in recent years controlled more than half of the narrow-body aircraft market, while a balanced duopoly has been observed for two decades.

The bulk of the reductions occurred in Washington, where two of Boeing's three commercial aircraft assembly plants are located. The Washington Employment Service reported that 1251 people received notice of dismissal this year, and a new wave of cuts began on July 21. Over the past four years, Boeing has reduced the number of its employees in the Seattle area by more than 20 thousand people.

Seattle officials have received an emergency federal grant from the U.S. Labor Department in order to retrain laid-off Boeing employees and help them in finding new jobs.

The cuts also affected the plant in North Charleston (South Carolina). In February, US President Donald Trump visited this plant during the launch of the 787-10 Dreamliner and promised to increase the number of manufacturing jobs in the US. The verbatim message Trump conveyed back then was “jobs is one of the primary reasons I’m standing here today as your President, and I will never, ever disappoint you.””

However, four months passed and Boeing announced its intention to dismiss 200 more people in addition to those 700 who agreed to voluntary layoffs with severance payment. The number of employees at Boeing's facilities in the Charleston area by the end of June was reduced to about 7,300, while at the end of 2015 it exceeded 8,000.

According to the two main trade unions of the company, from the beginning of the year more than 1800 employees agreed to voluntary layoffs, in 2016, 3000 followed.

Boeing is currently valued at $129 billion. The company will announce its second quarter earnings on July 26.

(AeroTime News)

Monday, July 24, 2017

MAKS-2017: deals for $6.2B signed

On July 23, the curtain was brought down on MAKS-2017 Air Show with 450,000 people having attended the event. During the show, Russian companies and their partners presented their developments and traded, with roughly 800 companies participating in the event and signing deals totaling at 394 billion rubles ($6.2 billion), with more agreements to be made in the nearest future. New aircraft were exposed and some finally shown for the first time.

On the first day of the international aviation and space salon, a fixed-price contract for the supply of 20 Sukhoi Superjet 100 to Aeroflot was executed. The jets will be delivered in batches until July 2018, which will lead to Aeroflot expanding its SSJ 100 fleet up to 50 units. Additionally, Russian government increased the capital of State Transport Leasing Company (STLC) which also entered into an agreement with Gazprombank (third largest Russian bank) raising its credit facility limit and allowing it to acquire up to 36 units of SSJ 100.

Ilyushin Finance Co. (IFC) also made quite some agreements, enacting a deal regarding the delivery of 16 MC-21 jets to Red Wings. The aircraft will be leased for 12 years and deliveries are going to take place from 2019 to 2022. IFC also signed an agreement with VIM-Avia with the transaction of the MC-21 taking place between 2021 and 2024. The green light regarding the approval of terms will be given at the end of 2017. Russian Airlines and Saratov Airlines also made a deal with IFC for the supply of the MS-21s.

Russian Helicopters concluded some deals too, including the supply of 30 helicopters (12 Mi-8AMT, 12 Ansats and 6 Mi-8MTV-1) to STLC. Other buyers include Russian Helicopter Systems, which by 2018 should receive 12 Ansats in medical configuration, United Helicopters International Group which wishes to acquire 5 Ansats and three Mi-171 in transport configuration and two Ka-32A11BC fire fighters. Orders from China are also taking place.

(AeroTime News)

easyJet ready to face Brexit with new airline

The second-largest European low-cost carrier easyJet, based in the UK, has been issued with an Austrian air operator's certificate (AOC). Such a move will allow the airline that operates multiple routes in Europe to protect itself from the possible legal consequences of Brexit - Britain's seemingly inevitable withdrawal from the EU.

easyJet Europe, a newly formed company, shall be flying under the Austrian AOC. For the time being, its fleet consists of a single aircraft that made its first flight on July 20. According to the CEO of easyJet Carolyn McCall, easyJet Europe will not expand its fleet until winter.

„Austria’s aviation regulator Austro Control was selected as it is the best fit for easyJet,“ McCall said in a statement. „Austro Control has a rigorous approach to safety regulation, contributing to EASA’s drive towards shaping future safety regulation with an emphasis on performance based safety regulation. I would like to thank the Austrian Government, bmvit and Austro Control for their support during this process and we look forward to a long and successful partnership with them.“

The European division of easyJet is based in Vienna. It became the third legal entity in the easyJet group. The other two are London-based EasyJet Airline Co. and Switzerland-based EasyJet Switzerland S.A. All three in one way or another belong to the holding company EasyJet plc. It has not been yet decided, whether the reorganization of the entire corporate structure will be required in connection with Brexit.

In October last year, easyJet predicted that the UK's break with the EU would become one of the factors that would provoke a decrease in the revenue of the LCC in the 2015/2016 fiscal year (completed in September 2016). The results showed that the decline in pre-tax profit was 27.8% (to 495 million pounds). The pre-tax profit will be 380-420 million pounds in 2016/2017 fiscal year, easyJet predicts.

According to the company, the establishment of easyJet Europe will create a number of new jobs in Austria, but no jobs will move from the UK to Austria. All of easyJet’s UK employees will continue to be based in Luton and our 11 UK bases and be employed as they are today.

The Vienna-based offshoot will be led by Thomas Haagensen, currently easyJet’s Country Director for Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Ireland's Ryanair - Europe's largest airline by number of passengers carried - is also preparing for the negative consequences of Brexit. A year ago, its CEO Michael O'Leary announced that the carrier would shift the emphasis from the UK to Europe in its development plans. He also did not rule out that to preserve commercial rights, Ryanair can issue a British operator's certificate.

Residents of Britain voted to leave the EU in a referendum on June 23, 2016. The country is expected to officially part ways with the EU in March 2019.

(AeroTime News)

Ryanair says in talks with Boeing about possible Max 10 order

Ryanair has held talks with Boeing about its new larger version of the 737 airliner, the MAX 10, but has made clear it would only be interested if the price is lowered, Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary said on Monday.

Ryanair declined to comment in June when Reuters reported the Irish airline was in talks with Boeing about buying the new plane, which seats up to 230 passengers compared to 189 seats on its current 737-800 fleet and the 196 seats on Boeing MAX 200 aircraft it has ordered.

"We have told them to go back and if they can come up with a price on the Max 10 that meaningfully reduces our unit cost, we would be very happy to place an order," O'Leary told analysts on a conference call following publication of the group's latest quarterly earnings.

"We are very interested in the aircraft - but we are only interested in this aircraft or any aircraft if it lowers our unit costs," he said. "We do believe that a 230 seat aircraft can deliver a meaningful reduction in unit costs."

O'Leary said Ryanair did not need to order any more planes for five years, but would consider an offer if the price was right.

Boeing in June launched what would become the largest version of its 737 MAX medium-haul family, designed to challenge the popular Airbus A321 flown by Ryanair rivals.

Rivals easyJet and Wizz have ordered A321 planes, which seat up to 239 passengers as they seek to keep costs per seat under control by shifting to slightly bigger planes.

Ryanair on Monday reported profit after tax up 55 percent in the three months to end-June, but triggered a share sell-off after it warned it might cut fares in late summer by as much as 9 percent from last year.

(Conor Humphries - Reuters)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Is Emirates About to Order the Boeing 787 Dreamliner?

A recent analyst report claimed that an Emirates order for the Boeing 787 is a "done deal" -- but that's a bit of an exaggeration.

In the past few years, there has been periodic speculation about Emirates potentially ordering the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to complement its fleet of larger wide-bodies.

Last week, several news outlets reported that an Emirates Dreamliner purchase was a "done deal", with Emirates set to order a mix of 787-9s and 787-10s at the Dubai Airshow this fall. An Emirates Dreamliner order would be a big coup for Boeing, potentially allowing it to increase its production again.

However, these stories were based on a single unconfirmed analyst report from Saj Ahmad of Strategic Aero Research. It certainly seems logical that Emirates would choose to order 787s at some point -- perhaps even this year. Nevertheless, this is far from being a done deal.

Emirates teases a Boeing 787 order

Three years ago, Emirates canceled its order for 70 Airbus A350 wide-body jets. The carrier claimed that it was no longer sure it needed the A350 due to changes in the A350-1000 model's specifications, as well as its own shifting fleet requirements.

Soon thereafter, Emirates CEO Tim Clark started talking about holding a new competition between Airbus' A350 and Boeing's 787. The winning plane would slot in below Emirates' fleet of Boeing 777s. Originally, Emirates planned to decide by the end of 2015, but it subsequently postponed the decision deadline to 2016 and then to 2017.

Given that Emirates previously canceled its A350 order, Boeing appears to have an advantage in the 787 vs. A350 competition. Still, investors shouldn't ignore the possibility that Airbus will pull off an upset.

A bumpy flight at Emirates

Emirates still says that it wants to choose between the 787 and A350 this year, but the timeline has already shifted twice in the past couple of years. The company could easily delay its decision again.

Emirates has been posting weak financial results lately, so caution is certainly warranted. For its most recent fiscal year (which ended in March), Emirates' profit plunged 83%. Emirates will probably continue to face downward pressure on fares due to low-cost long-haul airlines' explosive growth. The carrier also cut some flights to the U.S. after the so-called "laptop ban" was implemented earlier this year.

The U.S. government recently lifted the laptop ban for Dubai International Airport, Emirates' home base. But rising competition could continue to weigh on the company's results for the foreseeable future. As a result, it's not clear that Emirates urgently needs additional planes. It might make sense to wait another year or two to see how the competitive environment evolves.

An Emirates 787 order would be great news for Boeing

In recent years, Emirates has become the No. 1 buyer of wide-body jets in the world. Airbus and Boeing are particularly eager to win its business because the market for wide-body jets has been sluggish lately.

Boeing got off to a strong start in 2017, with 75 firm 787 family orders in the first half of the year. An Emirates deal for 70 planes would allow Boeing to match its projected 787 delivery total for the current year (145 units). This would at least ensure that Boeing's Dreamliner order backlog does not shrink in 2017.

Yet even a 70-plane Emirates order would not be sufficient by itself to support Boeing's plan to boost 787 family production from 12/month to 14/month in 2019 or thereabouts. To sustain a 14/month production rate for at least a few years, Boeing would need to be selling planes at the same rate (or faster).

In other words, signing a big Dreamliner deal with Emirates is a necessary condition for Boeing to raise production in the coming years -- but Boeing will also need to find other buyers to fill out its order book.

(Adam Levine-Weinberg - The Motley Fool)

Friday, July 21, 2017

Southwest Airlines Fires Too Many People, Labor Union Leader Says

This story does not come as a shock to me! I was an Operations Agent / Supervisor with Southwest Airlines before I retired last year after 21 years with the airline. I was hired when Herb Kelleher was running the airline and when you hear all the stories of how good it was in those days well those stories are true, it was fantasic.

Since Herb retired and Gary Kelly has taken over, employee moral has gotten progressively worse over the years. It has gotten much worse since the company bought AirTran Airways a few years back. Kelly has allowed AirTran management to make changes in how the airline is run (doing things the AirTran way) which has driven employee moral down even further.

Southwest does not take care of its front line supervisors as they should either. While I was there the airline continually took away benefits while at the same time telling our group that we must take on even more responsibilities. Sure I got an hourly raise but I would have much rather kept my benefits than the xtra $2 dollars an hour.

When the new 555 contract was signed in year 2016, we were told by station management that corporate in Dallas insisted we now write-up agents for even the smallest infractions (I refused to do this), this is when I made the very tough decision to retire. It has been a year now and though I miss my airline, I have come to realize it is the old Southwest I miss not the new.

It is not the LUV airline it once was, it is a top heavy (management laden) company and as long as Kelly and his AirTran cronies run the store it will make money but at the cost of its most important asset, its front line employees.

Michael Carter
Aero Pacific Flightlines


The president of the Transport Workers Union, the largest labor union at Southwest Airlines Co. has written a scathing letter that condemns "intolerable and cancerous" working conditions for the carrier's ground-workers and decries mistreatment including 2,700 disciplinary actions and 468 terminations since January 2015.

"Ground-workers are flagrantly mistreated and abused by management," wrote John Samuelsen, president of the New York-based union that represents 12,000 Southwest groundworkers as well as 15,000 flight attendants. The letter refers to the ground workers, members of TWU Local 555.

In 2017, Samuelsen said, "Southwest is writing up nearly three workers per day and firing one worker every other day."

"The outright hostility to the workforce has obliterated morale, which can only have a negative impact on the passenger experience," he wrote. "The TWU finds it hard to believe that Southwest finds this to be an ideal business model."

The letter, sent late Wednesday, was signed by Samuelsen, Local 555 President Greg Puriski and 13 other TWU leaders. They said they are available to meet with airline executives as soon as possible.

In morning trading, Southwest shares were down 0.51%.

Russell McCrady, Southwest's vice president of labor relations, said the carrier is committed to "efforts to maintain strong, constructive relationships with our employees' representational groups including TWU 555.

"Discipline is a necessary part of business but any discipline we administer is far from 'arbitrary,'" McCrady said in a prepared statement. "We do not take for granted that Southwest continues to be named a best place to work and best employer by national publications and we are very proud that our employee culture is the foundation for these designations."

McCrady said Southwest will respond to Samuelsen's letter and welcomes the opportunity to meet.

Southwest employs about 54,000 workers including about 7,200 hired in both 2016 and 2015, said spokeswoman Beth Hardin. She said the number of terminations over three years is not atypical for the number of workers involved.

Local 555 signed a five-year contract in 2016. In an interview, Samuelsen said the letter is not related to contract negotiations but rather represents an effort "to fight Southwest on working conditions that are now entrenched on the property, on an antiquated labor relations model designed to drive production {that} drives morale down across Southwest properties."

TWU has about 200,000 members, including 42,000 in Local 100, which represents New York City bus and subway workers. Samuelsen headed Local 100 until he took over the TWU presidency in May.

"I'm a new president, taking note of a situation at Southwest where people are being fired and unfairly disciplined," he said. "I found that to be intolerable."

(Tim Reed - The Street)

Gulfstream proposes nose refuelling for JSTARS candidate

Gulfstream’s proposal for the US Air Force’s JSTARS recapitalization project will include a refueling nozzle mounted on the nose of its G550 business jet, the company’s vice-president of special mission sales has revealed.

The Gulfstream design is still subject to change, with a slide showing the nose receptacle having been a last-minute change to a presentation made to journalists last week, and the airframer has also considered a more traditional refueling position on the aircraft’s "crown", Troy Miller says. The nose-mounted nozzle is not an unusual choice, as both the USAF’s Fairchild Republic A-10 and Boeing B-1 have similar receptacles, he notes.

Mounting the receptacle on the aircraft's nose has little aerodynamic impact, and it may be closed when the G550 is not receiving fuel in-flight.

“There’s nothing particularly overwhelming about this design,” Miller says. “That’s why we’re so excited about it.”

No Gulfstream jet has ever been certificated for air-to-air refueling, although Miller argues its products' endurance has never necessitated the capability. However, the air force has a specific requirement for boom air refueling under the JSTARS recapitalization.

Still, the JSTARS replacement program did not catalyse Gulfstream’s exploration into air refueling. For years, the company has explored such an activity, conducting wind-tunnel tests and flight tests behind Boeing 707s to evaluate flight characteristics. In addition to engineering efforts focused on the boom receptacle, Gulfstream is exploring the probe-and-drogue refueling configuration used by the US Navy, Miller says.

“This is an ongoing project. It will be a new development, but it’s not new science to us,” he says. “Candidly, our engineers are excited about this and they don’t view this as a showstopper in any way.”

In 2006, Gulfstream and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) studied a tanker version of the G550. The JSTARS concept is limited to a Universal Aerial Refueling Receptacle Slipway Installation, however, with the aircraft to act only as a receiver.

“I won’t comment specifically on past efforts, but to say that the flexibility of these aircraft and its ability to do anything we’re talking about could lend itself to be a very potent air refueling asset, both as a receiver and as a tanker,” Miller says of the earlier study with IAI.

Miller declines to detail the refueling system under design at Gulfstream, except to point out that unlike its airliner-based competitors, the business jet stores its fuel in the wings rather than inside tanks. While the refueling capability is a new design revealed with the G550 JSTARS proposal, Gulfstream is leveraging a previously designed nose shape, he adds.

(Leigh Giangreco - FlightGlobal News)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The pilot shortage is real and airlines must change before it becomes a full-blown crisis

Editor's note: Patrick Smith is a commercial airline pilot who currently flies Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft. Smith is also a travel blogger and author of the book "Cockpit Confidential.

THE PILOT SHORTAGE is here, and it’s been making headlines. Last month, Horizon Air, the Seattle-based affiliate of Alaska Airlines and one of the country’s biggest regional carriers, announced it would be forced to reduce its busy summer schedule due to a dearth of pilots.

The shortage already caused Horizon to cancel more than 300 flights in June. Earlier this year, Republic Airways, a large U.S. regional carrier that flies on behalf of United, American, and Delta, filed for bankruptcy protection. It blamed the filing, in part, on a lack of qualified pilots. Other carriers have been canceling flights and mothballing aircraft as pilot recruitment departments scramble to fill classroom slots.

Yes, the shortage is real. It’s critical, however, to make it clear which sectors of the aviation industry we’re talking about. First, we are looking specifically at the U.S. airline industry. Civilian pilots in the United States are responsible for securing their own FAA credentials, and for logging hundreds, or even thousands, of hours of flight time before applying at an airline. It’s a long, slow, and very expensive process. Other countries often recruit pilots differently, with a growing reliance on so-called “ab-initio” programs, whereby young candidates are chosen from scratch, with no prior experience, and are groomed from the ground-up, so to speak, in a tightly controlled regimen that puts them in the cockpit of a jetliner very quickly. These programs are ultra-competitive, drawing hundreds of applicants for each available slot.

Even more important, we need to draw a sharp divide between the major carriers and their regional affiliates. The major carriers, also referred to as “legacy” carriers, everyone is pretty familiar with — American, United, Delta, Southwest, jetBlue, et al. There is no pilot shortage at these companies, and unless something changes drastically they will continue to have a surplus of highly qualified candidates to choose from. They are able to cull from the top ranks of the regionals, as well as from the military and corporate aviation pools. Even amidst an ongoing wave of retirements, a steady supply of experienced crews is unlikely to be depleted.

At the regional airlines, it’s a different story. And by “regional” we are referring to the numerous subcontractors who operate smaller jets and turboprops on the majors’ behalf: those myriad “Connection” and “Express” companies, whose actual identities are usually concealed beneath the liveries of whichever major they are aligned with. United Express, Delta Connection, American Eagle, and so on. For civilian pilots, the typical career progression includes a substantial amount of tenure at this level before, assuming he or she is fortunate enough, progressing to a major. And it’s here where the problem is.

How it came to this is both a long and short story. The short story is that pay at the regionals is terrible and working conditions are harsh. This has driven thousands of pilots out of the industry, and/or has discouraged countless others from pursuing an aviation career in the first place. Becoming a licensed commercial pilot, to the point where one is eligible to apply for an airline job — any airline job — requires a huge amount of time and money. It can take years, and the average pilots sinks well over a hundred thousand dollars into his or her flight training and education. Salaries at the regionals, meanwhile, have traditionally started low as $20,000 a year, and have topped out at under six figures. Schedules are demanding and benefits paltry; the relationship between management and the workers is often hostile. On top of all that, the regional sector is highly unstable. These carriers always seem to be coming or going, shrinking or shedding planes, changing their names and realigning themselves with different majors.

But this is nothing new. Pay and working conditions at these companies have always been substandard. Yet filling jobs has seldom been a problem, so what gives? Well, what’s different is that the regional sector has grown so large. Today, regional jets account for an astonishing half — 53 percent was the last number I saw — of all domestic departures in the United States. As recently as twenty years ago it was somewhere around fifteen percent. In those days, pilots saw a job with a regional as a temporary inconvenience — paying one’s dues. It was a stepping stone toward a more lucrative position with a major. Pilots are now realizing that a job at a regional could easily mean an entire career at a regional. Thus, a diminishing number have been willing to commit the time and money to their education and training when the return on investment is somewhere between unpredictable and financially ruinous. An aspiring aviator has to ask, is it worth sinking $100,000 or more into one’s primary training, plus the time it will take to build the necessary number of flight hours, plus the cost of a college education, only to spend years toiling at poverty-level wages, with at best a marginal shot at moving on to a major? For many, the answer is no.

In the meantime, the FAA has enacted tougher hiring standards for entry-level pilots. Over the past two decades, as the regional sector grew and grew, thousands of new jobs were created. To fill these slots, airlines sharply lowered their experience and flight time minimums. Suddenly, pilots were being taken on with as little as 350 hours of total time, assigned to the first officer’s seat of sophisticated regional jets. Then came a rash of accidents, including the Colgan Air (Continental Connection) disaster outside Buffalo in 2009. Regulators began taking a closer look at hiring practices, eventually passing legislation mandating higher flight time totals and additional certification requirements for new-hires.

Some airlines blame the shortage at least partly on these tougher rules. Technically they’re right, but really all the new regulations have done is returning things to historical norms. My first job with a regional — “commuters” we called them in those days — was in 1990. Competitive applicants at the time had between 1,500 and 2,000 hours, and most of us had an FAA Airline Transport Pilot certificate as well. That’s more or less what the FAA requires today. The difference, of course, is that there are far more jobs to fill.

Things are beginning to change, if slowly. To their credit, many regionals have started upping their salaries and improving benefits. The cost structures of these carriers, whose existence is primarily to allow the majors to outsource flying on the cheap, limits how much they can lavish on their employees, but if they want to stay in the game, they frankly have little choice. New-hires at companies like Endeavor Air (a Delta affiliate) and PSA (American), for example, can now make first-year salaries in the $70,000-plus range. That’s around three times what these pilots would have been making in years past. Some companies are offering signing bonuses of several thousand dollars, and work rules too are getting better. Air Wisconsin, a United partner and one of the nation’s oldest regionals, says that new-hires can now earn up to $57,000 in sign-on bonuses. It promises earnings of between $260,000 and $317,000, including salary, bonuses, and what it calls “elected benefits,” over the first three years of employment. Numbers like that are unprecedented.

For those considering a piloting career, the situation is looking better. The problem for the industry, though, is the lag time. For a pilot just learning to fly, any cockpit job is still a long way off — probably years away. So while the mechanisms are falling into place to curtail a full-flown crisis, the shortage is going to be with us for a while.

(Patrick Smith - / Business Insider)