Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Iconic TWA Flight Center At JFK Airport Is Now Becoming A Hotel

The chili pepper red lounges and sloping curves of the TWA Flight Center.
(Max Touhey)

Eero Saarinen’s iconic, winged building, the TWA Flight Center, debuted at JFK (then Idlewild) Airport in 1962, at the beginning of the Jet Age, when Howard Hughes owned the airline and it was locked in battle with Pan Am for top honors in the air for international travel. Both airlines are now gone, of course, and the building was closed in 2001; it was also threatened repeatedly with demolition. 

Fortunately, it was instead designated a landmark and now progress is being made on creating the TWA Hotel at JFK Airport with the Flight Center as reception area/lobby. It should open, construction schedules willing, in 2019.

The concept for the building is to go lavishly backward, reconstructing the Mid Century modern designs and furnishings in the original, according to Tyler Morse, CEO of MCR Development which won the rights to develop the hotel (beating out, according to Morse, Ian Schrager and Donald Trump).

That means sunken lounges in chili pepper red, the sweeping mezzanines and balconies, the iconic clock, the Constellation Lounge for dinner and dancing (there was, in fact, a place to dance pre-flight.) On the sides, two low rise towers will house 505 guestrooms, 50,000 square feet of event space, a 10,000 square foot observation deck and 6-8 food and beverage outlets.

More than just a hotel, though, the hotel will pay homage to the airline’s history with a museum dedicated to artifacts of the era including manual typewriters, TWA flight bags, clips of major events of the day—the birth of the New York Mets, JFK and Jackie, John Glenn orbiting the earth—plus uniforms of flight attendants including the infamous and short lived paper uniforms geared to international routes. (example: a toga for Rome.)

To get a preview, MCR has opened the TWA Lounge on the 86th floor of One World Trade Center with renderings and some of the artifacts to be included. There is also a top of the Empire State Building-type telescope pointing to the hotel site 12 miles away so potential guests can check on the construction.

(Laurie Werner - Forbes)

Thursday, September 28, 2017

FIRST LOOK: What American’s New Tightest Ever Coach Seats Are Really Like

American Airlines is introducing 30 inch pitch coach seating — that’s the distance from seat back to seat back — on their new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, and they’ll be retrofitting their existing 737s to match so they can squeeze more seats onto the aircraft.

They argue the seats will give passengers as much personal space as they have today, even though seats are closer together. And they displayed the seats publicly for the first time today.

Currently the tightest coach seats from major US airlines is 31 inches. Delta pledges never to go below 31 (though I don’t take such promises seriously). American had planned for some seats to have just 29 inches, but backed off that plan amidst public outcry.

They’re not removing seats from the plane to stay at 30 inches, they’re going to take away a row of Main Cabin Extra seats which have more legroom. So there will be fewer seats on the plane where you can escape tight seating. Oh and they’re shrinking the lavatories too.

American has claimed you won’t notice the difference pushing seats closer together.
They’re using slimline seats with less padding, so your legroom won’t actually suffer (just, potentially, your back and your bum)

They won’t offer seat back video screens (you have to use your own device for entertainment) freeing up some space in front ofyou

The seats don’t recline as much (2 inches versus the current 4 inches) so your personal space gets protected

Less seat padding, no video screens, and less recline are the arguments American is using for why this won’t be a worse experience.

They’ve also managed to widen the seats half an inch by fitting each row more snugly against the windows.

I sat in American’s new Boeing 737 MAX coach seats on at Media Day. They were in a hotel conference room, not on a plane. And I sat for a few minutes, not for several hours. So it’s difficult to judge what they’ll be like in practice.

American set up the seats and beside them was a set of current Boeing 737 coach seats to compare.

I did find the new seats tight. Are they tighter than regular coach? It’s hard to say. I appreciated that the seat in front of me didn’t recline much and it was easier to keep my laptop open-ish on my tray table. An extra half inch of width is appreciated.

I don’t think the legroom was especially different. I did feel like it was a claustrophobic seat, and having the seat in front of me closer at shoulder level is where things felt tight.

And I don’t know how the seat itself will feel on a long flight. American says they aren’t going to use their 737 MAXs to go transatlantic, even though they have the range. But they’ll still go on long missions — this configuration will become a mainstay of the domestic fleet, and operate long flights like Miami to Seattle.

Southwest has very similar seats with greater pitch and I don’t mind them on the flights I take but it’s nothing longer than Washington National – Austin non-stop. I’ll take the Southwest flight over connecting and a possible upgrade every time now, and I often manage to score an exit row with an empty middle.

Personally the tight quarters increase the overall stressfulness of the trip, and color my perceptions of everything else. With high load factors I don’t expect an empty middle very often. And even as an elite frequent flyer I’ll wind up in these on American and not always Main Cabin Extra seats with more legroom — remember, there will be fewer of those seats than planned, and when you change flights or buy travel super close in extra legroom may not be available.

At the end of the day sitting in the seats for a few minutes (not hours) didn’t seem that much worse, but: We weren’t comparing to American’s current worst coach product

Even if we conclude the two are ‘the same’ that isn’t an argument for 30 inch pitch, it’s an argument for these new seats and 31 inches of pitch.

Ultimately it will be a question of how the body feels in tight quarters on a full aircraft for three to five hours — not 5 minutes in a hotel with high ceilings and no other passengers around — that will determine whether American has gone too far and whether customers book away from the product.

(Gary Leff - View From The Wing) 

Etihad pilot dies after becoming 'incapacitated' shortly after take-off on Amsterdam-bound flight

A pilot has died on a cargo plane after falling ill shortly after take-off.

Abu Dhabi-based long-haul carrier Etihad confirmed that the pilot on board Flight No. EY927 from Abu Dhabi to Amsterdam 'became incapacitated' during the flight.

Etihad says the plane's first officer issued a distress call and safely diverted the plane to Kuwait.

However, the pilot died while receiving medical care on the ground.

Etihad said: 'We are deeply saddened by the loss and are focused on taking care of our late colleague's family at this time, to whom we offer our heartfelt condolences.'

The news comes less than six months after an American Airlines co-pilot died after falling ill while in the air just two miles from his destination.

Father-of-one William Grubbs, 57, announced a medical emergency over the intercom over Albuquerque, New Mexico, where his Boeing 737 was due to land.

After landing, medics battled to save his life - spending 40 minutes performing CPR but sadly they could not revive him.

The cause of the pilot's death is yet to be revealed.

AA said at the time it was 'deeply saddened' by Mr Grubbs's death and sent a message of condolence to his loved ones.

A spokesman said: 'Our thoughts and prayers are with Grubbs's family during this difficult time.'

(Martha Alexander - Mailonline and Associated Press)

Malaysia Airlines to buy 35 wide-bodied planes

Malaysia Airlines plans to buy 35 wide-bodied planes over the next year as part of a fleet restructuring to rebuild its premium business as it seeks to return to profitability by 2018, its CEO said Wednesday.

Peter Bellew said there is a mismatch at the moment, with 70 percent of the airline’s current fleet of 69 planes comprising single-aisle, narrow-bodied aircraft for short- and medium-haul routes, making it appear more like a low-cost carrier. He said the airline expects to increase its fleet size to 80 planes by 2022, of which 45 percent will be wide-bodied aircraft.

Bellew said wide-bodied planes are cost efficient for busy regional routes, provide higher revenue opportunity in terms of cargo and seats, and allow flexibility for the carrier to return to long-haul routes. The airline axed all long-haul routes except to London under a $1.5 billion restructuring in 2014 that included axing 6,000 jobs.

Malaysia Airlines earlier this month inked a deal to buy eight Boeing wide-bodied 787-9 Dreamliners and eight single-aisle 737 MAX jets. Some critics however, said the loss-making carrier shouldn’t be purchasing new big planes at a time when it is still in the red.

Bellew defended the plane purchases. He said no new funding would be required because the wide-bodied planes will mostly replace narrow-bodied ones that will retire over the next few years. He said the airline plans to arrange for a sale and lease back arrangement for new planes that will cut cost and make it financially more competitive.

He said the carrier also inked a deal this week to lease six used but newly refurbished wide-bodied Airbus A330-200 planes from leasing company AerCap for six years through 2023. He said new wide-bodied planes being considered are either the Boeing Dreamliners or the Airbus A330neo.

“It’s a very quick way for us to rebalance our fleet … we are going from small planes to bigger planes but at a lower cost and offering better products,” Bellew said, adding that the airline aims to become a premium five-star carrier once again.

Malaysia Airlines was ailing from mismanagement that saddled it with at least $1.7 billion in losses since 2011. It reeled further with two air disasters in 2014. Flight 370 vanished in March 2014 with 239 people on board and a second Boeing 777 carrying 298 people was shot down over Ukraine a few months later. The company was removed from Malaysia’s stock exchange the same year, with the government pumping in 6 billion ringgit ($1.5 billion) under a radical restructuring.

Bellew said the airline’s business has recovered in China, Australia and most parts of the region, with forward booking solid until December. He said passenger load rose 17 percent from a year earlier in the quarter through June while revenue increased 8 percent in the same period.

He said that the airline is on track to return to profitability next year under its revamp and that it could be eligible to be listed on the stock exchange again in 2019.

(Eileen Ng - The Associated Press / The Seattle Times)

What happens to old planes? Southwest Airlines is retiring 30 of its fleet's 'Classics'

Boeing 737-3H4 (27689/2667) N395SW and Boeing 737-3H4 (27378/2643) N391SW parked at Southern California Logistics Airport (VCV/KVCV) on August 15, 2017 following their retirement from the Southwest Airlines fleet.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

At 11:35 p.m. Friday evening, Southwest Airlines Flight 68 is scheduled to arrive in Dallas from Houston, the aircraft’s last flight before being retired from Southwest’s fleet and parked in the California desert.

While Southwest regularly retires aircraft, this send-off will be particularly notable, as the Dallas-based carrier prepares to say goodbye to the last of its Boeing 737-300s, also known as the “Classics.” It will be one of 30 Classics retired Friday.

The aircraft model has been a part of Southwest’s fleet for 33 years, seeing the company through decades of growth. But with a new, more efficient generation of planes soon to join Southwest’s fleet, the carrier is retiring the Classics, in part to simplify training for pilots.

“It was an exceptional airplane for the short-haul market,” said Mike Van de Ven, Southwest’s chief operating officer. “It allowed us to grow our network for literally the next 20-30 years.”

With the new aircraft, the 737 Max, set to launch Oct. 1, Southwest’s fleet transactions team has been on a retiring spree, taking 58 out of service since August.

Most of those aircraft have made their way to the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville.

They will be left intact, unlike some aircraft that get broken down for spare parts, including engines, upon retirement. Southwest hopes the aircraft won't be parked in the desert for long, and is actively marketing the jets for sale.

“It’s going to be in a state where we could sell it to someone and they could turn around and fly it,” said Jon Stephens, the airline's director of fleet transactions. “Our thinking is it's a short-term storage program ... our intent to find buyers and homes for these aircraft.”

Southwest has already sold a few of its 737-300s, although it hasn’t disclosed the buyers.

U.S. airlines often look to sell their retiring aircraft in other countries to avoid giving a domestic rival more capacity to grow, but that’s not always the case.

Southwest flipped 88 Boeing 717s acquired through its purchase of AirTran Airways to Delta Air Lines in a 2012 subleasing agreement.

The South American market would be one likely destination for the retiring jets, said industry analyst Henry Harteveldt, for “either a low-cost airline or a startup that’s looking for a reliable but low-cost aircraft.” Other options could be found in Asia, or in non-passenger service operations, like freight.

“There’s almost always someone who’s out there to buy it,” Harteveldt said. “A big factor is how many airplanes there are, what price and what condition.”

(Conor Shine - The Dallas Morning News)

Etihad names British military official as new CEO

The parent company of Etihad Airways has named a British military official who once oversaw Abu Dhabi International Airport as its new CEO.

Etihad Aviation Group said in a statement Thursday it selected Tony Douglas to be the group’s new CEO, beginning in January.

Douglas joins Etihad from his position as CEO of the British Defense Ministry’s equipment and support department, which supplies and services the nation’s armed forces.

Douglas also previously served as the chief executive of Abu Dhabi Airports.

Douglas comes into the role after the July departure of CEO James Hogan, who oversaw an aggressive acquisition strategy that saw Etihad buy up stakes in several airlines including struggling European carriers Alitalia and Air Berlin. Etihad has since pulled back on some of those plans.

(The Associated Press / The Seattle Times)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Gulfstream G550 (c/n 5513) N319PP

This Taiwan based aircraft is operated by Green Tree Global LT and is captured departing Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) bound for Ted Stevens - Anchorage International Airport (ANC/PANC) on September 26, 2017.

(Photo by Michael Carter) 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Qatar Airways places $2.16 billion Boeing order

The announcement was made at a delivery ceremony in Everett, Washington, where the airline also received the first of its 747-8 freighters.
(Qatar Airways)

Qatar Airways announced an order for two Boeing 747-8 freighters and four 777-300ERs, valued at $2.16 billion at list prices.

Qatar said the order was a sign of the airline’s continued expansion and contribution to the US economy.

The deal adds to the Doha-based carrier’s fleet of nearly 100 Boeing wide-body aircraft and its more than 100 additional Boeing aircraft on order.

(Linda Blachly - ATWOnline News)

No more flying with reindeer: Unique Alaska planes to retire

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-490(C) (27082/2356) N768AS arrives at Ted Stevens - Anchorage International Airport (ANC/PANC) on May 3, 2017.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Claire Richardson remembers taking off in an airplane uniquely configured for Alaska when a horrible smell seeped into the passenger area.

The captain soon came on the speaker to apologize for the odor, which was coming from 70 skittish baby reindeer headed for Texas.

"Guess they all pooped as we lifted off from the runway," said Richardson, a Jesuit volunteer at a Nome radio station during the 1980s flight who is now chief of staff for Alaska Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott.

Those days will be coming to a close as the special plane that hauls people, goods and even animals on the same flight is taken out of service in a state with few roads.

Alaska Airlines is retiring its last four combi planes, special Boeing 737-400s designed to carry cargo in the middle of the plane and 72 passengers in the rear, company vice president Marilyn Romano told The Associated Press ahead of this week's unveiling of the first of three new cargo planes for the state.

"They've been our workhorses," said Jason Berry, manager of the company's cargo division.

The new cargo planes are a dedicated fleet of three 737-700s, and they are the first ever to be converted from passenger jet to cargo planes. Passengers will now fly separately in 737-700s.

Alaska Airlines is the only major airline in the U.S. that had combi planes, which were designed for the special challenges of the nation's largest state.

A postage stamp placed in the middle of an average sheet of paper represents the area a person can reach in Alaska by coast line, river, road or railroad.

"If you want to see or do business in any of the rest of that sheet of paper, you only have two choices: You can fly an hour or walk a week," said Mark Ransom with the Alaska Aviation Museum in Anchorage.

The combi planes made sense to deliver people and goods to remote hub communities in Alaska in the most cost-efficient manner.

The planes can carry up to four large cargo containers — weighing anywhere from 12,000 to 14,000 pounds — in the middle of the plane. Passengers fill the rear of the plane, and they get on board by using stairs like the pre-jetway days.

"It's bittersweet," Romano said of the planes' retirement, especially for those who understand what they have meant to the people of Alaska.

The planes usually fly to communities like Nome on the Bering Sea coast, Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow) on the northern Arctic Ocean coast or Deadhorse, the supply town for the Prudhoe Bay oil fields, where there might not be enough cargo for a full planeload or enough passengers to fill a jet.

From those locations, smaller airplanes usually deliver the cargo and passengers to dozens of nearby villages.

The combi planes also make famous milk runs through southeast Alaska, leaving Anchorage and stopping about every 45 minutes to deliver goods — including milk — to little communities before heading on to Seattle, where the airline is headquartered.

It's not just milk that gets delivered. In other parts of the United States, cargo planes deliver durable goods to businesses to make commerce run, said Berry, the cargo division manager.

"In Alaska, we are carrying their milk, the groceries, the fruit, the vegetables, the pharmaceuticals, the drugs, for these people, for these communities," he said.

And animals.

"Because of where we are and where we live, we have the opportunity to help move a lot of unique things, and a lot of them are living," said Romano, the airline vice president.

That could include shipping an injured eagle to the Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka for rehabilitation or giving a lift back to Anchorage for scores of exhausted sled dogs that had just finished the nearly 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Nome.

The last combi flight is scheduled for Oct. 18, which is also the Alaska Day state holiday. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the formal transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States. The final flight will deliver the combi plane to Seattle from Juneau.

(Mark Thiessen - Associated Press / SFGate)

Monday, September 25, 2017

Qatar Air Mulls New Boeing 747 Freighter Order as Cargo Booms

Qatar Airways is considering whether to order more Boeing Co. 747 jumbo freighters as global air cargo rebounds and the Persian Gulf carrier responds to a blockade of its home country.

The jets, featuring a hinged nose that flips open to load oversize equipment, would help the Doha-based carrier make good on its ambition to become the largest international cargo operator in the world, Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker told reporters Monday during a visit to Seattle to take delivery of the first of Qatar Air’s two 747-8 freighters.

Boeing has been scrambling to land additional orders needed to extend the commercial life of its iconic hump-backed jet into the next decade. The Chicago-based planemaker had 20 unfilled orders for its 747 as of the end of August, including the two jets currently bound for Qatar Air. That is the equivalent of about three years of production at its current six-jets-a-year pace.

Qatar Air’s cargo division is flourishing as air freight emerges from a lengthy slump. Worldwide loads are up 11 percent this year through July, according to the International Air Transport Association, a trade group.

The flight embargo imposed in June by neighboring nations to penalize Qatar actually has provided a benefit, Al Baker said. Air-freight deliveries have climbed 160 percent from a year ago as Qatar Air has airlifted in fresh food, medical equipment and other supplies. Four Arab nations severed diplomatic and transport links with Qatar as punishment for allegedly backing Islamic militants, a charge the Gulf nation denies.
Unintended Boon

“I’m pleased to tell you today that in fact the blockade has quite the opposite impact on our business to the one intended,” Al Baker said. “Our adversaries thought they would bring us to our knees and we would capitulate, but this didn’t happen.”

He dismissed any suggestion that Qatar Air might delay aircraft orders because of the blockade or slowing travel growth in the Middle East. “We are not studying any deferrals because Qatar Airways’ aircraft orders are not all growth airplanes,” Al Baker said. “They are also fleet replacement.”

The carrier plans to take all 110 of the Boeing 777X planes that it has committed to buy from Boeing through orders or options. And it expanded a previous order for 44 of Boeing’s 777-300ER by four aircraft, a deal previously recorded on Boeing’s backlog without disclosing the buyer. Combined with the two jumbos, the aircraft are worth $2.16 billion at list prices before the customary discounts.

Qatar Air has decided to take all of the Airbus A350 aircraft it has on order, reversing an earlier plan to cancel four deliveries, Al Baker said.

As to Qatar Air’s ongoing war of words with U.S. carriers over access to the U.S. market, Al Baker advised its rivals to “shut up and mind their own business.”

(Julie Johnsson and Alexandria Arnold - Bloomberg News)

Airberlin details Lufthansa, easyJet bids

Airberlin said negotiations with its short list of bidders, which include Lufthansa Group and UK LCC easyJet, for parts of the insolvent carrier will continue through Oct. 12.

“There are no contracts signed,” chief representative Frank Kebekus said, adding airberlin needs a “strong partner” to survive.

Lufthansa’s bid for airberlin assets is focused on securing the 38 Airbus A319/320s it currently wet leases from the bankrupt airline. The German group is also interested in airberlin subsidiaries LGW, Austria-based NIKI and 13 Airbus A320s from airberlin’s fleet.

EasyJet submitted an offer for up to 30 airberlin A320s, which would operate mainly from Berlin.

The parties have agreed to keep the purchase price confidential. If the deals are finalized as planned, there is a good chance the €150 million ($178 million) bridge loan issued by German public credit institution KfW can be repaid.

Without the loan, airberlin CEO Thomas Winkelmann said the carrier would have been forced to ground the fleet on the weekend of Aug. 12-13, which “would have meant the immediate loss of employment for all employees.”

Kebekus said airberlin has “not yet achieved the aim of the negotiations. Stable flight operations in the coming days and weeks are essential for success. Anything else will endanger the negotiations,” he said.

Winkelmann said the insolvent carrier is “on the way to achieving good job prospects for around 80 % of airberlin’s 8,000 employees with our bidders. They have good chances to get a job with Eurowings, Austrian Airlines, easyJet or airberlin Technik, as well as in smaller parts of airberlin,” he said.

“Our common goal is to protect as many jobs as possible,” Kebekus said. “But we also have to be honest: we will not be able to save all jobs. We are currently unable to tell you how many jobs will be protected and how many may be lost.”

Airberlin said it has a clear and structured investor procedure, which will be reviewed by the European Union Commission to make sure it complies with internal market regulations.

Airberlin will cease long-haul flight operations by Oct. 15, as leasing companies gradually withdraw their A330 fleet. As a result, the Dusseldorf-Los Angeles route will be discontinued from Sept. 25. On Sept. 29, airberlin will stop services between Hamburg and Munich and between Cologne/Bonn and Munich. Further cancellations will follow Oct. 16 and more adjustments will follow.

Stable flight operations are a prerequisite for the successful completion of the forthcoming transactions and subsequent transfer into new ownership.

Several other parties submitted proposals for airberlin—Niki Lauda, who is partnering with UK-based Thomas Cook Group and its German leisure airline subsidiary Condor to bid for NIKI and other parts of airberlin; investor groups and entrepreneurs Hans Rudolf Wöhrl and Utz Claassen; and German-based leisure carrier TUIfly, among others.

Airberlin filed for insolvency Aug. 15 after 29.2% shareholder Etihad Airways withdrew financial support.

(Kurt Hofmann - ATWOnline News)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

German plane hijacked to Somalia in 1977 brought back home

From left: former co-pilot Juergen Vietor, former passenger Diana Muell, and former stewardess Gabriele von Lutzau stand in front of a part of Lufthansa plane 'Landshut' at the airport in Friedrichshafen, Germany, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. The Lufthansa passenger jet hijacked to Somalia 40 years ago at the height of the leftist Red Army Faction's campaign against West German authorities has returned home. The dpa news agency reported Saturday most parts of the Boeing 737 arrived Saturday in the southern city of Friedrichshafen, where they will be reassembled and displayed at the Dornier Museum.
(Photo: Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/dpa via AP)

A Lufthansa passenger jet that was hijacked to Somalia 40 years ago at the height of a far-left militant group's campaign against West German authorities has returned home.

The dpa news agency reported that the Boeing 737 arrived Saturday in the German city of Friedrichshafen, where it will be reassembled and displayed at the Dornier Museum.

The parts arrived aboard two freight aircraft from Brazil. The aircraft ended up in a Brazilian carrier's fleet and had been sitting decommissioned at the country's Fortaleza Airport for years.

A Palestinian group demanding the release of members of West Germany's Red Army Faction hijacked a Mallorca-to-Frankfurt flight in October 1977. The hijacking marked the peak of the "German Autumn" of leftist violence.

German commandos stormed the plane in Mogadishu, Somalia, on Oct. 18, 1977. They killed three of the four hijackers and rescued all 86 passengers.

(San Fransisco Chronicle)

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Boeing Planes Could Fire Lasers From Their Noses to Spot Turbulence

Early next year, a Boeing 777 will take off from the company’s airfield near Seattle with a laser shooting out of its nose. It may sound like a novel (and grisly) way to avoid bird strikes, but this isn’t that kind of laser. Rather, it’s part of a new system that Boeing hopes could spot brutal turbulence that can damage aircraft and toss passengers around the cabin—and give crews enough time to hunker down before the going gets tough.

While modern passenger aircraft can withstand even the bumpiest rides, turbulence remains dangerous for the people inside those planes. According to the FAA, 44 people were severely injured by turbulence in 2016, and that doesn’t count the less severe rocking and spilled drinks passengers endure on flights on a daily basis.

Boeing thinks a long-range lidar could be the answer. “We expect to be able to spot clear-air turbulence more than 60 seconds ahead of the aircraft, or about 17.5 kilometers [10.9 miles], giving the crew enough time to secure the cabin and minimize the risk of injuries,” says Stefan Bieniawski, the Boeing program’s lead investigator. (Clear-air turbulence is the sort that strikes without any visual warnings, like moving clouds.)

The lidar is the centerpiece of a new system developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, which has been collaborating with Boeing since 2010 to configure it for use on commercial aircraft. It projects a laser in a steady line ahead of the aircraft, while an optical sensor tracks the bits of light reflected back by dust particles along the path of the beam.

Software analyzes the aircraft’s velocity relative to the movement and velocities of particles at different distances. Significant changes in the velocity differentials—like pockets of air moving faster than the stuff around it—are signs of turbulence ahead. When the system detects those deltas, it will alert the flight crews through audible and visual cues integrated into the instrument panel. (The specifics of how to deliver those alerts are still in development.)

Even if it doesn’t give pilots enough time to steer around the threat, a 60-second warning could be a major improvement over conventional methods of turbulence detection, which rely on reports from aircraft flying the same routes and general precautions around active weather systems. At best, those systems can help pilots avoid turbulent areas but not predict when the air gets choppy from one instant to the next. Systems that use radars to bounce radio waves off water droplets don't work for spotting clear-air turbulence. With a minute’s warning, passengers could buckle up. Flight attendants could stow their coffee pots and take their own seats.

Similar ground-based systems can detect turbulence and wind-shear around airports, but they’re the size of trucks. Now that the engineers have downsized their system so it can fit into a commercial jet without adding too much weight (about 185 pounds) or consuming too much power (3.3 watts), they can test it through Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator program. Every 18 months or so, the company selects a bunch of nascent technologies and installs them on an aircraft, which it flies twice daily for six weeks. The 2018 program will have some 30 systems on the 777, a new cargo aircraft FedEx is leasing back to Boeing.

“This is all about accelerating technologies,” said Doug Christensen, a manager in the ecoDemonstrator program. “We want to see if they work and how they integrate into the airplanes.” This year’s tech roster includes a lightweight and compact thrust reverser for the newest generation of massive jet engines, 3-D printed components, cockpit noise reduction systems, and a new biofuel.

If the lidar system proves successful, it could start spotting turbulence for commercial airlines within a few years, Boeing says. Until then, make sure to buckle up—and maybe keep a hand on that cup of joe.

(Eric Adams - Wired)

Molokai loses 'Ohana by Hawaiian flight to Maui for 90 days

'Ohana by Hawaiian has begun operating a temporary flight schedule for Molokai, which will eliminate the direct flight between the Friendly Isle and Maui as well as a midday round trip between Molokai and Oahu.

The airline says the change is necessary as an aircraft undergoes maintenance.

There is another plane that could service the route, but Hawaiian Airlines spokesperson Alex Da Silva said that aircraft is used as a spare "to maintain the reliability of our service," The Maui News reported.

The schedule is expected to be in place until Dec. 15. The airline will continue to offer two daily Molokai-Honolulu round-trip flights.

(The Associated Press)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

New JWA departure patterns disturb residents around Newport Bay

Susan Menning has lived in the Bluffs neighborhood next to Upper Newport Bay for 23 years, accepting some noise that comes with living less than five miles from John Wayne Airport.

But new departure paths implemented this spring have planes turning left just as they lift off, not staying over the bay as they did before. And that shift a few hundred feet from the water and closer to homes is too much for Menning, especially when the morning takeoff rush starts at about 7.

“It’s a horrible way to wake up,” she said.

The flight path alterations are part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Southern California Metroplex project. The FAA says the new air traffic system covering the region’s airports, including John Wayne, will shore up inefficiencies, saving fuel and reducing carbon emissions and flight delays.

A resident-organized online petition directed toward the FAA, the airlines that operate at John Wayne, and city and county officials had more than 900 signatures as of Friday. Many people attached comments about the noise, concerns about property values and resale ability, and complaints that the planes might be dropping black residue on their patio furniture and cars, which they fear could be hazardous to their health.

Many vented their frustration and pleas for relief:

“I have lived in the Bluffs for 34 years and never complained about noise before, but it’s really starting to bother us.”

“The planes have destroyed my quality of life.”

“Do the right thing. Keep planes over the water, not our homes.”

“Please go back to the previous noise abatement measures.”

“The new flight paths that are allowed are ruining our lives. We cannot have a conversation! Please fix this! Thank you!”

“My neighborhood sounds like a war zone.”

“So tired of the planes.”

Newport Beach, later joined by Orange County, sued the FAA last year challenging the accuracy and efficacy of the agency’s environmental assessment of the Metroplex project, which concluded there would be no significant effects on surrounding communities.

Other coastal Orange County cities report feeling Metroplex-related pain. Laguna Beach filed its own lawsuit over the John Wayne routes. And new landing patterns for Long Beach Airport have disturbed Huntington Beach residents.

Newport Beach City Manager Dave Kiff, who maintains a regularly updated page on the city website with airport concerns, said he works on the airport issue three or four days a week, if not daily.

Kiff said the new path that heads to points east of Las Vegas is too far west. The path that heads to the Bay Area and the Pacific Northwest is too far east, he said.

He understands residents’ irritation but urges patience. He said readjusting the new paths could affect arrivals at Los Angeles, Long Beach and Ontario. The Metroplex project covers 23 Southern California airports.

“That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t complain, doesn’t mean individuals shouldn’t contact the FAA,” he said. “But we are just one of the 23.”

Joe August, another longtime Bluffs resident, said he and neighbors take readings standing outside their homes with handheld sound meters and compare findings: 95 or 96 decibels.

The aircraft noise between their neighborhood and the airport has daytime limits of about 90 to 94 decibels for most commercial planes, as measured by airport monitors. August thinks pilots might turn closer to the homes, and away from the monitors, to keep the official readings low.

“If they put a sound monitor on top of my house, they’d be breaking the regs,” he said.

(Hillary Davis - Los Angeles Times)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Is becoming a pilot still a good career choice?

Glamorous, challenging, rewarding, inspiring… The job of a commercial airline pilot is often described with an unending string of superlatives. While the pilot profession still continues to be one of the most attractive and challenging jobs, it has certainly lost some of its glory, the job market has changed, and pilot training has become a substantial financial investment.

The path to becoming an airline pilot in Europe has changed dramatically in the past twenty years. The profession is much more accessible due to a rise of private training schools and new types of training & licensing schemes. This however comes at a price: the cost of pilot training varies between 70.000 and 140.000 EUR.

Most airlines choose no longer to invest in pilot training. As a consequence, the cost and risk of becoming a pilot now falls primarily on the individual’s shoulders. The European Cockpit Association (ECA), representing pilots in Europe, set up the website – – as a tool to help aspiring pilots and their parents assess the training and career options, and the everyday reality of being a pilot today.

“Parents are often the ones who pay the bill”, says ECA President Dirk Polloczek. “Mortgage on the family house is a very common way to finance pilot training. This is why we think it is important for parents to know what they will get in return on their investment. At the same time, they could help the next generation of pilots with choosing a good flight school, creating a plan B and managing expectations about the career”.

Often aspiring pilots underestimate how volatile and hard-to-access the aviation job market is. For instance ‘wanna-be’ pilots do not know the difference in job perspectives depending on the chosen flight school. And a pilot license no longer guarantees you a flying job. It might leave you unemployed and with a huge debt. And even if you do find a job, atypical and precarious employment schemes are particularly frequent among young pilots at the beginning of their careers, with a negative impact on their income and ability to plan their future. So before taking the plunge, aspiring pilots and their parents need to take an informed decision.

“99% of the pilots have chosen this career because it was their childhood dream”, says Otjan de Bruijn, ECA Board Director. “We realize that people are designed in a way to pursue their dreams, no matter what, at all costs. And this is great! Because you get dedicated professionals, who love their job. But not everyone is lucky enough to get a pilot job. Some don’t even get their pilot license. We feel it is our duty to inform the future pilots of Europe about the potential pitfalls of the pilot training, the career and the job market. Our ultimate advice: If it is your dream, go for it! But do it with your eyes wide open!”

(AeroTime News / European Cockpit Association)

Is it time for South Africa to stop bailing out SAA?

The South African government is said to be seriously considering selling its stake in telecommunication firm, Telkom, in order to save the troubled South African Airways (SAA). This has brought back debates about what is the right thing to do around the country’s state owned enterprises. Sibonelo Radebe asked Seán Muller to weigh up the options.

What does financial support to SAA actually involve?

There are two basic forms of assistance government has provided to SAA. The first “government guarantees”, in which the Treasury provides a guarantee to support SAA’s borrowing from private lenders. These guarantees mean that if SAA is unable to pay its debt costs or repay the full loan when required, the Treasury must pay. As of February 2017, SAA held R19.1 billion in government guarantees. These pose a risk to public finances, but strictly speaking do not require any funds immediately.

The second type is a “cash injection”, where Treasury directly transfers cash to SAA. This is what is more commonly known as a “bailout”.

In the current case the lines between these two forms of support are blurred. One of Treasury’s reasons for giving SAA cash is apparently to prevent it defaulting on all debt that is called in by SAA’s creditors.

Is selling a Telkom stake and redirecting the money towards saving SAA a good idea?

There are two aspects to this question. First, is injecting more public money into SAA a good idea? Second, is selling government’s stake in Telkom a good idea?

It is hard to see the case for putting further public money in SAA. At various points it may have made sense to do this in order to stabilize SAA as a public enterprise, or prepare it for large scale privatization. However, this scenario has been repeated so many times that the argument is no longer credible.

Of course, the government has an obligation to prevent the harm that would result from a state-owned enterprise going bankrupt. The direct effects via SAA’s operations, and indirect effects on the economy and investor sentiment in relation to state owned enterprises, could be severe. The failure to implement a successful turnaround strategy at SAA, which appears to be linked to the determination to keep Dudu Myeni as board chair, has placed South Africans in a bind: either the country wastes public money, or it incurs the costs of letting SAA go bankrupt.

With regards to Telkom, it is useful to remember that government previously committed to only bailout state-owned enterprises using funds raised through the sale of state assets. There are two advantages of this approach. First, it focuses minds on the consequences of state owned enterprises failure – as is happening in the case of SAA. Second, it means that the main national budget is not affected, so Treasury can still meet its commitments like the planned budget deficit.

But there is no good case for bailing out SAA. At best, it is simply to avoid an even worse scenario in which SAA’s guarantees are called in by creditors. Wherever the money comes from, the social cost is significant and arguably unjustified.

Some have suggested that there are additional costs because Telkom is now a profitable enterprise and represents a government success story, but this is debatable. South Africa’s ICT development has been unsatisfactorily slow and arguably one reason is that government’s stake in Telkom meant that it ended up protecting a firm with monopoly power in fixed line infrastructure.

Contrary to an increasingly popular narrative, the fact that Telkom has become profitable by moving into the mobile space and slashing employment does not make it either a privatization, or a state ownership, success story. From this perspective, government selling its stake could be a good thing for ICT development in the medium to long run.

What does the consideration say about ANC’s attitude towards privatization?

There is an obvious tension between the claim that SAA cannot be privatized, while effectively privatizing government’s remaining stake in Telkom. Such inconsistencies are characteristic of ANC policy in the last two decades. This is partly due to differences within the alliance and partly the result of policy incoherence, along with a failure to act on advice and implement decisions.

The National Development Plan and the Presidential Review Committee on State-Owned Entities both provided fairly clear direction, but many recommendations appear to be inconvenient for the president and those around him – who appear to see state owned enterprises as vehicles for personal enrichment rather than economic development.

Clearly the Telkom model works. Should it be replicated?

It is actually not at all clear that the Telecom model “works” in the sense of advancing economic growth and development in the broader public interest. It was arguably the wrong model for the country’s ICT sector.

However, even if it had been the right model for that sector, simply replicating it would be a bad idea. State ownership, privatization and regulation strategies need to take into account the characteristics of particular sectors. What works for telecom's will be different to what works for energy or for airlines.

And what do you make of the state of Eskom?

The state of Eskom is of grave concern. Load shedding and price increases, combined with more energy efficiency options for businesses and consumers, have led to much lower electricity demand than originally forecast.

Meanwhile, Eskom is bringing massive new coal power stations online that have vastly exceeded their original budgets. The result is that Eskom faces a “death spiral” where it needs to increase prices to prop up revenue and bolster its finances, but doing so leads to customers reducing demand (through increased efficiency and implementing alternative options like decentralized solar power).

Eskom holds up to R350 billion in government guarantees and is in an increasingly precarious situation. If one adds the lingering possibility of an unnecessary and ill-advised nuclear deal into the mix, the fear is that Eskom could end up in a similar state to SAA now.

SAA may be a waste of public funds, but the threat it poses can probably be contained. That would not be true of Eskom. The main debate between many analysts now is not whether a crisis is looming but whether there remains any chance of avoiding it, given repeated failures to make and implement critical policy decisions.

And so, what should happen to SAA and Eskom?

In the absence of a clear developmental mandate for SAA, and it being repeatedly bailed out with public money that could be better used elsewhere, the objective must be to minimize the cost of SAA to citizens: if privatization is the best option then so be it. Eskom is a much more strategically critical enterprise and its problems are more complex, so privatization would just create a range of different problems. Each state owned enterprises requires tailor-made solutions but one thing they all require is basic good governance, which is not currently in place.

(AeroTime News / The Conversation)

High hopes for the 60-150 seat segment seen by Bombardier

Bombardier Commercial Aircraft released its 20-year Market Forecast for the 60- to 150-seat segment. According to this new 2017-2036 Market Forecast, the 60- to 150-seat seat segment will be a catalyst to further growth, market penetration and airline profitability.

"The outlook for our markets is strong," said Fred Cromer, President, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft. "We are the only manufacturer with a solution for any type of business model in the 60- to 150-seat segment, and we are well positioned to capture the value from the exciting opportunities outlined in this Market Forecast.

"In addition to showing general market dynamics, our forecast focuses on how airlines are changing the way that assets are evaluated," added Mr. Cromer. "Airlines are shifting their primary metric for network and fleet optimization strategies from 'cost' to 'profit'. With this thinking in the forefront, more airlines are investing in right-sized aircraft that maximize their profits."

The complete market is seen as 12,550 aircraft worth U.S. $820 billion, based on 2017 list prices. The 100- to 150-seat segment will represent 70 per cent of the revenues, 6,800 aircraft valued at $580 billion, followed by the 60- to 100-seat segment with 5,750 deliveries worth $240 billion.

After a trend to take larger aircraft in the recent years, airlines will look at taking smaller aircraft in the future. Some of the conclusions that this new Market Forecast is drawing include the fact that revenue growth is just one part of the profitability equation, and the traditional pursuit of reducing cost-per-seat with large aircraft is not necessarily yielding more profit for airlines. A focus on cost-per-seat instead of yield-per-passenger have resulted not only in lower profits for airlines but also in poor passenger experience.

In some regions, even heavy discounting can't fill oversized planes, while in other regions, overbooked flights are generating outrage amongst passengers. Profit contribution will be transitioning from a network-wide basis to per-passenger basis. With the objective of increasing the profitability per passenger, airlines start investing in right-sized aircraft based on market demands.

The forecast says small regional aircraft (20-60 seats) segment erosion will have a rippling upgrading effect; large regional aircraft (60-100 seats) will continue to dominate short-haul (up to 500 nm/926 km) routes; and small single-aisle aircraft (100-150 seats) will increase point-to-point flying on short- to medium-haul sectors and will allow airlines to fly new and thin routes at a profit. The forecast predicts that 86 per cent of the current fleet in this segment will retire by 2036.

North America and Europe will continue as the largest markets for new aircraft. Together they will take delivery of 5,700 aircraft or 46 percent of deliveries.

The forecast divides the world into nine geographical regions - North America, Europe, Greater China, East Asia and Oceania, Latin America (including Mexico), Russia and CIS, Africa, South Asia and the Middle East. There will be a strong demand for large regional aircraft from Asia/Pacific owing to growth, and renewal demand from Europe and North America. Key markets for the small single-aisle aircraft segment are North America, Europe and Greater China.

(Bombardier / AeroTime News)

ICAO backs Turkmenistan's freight ambitions

ICAO has backed Turkmenistan's plans for its new Ashgabat airport to become a freight hub, but also highlighted a number of priorities it should pursue to support air traffic growth.

In a meeting last week with the president of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, ICAO Council President Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu pledged support for the state’s goal of establishing a regional transit and airfreight hub in Ashgabat.

“Turkmenistan is making good progress in support of its air transport sector today, and I have encouraged President Berdimuhamedov and his government to help ensure that its continuing progress proceeds in line with ICAO’s global provisions for safe, secure, efficient and environmentally sustainable air transport,” Aliu commented.

“Effective ICAO compliance is the most important foundation any state can establish as they seek to improve local prosperity through aviation’s unique global connectivity.”

Aliu also encouraged the State to establish suitable commitments and coordinate investments for its air transport infrastructure expansion and modernization, and noted that the country could count on ICAO’s support towards the development of its new State Action Plan for air transport emissions reduction to help sustainably guide that growth.

In September last year, new air cargo facilities were introduced in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan after the opening of a brand new international airport terminal.

Built on a 1,200 hectare site, the terminal incorporates 190 buildings with facilities for both passengers and cargo, as well as a new flight training centre and food preparation areas.

Operated by the Turkmenhovayollary State National Service, Ashgabat will be capable of handling 200,000 tonnes of cargo per year, with the new facility covering an area of 17,174 sq m. The cargo terminal includes an air cargo ramp with five aircraft stands, two cooling facilities and warehousing space.

An ETV-system (Elevating Transfer Vehicle) will assist in cargo handling and transfer between storage areas and each of the four import and four export loading dock bays.

The cargo terminal will also house Turkmenpost, the state run postal service, with sorting halls and service rooms.

A new 3.8km runway has been constructed, while the existing runway has been refurbished and increased to the same length, allowing aircraft of all sizes to land and take-off on either runway.

Covering an area of more than 190,000m3, the main terminal building is said to have capacity for 14m passengers per year and has been designed to resemble a falcon – Turkmenistan’s national bird – in flight. It also cost an eye-watering $2.3bn to construct.

Once the cross roads of the Silk Road trading route, the aim is to once again see the country become an important staging post, transforming it as a transit hub servicing the Middle East and neighboring countries including Iran and Afghanistan.


Schiphol Airport braces for loss of 10.5% of freighter slots

Schiphol Airport is bracing itself to lose as much as 10.5% of its freighter slots next year unless a limit on the number of aircraft takeoffs and landings is changed.

Under a covenant agreed on in 2008, the airport is limited to a maximum of 500,000 air traffic movements per year until 2020, when the figure will be re-negotiated, to restrict the environmental and noise impact of operations.

Recent growth means the Netherlands airport could be about to hit that limit – last year it handled 479,000 air traffic movements (ATMs) and it continues to grow this year − resulting in a reduction in freighter calls as slots are allocated elsewhere.

The airport explains that when Air Co-ordination Netherlands (ACNL) and airlines decide where slots should be allocated, those airlines that fail to adhere to 80% of their requested flight schedules are more likely to lose out as per IATA and European Union regulations.

The unpredictable nature of air cargo means freighter operators are less likely to hit the 80% mark. Also, non-historical and leased slots are more likely to be affected by the limitations.

In total, the airport estimates that 10.5% of full freighter ATMs could be lost next year compared with this year. Air Cargo News estimates suggest that this could represent around 1,900 ATMs.

Some freighter flight slots could also be lost in the autumn.

In a statement, the airport’s cargo director Jonas van Stekelenburg said: “This capacity constraint poses a threat to those full freighter operators that do not own historical slots or that lease slots from other carriers. Also, there will be less room for incidental full freighter operations.

“We do not know the exact extent of this constraint: we are closely monitoring the situation. The exact numbers will be known when slot co-ordination in the Netherlands publishes the slot allocation for the coming IATA winter season. We expect this to be in the coming weeks.

“We continue to work with and support our customers, as well as the cargo community in the Netherlands as the situation unfolds.”

Airlines using Schiphol will “hand back” their unused slots on Friday (September 15) for redistribution next week to carriers on the waiting list, and it is then that the true impact on freighter operators will be known.

One airline source with a maindeck operation indicated that a reduction in freighter flights would also have a trickle-down effect on cargo ground handling revenues, with freighter operators having to share additional costs.

Shipper group evofendex, Air Cargo Netherlands and Transport and Logistics Netherlands have warned that florists, pharma firms and high-tech companies could be forced to divert products to airports in other countries.

In addition they warn that while air cargo represents only around 3.5% of the total flights at the airport, the sector accounts for around 20% of the jobs.

They point out that part of the problem is down to delays in the expansion of Lelystad Airport, where it is hoped many shorthaul airlines currently using Schiphol will transfer, allowing Schiphol to concentrate on long-haul and transfer flights.

The organizations said they are working with the government to agree on measures to mitigate the problem.

European airports are used to environmental pressures affecting their flight operations. London-Heathrow is waiting for a third runway - which although government approved may still be kicked into the long grass by nervous politicians - while Frankfurt has a night flight curfew to contend with.

The most likely recipient of an Amsterdam freighter diversion would probably be Belgian hubs Brussels and Liege, the latter being a 24-7 hub with no curfew or slot limitations.

In the compact space around the Netherlands, there are also common catchment areas for road feeder services and a core of truckers providing them. This would reduce any disruption.

Steven Polmans, head of cargo & logistics, strategic development at Brussels Airport Co, said: “I am not getting pleasure from problems or constraints at other airports. We are also having issues with noise and growth, so any large airport is more or less confronted with this kind of situation

“We are working hard every day, and I want airlines to choose Brussels for what we are and can offer them. Not as an alternative for Amsterdam or anybody else.”

Polmans continued: “I am not expecting big consequences in the short term, most cargo carriers will probably get their slots for this winter season.

“In the next few years, this might indeed have a bigger impact and limit the growth of Amsterdam for a couple of years.

“For neighboring airports this might create some opportunities to take part of that growth. We are keeping an eye on this, but we are not changing or adapting our strategy towards this.”

He added: “In the longer run we have to look at the outcome of the new agreement. That will be more important and determine how we look back at these events.”


Qatar Airways Cargo adds fifth US freighter destination this year

Qatar Airways Cargo will become the first international airline to offer a freighter service to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, when a new operation gets underway next month.

The airline said that when the new B777F service is launched, on October 11, it will become the fifth freighter destination in the Americas added this year and the thirteenth in total.

"The new Doha-Luxembourg-Atlanta-Pittsburgh-Luxembourg-Doha route will not only connect Pittsburgh with European markets via [Qatar]’s European hub in Luxembourg, but also link trade businesses in Asia and Middle East through an easy transit at its state-of-the-art home base in Doha, Qatar," the airline explained.

Qatar Airways Cargo currently transports over 100 tonnes of bellyhold cargo each week on the daily wide-body A350 passenger flights to Philadelphia, the largest city in Pennsylvania.

Products expected to be transported into and out of Pittsburgh include heavy electronics, high-value manufactured goods and pharmaceuticals.

The introduction of freighters to Pittsburgh will inject an additional 200 tonnes of weekly capacity.

Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker said: “Our business strategy is based on consultation and building productive relationships with local government and business leaders, to provide global airfreight connectivity that benefits the city, region and state.

Pittsburgh International Airport chief executive Christina Cassotis added: "Qatar Airways all-cargo flights mark the first time this region has had a dedicated international air cargo service. Qatar Airways Cargo has presented a huge opportunity for our region. We'd like to thank our partners at Qatar Airways Cargo for recognizing the economic opportunity in Pittsburgh."

Pittsburgh, located in Allegheny County in the western part of Pennsylvania, is known as the “Steel City” for its many steel-related businesses.

The manufacturing sector in Pittsburgh has diversified over the years, with cutting-edge companies in life sciences, robotics, health care, information technology, nuclear engineering and energy, joining leading firms in traditional industries such as steel and chemicals.

Qatar Airways Cargo carrier serves seventeen belly and freighter destinations in the Americas, four of which are served exclusively with Boeing 777 freighters: Mexico City, Mexico; Halifax, Canada; Quito, Ecuador and Pittsburgh.


Niki Lauda and partners bid for NIKI, parts of airberlin

Niki Lauda ((Photo: NL Holding)

Niki Lauda, ex-Formula 1 champion and founder of Austria-based airberlin subsidiary NIKI, is partnering with UK-based Thomas Cook Group and its German leisure airline subsidiary Condor to bid for NIKI and other parts of airberlin.

Lauda confirmed the consortium project to ATW as the Sept. 15 deadline nears for potential buyers of the bankrupt German carrier.

Airberlin filed for insolvency Aug. 15 after 29.2% shareholder Etihad Airways withdrew financial support, and is in the process of seeking buyers for its assets.

“We have to wait for the decision after the bidding process is completed. My focus is on NIKI. But this alliance is also important for Condor, which could expand long-haul routes from Germany.”

ATW understands Lauda and the consortium, in which he holds a 51% stake, have bid around €100 million ($119 million). Slots at Dusseldorf Airport, where NIKI bases eight Airbus A321s, are understood to be very important for the consortium.

NIKI was established in 2004 and in 2011 became a 100% airberlin subsidiary; in 2012 it became a oneworld member.

On Dec. 5, 2016, oneworld member airberlin sold 49.8% of NIKI to Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Investment Co. for €300 million ($320 million).

Lauda told ATW that Vienna would be the home base of a “new-restarted” NIKI. “It is logical to also expand operations in Austria,” he said. This alliance would be important for leisure markets in Germany for Condor and in the Austrian market for Thomas Cook.

Lauda said Thomas Cook and Condor have the right concept to fill aircraft. “You need to have strong load factors from the first day on,” he told ATW.

Lauda said the fleet must be a mix of Airbus A320s and A321s, which also includes 17 additional aircraft from airberlin. “But only Airbus types and these [former airberlin] aircraft would be operating from Germany,” he said.

NIKI currently operates a fleet of 21 A321s.

Lauda said Lufthansa, which is also bidding for NIKI and airberlin, has a time benefit “because Lufthansa has been working on the airberlin takeover project since March.”

ATW understands 100 Lufthansa employees are working internally on the airberlin takeover project.

Hundreds of airberlin flights were canceled this week as pilots called in sick as potential buyers line up. The insolvent carrier has said if the situation does not change in the short term, it will be forced to suspend operations.

(Kurt Hofmann - ATWOnline News)

'Death trap': Coach airline seats pose 'life-and-death' risk to passengers, report reveals

A recent investigation from The Daily Beast seems to confirm nearly every airline passenger’s worst fear: Coach seating “could be a death trap.”

The site has reportedly examined “over 900 pages” of documents from the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration, and concluded that newer coach-class seating sections may not provide adequate room for evacuation in the case of an emergency.

Following up on a lawsuit filed by the Flyers Rights non-profit group earlier this year, the Daily Beast has uncovered new information on the U.S. Court of Appeals and its ruling that the “densification” of coach seating on newer airplanes presents “a plausible life-and-death safety concern” for passengers.

According to the Daily Beast, the court concluded that the FAA was relying on outdated studies when arguing that no new evacuation tests were necessary to determine safety standards in more modern, cramped aircraft. For instance, the site reports that neither Boeing nor the FAA has released the evacuation data for the newer “and most densely seated” models of the Boeing 737.

“The tests carried out to ensure that all the passengers can safely exit a cabin in an emergency are dangerously outdated and do not reflect how densely packed coach class seating has become — or how the size of passengers has simultaneously increased,” wrote the Daily Beast.

Flyers Rights claims that the width of a standard coach seat has decreased from an average of 18.5 inches to just 17 since the early 2000s. The space between a one coach seatback and the one in front of it — also called the “pitch” — has also shrunk from an average of 35 inches to 31 inches. And on the shortest end, the pitch in some planes is only 28 inches.

As a result, passengers can no longer adopt a proper bracing position in the event of an emergency, argues Paul Hudson, the president of Flyers Rights, who called coach airline seating “a Titanic waiting to happen.”

Meanwhile, the FAA has since told the Daily Beast that seat pitch “in no way” has an effect on their evacuation and safety tests. However, a judge had already dismissed that argument as making "no sense," the site says.

The court has reportedly given the FAA until Dec. 28 to respond to its ruling.

(FOX News)

EasyJet Beats Ryanair to Long-Haul Deals From Gatwick

EasyJet struck a deal with Norwegian Air Shuttle and Canada’s WestJet allowing its passengers to transfer onto their long-haul flights at London Gatwick airport.

Europe’s second-biggest discount airline is exploring similar accords with Middle Eastern and East Asian carriers, and plans to extend the service to some of its other major bases, according to a statement Wednesday. Customers will also be able to transfer between its own flights at Gatwick.

EasyJet is adding long-haul links before bigger low-cost rival Ryanair Holdings, which has yet to implement deals with Norwegian Air, Air Europa and IAG SA’s Aer Lingus, and offers transfers between its own flights only in Italy. The “Worldwide by EasyJet” service will be available where there is a 2 1/2 hour gap between flights, and planes won’t be held for transfer passengers.

People will be required to collect their own bag off the carousel at Gatwick at a cost of 15 pounds ($20) and hand them in for loading onto the next flight. While the plan, which goes live today, is “constructive,” EasyJet “will need to ensure its Gatwick punctuality becomes more resilient,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Damian Brewer said in an investor note.

Almost 200,000 EasyJet customers already self-connect between its flights at Gatwick -- amounting to about 1 percent of the total -- indicating the appetite for a more formal arrangement, according to the company. It doesn’t have data on people linking up with onward services provided by other airlines.
Milan, Geneva

In the event of a delay Gatwick will put passengers on the next available onward flight, Luton, England-based EasyJet said, adding that the through-tickets bookable via its website will be priced at the same level as fares for individual legs.

Easyjet is confident it can “profitably access a major new pool of customers without undermining its operating model and punctuality,” Chief Commercial Officer Peter Duffy said. The service could be broadened to other major bases with the requisite baggage-transfer capabilities, including Milan Malpensa, Geneva, Amsterdam, Paris Charles De Gaulle and Barcelona, with at least one more airline or airport likely to be added this year, he said.

The airline will also sell standalone tickets on behalf of other airlines on its website for a fee, with Scottish regional airline Loganair set to be the first to utilize that service next month.

Ryanair’s long-haul transfer plans, originally scheduled to be introduced this summer, have yet to be implemented, with the Irish carrier citing the technical challenge of connecting different software systems. The company has also begun third-party ticket sales on its website, initially with Air Europa.

EasyJet shares were trading 1.6 percent higher at 1,213 pence as of 10:23 a.m. in London, taking gains this year to 20 percent. Ryanair was little changed.

(Thomas Seal and Christopher Jasper - Bloomberg Business News)

Ryanair wants to buy Italy's bankrupt airline

Ryanair is officially eying Alitalia.

The low cost airline confirmed Thursday that it is finalizing a binding offer for the bankrupt Italian carrier.

The national carrier has been up for sale since May, when it went into administration. Bids will be accepted until October 2. Michael O'Leary, chief executive of the budget Irish carrier, told Reuters that he plans to buy new planes for Alitalia and keep the brand. He said he hoped to preserve the jobs of current staffers, but on new terms.

Ryanair confirmed his comments to CNNMoney.

Once a symbol of national power and prestige, European flag carriers have struggled for years to compete with budget rivals.

Alitalia was thrown a major lifeline in 2008, when the state and a consortium formed by a number of Italian companies came to its rescue.

Will Italy be the next country to lose its national airline?

It was restructured again in 2014, when Etihad Airways, the flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates, bought a 49% stake.

But Etihad said in May that it was "not prepared to continue to invest."

The cash-strapped Italian government has ruled out nationalizing the airline.

Ryanair shares were 4% lower in afternoon trade. The company lost a labor law case at the European Court of Justice earlier on Thursday.

(Ivana Kottasová - CNN Money)

Your inter-island flight on Hawaii’s Island Air will be more comfortable and quicker with upgraded Q400 planes

Your inter-island flight on Hawaii’s Island Air will be more comfortable and quicker, thanks to a new fleet of planes that promise roomier seats and faster flight times.

The company recently started flying Q400 planes made by Montreal-based Bombardier. Island Air flies 400 flights a week between the islands of Hawaii, Kauai, Maui and Oahu.

The new planes seat 78 passengers — 64 economy, 14 premium — instead of 64 passengers on the airline’s ATR-72 aircraft, which were retired Sept. 4.

(Passengers were treated to special snacks and raffles aboard the final Island Air flight on the old planes between Lihue, Kauai, and Honolulu, Oahu.)

Crew members display the traditionally Hawaiian "shaka" greeting while standing beside one of Island Air's new Q400 planes.
(Island Air)

The Q400s have roomier cabins, larger overhead bins and fly faster (414 mph), making the short hops between islands even shorter. The planes are also more fuel-efficient and feature advanced noise and vibration reduction.

So what will it cost you? For a trip between Honolulu and Kahului, Maui, next month, on randomly selected dates, I found fares starting at $144 round-trip on Island Air and on Hawaiian Airlines, which uses Boeing 717 jets for its inter-island services.

Airfares on another inter-island service, Mokulele Airlines, which flies nine-seater Cessnas, begin at $128.

One advantage to traveling in smaller planes: They fly at lower altitudes, thereby providing passengers with better views of Hawaii’s colorful sights from on high.

(Mary Forgione - Los Angeles Times)

First American 737 Max shows its colours

Boeing has rolled out the first 737-8 Max in the American Airlines livery, ahead of the carrier's first delivery later this month.
(Photo - Boeing and American Airlines)

The 737-8 Max (44459/6515) is the first of four that American plans to take delivery of this year. The type is scheduled to enter service on flights between Miami and New York LaGuardia on 29 November.

American plans to base its first 737-8 Max's in Miami and use them to open new markets and improve efficiency in existing ones, the carrier told employees in August.

The airline will be the second operator of the 737-8Max in the USA after Southwest Airlines, which will debut its first Max on 1 October.

American has firm orders for 100 737-8 Max's, the Flight Fleets Analyzer shows.

The 737 Max family includes several new features, including new engines -- CFM International's Leap-1B --, split-tip winglets, 787-style cockpit displays and a redesigned tail cone.

(Edward Russell - FlightGlobal News)

Cathay swaps batch of A350-1000s to smaller -900


Cathay Pacific is converting six of its Airbus A350-1000s to the smaller -900, and deferring delivery of five other -1000s by a year.

The airline confirmed the shift in its orders for the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-powered twinjets as it formally signed for a batch of A321neos.

Cathay had orders for 46 A350s including 26 of the larger A350-1000.

It had notably been the first carrier to commit to the revamped -1000 following Airbus's decision to redesign the type in 2011.

Cathay's commitment, unveiled in 2012, involved converting 16 of its -900s to the new -1000 and adding an incremental order for 10 more, giving it 26 in total.

But the latest switch will convert six -1000s back to the -900, the second such high-profile conversion in a matter of days, following United Airlines' decision to swap its 35 -1000s for the smaller variant.

Cathay's six extra -900s will be delivered in 2019-20. The carrier will defer deliveries of five of its remaining -1000s from 2020 to 2021.

Airbus points out that Cathay's order "remains unchanged" in terms of the number of A350s the Hong Kong-based airline is taking.

It had taken orders for 212 A350-1000s by the end of August this year, but the United and Cathay changes will reduce this figure to 171.

Qatar Airways remains the largest customer for the -1000, with 37 on order, while the conversions by Cathay and United mean Etihad Airways becomes the second-largest with 22.

(David Kaminski-Morrow - FlightGlobal News)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Here's the story behind that Delta Flight 431 and its race with Irma

For the crew of Delta flight 431, the ride through the outer bands of Hurricane Irma last Wednesday was "uneventful."

It was breathtaking for the rest of the world, who watched the aircraft on radar flying down to Puerto Rico and back to New York just before the Category 5 storm crashed the Caribbean. It was a tactical operation that put the Boeing 737-900ER on a mission to rescue 173 passengers in San Juan, eager to escape the storm.

"We felt confident we could get a flight in and get those customers out, and do it safely," said Janine Mardell, the flight superintendent at Delta's operations center in Atlanta, who coordinated the flight plan. "It's what we do."

But it wasn't an ordinary day nor flight. It was the last passenger jet to leave San Juan before Irma hit and the crew's bold effort getting in and out of Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport — captured on radar — made it an Internet sensation. Its crew became heroes in the Twitterverse after successfully journeying through the storm with such calm. Three other flights, out of South Florida, had tried to get to San Juan that morning, and all turned back, unsuccessful.
"It was a little surprising to see this Delta flight continuing on," aviation blogger Jason Rabinowitz said in an interview. He tracked the flight throughout the entire trip, cheering it on. "An absolutely amazing job . . .," he tweeted as the full flight took off for New York's JFK airport.

The quick-turn mission was carefully orchestrated, Delta said in a detailed account of the flight, that provides insight from Mardell and crew members.

In Atlanta, Mardell and Delta's meteorology team cooked up a plan, carefully looking at Irma's threat. ​In San Juan, a team of airline employees prepped the 173 passengers for early departure, and got government officials, TSA and the airport authority on board with the plan.

"With Irma's outer band already hitting Puerto Rico, prompting other flights to divert, Delta meteorologists were confident the band would pass, creating a window during which winds and rain would subside significantly and allow for the flight's safe arrival," Delta said.

Before leaving New York, pilot Capt. Ben Vorhees and his crew huddled to go over the plan and forecast with Mardell. If conditions changed, there was a backup plan to land in Miami.

"It wasn't even that bumpy till we got close," Vorhees said. "We knew timing would be critical, but otherwise Janine and meteorology made it easy."

Flight 431 arrived at the gate a minute after noon to nine miles of visibility and light rain, the airline said. It had encountered light to moderate turbulence as it approached landing. Winds were well below safe operating limits at around 28 mph, and gusts up to 36 mph.

Irma was 90 miles away, which meant the window to get back in the air was short and boarding had to be smooth and quick. Boarding began just a few minutes later and at 12:41 p.m. the aircraft took off as DL302, with 173 passengers on board, flying in between Irma's bands.

Eight minutes later, the airport closed.

"It was just about planning and perfect timing to be able to get in and back out while the others had to turn around," Rabinowitz said. "Delta took this calculated risk. Had they gotten there and the weather had been poor, they would have had to return like everyone else."

And that would have been bad news for those passengers. Heavy rain and historic winds lashed Puerto Rico's northeast coast that afternoon as Irma roared through the Caribbean with gusts of up to 111 miles per hour.

There are few instances when passenger jets fly into areas under hurricane warnings. Airlines generally avoid such areas because the risks are too high, experts say. Had the Delta aircraft had a technical fault on the ground or a delay in refueling, chances are it would not have been able to take off.

"We knew that timing was crucial, and we worked in full coordination above and below wing as well as with our vendors to get the flight refueled, serviced, boarded and dispatched in 40 minutes," said Michael Luciano, Delta's station manager in San Juan.

But the crew said they were prepared for rough weather. ​

"We were prepared for heavy windshear, crosswinds, strong tailwinds, but it was no worse than a summer thunderstorm in Atlanta," said Joyce, the pilot, who is based in New York.

The best part, Vikki Panan, one of the flight attendants, said in the Delta account, was getting the passengers out to safety.

"I am so proud of what we did," she said. "Those customers who flew out [of San Juan] were so grateful that we got them out. They clapped and cheered when we landed back safely in JFK."

(Luz Lazo - The Washington Post)

Boeing to Raise Production of Its Dreamliner by 17%

Boeing Co. will raise production of its 787 Dreamliner in 2019 and bolster a key accounting measure that will improve the plane’s long-term profit margins, Chief Executive Officer Dennis Muilenburg said.

Both moves signal Boeing’s confidence that the carbon-composite jetliner will continue to generate strong sales despite a tough market for long-haul aircraft. The aerospace company is starting to fill in its 787 order book as far ahead as 2022, and that’s before a wave of wide-body jet replacements that should spur sales next decade, Muilenburg said at a Morgan Stanley conference Wednesday.

“That’s an important step for us and another signpost of the strength of the marketplace,” Muilenburg said of the plan to boost Dreamliner production to 14 planes a month from the current pace of 12.

The existing tempo is already the fastest on record for a twin-aisle jet, and some analysts have expressed concerns that a quicker production tempo would burn off the 787’s backlog, to be followed by a rate cut that would hurt suppliers. But swifter output will help Boeing generate more cash from its most-advanced plane as the company slows output of the 777 before transitioning to a new model.

“It’s just another positive for the Boeing story,” said George Ferguson, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.
Shares Rise

The planemaker is riding atop the Dow Jones Industrial Average this year as it largely avoids new-aircraft development stumbles that have plagued Airbus. Boeing is also making good on a pledge to boost shareholder returns now that the 787 program is finally generating cash after a decade of losses. After Muilenburg’s pronouncement, the shares reversed an earlier decline and advanced 0.5 percent to $241.74 at 3:01 p.m. in New York.

While sales of most wide-body jets slumped last year because of cheap oil and an influx of inexpensive second-hand models, there’s still healthy demand for the 787, the first commercial jet made mostly from spun carbon fibers instead of aluminum. The Dreamliner has netted 78 aircraft orders this year, and that doesn’t include tentative deals such as the agreement for eight of the wide-body planes announced Tuesday by Malaysia Airlines.

The Chicago-based manufacturer is also increasing the accounting block for the 787 that it uses to calculate expected sales and profitability of the aircraft under program-accounting rules, Muilenburg said. The company is adding 100 units for a total of 1,400 sales for the Dreamliner. Doing so will give Boeing a greater number of aircraft sales over which to spread the nearly $30 billion in production costs amassed on the Dreamliner.

The production-rate increase and accounting change will help Muilenburg move Boeing’s commercial-airplane division closer to a goal of “mid-teen” margins by the end of the decade, Ferguson said. The 787 “is probably their worst performing program right now from a margin standpoint,” he said. “Getting that higher is a great thing for the company.”

(Julie Johnsson - Bloomberg News)