Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Norwegian Air flight carrying 85 plumbers forced to turn around due to broken toilet

A Norwegian Air flight had to turn around shortly after takeoff due to an issue with the toilets — despite there being 85 plumbers on board.

The Saturday flight from Oslo to Munich was already running behind schedule after departing 34 minutes late, but didn’t make it past the Swedish border after experiencing a problem with the lavatory, Norwegian newspaper Dagablat reports.


"It is true that DY1156, who was to fly from Oslo to Munich, had to turn to Oslo again when they found a mistake on the toilets on board. The plane had to circulate over Hedmark to get rid of fuel so it was not too heavy to land,” communications advisor Fatima Elkadi told Dagbladet.

On the 186-seat plane, 60-70 of the passengers were plumbers from the same company with more from the industry on board, as well. They were reportedly "on their way out for a trip to Munich with their plumbing company," according to The Nordic Page.

"We would have liked to fix the restrooms, but unfortunately it had to be done from the outside and we did not take the opportunity to send a plumber [out] at 10,000 meters,” the CEO of the plumbing company, Frank Olsen, told the paper.

A spokesperson for the airline told Travel and Leisure that the aircraft was repaired and continued on a flight later the same day.

“We would like to thank passengers for their patience and would like to apologize for the inconvenience,” the spokesperson said.

(Michelle Gant - Fox News)

United to add three used 767-300ERs to fleet

United Airlines, broadening its used-aircraft acquisition strategy to widebodies, will add three Boeing 767-300ERs to its fleet in 2018, continuing a trend that has seen it tap the second-hand market to boost its fleet significantly in the past two years.

The 767-300ERs are said to be coming from Hawaiian Airlines via Boeing Capital and will join United's fleet in the second half of 2018. Hawaiian plans to retire its 767 fleet this year. While the 767s are the only used aircraft included in United's latest fleet plan, which envisions adding 24 mainline aircraft in 2018, executives are leaving the door open for more deals.

“I love used airplanes, as many of you know,” United CFO Andrew Levy told analysts on a recent earnings call. “There will be many more used aircraft to talk about as time goes on and as we take advantage of the spot market.”

United in 2015 broke a long drought of not adding used aircraft with several moves. It brought in four 737-700s—two via purchase and two on leases, Aviation Week’s fleet database shows. In May of that year, it signed a deal to lease up to 25 used Airbus A319s from AerCap, with deliveries slated for 2016-2021. Aviation Week’s data shows that 14 have been added to United’s fleet, including six last quarter.

Besides adding capacity via used aircraft, United has been improving its balance sheet by snapping up aircraft it leases when the time is right. Last year, it bought 46 aircraft off of lease, Levy said, and has 60 more leased aircraft expiring in 2018.

“We probably won’t buy all 60,” Levy said. “It’ll depend on the economics of each transaction, but that’s a very efficient way to add to the fleet or to keep their fleet instead of buying new airplanes.”

United plans to grow its mainline fleet from 744 aircraft on Dec. 31, 2017 to 768 by the end of 2018. Additions include four 777s, seven 787s, 10 737 MAX 9s and the three used 767s.

Its regional fleet plan calls for adding a net of 31 aircraft, boosting the fleet to 549 from 518 by yearend. The additions comprise 40 Bombardier CRJ-200s, one Embraer ERJ-145 and one E175. United plans to remove its last seven Bombardier Dash 8-200s, three ERJ-135s and one CRJ-700.

The regional capacity boost is part of United’s plan to fortify its domestic hub-and-spoke network by adding more spokes and more frequency on existing routes from smaller markets to its hubs. The carrier plans to increase system capacity by 4%-6% year-over-year each of the next three years. 

(Sean Broderick - ATWOnline News / Aviation Weekly)

Monday, January 29, 2018

10,000 flights and 30 million gallons of fuel later, Fort Worth pilot ends 33-year career with a final trip home

American Airlines 787-9 (40641/503) N823AN departs Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) (January 28, 2018) as "AA2459" bound for Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW/KDFW) with Captain Jeff Rowland in command performing his final flight following a 33 year carrier with American Airlines.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

A pilot from Fort Worth ended his 33-year career with American Airlines when he touched down at DFW International Airport on Sunday.

After 10,000 flights and 30 million gallons of jet fuel, Capt. Jeff Rowland had prepared a typed note to thank his last round of passengers.In the note, which Los Angeles Times reporter Sam Farmer shared on Twitter, Rowland reflected on a long career in the pilot's seat. He said he'd certainly miss flying the $200 million Boeing 787 plane, but he'd miss his passengers most.

"Transporting you to destinations all over the world, while you graciously endured my lame PA's, critiqued every single landing and thanked me for safe flying, provided purpose for this lifelong endeavor," he wrote.

He poked fun at common airline complaints, but Rowland said he can think of only one mistake American Airlines made during his decades with the company.

"They paid me, and I would have done this for nothing!" he wrote.

Rowland, who was born in Fort Worth and now lives in Dallas, had spent much of the last decade piloting long international flights. Before he started his career with American Airlines, he’d worked as a flight mechanic and a Fort Worth police officer.

He relished flying because the job let him solve problems. Sometimes those problems were invisible — like when an engine would quit and he’d handle it so calmly that none of his passengers would even know, he said.

Or there was the time his plane was stuck on a ramp in Abilene with a plane full of antsy passengers. They wanted to get off and drive to their destination, he said.So he improvised.

“One of my gifts was being able to sweet-talk people,” Rowland said. “I remember going down to operations, calling Domino's and ordering 10 pizzas for the passengers. It's just what I think a normal person does.”

Rowland’s calm, methodical nature coupled with his thoughtfulness made him “the picture of what you would want in an airplane captain,” his colleague Ken Goins said.

“If you're thinking about who you'd want to be in charge of the plane if they had a problem, that's Jeff,” said Goins, who used to fly with Rowland on 15-hour flights to China. “He never gets rattled.”

Rowland said it was hard to walk away from flying, but he'll keep busy in retirement: he and a pilot friend are building a plane. With Rowland's background as a flight mechanic, they'll finish putting together the plane after parts of it are assembled overseas.

For his final flight, his family and close friends piled into first class, and the plane was decorated with balloons and streamers. He couldn’t hear it from the pilot’s seat, he said, but his wife let him know that the passengers broke out in applause when he landed.

When he was 16, Rowland flew over that same airport as bulldozers cut it out of the dirt, he said.

“As a 16-year-old kid flying around in an airplane by myself, I was like, 'Holy moly. That is a big thing,'” Rowland said. “And here I did thousands of flights in and out of there after all this time. It's really an amazing thing.”

(Dana Branham - The Dallas Morning News)

Tiny Colorado Springs Air Force Squadron in Massive Fight for Survival

A C-21 jet from the 200th Airlift Squadron, Colorado Air National Guard, flies over Pikes Peak.
(U.S. Air Force)

Colorado's tiniest Air Force squadron is in the middle of a massive fight, with Pentagon brass and a local congressman battling over whether it will be shut down.

With just two planes and 17 pilots, the pint-sized 200th Airlift Squadron at Peterson Air Force Base has flown under the radar for years.

But, in a $10 million cost-cutting move that blindsided lawmakers, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson wants it gone by June.

"It's not supposed to work that way," said Colorado Springs Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn as he visited the unit last week.

At the center of the fight are the squadron's aircraft -- two Lear jets suitable for whisking executives around the planet at speed and in comfort. They are some of the last Lears left out of a fleet that was supposed to be retired six years ago.

And as handy rides for local generals, they are something that makes brass outside Colorado Springs Marine green with jealousy.

The squadron, staffed by Colorado National Guard airmen, is struggling ahead of the shutdown.

The unit's commander, Lt. Col. Derek Tate, said his troops are scrambling to find jobs and care for their families.

"A lot of them changed their lives to move here to join this squadron," he said.

Lamborn said the Air Force, which normally briefs Congress on its plans, was secretive about the 200th's closure. He objected to that and sought to deter the shutdown.

The Air Force isn't budging.

In a letter to Lamborn, the Air Force's Wilson said the service will help the squadron's troops with transitions. Among the possibilities, she said, is for airmen to move to the Guard's 140th Fighter Wing in Aurora, where they could fly F-16 Fighting Falcons.

The problem is the Lear is to the F-16 as a limousine is to Formula 1 racing.

Purchased in the 1980s at the height of the Cold War, the Lears allowed top military leaders to travel through their areas of command. Twin-engined with a 40-foot wingspan, the planes can land in remote airfields and can be readied for missions in minutes, making them one of the most nimble airlift assets in the military.

Tate said they're also cheap to fly -- just $1,500 per hour compared to the $23,000 an hour it takes to keep a four-engined C-17 Globemaster transport aloft.

Even as Lears were pulled from Europe and the Pacific, the military left the 200th at Peterson to meet the high demand for "DV" aircraft here. DVs are "distinguished visitors" in military speak -- four-star generals, undersecretaries and Cabinet members, and top White House officials.

With five military bases here, Colorado Springs draws DVs like it attracts miller moths in the spring. The only military base that garners more of them is Andrews Air Force Base, the Pentagon's private airport.

As the only unit west of the Mississippi designed to fly DVs, the 200th stays busy. And it's not just hauling the high-ranking and the powerful. The unit's Lears are also used to fly classified cargo around the region -- including nuclear missile parts.

The Lear is also a great target -- U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs has frequently used them to simulate hijacked jetliners as fighter crews train to stop another 9/11-style attack.

"We are uniquely suited with our geographic location," Tate said.

All of that isn't enough of save the 200th. In memos, the Pentagon says it has other planes that can be radar targets, fly the brass and haul sensitive cargo.

Lamborn hopes one factor could save the squadron: pilots.

For the past year, the Air Force has bemoaned its lack of pilots to Congress. It got authority to give big bonuses to keep flight crews in uniform and is even offering to bring retirees back on active duty to cover the shortfall, estimated at more than 1,500 pilots in the coming years.

Lamborn said shuttering the Colorado Springs squadron will put its 17 pilots out of uniform.

"It's penny-wise and pound foolish," he said.

In addition to efforts to save the unit outright, other options, including turning the squadron into an outfit that trains Air Force Academy cadets, are being explored.

So far, the Air Force has shown no interest in saving the 200th.

Maj. Josh Villalobos said his family is fretting the change, which will put him out of a job.

"We just had twin boys," he said.

Lt. Col. Derek Rhinesmith said while the unit still has four months left, the looming shutdown is taking a toll.

"We have already lost some of our pilots to the airlines," he said.

Lamborn still hopes to reason with the Pentagon and save the squadron.

"They are making a mistake," he said.

In an email to the Gazette, Colorado National Guard boss Maj. Gen. Michael Loh questioned whether the Air Force would save any money by shutting the unit down. Pulling the planes out of Colorado Springs means other planes will have to fill in.

"The 200th is the most efficient and effective operational support airlift squadron in the Air Force, delivering great results proven by the fact that the 200th has won the Joint Operational Support Airlift Center small unit award seven years in a row," he wrote.

Loh has talked with Air Force brass about options for saving the squadron.

"So far we haven't heard if any of those would be acceptable to the Air Force and we await a response," he wrote.

(Tom Roeder - The Gazette - (Colorado Springs) / Military.com)

Thursday, January 25, 2018

CFM says LEAP engine output 4-5 weeks behind schedule

CFM International said on Thursday it is 4-5 weeks behind schedule in producing its new LEAP jet engine for Airbus and Boeing jets, but remains confident about ramping up output this year.

Company executives said it was also handling queries from planemakers about potential future increases in demand.

The engine maker, co-owned by General Electric and France's Safran, aims to produce 1,100-1,200 of the fuel-saving engines in 2018 after delivering 459 last year, executives said on a media conference call on Thursday.

CFM, which supplies all engines for the Boeing 737 and competes with Pratt & Whitney to power the Airbus A320neo, is in the midst of a product changeover while handling higher than expected demand for the older CFM56.

Executive vice-president Francois Bastin said LEAP production is 4-5 weeks behind schedule but added there is no slowdown in the rate at which reduction is planned to increase.

The Cincinnati-based venture is working to catch up on production, and is meanwhile having to address teething issues with the version of the LEAP-1A engine developed for Airbus.

CFM is about half way through overhauling some 70 LEAP-1A engines after quality problems with a turbine disc, announced by Safran last July, executive vice-president Allen Paxson said.

The problem is different from one that disrupted flight tests of the Boeing 737 MAX last year, but the part of the engine involved includes some of the same suppliers, he added.

A further problem with the coating used on a part inside the Airbus version has triggered efforts to allow the engines to stay on the wing for longer before they need to be maintained.

Deliveries of the competing Airbus A320neo family have been delayed mainly by technical problems with the Geared Turbofan engine from Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies , but also by industrial issues at CFM, Airbus says.

CFM had earlier targeted 1,200 deliveries this year, but executives said it was not toning down its assessment of production capabilities or the state of its huge supply chain.

As LEAP engine production cranks up and airlines respond to an unexpectedly strong rise in traffic numbers, CFM has been responding to higher demand for current-generation engines.

Planemakers have meanwhile begun sounding out CFM about pushing single-aisle aircraft production plans higher, beyond their targeted levels of up to 60 aircraft a month each for Airbus and Boeing by 2019.

"We are answering requests of the airframers for information about our ability to support possible higher rates. These are nothing but the standard discussions we have with manufacturers," Bastin said.

Industry sources say Airbus is evaluating the case for raising A320 production as high as 70 jets a month.

The industry is already accelerating at a record pace on the back of demand led by emerging markets, but engine makers have been particularly wary about overtaxing their suppliers.

Air Lease Chairman Steven Udvar-Hazy told the Airline Economics conference in Dublin this week that current production plans were "realistic," barring a setback in demand.

CFM said it had received orders for 3,444 engines worth $46 billion at list prices in 2017, including 2,870 LEAP engines.

It has so far won orders or commitments for 14,270 LEAP.

CFM reiterated that it was ready to work on a potential new mid-market airplane studied by Boeing. There has been speculation that such a plane could be offered commercially to airlines this year, but much depends on what engine makers can offer and when.

"We are supporting (the) Boeing timeline and project and at this stage it is hard to say anything certain about what solutions we will be providing," Bastin said.

(Tim Hepher - Reuters)

United States Air Force (USAF) McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) C-17A (P-142) 05-5142

Destined for March AFB and the the 452nd AMW when delivered, this gorgeous lady rotates from Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) in early January 2006 as it departs on a pre-delivery test flight.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Wizz Air CFO: Booming market keeps struggling carriers alive

Wizz Air’s Central and Eastern European backyard will continue to provide strong growth for the LCC, but market strength is providing a lifeline for some airlines that should no longer still be in business, CFO Iain Wetherall said Jan. 24.

Some nations in the region, such as Hungary and Macedonia, no longer have national airlines.

Budapest-based Wizz is in the middle of a major growth spurt, with its fleet anticipated to grow from the current 80-plus to “pushing 300” by 2026, Wetherall said. It has 246 Airbus A320neo family aircraft on order.

Speaking at the 20th Annual Global Airfinance Conference in Dublin, Ireland, Wetherall said the Central and Eastern Europe region is regarded by some industry players as a niche market. However, the market contains 250-300 million people and is growing at a rate of more than 10% annually.

The only problem is that it means “there’s still some hiding places” for airlines that would otherwise have disappeared.

Wetherall said costs are “absolutely paramount” in 99% of short-haul European journeys: “There’s 1% [of passengers] looking for bigger beds, or nicer wine or higher service standards.”

Wizz’s biggest challenge is managing growth: “When you’re increasing passenger numbers 25% year-on-year ... there’s quite significant pressure on the operating side of the business.”

The airline is able to compete with major LCCs such as Ryanair, and legacy carriers such as Lufthansa and Swiss, because its cost base is one of the lowest in Europe and aims to become the lowest in a few years.

The LCC's investment in newer, larger aircraft is one of the factors driving savings, he said. A new Airbus 321neo is about 20% more cost-efficient than an A320ceo.

In the future, further cost savings will emerge as a result of Wizz’s rapid growth, which will allow the carrier to strike better deals when procuring leased aircraft. This has not been the case in the past: “As a young airline, you’re rather at the mercy of the lessor community,” he said.

(Alan Dron - ATWOnline News)

New easyJet CEO’s strategy includes management revamp, data push

Johan Lundgren, the new CEO of UK LCC easyJet, has axed the role of CCO and is prioritizing data after two months leading the airline.

Giving his first public briefing since becoming CEO on Dec. 1, former TUI Group deputy CEO Lundgren said he had been “exceptionally impressed” by the fundamentals of easyJet’s “clearly winning” strategy.

These fundamentals include building a strong network, based on number one and two positions in key European cities, as well as a “relentless” focus on cost control and efficiency. People, both passengers and staff, are also at the core of easyJet’s strategy and Lundgren said the LCC has engaged with customers in a way that no other airline has.

“My goal is to take easyJet from strength to strength,” he said, cementing the airline’s role as a “structural winner” in the European short-haul market. EasyJet’s robust network will help drive revenues, while stringent cost control will continue to be key to the airline’s competitive advantage.

“There is a great framework and great strategic platform to build upon, but every company has to evolve,” he said.

One of Lundgren’s initial moves was to make the position of CCO—which was held by Peter Duffy—redundant, redistributing those responsibilities to other functions. Some of those duties will be taken on by the new role of chief data officer, which will report directly to the CEO. Hiring for that position will begin immediately. Lundgren will work closely with the other functions previously overseen by the CCO to decide whether they need to be reallocated.

“I decided I wanted to take revenue, finance and yield and put them under the same responsibility as scheduling of aircraft, because it creates a more holistic view of revenue intake and broadens schedule quality. As part of those changes, the current position of CCO wasn’t there anymore, so it became redundant. As a result of that, Peter Duffy has left the business. I don’t expect any other board changes.”

The chief data officer will be charged with looking at “half-a-million data points” held by the airline, deciding what to collect and how to use that information to drive further efficiencies.

Lundgren described easyJet’s data pool as a “tremendous asset” that can be tapped to boost efficiency and quality, increase revenues, improve decision making, create new ways of engaging with passengers and drive innovation. This will be a “success factor” for easyJet, he said.

While easyJet already has a “very strong position on European short haul,” Lundgren sees further opportunities. He stressed the strategic significant of easyJet acquiring parts of airberlin, but described the market as “still quite fragmented,” with easyJet only holding 10% market share, despite its strength and size. “I still believe there is quite a long way to go organically,” he said.

Lundgren left TUI in May 2015. He described easyJet as a contemporary company that has transformed the way that people travel. “I have always loved the company as a customer and, as a competitor, I was impressed by it,” he said.

(Victoria Moores - ATWOnline News)

Etihad chooses Boeing 777 over Airbus for cargo operations

Etihad grounded five Airbus 330 freighters and opted for all-Boeing freighter fleet. Reportedly, the grounded aircraft are to be replaced by Boeing 777Fs as part of the restructuring effort the Gulf carrier is currently undergoing.

Etihad currently operates five Boeing 777 freighters. The grounded Airbus aircraft reportedly are going to be sold or leased, according to Reuters. The publication also quoted a source who said that pilots were asked to take an unpaid leave - the carrier declined to comment on that.

At the beginning of January 2018, Etihad also announced six new appointments to key roles at Etihad Airport Services Ground division, which manages Group’s investment in catering, ground handling, and cargo logistics operations businesses.

In July 2017 Etihad sent a shockwave when it reported an impressive loss of $1.87 billion for 2016, compared to a profit of $103 million in 2015. It was the first time the airline reported a loss since it became profitable in 2011. Consequently, a “comprehensive strategic review” was announced with the purpose to turn things around.

A couple months prior, in May 2017, Etihad announced the leave of the company’s long-term chief executive James Hogan, who was famous for his bold strategy of attracting traffic to Etihad’s Abu Dhabi hub by buying minority stakes in often troubled foreign airlines two of which – Alitalia and Air Berlin – filed for administration in 2017. Hogan’s strategy was rumored to be the reason for his leave and partially blamed for the carrier’s financial losses, as it saw an $808 million charge on certain assets and financial exposures to equity partners in 2017.

(AeroTime News)

The Boeing Company Looks Set for Another Great Year

The Boeing Company stock had an outstanding 2017 as the company benefited from ongoing strength in the industry and internal execution on its aircraft platforms. In order to assess whether the company will have a similarly successful year in 2018, it's useful to look at what went right last year and the trends going into this year. In this vein, here are the five key things to look out for this year.

End market growth

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is the most widely followed aviation industry body, and its forecast is for more growth to come. Two of the key numbers to focus on are airline profitability and passenger load factors. Airline profitability tends to correlate with aircraft orders, and the higher a load factor is (ratio of passenger kilometers traveled to available seat kilometers), the more pressure airlines will feel to expand capacity.

As you can see below, the IATA expects airline profitability and load factor to carry on their strong uptrends in 2018 -- good news for Boeing and chief competitor Airbus.

Record deliveries and strong orders

Boeing's 763 deliveries in 2017 represent an industry record, orders of 912 were significantly in excess of deliveries in 2017. Ultimately, Boeing's backlog now stands at 5,864 representing, 7.7 years of deliveries at the record rate achieved in 2017.

Bridging the gap to the 777X

It's not just overall orders that count -- the type of order and how it fits into Boeing's production plans are also very important. Toward the end of 2016, Boeing announced a production rate cut on the 777 to a rate of just 5 per month starting in August 2017 from a rate of 8.3 a month previously.

The rate cut was partly a response to weak orders -- there were just 17 orders for the 777 in 2016. It's a concern because Boeing needs to bridge the gap in starting production on the 777X -- the new version of the 777 with a planned first delivery date in 2020.

The good news is that Boeing received 40 orders on the 777 and 20 on the 777X in 2017, and based on management's planned delivery rate of 3.5 per month in 2018 and 2019, Boeing is "in an oversold position in 2018, and approximately 90% sold out in 2019." Meanwhile, the 20 orders on the 777X bring the backlog to 326. All told, Boeing 777 & 777X orders in 2017 will help keep production going on the 777 and make sure a healthy backlog is in place for the 777X when it enters production.

Deferred production cost on the Boeing 787

Another area of concern for investors is the issue of the deferred production cost on the 787 program. In a nutshell, Boeing uses the program accounting method -- revenue and cost are spread out over the lifetime of the program. Theoretically, as the unit cost of each additional aircraft falls as more are produced, and revenue goes up, the deferred production cost should fall.

As you can see below, the deferred production cost is indeed falling as production increases. Moreover, Boeing received 94 net orders on the 787, the best year since 2013, and management plans to increase the production rate on the 787 to 14 a month from 12 a month currently.

Boeing 737 program

As of October, the company had 4,431 Boeing 737 aircraft in backlog, representing 7.9 years of production at the current rate. However, orders on the 737 have been so successful that management plans to ramp up production to 52 a month in 2018, and then 57 a month in 2019. The demand is there, now all Boeing has to do it execute on the production ramp and reduce the unit cost of production going forward.

Boeing in 2018

All told, strong order growth has caused ramps in production on the 737 and 787, and this should help bring forward margin expansion as more aircraft are produced. It's a demonstration of Boeing's ability to benefit from margin expansion as demand increases. More of the same in 2018 -- and the IATA forecast suggests a strong aviation market -- and Boeing could have another great year operationally.

(Lee Samaha - The Motley Fool)

Southwest will join airlines flying from Everett’s Paine Field

Southwest Airlines will be the third passenger airline to fly out of Paine Field in Everett, boosting the planned number of total daily departures to 24 flights.

That’s 50 percent higher than airport officials cited last year when introducing the future passenger terminal.

Though that may rile some local residents already concerned about increased airplane noise, Snohomish County officials contend the airport activity will still be within the parameters outlined in its environmental-impact assessment.

The Dallas-based carrier said it will operate five flights daily after the new terminal opens in September. It will fly Boeing 737s, larger than the Embraer E175 regional jets that Alaska Airlines and United plan to operate initially.

“We’ve wanted to grow in the Seattle metro market for quite some time. But Sea-Tac airport is constrained,” said Southwest Chairman and Chief Executive Gary Kelly in an interview. “Paine Field will be a wonderful alternative for our customers.”

Southwest said it will provide details on destinations and schedules in the spring.

The airline’s move brings the new commercial air terminal to full capacity, with a total of 48 daily takeoffs and landings.

Earlier this month, Alaska announced the eight Western destinations for its 13 daily departures from Paine Field. United plans six daily departures, to Denver and San Francisco.

More flights than anticipated

Brett Smith, chief executive of New York-based private equity firm Propeller Airports, the developer of the passenger terminal, said in May that he anticipated a maximum of 16 departures per day from the airport, based on typical turnaround times for aircraft docking at the new airport’s two gates.

Snohomish County’s environmental assessment assumed the same number of daily departures, for 32 takeoffs and landings.

Deputy airport director Bill Dolan said in September that if the airlines worked out a way to have faster turnaround of airplanes at the two gates, this would not trigger an additional review unless it was deemed to add a “substantial” new negative impact.

United and Alaska operating the smaller 76-seat Embraer jets will allow for faster turnaround times than if they used bigger jets.

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers said his staff members have told him “we’re good with the existing analysis.”

Smith said in an interview Wednesday that even with the higher number of flights, the smaller jets mean the flights will carry fewer than the 3,600 passengers per day (1,800 arriving and 1,800 departing) assumed in the environmental assessment.

His calculation assumes flights will not be completely full.

If all seats were filled on the planned departing and incoming flights, that would mean more than 4,300 passengers coming and going per day. With typical average passenger loads of around 85 percent full, that total is just over 3,600 passengers.

Increased air traffic

Still, the airlines are gung-ho about future expansion possibilities.

Southwest’s Kelly said he initially expects to fly his smallest aircraft, the 737-700 or the 737 MAX 7, on the route. “If demand is greater than what we’re thinking, then we can up-gauge to the MAX 8 or the 737-800,” he added. The 737-800 carries about 30 more passengers than the 737-700.

He said he’d like to see the airport grow beyond two gates in future, so “we could add service over time.”

Smith, who has faced resistance to the commercial-air terminal from residents around the airfield concerned about increased noise, was quick to dampen this talk of expansion.

Smith said requests by any of the airlines to increase the size of aircraft flying a specific route will “not be automatic.”

The airport would have to look at the impact of increased passenger traffic, he said.

As for adding more gates, “We have no plans,” he said.

Even the current plan, with commercial air travel adding 48 takeoffs and landings per day, will substantially increase large aircraft traffic out of the airport.

Operational data supplied by the airport show large aircraft flown by Boeing, aircraft-maintenance firm ATS and the military together last year accounted for a daily average of just 12 landings or takeoffs per day out of Paine Field.

It’s small private aircraft that do most of the flying at the airfield.

Airport officials said small planes averaged 285 operations per day in 2016, counting not only landings and takeoffs but repeated touch-and-go pilot-training maneuvers, each equivalent to a landing and a takeoff.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gave preliminary approval for commercial flights out of Paine Field in 2012. Now that the final details on proposed air traffic are nailed down, the FAA must review the specifics, including the impact on ground traffic and on airport noise.

Airport director Arif Ghouse said the FAA “will look at the full impact” before issuing operating certificates to the airlines and to the airport.

That approval is expected in time for the terminal to open this fall.

(Dominic Gates - The Seattle Times)

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Boeing completing 787-10 flight tests with GE engines

Boeing has still to complete flight tests on the newly certified 787-10 Dreamliner with General Electric engines, but has finished tests with Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC engines, a Boeing executive said on Tuesday.

The U.S. jet manufacturer on Monday said the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration had certified the biggest model of the fuel-efficient Dreamliner for commercial use.

The first delivery, to Singapore Airlines Ltd with Rolls-Royce engines, is due in the first half of the year and will be used on mid-length routes in the Asia Pacific region. United Airlines is expected to accept the first 787-10 with GE engines in the second half of the year.

"We are complete with all flight testing required for the first deliveries to Singapore and the Rolls-Royce family," Boeing 787 program chief project engineer Bob Whittington told reporters on a conference call, speaking from Seattle.

"There is a little bit more testing to be done for the GE-powered airplanes a little bit later on."

The 787-10 has 95 percent of its parts in common with the mid-sized Dreamliner, the 787-9. The main differences are in the environmental control system, which is larger due to the longer length of the airplane and higher number of passengers, and in the landing gear, Whittington said.

The smaller 787-8 model, the first Dreamliner, has roughly 80 percent commonality with the 787-10 and has been a slower seller as Boeing considers whether to launch a "New Mid-Sized Airplane" with 220-260 seats targeting the market between the 737 MAX 10 and the 787-8.

The 787-10 seats around 330 passengers and has a shorter range, at 6,430 nautical miles (11,910 kms), than the other Dreamliners, but Whittington did not rule out extending the range over time.

"We will continue to look and see if the market needs a couple of thousand more pounds take-off weight and we will continue those studies," he said.

The 787-10 has received 171 firm orders from nine customers, the largest of which is Singapore Airlines. It is similar in size to the rival Airbus SE A350-900 model, which seats around 325 passengers but has a longer range.

Qatar Airways is expected to accept the first delivery of Airbus's larger A350-1000 next month.

(Jamie Freed - Reuters / Yahoo Business News)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Korean Air to phase out older Boeing 737s, 747s and 777s

Korean Air plans to phase out more of its older passenger and cargo aircraft this year as it upgrades its fleet with several wide-body and narrow-body deliveries.

The South Korea flag carrier is scheduled to receive four Boeing 787-9s in 2018, giving it nine, and four Boeing 777-300ERs, boosting its total to 24. Korean Air expects to receive its remaining eight Bombardier CS300s on order by year-end, joining the two delivered in December.

These additions will be partly offset by retirements. The carrier said it intends to phase out four Boeing 737-800s and one or two of its 14 remaining 777-200ERs this year. Most of these aircraft are expected to go to Korean Air’s LCC subsidiary Jin Air, which operates both 737s and 777s.

The Seoul-based airline is continuing to retire its older Boeing 747s. The carrier still has four passenger 747-400s and it intends to phase out one or two of them this year, Korean Air EVP Keehong Woo said.

On the cargo side, Korean Air plans to retire its last five 747-400Fs in 2018. It still will have four of the younger 747-400ERFs as well as seven 747-8Fs and 12 777Fs. The airline is not adding any freighters this year, and has no more on order.

Korean Air operates 10 Airbus A380s and 10 747-8s in its passenger fleet. Woo said the airline is happy with those sub-fleets and does not need to add very large aircraft.

The airline is considering alternatives for ordering more mid-size wide-body aircraft, according to Woo. These will be needed to replace older 777-200ERs and Airbus A330-200s and -300s. An order decision is likely in the next year or two.

Korean Air’s first scheduled CS300 flight is scheduled for Jan. 20. The Bombardier twinjets will start out in the airline's domestic network, but eventually will operate international routes, Woo said. The first international services for the CS300s could be on existing secondary routes to Japan, as those flights are relatively short. Korean does not plan to open new Japanese routes, Woo added.

(Adrian Schofield - Aviation Daily / ATWOnline News)

Tianjin Airlines to connect Los Angeles with two cities in China

Tianjin Airlines plans to connect Los Angeles with two Chinese secondary cities beginning in December.

With this move, the HNA Group carrier will have three long-haul routes at Zhengzhou, a city of 9.7 million people 660 km (410 mi.) southwest of Beijing.

Sichuan Airlines proposed in March 2017 to open the route between Zhengzhou and Los Angeles in October, but failed to follow through.

The other city that Tianjin Airlines proposes to link with Los Angeles is Xian, which has 9.5 million people and is 470 km west of Zhengzhou.

For each of the two Chinese cities, Tianjin Airlines has applied to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to fly to Los Angeles 3X-weekly with Airbus A330s or A350s. The A330-200 in its current build standard has a still-air range with full payload of 13,450 km. Zhengzhou and Xian are 10,700km and 11,000km from Los Angeles, respectively.

Although Tianjin Airlines nominated December as the start date for both routes, the timing could easily slip. For example, the carrier applied in 2017 to link Zhengzhou with Sydney at the end of 2017; the service is scheduled to begin Jan. 29. Tianjin Airlines also applied in 2017 to fly between Zhengzhou and Moscow starting in May 2018.

Tianjin Airlines already has one intercontinental service operating from Xian to Auckland. To help fill seats, the flights have an extension at the Chinese end to Tianjin, the carrier’s hometown, southeast of Beijing.

China’s secondary cities are the big ones except those of the official first rank: Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, each of which is the base of one of the country’s three largest airlines.

Tianjin Airlines is based at Tianjin, but has set up intercontinental services from other secondary cities, notably Chongqing. Indeed, the carrier has become a specialist in such services, which are generally aimed at tourism markets and operate at low frequencies with local government subsidies.

(Bradley Perrett - Aviation Week / ATWOnline News)

Monday, January 22, 2018

Air Lease CEO says momentum building for new Boeing mid-sized jet

Plans for a potential new Boeing mid-sized jet are gaining momentum and Airbus looks set to respond by beefing up its strong-selling A321neo model, Air Lease Corp Chief Executive John Plueger said on Monday.

"I think they (Boeing) feel they have momentum from the customers and that they are building momentum internally for the business case," Plueger told Reuters on the sidelines of the annual Airline Economics conference, referring to a project for a 220-260-seat jet known as New Mid-Sized Airplane ('NMA').

"I think that they ... are feeling better about the NMA, so I wouldn't be surprised if some time this year we saw a decision about a launch or not a launch," he said.

Airbus is developing a new version of its 185-seat A321neo capable of lifting more weight, he said. Extra carrying capacity typically allows airlines to carry more payload or fly further.

Plueger said Airbus appeared for the time being to favor increasing the maximum takeoff weight of the A321neo over more radical developments such as investing in a new carbon wing.

Neither Boeing nor Airbus could be immediately reached for comment.

(Tim Hepher - Reuters / Yahoo Business News)

Boeing's New 787 Dreamliner Won FAA Approval Before Shutdown Hit

Boeing’s newest and largest 787 Dreamliner got the federal approval it needs to fly commercially, winning authorization before the government shutdown Friday.

The certification concludes a flight-test program that began last March for the first of the 787-10 carbon-fiber jets to be assembled solely at Boeing’s South Carolina factory, the Chicago-based planemaker said Monday.

That clears one of two new Boeing airplanes that were on the verge of winning approval from the Federal Aviation Administration as the shutdown loomed. The second plane awaiting a green light is the 737 Max 9, a new single-aisle model, according to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the union representing FAA certification workers. FAA certification usually sets the pace for other regulators.

Singapore Airlines, the 787-10 launch customer, said it expects to get its first airplane in late March. The jetliner is the last of three planned Dreamliner models to enter the market, and is designed to haul 330 people as far as 6,430 nautical miles (11,910 kilometers).

(Julie Johnsson - Bloomberg News)

Udvar-Hazy sees risk of Boeing 737 MAX delays over engines

The executive chairman of aircraft leasing firm Air Lease Corp warned on Monday of possible delays to deliveries of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft if engine issues worsen.

The top-selling Boeing aircraft is powered by engines made by French-U.S. venture CFM International, co-owned by France's Safran and General Electric of the United States. CFM has had some industrial problems in producing its new LEAP engine for the 737 MAX and some Airbus aircraft.

"Boeing is on time so far. But if the CFM problem continues to be more complex than we anticipated, then I think Boeing has its work cut out as far as getting on time sufficient numbers of engines from CFM for the LEAP-1B," Steven Udvar-Hazy told the Airlines Economics conference in Dublin.

"But we are optimistic that these are solvable problems . We don't see any technology or major design flaws. It's just what I call baby pains," he added.

Deliveries of the competing Airbus A320neo family have been delayed mainly by technical problems with the Geared Turbofan engine from Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies , but also by industrial issues at CFM, Airbus says.

Udvar-Hazy said he was disappointed by the reliability of the Pratt & Whitney engines in service, with some airlines having to take engines off wing for early repairs.

(Conor Humphries - Reuters / Yahoo Business News)

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Boeing Co.'s Dreamliner Profitability Is Set to Soar

Boeing's 787 Dreamliner wide-body has had a huge impact on commercial aviation since the first one was delivered back in 2011. The Dreamliner has made dozens of new nonstop routes possible with a unique combination of long range and low trip costs.

However, the 787 Dreamliner program hasn't been a financial success for Boeing thus far. The company accumulated almost $30 billion of losses from building the first 500 Dreamliners. That doesn't even count the massive cost of developing this new aircraft family -- estimated at around $15 billion.

Fortunately, Boeing has been building 787s at a profit since 2016. Over the next few years, the profitability of Dreamliner production will rise even further, allowing Boeing to offset the losses incurred in previous years.

Solid trends already

Under the rules of program accounting, Boeing has been booking a small profit on each quarter's 787 production, based on the program's expected average profitability over the long run. The cumulative difference between these book "profits" and the cash losses that Boeing actually incurred up until two years ago were reported as deferred production costs.

Dreamliner production is now consistently cash positive, but Boeing still reports its deferred production costs each quarter. Now this metric indicates how fast Boeing is generating cash profits from the 787 program to offset the earlier cash losses.

Deferred production costs have declined by more than $500 million in each of the last two reported quarters. That's already a big improvement relative to early 2016, when the program still hadn't quite reached the breakeven point. However, there is plenty of room for additional improvement.

The production mix is getting better

One fundamental reason for the Dreamliner program's rising profitability is that the production mix is steadily shifting toward higher-margin models. Because of design mistakes, the 787-8 -- the first model to enter production -- costs nearly as much to build as the larger 787-9 variant. As a result, production of the 787-8 is barely profitable even today.

By contrast, the 787-9 is very popular and already quite profitable for Boeing. Furthermore, the 787-10, the largest Dreamliner variant, was designed with 90% commonality to the 787-9. This design choice will keep production costs down, allowing Boeing to earn an even higher margin on that model.

Deliveries of the 787-9 first surpassed 787-8 deliveries in 2016, helping to turn the program profitable during that year. In 2017, the production mix shifted even further toward the 787-9, with 110 787-9 deliveries, compared to just 26 for the 787-8.

The production mix will improve further in the next few years. The 787-8 now represents just 10% of the total 787 order backlog -- and dozens of those orders are likely to be canceled or converted to larger models. In 2018, Boeing is on track to deliver just 10 787-8s, according to Dreamliner production expert Uresh Sheth. Meanwhile, deliveries of the 787-10, which is likely to be the most profitable model for Boeing, will start this year.

Lower costs and higher revenue

Two other factors aside from the improving production mix will drive quarterly Dreamliner profits higher. First, unit costs will decline over time. Some of this decline comes from Boeing's internal productivity efforts. However, most of the benefit stems from agreements with its suppliers that call for component costs to decrease as Boeing passes certain production milestones.

Second, in 2019, Boeing will increase the Dreamliner production rate to 14 per month, from the current pace of 12 per month. All else equal, this 17% increase in output would boost the program's quarterly profit by 17%. In addition, a higher production rate will push costs down by allowing Boeing to spread its fixed costs over more units. Thus, the actual increase in quarterly profit from faster production is likely to be even greater.

Boeing's strong cash flow trajectory is a big reason the stock has more than doubled over the past year. For Boeing stock to hold on to its lofty gains, the company will need to capitalize on its opportunity to dramatically improve the 787 program's cash profits in the next few years.

(Adam Levine-Weinberg - The Motley Fool) 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

American Airlines flight attendants complain about the tiny bathrooms on the 737 MAX

Passengers who fly on American Airlines’ 737 Max planes will probably notice that the lavatories are extra small, with sinks so tiny that fliers can only wash one hand at a time.

The manufacturer of the plane, Boeing, designed the compact bathrooms that way to squeeze in about a dozen more seats in the cabin than in older versions of the 737 jets.

But now flight attendants are grousing about the new lavatories.

In a private meeting a week ago with American Airlines Chief Executive Doug Parker, a group of flight attendants complained about the design of the lavatories on the 737 Max, an airlines spokesman said.

The lavatories at the back of the plane are located between the passenger seats and the galley where the flight attendants prepare drinks and snacks for the fliers. When both doors to the lavatories are open, the flight attendants are sealed off in the galley, blocking them from getting to the passengers, the flight attendants complained.

They also said the sinks in the bathrooms are so tiny that the water from the faucet splashes onto anyone attempting to wash their hands.

Joshua Freed, a spokesman for the carrier, said American Airlines has fixed the problem with the sinks by installing aerators on the faucet to cut the strength of the water flow. The carrier is still looking for a fix to the door problem.

American Airlines flies three 737 Max planes, between Miami and New York, but expects to have a total of 20 737 Max jets in the fleet by the end of this year, with 20 more added each year for the next four years, Freed said.

(Hugo Martin - Los Angeles Times)

Delta: Support and service animals are wreaking havoc in the sky

Service animals are meant to comfort their owners. But it appears they’re causing chaos on commercial flights.

In light of increased incidents on its aircraft, Delta Air Lines announced new procedures and updated requirements for customers traveling with service and support animals. The company believes that some travelers have been trying (and succeeding in) to board flights pets under the guise of support animals.

Delta’s aircraft carry 700 service animals daily or 250,000 every year, according to the company.

Citing “comfort turkeys, gliding possums known as sugar gliders, snakes, spiders and more,” Delta says consumers have been abusing the privilege and definition of a service animal on their travels.

This has led to an 84% increase in reported animal incidents since 2016, ranging from urination to a full-fledged attack by a large dog. Last year, specifically, employees noted more “barking, growling, lunging and biting” from service animals.

“The rise in serious incidents involving animals in flight leads us to believe that the lack of regulation in both health and training screening for these animals is creating unsafe conditions across U.S. air travel,” said John Laughter, Delta’s senior vice president of corporate safety, security and compliance.


While customers will still be able to travel with service and support animals for free, they will have to show proof of health or vaccinations two days prior to their Delta flight.

This certificate requires a consultation with your veterinarian and the cost of vaccines, which can cost up to $200 if the animal’s shots aren’t up to date, according to VetInfo.

Individuals traveling with psychiatric service and emotional support animals will also need to show a signed document that confirms their animal can behave. Delta claims the new requirement intends to prevent untrained pets from attacking working service animals.

The U.S. Department of Transportation states that animals engaging in disruptive behavior like barking, snarling or jumping on other passengers without provocation won’t be accepted onto flights.

But the ruckus has gotten so far out of hand that airlines like Delta are creating their own guidelines, which go into effect on March 1.

(Melody Hahm - Yahoo Business News)

Gulfstream Delivers Final G450

(Gulfstream Aerospace)

Iconic Aircraft Retires As Next-Generation G500 Business Jet Approaches Certification

Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. today announced that it has delivered the final Gulfstream G450 as it prepares to usher in the next generation of business aviation with the all-new Gulfstream G500.

“For the past 12 years, the G450 has been one of the best-selling business jets in the industry, beloved by pilots and passengers alike for its technological advances, smooth handling, impressive range and unsurpassed passenger comfort,” said Mark Burns, president, Gulfstream. “During its 30-year history, the GIV series transformed business aviation, and the G500 is already well on its way to doing the same, with the industry’s first active control sidesticks and the most integrated application of touch-screen controls in the flight deck.”

A performer from the start, the G450 entered service in 2005 after demonstrating even more range than originally anticipated – 4,350 nautical miles/8,056 kilometers at Mach 0.80. The aircraft can sprint 3,500 nm/6,482 km at Mach 0.85.

The G450 fleet, comprising more than 360 aircraft, has amassed more than 964,000 hours and more than 461,000 flights.

“The G450 made its mark in aviation history and remains an important member of the Gulfstream family. We will continue to provide industry-leading product support and sustaining engineering for our G450 customers,” Burns said.

Like the G450, the G500 will deliver more range than originally announced. The aircraft will fly 5,200 nm/9,630 km at Mach 0.85 and 4,400 nm/8,149 km at Mach 0.90. Five G500 aircraft are undergoing flight testing, with type certification anticipated in early 2018.

(Gulfstream News / Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation)

Norwegian Airlines Sets Record for Fastest Transatlantic Flight

To the envy of plane-weary travelers everywhere, passengers aboard a Norwegian Airlines flight from New York to London on Jan. 15 were treated to a pleasant surprise: They arrived 53 minutes ahead of schedule, making theirs the fastest transatlantic flight ever recorded on a subsonic commercial aircraft. The final flight time: five hours and 13 minutes.

The good time came thanks to better-than-expected weather conditions and a hefty tailwind, which helped the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner gain three minutes over the previous record , held by a 2015 British Airways route that spanned five hours and 16 minutes. Still, the Norwegian flight’s captain said an even-faster time may be in the cards.

“We were actually in the air for just over five hours, and if it had not been for forecasted turbulence at lower altitude, we could have flown even faster,” said Captain Harold van Dam at Norwegian in a statement.

The time is nothing compared to what was possible on the Concorde, the sky-high-priced supersonic plane that could cross the Atlantic in a sprightly 3.5 hours and ceased operation in 2003. Supersonic air travel, while faster, is fairly controversial: It can create such unpleasant ground-level disturbances as shattered windows, cracked plaster and very confused farm animals. For this reason, supersonic travel has mostly been banned since 1973.

But there’s hope yet for those desperate to shave more time off their New York to London route: NASA announced in 2017 that it would accept bids for construction of a demo model for a supersonic aircraft with a low-level sonic boom.

Peter Coen, project manager for NASA’s commercial supersonic research team, told Bloomberg that growth in air travel and distances flown “will drive the demand for broadly available faster air travel,” making it possible for companies to “offer competitive products in the future.”

NASA is aiming for a sound level of 60 to 65 A-weighted decibels (dBa), which is roughly the volume of a highway-bound luxury car or background conversation in a lively restaurant.

Then again, why settle for supersonic travel when you can have hypersonic travel? Elon Musk’s proposed SpaceX Air would ostensibly fly through space at 17,000 miles per hour, potentially landing a New Yorker in Shanghai in 39 minutes flat. In September, Musk said the flight should cost no more than the current price of a full-fare economy seat in a traditional aircraft, which at the time was $2,908 from China Eastern Airlines. There are still plenty technical, logistical and business questions in the air (sorry!) on whether this would be a feasible option for the average traveler.

In the meantime, if you’re looking to speed up your next trip across the pond, your best bet is to pray for a gnarly tailwind.

(Rachel Tepper Paley - Bloomberg Business)

Friday, January 19, 2018

Emirates secures A380 production with 36-strong order

Emirates Airline has announced a $16 billion deal for up to 36 additional Airbus A380s, securing production of the aircraft type for another 10 years. The commitment is for 20 A380s and 16 options, with deliveries to start in 2020. The order is valued at $16 billion at current list prices.

Emirates’ A380 fleet operates both GE and Rolls-Royce engines; the Dubai-based carrier is evaluating engine options for the latest order.

Together with Emirates’ 101-strong A380 fleet and its current order backlog for 41 aircraft, this new order brings Emirates’ commitment to the A380 program to 178 aircraft, worth over $60 billion.

Emirates chairman and CEO Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum said, “We’ve made no secret of the fact that the A380 has been a success for Emirates. Our customers love it, and we’ve been able to deploy it on different missions across our network, giving us flexibility in terms of range and passenger mix.”

He said some of the new A380s will be used as fleet replacements. “This order will provide stability to the A380 production line. We will continue to work closely with Airbus to further enhance the aircraft and onboard product,” he said.

Airbus COO-customers John Leahy said Jan. 15 the A380 program would have had to be shut down if Emirates did not order more aircraft.

“If we can’t work out a deal with Emirates, it is clear we will have to shut down the program,” Leahy had said, speaking on Airbus’ 2017 orders and deliveries webinar Monday.

(Kurt Hofmann - ATWOnline News)

Rumor: Boeing wants to buy Embraer, faces military objection

Boeing wants to buy Embraer to turn it into a subsidiary but is facing objection from the Brazilian military, Reuters reported on January 19, 2018.

Boeing wants to get the green light for a tie-up with the world’s third-largest plane maker. But the deal is objected by the Brazilian military, which fears that Embraer’s ownership by an American company could affect the country’s defense programs, Reuters is told by sources familiar with the matter.

The news that Boeing and Embraer are looking for a ‘potential combination’ broke out in December 2017. Both companies confirmed the rumors on December 21, 2017. They stated that are “engaged in discussions regarding a potential combination, the basis of which remains under discussion” and noted that there is “no guarantee a transaction will result from these discussions”.

As a response to Airbus and Bombardier collaboration on CSeries, announced earlier in 2017, the talks appeared logical, although unlikely to be carried through.. For instance, Canaccord Genuity aviation analyst Ken Herbert said in a note to investors, "We are not surprised the two companies have held talks, but we view an eventual agreement as unlikely, and we do not see the benefit for Boeing aside from as a defensive move."

Herbert pointed out that while Boeing is likely feeling a pressure to accelerate its Services business growth, “we are not convinced Embraer is the best fit or use of capital for Boeing. Based on ERJ’s most current FY18 guidance, the company is looking for revenues of $5.3B-$6.0B, EBIT of $265M-$360M, and FCF of a negative ~ $150M. We do expect BA will be very active on the M&A front in 2018 and understand the company is staffed up to significantly increase its due diligence efforts”.

On October 16, 2017, Airbus announced plans to buy a majority stake in the Bombardier C Series jetliner program. The CS100 seats 100-110 and the CS300 135-145 passengers, while Airbus’ 126-seat model, the A319, hasn’t seen a sale since 2012, according to Airbus CEO Tom Enders. Boeing, on the other hand, offers the 737-700, which will be phased out with the 737-7 MAX. Poor sales of the 7 MAX prompted a redesign, adding 12 seats. Now, if Boeing / Embraer collaboration comes true, the two manufacturers would have a “leading share of the 70- to 130-seat market” thus posing a tough competition for Airbus/Bombardier.

(AeroTime News)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Qantas named most polluting airline across Pacific Ocean

Qantas has been identified as the most polluting airline to fly across the Pacific Ocean to North America.

A report by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) analyzed 20 carriers and concluded that the Australian airline was 64 percent less fuel efficient than the top performers, All Nippon Airways and Hainan.
Source: ICCT
Fuel efficiency of 20 airlines on transpacific passenger routes, 2016

The report said Qantas recorded poor fuel efficiency because it used older, fuel-intensive aircraft, carried a low amount of freight (therefore making it less efficient) and also had relatively low numbers of passengers on each plane.

In a statement Tuesday, Qantas Head of Fuel and Environment Alan Milne said the airline ranked poorly because "we use larger aircraft, fly very long distances and have premium cabins that naturally have fewer people on board."

Milne added that the airline's Sydney to Dallas route, as one of the longest in the world, had a magnifying effect on emissions because at take-off there was so much fuel to carry

Qantas was the only airline in the list to have the Airbus A380 as its most prevalent aircraft on transpacific routes. The carrier said it is committed to lowering emissions and would soon be switching old 747's for Boeing's more fuel-efficient Dreamliner range.

The report highlighted that China's Hainan Airlines and Japan's ANA topped the fuel efficiency table using different strategies.

It said Hainan relied on its modern fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft while ANA maintained efficiency by carrying more payload, especially freight. ICCT said almost half of the variance among the 20 airlines was due to the amount of freight being carried on each flight.

In 2015, the ICCT compared the efficiency of 20 major airlines operating in the transatlantic market. Using a slightly different methodology, that report found British Airways to be the most polluting airline crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

(David Reid - CNBC)

Why is the world's largest passenger plane facing the scrap heap?

Airbus has confirmed it is preparing to end production of the world’s largest passenger plane after receiving no new orders in two years.

The A380 was launched to much fanfare in 2005 with commentators declaring it the future of aviation. But just 13 later, and with only 222 units delivered, the entire project is on the brink.

Airbus says it must build at least six of the planes each year to keep the program running, and had been banking on a new order in November from its biggest customer, Emirates. However, the Dubai carrier chose to purchase 40 Boeing 787 Dreamliners instead.

Yesterday John Leahy, Airbus’s sales director, admitted that only Emirates could save the superjumbo. “We are still talking to Emirates, but honestly, they are probably the only one to have the ability right now... to take a minimum of six per year for a period of eight to 10 years,” he said.

“If we can’t work out a deal with Emirates there is no choice but to shut down the program.”

Emirates bought 50 A380s in 2013, but since then Airbus has only received one more order for the model, when Japan’s ANA bought three jets in January 2016.

What went wrong for the A380?

The jet has been widely praised by passengers for offering a smooth and comfortable flying experience, but the economics of operating it have proved off-putting for airlines. Simply put, every service needs to run at close to full capacity for carriers to make money.

Airlines are instead opting to buy medium-sized planes, such as the Dreamliner, the A320neo, which launched in 2016, and the A350, introduced in 2015.

At a glance - The Airbus A380

Independent air transport consultant John Strickland told the Telegraph: “The A380 is a well regarded aircraft by airlines which operate it and by customers flying on it. Generally, however, twin-engine aircraft such as the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 777 reduce the financial risks involved with filling capacity and operating costs.”

Last year Singapore Airlines, the A380’s first customer, started putting its superjumbos into storage, while in November an Irish aircraft leasing company said it was considering creating its own airline because it couldn’t find anyone to borrow its A380s.

Which airline owns the most A380s?

Emirates, by a long way. With a fleet of 100, it's one of the few carriers able to get the maximum value out of the four-engine A380, and has made it the core of its long-haul fleet. Other airlines have ordered them in far smaller quantities: British Airways, for example, has 12 of them in its fleet of 270 aircraft.

How many orders are outstanding?

Production rate of the aircraft is falling fast, from 30 a year in 2014 to 15 in 2017, 12 this year, and eight next year. “We will deliver 12 aircraft as planned in 2018,” said Airbus’s chief operating officer Fabrice Bregier. “The challenge will be to maintain at least this level in the years to come.”

Can new markets save the A380?

Airbus had been hoping Chinese airlines would help revive the superjumbo. China will be the world’s biggest air travel market by 2022, according to the International Air Transport Association. But John Leahy’s comments this week would suggest these hopes are fading.

Besides, China has spent the last decade developing its own plane manufacturer: Comac. Its first purpose is to reduce the reliance on Boeing and Airbus planes on China's domestic air network - but the Far East's rising super-power also has ambitions to take its investment in aviation beyond its borders.

What’s the next biggest passenger plane?

Hypothetically, should every single A380, capable of carrying 853 passengers in a single class, be grounded, the Boeing 747-800 would become the largest passenger aircraft in the world, capable of carrying 700 passengers in a single class. 

Is the 747 falling from favor?

Correct. Last month United waved goodbye to its final 747 with a farewell flight from San Francisco to Honolulu (recreating the route of its first 747 service in 1970). Not one US carrier now flies the iconic Boeing aircraft, which – after almost 50 years of tireless service – is gradually disappearing from our skies.

Even it’s biggest customer, British Airways, is phasing it out of its fleet. It currently has 36 jumbo jets, according to the website Airfleets.net, but a further 34 have already been placed in storage and it has said the model will be gone from its hangars by 2024.

Where are all the Boeing 747s?

Demand for the 747, which has been tweaked and upgraded many times since its first flight in 1969, has dried up. No new orders were received last year and it is expected that Boeing will be forced to call time on the jumbo jet before long.

Since 1969 Boeing has produced more than 1,500 747s. But around two-thirds of these have now been scrapped, written off, or placed in storage at one of the world’s aircraft graveyards.

(Oliver Smith - The Telegraph / Yahoo Business News) 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Those four-digit flight designations? Their days may be numbered

American’s Flight 1776 to Philadelphia? Hilarious.

Southwest’s Flight 1492 to Columbus, Ohio? Clever.

Alaska’s Flight 2738 to Portland? Not a side-splitter, but I don’t blame Alaska.

But I do worry about all three of them and their peers because the airlines are facing a problem.

Their numbers’ numbers are up.

If you need a break from worrying about nuclear war and how tax reform is going to affect your business, ponder flight numbers. I’ve added it to my list of things to worry about in 2018, and I keep hearing Frank Sinatra crooning “There may be trouble ahead,” from Irving Berlin’s “Let’s Face the Music and Dance.”

A reader asked recently about flight numbers, and like anything that has to do with airlines, you ask a simple question and you won’t get a simple answer.

That’s not a knock on airlines, but a commentary on the enormous challenges of and changes in the industry. Unfortunately, there’s a price to be paid.

Assigning flight numbers “used to be an art, believe it or not,” said Brett Snyder, president of CrankyFlier.com, which deals with all manner of airline questions, and CrankyConcierge.com, which offers air travel assistance.

There is beauty in simplicity. Several flights are the numeral 1, including American Airlines’ flight from New York’s JFK to LAX, which leaves at 8 a.m. and arrives just before noon. It’s a longtime route and has a certain prestige to it.

It also has a blot on its history. American’s Flight 1 crashed in 1962, killing all aboard. American did not retire that number, although many airlines do after an accident. Asiana Airlines, for instance, changed the Flight 214 number assigned to the Seoul-San Francisco route after a July 2013 crash at SFO in which three people were killed and scores injured.

American and United retired the flight numbers of the planes downed in the 9/11 attacks, although United accidentally reactivated them because of a system glitch (and then deactivated them).

On a whimsical note, airlines sometimes do the numeric version of wordplay, Snyder said. Besides Philly and Columbus, you’ll sometimes find flights to Vegas with a 711 flight number (Spirit has had one). You may find a 415 (JetBlue and Southwest) for flights to San Francisco (its area code) or a 66 for a JetBlue flight from JFK to Albuquerque (presumably for Route 66, never mind St. Louis, Joplin, Mo., Oklahoma City….)

Eight is considered a lucky number in some Asian cultures, so flights to that part of the world may use that figure.

But what’s happening with most flight numbers is far from amusing. Because of mergers and growth in the airline industry, it’s running out of numbers.

That’s because flight numbers cannot be larger than four digits.

Why not just make them bigger, like adding extra letters or digits to a license plate?

Easy for us to say, not so easy for airlines to do, Snyder said. Airline computer systems are hard-coded for no more than four digits. And that means the number of available numbers is finite.

When you tell people there are 10,000 flights a day, “most people think…10,000 is a lot for any given day,” Snyder said. “It’s not.”

Factor in that numbers are used only once a day and some numbers aren’t used at all, including 13 and, yes, 666 and….“We’re running out of numbers!” Southwest explains in a post called “The Science Behind the Numbers.”

“To start with, the numero uno industrywide-rule is that no flight number can contain more than four digits, meaning we only have up to flight number 9999 to work with,” Southwest writes.

“(No airline can use five-digit flight numbers! While this has been debated in the industry for years, the level of effort to make the change from four to five digits would be huge, and even the level of technology change to add alpha characters to published flight numbers would be gargantuan…although it would be fun to ‘name’ flights—‘Now boarding, Southwest Airlines Flight FRED to Los Angeles.’)”

Somehow, I just can’t imagine WN FRED. (WN is Southwest’s two-letter code. Many of those codes make sense — AA for American and BA for British Airways — but some do not.)

The numbers are becoming so scarce that one of the identifying factors of flight numbers — eastern and northern destinations were usually even numbered and western and southern were odd — are generally not used that way these days, Southwest noted in its post.

Some airlines with “there and back” flights use the same number going and coming in order to conserve.

Eventually, the numbers will be expanded, but it will be difficult and hugely expensive, Snyder said, and we know who will end up paying for that, don't we?

We can blame the people who failed to imagine the future, starting with Irish-born physicist Lord Kelvin who supposedly said in 1895 that “heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.”

Now the only thing that seems impossible is finding numbers to designate where all these routes go. It may be time to just face the music and dance.

(Catharine Hamm - Los Angeles Times)

India to Split Flag Carrier Into Four Parts Ahead of Sale

India will break up its debt-burdened flag carrier into four separate companies and offer to sell at least 51 percent in each of them as part of a disinvestment proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The core airline business comprising Air India and Air India Express -- the low-cost overseas arm -- will be offered as one company, and the process will be completed by the end of 2018, Junior Aviation Minister Jayant Sinha said in an interview Monday. Its regional arm, ground handling, and engineering operations will also be sold separately in the same process.

A successful sale of Air India -- with $7.9 billion in debt, five subsidiaries and a joint venture, and a combined workforce of 27,000 -- is crucial for Modi, who wants to showcase his credentials as a reformist attempting to steer the state away from running businesses. The airline, which is surviving on a taxpayer-funded bailout, has strained government finances for decades, and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said last year that money spent on Air India could have been used for education.

Unlocking Growth

“The aviation sector is a very fast growing sector, with really exciting opportunities for all participants, so we felt all of this will unlock growth and competitiveness of Air India group,” Sinha said. “We expect it to be a very bright future for its employees.”

Sinha declined to name potential bidders but said management control will be retained by local investors. The government altered foreign investment rules last week, allowing foreign airlines to own as much as 49 percent of Air India. Investors’ interest will be sought by end of this month with details on Air India’s core and non-core debt and assets, he added.

The government will add most of the non-core debt owed by the carrier to its own balance sheet, while borrowings linked to core operations will be retained by the unit on offer, Sinha said. A so-called special purpose vehicle will hold the unsustainable debt of the airline and the government is making "every effort" to protect employees.

Air India has been unprofitable since its 2007 merger with state-owned domestic operator Indian Airlines Ltd. The company made an operating profit of about 1 billion rupees ($15.7 million) in the year through March 2016, primarily due to a slump in oil prices. It still posted a net loss of 38.4 billion rupees, according to the government.

$63 Billion Investment

India, the world’s fastest growing major aviation market, may not sustain the current 15-20 percent growth in the long term, but will expand at about 12 percent annually. To handle the surge in passengers, the country will need investments of as much as 4 trillion rupees to expand and build new airports over the next decade-and-a-half, with the bulk of it coming from the private sector.

Carriers in India, including market leader IndiGo, are set to order more than 1,000 planes as they look to tap an emerging middle class with disposable income to fly for the first time, according to Sydney-based CAPA Centre for Aviation. However, capacity constraints at the main airports in New Delhi and Mumbai mean there are hardly any landing and parking slots available.

The government is in the process of implementing new airports in these two cities and, in the short-term, improving infrastructure at nearby airports to handle some of that growth.

“As of now, we have very significant expansion plans underway. We’ve looked at the top 30 airports in the country,” Sinha said. “We now have a very clear roadmap for the next 15-20 years as to what we have to do."

(Anurag Kotoky - Bloomberg Business News)

Airbus admits it will have to stop making its A380 if there's no new deal with Emirates

Airbus has admitted that unless it can find more buyers for its A380 superjumbo, the program may have to end.

The European planemaker has said it will build 12 A380s in 2018 and a further eight in 2019. Airbus said the minimum annual number it is prepared to build each year is six.

The main customer for the world's largest commercial jet is the Middle Eastern carrier Emirates, who took delivery of their 100th A380 during 2017.

Speaking via webcast Monday, Airbus sales chief John Leahy said negotiations for Emirates to buy more of the superjumbo were ongoing."We are still talking to Emirates and quite honestly they are probably the only one in the marketplace who can take a minimum of six A380s a year for a period of eight to 10 years," he said."If we can't work out a deal with Emirates I think there is no choice but to shut down the program," Leahy added.

Leahy said he believed the A380 would come back into fashion as air traffic was doubling every 15 years and bigger planes would be needed to satisfy demand.Airbus has increased the average list prices of its aircraft by two percent across the product line, effective from January 1st 2018. The new average list price for an A380 is $445.6 million.

Also on Monday, the European planemaker said that a spree of selling in the final weeks of 2017 had helped it surge past Boeing to win the annual commercial jet orders race.

(David Reid - CNBC)

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Pentagon awards contract to Gulfstream for service on C-20, C-37

The U.S. Air Force has awarded Gulfstream Aerospace a contract for two different twin-engine, turbofan aircraft used for transporting high-ranking government and Defense Department officials.

The terms of the agreement were announced Thursday by the Department of Defense, awarding Gulfstream Aerospace with a deal not-to-exceed more than $118.2 million.

The contract modifies a previous award under the terms of a firm-fixed-price contract with a five-year option period in support of the C-37 and C-20 aircraft, which aims to provide uninterrupted contractor support and logistics for the aircraft.

The C-37 and C-20 are both twin-engine, turbofan aircraft, sporting engines made by BMW and Rolls Royce, and have the same 20-person passenger capacity. The C-20 cost around $37 million, while the C-37 comes in at about $36 million.

The aircraft will support the Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, according to the Pentagon.

Work on the contract will occur in the United States, as well as in Germany and Italy.

More than $38.4 million will be obligated to Gulfstream Aerospace at the time of award from combined fund accounts of the U.S. armed forces.

(James LaPorta - United Press International)

Once-soaring Mexican discount airline Interjet is now in a stall

Interjet Airbus A320-214(WL) (c/n 7784) XA-UNO arrives at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on September 22, 2017.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

In cavernous jet hangars in and around Mexico City, Interjet has a secret.

Four of the Mexican airline’s Sukhoi Superjet 100s — out of a fleet of 22 — have been grounded for at least five months because of engine maintenance delays. The Russian-made aircraft, which average just 4 years old, are now being cannibalized, an industry term for when a plane is slowly scrapped for parts to keep other jets running.

A grounded plane is a wasted plane, and Interjet’s offline aircraft are symbolic of an airline that’s veered off course. Once one of Mexico’s hopefuls to bring a new era of competition to the industry, Interjet has muddled along with a questionable strategy while more nimble rivals have appeared on the scene. Now, the stranded Sukhoi Superjets are adding to concerns about whether ABC Aerolineas, the company’s formal name, will ever thrive.

“There are doubts about the viability of the business,” said Carlos Ozores, an air-transport specialist at ICF, a consulting and technology services company based in Virginia. “The only way for an airline to make money is to keep flying.”

Interjet confirmed the grounded aircraft but said it’s in good financial shape. The parked-plane situation can be traced back to a decision Chief Executive Officer Jose Luis Garza made half a decade ago when he agreed to buy the little-known and largely untested Sukhoi Superjets, which are backed by Italy’s Leonardo SpA and Russia’s Sukhoi. The engines are made by France’s Safran SA and a Russian partner.

JSC Sukhoi doesn’t have a single maintenance facility in the Americas. Airbus SE, which services the rest of Interjet’s fleet, operates three. That’s important because planes need regular and meticulous upkeep. It’s like driving a Hummer in a land of Volkswagens. For a time you’ll be fine, but once the vehicle requires so much as a tune-up, finding the parts and the labor to fix it will be tricky and costly.

“The supply chain with this aircraft has been a process,” Garza said from his office overlooking the Mexico City airport. “But we’re getting to where we want to be with them.” To ease maintenance problems, a $7-million consignment stock is being set up this year with Sukhoi parts, he said.

“The decision to buy them was a technical and economical one,” he said, calling the deal an “extraordinary acquisition agreement” the company wouldn’t have gotten from Brazilian maker Embraer SA.

Interjet made a splash as Mexico’s first airline for the budget-conscious flier when it was founded in 2005 by the Aleman family, the son and grandson of a former Mexico president. The company’s regional focus and deeply discounted ticket prices quickly turned it into the No. 2 airline by passengers as of 2011. But in the years that followed, the carrier hit turbulent skies, causing the company’s overall market share to stagnate while ultra-low-cost rival Controladora Vuela Compania de Aviacion, known as Volaris, has seen its stake soar.

“It’ll be hard for it to survive without a change of strategy,” Ozores said. “It’s hard operating in the middle.”

The middle that Ozores is referring to is the point between being a low-cost carrier and a full-service one. Interjet’s original economic model has slowly morphed into a sort of hybrid, so that these days, the carrier is trying to compete on price and service — and falling short on both fronts.

Garza says Interjet has focused its growth strategy on international routes since 2014, almost doubling its share of foreign flights to and from Mexico to about 21% as of November, from 11% in 2014. The airline began flying to John Wayne Airport in Orange County in 2012, but dropped the service two years later. It began serving Los Angeles International Airport in 2016.

While that expansion has helped boost the company’s dollar income — a boon for companies battered by a local currency that’s lost a third of its value in five years — Interjet has paid a heavy price to compete with its bigger rivals.

Interjet freebies such as snacks and checked luggage put its costs on par with full-service rivals such as Grupo Aeromexico SAB. It also boasts of comfortable leg room, adapting the seating configuration on its Airbus aircraft so that its planes fly an average 13% below capacity. Despite those perks, Interjet’s image is still solidly stuck in the domain of budget carriers. However, its prices are sometimes more than double those of Volaris, which started operations in 2006.

“We’re told we’re leaving money on the table,” Garza said. “Does that mean we should overbook flights and start charging for everything? We don’t think so.”

Meanwhile, Interjet’s debt leverage — Bloomberg estimates net debt is 7.1 times earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization and rent — tops Aeromexico’s ratio of 5.1 or Volaris’ 5.2 times. Said Michael Duff, director at data researcher rhe Airline Analyst: “A relatively high financial risk is how I’d categorize them.”

It’s for that reason that keeping a constant eye on costs is so crucial. For low-cost carriers, that usually means limiting fleets to a single aircraft to save on maintenance-training costs. But Interjet’s 22 Superjet 100 planes coexist with its 50 Airbus A320 jetliners as well as six Airbus A321 aircraft.

“The most important defining characteristic of a low-cost carrier is an airline that’s able to keep costs low, whatever way they manage to do it,” said Triant Flouris, an International Air Transport Assn. flight instructor and academic at the Hellenic American University in Greece.

It was about a year ago that Garza’s decision to bet on the Sukhoi Superjet first came back to haunt him in a big way. In December 2016 — peak travel season for holiday fliers — the Russian aviation authority warned of a defect in a part that helps the aircraft fly straight in the air. After Interjet inspected its own planes, it grounded half its Sukhoi Superjet fleet and was forced to cancel 25 flights, Garza said at the time.

Although the planes were back in service by the following month, the damage was done. Some consumers began a social media campaign to pressure Mexico’s consumer watchdog to ban Interjet from flying the planes ever again, although nothing came of the requests.

“The Superjet hasn’t become very popular outside of Russia,” Flouris said. “Most of the airlines that I’ve seen flying this jet are closer to Russia.”

The 2012 Sukhoi Superjet purchase was the best choice for Interjet given Mexico City’s temperatures, altitudes and the routes they were intended to cover, Garza said. It was a bold bet on Russia’s first major passenger aircraft since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The single-aisle aircraft sold for about a half of the price of comparable jets from Brazil’s Embraer or Canada’s Bombardier Inc.

JSC Sukhoi did not respond to requests for comment.

Interjet has some financial challenges to overcome in the meantime. Financial reports show maintenance costs are rising faster than other expenses, and they now top what Aeromexico pays to keep its planes running, Duff said. Aircraft-leasing firms have boosted deposit requirements for the airline, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst George Ferguson said, adding that “lessors are probably paying close attention to their operations.” Out of its 78-aircraft fleet, the company owns 30 and leases the rest.

A cash injection of 3.2 billion pesos put forth by the Aleman family last year helped the company pay down most of its short-term liabilities. “We paid down short-term debt because that’s what had analysts worried,” Garza said.

Mexico’s government has reason to be worried. The nation took a major blow when Mexicana de Aviacion SA filed for bankruptcy and ceased operations in 2010. Mexicana’s chairman was charged with embezzlement (the charges were later dropped), and hundreds of pilots and flight attendants saw large chunks of their pension funds shrink. Mexico’s aviation market, meanwhile, lost one of its biggest players, opening the void that Interjet, Volaris and Aeromexico would ultimately fill.

(Andrea Navarro - Bloomberg)