Category Archives: Uncategorized

Inflight Connectivity Delays on the Horizon as Falcon 9 Fails to Soar

By: John Walton / Published June 29, 2015

At first glance, the failure of an automated resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) might not be immediately relevant to better inflight wifi for your travels.

Yet, much as with the late May failure of a Khrunichev-International Launch Services (ILS) Proton rocket from the Russian cosmodrome at Baikonur in Kazakhstan, Sunday’s failure of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida will have a knock-on effect on future launches — and those include several key satellites to boost speeds, bandwidth and coverage in the US and worldwide.

RELATED: Faster inflight Internet Delayed Due to Russia Launch Failure

“There was an overpressure event in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank,” SpaceX founder Elon Musk stated soon after the explosion, although he did note that the “data suggests [a] counter-intuitive cause.” The actual cause is still under investigation.

Let’s be clear: the failure of any launch system (even if unmanned) is regrettable, and AirwaysNews’ sympathy is certainly with the SpaceX team currently working to determine the cause.

Yet the impacts remain. Until the issue can be identified, the timing of future launches of the SpaceX program is in doubt, and with the Proton launch system already under a cloud that leaves the European ten-nation Arianespace alone as the major international satellite launch provider.

The failure at this stage of the Falcon program is especially significant given that the larger Falcon Heavy system is (or perhaps was) due to be launched with a mission containing the ViaSat-2 satellite in a “late summer 2016 launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida”. ViaSat provides the fastest currently available inflight Internet to jetBlue’s A320 family aircraft and United’s Boeing 737 jets.

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ViaSat-2 and its Ka-band beams will offer 2.5 times the capacity of the already-speedy ViaSat-1, and has evolved past the current generation of spot-beam technology. ViaSat-2 is a key part of the Ka-band constellation for the near future, offering redundancy for the continental US market, extending coverage over the US, Canada, north Atlantic routes as far as Ireland and the western UK, the Caribbean, and much of northern Latin America.

SpaceX is also key to the ambitions of ViaSat partner Eutelsat, which intends to “serve Latin American customers in the video, telecommunications and government sectors” with its 117 West B satellite, which also includes Ku-band provision for the region plus redundancy and additional coverage for a significant part of North America.

ABS will also be affected, particularly with its ABS-2A Ku-band satellite that “will serve India,
South East Asia, Russia, Sub-Sahara Africa, and GCC/Afghanistan region.”

Moreover, the recent series of launch failures across providers after a string of successes mean losses of satellites, which must be rebuilt, and a likely increase in insurance costs for launches as well. Demand for inflight connectivity is higher than ever, yet providing the satellites that meet that demand continues to be difficult.

“Space is hard,” noted ISS commander Scott Kelly after the SpaceX incident, with former commander Chris Hadfield adding that there are “serious ramifications for Space Station resupply. Good thing it’s international”. With more options available for ISS resupply than currently provisioning satellite launches, the impact may be felt more strongly a few hundred miles closer to home aboard the flight this year or next that you were hoping might have connectivity on board.

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Contact the editor at roberto.leiro@airwaysnews.com

 

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Virgin Atlantic Goes For Gold In Economy and With Dreamliners

By Ramsey Qubein / Published June 30, 2015

Virgin Atlantic has built a reputation for a re-imagined, surely sexy, flying experience. Nevertheless, much of its marketing relies on its premium business class product. And, what with its inflight bar, flat-bed seating, pajamas on overnight flights, attractive uniforms, and an image that hinges on its fly boy founder Richard Branson, it is certainly well deserved.

However, the majority of the airline’s passengers do not enjoy many of those features, although there is no doubt their interest in choosing Virgin can be traced to this dependable, hip image. What is unique, however, is the lengths that the carrier is going to improve its economy class cabin.

New to Virgin Atlantic is its intense joint venture partnership with Delta Air Lines across the Atlantic which gives the airline shared access to the U.S. carrier’s revenue opportunity and route network. Cross fleeting was quick to follow the announcement with Delta taking over routes from Virgin Atlantic on flights from LAX and Philadelphia. Virgin has reciprocated with its operation of flights from Atlanta and Detroit.

RELATED: Virgin Atlantic Welcomes the 787-9 in Atlanta

RELATED: With Delta, Is Virgin Atlantic Getting its Mojo Back?

We have seen both United and Delta proudly announce investments in their economy class meals on international flights. Delta has even reintroduced amenity kits, and all three legacy U.S. carriers have reverted to offering free wine and beer in economy class to stay in line with their respective joint venture partners. Coinciding with the launch of the carrier’s new fleet of Dreamliners, Virgin Atlantic has undertaken a revamp of its inflight offering in the economy cabin. The change is timely given the joint venture with Delta.

RELATED: Maturity and Growth in the Delta-Virgin Atlantic Partnership

With the Dreamliner, Virgin Atlantic is already seeing many of its customers specifically book their travel on flights operated by the new aircraft. Airways joined the airline for the launch of its JFK Dreamliner flight. Numerous passengers planned their travel to fly on the 787 instead of the numerous 747-400 flights also operating that day.

Back-of-the-bus catering gets an upgrade

Stock pictures of Virgin Atlantic 787-9 aircraft Birthday Girl.Virgin is going one step further to put the fun back into flying for economy passengers. This revamp is not only for passengers on board the airline’s new Dreamliner, but also all passengers in its economy cabin. The joint venture with Delta is sure to have played a role in the harmonizing of products between the two carriers, and passengers are the immediate beneficiaries of small, but notable upgrades on board.

Upon boarding, all passengers (like on partner Delta and competitor Swiss International) receive a full-sized bottle of water. “Following extensive surveys of passengers, it became clear that flyers wanted more control about staying hydrated at their own pace,” says Head of Customer Experience Debbie Hulme.

Complimentary cocktails, beer and wine are now offered in a pre-lunch or dinner cocktail service, and again during and after the meal service. In a more customer friendly move (thanks to those passenger surveys), the airline is switching from pouring glasses of wine or mixing cocktails on the cart to offering splits of wine and minis of cocktails to passengers. New features of the economy class dining service include hot towels prior to the meal and a cheese and cracker course served as part of the main tray service.

“The simple and inexpensive act of offering a hot towel before a meal in economy class goes a long way in making passengers feel special and cared for,” says Chris McGinnis, founder of TravelSkills.com. “I’m surprised more airlines don’t do this.”

After-dinner chocolates will accompany the coffee and tea service following dinner. Pre-arrival meals on daytime flights will include a new selection of gourmet wraps. These little extras are part of what add to the Virgin experience.

Premium Economy gets a boost too. The Dreamliner aircraft are the first to be equipped with the new Wonder Wall concept featuring a small refrigerator and full buffet of snacks and drinks. It is located in the front cabin and is designed as a compact social space, similar to the concept of the Upper Class Bar (albeit with a bartender) for guests to commune or snack at their leisure.

Bring your selfie stick

To take advantage of the selfie craze, Virgin is launching a new campaign dubbed the ultimate #SkyhighSelfie on its new Dreamliner 787 aircraft, offering customers the opportunity to check in on Facebook and share their photos from 35,000 feet.

Developed in conjunction with Jiffybots, its app will allow customers to check in free of charge on Facebook and share their location and photos with their friends and followers during the flight via the aircraft’s Wi-Fi connection.

Designated #SkyhighSelfie spots in the cabin will offer passengers the chance to take the perfect selfie onboard and share their experience. Each of the airline’s Dreamliners will have a unique backdrop with the aircraft’s name so that passengers can “collect” various aircraft selfies. Virgin has 21 of the aircraft on order with routes to Boston, Newark, New York JFK, and Washington Dulles already featuring the new plane.

The first selfie spot went live on Birthday Girl April 1 allowing customers to take their picture with the iconic Virgin Atlantic Flying Lady carrying her celebratory champagne coupe. Also, a discussion forum will allow travelers to connect to other passengers on board and share their experiences. Both access to the discussion forum and selfie upload will be accessible via the wifi signal.

 

Surprise and delight

In an effort to move beyond the staid experience, the airline has also launched several surprise and delight events including one over Christmas that certainly had passengers talking. Travelers aboard flight 11 from London to Boston were treated to a special visit and gift from Santa Claus himself as the plane flew over the Arctic.

“We wanted to offer something extra special for the families flying with us this Christmas and who better to spread the Christmas cheer than Santa himself?,” says Hulme.

Santa dropped into the aircraft while passing by during one of his “reindeer training flights.” The experience began at boarding when all 264 customers were gifted an early Christmas present from Microsoft of a Windows tablet so they could log on to NORAD Track Santa and enjoy a live chat as he took his sleigh for a spin over the Atlantic

“Passengers tracked his movements from their Windows tablets and were able to live chat with him before sharing their Santa selfies using the on board Wi-Fi,” Hulme adds.

When the aircraft was over Greenland, Santa radioed the Virgin Atlantic pilots flying the aircraft asking permission to land on the plane for some refreshments and to give his reindeers a rest.

Passengers were then amazed to watch the sleigh land on the aircraft through glass panels in the roof before he accessed the plane through a special Santa hatch.

Santa then walked down the aisles of the plane, delighting children and taking selfies with surprised passengers.

Christmas continued for those on the plane with Microsoft prizes of Xboxes and Windows devices from Dell, Lenovo & Microsoft being won in competitions during the flight.

This type of creativity is reserved typically for premium cabin customers, and to see an airline exhibit such an effort for economy shows creative push that moves in the right direction for the industry as a whole. Certainly, other carriers will be hard pressed to match such an offer, but to see Virgin kick start a movement in the “back of the bus” is a refreshing start in the aviation industry.

“It will be interesting to see if Virgin can recreate part of the allure it has brought to the front of the plane in Upper Class,” adds McGinnis. “Virgin has a tremendously strong brand, and the investments that some airlines are making in economy these days are definitely a step in the right direction.”

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Qatar Airways Fleet Display Dominates Paris Air Show

By John Walton / Published June 24, 2015

Qatar Airways is returning home to Doha with many of the stories of the Paris Air Show under its belt. After enjoying being one of Boeing’s showpiece orders for the 777F and the 777-8, Qatar’s whopping five aircraft on static display — more than all other airlines combined — made a key political point to the aviation industry and Western governments.

Qatar is here to stay, it has an enviable onboard product, and it isn’t afraid to ground a veritable fleet of aircraft for a week to make its point, say the Airbus A380, Boeing 787, Airbus A350, all-business class Airbus A319, and mid-haul Airbus A320 aircraft at Le Bourget.

These weren’t pre-delivery aircraft that were still the responsibility of the airframer, in the way that Boeing brought a China Airlines 777-300ER so new that anyone going on board had to don protective booties, parts of all three cabins were roped off, and nobody was allowed to sit on the seats.

Panorama

No, these were actual flying Qatar Airways aircraft that had been taken out of service for the best part of a week to allow industry execs, partners, professionals and of course the world’s assembled media to crawl all over them from nose (flight deck doors were open) to tail (so were the crew rests, and so busy that a decent picture was impossible).

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Photographs galore and welcomed by smiling helpful flight attendants arranging immaculately plumped pillows and luxury washbags on the very latest seats — it was like dying and going to air show heaven.

Qatar Airways’ A380 shows remarkable interior restraint

The pride of the fleet is Qatar Airways’ Airbus A380, with its remarkably understated and elegant first class cabin.

Qatar Airways Airbus A380 - Paris Air Show - IMG_8789

The signature Qatar rose gold blends relatively unobtrusively with the deep burgundies and warm woods, and the decision to go for an open first class cabin rather than a closed suites-based environment is a refreshing change.

Qatar Airways Airbus A380 - Paris Air Show - IMG_8786

Business class is Qatar’s widebody standard, a very respectable implementation of the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond outward-facing herringbone, where centre seats point together and window seats point towards the window.

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If anything, business feels more private than first class, given that you’re pointing away from the aisle.

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Qatar’s A380 economy, too, is impressive — just 31 inches of pitch, but in a spacious 2-4-2 minicabin upstairs and the standard 3-4-3 throughout the lower deck.

Qatar Airways Airbus A380 - Paris Air Show - IMG_8801

The all-new A350 is spectacular

On the A350, business class is the front cabin, and you’re welcomed with an eyecatching rose gold dome at the doors.

Qatar Airways Airbus A350 - Paris Air Show - IMG_8959

The seat is the same as the A380, although the significantly wider A350 cabin and a large break in the middle of the business class section for the door and open entryway gives it an even more spacious feeling.

Qatar Airways Airbus A350 - Paris Air Show - IMG_8958

However, the unbroken length of the cabin also has a downside: with the increasingly quiet cabin of the A350, will there be too little noise to mask a couple of chatty passengers and a few snorers?

Qatar Airways Airbus A350 - Paris Air Show - IMG_8945

Oddly enough, the most impressive part of the A350’s construction for this journalist is the overhead bin structure, which is the same in business and economy.

Qatar Airways Airbus A350 - Paris Air Show - IMG_9520

The sharp sweep of the bins’ curve hides roomy storage areas while making the cabin immensely more open and airy.

Speaking of airy: a newly built widebody aircraft with individual air nozzles is remarkable enough to mention. More airlines need to choose this option when outfitting their newest aircraft.

Qatar Airways Airbus A350 - Paris Air Show - IMG_9513

The A350’s economy seats are pleasantly wide, with an articulating seat pan that tilts passengers into a more relaxed position.

Qatar Airways Airbus A350 - Paris Air Show - IMG_9523

The generous recline, however, means that when the passenger in front pushes back, they are so close that you feel like you should be giving them a neck rub. (Please don’t unless they are in your travelling group.)

One final niggle: the adjustable headrests on the A350 don’t go high enough to clear this 6’3” journalist’s shoulders.

Qatar’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner is tight in economy

Qatar’s 787-8 feels, appropriately enough, a little smaller than the A350. Business is the top offering here too, and the seats are the same B/E Super Diamond outward-facing herringbones.

Qatar Airways Boeing 787 - Paris Air Show - IMG_8895

Economy, though, is not a great experience. Qatar opted for a nine-abreast 3-3-3 seating, but chose standard width aisles rather than the cut-down version other airlines use in this configuration. The aisle is noticeably wider than on other similarly laid out 787s.

Qatar Airways Boeing 787 - Paris Air Show - IMG_8878

The tradeoff with choosing the wider aisle — like the problem with the old Northwest A320 family aircraft — is that seat width has to be reduced to accommodate it. Qatar’s 787 seats are the narrowest this journalist has ever experienced, and it’s really quite noticeable for a frequent traveller.

Qatar Airways Boeing 787 - Paris Air Show - IMG_8884

Swish all-business A319 is a great ride

No such problems on the all-business class Airbus A319 narrowbody, which holds forty passengers in leather-clad exclusivity on premium routes or charters.

Qatar Airways Airbus all-business A319 - Paris Air Show - IMG_8938

Interestingly, the seats are less spacious in the all-biz A319 than in regular business class on larger aircraft, with a 2-2 layout of B/E Diamond fully flat beds that lack the direct aisle access for all passengers of the Super Diamond seen on the widebodies.

Qatar Airways Airbus all-business A319 - Paris Air Show - IMG_8942

The kicker, though, is travelling with just thirty-nine other people. Time the arrivals right and you just breeze through the airport without a full aircraft of people behind you.

Even Qatar’s A320s are pleasant inside

Qatar also brought one of its mid-haul A320 aircraft to Le Bourget, which is outfitted with the same seats as the A319, but just twelve of them, and in a cloth moquette rather than leather.

Qatar Airways Airbus all-business A320 - Paris Air Show - IMG_8925

Economy is a very standard 31” in pitch, but that’s towards the higher end of standard these days, and these birds do have full inflight entertainment.

Interestingly, Qatar refitted this mid-haul aircraft with sharklet wingtips after it was delivered. The benefits of sharklets are greatest for longer flights, where the aerodynamic improvements offset the extra weight more efficiently.

Qatar Airways Airbus A320 - Paris Air Show - IMG_9247

 

Paris Air Show Stories:

A “Quiet” Paris Air Show: Great for Attendees and Observers

Paris Air Show 2015 (Day 0): Bombardier CSeries Aircraft Debuts at Le Bourget

Paris Air Show 2015: Qatar Orders 14 Boeing 777s, Ups Threat to Leave Oneworld

Paris Air Show 2015: SWISS Confirms CS-300 Order

Paris Air Show 2015: Honeywell Radar Improves Airport, Aircraft Efficiency

Paris Air Show: ATR Pushes High-density, High-efficiency Turboprops

Paris Air Show: Indonesia Takes Action on Aviation Safety Concerns

Paris Air Show: Boeing’s Little Orders Are Big Wins

Paris Air Show: Ethiopian Takes `Terrible Teens’ 787s from Boeing

Paris Air Show: Volga-Dnepr Places Major Boeing 747-8F Order

Paris Air Show: Leasing Companies Order Big at Airbus

Paris Air Show: Airlines Go Shopping in the Airbus Catalog

Paris Air Show: 2015 a Slow Year for Orders

Editor’s note: Our readers now have access to our weekly eNewsletter, which includes a recap of our top stories of the week, along with the subscriber-only exclusive Weekend Reads column and Photo of the Week from our extensive archives. The newsletter comes out every Saturday morning. Stay in the know; click here to subscribe today!

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Contact the editor at roberto.leiro@airwaysnews.com

 

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Airbus’ A400M Airlifter Rises Again at Paris Air Show

By John Walton from Paris / Published June 22, 2015

Airbus’ troubled A400M airlifter, the proposed replacement for a generation of Hercules type military logistics and transport aircraft, made a triumphant return to the world’s skies last week at the Paris Air show, following a deadly crash in May. Airbus-owned MSN006 performed an impressive flying display at Le Bourget last week, and a French Armée de l’Air aircraft on static display was the subject of much interest.

AirwaysNews captured a timelapse of the five-plus minute aerobatic demonstration, both during the week…

…and on Friday, the first public day of the air show.

The Grizzly (or, as it’s now officially called, Atlas) shook a defiant paw at its critics, with the ill-starred program showing that it’s not counted out yet. The latest strike against the A400M was the crash of MSN023 on May 9th this year on a test flight killing four Airbus crew on board and seriously injuring two others near Seville in Spain, where the aircraft is manufactured.

After the Seville accident, there had been significant concerns about whether the A400M would be cleared for a return to flight in time for Le Bourget, but fortunately — for attendees and for the program — the (air) show went on as preliminary investigations were continuing.

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The Airbus A400M Atlas on static display at Paris Air Show.

“CITAAM [the Commission for Technical Research of Military Aircraft Accidents of Spain’s defence ministry] confirmed that engines 1, 2 and 3 experienced power frozen after lift-off and did not respond to the crew’s attempts to control the power setting in the normal way, whilst engine 4 responded to throttle demands. When the power levers were set to “flight idle” in an attempt to reduce power, the power reduced but then remained at “flight idle” on the three affected engines for the remainder of the flight despite attempts by the crew to regain power,” Airbus said in a statement on 6 June as the final arrangements for the Paris Air Show were being made. However, “preliminary analyses have shown that all other aircraft systems performed normally and did not identify any other abnormalities throughout the flight.”

The A400M is technically a tactical airlifter with a 37-tonne payload, but as the RAF says, it’s a dual role aircraft: “tactical air lift and strategic oversize lift capacity”. The RAF has 22 aircraft on order, Germany 53, France 50, Spain 27, Turkey 10, Belgium 7, Malaysia 4 and Luxembourg 1.

Twelve aircraft have so far been delivered, with France receiving six A400Ms, Germany one, Malaysia one, Turkey two and the UK two. The total order book stands at 174 aircraft.

Images and videos by John Walton

Our Paris Air Show Stories:

A “Quiet” Paris Air Show: Great for Attendees and Observers

Paris Air Show 2015 (Day 0): Bombardier CSeries Aircraft Debuts at Le Bourget

Paris Air Show 2015: Qatar Orders 14 Boeing 777s, Ups Threat to Leave Oneworld

Paris Air Show 2015: SWISS Confirms CS-300 Order

Paris Air Show 2015: Honeywell Radar Improves Airport, Aircraft Efficiency

Paris Air Show: ATR Pushes High-density, High-efficiency Turboprops

Paris Air Show: Indonesia Takes Action on Aviation Safety Concerns

Paris Air Show: Boeing’s Little Orders Are Big Wins

Paris Air Show: Ethiopian Takes `Terrible Teens’ 787s from Boeing

Paris Air Show: Volga-Dnepr Places Major Boeing 747-8F Order

Paris Air Show: Leasing Companies Order Big at Airbus

Paris Air Show: Airlines Go Shopping in the Airbus Catalog

Paris Air Show: 2015 a Slow Year for Orders

Editor’s note: Our readers now have access to our weekly eNewsletter, which includes a recap of our top stories of the week, along with the subscriber-only exclusive Weekend Reads column and Photo of the Week from our extensive archives. The newsletter comes out every Saturday morning. Stay in the know; click here to subscribe today!

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Contact the editor at roberto.leiro@airwaysnews.com

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Minding the Gap: Boeing Readies the Transition into the 777X Program with an Enhanced 777-300ER

By: Chris Sloan in Everett and Roberto Leiro / Photos by Chris Sloan unless otherwise noted / Published: June 8, 2015

As Boeing celebrates 20 years since the 777 entered service, the Boeing 777 program has been one of the most successful in the history of the company. During the last ten years, it has been the best-selling widebody with over 1,866 orders, 12,996 aircraft in service —including 25 units sold this year—and almost 1300 deliveries to 68 carriers worldwide.  The company, keen to keep sales and production of this wide-body cash flow at strength,  has made the existing 777 Classic a key sales priority for Boeing Commercial Aircraft.  The transition to the type’s next generation version, the 777X is already underway, but new performance and passenger appeal features and assembly improvements are being adopted for an enhanced version of the current 777-300ER model. Boeing clearly is pushing for a smoother production ramp up than the difficult gestation of the 787 and is adopting some learnings, best practices, and features from that program.

RELATED: Inside Boeing’s Everett 777 Plant

777-X Industry Leader Slide

RELATED: The 777X Launches: Gulf Big Three Break Out Checkbook

Elizabeth Lund, Vice President and General Manager, 777 Program and Everett Site extols the virtues of the Triple 7 program during a Boeing media briefing on June 1, 2015.

Elizabeth Lund, Vice President and General Manager, 777 Program and Everett Site extols the virtues of the Triple 7 program during a Boeing media briefing on June 1, 2015.

According to Elizabeth Lund, Vice President and General Manager 777 Program and Everett Site, the 777X production line is being “de-risked” as the company still refines the current 777-300ER in production, so that “this will be a great bridge aircraft. We continue investing in the current 777, not just waiting on the X,” she commented in a recent press briefing at Boeing Media days. Despite improvements in production and design, many in the industry are skeptical that Boeing’s campaigns will allow the current 777 to retain its current rate before the ‘X’ arrives. Airbus has already reduced its production rate for the current A330 in advance of the neo. The 777-X isn’t due to enter production until 2017, with a first flight scheduled in 2018 and EIS in 2020.

Lund assures that the 777 aircraft currently in service “flies repeatedly. It does what it says it´s going to do. It’s something we are really proud of.” Furthermore, she asserted that after 20 years in service  “it is not only the best twin aisle in the industry, but also has proven to be a very reliable aircraft with a 99.5% of dispatch reliability”

EXTRA: Boeing Celebrates 20 Years of the 777 Entering Service

Boeing is committed to cut fuel burn reduction by 2%, driven by an increase in seat count to 10 – 14 seats.  This could translate into obtaining an aggregate savings of 5% per seat fuel burn. In order to achieve these goals, Doug Ackerman, 777 Airplane Level Integration Team Chief Engineer disclosed some of the improvements to be applied in the current 777 all of which by the 3rd quarter of next year include:

-       Weight improvements

-       Removal of the tail skid

-       Elevator trim bias

-       Divergent trailing edge

-      Engine improvements on the GE90 power plants resulting in a .5% improvement in fuel burn.

-       L2 boarding door featuring 787 enhanced “arch-entryway” design

-       Reduced cabin noise

-       Business-jet like motorized window shades as in the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental and Airbus A350

-       New lighter weight galleys made out of composites to take weight out of the airplane

-       Space-saving lavatories

-       Straight aft tracks to add more seats

Slide courtesy: Boeing

Slide courtesy: Boeing

Boeing is also planning to apply some of the lessons learn during the initial EIS of the 787 Dreamliner.  “We are pulling 777X production benefits earlier into current 777 to work the bugs out early, de-risking the program.” Lessons learned from 787 program where we institute new technology but not new production techniques” said Lund.

Although there were initial concerns on how the re-engineered version of the triple 7 would cannibalize the existing logbook of the current production models, Lund dismissed these fears. “The 777-300ER is an excellent bridge airplane. The enhanced ER version before the 777X featuring better fuel burn and an improved passenger cabin makes the version a valuable airplane during the bridge. We believe that this is a great competitor to the (Airbus) A350-1000.” Boeing confirms these bridge features were key to reaching a deal with United Airlines for ten 777-300ERs.

Slide courtesy: Boeing

Slide courtesy: Boeing

ANALYSIS: United Fleet Philosophy Shifts With Recent Fleet Changes

A Futuristic Production Line

777 Factory Aerial SlideBoeing reports steadily improved production flow. During a tour of the 777 production line, Director of Manufacturing of 777 operations disclosed that production flow has “improved by 2 days this year. Production of the 777 in the factory moving Final Assembly Line takes 46 days, followed by approximately 30 days on the field before delivery”. There are no plans to increase the current rate. This is a marked increase even since the introduction of the 1.6 inch per hour moving production line, back in 2006. Impressively, the entire wing and fuselage join on the U-shaped line now takes just twenty-four hours.

For an aircraft made from 3 million parts, Boeing is relying on a novel production system focused on the optimizing productivity and mobility, plus the integration of the composite wing fabrication and assembly by applying automated automotive-like manufacturing techniques. According to Jason Clark, Boeing 777/777X Vice President of Operations, “These advanced facilities will be in use by the end of the year will benefit both current 777 and 777X production lines.” The new facilities will have an extension of 325,000 sq.ft. to house the new FAUB—Fuselage Assembly Center, taking the 777 programs into a sophisticated 21st century production line. Boeing says it will be building 100% robotic fuselages with the 773 before the 777-X begins production.

The transition between the 777 and 777X will take between two and three years. Lund said that the goal of the company “is to keep at the 8.3/month (approximately 100 jets per year) current production rate during the production changes, and keep it consistent to the 777X.” Boeing can ‘fire blanks’ in to the system, giving the line buffer room as production line moves. “Our goal in the 777X comes over to existing production line around 2020 from a temporary surge line. This is called the 777X LRIP (Low Rate Initial Production Line). The LRIP is currently occupied by the 787 surge line, but this is being vacated in September for the 777X. Ultimately there will still only be a single final 777-X assembly line as the surge line won’t be permanent. Boeing expects a 5 year overlap with the 777 Classic and 777-X, particularly with the 777 Freighter.

Slide courtesy: Boeing

Slide courtesy: Boeing

Though the focus of the program was clearly on the 777 Classic, Boeing officials also disclosed a few new features of the 777X including slightly larger windows and extended flight hours and cycles before D checks are required. Later in the week, we will have a look at Boeing’s expansive new Composite Wing Center in Everett.

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Some of this story is adapted from our Boeing 777: 20th Anniversary of Flight story.

Contact the editor at: roberto.leiro@airwaysnews.com

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FLASHBACK: Boeing 777 Celebrates 20 Years of Connecting the World

By Airways News Staff / Published June 5, 2015

Author’s Note: This story is dedicated to Darren Booth and his family. Mr. Booth was a Boarding Area blogger, and back when he worked for United, he had the opportunity to fly on the world’s first 777 passenger flight. If you have just a few minutes, we highly recommend you check out his first hand account here

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Photo by jdl multimedia

Sunday marks 20 years since United Airlines became the world’s first airline to introduce the Boeing 777 into commercial service. Since United’s maiden flight, more than 1,200 777s have been delivered to customers worldwide, and roughly fifty airlines have operated some version or another of the 777 since it was debuted in ’95, many of which still fly the type today. Among the largest operators include ANA, American, Emirates, and United.

United was the launch customer for the Boeing 777, placing an order in October of 1990 for 34 aircraft and 34 options. United now operates 74 777-200s and is the -200s largest operator. United just became the 2nd US based carrier to order the Boeing 777-300ER with 10 on order for delivery beginning in 2016. British Airways became the second operator of the type, when the 777 entered service with the UK flag carrier later in 1995. BA was the first to operate the longer-ranged B Model.

The airplane celebrated its 1000th delivery on March 3rd, 2012 when a 777-300ER was turned over to Dubai-based Emirates airlines, and just last year, Boeing delivered its 500th 777-300ER.

First delivery of the Boeing 777 to United in 1995 as 777 flies by in the background.  Image courtesy: Boeing

First delivery of the Boeing 777 to United in 1995 as the fist 777 flies by in the background.
Image courtesy: Boeing

It’s safe to say that the 777 has carried more than a billion people from point A to point B, and 24/7/365, the aircraft plays a significant role in helping connect the world by getting people to their destinations whether it be for a family vacation or a wedding or a business meeting.

To mark the occasion this week, Boeing invited current and former people involved with the aircraft to a celebration in Everett, even going so far as to create a “pop up museum” detailing the Triple Seven’s history.

EXTRA: Boeing 777: 20th Anniversary of Flight

The First Commercial Flight

On June 7, 1995, United Airlines flew its inaugural Boeing 777 flight from Denver to Chicago O’Hare. United flight 910 made history over the U.S. as it flew approximately 292 people between the two big U.S. cities. London Heathrow to Washington Dulles had the honors to receive the first international flight. The delivery took place less then 3 weeks before on  May 15, 1995. 

In a press release from 1995, Gerald Greenwald, chairman and chief executive officer, said, “On behalf of our 76,000 employees, our 74 million customers, our travel agents and our associates at Boeing and Pratt & Whitney and their suppliers, United Airlines is tremendously excited about introducing the Boeing 777 into the world’s first revenue service. This aircraft represents the best combination of comfort and technology ever offered to commercial aviation passengers. We are more than confident that the traveling public will quickly come to appreciate the numerous features incorporated into this magnificent aircraft that will make flying a greater joy than ever before.”

Slide courtesy: Boeing

Slide courtesy: Boeing

At the time of the maiden flight, the aircraft was truly state-of-the-art. Customers on United’s 777s now had access to up to six channels of video feature films and short subjects as well as 19 channels of CD-quality audio (120 minutes per channel) in English as well as multiple languages.

According to an early brochure, “The aircraft will also equipped with a fully integrated digital telephone system that provided global telecommunications capability for voice, fax and data. Passengers will be able to keep in touch from anywhere in the world whether they are flying over land or water.”

Other 777 Variants

Three major subtypes of the original -200 have since been manufactured. The 777-200ER was released in 1997, followed by the 777-200 Long Range in 2006. The LR version was particularly impressive, capable of flying up to 9,380 nautical miles nonstop. A freight version hit the market in 2006, though orders have been few.

The -200 has since been largely replaced, however, by the larger -300 derivative. The first 777-300 was unveiled in Seattle in 1998. Designed to replace classic 747s, the airplane was given an impressive 6,015 nautical mile range and capacity for over 500 passengers. It was stretched thirty-three feet beyond the -200, making it the longest aircraft of its time. Cathay Pacific took the first, and continues to operate one of the largest -300 classic fleets in the world, recently taking its 50th 777.

777′s Safety Record

Over the lat 20 years, the 777 has enjoyed a stellar safety record. Only five of the more than 1,200 aircraft produced have suffered verified hull losses. The first came in 2008, almost thirteens years into service,when a British Airways -200 jet crashed short of the runway in London. The accident was blamed on ice crystals clogging part of the fuel system. The second occurred in 2011, when an EgyptAir 777-200 flight deck caught fire at the gate in Cairo due to an electrical fault, and the aircraft was latter written off. Neither incident resulted in any fatalities.

Photo courtesy NTSB

The only verified fatalities came from Asiana Airlines flight 214, which crash landed in San Francisco International Airport on July 6, 2013. Three died when the airplane sank too fast in its approach, hit a perimeter seawall, lost its tail, and skidded violently down the runway before coming to a stop.

Of course the big elephant in the room is the presumed loss of Malaysia Airlines flight 370. The -200 jet left Kuala Lumpur, bound for Beijing, on March 9th, 2014. It disappeared from civilian radar only one hour into the flight and appears to have inexplicably tacked west, and then south, according to military radar and satellite data information. Though no trace of the plane has been found, it is believed to be located in the Indian Ocean off the western coast of Australia. Once confirmed, it will be the second official fatal incident for the airplane, with 239 lost.

Just a few months after Malaysia flight 370 disappeared, Malaysia flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine while flying to Kuala Lumpur, after departing Amsterdam, on July 17, 2014. All 283 passengers and 15 crew on board were killed; the Russian government blames Ukraine while Ukranians blame the Russians. The Dutch Safety Board is currently leading the investigation, and it is expected that they will release their final accident report sometime this Fall.

777 Moving Onwards and Upwards

When most airplanes celebrate their twentieth anniversary, talk begins to orient more towards retirement than renewal. Indeed Boeing’s own 757 program wrapped up production in just over twenty years. The Airbus A340, and DC-10 were produced for eighteen years, and the MD-11 for only twelve.

CGI image courtesy of Boeing.

Yet the 777 is set to live on. The possibility of a rebuilt, next generation 777X first popped up in 2011. The new base model, the -9X, will stretch the fuselage to over 250 feet, seven feet beyond the current -300ER. The wingspan will increase nearly twenty feet, necessitating folding wingtips. It is expected to have a range of 8,200 nautical miles (NM) and a seating capacity of 400 passengers. A shorter -8X will be able to fly 350 passengers up to 9,300NM.

Lufthansa wasted no time, and it ordered 34 -9X airplanes in September, a few months before its intended launch in Dubai. Meanwhile at the 2013 Dubai air show, the Gulf Big Three placed firm orders and options for up to 225 airplanes. Since, ANA and Cathay Pacific have ordered the jet as well.

By the time the airplane is delivered to carriers in 2020, the 777 will have been gracing blue skies around the world for twenty-five years. And thanks to the 777X, we can likely look forward to twenty-five more.

EXTRA: Boeing Launches The 777-X as the Gulf Three Take Out Their Checkbooks.

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Editor’s note: We want you to subscribe to our weekly newsletter. Why? Every Saturday morning, subscribers receive a summary of our best stories of the week, along with exclusive content. from our massive archives. Subscribe today by clicking here!

Some of this story is adapted from our Boeing 777: 20th Anniversary of Flight story.

Contact the editor at: roberto.leiro@airwaysnews.com

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Alaska Announces Two New Routes

By Airways News Staff / Published June 4, 2015

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Photo courtesy of JDL Multimedia

Alaska Airlines will begin flying between Portland and Austin as well as Eugene and San Jose on November 5.

“San Jose and Austin are two of our most requested cities from our customers in the Willamette Valley,” said John Kirby, Alaska’s vice president of capacity planning. “We’re excited to add the Live Music Capital of the World to our growing list of destinations from the Rose City, and our new flight to San Jose is our first-ever nonstop from Eugene to the Bay Area. These routes will also connect key tech markets in three states.”

Summary of Portland-Austin flying

Start Date City Pair Departs Arrives Frequency
Nov.5 Portland-Austin 9:50 a.m. 3:50 p.m. Daily
Nov. 5 Austin-Portland 4:35 p.m. 6:55 p.m. Daily

Summary of Eugene-San Jose flying

Start Date City Pair Departs Arrives Frequency
Nov. 5 Eugene-San Jose 4:20 p.m. 5:50 p.m. Daily
Nov. 5 San Jose-Eugene 5:50 p.m. 7:20 p.m. Daily
All times based on local time zones

The new Portland-Austin flights will be operated with a brand new E175, operated by SkyWest, which will start flying Alaska’s customers later this summer. The new aircraft boast 12 seats in first and 64 in economy. “Year-round nonstop service to Portland is a prized route for Central Texas,” said Jim Smith, Executive Director, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. “Whether for business or fun, the Portland-Austin connection is popular with our customers.”

Alaska currently serves Austin daily from Seattle. The airline has attempted to connect San Jose and Austin in the past, but Southwest proved to be too strong of competition. Although, Alaska will have to go head to head with Southwest on the new route out of Portland, but Southwest only operates the route nonstop seasonally in the summer.

The Eugene-San Jose flight will be operated by Horizon Air with a 76-seat Bombardier Q400 aircraft. “Nonstop service to San Jose is a critical piece of the puzzle in supporting the exciting growth of start-ups and technology companies we are experiencing here in the Willamette Valley,” said Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce President Dave Hauser. “We’re pleased to support this exciting announcement.” Many were surprised with Alaska’s announcement to start flights between Eugene and San Jose.

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With Delta & New 787s, is Virgin Atlantic’s Mojo Back?

By: John Walton / Published June 4, 2015

Editor’s note: This story is part two of three in our Virgin Atlantic series. You can read Part 1: Analysis: Virgin Atlantic’s Turnaround 

Virgin Atlantic is one of those airlines that inspires either great passion or total nonchalance in its passengers. Some travellers really resonate with the glammed-up look and feel, while others don’t find the bells and whistles make that much of a difference to them.

In recent history, the turn of the decade and the arrival of the 2010s weren’t the best time for the iconoclastic Virgin. It pioneered both angled lie-flat business class seating in 2000 and the fully flat business class bed in 2003, but just as Virgin launched its brand new Clubhouse and Upper Class Wing fast-track in 2007 for its business class passengers and frequent flyers, BA’s “Fortress Heathrow” home moved to the brand-new Terminal 5, “gifted” to it according to Virgin figurehead Richard Branson.

Virgin Atlantic London Clubhouse

Despite well-publicised operational difficulties when T5 opened, and the need to keep some flights in other terminals as BA outgrew its new home, consolidation of British Airways into Terminal 5 has given it a number of advantages over its smaller rival.

In terms of size, Virgin is a tiny force of sappers at Fortress Heathrow: just 13 percent of the BA fleet of nearly 300 aircraft, compared with Virgin Atlantic’s 40. British Airways has more Boeing 777-200ER aircraft alone than Virgin has in its entire fleet.

As a result of the 2012 takeover of its UK and European feed partner bmi (the former British Midland) by British Airways, a significant proportion of Virgin’s London-connection traffic filtered away, not just to British Airways, but to other European airlines as they increased feeder services to the UK’s regional airports.

Production delays also hit Virgin Atlantic, in both its Boeing 787 Dreamliner program (intended to replace its oldest and fuel-hungriest aircraft) and its internally produced Dream Suite, constructed by the threesixty design house that was later sold to Contour.

virgin-atlantic-upper-class-dream-suite

Competition regulators required BA to give up some former bmi slots for domestic feed, and Virgin tried its own branded Little Red services to northern UK destinations with a capital-light wetleased operation to Aer Lingus.

After the 2012 deal where Delta Air Lines took a 49 percent stake formerly owned by Singapore Airlines, Little Red was determined to be a no-go and is in the last throes of being shut down, though surprisingly before its “remedy slots”, which are route-specific, could be transferred to general use Heathrow slots. The combined Virgin-Delta decisionmakers clearly felt that a further period of losses wouldn’t make up for the sale of the slots.

virgin-atlantic-airbus-a320-uk--pr

With 2014 cuts to long-standing long-haul legacy routes Sydney, Tokyo, Vancouver, Mumbai and Cape Town, the Delta-era Virgin Atlantic’s role appears to have clarified: to be Delta’s second immunised transatlantic joint venture partnership.

The fallout from the US3 vs ME3 Open Skies debate will determine whether that role changes to provide a semi-internal, immunised, English-speaking natural connection at LHR for Delta flights to the Middle East and South Asia, in which case look for Virgin to try to provide some kind of fast-track option for the notoriously dreadful UK transfer experience.

Delta has transferred operations on the key JV routes of New York, Boston and Los Angeles to Virgin’s facilities in Terminal 3, which offer a significant advantage over the SkyTeam alliance’s Terminal 4 hub for business class passengers and frequent flyers in particular.

In onboard passenger experience terms, the Virgin hard product is fairly standard in economy: 31” throughout, with 3-4-3 on the 747, 2-4-2 on the A330/A340, and 3-3-3 on the 787 Dreamliner. In premium economy, Virgin — the airline that introduced the category in the 1990s with Mid Class — the seat is also standard: the usual recliner.

Upper Class varies by aircraft, with the most room on the Upper Class Suites on the 747 and 787 fleets, followed by a tossup between the high-density A330 interwoven herringbone Dream Suites and the narrower A340 version of the original Suites. Interestingly, Virgin abandoned its Dream Suites, announced with much fanfare in 2012, to return to its original Upper Class Suite on the 787.

virgin-atlantic-upper-class-airbus-a340-600-best-seats

Yet with a new top-notch English sparkling wine replacing its long-standing Lanson Champagne in Upper Class on the newly arrived Dreamliners, the retirement of its oldest A340 aircraft (one of which still had looping, unpausable video), and a new transatlantic strategic direction, is this the time when Virgin Atlantic gets its mojo back?

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Boeing Starts Building the First 737 MAX

By Roberto Leiro and Chris Sloan from Renton / Published June 2, 2015.

Boeing has started the building of its first 737 MAX on schedule at its Renton factory. Last Friday, employees started the assembly of the wings for the flight test airplane. Wing assembly is considered the official first step in building any aircraft.  The wing load began in Boeing’s  new Panel Assembly Line (PAL) which began operation in February of this year. 4 of these 50 ton, 22 feet tall structures are in operation with a total of 9 in operation by 2016. Boeing bills the system as “a highly automated wing skin panel production system that consolidates assembly into an in-line flow using a pulsing line.” The new PAL replaces the current system dating back to the 737′s program launch in the 1960s.

IMG_3288

First 737 Max front wing spar. The automated machine drills 30,000 spars per day.

According to Keith Leverkuhn, vice president and general manager of the 737 MAX Program “Employees in Renton are the best in the world at building single-aisle airplanes, and now this world-class team is building the future with the first 737 MAX.” Machine operators loaded last week the 737 MAX wing components—panels and stringers—into the new automated wing panel and spar assembly machines. With a assembly daily rate of 8 panels—currently at 75% of automation—each upper and lower wing skin panel will require 2,500 fasteners to be completed. 4 wings are produced each day with 84 per month.

The wings will be attached to the first MAX fuselage on the also new Central line in Final Assembly in Renton in September. The new production line will allow the team to isolate the first 737 MAX build from the rest of the production in order to master the building process, while keeping the current monthly production rate of 42 airplanes, which increases to 47 per month in 2017 and eventually 52 per month. “Achieving this milestone on schedule is a testament to the success of the 737, and our integrated design and build team” added Leverkuhn.

The 737 Max is due to roll out at the end of this year with first flight scheduled in 2016. into Launch customer Southwest, with 200 on order, will be the launch customer when the 737 Max is scheduled for first delivery in 3rd quarter 2017. As of the end of April, the 737 Max has achieved 2,724 orders from 57 customers. The Max’s competitor, The Airbus A320neo has accumulated 3,794 orders and is due for its first delivery late this year to launch customer, Qatar Airways.

RELATED: Inside Boeing’s 737 Renton Factory as They Take it to “The MAX”: Parts One and Two

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Aer Lingus Acquisition Offers New US-Europe Opportunities

By John Walton / Published May 29, 2015

Over the years, Aer Lingus has developed its own uniquely Irish passenger experience, even as it has flirted with becoming a low-cost carrier in the context of national stablemate Ryanair. Its recent acquisition by British Airways’ and Iberia’s IAG holding group provides a real chance for a renaissance by the Irish carrier.

Aer Lingus' European menu - photo by @AirlineFlyer, Jason Rabinowitz

With its connectivity over Dublin to Europe, Aer Lingus is a popular choice for US flyers heading eastbound, and certain aspects of its passenger experience have become must-dos: the famous Irish Breakfast (don’t forget to pre-order!) and a pint of peaty Guinness during transit, no matter what time of day.

Aer Lingus' renowned Irish Breakfast - photo by @AirlineFlyer, Jason Rabinowitz

Aer Lingus is fortunate in that its connections via Dublin Airport are significantly more pleasant than many other, larger European hubs. New owner IAG’s British Airways often-nightmarish multi-terminal hub at London Heathrow is one to avoid in particular, as is Iberia’s expansive yet somewhat inefficient Madrid Barajas terminal.

On the westbound transatlantic leg, US immigration and customs pre-clearance is a significant advantage, enabling Aer Lingus to arrive like a regular US domestic flight. Even the actual processing is easier — not least because, let’s face it, an ICE agent on a plum assignment in Ireland is generally going to be in a much better mood than one working at JFK.

Towards Europe, Aer Lingus offers dozens of European destinations that might lighten the load on Heathrow with extra connecting traffic over Dublin. Major European destinations are already in the EI network, and the airline has significant UK operations: Aberdeen, Belfast City, Birmingham, Blackpool, Bristol, Bournemouth, Cardiff, Doncaster, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Inverness, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Leeds, London Gatwick, London Heathrow, London Southend, Manchester, Newcastle, Newquay, and Southampton. British Airways doesn’t offer flights to or from a number of those airports, with a significant proportion of connecting flights going over Amsterdam, Paris or other European hubs, so bringing them back into the IAG fold is a win for the group.

Just days before the takeover was accepted, Aer Lingus announced plans to resume daily flights to Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport and add Washington Dulles to its network. Additional frequencies to Amsterdam, Birmingham, Geneva, Manchester, Paris and Zurich were also announced.

A UK expansion could also roll out to previous EI destinations within the British Isles: Belfast International, Derry, Durham/Tees Valley, Liverpool, London City, and London Stansted.

Air Contractors 757s operating for Aer Lingus on east coast flights - photo via Air Contractors

Flying west, Aer Lingus currently serves Boston, Chicago, New York JFK, Orlando, San Francisco, Washington DC and Toronto in Canada. But it has in the past served Baltimore, Los Angeles, New York Newark and Montreal. With recent fleet additions via a set of Air Contractors Boeing 757-200 aircraft operating New York, Boston and Toronto flights, and the development of Airbus’ A321neoLR 757 replacement that would be a common type rating with its European Airbus A320 family fleet, Aer Lingus has several options in terms of fleet type and sizing to develop new transatlantic markets.

If Aer Lingus is to prove a reasonable alternative to British Airways within Europe, the variance in its European fleet — particularly in economy class — might need some attention. Its A319 fleet, previously operated by Iberia, is significantly less comfortable than the rest of its narrowbody fleet. And it will certainly need to actually offer a business class within Europe, even if that is just a middle-seat-free Eurobusiness product.

Integration into the IAG Avios frequent flyer program will make Aer Lingus more attractive to business travellers as well, particularly since Aer Lingus transatlantic business class will be familiar to Avios users thanks to the period of time where BOS-DUB in business was a serious redemption sweet spot in the Avios programme.

Interestingly, Aer Lingus actually offers a better transatlantic business class (the Thompson Vantage product) than British Airways’ custom B/E Aerospace Club World seat — EI’s is a fully flat bed in a staggered layout that offers direct aisle access for most passengers, rather than the more dense BA yin-yang configuration.

Aer Lingus new business class Thompson Vantage

Arguably, Aer Lingus needs to have the better product, since eastbound redeye flights are around an hour shorter, so getting right off to sleep and not being disturbed is even more vital. Google flights lists EI108, the JFK-Dublin flight, as scheduled for 6 hours 20 minutes, yet durations recently have been as short as 5 hours 25 minutes and faster flights (usually in the winter) brush the five hour mark. You need a decent bed to get a good night’s sleep on that short a flight, where the first hour is going to bed and the last hour is waking up, leaving under three and a half hours for actually sleeping.

Look for the airline to follow the lead of Australian carrier Qantas, which certified its own Vantage XL seats to take off on similarly short Aussie transcontinental redeyes with mattress pad already fitted and seat slightly reclined, ready to go straight to bed. At some US airports, colocation of Aer Lingus flights with IAG and other oneworld carriers could also expand the existing JFK and Boston supper service in the lounge prior to boarding, making straight-to-sleep even more of an option.

It’s an exciting time for the airline, with turnaround CEO Christoph Mueller off to fix Malaysia Airlines and a new role as the third full-service airline in the IAG stable. The next few months will be a significant bellwether pointing in the direction of Aer Lingus’ future — watch this space to see which way it decides to point.

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Black Swan Event: Interview with Captain Richard de Crespigny—Part 1

By Eric Auxier / Published May 28, 2015

(Editor’s note: Today, Airways Magazine July 2015 issue hits stands worldwide. Inside, don’t miss the amazing interview with Captain Richard De Crespigny, the Qantas A380 pilot who experienced an inflight engine explosion. Following is the introduction to Part 1 of a planned 3-part series, as well as a companion video produced by interview author and Airbus Captain Eric Auxier, on behalf of the Airways team.)

1024px-Qantas_a380_vh-oqa_takeoff_heathrow_arp

Photo by Adrian Pingstone / Public Domain

“It will be a different decision, on every day, for every crew on an aircraft. But every pilot should be armed with the knowledge to make that decision.” –Qantas A380 Captain Richard Champion de Crespigny.

His name is Captain Richard Champion de Crespigny. He flies the world’s largest passenger aircraft, the Airbus A380, for Qantas Airways. And on November 4, 2010, on Flight QF32 from Singapore to Sydney, he and his crew suffered what is called a “Black Swan event.”

A “black swan” is an event so rare as to be unpredictable, but one that comes with major consequences. For example, 9/11, or the Black Monday financial market meltdown.

On November 4, 2010, Captain de Crespigny’s black swan came in the form of an engine failure.

A simple engine failure on a four-engine jet such as the A380—or even on a two-engine, for that matter—would not be much of an event. Moreover, it is extremely rare; only one out of every five pilots will experience one in their career.

Even so, flight crews train for engine failures all the time. So, too, hydraulic failures, electrical failures, flight control failures—you name it, the professional airline pilot has practiced it.

But how about all system failures at once? This is what Captain de Crespigny experienced when his Number 2 engine exploded inflight, resulting in a grueling, 4-hour event.

In an amazing demonstration of airmanship, CRM and determination, Captain de Crespigny and crew saved the ship and its passengers, who all walked safely away, with not a single injury.

Best-selling author of the award-winning book, QF32, Captain de Crespigny is now a worldwide sought-after speaker.

This is his story.

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ANALYSIS: Spirit Enters L.A.-Oakland/San Francisco Market

By Jack Harty / Published May 27, 2015

Spirit Airlines will launch new service between Los Angeles and Oakland on November 12, 2015; this will make it the fifth airline to enter the L.A. and San Francisco Metropolitan area market.

spirit1-jpg

Image courtesy of Spirit Airlines

Spirit will operate two daily nonstop flights–a morning and evening flight–in each direction. Flights to Oakland will depart LAX at 6:00 AM and 7:50 PM, and the flights to LAX will depart Oakland at 7:55 AM and 9:45 PM. The flights are blocked at about 1 hour and 15 minutes in each direction.

There is some good news for frequent fliers; Spirit will be operating a Airbus A319 between the two cities. This means that there will be 10 Big Front Seats instead of just four on its Airbus A320s. Though, the equipment is always subject to change.

One of the Busiest Air Travel Markets

The Ultra-Low-Cost-Carrier is about to enter one of the world’s busiest air travel markets. According to data by the U.S. DOT, there was an average of 20,423 passengers traveling between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Metropolitan area every day in 2014.

It is also worthwhile to note that the data also states that Southwest was the largest carrier in the market with holding about 63-65% of the market share throughout

2014 Quarter

Average Number of Passengers Per Day (L.A. to SFO Metropolitian Area)

Largest Carrier In Market

First Quarter

19,623

Southwest had 62% of the market share

Second Quarter

21,187

Southwest had 64% of the market share

Third Quarter

19,987

Southwest had 63% of the market share

Fourth Quarter

20,892

Southwest had 64% of the market share

LAX-SFO

American, Delta, Southwest, and United all operate several flights a day between LAX and San Francisco, and each airline puts up a strong fight.

Back in September 2013, Delta launched its Delta Shuttle service between the two cities, making  it the first ever west-coast shuttle service, and earlier this year, the airline announced that it would start flying the 717 on eight of its 15 daily flights next month.

Airline

Number of Daily Flights LAX-SFO On November 12

Aircraft

Frequency

American and American Eagle

9

Mix of B737-800 and E175

Every other hour

Delta Air Lines and Delta Connection (Delta Shuttle service)

15

Mix of 717 and E175

Hourly

Southwest

10

737-300/700

About every other hour

United

15

A319 and A320

Hourly

LAX-OAK

Delta Connection and Southwest currently operate between Los Angeles and Oakland with Spirit becoming the third airline to fly between the two cities this November.

Airline

Number of Daily Flights LAX-OAK On November 12

Aircraft

Frequency

Delta Connection

7

CRJ-900

Every other hour

Southwest

14

737-300/700

About hourly

Spirit

2

A319

One morning and one evening flight

Spirit’s Fare War Could Help

Will Spirit be able to survive the tough competition? Time will tell, but Spirit will definitely put up a strong fight when it comes to air fares. As of now, the new flights are ranging from $53-$73 one way.

U.S. DOT data below shows the average one way fare between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Metropolitan Area market by quarter in 2014.

2014 Quarter Average One Way Fare
First Quarter $127.00
Second Quarter $137.00
Third Quarter $140.00
Fourth Quarter $140.00

The first one way fares Spirit is offering on the market are already half or more than half of the average one way fares on the market in 2014. While yes, Spirit is known for charging many fees from seat assignments in advanced to carry-ons to a glass of water, the average one-way price could still be lower on Spirit than other airlines.

Now, we ask: will the Spirit Effect help lower the average one way fares when we re-visit the data when it becomes available?

EXTRA: Has “The Spirit Effect” Replaced the “Southwest Effect?”

Beyond An Air Fare War

Beyond air fares, the airline has been busy growing at in both Los Angeles and Oakland. The airline has noted in the past that it helps the airline tremendously when people are familiar with how Spirit operates.

“Spirit is becoming an increasingly more popular travel choice for value conscious travelers in the West,” said Mark Kopczak, Spirit Airlines’ Vice President of Network Planning. “Spirit’s friendly service combined with our low Bare Fares™ with Frill Control™ makes flying between Los Angeles and the Bay area more affordable than ever.”

With this new service, Spirit will operate nonstop flights to 13 destinations from Los Angeles, including Atlanta (starting 8/20/15), Baltimore/Washington, DC (starting 7/9/15), Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Kansas City (starting 7/9/15), Las Vegas, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Oakland/San Francisco Bay area (starting 11/12/15). From Oakland, Spirit will operate nonstop to five destinations, including Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston (seasonal), Las Vegas, and Los Angeles (starting 11/12/15).

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Contact the author at jack.harty@airwaysnews.com.

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Post-PHX Threads and Tidbits: Fleet

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published May 26, 2015

PHOENIX, AZ: With the Phoenix International Aviation Symposium wrapped up, we thought we’d return to a handle of tidbits from a network and fleet planning discussion that perhaps didn’t warrant a full-on story but were never-the-less notable or at least interesting. That’s the fun of panels, we suppose.  Some will be elaborated threads, others simple quotes. Enjoy:

A popular theme was the industry trend toward both larger airplanes (nothing new here), but also to a pursuing a greater mix of aircraft tailored to specific markets (slightly newer, particularly AA’s admission that the A330neo was at the very least not off the table).  AA’s VP of Network Planning, Charles Schubert, said as much during a panel Thursday morning, noting that AA looks for the “right plane for the right mission.” In effect, looking for perhaps smaller batches of airplanes geared toward a specific job, rather than buying more simply one type of long haul aircraft. A good example of this trend would be 787s and A350s vs A330s and 767s. Both are long haul aircraft, but find themselves occupying drastically different niches – largely thanks to differences in range.

To some degree bucking the RJ-ditching trend, American conceded that its network has plenty of cities in which the 50-seat regional jet was the only viable choice. Where exactly does that leave small-city service as the RJs are transitioned out and new aircraft are upgauged to 70-seat? “There will be questions about whether some cities can be supported with upgauged CRJs. Hopefully most if not all markets will mature such that they can support it,” said Schubert.

A related discussion could be had regarding short-haul point to point markets commonly served by RJs and similar, such as Albany-Buffalo or White Plains-Boston. Consensus seemed to agree that between security lines and other challenges flying will become increasingly less desirable compared to driving. Most of those markets are unlikely to return, said several panelists.

Still, Schubert said times were better for the RJ than in the past: “They’re much more economical today than they were two-three years ago,” he said.

Bill Franke, Chairman of Indigo Partners (of formerly Spirit and now Frontier fame), on why long-haul LCCs will continue to struggle: international carriers’ frequent flier programs, legacy carrier’s frequency capability, and a product that by nature LCCs can’t match.

Bill Franke again, speaking whether we can expect consolidation among the US tweener carriers (not quite full legacy, and not quite low-cost – ie Alaska, jetBlue, Virgin etc): “There is a clear discrimination in cost structure and product in US airlines. There is an argument to be made that further consolidation is needed. Sooner or later they’ll be a move between those two bottom segment groups.”

Also interesting was Airbus CEO of North America, Barry Eccleston, more or less saying that while they could conceivably push the A321(beyond the current LR model) to match the current 757 performance, they aren’t sure that it is worth it. “In some niche markets,” he said, “they’ll be someone who wants it.” But he thought capacity would take a big hit, around 100ish. Ultimately that leaves Airbus not considering a full 757 replacement any more than Boeing is.

Related, Airbus also continues to rule out the possibility of a 90-seat ATR turboprop. First, says Eccleston “it wasn’t quite as easy as we thought it was going to be,” to create a new one. Second, Airbus isn’t convinced there’s a large enough market in Asia or Europe. That leads Airbus to conclude that “if we’re going to invest our money and engineers we can probably make better money in other investments,” he said. You might wonder why Airbus is saying some awfully controlling things about ATR, but remember that Airbus is a majority shareholder in ATR. Should ATR embark on a new airplane it’ll be largely Airbus engineers (and financial resources) making it happen.

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Flashback Friday: The Boeing 757

By Luis Linares / Published May 22, 2015

Boeing 757-200 rollout

Boeing 757-200 rollout on January 13, 1982: Photo courtesy of Boeing

Over the past year, an important topic in aviation news has been the future of the Boeing 757.  Despite 10 years passing since the last delivery of the iconic “flying pencil”, some airlines and aviation analysts would like to see an aircraft capable of filling the gap it left. Although, Boeing simply does not see enough demand to upgrade the 757, while making a profit, but instead prefers to develop a new successor in the 2020s. Meanwhile,  Airbus is offering some competition, but this does not completely fill the void.

While this continues to be a popular topic of debate in the AvGeek community, let’s take an opportunity to look at the history of the 757 on this Flashback Friday.

Origins

Over forty years ago, Boeing began to study further developments of its very popular 727, which had been in service since 1964.  The company considered two possibilities:  stretch the 189-seat 727-200 or develop a clean sheet aircraft.  While the stretched 727 was the cheaper approach, a new aircraft could take advantage of the latest improvements in aerospace technology offered at the time.

EXTRA:  Flashback Friday: The Boeing 727

Potential customers interested in a new aircraft outnumbered those wanting an improved 727.  The new technologies in the mid-1970s included high-bypass-ratio turbofans, new flight deck technologies, lighter materials, and improved aerodynamics.  Boeing intended to include these features in an all-new wide-body airplane, known at the time as the 7X7.

As many airlines experienced an economic rebound in the late 1970s, Boeing proceeded with developing two brand new aircraft in parallel.  The 7X7 became the 767 while the 7N7 turned into the 757.  The initial design would retain the 727’s cockpit and T-tail but would have two engines under a redesigned wing.

On August 31, 1978, Eastern Air Lines and British Airways became the launch customers for the new airplane with 40 orders.  Boeing officially unveiled the 757 designation in March 1979, when these airlines formally signed for their orders.  The company initially envisioned a short -100 series and a longer -200 but dropped the former since it did not get orders.

Airlines in the 1970s had a great interest in lowering operating costs, especially after the spike in oil prices from the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973.  As a result, Boeing targeted a 20% decrease in fuel consumption with the new engines, compared to the 727.  Furthermore, new aerodynamic improvements would provide an additional 10% improvement in fuel burn over the 727.

Additional improvements included being able to fly 10,000 lb (5,540 kg) heavier than the 727 with a maximum takeoff weight of 220,000 lb (99,800 kg).  Moreover, the new engines would provide a higher power-to-weight ratio allowing take off from shorter runways and improved operations and “hot and high” airports.  In mid-1979, Boeing dropped the T-tail design to allow for more passengers in a less tapered rear while avoiding the possibility of a deep stall.

Rolls-Royce (RR), Pratt & Whitney (PW), and General Electric (GE) competed to provide the two engines for the 757.  GE dropped out early because of insufficient demand while RR and PW survived as the two customer options.  RR’s RB2110535C could deliver 37,400 lbf (166 kN) of thrust while the PW2037 offered 38,200 lbf (170 kN).

Eastern and British opted for RR engines, marking the first time a Boeing airplane launched with engines manufactured outside of the U.S.  Delta Air Lines launched the PW variant in November 1980 with an order for 60 aircraft.  At 155 ft 3 in (47.32 m), the 757-200 was 2.1 ft (0.64 m) longer than the 727-200.

Boeing 757 flight deck

Boeing 757-200 flight deck: Image courtesy of AirwaysNews

Boeing essentially developed the narrow body 757 and wide body 767 in parallel, which resulted in many shared features.  One of these was a two-pilot glass cockpit with cathode-ray tube (CRT) displays and increased automation, which eliminated the need for a flight engineer.  In addition, this commonality allowed pilots to switch between both planes after a short conversion course.

Production and Testing

Production of the 757 took place at the Renton plant, where Boeing manufactured its narrow bodies while that of the 767 happened in Everett, the manufacturing home of the 747.  Boeing produced 50% of the 757’s components in-house while it outsourced the other half to manufacturers like Fairchild, Grumman, and Rockwell International.  Final assembly began in January 1981.

EXTRA:  Inside Boeing’s 737 Renton Factory as They Take it to “the MAX”: Part One

EXTRA:  Inside Boeing’s 737 Renton Factory as They Take it to “the MAX”: Part Two

The first 757-200 rolled out on January 13, 1982 and completed its maiden flight on February 19 of the same year.  The first flight experienced an engine stall, but test pilot John Armstrong and copilot Lew Wall successfully restarted the engine and proceeded with the flight as planned.  During the test phase, orders had reached 136 aircraft from seven airlines.

EXTRA:  Boeing 757 history, sales brochures, tech manuals, and memorabilia

Five aircraft participated in the seven-month test phase.  Lessons learned from the 767’s test program helped expedite that of the 757.  In addition, the prototypes turned out to be 3,600 lb (1,630 kg) lighter than planned and experienced a 3% better than expected fuel burn, which increased range by 200 nmi (229 mi or 370 km).

The RR-powered 757 received certification from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on December 14, 1983 and the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on January 14, 1983.  Eastern received its first example on December 22, 1982.  Moreover, the first PW-powered 757 rolled out in December 1983, and Delta received it on November 5, 1984.

Entry Into Service (EIS)

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Eastern Air Lines Boeing 757-200: Photo courtesy of Eastern Air Lines

On January 1, 1983, the 757 had its EIS with Eastern and British followed the next month on February 9.  The early customers immediately noted the improved reliability and quieter performance.  Moreover, Eastern, as the first 727 operator to fly the 757, confirmed improvements such as greater payload capability and lower operating costs from the improved fuel burn and use of a two-pilot flight deck.

A drop in fuel prices and a shift to smaller aircraft by many airlines during most of the 1980s resulted in stagnant sales for the 757.  Fortunately, for Boeing, new orders from Northwest and the launch of a package freighter (-200PF) from UPS averted what would have been a costly production rate decrease.  The 757 finally saw a boost in orders in the late 1980s because of increased airline hub congestion and new noise regulations.

American and United Airlines combined for 160 alone during a 322-order surge from 1988 to 1989.  These and other U.S. airlines shifted to the 757 for short-haul and transcontinental routes.  They saw major improvements with the 757 over their older Boeings, such as the 707 and 727, and Douglas aircraft like the DC-8 and DC-9.

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American Airlines and Icelandair Boeing 757-200s: Photos by Luis Linares / AirwaysNews

In Europe, the 757 became a mainstay with British, Iberia, and Icelandair.  Moreover, European charter airlines, such as Air 2000, Air Holland, and LTU, also ordered the aircraft.  While Asian carriers generally, preferred larger aircraft, the 757 still managed success in China.

In 1986, the RR-powered 757 received a significant boost when the FAA granted extended-range twin-engine operational performance standards (ETOPS) that permitted flights over the North Atlantic Ocean and later mainland U.S. to Hawaii.  This certification stemmed from a record of very reliable U.S. transcontinental services since EIS.  PW-powered 757s received their ETOPS in 1992.

One curiosity about the 757 is that in the mid-1990s it received a “heavy” designation, reserved for aircraft heavier than 300,000 lb (136,000 kg), by the FAA under its separation rules.  This happened because in some instances, small aircraft encountered wake turbulence when they were behind departing or landing 757s.  The most likely cause was wingtip vortices that were even stronger than those of the larger 767s and 747s.

A Stretch

Boeing produced 100 757s annually during the early 1990s and began to consider improvements.  The question was whether to lengthen the aircraft or give it a longer range.  European charter carrier wanted a higher-capacity variant.

In September 1996, Boeing formally launched the stretched 757-300 with orders for 12 aircraft from German charter carrier Condor.  This model stretched the original 757 by 23 ft 4 in (7.13 m), which allowed for 50 additional passengers and 50% more cargo.  Boeing wanted a short time line and, therefore, avoided major upgrades, but it still managed to improve the engines, avionics, and interior.

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United Airlines Boeing 757-300:  Photo by Luis Linares / AirwaysNews

On May 31, 1998, the first -300 rolled out, and the maiden flight occurred on August 2, 1998.  Aviation authorities certified the new aircraft in January 1999, and Condor commenced operations on March 19, 1999.  Furthermore, other carriers like American Trans Air, Arkia Israel Airlines, Continental Airlines, Icelandair, and Northwest Airlines became -300 customers.

Passenger Variants

The Boeing 757-200 and -300 share a 124 ft 10 in (38.05 m) wingspan and 44 ft 6 in (13.56 m) tail height.  They also have a typical cruising speed of Mach 0.80 (530 mph, 458 kt, or 850 kph) at an altitude of 35,000 ft (10,660 m).  In addition, their cabin width of 11 ft 7 in (3.54 m) allows for a 3-3 seating arrangement in economy class and 2-2 in premium.

757-200

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Santa Bárbara Airlines Boeing 757-200: Photo by Luis Linares / AirwaysNews

The 757-200 seats 200 people in a typical two-class layout and 239 in a single-class setting.  Its maximum range is 3,900 nmi (4,487 mi or 7,222 km).  With its maximum takeoff weight MTOW of 255,000 lb (115,680 kg), the airplane requires 6,500 ft (1,981 m) of runway.  Furthermore, with optional blended winglets, the -200 flies up to 4,100 nmi (4,722 mi or 7,600 km).  Boeing produced 913 passenger -200s.

757-300

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Delta Air Lines Boeing 757-300: Photo by Luis Linares / AirwaysNews

The 757-300 seats 243 passengers in a typical two-class arrangement and up to 295 in one class.  The -300 can fly up to 3,395 nmi (3,906 mi or 6,287 km).  Its 272.500 lb (123,600 kg) MTOW requires 7,800 ft (2,377 m) of runway.  Moreover, blended winglets allow for a range of up to 3,595 nmi (4,137 mi or 6,658 km).  Boeing produced 55 -300s, all for passenger operations.

The end?

Boeing hoped the 757-300 would be a 767-200 replacement for major customers like American and United.  However, these airlines were in a weak financial position to commit to the -300 during its introduction.  Furthermore, charter operators did not follow Condor’s footsteps.

The slower than expected sales for the -300 led Boeing to consider decreasing 757 production in November 1999.  Moreover, the chaotic airline financial environment post-9/11 resulted in many carriers opting for smaller aircraft like the 737 Next Generation and Airbus A320 families.  Boeing briefly considered a significant upgrade to the -300 with a higher MTOW and a potential range of 5,000 nmi (5,753 mi or 9,260 km), but the idea this not bring any customer interest.

In the early 2000s, many early 757s entered the freighter conversion market with the -200SF designation.  In 2003, Boeing started a new sales campaign for the -200PF and -300, but the effort only resulted in five orders.  The end of the 757 family came in October 2003, when Continental converted its remaining -300s to 737-800s.  The 1,050th and last 757 (a -200 series) rolled out on October 28, 2004 and went to Shanghai Airlines in 2005.

A surge in oil prices from 2004 to 2008 tripled the costs for typical domestic 757 flights in the U.S.  With fuel efficiency becoming a priority, Boeing and Aviation Partners, which already introduced blended winglets on the 737, offered these as upgrades on the 757.  The FAA certified the winglets for the 757 in May 2005, and they provided a 5% improvement in fuel efficiency, boosting range by 200 nmi (229 mi or 370 km).  Airlines also have the option to upgrade avionics to those of the 767-400, which uses larger liquid crystal displays (LCDs), as opposed to the smaller and older CRTs.

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Delta Air Lines Boeing 757-200: Photo by Luis Linares / AirwaysNews

So is the 757 really near the end of passenger operations?  It depends on the airline.  For example, the “Big Three” U.S. airlines (American, Delta, and United) are implementing different plans for their fleets.  These carriers reconfigured the relatively newer airplanes for six to seven-hour international flights across the Atlantic and to South America while they continue to use others in domestic operations and retire the oldest ones.  Furthermore, Delta, which has a unique fleet utilization strategy with older aircraft, will take five of the “newest” 757s from Shanghai Airlines by the end of this year.

Lastly, for any 757 fans hoping to see a “Next Generation”, “New Engine Option (NEO)”, “MAX”, or any other modern-sounding nicknamed 757, Boeing remains firm in its decision not to resurrect this venerable aircraft.  The company does not see enough orders to make such a move profitable, despite commentary from some analysts and competitive pressure from Airbus, which plans a long-range version of its A321neo.  Despite the popularity of the 757 on thin transatlantic routes, Boeing only sees this as a niche market and will likely introduce a clean sheet 757 successor later next decade.

EXTRA:  The Next Boeing Clean Sheet Will Probably Be a 757 Replacement

EXTRA:  Boeing Says No to Resurrected 757

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Contact the author at luis.linares@airwaysnews.com

Editor’s note: Keep up with AirwaysNews by subscribing to our weekly eNewsletter. Every Saturday morning, subscribers get a recap of our top stories of the week, the subscriber-only exclusive Weekend Reads column wrapping up interesting industry stories and a Photo of the Week from the amazing AirwaysNews archives. Click here to subscribe today!

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FedEx Says Open Skies Must Remain Open

By Jack Harty / Published May 22, 2015

On the U.S. side, only American, Delta, and United have been vocal when it comes to the Open Skies agreement between the United States and the Gulf carriers with Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar being vocal on the Gulf side. The DOT has not made any official statements other than that they are looking into the case that the U.S. airlines have presented to the DOT and Obama Administration.

Then, there is FedEx.fedex-boeing-md-10_10718

At the 2015 Phoenix Aviation Symposium, an executive was asked to make a few comments during the Open Skies panel; the executive pointed out that FedEx has more overlapping with the Gulf carriers than the U.S. carriers and that the Open Skies agreement impacts FedEx and UPS more than it does the U.S. airlines. He also said that FedEx would come out with an official statement sometime in the coming weeks.

Finally on Monday, May 18, FedEx released a statement on its blog made by Rush O’Keefe, Jr. the Senior Vice President and General Counsel at FedEx Express, and it read:

If you have opened a newspaper recently or visited our nation’s capital, you have probably read or heard about the Open Skies aviation policy. FedEx cares very deeply about Open Skies and seeks every opportunity to let others know how these agreements benefit our customers, our industry, U.S. shippers and the economy as a whole. Recently the President and CEO of FedEx Express, David Bronczek, sent a letter to the Secretaries of State, Transportation and Commerce on this critical issue.

Open Skies agreements are extremely valuable to FedEx and other U.S. cargo carriers because they provide access to important global marketplaces. Through these agreements with 115 countries, FedEx is able to:

  • Connect U.S. businesses with global marketplaces. Large and small businesses that employ Americans in every state depend on Open Skies to grow their business and expand U.S. trade.
  • Operate our own aircraft on major international routes, not only creating job opportunities for U.S. crews, but also offering our customers critical access to over 220 countries.
  • Create a global network of international hubs, supporting the work and employment of over 300,000 FedEx team members worldwide.

Delta, American and United Airlines want to avoid competition by closing the skies to trade and economic growth. Competition forms the basis for the FedEx business model and is at the very heart of our offering the best service at the best price to FedEx customers around the world.

FedEx established a hub in Dubai as part of our global network in order to effectively reach customers in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. As a result, we currently operate nearly two-thirds more flights to the Middle East than all the U.S. passenger carriers combined.

FedEx urges the U.S. government to honor all of its Open Skies agreements. Failure to do so will have significant repercussions for our global consumers, our more than 300,000 team members worldwide and the American economy.

We are proud to say we aren’t alone. We stand with others including the Cargo Airline Association and the Business Travel Coalition when we issue our strong support for Open Skies as well as other U.S. and international airlines. We all agree that we must keep our skies open for business.

The statement was definitely a slap in the face to American, Delta, and United who’s CEOs spoke  on the issue at the May National Press Club Luncheon. Now that most parties have presented their cases to the U.S. government, they should be making a decision on what actions they will pursue, if any, sometime relatively soon.

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Delta Requests to Start Flying Between Orlando and Brazil

By Jack Harty / Published May 21, 2015

Delta Air Lines has requested for approval to start flying four weekly flights between Orlando and Sao Paulo, Brazil on December 19, 2015.

The new flights will be operated with a Boeing 767-300 that has 35 seats in Delta One, 32 seats in Delta Comfort+ and 143 seats in the Main Cabin.IMG_6890

“In keeping with our goal of being the best U.S. airline in Latin America and the Caribbean, we continuously listen to our customers and strive to offer them increasingly convenient ways to travel for business or leisure,” said Nicolas Ferri, Delta’s vice president for Latin America and the Caribbean.  “It is exciting to have the opportunity to offer a direct flight four times per week and to offer customers the reach of GOL’s network with 600 weekly codeshare flights to Brazil’s interior.  Delta’s continued expansion of routes important to Latin American customers demonstrates our commitment to the region and propels us toward meeting our goal.”

Flight Number Departs Arrives Frequency Effective
DL 59 Orlando (MCO) at 9:50 
p.m.
Sao Paulo (GRU) at 9:50 a.m. 4 times per weekMonday, Tuesday,Thursday, Saturday Dec. 19, 2015
DL 58 Sao Paulo (GRU) at 11:25 p.m. Orlando (MCO) at 5:35 a.m. 4 times per weekMonday, Wednesday,Friday, Sunday Dec. 20, 2015

Delta will go head to head with TAM on the new route, and Azul plans to launch flights between the two cities in December; however, it’s partnership with GOL is expected to help the airline as the new Delta flight will arrive just in time for many connections on-ward in Brazil and beyond to be made.

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Contact the author at jack.harty@airwaysnews.com

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Dutch Government Blocks Gulf Carriers From Expanding

By Jack Harty / Published May 21, 2015

The Dutch Government is blocking the Gulf carriers from expanding at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport. According to the newspaper Financieele Dagblad, the government cites “unfair competition with Air France-KLM” as the reason for its actions.ams-main-schipol-entry-ext-5_25627

The paper also says that KLM and other airlines are dealing with increased pressure from the Big Three Gulf Airlines on routes to the Middle East. Air France-KLM says that expansion of Middle East carriers in Amsterdam will have an impact on employment in Amsterdam.

Etihad and Emirates both operate twice-daily round-trip flights from Amsterdam to their respective hubs in the Middle East, and Qatar Airways is planning to launch flights between Doha and Amsterdam next month.

The Dutch’s Government Actions

In particular, the government is working to stop Gulf Airlines from obtaining more landing rights at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport which is the sixth busiest airport in terms of international passenger traffic.

European Union Currently Negotiating

So far, representatives from the E.U. have remained quiet on the Dutch’s actions. Although, they are currently working with the Gulf states on an air treaty which includes clauses on state financing.

Gulf Carrier’s Expand Beyond Europe

“Expand further from European hubs into the US? Yes we might do that,” Clark was quoted by The National newspaper. “The kind of abuse we’ve been getting might cause us to do it. And after Milan, we can see how profitable it is. If the Danes or the Swedes were to come to us and say ‘we haven’t got enough flights into the US, would you consider it?’, yes we might do that.”

Government Actions Further West

American, Delta, and United are pushing for the U.S. government to impose similar restrictions on the Gulf airlines; they want the Gulf carriers’ expansions to be stopped until the Obama administration has enough time to thoroughly review the U.S. airlines case and make a decision whether the Gulf carriers are violating the Open Skies agreement.

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Mainline, Regional, and Industry Views On U.S. Pilot Shortage

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Photo by author

By Jack Harty / Published May 21, 2015

CLEVELAND, OH - All throughout the 2015 Regional Airline Association (RAA) convention, the pilot shortage was a hot topic, and it was also brought up at the National Press Club luncheon–which Richard Anderson, Doug Parker, and Jeff Smisek were guests at–two days after RAA.

In our final story from the RAA convention, regional and mainline executives, pilots, and other industry employees weigh in on if the U.S. faces a pilot shortage and if they are seeing an impact.

The Mainline View

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Photo by Luis Linares

Richard Anderson, CEO of Delta Air Lines: “The industry has actually shrunk a fair amount because you had 9/11, and then you had fuel prices go up from $20 a barrel when we started in the industry to $50 in 2005 and up to $150 in March of 2008; then there was the financial meltdown. During that time, there was no hiring. Now, the demographics are catching up with the industrty, and there is a huge wave of retirements. At the same time, we are back adding airplanes, and all carriers are investing in their fleets. As a result, there is a significant demand in the industry.”

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Photo by Luis Linares

Jeff Smisek, CEO of United Airlines: “It’s not an issue for the mainline carriers. Everyone wants to work for a mainline carrier; they are terrific jobs, and they treat people very well. We are a solidly profitable industry at this point, and people recognize that they can join and have a terrific career. It really affects the regional carriers; part of that is the history of the pay structure at the regional carriers which it has historically been an issue. That’s why you have seen airlines–like United for one–dial down the dependence upon regional carriers and dial up regionals. It’s good for our employees and our customers as well. Although, our 76 seat regional aircraft are a lot more comfortable. From the perspective from the mainline careers, there is no problem hiring pilots, but it is a problem for the regionals.”

The Regional View

Richard Leach, COO of TSA: “There is a pilot shortage, but we are not creating new pilots; we are just moving them around.”

Mike Thompson, COO of SkyWest: “So far, we are able to continue to fill all of the training classes, but it is becoming more challenging. We are still able to fulfill our flying commitments, but we have to be strategic.”

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Photo courtesy of Empire

Tim Komberec, President and CEO of Empire: “I know pilots who have been with me for 25 to 30 years. Since it is regional flying, they tend to get home every night. We have paid better than industry average for many years. We are re-evaluating the pay system and will have to raise pay. But it is a lifestyle. They can be home a lot, and it is surprising how many we get back. And one of the largest sources of 135 pilots for our Caravans are retired airline pilots who can fly past 65 with us. That said, I am finding myself more and more turning down new contract flying because I don’t know if I can crew the operation. We think there are opportunities in the cargo side of the business for us to help develop the pilot pool for the regionals in the future.”cape-air-cessna-402-at-bos_9761

Linda Markham, President of Cape Air: “We are down about 25-30 pilots, and we are going to now have to make two markets seasonal which is a big issues for the communities we serve. Unfortunately, we will see no growth this year due to the pilot shortage…the Gateway Program is big for us as it is a big recruiting tool. It has been pretty successful with 22 successfully completing the program and sitting left seat at jetBlue, and we are working on adding larger airlines to the program to help expand it.”

Alex Marren, COO of ExpressJet: “We have over 3,000 pilots, and our mission is to help develop their careers and then help them get throughout the pipeline. We are also trying to encourage the next generation of young professionals.”

Others Weigh In

Eric Frankl, Executive Director of Lexington’s Bluegrass Airport: “We have significant concerns about service to our communities and our connection to the world. A 10% reduction in this activity is bad for economic development…We feel like we have a very good voice with our congressional leadership, and they hear us as an unbiased opinion. We can be advocates with ACI in conjunction with RAA.”

Kent Lovelace, Professor at University of North Dakota: “We asked, ‘what influences your decision when choosing a regional airline to apply to?’ Salary was the key predictor of where they’ll apply for an airline job; base location is next; upgrade time to captain followed; pathway program to a major airline job was number four in the list with the hiring bonus being at the bottom of the list.”

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Photo by JDL Multimedia

Krista Walsh, First Officer at jetBlue: “Getting someone to an aviation university is half the battle. We must go to middle schools and high schools so that kids can see these goals are attainable. Also, women and minorities are a tiny part of this industry, and this is a huge missing piece. We need to do a better job of outreach to convince these populations that aviation is a great career.”

Charlie Hills, V.P. of Sales and Marketing in North America for Embraer: “We have 130 opportunities in North America. We may not win them all, but we still have quite a few opportunities…although, we are still faced with many challenges such as the pilot shortage and scope clauses. If the scope clause was to go away, there would be more opportunities for new aircraft and growth.”

Related Stories From RAA:

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Editor’s note: Keep up with AirwaysNews by subscribing to our weekly eNewsletter. Every Saturday morning, subscribers get a recap of our top stories of the week, the subscriber-only exclusive Weekend Reads column wrapping up interesting industry stories and a Photo of the Week from the amazing AirwaysNews archives. Click here to subscribe today!

Contact the author at jack.harty@airwaysnews.com

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