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Flashback Friday: A Trip on TWA During Its Twilight

By Luis Linares / Published October 24, 2014 / Photos by author

TWA L-1011 - JFK - LFL

TWA Lockheed L-1011 at JFK in 1993

On December 1, 2001, the TWA brand disappeared after its merger with American Airlines. Founded in 1925, TWA at one time was one of the icons of the U.S. airline industry.  Join us for a quick history of TWA’s latter years and memories of a trip from Washington National AIrport (DCA) to Las Vegas (LAS) in March 1999 via its Saint Louis (STL) and New York (JFK) hubs.

The post-Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 era claimed several U.S. airlines.  TWA was one of the carriers that found itself struggling, especially during the 1990s.  The airline established a domestic hub at STL after acquiring Ozark Airlines in 1986.  It also established an international gateway at JFK and operated out of the famous Trans World Flight Center, Terminal 5.  Part of the TWA Flight Center was preserved and is today surrounded by Terminal 5, occupied by JetBlue.  During this period of route consolidation, TWA hit its peak serving over 30 European cities and carrying more than 50 percent of trans-Atlantic customers.

The proverbial turbulence began when Carl Icahn bought TWA in 1985.  He sold the company’s London Heathrow slots to American because of an urgent need to raise capital.  Another giant, Pan Am, was also starting to fail and sold its Heathrow operations to United.  TWA’s first bankruptcy occurred in 1992 as Icahn continued to sell some of the airlines most profitable assets.  Icahn, whom many blame for the implosion, left virtually unscathed in 1993.  Another bankruptcy followed in 1995.  The explosion and loss of Flight 800 in July 1996 hurt the carrier’s reputation, and contributed to a fleet renewal decision that included the purchase of Boeing 757s and McDonnell Douglas MD-83s and MD-95s (eventually Boeing 717s). The new fleet replaced Boeing 727s and 747s, Lockheed L-1011s, and former Ozark Airlines Douglas DC-9s.

Unfortunately for TWA, it failed to escape from financial problems.  In April 2001, AMR Corporation, parent of American Airlines, purchased TWA’s assets, and the airline suffered a third bankruptcy the day after.  The last TWA flight took place on December 1, 2001 before full integration into American Airlines.

I had a few opportunities during the 1990s to fly TWA, and found some pictures of a round trip from DCA to LAS in 1999.  My outbound flight was on a new MD-83 from DCA to STL, where I connected to another MD-83 that took me to LAS.

STL Arrival - LFL TWA tails - STL - LFL
Arrival at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport

On the return leg, I took a red eye from LAS to JFK on a new 757.  The sunrise arrival at JFK was on a beautiful clear morning, that offered great view of Manhattan and JFK during approach.

Manhattan 1999 - LFL Manhatan zoom-in 1999 - LFL JFK Approach - LFL TWA MD83 - JFK - LFLManhattan view during descent, JFK flyby before turning around to land, McDonnell Douglas MD-80 during taxi

I then connected to DCA by flying aboard a British Aerospace Jetstream 41 operated TWA’s regional subsidiary Trans World Express.

JFK tower - LFL NWA 742- JFK - LFL ELY 742 - JFK - LFL JFK departure - LFLTaxiing, spotting Northwest and El Al classic Boeing 747s, and climbing out of JFK

Four years later in 2003, I flew an American Airlines 757 from San Francisco to Fort Lauderdale, with a stop in STL.  The aircraft still had the TWA interior, and it was discernible on the outside, not just by the registration, from the other American 757s but because it had Pratt & Whitney (PW) engines.  American’s original fleet of 757s had Rolls Royce power plants that continue to operate to this day.  American eventually sold the former TWA PW variants to Delta.

The TWA brand is not entirely gone.  The east side of the old Flight Center has a lighted TWA sign.  Furthermore, the new American Airlines Group plans to honor TWA by unveiling a retro scheme on an Airbus A319 in the near future.  This is sure to bring back memories for many travelers.

EXTRA:

Pictures of the TWA Flight Center from the Airways News collection

Ozark Airlines timetables and route maps from the Airways News collection

TWA timetables and route maps from the Airways News collection

TWA memorabilia and sales brochures

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Contact the author at luis.linares@airchive.com

Contact the editor at benet.wilson@airwaysnews.com

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A 36-hour Odyssey with Qatar Airways

By Luis Linares / Published October 22, 2014 / Photos by author

QTR B77L - LFL - DOH

Qatar Airways Boeing 777-200LR at Hamad International Airport

Recently, Airways News contributor Luis Linares was one of a handful of guests invited by Qatar Airways to experience a “vacation without a destination,” via a 36-hour luxury roundtrip from the U.S. to Doha’s new Hamad International Airport (HIA). The trip included seven hours on the ground to take in the Al-Mourjan Business Class Lounge, the HIA Hotel, and other highlights at this state-of-the-art facility.

This unique VIP layover did not require customs and immigration formalities or exiting security.  Qatar Airways uses “The World’s Five-Star Airline” as its corporate slogan, and accolades, such as Skytrax’s “World’s Best Business Class” and “Best Business Class Lounge” for the last two years, suggest the airline is worthy of its five-star self-description. Find out if the five-star hype lives up to its name.

New York to Doha

I arrived at New York’s JFK International Airport on an American Airlines evening flight from Miami.  American dominates Terminal 8 in JFK, and this building also serves some of American’s oneworld alliance partners, including Qatar Airways.  A Qatar staff member met me at my arrival gate to escort me to the departure gate, where she issued my boarding pass and quickly walked me to window seat 1K in business class on a Boeing 777-300ER.  The seat is 78 inches long and 22 inches wide and converts to a flat bed.  The 42 business class seats are arranged in a 2-2-2 layout.  We reviewed Qatar’s business class service on a couple of occasions in February and June, so I will spend more time on the experience at HIA.

QR Business Seat - LFL QR Business Bed - LFL
Seat 1K in upright and bed settings

We pushed back at our scheduled departure time of 11:00 p.m.  Doha is seven hours ahead of New York, which meant our 11 hour and 35 minute flight would have us there before 6:00 p.m. local time.  As soon as I sat down, a very friendly flight attendant, Elizabeth, introduced herself and offered me an amenity kit, as well as a set of pajamas.  She also explained the on-demand dining menu, which included multi-course and lighter options, and mentioned it would take up to 20 minutes for a main course to be served.

I opted to stay on U.S. time for the entire itinerary by choosing to sleep first, and Elizabeth offered turndown service as soon as the seat belt sign was off.  She covered the seat with a fitted sheet and arranged the pillow and blanket accordingly.

QR J Class - LFL QR IFE Main Menu - LFL QR Arabic Breakfast - LFL QR Moving Map - LFLBusiness class section, IFE main screen, Arabic breakfast, HUD on the moving map

I slept the first eight hours of the trip.  The aircraft has a variety of mood light settings to enhance passenger comfort ranging from bright pink to dark blue, which was used when most of the passengers were sleeping.  When I woke up, I ordered a traditional Arabic breakfast plate.  During breakfast I explored the IFE, called Oryx Entertainment by Qatar.  It offered noise-cancelling headsets, a USB port for personal devices, 554 TV programs, 274 movies, and a wide variety of audio options, including music, talk, and audiobooks.  Other screen options include a moving map, airport information, and duty free shopping.  The remote control is very easy to figure out and navigate.

The Al-Mourjan Business Class Lounge

Upon arrival at HIA, a Qatar ground staff member escorted our small group through transit passenger security, then directly to the Al-Mourjan Business Class Lounge, which is solely dedicated to Qatar’s business and elite customers.  HIA has a business lounge for other oneworld customers, as well as those traveling on the rest of the airlines that fly there.  As Qatar shifts first-class service to its new Airbus A380 fleet, a new lounge will open solely for those clients.  The first thing that struck me about the lounge was its sheer size!  The two-floor facility totals more than 100,000 square feet in space or the size of 10 Olympic-size swimming pools.

QR Business Class Lounge - LFL Fountain at QR Lounge - LFL
The vast expanse of the Al-Mourjan Business Class Lounge and a fountain inside the lounge

We first toured Al-Mourjan’s business center, which features a conference area, Internet computer stations, printers, scanners, 24/7 secretarial services, a media room, and a game room that boasts a Formula One simulator as one of its main attractions.  Throughout the lounge, there is complimentary WiFi, seating that offers a personal flight information display screen, a reading light, and USB or power outlets for personal devices.

Since Qatar is a predominately Muslim country, the lounge offers a prayer room, which is segregated into an area for men and another for women.  Quiet rooms are another service offered at the lounge, and these spaces consist of individual and double occupancy rest areas.  Staff can provide amenities like pajamas and toothbrushes, as well as services like wake-up calls.  There are also various small rooms to relax and watch television.  Male and female shower rooms are also available for customers.

Bar - LFL Hot Options - LFL TV Room - LFL F1 Simulator - LFL Bar, hot eating options, personal TV room, and Formula-One simulator

The lounge is also very family friendly.  It has a dedicated family area that provides a nursery, playrooms with toys and videogames, and a food and beverage station.  In addition, it provides more private areas for nursing mothers, and staff members are readily available to provide assistance.  Upon completion of the structured tour of the lounge, we were allowed to explore and enjoy this elegant area on our own.

Dining options are available 24/7, and they range from light snacks to full hot meals in self-serve and catered buffet stations.  There is also a bar that keeps wine, champagne, and other beverages constantly flowing.  We left the dining area, but not before enjoying a few glasses of champagne, as well as some appetizers.  The entire lounge can handle up to 1,000 customers at a time.  The lounge was very quiet when we arrived at 6:00 p.m., but we were told that the numbers pick up as flights arrive from Europe and the U.S.  Even during that peak period, the complex felt very comfortable and spacious.  All the amenities mentioned are an option to passengers at no extra charge.

The HIA Hotel

Hotel Lobby - LFL

HIA Hotel front desk

At 7:00, one hour into our luxury layover, another member of Qatar’s airport staff took us to the 200-room HIA Hotel.  I was expecting to exit security and to have to go through immigration formalities in order to get to the hotel, but it is actually located inside the security checkpoints.  HIA Hotel transcends a typical hotel by offering stays that start at three hours, considering many customers are on longer layovers, but do not necessarily have to leave the airport or stay an entire day.

Room offerings include standard rooms and executive suites, 32-inch LCD TVs, room service, and complimentary WiFi, tea, coffee and bottled water.  The soundproof rooms offer views of the main terminal’s vast dining and retail spaces.  Hotel clients also have the option on enjoy a swim in an 82-foot long swimming pool or work out at the fitness center, which includes personal instructors, weights, and different exercise machines.  There are two squash courts available too.  For passengers looking to relax and rejuvenate, the hotel offers a sauna, steam room and various spa treatments.

Hotel Executive Suite - LFL Hotel Pool - LFL Hotel Gym - LFL Hotel Squash Court - LFL Executive suite bedroom, swimming pool, gym, and squash court

After providing walkthroughs of the above facilities, our hosts offered each one of us a room to enjoy for the remaining five hours of our layover.  Prior to the trip they also offered a complimentary spa option. I relaxed in my room for about an hour, where I was able to complete some notes on my experience so far, plus enjoy a nice shower.  With a couple of hours still left on the ground, I checked out of my room and proceeded to the terminal building to examine the amenities offered to all customers transiting HIA.

Other Features at HIA

HIA started passenger operations in May of this year.  The airport is currently capable of handling 30 million passengers per year with concourses A, B, and C.  Once concourses D and E are finished, this number will soar to 50 million.  The terminal complex is almost two million square feet in size, with 41 gates.  After the final construction phase, HIA will have 60 gates.  I explored the almost 270,000 square feet of retail and food and beverage spaces.  This area includes 104 retail stores selling goods from famous fashion and electronics labels.  Familiar names include Rolex, Chanel, Gucci, Tag Heuer, Coach and Virgin.  Twenty cafes and restaurants offer various types of local and international cuisine.

HIA Concourse C - LFL HIA Lamp Bear - LFL HIA Retail - LFL HIA Playground - LFL Councourse C, the “Lamp-Bear”, retail space, a sculpture that doubles as a playground

Scattered throughout the concourses are various art exhibits and sculptures, one that serves as a playground for children.  A hard to miss sculpture is the 23-foot Lamp-Bear, designed by Swiss sculptor Urs Fischer, located in the center of the terminal.  In the retail area there is a noisy animatronic dinosaur that seemed to keep the little ones very entertained.  There are also seating spaces to watch TV, computer stations to surf the internet, and spaces to recharge electronic devices.  WiFi is free throughout the entire airport.  Qatar Airways not only uses HIA as its hub, it was also involved in the development of the airport and currently manages the facility.  Qatar claims that it holds HIA’s facilities to its “five-star” standards.

Doha to Philadelphia

Mood lighting - LFL

Mood lighting during dinner

At midnight, I returned to the Al-Mourjan to rendezvous with the other guests.  We enjoyed a round of champagne and toasted to our wonderful experience on the ground.  Our flight back to the U.S. was set for 1:05 a.m., to Philadelphia International Airport.  Given the strong headwinds, flight time clocked at 13 hours and 25 minutes, almost two hours longer than the first segment.  On both legs, the crew followed restrictions by avoiding Iraqi and eastern Ukrainian airspace, which probably added more to the length of the trip.  Our aircraft was a Boeing 777-200LR.  I sat in the last row of business class in seat 7A right next to the engine.  Both the 777-200LR and -300ER have significantly quieter engines than the first generation of 777s, hence it did not really feel like I was sitting by the engine.  When we pushed back, it was past 6:00 p.m. in the U.S. east coast, and I saved my appetite for a multi-course dinner.

Qatar’s “World Culinary Menu” boasts the work of four celebrity chefs – Nobu Matsuhisa, Tom Aikens, Vineet Bhatia, and Ramzi Choueiri.  The flight attendant offered chicken tikka as a “palate pleaser,” and then I ordered a salmon appetizer, lamb loin for the main course, and a very tasty dessert consisting of a biscuit with coconut, white chocolate mousse, and fruit concoction by famous French bakery Ladurée.  Since I was able to stay in my time zone the entire trip, I also opted to watch a movie before going to bed.  I decided to go “old school” and watch the classic western “A fistful of Dollars”.

Lamb Dinner - LFL Salmon and Eggs - LFL
Lamb loin dinner and smoked salmon & scrambled eggs breakfast

I slept eight hours and woke up two and a half hours before landing.  I went with a delicious breakfast consisting of yogurt and fresh fruit, plus a smoked salmon with chive scrambled egg plate, and I had time for one more movie.  During descent, the flight attendant walked up to personally ask about my onboard experience, as well as to thank me for my patronage.  A Qatar staff member greeted us on the ground to escort us to immigration, where we parted ways and proceeded to our domestic connections.

A Five-Star Experience?

Qatar Airways and its main regional competitors, Emirates and Etihad Airways, are commonly referred to as the “Big Three” and have earned reputations for providing top-of-the-line products and services to their customers.  Competitors in the U.S. and Europe are noticing and reactions range from introducing new upgrades and features in their fleets to complaining about how the “Big Three” unfairly benefit from government subsidies while aggressively expanding their networks into their territory.  The “Big Three” are also wooing customers in the U.S. and Europe to connect through one of their lavish hubs.

While I have not flown on Emirates or Etihad, my frequent travel with the oneworld alliance has allowed me to experience first or business class service on American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, LAN Airlines, Qantas Airways, and Royal Jordanian Airlines, and I can confidently conclude that the whole Qatar Airways business class experience is in a league of its own and deserving of its five-star moniker.  The very comfortable seat itself is comparable to most international business class seats offered by the major world carriers.  However, Qatar’s level of crew friendliness, attentiveness, and hospitality; the quality of the cuisine; and the experience on the ground eclipse the competition

I expected to fell exhausted after this 36-hour whirlwind, but the 25 total hours aboard Qatar’s business class had to be at the top of the most comfortable and relaxing flights I have ever taken.    I did my part by keeping myself hydrated, but what made the experience so special was having crews fully committed to ensuring I got the maximum, satisfaction from my onboard experience.  Very friendly flight attendants, excellent food, a wide variety of IFE options, and a comfortable sleeper seat give a pretty good sensation of being at a five-star resort.

Dawn in the U.S. - LFL

Our aircraft reflected on the engine during sunrise in the northeastern U.S.

Moreover, the sampling of services I experienced at HIA as a business customer was heavenly.  Any business passengers fatigued by a long flight will no doubt get a boost from everything the Al-Mourjan Business Class Lounge has to offer.  Furthermore, all customers willing to pay can take their level of comfort, relaxation, and privacy a step further by booking a stay at the HIA Hotel.  A lengthy layover at HIA, regardless of which of the two facilities a passenger chooses, will feel more like a well-deserved rest, rather than an inconvenience.

The lounge and the airport have an aesthetically-pleasing modern architecture that provides a great sense of space and comfort.  The only processes I did not get to judge were the check-in and security lines at HIA, but if they live up to the standards Qatar Airways expects from HIA, I have no doubt they would get high marks.  I also look forward to taking in the visual beauty of HIA during daylight hours in the future.

I predict there will be a game of one-upmanship between the “Big Three”, as they continue to attract business customers to their hubs and premium services.  Qatar Airways continues to demonstrate a commitment to improvement by introducing a 1-2-1 business class seating configuration that offers more privacy and direct aisle access aboard its Boeing 787 and Airbus A380 fleets.  In addition, the airline plans to unveil what CEO Ali Al-Baker called a “Super Business Class” berth seating within the next two years.  I would also be curious to see how legacy carriers in the U.S. and Europe try to compete against the overall business product offered by Qatar Airways.  My lavish jaunt with Qatar Airways began on a Wednesday evening and ended on a Friday morning.  I went to work at my Miami office shortly after landing at noon that Friday and did not feel tired.  If anything, I want to partake in a similar experience again!

DISCLAIMER:  Qatar Airways paid for our trip, but opinions are our own

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Contact the author at luis.linares@airchive.com

Contact the editor at benet.wilson@airwaysnews.com

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Flashback Friday: A Look at Continental and Other Airlines at Newark in the 1990s

By Luis Linares / Published October 17, 2014 / Photos by author

COA B722 - EWR - LFL

Continental Boeing 727-200 and Newark’s old ATC tower in 1993

In the early 1990s, the largest tenant at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) was Continental Airlines, and it continues to be the largest carrier there today as United Airlines.  EWR is one of the three major airports serving the New York City area and has the distinction of being the first major airport in the U.S., opening 86 years ago.

Travel with us back to March 1993 to spot some aircraft from Continental, which was emerging from a second bankruptcy at the time, and other airlines at EWR.  We will also look at some of the other domestic and foreign carriers serving Newark at the time.  Finally, we will jump six years forward to 1999 to see a very healthy and successful Continental at Newark.

UA DC10 - DEN - LFL

Continental DC-10s at Newark in 1993

The 1980s were a turbulent decade for Continental Airlines.  Texas Air Corporation, under the leadership of Frank Lorenzo, acquired Continental in 1981.  Most of the workforce saw Lorenzo as fiercely anti-union, and he took the airline into bankruptcy protection in September 1983, after failing to negotiate to negotiate lower pay rates with the unions.  This allowed the company to force new labor agreements on employees, which resulted in a more competitive airline, but at the cost of workforce morale.

In June 1986, Continental emerged from bankruptcy, and a year later in 1987, the airline merged with PeoplExpress, which had been a mainstay in Newark since 1981, and New York Air.  This transformed Continental into the third-largest carrier in the U.S.  However, in the late 1980s, Texas Air also bought struggling Eastern Airlines, and Lorenzo dedicated most of his time to labor issues with Eastern.

Continental faced the burden of having acquired two airlines (really three taking into account PeopleExpress bought Frontier Airlines two years before the Continental takeover), plus the surge in fuel prices after the 1991 Gulf War.  Moreover, these acquisitions left Continental with various types of aircraft in its fleet.  Lorenzo retired at the end of 1990, and Continental entered a second bankruptcy.  In early 1991, Continental unveiled the “globe” livery that lives to this day as United and emerged from bankruptcy in 1993, after other companies, including Air Canada, invested $450 million in the carrier.  We will get back to Continental’s story.

During a visit to Newark in 1993, I took some pictures of some of the other airlines that operated there.  Among the foreign carriers, Air France provided non-stop Boeing 747-200 service from Paris-Charles de Gaulle.  Today, this flight is handled by Delta, which has had a very close relationship with Air France since merging with Northwest Airlines in 2010.  Furthermore, Air France and Delta are two of the four founding members of the Sky Team alliance.

Scandinavian Airlines in 1993 served the three Scandinavian capitals (Copenhagen, Oslo, and Stockholm) from Newark using Boeing 767-300s, and today these routes are operated by either Airbus A330s or A340s.  Portugal’s TAP used an Airbus A310 from its Lisbon hub in 1993, and today this flight continues using an A330.  One transatlantic flight I took from Newark as a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-200 to London’s Gatwick Airport.  These days, Virgin uses A330s and A340s to serve London’s larger Heathrow Airport from Newark.

AFR B742 - EWR - LFL SAS B763 - EWR - LFL TAP A310 - EWR - LFL VIR B742 - EWR - LFLEuropean airlines at Newark in 1993:  Air France Boeing 747-200, SAS Boeing 767-300s, TAP Airbus A310, and Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-200

AA A300 - EWR - LFL

American Airbus A300 at Newark in 1993

As I have mentioned in other flashback pieces, U.S. airlines, especially before the September 11 terrorist attacks, had different fleet utilization, such as using widebody jets for relatively short domestic routes. Twenty years ago, jet fuel prices were low and high load factors had less importance, compared to today.

One domestic widebody I photographed at Newark in 1993 was an American Airlines Airbus A300 originating from Miami.  An interesting tidbit about this aircraft was that American was unable to adopt its classic polished metal scheme on the entire aircraft since some its components, especially in the tail and aft section, were made from composite materials, instead of aluminum.  American eventually polished the fuselage, but had to maintain a gray color on the tail and rear fuselage.

Getting back to the Continental story, after emerging from its second bankruptcy in 1993, the carrier experienced a historic revival.  In 1994, former Boeing executive Gordon Bethune became COO, and was elected CEO in 1996.  Five years later, he authored his aptly titled  book “From Worst to First,” which chronicled the company’s stunning turnaround under his leadership.  Continental went from consistent bottom rankings across most airline rating categories to being one of the best.

For example, for six consecutive years, Fortune Magazine named Continental among the “100 Best Companies to Work for in America” and “Number One Most Admired Global Airline” from 2004 to 2008.  Moreover, in the late 1990s, Bethune undertook an aggressive fleet modernization plan, in which the airline became an all-Boeing operator with orders for 737-700/800/900s, 757-200s, 767-200ER/400ERs, and 777-200ERs.

COA B738 - EWR - LFL COA B752 - EWR - LFL COAX ERJs - EWR - LFL COAX ATRs - EWR - LFLContinental rejuvenated and triumphant at Newark in 1999: Boeing 737-800, Boeing 757-200, Embraer ERJ-145s, and ATR-42s

By the early 2000s, Continental had the youngest fleet in the U.S.  In addition, it acquired ExpressJet Airlines, which it held until 2002.  The regional carrier provided jet service as Continental Express using Embraer 135 and 145 aircraft.  Continental also operated ATR-42/72 turboprops, using the Continental Express label, out of Newark to serve smaller regional airports.

I was working in Washington, D.C., in the late 1990s, and had a few opportunities to fly to and from Newark.  I was not only impressed by the new fleet of aircraft, but also by the friendliness and excellent costumer service of the crews.  Memorable flights included brand new 777-200ERs from Newark to Gatwick and to Rome, as well as connecting to Reagan National Airport on new Boeing 737-700s or Embraer 145 regional jets.  I also experienced Continental’s completely revamped international business class, “Business First,” aboard a recently delivered Boeing 757-200 on a flight to Bogota.  I even got to say goodbye to the DC-10, which was being replaced by the new Boeings, from Newark to Madrid on one of its last flights.  As we know, today Continental is part of a much larger United Airlines, but its positive transformation during the 1990s brings back good memories of some very enjoyable flights.

CO 752 TO  EWR 2 - LFL CO 752 TO  EWR 3 - LFL
Taking-off from Newark to Bogota in 1999 aboard a Boeing 757-200

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Contact the author at luis.linares@airchive.com

Contact the editor at benet.wilson@airwaysnews.com

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Boeing Starts Building First 737 MAX Parts; Garuda Indonesia Orders 50 of the Type

By Benét J. Wilson / Published October 14th, 2014

Boeing says that production of the first 737 MAX fuselage stringers are now under construction at the manufacturer’s Fabrication Integrated AeroStructures in Auburn, Washington. And flag carrier Garuda Indonesia has announced an order for 50 737 MAX 8s.

Rendering of the Boeing 737 MAX.

Rendering of the Boeing 737 MAX.

An aircraft’s stringers run the length of the fuselage structure to give it stability and strength. Once completed, the stringers will be shipped to Boeing partner Spirit Aerosystems in Wichita, Kansas, to be incorporated into the first 737 MAX fuselage.

The fuselage will then be shipped to Boeing’s Renton, Washington, facility where employees will build the 737 MAX. The aircraft is on schedule to begin final assembly of the first aircraft in 2015, and scheduled to fly in 2016.

The 737 MAX has 2,294 orders from 47 customers, including Air Canada, American Airlines, Flydubai, Icelandair, Ryanair, Southwest Airlines, Turkish Airlines and United Airlines. The Garuda Indonesia deal is valued at $4.9 billion. The carrier will take delivery of 46 737 MAX 8s and will convert four existing Next-Generation 737-800s orders to MAX 8s.

The 737 MAX will feature CFM International LEAP-1B engines and advanced technology winglets. The aircraft will have eight percent lower operating costs than its competitors. The new winglet will provide an increase in fuel efficiency of up to 1.8 percent, and the noise footprint of the 737 MAX will be 40 percent smaller than today’s single-aisle airplanes. Finally, the aircraft will feature the new Boeing Sky Interior created to elevate the passenger experience.

Images Courtesy of Boeing

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Contact the editor at benet.wilson@airwaysnews.com

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Flashback Friday: Denver Stapleton International Airport in 1994

By Luis Linares / Published October 10, 2014 / Photos by author

Stapleton Tower - LFL

Denver Stapleton International Airport ATC Tower in 1994

Twenty years ago commercial aviation in Denver was in a period of transition, as the city prepared to open a brand new international airport.  The original airport, Stapleton International Airport, opened almost 85 years ago on October 17, 1929, and operated for 65 continuous years.

The last flight left the airport on February 25, 1995, and Denver International Airport opened the next day.  I went to college in Colorado from 1990 to 1994, and this gave me many opportunities to fly in and out of Denver.  Join us for some plane-spotting at Stapleton back in 1994.

UA DC10 - DEN - LFL

United Airlines DC-10-10 at Stapleton in 1994

United Airlines established Denver as a hub city after the signing of the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978.  In 1993, United unveiled a new livery, commonly referred to as “battleship gray”, which replaced the “rainbow & tulip” scheme introduced in 1973.  During this period, airlines used different fleet utilizations, compared to today.  For example, it was very common for United to use DC-10s for the 90-minute flight from Denver to Chicago O’Hare.  This was a time in which airlines were less concerned about planes being full, and jet fuel prices were very cheap, compared to the post 9/11 environment of today.  In fact, United sometimes used the DC-10 for one of its shortest routes that connected Denver to Colorado Springs 60 miles away.

I once flew on a United DC-10 from Fort Lauderdale to Denver, via Chicago.  The one time I had an opportunity to fly the Denver-Colorado Springs segment was on a TWA Boeing 727, originating in St. Louis.  The flight lasted 12 minutes at an altitude of 12,000 feet above sea level, roughly 7,000 feet above ground level, keeping in mind the higher altitudes of Denver and Colorado Springs.  This route was usually operated by a Boeing 737-200 or -300.  Twenty years ago, the subsidiaries and aircraft operating as United Express were also different.  Air Wisconsin flew to smaller cities in Colorado, especially the ski resorts, using the BAe 146-100.  Mesa Airlines also supported United Express, and it used Beechcraft 1900D turboprops.

UA - B7333 - DEN - LFL UA B752 - DEN - LFL ZW BAe146 - DEN - LFL BE1900D - DEN - LFLUnited’s Boeing 737-300 in “rainbow/tulip” colors and  Boeing 757-200 showing off new “battleship gray” scheme, United Express (Air Wisconsin) BAe 146-100 and United Express (Mesa Air) Beechcraft 1900D

Another airline in transition, in more ways than one, was Continental Airlines.  Continental had also established a post-deregulation hub.  However, in October 1994, the airline closed its pilot and flight attendant base at Stapleton, and operations significantly decreased.  Like United, Continental was also changing colors during this time.  It began to shed its “meatball” scheme, which had been around in 1968 and adopted the “globe” that the merged United-Continental retains to this day.

When I traveled home to Florida, I had a couple of flights from Denver on Continental.  As was the case with United, Continental also used widebodies to connect its hubs.  On both flights, I connected in Continental’s Houston hub aboard one of its Airbus A300s. At Stapleton, Continental also had regional operations.  One of the feeder airlines was GP Express Airlines, which operated Beechcraft 1900Cs to smaller cities.   A resurrected version of Frontier Airlines filled the void at Stapleton left by Continental in 1994, and today it still uses Denver as a hub.

GPE BE1900C - DEN - LFL CO - B733- DEN - LFL
The “meatball” becomes the “globe”:  Continental Connection (GP Express) Beechcraft 1900C and Continental Boeing 737-300

Besides United and Continental, I had the opportunity to fly on American, America West, Northwest, and TWA to and from Denver.  On American, I flew on McDonnell Douglas MD-82/83 aircraft to its hubs in Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Miami.  Furthermore, I got to fly on an America West Boeing 737-200 to its Phoenix hub and on a Northwest Boeing 727-200 to its Detroit hub.  In addition to the TWA flight I mentioned earlier, I also remember a Denver – St. Louis – Orlando – Fort Lauderdale “milkrun” on the same 727.  TWA flew the 727 or the MD-83 to Stapleton from its St. Louis hub.

AA MD80 - DEN - LFL AW B743 - DEN - LFL ZNW B722 - DEN - LFL TW MD80 - DEN - LFLAmerican Airlines McDonnell Douglas MD-83, America West Boeing 737-200, Northwest Boeing 727-200, and TWA McDonnell Douglas MD-83

Other major carriers, like Delta, also operated in Stapleton.  Several factors contributed to the decision to close the airport and open up a much larger facility further east.  First, more separation was necessary between the parallel runways, especially during adverse weather conditions, such as low visibility.  Second, there was no room for expansion, which made it difficult for other airlines to add Stapleton as a destination.  Third, local residents sued the city over aircraft noise.  Last, Adams Country threatened legal action if any of the runways were extended into Rocky Mountain Arsenal lands.  Today, the area once occupied by Stapleton consists of residential neighborhoods, commercial warehouses, and a large shopping mall called the Shops at Northfield Stapleton.

In the spring of 1994, an airshow commemorated the completion of Stapleton’s replacement, Denver International Airport, and it was held at the new airport.  The new Denver International Airport was supposed to start operations that same year.  However, the actual opening faced many delays that pushed the opening to the following year.

UA B733 - DIA - LFL UA DC10 - DIA - LFL
United Boeing 737-300 and McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 on static display during airshow celebrating completion of new Denver International Airport in 1994

See more historical photos of Stapleton Airport here.

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Contact the author at luis.linares@airchive.com

Contact the editor at benet.wilson@airwaysnews.com

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Virgin Australia Unveils New Business Class Product

By Benjamin Bearup / Published October 7th, 2014

Virgin Australia, the second-largest airline within Oceania, has announced plans to revamp their business and premium economy classes across their widebody fleet. Under the carriers recently announced three-year outlook entitled “Virgin Vision 2017”, the carrier is planning major overhauls to their onboard product and overall company image.

The first major changes will be coming to business class on its long-haul fleet, which consists of six Airbus A330-200s and five Boeing 777-300ERs. Virgin will be introducing suite-style business class seats named “Super Diamond” that the carrier says is “revolutionary” compared to the current product offered on Virgin Australia long haul flights.

All images courtesy of Virgin Australia

The suite style seat fully converts into an 80-inch lie-flat bed and will be in a 1-2-1 configuration, offering all passengers full aisle access. Virgin plans for the new Super Diamond seat to feature a “unique tablet holder, a 16- to 18-inch touch screen for entertainment, multiple lighting settings and plenty of storage.” The new interior will reduce the number of overall seats onboard, with most reductions coming to the economy-class cabin. Additional upgrades will be coming exclusively to Virgin Australia’s 777 fleet, including a revamped international premium economy and a completely redesigned business class bar.

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Upgrades across the widebody fleet are scheduled to begin in early 2015, with the A330-200. The first aircraft outfitted with the new business class is set to enter service in March 2015, with all five of Virgin Australia’s A330 aircraft completing outfitting by August 2015. The Super Diamond Suite will enter service onboard Virgin Australia’s 777 fleet in November 2015, with all aircraft outfitted by early 2016.

Virgin Australia says that the new interior designs were partly inspired by “the worlds most premium automotive designs.” All new onboard products were designed with support from the Tangerine London design agency. Business class seats will be produced by B/E Aerospace out of Wellington, Florida.

specialised-menuThe new business class interior should help Virgin Australia better compete across the highly competitive Brisbane/ Sydney-Los Angeles route. The airline currently faces stiff competition from Australian flag carrier Qantas, United Airlines, and Delta Air Lines on this highly coveted route. Virgin Australia recently made the decision to pull out of the Melbourne-Los Angeles route partly due to competitor United announcing plans to operate this route using its new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

Virgin promises these recently announcement changes will be the first of many under Virgin Vision 2017. Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti hopes this vision will help push his carrier as the favorite airline of Australia. “We are committed to maintaining a competitive advantage in customer experience in order to ensure that Virgin Australia is the number one choice for premium travellers,” he said in a statement.

Images courtesy of Virgin Australia

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Contact the editor at vinay.bhaskara@airchive.com

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China Airlines Takes Aesthetically Innovative First Boeing 777-300ER

China Airlines new 777-300ER sits at the Everett Delivery Center.

China Airlines new 777-300ER sits at the Everett Delivery Center.

By Brandon Farris / Published Sunday October 5th, 2014

On a sunny Friday afternoon in Everett, WA China Airlines was celebrating the delivery of the carrier’s first of ten all new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, which will be the new flagship for the Taiwan based carrier. With an aesthetically unique cabin, this aircraft fits the old adage “It’s what’s on the inside is what counts.”

“China Airlines has been a valued Boeing customer for over 50-years and we are honored to celebrate the milestone delivery of their first 777-300ER,” said Ray Conner, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “The airline’s new 777-300ER represents the beginning of a new era for China Airlines and the people of Taiwan. As the many Boeing models before it, we are confident that the 777-300ER will continue to help China Airlines open up new markets and expand its horizons, as they continue to achieve tremendous success.”

The last produced passenger 747-400 departs from LAX. Photo by Brandon Farris

The last produced passenger 747-400 departs from LAX. Photo by Brandon Farris

This is the first new Boeing wide body for China Airlines since they took delivery of the last ever produced passenger 747-400 nine years ago back in April 2005. Coincidentally the 777-300ER’s are going to be used to replace the 747s from China Airlines fleet.

The new aircraft will enter service on October 10th when it departs at 07:25am local time from Taipei as Dynasty 601 operating to Hong Kong and arrive at 09:15am local time where it will spend about an hour on the ground before it turns around to head back to Taipei.

After China Airlines takes delivery of its second 777-300ER in October, the third will come in November.  After that they will begin operations twice a day to Los Angeles starting December 1st. It will replace both the carrier’s 747 flights. In 2015, China Airlines plans to upgrade its flights to San Francisco, New York City and Frankfurt.

“The introduction of the Boeing 777-300ER fleet is an important milestone for China Airlines,” said China Airlines Chairman Huang-Hsiang Sun but indeed the cabin has taken center stage. “Over the past two years, China Airlines has taken a broad new approach and philosophy to cabin design. In addition to enhancing safety and fuel efficiency, China Airlines is making a pioneering move in the airline industry to incorporate Taiwan’s cultural creativity into its cabin interior. I am confident that this will leave a lasting impression on passengers and enhance our competitiveness.”

Chinese New Year theme.

Chinese New Year theme.

China Airlines will introduce a new, state-of-the-art cabin interior onboard its 777-300ER designed by award winning Taiwanese architect Ray Chen. China Airlines’ new aircraft has a capacity of 358 seats. Business Class (J) boasts 40 seats in across two cabins and in a 1-2-1 direct aisle configuration giving passengers full flat pitch of 78”. The Premium Economy Class (Y+) has 62 seats configured in a 2-4-2 abreast configuration giving passengers a 39” pitch. Economy’s 256 (Y) seats are in the rapidly emerging 77W industry standard 3-4-3 configuration with 32″ seat pitch.

Where the aircraft really stands out is in the unique cabin interior led by Chen. The liberal use of bamboo and wood accents, and even paintings in the lavatories make a strong brand statement for the airline and its home nation. The LED lighting is put to good effect with multi- hued programmable color combinations in the J cabin depending on what holiday it is. For example, if it is Chinese New Year, the cabin sidewalls will be projected with deep red tones while the ceiling will be bathed in gold light. The moon festival would see a blue sidewall and gold ceiling theme and finally for Christmas, a red sidewalls and white ceiling.

Up front, The B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seats feature 180 degree full-flat beds that have ergonomic memory foam cushions. Their reverse herringbone configuration allows for direct aisle access and suite like privacy.

The tea and literature area of the Sky Lounge.

The tea and literature area of the Sky Lounge.

The defining feature of China Airlines 777-300ER aircraft lies in its poetic beauty, inspired by Lu You. The industry’s first high-ceiling Sky Lounge in Premium Business Class thoughtfully integrates Eastern and Western culture. It serves as a relaxing space for passengers and a platform for showcasing Taiwanese culture. The elaborately designed lounge is where teas and coffees of Taiwan are offered along with many tasty desserts. It will feature Lishan Oolong tea along with coffee from Dongshan. They area also has a has a bookshelf with a diverse reading collection of materials to stimulate the mind and enrich life.

The premium economy class seating is in a fixed back shell and front sliding recline so that passengers don’t infringe with those who are sitting behind them. With the extra 6″ of pitch, It also features a expanded personal storage space and a three-position foot rest. Each seat is equipped with a power outlet and USB port.

A set up Skycouch shows how it would work.

A set up Skycouch shows how it would work.

Unusually much of the innovation is saved for the tight 3-4-3 abreast economy cabin. China AIrlines will be the first in Asia to introduce the Skycouch, which first debuted on Air New Zealand a few years ago. China Airlines licensed the Air New Zealand patented product though they revised it to cater to small families rather then couples. Initially, it will only be available for ten rows between 41 and 51 on the right side of the aircraft.

The IFE is standard top end fare for the 777-300ER. The entire aircraft is equipped with the Panasonic eX3 inflight entertainment system in all three classes with 18″ screen in J, 12.1″ screen in Y+, and Y getting an 11.1″ screen at every seat. Wi-Fi will also be equipped onboard the aircraft with rates starting at $11.95 for one hour, $16.95 for three hours and $21.95 for 24 hours.

Our verdict from a tour is that the overall aesthetic is positively unique. In a sea of rather generic cabins, China Airlines’ product couldn’t be confused with a carrier outside Asia. The idea is to welcome the airlines guests to Taiwan the minute they board and regardless of class, the cabin seems to have done its job.

But all this aesthetic and materials innovation could come at a cost. According to a China Airlines official who asked to remain anonymous, there is concern the aircraft has increased weight which would increase fuel burn. Once the carrier begins its New York route, it may have to make a fuel stop on the way back similar to what Eva Air does on its Taipei-New York route. It currently stops in Anchorage for fuel.

For additional information and photography, our colleagues at Airline Reporter also covered the handover event. 

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Etihad Airways Unveils First Boeing 787

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Special to Airways News / Published September 27, 2014

Etihad 7879 JDL -2EVERETT, WA: Etihad welcomed its first Boeing 787, adorned in the company’s freshly unveiled livery, Saturday night in Seattle. The jet is the first of 41 787-9 Dreamliners the Abu Dhabi-based carrier has on order.

The airplane was revealed in an elaborate display, pulled out of a Boeing company paint hangar to flashing lights and applause.

Despite being out in the open, the airplane still has yet to fly, however, with delivery still weeks away.

Once delivered the airplane will begin serving nearby Doha beginning in early December, according to the carrier. It will move toward long-haul flying several weeks later, with Dusseldorf, Washington DC, Mumbai, Brisbane, and Moscow on the short-list.

On board, early -9 models will seat 235 in a three-class configuration.

Eight first-class suites will be available. Each features a full turn-down service, inflight chef, in-seat massage, and mini-bar.

Business class will seat 28 in a 1-2-1 layout. Etihad is calling them ‘Business Studios’, featuring 80.5 inches of pitch and 22 inch wide seats. Each has a dining table, ample storage, and finer aesthetic features such as lamps.

Economy will seat 199, utilizing a relatively new seat design called smart seats. Each features a fixed headrest, apparently made with camel leather, for sleeping along with a six inch recline. Pitch will range between 31 and 33 inches with a width of 17.2 inches. An 11.1 inch touchscreen will be available as well along with USB and standard charging ports/outlets.

Later models will ditch the suites, however, in favor of a two-class layout. All versions will be equipped with Panasonic’s eX3 entertainment platform.

Etihad 7879 JDL -1
JDL Multimedia 2014, for Airways News JDL Multimedia 2014, for Airways News

MORE PHOTOS: Etihad Airways Boeing 787 Debut

The event to some degree played second fiddle to another Etihad delivery earlier this week. The carrier accepted its first of 10 Airbus A380 airplanes on Thursday in Hamburg, Germany. The airplane was the first to wear the company’s newest livery.

The super-jumbo jets have garnered considerable attention for the inclusion of what Etihad dubs “The Residence”. Featuring 125 square feet of space split between three rooms, a personal butler, and private shower, the ultra exclusive first-class cabin will be available for the low-low price of $21,000US per flight. The airplane will debut on Abu Dhabi – London late this year.

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Contact the author at jeremy@JDLMultimedia.com or follow him on Twitter @photoJDL

Disclosure: Airways News & the author were a guest of Etihad at an all-expenses paid dinner at Aqua Seattle on September 26. Our writing and opinions remain independent.

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American Airlines Celebrates 25th Anniversary of Miami Hub

By Luis Linares / Published September 26th, 2014

AA - 763 - MIA - LFL

American Boeing 767-323ER landing at MIA:  Photo by Luis Linares / Airways News

In September 1989, American Airlines made a bold decision to transform its small operation in Miami into a major hub and international gateway. At the time, Eastern Airlines and Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) were the main carriers at Miami International Airport (MIA), especially when it came to connecting South Florida to Latin America and the Caribbean. Eastern had taken over the Latin American operations of bankrupt Braniff in 1982. However, Eastern and Pan Am both collapsed in January and December 1991 respectively.  American bought Eastern’s Latin American routes in 1989, while United bought those of Pan Am in 1991.  American was founded in 1926, but had not served MIA until it started a modest presence there in 1979. Finally, financial troubles contributed to United closing its MIA to Latin American service in 2002, leaving American alone at the top.

Extra: Historic images and memorabilia from Miami International Airport

Timetables

Timetables showing evolution of MIA hub – Braniff 1982, Eastern 1989, and American 1990:  Images from Airways News Collection

American’s Operations at MIA

As American celebrates the 25th anniversary of its MIA expansion, the airline boasts 339 flights per day that connect MIA to 123 destinations around the world — more than 100 of them not served by any other domestic carrier at the airport.  This makes American the top US airline serving Latin America, with more flights than any other carrier.  In addition to service to cities in the U.S. and Latin America, American also serves Europe with flights to Barcelona, London, Madrid, and Paris and Canada with flights to Montreal and Toronto. American’s service today is larger than the combined service of Eastern and Pan Am at their peak of operations at MIA.  Before taking over for Eastern, American had a modest operation consisting of only 19 flights per day at MIA.

EA 752 - MIA - Jose Lauzardo AA - 752 - MIA - LFL
Boeing 757s then & now at MIA – Eastern Boeing 757-225:  Photo by Jose Lauzardo and American Boeing 757-223:  Photo by Luis Linares / Airways News

In an airport press release this week, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez and Miami-Dade Aviation Director Emilio Gonzales congratulated American on its milestone.  Mayor Gimenez said, “American Airlines is without a doubt one of the community partners that has had the greatest impact on our local economy.  AA is responsible for nearly 70 percent of the flights at our top economic engine, a vast route network drawing leisure, and business travelers to our region from around the globe, and more than 11,000 employees in its Miami hub operations — they have truly helped build Miami into a world-class city like none other. On behalf of the residents of Miami-Dade Country, it’s my pleasure to congratulate our partners at American on the 25th anniversary of their Miami hub.  Thank you for your unwavering commitment to our community.”  Aviation Director Gonzales remarked, “I proudly congratulate American Airlines on its 25th anniversary of establishing Miami International Airport as its hub for Latin America and the Caribbean.  Since its decision in 1989 to build a gateway to the Americas at MIA, American has expanded from 19 daily flights to more than 340 this year — an all-time record.  The partnership between American and MIA has truly been a match made in heaven – service between MIA and 121 destinations around the world and more than 27 million annual passengers, all served by MIA’s award-winning North Terminal.  As MIA closes in on another record-setting year for passenger traffic and American continues their expansion at MIA with new routes like Cap-Haitien, and Campinas, Brazil in the coming months, I offer my deepest congratulations and thanks to the American Airlines Miami hub team for 25 groundbreaking years and more to come.”

AA 722 - MIA - CS

American Boeing 727-223 in 1999:  Photo by Chris Sloan / Aircways News

The North Terminal (Concourse D)

Today, American operates from MIA’s state-of-the art North Terminal (AKA: Concourse D).  In 1989, this area consisted of three “finger” terminals designated as Concourses B, C, and D.  MIA added Concourse A in 1998.  As American’s presence grew, so did the need for significant expansion and modernization of its facilities.  The transformation of Concourses A to D into the North Terminal began in 1998 and was supposed to be completed in 2005, but the project faced many delays because of cost overruns. Furthermore, the Miami-Dade Country Aviation Department took over the project from American Airlines during a tense time that involved major legal action between the county and the airline stemming from the delays and higher costs that resulted in a five-year delay.  By August 2010, all gates and extensions to the building were finished.  A new international arrivals facility opened August 2012, and three more gates opened in August 2013.  The official completion of the North Terminal project was in February 2014 with the opening of the baggage handling system’s international-to-domestic transfer.

Extra: Extensive Photo Gallery of Miami International Airport and the AA Hub.

Terminal

Evolution of MIA Terminal – 1990, 2005, and 2014:  Images from Airways News collection

North Terminal Construction - MIA - CS Concourse E - MIA - CS
North Terminal under construction in 2002 and American using Concourse E gates in 2003:  Photos by Chris Sloan / Airways News

The result is a 3.6 million square foot linear facility that absorbed Concourses A and D, while B and C were demolished. The new terminal, designed by Corgan Associates, Anthony C. Baker Architects and Panners, Perez & Perez, and Leo A. Daly, measures 1.2 miles in length and consists of 45 gates designated D1 to D12, D12 to D17, D19 to D25, D29 to D33, D37 to D40, D42 to D51, D53, D55, and D60.  The facility handles 20 million passengers annually. American has two Admirals Clubs, one by D15 and the other by D30. American Eagle uses the ground-level gates D53, D55, and D60 located on the westernmost side of the terminal.  A people mover known as “Skytrain” opened in September 2010 to facilitate the movement of passengers from one end of the terminal to the other, and it has four stops at gates D17, D24, D29, and D46.  Despite the enormous size of the North Terminal, American’s operations still overflow to the older Concourse E, which can be reached from the North Terminal via a connecting walkway.

MIA North Terminal Interior MIA Skytrain
Concourse interior and Skytrain entrance at North Terminal:  Photos by Chris Sloan / Airways News

King at MIA

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American classic and new tails at North Terminal:  Photo by Luis Linares / Airways News

American emerged from bankruptcy with a new look and merged with US Airways in early 2013 to form American Airlines CEO Doug Parker reintroduced the “banking” of American’s hubs in August 2013, starting with MIA.  Prior to the merger, the old management used the” rolling” system, which had been established after the 9/11 attacks, for its hub operations in order to minimize costs during this financially difficult period.  The re-banking of movements means many flights will land within a narrow time period, and take-off within a similar narrow time window.  The goal is to maximize connections, as well as increase revenue.  The only risk that comes with banking MIA is the heavy afternoon thunderstorms during the summer months.  Regardless, American’s dominant position at MIA is very likely to remain unchallenged, especially with no competitor present to match the scope of Latin American operations.

AA - 738 OC - MIA - LFL AA - 738 NC - MIA - LFL
American Boeing 737-823 in classic and new look at MIA:  Photo by Luis Linares / Airways News

AA - 77W - MIA - LFL

Boeing 777-323ER viewed from Skytrain:  Photo by Luis Linares / Airways News

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Contact the author at luis.linares@airwaysnews.com

Contact the editor at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com

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Aloha Air Cargo Announces Los Angeles Service

By Benjamin Bearup / Published September 23rd, 2014

Image Credit - Aloha Air Cargo

Image Credit – Aloha Air Cargo

Aloha Air Cargo will begin nonstop cargo service between Honolulu and Los Angeles beginning October 23.  Aloha Air Cargo says that the new service will, “be geared toward freight forwarders, consolidators, passenger carrier partners, and businesses looking to sync up with Aloha’s existing inter island network, for seamless movement of through cargo shipments to the Neighboring Hawaiian Islands.”

Aloha will utilize a Boeing 767-300F cargo aircraft that the airline will take delivery of in the coming weeks. The new route will be operated five times per week and will arrive in Honolulu at the strategic time of 5:00 am, enabling cargo connections through Aloha’s inter island route system, which serves Lihu’e, Kahului, Kona, and Hilo. Aloha is betting on this new route to drastically increase customer options and increase freight volumes between the United States and Hawaii. Flight schedules for the new route are as follow:

HNL – LAX ~~ D: 1430 A: 2245 ~~ 12345

LAX – HNL ~~ D: 0200 A: 0500 ~~ 23456

Currently, Aloha Air Cargo operates a small fleet of six aircraft, including two Boeing 737-200C aircraft capable of carrying 30,000 pounds of cargo, two Boeing 737-300F aircraft capable of carrying 42,900 pounds of freight, and two Saab 340’s capable of carrying 7,700 pounds of freight. The new 767-300F will have a capacity of 125,000 pounds, which will greatly increase Alohas overall cargo capacity. Currently one 737-200C, and one 737-300F are stored and out of service. Aloha will initially wet-lease the aircraft.

The new route will face competition from cargo giants Federal Express (FedEx) and UPS who both operate similar service from Honolulu to Los Angeles International Airport and Ontario International Airport respectively (both routes operate five times per week). Additional competition will be provided by Kalitta Air who operates varying service from Honolulu International to Los Angeles utilizing the 747-200 and from regional giant Hawaiian Airlines who utilizes the cargo holds of its Airbus A330-200 aircraft.

Aloha Air Cargo is the survivor and successor of Aloha Airlines, which was Hawaii’s second airline for decades. Aloha was at one time, the largest air carrier in Hawaii, and it became a common site at airports along the west coast of the United States, and throughout Hawaii’s largest airports. Over the years, Aloha obtained an impressive fleet of over 20 737 family aircraft including several Boeing 737NG models with ETOPS certification that allowed Aloha to fly long distance routes. After more than 60 years of commercial service, Aloha Airlines announced that it would file for bankruptcy and would suspend all flight operations in March of 2008, citing rising fuel expenses and intense interisland competition with Hawaiian Airlines, and go! Airlines (a subsidiary of regional giant Mesa Airlines). Shortly after ceasing passenger operations, Aloha Airlines sold off its largely successful cargo division. After several unsuccessful negotiations and under the pressure of Hawaii governor Linda Lingle and Senator Daniel Inouye, Seattle-based Saltchuk Resources purchased Aloha’s cargo division for $10.5 million.

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Contact the editor at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com

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PHOTOS: First Virgin Atlantic 787 Takes Flight

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren, Special to Airways News / Published September 23, 2014

Virgin 787-9 JDLMultimedia-2EVERETT, WA: Virgin Atlantic’s first Boeing 787-9 took to the cloudy skies over Puget Sound on Tuesday.

Virgin will be the first European operator of the stretched Dreamliner, and the fourth overall, following ANA, Air New Zealand, and United. Delivery of the jet is expected in mid-October.

According to the airline, the airplanes will be outfitted with 264 seats split between a three-class cabin. Virgin’s business cabin, dubbed Upper Class, will seat 31 in a 1-1-1 configuration. Premium economy will seat 35 in a 2-3-2 setup, with economy seating 3-3-3 layout for the remaining 198.

It will make its first revenue runs on October 28th, to mark the carrier’s 30th anniversary, flying from London to Boston. Additional destinations are expected to include New York, Newark, and Washington DC in early 2015. The jets will replace Airbus A330s and A340s currently serving each city.

The first cities to receive service are in line with the carrier’s recent announcement that it will be off-loading a number of long-haul routes in Africa and Asia in favor of bulking up service to the US. The move is largely aimed at strengthening its joint-venture with Delta Air Lines on flights from Europe to the US. The arrangement allows the two to collaborate on price, schedule, and profits.

But Virgin hasn’t ruled out utilizing the aircraft to other locations, including the Caribbean and Asia down the road, in an interview with eTN.

The British carrier has 15 of the jets on order, with options for an additional eight and purchase options for up to 20 more. It has also publicly shared that it is considering the 787-10.

Virgin 787-9 JDLMultimedia-3 Virgin 787-9 JDLMultimedia-2-2 Virgin 787-9 JDLMultimedia-1-2

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Contact the author at jeremy@JDLMultimedia.com or follow him on Twitter @photoJDL

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Flashback Friday: Fort Lauderdale Spotting in the Early 90s

By Luis Linares / Published September 19, 2014 / Photos by author

FLL Spotting Area - LFL

View from FLL plane spotting area in early 1990s

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) is one of the few airports that offers a dedicated location for plane spotters.  This area is located next to the holding point of runway 10L, and there are no parking costs to worry about when visiting this great location. Today, the area also offers a loudspeaker for spotters to listen to air traffic control tower communications with traffic.  In light of this week’s opening of the extended runway 10R, let’s go back to the early 1990s to see some of the traffic visible from the viewing park.

Snowbird Season

Friendly Canadian tourists, affectionately known as “snowbirds”, are a common sight in Florida during the winter months, though Air Canada flies to FLL year-round.  In the 1980s and 1990s, it was common for the airline to add more flights and use larger aircraft in the winter, and one of the main attractions was when their 747 visited.  Canadian charter carriers relied heavily on the winter months in Florida for their bread and butter and Canada 3000 was one of the largest charter airlines in the world during its operation. The company, which did not survive the post-September 11 airline chaos, was one of Air Canada’s main competitors during the winter vacation season in South Florida.

ACA 747 - FLL - LFL CMM 757 - FLL - LFL
Air Canada Boeing 747-200 and Canada 3000 Boeing 757-200

Delta stronghold

Before the days of JetBlue and Spirit, Delta Air Lines was the largest operator at FLL.  Delta’s flew widebody Lockheed L-1011s and Boeing 767s, especially to and from Atlanta and New York.  This was also still a time when many of the airline’s Boeing 727s were still in operation, and another frequent Delta visitor to FLL in the 90s was the Boeing 757, which today is still a common sight at the airport.  Today, Delta is the fourth largest operator at FLL, behind , JetBlue, Southwest and Spirit, and it operates from Terminal 2.

DAL 722 - FLL - LFL DAL L1011 - FLL - LFL
Tri-jets: Delta Boeing 727-200 and Lockheed L1011 TriStar

Defunct U.S. Airlines 

In the early 1990s, now defunct U.S. carriers, such as Newark-based Kiwi International Airlines, Indianapolis-based American Trans Air (later ATA), Carnival Airlines, and the famous Trans World Airlines (TWA) visited FLL. Kiwi was created by former Eastern and Pan Am pilots and managers and operated from 1992 to until its bankruptcy in 1999.  Its demise was caused by various factors, including undercapitalization, bad press on the safety of low cost airlines in light of the ValuJet crash in the Florida Everglades in 1996, and a maintenance dispute with the FAA despite the airlines perfect safety record. ATA was North America’s largest charter airline, founded in 1973, and it lasted until 2008, when it lost a contract to transport military members. Carnival Air Lines was an attempt by the parent cruise line to provide charter services from Fort Lauderdale and Miami. It started flights in 1988 and ceased operations after a failed merger with a reincarnated version of Pan Am in 1998. The iconic TWA was a frequent visitor from New York JFK and Saint Louis.  However, TWA experienced three bankruptcies starting in 1992, and American Airlines eventually bought and merged with TWA at the end of 2001.

KIA 722 - FLL - LFL AMT 722 - FLL - LFL CAA 734 - FLL - LFL TWA 721 - FLL - LFLKiwi International Airlines Boeing 727-200, American Trans Air Boeing 727-200, Carnival Airlines Boeing 737-400, and Trans World Airlines (TWA) Boeing 727-100 at FLL

Past Fleets and Liveries

Finally, more than 20 years ago, many of the airlines still in operation today had aircraft and colors that are now history.  US Airways was known as US Air at the time and had inherited a number of Boeing 737-300/400 aircraft after its merger with Piedmont Airlines. On the charter side, Miami-based Miami Air International was only a couple of years into its operation.  It started with a fleet of Boeing 727s, and today it operates a combination of Boeing 737-400/800 planes.

USA 734 - FLL - LFL BSK 722 - FLL - LFL
US Air Boeing 737-400 and Miami Air International Boeing 727-200

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Contact the author at luis.linares@airchive.com

Contact the editor at vinay.bhaskara@airwaysnews.com

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This Week in the Air

By Ian Petchenik / Published September 13th, 2014

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-800 ("Heart Two" / N8645A) in the new livery: Image Credit - Ian Petchenik / Airways News

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-800 (“Heart Two” / N8645A) in the new livery: Image Credit – Ian Petchenik / Airways News

This was a big week for new branding, new routes, new planes, and new airports. Southwest and Frontier revealed new branding in separate events early in the week, each updating the look of their planes and other elements within the airlines. We discussed Southwest’s new branding, an evolutionary look from 2001′s canyon blue livery that re-imagines Southwest’s “heart.” We also took a deeper look at the timing and reasoning behind the refresh.

A Frontier Airlines Airbus A320 painted in the new livery: Image Credit - Ben Bearup / Airways News

A Frontier Airlines Airbus A320 painted in the new livery: Image Credit – Ben Bearup / Airways News

We were also on hand for Frontier’s rebranding event on Tuesday. This is their third such change since the airline’s relaunch in 1994. Frontier’s decision to rebrand comes just as it completes it transition from leisure airline to ultra-low cost carrier (ULCC).

This was also a big week for new route announcements. Icelandair is adding seasonal service to Portland, Oregon from Keflavik, Iceland, that will run from May 20 to October 21 in 2015. British Airways will send its Airbus A380 to San Francisco five times per week, beginning March 29, 2015. The A380 will supplement daily service on the carrier’s 747.

Southwest announced it will begin service to San Jose, Costa Rica in March of 2015, its first new international destination after it fully integrates AirTran into its network at the end of 2014. Delta said it will begin twice-daily flights between Los Angeles (LAX) and San Antonio on April 7, 2015, using Delta Connection partner Compass Airlines’ Embraer E175s.

Connections between Mexico and Texas are also growing with Spirt Airlines and VivaAerobus planning additional service. Spirit plans to add service in March 2015, from Houston to Cancun, Toluca, and San Jose del Cabo. Mexican low-cost carrier VivaAerobus intends to add service from DFW to Cancun, Guadalajara, Monterrey, and San Jose del Cabo, with services beginning in December 2014.

 

A rendering of the Ryanair Boeing 737 MAX 200

A rendering of the Ryanair Boeing 737 MAX 200

Ryanair became the launch customer for the Boeing 737 MAX 200, with a firm order for 100 frames of the denser variant. Deliveries of the airplane will begin in 2019. We also analyzed the CSeries’s return to the sky. The new airplane’s flight test program had been grounded for three months after an engine malfunction. Bombardier believes the CSeries will enter into service in the second half of 2015, but we see that target overly optimistic, with the end of the first quarter 2016 more likely.

Mexico confirmed plans this week for a new Mexico City airport to be built adjacent to the current Benito Juarez Airport. The first phase of the $9.2 billion project, which will include three runways and one terminal will be completed in 2018-2019.

TAM Service Academy. Image Credit - Jason Rabinowitz / Airways News

TAM Service Academy. Image Credit – Jason Rabinowitz / Airways News

We went deep inside TAM’s Service Academy for an in-depth look at how the airline trains its cabin crew to serve dinner and survive a jungle plane crash. Also this week, we got a first-hand look at Rockwell Collins’ newest iteration of its popular MultiScan weather radar system.

Rounding out the week, we reviewed Al Jazeera Investigates – Broken Dreams: The Boeing 787, an investigative report into Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner program, and found it short on substance.

In the week ahead we’ll have coverage of the Airline Passenger Experience Expo in Anaheim, California, beginning September 15.

Contact the author at ian@petchmo.com.

Contact the editor at Vinay.Bhaskara@airchive.com

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Flashback Friday: Visible Changes at New York JFK from 1991 to 1992

By Luis Linares / Published September 12, 2014 / Photos by author

JFK ATC Towers - LFL

Old and new ATC towers at JFK in 1992

From 1991 to 1992 New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport changed substantially due to planned construction, the demise of Pan Am, and the geopolitical situation overseas.  Among the visible changes were the ongoing construction of a new air traffic control (ATC) tower; Delta’s takeover of Pan Am’s operations; and some changes in the Aeroflot livery after the fall of the Soviet Union.

ATC Towers

Between 1991 and 1992, the original ATC tower was quickly dwarfed by the construction of a new and taller (321-foot) tower (at the time, the tallest in the world), designed by Pei Cobb Fried & Partners, that would eventually begin operations in 1994.  The original ATC tower was eventually  demolished.

Goodbye Pan Am, hello Delta

The iconic Terminal 3 (the “Worldport”) had been used by Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) since its construction in 1960.  On January 8, 1991, Pan Am declared bankruptcy, and Delta Airlines bought some of its assets, including 45 aircraft and the Worldport.  The most noticeable change to Delta’s fleet was the incorporation of Pan Am’s Airbus A310s, after Pan Am’s demise on December 4, 1991.  Delta stayed at Terminal 3 until it was closed in May 2013, and now operates out of Terminals 2 and 4 at JFK.  Final demolition of the historic Terminal 3 will take place in 2015.

DL A310 - JFK - LFL DL A310s - JFK - LFL DL L-1011 - JFK - LFL DL A310 - JFK - LFL Delta widebodies at JFK in 1992, including Pan Am’s former A310s

New flag for Aeroflot

In August 1991 a failed coup against the reformist government in the former Soviet Union prompted the rapid collapse of the country.  On December 26, 1991, the Soviet Union was dissolved.  At the time the Soviet national airline Aeroflot was serving JFK from Moscow using an Ilyushin Il-62M.  One of the distinguishing characteristics of the livery was on the tail, featuring the red Soviet flag with the yellow hammer and sickle on the top left corner.  With the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Aeroflot became Russia’s main airline, and instead of opting for new livery, the airline used decals of the Russian flag to cover the old Soviet one.  The hasty patchwork was clearly visible on the tail.  Aeroflot used a gate in Terminal 3 for its operations.

SU Il-62M - JFK - LFL SU Il-62M - JFK - LFL
Aeroflot used Delta’s gates for its Ilyushin Il-62M service to Moscow; Russian flag was hastily placed on top of U.S.S.R. flag after collapse of Soviet Union.

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Contact the author at luis.linares@airchive.com

Contact the editor at vinay.bhaskara@airchive.com

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New Southwest and Frontier Liveries Leaked

The new Southwest livery leaked on Saturday.

The new Southwest livery leaked on Saturday.

Proving that keeping a secret in the aviation industry is a difficult task, it appears that both Frontier and Southwest’s new liveries leaked on the Internet Saturday. Neither airline has confirmed the authenticity of the images. There had been much speculation about what Southwest’s “special announcement” was going to be Monday morning at its Media Days event and Frontier had strongly hinted that it was rebranding by sending plain white toy airplanes with a question mark painted on the tail to select journalists prior to its own event on Tuesday. It appears now that we need not wait until Monday to find out.

New Frontier livery leaked Saturday.

New Frontier livery leaked Saturday.

Frontier’s new livery, which comes as the carrier is seeking to rebrand as an Ultra-low cost carrier, harkens back to the 1978, Saul Bass-designed logo, borrowing a stylized “F”, and adding an arrow along the length of the fuselage. It appears the animals on the tail, which have adorned Frontier’s planes since 1994, will stay.

Frontier's 1978 Saul Bass-designed logo.

Frontier’s 1978 Saul Bass-designed logo. Via AirwaysNews archive.

Southwest’s new livery is an evolutionary design, keeping the canyon blue color, but moving the red from the bottom of the aircraft and adding yellow to the tail and rear fuselage. Southwest also updated the font used on the aircraft bringing it in line with the new font in their in-flight magazine. This is only Southwest’s third livery in its 43 year history. The current canyon blue livery replaced the original desert gold in 2001 after 30 years in service.

While the wind may be out of the sails for this week’s major announcements, AirwaysNews will have full coverage, on location from Southwest’s Media Days beginning early Monday morning and at Frontier’s event on Tuesday. You can follow along live at both events via Twitter and Facebook.

CurrentSouthwest

The current Southwest livery. Via AirwaysNews archive.

The current Frontier livery.

The current Frontier livery. Via AirwaysNews archive.

 

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Xiamen Airlines Takes Delivery of First Wide-body Jet

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published August 29, 2014

Xiamen 787-1EVERETT, WA: Xiamen Airlines took delivery of its very first wide-body jet, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, on Friday.

The airplane is outfitted for a passenger count of 236; four first class, eighteen business class, and 214 economy seats.

First class is configured 1-2-1 across with the Zodiac Apollo seats. Each is lie-flat with 6.4 feet of leg room, and a 15.4 inch wide screen. Business is also set up in a 2-2-2 across. The eighteen seats are split between a cabin of two rows and second, smaller cabin of only one row. The product is Zodiac’s Aura Lite. Economy will be arranged in a 3-3-3 configuration with 33 inches of pitch each and a 9-inch touchscreen. All seats appeared to have at least one power & USB port. The IFE system will run on Panasonic’s eX3 system.

Xiamen 787-5 Xiamen 787-2
Xiamen 787-3 Xiamen 787-4

The airline will fly the jet home to China on Saturday. Like many first-time operators, the carrier will utilize the aircraft on domestic routes before transitioning to long-haul down the road. Initial schedules will see the jet operating between Xiamen, Fuzhou, and Beijing in the first weeks of September.

Xiamen President Che Shanglun says the Dreamliners will be used to replace the carrier’s fleet of Boeing 757-200s, which currently operate near-international routes to southeast Asia, as well as Seoul, South Korea, and Osaka, Japan. Presently the carrier operates only domestic Chinese and regional international routes, primarily with Boeing 737s.

Che-1 Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive 2014The addition of Dreamliners to its fleet brings the capability to expand beyond its current perimeter. Indeed the carrier’s own press release noted that it expects to deploy the jet to Australia, Europe, and North America. But Mr. Shanglun wouldn’t was reluctant to share any details on exactly where or when such expansions might take place. “That’s top secret,” said Mr. Shanglun, adding that it will be taking “measured steps” toward a more global network in the coming years. Likely destinations, at least for North America, could include New York City, which has a heavy concentration of Chinese from the Fujian region where the carrier is based.

The carrier has five more 787s on order, expected to be delivered by the end of 2015. It also has a number of 737s, including the MAX 8, on order as well. The new jets will contribute to a 200-plus strong fleet by 2020. China Southern owns a 51% majority in Xiamen.

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Contact the author at Jeremy.Lindgren@Airchive.com

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TGIF: Thank-Goodness It’s Flyday Week-End Wrap Up: August 29th Edition

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published August 29, 2014

Thank-goodness it’s Flyday…err Friday, everyone! In this week’s edition Southwest labor relations turn sour, Qantas defers Dreamliners, smokes on a plane, and more…

Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive 2014

Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive 2014

Mediation: Is what the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) requested this week in an attempt to resolve ongoing contract issues between its members and their employer, Southwest Airlines. The carrier has agreed to the process, and the matter will proceed to the National Mediation Board (NMB). A federal mediator has already been assigned to the case.

The NMB cannot force a resolution, per se, but does work to bring about a resolution between the two parties. More importantly, if the NMB declares that the two cannot reach an agreement, it opens up either party to take more aggressive actions such as strikes and lockouts.

Like many labor disputes, the two have reached an apparent impasse over pay. The IAM charges, via a statement, that “management is hell-bent to move to a risky variable compensation system as opposed to offering guaranteed wage increases.” Southwest responded by saying it was “shocked and disappointed” by the request, saying via its own statement that it had sent over a proposal that was ignored by the IAM. The dispute has been ongoing since the previous contract ended in late 2012.

IAM represents around 6,000 employees at the Dallas-based carrier.

Southwest has historically had excellent labor relations, and many would argue that the relationship is still above average. But as profit margins have trended downward, the airline has been looking to cut costs, and employees are fighting back.

Unfortunately for them, their pay and benefits remain one of the juiciest fruits to squeeze. The carrier’s labor costs continue to spiral upwards at a concerning pace, growing 8.3% year-over-year (YOY) in the second quarter of 2014 and contributing to a 8.7% YOY rise in its contribution to operating costs per seat-mile.

Photo courtesy Boeing

Photo courtesy Boeing

First 787: Congrats are in order for Royal Jordanian, which received its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner this week. The Amman-based carrier will utilize the jet to replace older jets in its fleet. The jet is expected to serve routes to North America primarily, though will be found on routes to Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, the company said.

The airplane is outfitted with 24 business class and 246 in economy.

Malaysia Airlines overhaul: Malaysia Airlines, still reeling from its double-hull losses from the past six months, announced it would be cutting 6,000 jobs – or about 30% of its current workforce. The move likely signals, though MAS hasn’t confirmed, a corresponding drop in capacity.

It was clear big changes were in the offing after the carrier was taken over by Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund and subsequently privatized.

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive 2014

Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive 2014

Qantas defers Dreamliners: In its ongoing battle against its own balance sheet, Qantas this week reported that it has deferred the first five jets in its 787-9 order. First reported by Australian Business Traveller, the airline pushed back delivery as it was due its first jets next year. It still maintains 50 options.

The carrier has been struggling financially for some time, and has been deferring wide-body deliveries such as its A380s for some time. Whether the jets, when and if delivered, will go to Qantas is another matter. The Aussie flag carrier has been spinning off its 787-8s to low-cost subsidiary Jetstar. It is believed that the LCC may wind up doing the vast majority of long-haul flights as Qantas International continues to whither.

All by myself: Want to fly your 12 to 14-year old on American? It’ll cost you an extra $150 each way to do it effective September 3rd. The carrier currently applies the charge up through age 11, and says it made the change to align with US Airways’ policy. For comparison, United charges $150 for ages 5-11, Delta charges $100 for 5-15, while Southwest charges $50 for ages 5-11.

Air New Zealand welcomes “new” 777-200: ANZ unveiled its first refurbished Boeing 777-200 late last Friday. The airplane’s new interior will match that of the carrier’s new 787-9, delivered only a few weeks back. Some highlights are the carrier’s unique Skycoach product, Panasonice eX3 IFE system, and a new business-class product. ANZ has eight of the jets.
Premium Economy Economy Skycouch
Photos courtesy Air New Zealand

Can’t we all just get along?: The first of several diversion incidents this week took place on Monday aboard United 1462 as it made its way from Newark to Denver. Things got heated when a passenger in the Economy Plus cabin went to recline, only to discover the man behind her had installed a knee defender. In case you aren’t familiar, the $15 dollar device fits at the base of the fold-down tray, thus preventing the seat from reclining. United requested the offending passenger to remove the device, citing its policy of banning the device (as all US carriers do). The man refused, which prompted the woman whose seat the device was attached to turn around and throw a cup of water at him. The crew decided they’d have enough, and landed in Chicago. The two faced Chicago police at the gate. After an in-field investigation the airplane continued on to Denver without them, though neither was arrested.

It happened again on Wednesday, apparently, on an American flight from Miami to Paris. The airplane diverted after two people got into an argument. An on-board US federal air marshal wound up stepping in after one of the parties involved grabbed the arm of a flight attendant who attempted to break it up. He was arrested in Boston.

Photo by Raul Lieberwirth, creative commons

Photo by Raul Lieberwirth, creative commons

Smokes on a plane: Two Canadian women wound up causing a Sunwing flight from Toronto to Cuba to turn back over South Carolina, and apparently became concerning enough that the airline called in a military escort. Authorities say the women snuck into the restroom, where each downed a healthy dose of duty-free alcohol just to get the party started. It was followed up by lighting up some smokes, while still in the bathroom, which predictably set off the aircraft’s smoke detectors. Then they proceeded to fight with one another (presumably while still in the bathroom??), and threatened the airplane, which sealed their fate. The women were escorted off the airplane in Toronto, and promptly arrested. The two face a litany of charges including, but not limited to, smoking on an aircraft, mischief endangering life, uttering threats, and endangering the safety of an aircraft.

 Moving on: I announce today, with a little sadness, that this is my last day on staff with Airchive, and thus my last TGIF. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to guide the site over the past year, and provide you, our readers, with news and information that matters in the aviation industry. And of course there were the great adventures that I will remember fondly, from the first A350 ride to the last DC-10. I’ll miss working with our talented staff, and look forward to seeing Airchive, now AirwaysNews, grow to even greater heights. As for me, you can keep in touch on Twitter: @photoJDL, or via my business site, JDLMultimedia.com. Thanks so much for tuning in!

From the editor-in-chief: Jeremy joined us as our first co-editor-in-chief one year ago this week, when Airchive began to morph from a largely historical site into what it is today. He has been a major force, working tirelessly and passionately to evolve Airchive (now AirwaysNews) into a respected, daily industry news source. During the year he has also become an expert in fighting jet lag. In his first weekend on the job he flew SEA-YYZ-LHR-LAX-SFO-SEA in what was only the beginning of a year that took him everywhere from Dhaka to Farnborough to Warsaw and many places in between.  His leadership, creativity, artistic eye for photography, and all around grace will be missed by not only the staff, but me as well. I am sure our readers feel the same. We’re all better for having JDL in our midst and look forward to seeing what he does next.

Just a few days ago, Airchive relaunched as AirwaysNews. We will not miss a beat. Vinay Bhaskara will take over as interim co-editor-in-chief starting Tuesday, supported by our ever growing team of correspondents. We will be naming our new co-editor-in-chief soon.

In case you missed it, Airchive had a lot of great coverage right here. This week’s stories:

JAL Places Substantial Regional Jet Order

Airchive Rebrands and Re-launches as AirwaysNews

JetBlue Opens Hotel at JetBlue University

Southwest Unveils New “Listening Center”

PHOTOS: First Production Airbus A350 for Qatar

InFlight Review: KLM World Business Class: MD-11 Edition

American Airlines Drops Orbitz

PEOPLExpress expands to Orlando

GE-Powered Boeing 787-9 Receives Green-Light

BOC Aviation Places Order for 82 Boeing Jets

Storm Chasing with the Honeywell IntuVue NextGen Radar Onboard a Convair 580

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Contact the editor-in-chief at Chris.Sloan@Airchive.com

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Southern Air Transport: An Uncommon Carrier (Best of Airways, Part Two)

By Maurice J Wickstead / Published August 29, 2014
This article originally appeared in
Airways Magazine.

This is the second of a two-part series on the history of Southern Air Transport. Miss part one? Catch it here, and don’t forget to come back!

Going legit

L-100 BG5Southern Air Transport acquired a dozen L-100s previously flown by Transamerica Airlines after that company folded in September 1986. Rugged and reliable, the Hercules afforded SAT the reputation for being able (and willing, for a price) to haul loads into often otherwise inaccessible places. The Herc’s 6,000cu ft (170m³) and 50,000lb (22,700kg) payload led to SAT being the first airline to gain CAB worldwide outsize load certification.

Using this capability SAT transported helicopters, generators, and even a complete zoo from Florida to Bermuda, along with ‘just-in-time’ contracts for the automotive industry, principally Ford Europe. Other work involved palletized cargo, aircraft-on-ground movements, oil spill, and pesticide spraying operations. As one commentator wryly put it, SAT exchanged ‘guerrillas for gorillas’ when, in 1976, it carried the 40ft (12m)-high, 6.5t mechanical ‘King Kong’ for the Dino De Laurentiis remake of the famous film for Paramount. A decade later, another ‘king’ handled by the airline was Pharaoh Ramses II, movement of whose treasure was entrusted to the airline during US and international exhibitions.

From the mid-1980s SAT’s Hercules fleet was also a familiar sight in many of the world’s conflict hot-spots, especially in the troubled Horn of Africa, Angola, Mozambique, Rwanda, and famine-ravaged Ethiopia. To overcome the problem of washed-out airstrips in the rainy season, SAT developed an effective pallet airdrop system, delivering the cargo from altitudes as low as 700ft (200m).

While these operations were associated with humanitarian aid organizations such as the United Nations, Caritas Internationalis, and the International Red Cross, a contract with a diamond mine in war-torn Angola aroused widespread speculation that the airline was still in cahoots with its former owner.

Such missions were not without hazard. In September 1991 a Herc was written-off after striking a land mine while taxiing at Wau, in Sudan, fortunately without fatality.

707-323C N8404 Southern AT-BAX Global OKC 05Jan89 [denis goodwin] e300In 1985, SAT became the first cargo airline to offer aircraft, crew, maintenance, and insurance (ACMI) contracts. Boeing 707-300Cs were acquired for operation on behalf of BAX Global and CF AirFreight, and wet-leases to carriers such as Ethiopian Airlines, LAC Colombia, and the Swiss-Soviet Metro Cargo Airlines. By 1991 these varied activities brought in annual revenue of $150 million ($253m).

Change of direction

Since its early days Southern Air Transport had been a prominent contractor to the US Air Force LOGAIR (logistics airlift) and US Navy QUICKTRANS networks, which occupied half the Hercules fleet and accounted for 30% of total revenue. As part of the Civilian Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) the airline played a significant part in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990-91, with SAT 707s flying regularly between McGuire AFB, New Jersey, and Jeddah and Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. This involvement culminated with a 707 ferrying doctors and medical equipment into the newly liberated Kuwait International Airport in March 1991.

This profitable business began to wane in the mid-1990s after significant cutbacks in the defense budget were instituted by the Clinton administration. Nevertheless, attempts at diversification were already underway with delivery in February 1991 of the first two of six Douglas DC-8 Series 70 freighters as part of an effort to capture a greater percentage of the US freight forwarder and overseas wet-lease markets.

A joint-venture was established in January 1993 with the formation of Polar Air Cargo in conjunction with aircraft leasing company Polaris, a subsidiary of General Electric Capital Services, and California-based NedMark Transportation Services. Polar lifted off in May 1993 using a couple of 747s, initially on charter work. Within a few months several more aircraft allowed the initiation of east and westbound scheduled routes linking New York with Hong Kong.

Southern_Air_Transport_Boeing_747-200 N741SJ Paul SpijkersSAT pulled out of the partnership in March 1994 to develop its own cargo business with 747s, the first appearing in summer 1994. Customers included Atlas Air, China Airlines, Emirates, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Lufthansa, and Varig. Although the overall cargo market had grown by more than 50% in the preceding decade, the number of new companies offering tailor-made contract and leasing packages had also increased.

After moving in 1995 from Miami to Columbus, Ohio (although SAT became a Nevada corporation), toward the end of the decade the burden of new equipment costs and increased competition led to financial problems. Proposed acquisitions by Fine Air and Kitty Hawk failed to materialize after a buyer for the L-100 fleet could not be found, and Southern Air Transport ceased operations on September 25, 1998. On October 1, with liabilities of $101 million ($150m), SAT filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Eventually the L-100 fleet was auctioned off to Transafrik to pay major creditors. During the bankruptcy proceedings it was discovered that the proceeds of a sale of a Southern Air Transport subsidiary, SimuFlite Training International, had been retained by the Bastian family (Jim Bastion died shortly after the collapse of the company). Several million dollars was eventually recovered and paid to former SAT employees.

Transformation

Out of the ashes arose a new Southern Air. In February 1999, SAT’s remaining assetswere acquired by a Connecticut investment group known as Devon Partners, which included several former SAT managers. In an effort to secure SAT’s certificate and authority, a joint filing was made to the Department of Transportation in the names Southern Air Transport and Southern Air. The DOT, however, declined the transfer application and instead issued a new certificate in November to Southern Air for interstate and foreign cargo charters. Southern Air took off early in 2000 with a 747-200F employed on an ACMI contract for Lufthansa Cargo.

Mark_Smith_N777SA_777FSurviving a post-September 11, 2001, Chapter 11 reorganization, Southern Air expanded, being acquired in 2007 by Oak Hill Capital Partners and merged with its Cargo 360 airline. Older 747s were retired after Southern Air took delivery of 777Fs.

Southern Air’s holding company entered Chapter 11 in September 2012with debts of $285 million, citing defense cutbacks as a major factor. The restructured company emerged from bankruptcy protection in April 2013 and is now based at DHL’s hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Airport.

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Contact the editor-in-chief at chris.sloan@2cmedia.com

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Airways Magazine