Sunday, September 17, 2017

Boeing Planes Could Fire Lasers From Their Noses to Spot Turbulence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Eric Adams - Wired)

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

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

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

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

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

(The Associated Press)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

New JWA departure patterns disturb residents around Newport Bay

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

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

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

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

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

Many vented their frustration and pleas for relief:

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

“The planes have destroyed my quality of life.”

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

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

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

“My neighborhood sounds like a war zone.”

“So tired of the planes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Hillary Davis - Los Angeles Times)

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Is becoming a pilot still a good career choice?

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

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

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

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

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

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

(AeroTime News / European Cockpit Association)

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

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

What does financial support to SAA actually involve?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clearly the Telkom model works. Should it be replicated?

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

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

And what do you make of the state of Eskom?

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

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

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

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

And so, what should happen to SAA and Eskom?

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

(AeroTime News / The Conversation)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Bombardier / AeroTime News)

ICAO backs Turkmenistan's freight ambitions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Schiphol Airport braces for loss of 10.5% of freighter slots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Qatar Airways Cargo adds fifth US freighter destination this year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Niki Lauda and partners bid for NIKI, parts of airberlin

Niki Lauda ((Photo: NL Holding)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NIKI currently operates a fleet of 21 A321s.

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

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

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

(Kurt Hofmann - ATWOnline News)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(FOX News)

EasyJet Beats Ryanair to Long-Haul Deals From Gatwick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Thomas Seal and Christopher Jasper - Bloomberg Business News)

Ryanair wants to buy Italy's bankrupt airline

Ryanair is officially eying Alitalia.

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

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

Ryanair confirmed his comments to CNNMoney.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Ivana Kottasová - CNN Money)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Mary Forgione - Los Angeles Times)

First American 737 Max shows its colours

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Edward Russell - FlightGlobal News)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(David Kaminski-Morrow - FlightGlobal News)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eight minutes later, the airport closed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Luz Lazo - The Washington Post)

Boeing to Raise Production of Its Dreamliner by 17%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Julie Johnsson - Bloomberg News)

Boeing lands $600M contract to design new Air Force Ones

The U.S. Air Force on Tuesday awarded Boeing a contract worth just less than $600 million to begin the preliminary design of the next Air Force One planes.

As the Republican presidential candidate, President Donald Trump critiqued the cost of the program, bringing much public attention to one of the Air Force’s smaller procurement efforts. But while the service has stated that it was able to get a good deal on the two Boeing 747-8s that will become the next Air Force Ones, it reiterated that cost-saving work will continue during the preliminary design phase.

Maj. Gen. Duke Richardson, the program executive officer of the Presidential Airlift Recapitalization effort — the service’s name for the Air Force One replacement program — said the preliminary design phase marks “the next major step forward toward ensuring an overall affordable program.”

The Air Force added in a statement to reporters: “Those [cost-saving] opportunities identified will be reviewed to ensure mission capabilities are not degraded. The entire preliminary design effort will keep a focus on affordability. … The Air Force is committed to working with Boeing to ensure the PAR program meets presidential airlift mission requirements, as well as the president’s affordability expectations.”

Due to the attention from Trump, the Air Force and White House worked together to re-evaluate the Air Force requirements with an eye on shearing off expensive and non-vital capabilities.

The service has disclosed some changes to the overall design, such as nixing a requirement for aerial refueling. However, for the most part, it has kept mum about how requirements have changed and how much money has been saved on the program.

As part of the preliminary design phase, Boeing will design modifications to a baseline commercial Boeing 747, including the integration of military-specific communication systems, electrical power upgrades, medical facilities, self-defense systems, an executive interior complete with medical facilities and “autonomous ground operations capabilities,” according to the Air Force news release.

The September award was one of two major contract modifications expected to be allocated before the end of fiscal 2017. In August, the Air Force awarded Boeing a contract for two 747-8 airliners, making the unorthodox decision to buy two previously built planes sitting on Boeing’s production line at a discounted rate.

The service did not disclose the value of the deal because it could lower the company’s asking price in future commercial deals.

“We got a good price,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told Defense News during an Aug. 29 interview.

Speaking about future opportunities for cutting cost on the program, she added: “There will be a fair amount of negotiation to make sure that we’re getting good value for money. We have that obligation no matter what the program is, and every dollar that we spend was earned by somebody, and we need to make sure that we get good value for money on everything that we buy.”

The next big upcoming milestone is the contract for engineering and manufacturing development, where Boeing will continue to refine its design, modify and test the two new Air Force One aircraft, and then deliver them.

Boeing is expected to start aircraft modifications in 2019, and the new Air Force One planes could begin replacing the aging VC-25A models as early as 2024.

(Valerie Insinna - Defense News / Yahoo News) 

American Airlines reportedly in talks with Airbus on fate of wide-body jet order

American Airlines Group Inc. is stepping up efforts to decide if an Airbus SE A350 order still makes sense for its fleet, forcing the European plane-maker to try to defend another U.S. sale of its marquee wide-body jet.

The two companies have restarted talks about a twice-delayed deal for 22 of the A350-900 planes, a person familiar with the discussions said. A predecessor airline placed the order in 2005 and got a good value on a purchase that at current prices would carry a list value of $6.8 billion. But American President Robert Isom said the modest number of jets probably isn't suitable for the world's largest carrier.

"I don't like small fleets in an airline our size," Isom told American pilots at a question-and-answer session Aug. 29, a recording of which was heard by Bloomberg News. "It's exceptional pricing. Unfortunately, pricing is just one aspect of trying to fly something profitably."

The review underscores the challenge for Airbus as it breaks into a U.S. wide-body market dominated by Boeing Co., at a time when carriers around the world are reining in capacity growth to ease pressure on fares. Airbus salvaged a deal last week with United Continental Holdings Inc., as the carrier switched an order for 35 of the biggest A350-1000 aircraft to 45 of the smaller -900 variant. Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. made a similar move Wednesday on an order for six planes.

It's too early to determine the outcome of American's negotiations with Airbus, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. Options include adding to the order, downsizing to a smaller Airbus wide-body such as the A330, deferring delivery again or canceling outright.

A cancellation could carry a financial penalty. Isom said the order was "an item of discussion," without elaborating. Representatives of American and Airbus declined to comment on any talks.
Dreamliner Missions

While American needs the A350s to replace Boeing 767 and 777 jets that it's slowly retiring, the airline's Boeing 787 Dreamliner wide-bodies do "many of the same missions," Isom said. The carrier has a 42-aircraft order for the 787 with options to take another 52.

United deferred deliveries of its A350 planes by about four years, according to a statement last week. In May, Delta Air Lines Inc. deferred by as many as three years its deal for 10 A350s, which would have been used on international routes. It expanded an order for Airbus's A321 single-aisle aircraft to fly in domestic markets.

American inherited the A350 deal from predecessor US Airways, which ordered 20 of the planes in 2005 in a deal valued at $3.2 billion at the time. The current list price for that number of the A350-900, a more advanced model than was available 12 years ago, would be $6.2 billion, before the discounts that are customary for aircraft purchases. At 22 jets, it would be $6.8 billion.

American first pushed back the order in July 2016 by an average of 26 months, allowing it to delay about $1.2 billion in spending. The second deferral, in April, was for an average 24 months, setting delivery of the first A350 in 2020 instead of 2018. The rest of the planes will arrive by the end of 2024.
Fleet Planning

One question for the Fort Worth, Texas-based airline is whether it would be cost effective to add such a modest number of a particular kind of jetliner to its fleet of more than 1,500 planes. While American flies many short-haul Airbus jets, each model has specific needs in such areas as pilot training and spare parts. A small stable of A350s would add expenses that couldn't be spread over a larger operation.

"They are planned to come, but at the end of the day, is it something I would like to figure out to either make it a bigger fleet or make it something that is common in another place?" Isom said. "The answer to that is yes, but we haven't figured it out."

(Mary Schlangenstein and Benjamin Katz - Bloomberg / Dallas Morning News)