Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Antonov to be liquidated

On July 19, the Government of Ukraine passed resolution No. 546 on the liquidation of the state-owned aircraft holding Antonov. Interestingly, a year and a half ago the government already had a similar solution, but for some reason, it has not been possible to abolish the company for the time being.

According to the new resolution, a commission responsible for the liquidation of the company will be set up, it will be headed by Deputy Minister of Economic Development and Trade Yuriy Brovchenko. Within two months he must prepare the liquidation and accept claims from the creditors. 

In three months, Brovchenko must introduce the liquidation balance sheet to the Government.

In total, the commission will consist of 8 people, including the chairman.

The decision to dissolve Antonov should not affect the production processes in the industry, since it has been inactive as in March-April 2015 all its participants were incorporated into another state enterprise, Ukroboronprom.

Antonov holding was established in 2008 when it included the developer and manufacturer of Antonov aircraft, based in Kiev, the Kharkov State Aviation Production Company (KSAMC) and the Kiev Aircraft Repair Plant 410.

(AeroTime News)

China Air Cargo prepares for takeoff

China Air Cargo takes re-delivery of its first 757-200PCF, with the second lurking in the background.
(China Air Cargo)

Eight months ago, we reported that startup Chinese all-cargo carrier China Air Cargo Co. Ltd was about to take to the skies. It had taken re-delivery of its first freighter – a Precision-converted 757-200PCF, and was within weeks of receiving its Operating Certificate.

As is often the case, the final step, the dotting of the last “I” and crossing of the last “t” on the AOC, took months, not weeks, and that first freighter stayed on the ground at the HAECO facility in Xiamen (XMN) where it was converted, with ceremonial re-delivery temporarily on hold.

But the first flight now seems imminent, and it looks as if it will involve two freighters, not one. The carrier has printed a “First Re-delivery” banner to celebrate the “official” re-delivery of the first freighter, but the imminent re-delivery of the second is more than hinted at in the above photo.

The aircraft in the front is 27513, an ex-Xiamen Airlines aircraft, converted to PCF freighter configuration last year at HAECO Xiamen by Precision Aircraft Solutions, the aircraft at the back is 27517, also ex-Xiamen Airlines, also now converted to PCF freighter configuration and fresh out of the paint shop in its new livery.

China Air Cargo Co Ltd, a joint venture of Joy Air Holding, Guangzhou Donlinks Group, and Beijing Fuda Asset Management, received initial approval from the Civil Aviation Authority of China in late 2015, but, in mid-2016, the CAAC put the approval process for new airlines on hold, partly to weed out applications from carriers trying to use the relatively easy path to all-cargo certification with the intent of switching to passenger operation following approval, and China Air Cargo was left in limbo.

The CAAC eventually lifted its hold, but, as mentioned above, the approval process for China Air Cargo Corp did not happen overnight, and it is only now that the company feels confident enough in being able to fly “soon” that it has held a formal re-delivery celebration.

As to the carrier’s plans for the aircraft, nothing has been announced, but Cargo Facts believes China Air Cargo will, initially at least, fly in support of one of the big Chinese express companies.

(David Harris - Cargo Facts) 

EASA issues emergency AD for SSJ stabilizer inspection

On July 25, the emergency airworthiness directive (AD) issued by European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) came into power, requiring airlines operating Russian-made Sukhoi Superjet 100-95B aircraft to inspect the horizontal stabilizers for possible cracks.

In the directive, EASA reported that cracks had been found on Sukhoi Superjet 100-95B aircraft in service in the rear spar of the horizontal stabilizer between ribs 0, 1 and 2. According to the document, such a condition, if not detected and corrected on time, might affect the structural integrity of the horizontal stabilizer.

The directive calls for a non-destructive testing (NDT) borescope inspection of the horizontal stabilizer, before exceeding 1300 flight cycles or within 7 calendar days after the effective date of the airworthiness directive (whichever occurs later), and, thereafter, at intervals not to exceed 300 FC.

Operators are required to contact Sukhoi Civil Aircraft for approved repair instructions, if a crack, fastener failure or corrosion is detected during the NDT inspection.

Earlier in 2017, Sukhoi SuperJets were grounded due to the need to inspect for possible defects in the plane’s stabilizer attachment unit.

(AeroTime News)

Delta just unveiled a new plane that features totally private first class suites


Delta became the first North American airline to take delivery of Airbus’s new A350 last week.

It is the first of 25 new A350s that Delta has ordered to replace its fleet of Boeing 747-400 aircraft. The new plane expands upon Delta’s higher-end in-cabin offerings while updating the engines and airframe for a more fuel-efficient aircraft.

“Our new flagship A350 fits well in Delta’s long-haul network, combining an exceptional customer experience with strong operating economics and fuel-efficiency as we retire older, less-efficient aircraft,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a statement.

The long-range A350 is expected to present a 20 percent improvement in the airline’s operating cost per seat, as compared to the Boeing 747-400.

Delta One first class suites. The main selling point of the suites is a full-height door for complete privacy while flying. Delta’s new A350 features 32 new Delta One suites and 48 seats in Delta Premium Select. And back in the main cabin, there is enough seating for 226 passengers. The seats are the largest in economy in Delta’s fleet and feature memory foam cushions.


The A350-900 will be the first fitted with the airline’s new

The plane will begin service between Detroit and Tokyo-Narita on October 30. From there, the plane will fly mostly on routes across the Pacific, including service to Seoul and Beijing.

(Cailey Rizzo - Travel + Leisure / Business Insider)

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Boeing reducing staff at a record pace

Boeing has been reducing staff at the fastest pace in more than a decade, the Wall Street Journal reports. During the first half of the year, the aerospace giant has parted with about 4% of its employees, most of whom have worked at large enterprises in the state of Washington.

Boeing says it must increase efficiency and more actively automate plants to build next-generation aircraft. The backlog of orders currently exceeds 5700 aircraft.

The management of the company considers cost reduction imperative to maintaining competitiveness. Airbus, Boeing's arch rival, has in recent years controlled more than half of the narrow-body aircraft market, while a balanced duopoly has been observed for two decades.

The bulk of the reductions occurred in Washington, where two of Boeing's three commercial aircraft assembly plants are located. The Washington Employment Service reported that 1251 people received notice of dismissal this year, and a new wave of cuts began on July 21. Over the past four years, Boeing has reduced the number of its employees in the Seattle area by more than 20 thousand people.

Seattle officials have received an emergency federal grant from the U.S. Labor Department in order to retrain laid-off Boeing employees and help them in finding new jobs.

The cuts also affected the plant in North Charleston (South Carolina). In February, US President Donald Trump visited this plant during the launch of the 787-10 Dreamliner and promised to increase the number of manufacturing jobs in the US. The verbatim message Trump conveyed back then was “jobs is one of the primary reasons I’m standing here today as your President, and I will never, ever disappoint you.””

However, four months passed and Boeing announced its intention to dismiss 200 more people in addition to those 700 who agreed to voluntary layoffs with severance payment. The number of employees at Boeing's facilities in the Charleston area by the end of June was reduced to about 7,300, while at the end of 2015 it exceeded 8,000.

According to the two main trade unions of the company, from the beginning of the year more than 1800 employees agreed to voluntary layoffs, in 2016, 3000 followed.

Boeing is currently valued at $129 billion. The company will announce its second quarter earnings on July 26.

(AeroTime News)

Monday, July 24, 2017

MAKS-2017: deals for $6.2B signed

On July 23, the curtain was brought down on MAKS-2017 Air Show with 450,000 people having attended the event. During the show, Russian companies and their partners presented their developments and traded, with roughly 800 companies participating in the event and signing deals totaling at 394 billion rubles ($6.2 billion), with more agreements to be made in the nearest future. New aircraft were exposed and some finally shown for the first time.

On the first day of the international aviation and space salon, a fixed-price contract for the supply of 20 Sukhoi Superjet 100 to Aeroflot was executed. The jets will be delivered in batches until July 2018, which will lead to Aeroflot expanding its SSJ 100 fleet up to 50 units. Additionally, Russian government increased the capital of State Transport Leasing Company (STLC) which also entered into an agreement with Gazprombank (third largest Russian bank) raising its credit facility limit and allowing it to acquire up to 36 units of SSJ 100.

Ilyushin Finance Co. (IFC) also made quite some agreements, enacting a deal regarding the delivery of 16 MC-21 jets to Red Wings. The aircraft will be leased for 12 years and deliveries are going to take place from 2019 to 2022. IFC also signed an agreement with VIM-Avia with the transaction of the MC-21 taking place between 2021 and 2024. The green light regarding the approval of terms will be given at the end of 2017. Russian Airlines and Saratov Airlines also made a deal with IFC for the supply of the MS-21s.

Russian Helicopters concluded some deals too, including the supply of 30 helicopters (12 Mi-8AMT, 12 Ansats and 6 Mi-8MTV-1) to STLC. Other buyers include Russian Helicopter Systems, which by 2018 should receive 12 Ansats in medical configuration, United Helicopters International Group which wishes to acquire 5 Ansats and three Mi-171 in transport configuration and two Ka-32A11BC fire fighters. Orders from China are also taking place.

(AeroTime News)

easyJet ready to face Brexit with new airline

The second-largest European low-cost carrier easyJet, based in the UK, has been issued with an Austrian air operator's certificate (AOC). Such a move will allow the airline that operates multiple routes in Europe to protect itself from the possible legal consequences of Brexit - Britain's seemingly inevitable withdrawal from the EU.

easyJet Europe, a newly formed company, shall be flying under the Austrian AOC. For the time being, its fleet consists of a single aircraft that made its first flight on July 20. According to the CEO of easyJet Carolyn McCall, easyJet Europe will not expand its fleet until winter.

„Austria’s aviation regulator Austro Control was selected as it is the best fit for easyJet,“ McCall said in a statement. „Austro Control has a rigorous approach to safety regulation, contributing to EASA’s drive towards shaping future safety regulation with an emphasis on performance based safety regulation. I would like to thank the Austrian Government, bmvit and Austro Control for their support during this process and we look forward to a long and successful partnership with them.“

The European division of easyJet is based in Vienna. It became the third legal entity in the easyJet group. The other two are London-based EasyJet Airline Co. and Switzerland-based EasyJet Switzerland S.A. All three in one way or another belong to the holding company EasyJet plc. It has not been yet decided, whether the reorganization of the entire corporate structure will be required in connection with Brexit.

In October last year, easyJet predicted that the UK's break with the EU would become one of the factors that would provoke a decrease in the revenue of the LCC in the 2015/2016 fiscal year (completed in September 2016). The results showed that the decline in pre-tax profit was 27.8% (to 495 million pounds). The pre-tax profit will be 380-420 million pounds in 2016/2017 fiscal year, easyJet predicts.

According to the company, the establishment of easyJet Europe will create a number of new jobs in Austria, but no jobs will move from the UK to Austria. All of easyJet’s UK employees will continue to be based in Luton and our 11 UK bases and be employed as they are today.

The Vienna-based offshoot will be led by Thomas Haagensen, currently easyJet’s Country Director for Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Ireland's Ryanair - Europe's largest airline by number of passengers carried - is also preparing for the negative consequences of Brexit. A year ago, its CEO Michael O'Leary announced that the carrier would shift the emphasis from the UK to Europe in its development plans. He also did not rule out that to preserve commercial rights, Ryanair can issue a British operator's certificate.

Residents of Britain voted to leave the EU in a referendum on June 23, 2016. The country is expected to officially part ways with the EU in March 2019.

(AeroTime News)

Ryanair says in talks with Boeing about possible Max 10 order

Ryanair has held talks with Boeing about its new larger version of the 737 airliner, the MAX 10, but has made clear it would only be interested if the price is lowered, Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary said on Monday.

Ryanair declined to comment in June when Reuters reported the Irish airline was in talks with Boeing about buying the new plane, which seats up to 230 passengers compared to 189 seats on its current 737-800 fleet and the 196 seats on Boeing MAX 200 aircraft it has ordered.

"We have told them to go back and if they can come up with a price on the Max 10 that meaningfully reduces our unit cost, we would be very happy to place an order," O'Leary told analysts on a conference call following publication of the group's latest quarterly earnings.

"We are very interested in the aircraft - but we are only interested in this aircraft or any aircraft if it lowers our unit costs," he said. "We do believe that a 230 seat aircraft can deliver a meaningful reduction in unit costs."

O'Leary said Ryanair did not need to order any more planes for five years, but would consider an offer if the price was right.

Boeing in June launched what would become the largest version of its 737 MAX medium-haul family, designed to challenge the popular Airbus A321 flown by Ryanair rivals.

Rivals easyJet and Wizz have ordered A321 planes, which seat up to 239 passengers as they seek to keep costs per seat under control by shifting to slightly bigger planes.

Ryanair on Monday reported profit after tax up 55 percent in the three months to end-June, but triggered a share sell-off after it warned it might cut fares in late summer by as much as 9 percent from last year.

(Conor Humphries - Reuters)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Is Emirates About to Order the Boeing 787 Dreamliner?

A recent analyst report claimed that an Emirates order for the Boeing 787 is a "done deal" -- but that's a bit of an exaggeration.

In the past few years, there has been periodic speculation about Emirates potentially ordering the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to complement its fleet of larger wide-bodies.

Last week, several news outlets reported that an Emirates Dreamliner purchase was a "done deal", with Emirates set to order a mix of 787-9s and 787-10s at the Dubai Airshow this fall. An Emirates Dreamliner order would be a big coup for Boeing, potentially allowing it to increase its production again.

However, these stories were based on a single unconfirmed analyst report from Saj Ahmad of Strategic Aero Research. It certainly seems logical that Emirates would choose to order 787s at some point -- perhaps even this year. Nevertheless, this is far from being a done deal.

Emirates teases a Boeing 787 order

Three years ago, Emirates canceled its order for 70 Airbus A350 wide-body jets. The carrier claimed that it was no longer sure it needed the A350 due to changes in the A350-1000 model's specifications, as well as its own shifting fleet requirements.

Soon thereafter, Emirates CEO Tim Clark started talking about holding a new competition between Airbus' A350 and Boeing's 787. The winning plane would slot in below Emirates' fleet of Boeing 777s. Originally, Emirates planned to decide by the end of 2015, but it subsequently postponed the decision deadline to 2016 and then to 2017.

Given that Emirates previously canceled its A350 order, Boeing appears to have an advantage in the 787 vs. A350 competition. Still, investors shouldn't ignore the possibility that Airbus will pull off an upset.

A bumpy flight at Emirates

Emirates still says that it wants to choose between the 787 and A350 this year, but the timeline has already shifted twice in the past couple of years. The company could easily delay its decision again.

Emirates has been posting weak financial results lately, so caution is certainly warranted. For its most recent fiscal year (which ended in March), Emirates' profit plunged 83%. Emirates will probably continue to face downward pressure on fares due to low-cost long-haul airlines' explosive growth. The carrier also cut some flights to the U.S. after the so-called "laptop ban" was implemented earlier this year.

The U.S. government recently lifted the laptop ban for Dubai International Airport, Emirates' home base. But rising competition could continue to weigh on the company's results for the foreseeable future. As a result, it's not clear that Emirates urgently needs additional planes. It might make sense to wait another year or two to see how the competitive environment evolves.

An Emirates 787 order would be great news for Boeing

In recent years, Emirates has become the No. 1 buyer of wide-body jets in the world. Airbus and Boeing are particularly eager to win its business because the market for wide-body jets has been sluggish lately.

Boeing got off to a strong start in 2017, with 75 firm 787 family orders in the first half of the year. An Emirates deal for 70 planes would allow Boeing to match its projected 787 delivery total for the current year (145 units). This would at least ensure that Boeing's Dreamliner order backlog does not shrink in 2017.

Yet even a 70-plane Emirates order would not be sufficient by itself to support Boeing's plan to boost 787 family production from 12/month to 14/month in 2019 or thereabouts. To sustain a 14/month production rate for at least a few years, Boeing would need to be selling planes at the same rate (or faster).

In other words, signing a big Dreamliner deal with Emirates is a necessary condition for Boeing to raise production in the coming years -- but Boeing will also need to find other buyers to fill out its order book.

(Adam Levine-Weinberg - The Motley Fool)

Friday, July 21, 2017

Southwest Airlines Fires Too Many People, Labor Union Leader Says

This story does not come as a shock to me! I was an Operations Agent / Supervisor with Southwest Airlines before I retired last year after 21 years with the airline. I was hired when Herb Kelleher was running the airline and when you hear all the stories of how good it was in those days well those stories are true, it was fantasic.

Since Herb retired and Gary Kelly has taken over, employee moral has gotten progressively worse over the years. It has gotten much worse since the company bought AirTran Airways a few years back. Kelly has allowed AirTran management to make changes in how the airline is run (doing things the AirTran way) which has driven employee moral down even further.

Southwest does not take care of its front line supervisors as they should either. While I was there the airline continually took away benefits while at the same time telling our group that we must take on even more responsibilities. Sure I got an hourly raise but I would have much rather kept my benefits than the xtra $2 dollars an hour.

When the new 555 contract was signed in year 2016, we were told by station management that corporate in Dallas insisted we now write-up agents for even the smallest infractions (I refused to do this), this is when I made the very tough decision to retire. It has been a year now and though I miss my airline, I have come to realize it is the old Southwest I miss not the new.

It is not the LUV airline it once was, it is a top heavy (management laden) company and as long as Kelly and his AirTran cronies run the store it will make money but at the cost of its most important asset, its front line employees.

Michael Carter
Aero Pacific Flightlines


The president of the Transport Workers Union, the largest labor union at Southwest Airlines Co. has written a scathing letter that condemns "intolerable and cancerous" working conditions for the carrier's ground-workers and decries mistreatment including 2,700 disciplinary actions and 468 terminations since January 2015.

"Ground-workers are flagrantly mistreated and abused by management," wrote John Samuelsen, president of the New York-based union that represents 12,000 Southwest groundworkers as well as 15,000 flight attendants. The letter refers to the ground workers, members of TWU Local 555.

In 2017, Samuelsen said, "Southwest is writing up nearly three workers per day and firing one worker every other day."

"The outright hostility to the workforce has obliterated morale, which can only have a negative impact on the passenger experience," he wrote. "The TWU finds it hard to believe that Southwest finds this to be an ideal business model."

The letter, sent late Wednesday, was signed by Samuelsen, Local 555 President Greg Puriski and 13 other TWU leaders. They said they are available to meet with airline executives as soon as possible.

In morning trading, Southwest shares were down 0.51%.

Russell McCrady, Southwest's vice president of labor relations, said the carrier is committed to "efforts to maintain strong, constructive relationships with our employees' representational groups including TWU 555.

"Discipline is a necessary part of business but any discipline we administer is far from 'arbitrary,'" McCrady said in a prepared statement. "We do not take for granted that Southwest continues to be named a best place to work and best employer by national publications and we are very proud that our employee culture is the foundation for these designations."

McCrady said Southwest will respond to Samuelsen's letter and welcomes the opportunity to meet.

Southwest employs about 54,000 workers including about 7,200 hired in both 2016 and 2015, said spokeswoman Beth Hardin. She said the number of terminations over three years is not atypical for the number of workers involved.

Local 555 signed a five-year contract in 2016. In an interview, Samuelsen said the letter is not related to contract negotiations but rather represents an effort "to fight Southwest on working conditions that are now entrenched on the property, on an antiquated labor relations model designed to drive production {that} drives morale down across Southwest properties."

TWU has about 200,000 members, including 42,000 in Local 100, which represents New York City bus and subway workers. Samuelsen headed Local 100 until he took over the TWU presidency in May.

"I'm a new president, taking note of a situation at Southwest where people are being fired and unfairly disciplined," he said. "I found that to be intolerable."

(Tim Reed - The Street)

Gulfstream proposes nose refuelling for JSTARS candidate

Gulfstream’s proposal for the US Air Force’s JSTARS recapitalization project will include a refueling nozzle mounted on the nose of its G550 business jet, the company’s vice-president of special mission sales has revealed.

The Gulfstream design is still subject to change, with a slide showing the nose receptacle having been a last-minute change to a presentation made to journalists last week, and the airframer has also considered a more traditional refueling position on the aircraft’s "crown", Troy Miller says. The nose-mounted nozzle is not an unusual choice, as both the USAF’s Fairchild Republic A-10 and Boeing B-1 have similar receptacles, he notes.

Mounting the receptacle on the aircraft's nose has little aerodynamic impact, and it may be closed when the G550 is not receiving fuel in-flight.

“There’s nothing particularly overwhelming about this design,” Miller says. “That’s why we’re so excited about it.”

No Gulfstream jet has ever been certificated for air-to-air refueling, although Miller argues its products' endurance has never necessitated the capability. However, the air force has a specific requirement for boom air refueling under the JSTARS recapitalization.

Still, the JSTARS replacement program did not catalyse Gulfstream’s exploration into air refueling. For years, the company has explored such an activity, conducting wind-tunnel tests and flight tests behind Boeing 707s to evaluate flight characteristics. In addition to engineering efforts focused on the boom receptacle, Gulfstream is exploring the probe-and-drogue refueling configuration used by the US Navy, Miller says.

“This is an ongoing project. It will be a new development, but it’s not new science to us,” he says. “Candidly, our engineers are excited about this and they don’t view this as a showstopper in any way.”

In 2006, Gulfstream and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) studied a tanker version of the G550. The JSTARS concept is limited to a Universal Aerial Refueling Receptacle Slipway Installation, however, with the aircraft to act only as a receiver.

“I won’t comment specifically on past efforts, but to say that the flexibility of these aircraft and its ability to do anything we’re talking about could lend itself to be a very potent air refueling asset, both as a receiver and as a tanker,” Miller says of the earlier study with IAI.

Miller declines to detail the refueling system under design at Gulfstream, except to point out that unlike its airliner-based competitors, the business jet stores its fuel in the wings rather than inside tanks. While the refueling capability is a new design revealed with the G550 JSTARS proposal, Gulfstream is leveraging a previously designed nose shape, he adds.

(Leigh Giangreco - FlightGlobal News)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The pilot shortage is real and airlines must change before it becomes a full-blown crisis

Editor's note: Patrick Smith is a commercial airline pilot who currently flies Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft. Smith is also a travel blogger and author of the book "Cockpit Confidential.

THE PILOT SHORTAGE is here, and it’s been making headlines. Last month, Horizon Air, the Seattle-based affiliate of Alaska Airlines and one of the country’s biggest regional carriers, announced it would be forced to reduce its busy summer schedule due to a dearth of pilots.

The shortage already caused Horizon to cancel more than 300 flights in June. Earlier this year, Republic Airways, a large U.S. regional carrier that flies on behalf of United, American, and Delta, filed for bankruptcy protection. It blamed the filing, in part, on a lack of qualified pilots. Other carriers have been canceling flights and mothballing aircraft as pilot recruitment departments scramble to fill classroom slots.

Yes, the shortage is real. It’s critical, however, to make it clear which sectors of the aviation industry we’re talking about. First, we are looking specifically at the U.S. airline industry. Civilian pilots in the United States are responsible for securing their own FAA credentials, and for logging hundreds, or even thousands, of hours of flight time before applying at an airline. It’s a long, slow, and very expensive process. Other countries often recruit pilots differently, with a growing reliance on so-called “ab-initio” programs, whereby young candidates are chosen from scratch, with no prior experience, and are groomed from the ground-up, so to speak, in a tightly controlled regimen that puts them in the cockpit of a jetliner very quickly. These programs are ultra-competitive, drawing hundreds of applicants for each available slot.

Even more important, we need to draw a sharp divide between the major carriers and their regional affiliates. The major carriers, also referred to as “legacy” carriers, everyone is pretty familiar with — American, United, Delta, Southwest, jetBlue, et al. There is no pilot shortage at these companies, and unless something changes drastically they will continue to have a surplus of highly qualified candidates to choose from. They are able to cull from the top ranks of the regionals, as well as from the military and corporate aviation pools. Even amidst an ongoing wave of retirements, a steady supply of experienced crews is unlikely to be depleted.

At the regional airlines, it’s a different story. And by “regional” we are referring to the numerous subcontractors who operate smaller jets and turboprops on the majors’ behalf: those myriad “Connection” and “Express” companies, whose actual identities are usually concealed beneath the liveries of whichever major they are aligned with. United Express, Delta Connection, American Eagle, and so on. For civilian pilots, the typical career progression includes a substantial amount of tenure at this level before, assuming he or she is fortunate enough, progressing to a major. And it’s here where the problem is.

How it came to this is both a long and short story. The short story is that pay at the regionals is terrible and working conditions are harsh. This has driven thousands of pilots out of the industry, and/or has discouraged countless others from pursuing an aviation career in the first place. Becoming a licensed commercial pilot, to the point where one is eligible to apply for an airline job — any airline job — requires a huge amount of time and money. It can take years, and the average pilots sinks well over a hundred thousand dollars into his or her flight training and education. Salaries at the regionals, meanwhile, have traditionally started low as $20,000 a year, and have topped out at under six figures. Schedules are demanding and benefits paltry; the relationship between management and the workers is often hostile. On top of all that, the regional sector is highly unstable. These carriers always seem to be coming or going, shrinking or shedding planes, changing their names and realigning themselves with different majors.

But this is nothing new. Pay and working conditions at these companies have always been substandard. Yet filling jobs has seldom been a problem, so what gives? Well, what’s different is that the regional sector has grown so large. Today, regional jets account for an astonishing half — 53 percent was the last number I saw — of all domestic departures in the United States. As recently as twenty years ago it was somewhere around fifteen percent. In those days, pilots saw a job with a regional as a temporary inconvenience — paying one’s dues. It was a stepping stone toward a more lucrative position with a major. Pilots are now realizing that a job at a regional could easily mean an entire career at a regional. Thus, a diminishing number have been willing to commit the time and money to their education and training when the return on investment is somewhere between unpredictable and financially ruinous. An aspiring aviator has to ask, is it worth sinking $100,000 or more into one’s primary training, plus the time it will take to build the necessary number of flight hours, plus the cost of a college education, only to spend years toiling at poverty-level wages, with at best a marginal shot at moving on to a major? For many, the answer is no.

In the meantime, the FAA has enacted tougher hiring standards for entry-level pilots. Over the past two decades, as the regional sector grew and grew, thousands of new jobs were created. To fill these slots, airlines sharply lowered their experience and flight time minimums. Suddenly, pilots were being taken on with as little as 350 hours of total time, assigned to the first officer’s seat of sophisticated regional jets. Then came a rash of accidents, including the Colgan Air (Continental Connection) disaster outside Buffalo in 2009. Regulators began taking a closer look at hiring practices, eventually passing legislation mandating higher flight time totals and additional certification requirements for new-hires.

Some airlines blame the shortage at least partly on these tougher rules. Technically they’re right, but really all the new regulations have done is returning things to historical norms. My first job with a regional — “commuters” we called them in those days — was in 1990. Competitive applicants at the time had between 1,500 and 2,000 hours, and most of us had an FAA Airline Transport Pilot certificate as well. That’s more or less what the FAA requires today. The difference, of course, is that there are far more jobs to fill.

Things are beginning to change, if slowly. To their credit, many regionals have started upping their salaries and improving benefits. The cost structures of these carriers, whose existence is primarily to allow the majors to outsource flying on the cheap, limits how much they can lavish on their employees, but if they want to stay in the game, they frankly have little choice. New-hires at companies like Endeavor Air (a Delta affiliate) and PSA (American), for example, can now make first-year salaries in the $70,000-plus range. That’s around three times what these pilots would have been making in years past. Some companies are offering signing bonuses of several thousand dollars, and work rules too are getting better. Air Wisconsin, a United partner and one of the nation’s oldest regionals, says that new-hires can now earn up to $57,000 in sign-on bonuses. It promises earnings of between $260,000 and $317,000, including salary, bonuses, and what it calls “elected benefits,” over the first three years of employment. Numbers like that are unprecedented.

For those considering a piloting career, the situation is looking better. The problem for the industry, though, is the lag time. For a pilot just learning to fly, any cockpit job is still a long way off — probably years away. So while the mechanisms are falling into place to curtail a full-flown crisis, the shortage is going to be with us for a while.

(Patrick Smith - / Business Insider)

EasyJet Europe launches operations

Easyjet Airbus A319-111 (c/n 2578) G-EZIW taxies at London - Gatwick (LGW/EGKK) on October 1, 2016 sporting the special "Linate-Fiumicino Per Tutti" livery.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

UK low-cost carrier (LCC) easyJet has confirmed EasyJet Europe has launched operations after securing an air operator’s certificate (AOC) and an operating license by Austrian aviation authorities.

The first aircraft registered to easyJet Europe, OE-IVA, an Airbus A320, operated from London Luton to Vienna July 20.

EasyJet will slowly re-register the remaining 110 aircraft, which are required for its European Union (EU)-based operations into easyJet Europe over the next two winters. This process will be completed in advance of the UK leaving the EU, or Brexit. When this happens, ATW understands easyJet will become Austria’s largest carrier in terms of aircraft.

EasyJet’s network depends heavily on EU route rights. The EU AOC will safeguard the LCC’s network, should the UK and EU fail to agree on a new air transport accord before the UK exits the EU.

EasyJet Europe’s principal place of business will be in Vienna and its management will have full operational control and financial oversight of the company.

EasyJet is a pan-European airline group with three airlines based in Austria, Switzerland and the UK. All of these will be owned by easyJet, which will be EU-owned and controlled, listed on the London Stock Exchange, and based in the UK.

“Today’s announcement is the result of an extensive and thorough regulatory process in Austria and I am pleased to confirm that easyJet Europe is now flying,” CEO Carolyn McCall said in a statement.

“In addition, like all other European airlines, we continue to lobby for an EU UK aviation agreement which, as a minimum, will enable flights between the EU and the UK,” McCall said.

EasyJet country director-Germany, Austria and Switzerland Thomas Haagensen has been appointed as MD of easyJet Europe.

“As the process of re-registering easyJet’s EU27 aircraft to the Austrian AOC continues over the coming months, I look forward to working with my team and Austro Control to ensure that easyJet Europe’s operations continue to meet the highest operational and safety standards,” Haagensen said.

EasyJet Europe will create a number of new jobs in Austria, but no jobs will move from the UK to Austria. All of easyJet’s UK employees will continue to be based in London Luton and its 11 UK bases, and be employed as they are today, according to Haagensen.

EasyJet currently bases around 100 aircraft and employs around 4,000 people across six EU27 countries that will form the basis of easyJet Europe.

ATW understands the Austrian AOC is essential for easyJet as half of 75 million passengers annually come from the EU’s 27 member states.

EasyJet has operated flights from Austria for 11 years. The carrier has transported 1 million passengers from four airports in Austria to 20 European destinations so far this year.

The LCC flies over 260 aircraft on more than 870 routes to over 138 airports across 31 countries.

(Kurt Hofmann - ATWOnline News)

Russia’s MC-21 and IL-114 win new orders at MAKS Air Show

(Irkut Corp.)

Russian-manufactured aircraft—the Irkut MC-21 and Ilyushin IL-114—won new orders on the second day of the MAKS Air Show in Moscow.

Russia’s Ilyushin Finance Co. (IFC) signed a letter of intent with Saratov Airlines to lease six MC-21-300s July 19. The 211-seat aircraft is scheduled to be delivered from 2022-2025. The Saratov-based carrier has not yet decided which engine—the Pratt & Whitney PW1400 or PD-14—will be chosen for the aircraft. The regional airline currently operates a fleet of Embraer E195LRs, Antonov An-148s and Yakovlev Yak-42Ds.

IFC also signed an agreement with UEC-Perm Engine Co. for eight PD-14 engines for the MC-21-300 ordered by Red Wings Airlines the day before. The carrier will take delivery of 16 aircraft of the type; four of them will be equipped with PD-14s.

Irkut Corp. signed a letter of intent with Russian regional Angara Airlines for three MC-21-300s. Details were not disclosed. Irkutsk-based Angara currently operates a fleet of Antonov An-148s, An-24s, An-26-100s and An-2s.

Russia’s United Aircraft Corp. (UAC) signed a letter of intent with State Transport Leasing Co. for 50 Ilyushin IL-114-300s. Although the delivery schedule is not disclosed, the manufacturer and lessor are expected to sign a preliminary agreement on terms and conditions before the end of this year.

The 60-seat regional turboprop IL-114-100, a previous modification of the aircraft, was assembled in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, but the production line was closed in 2012. In 2015, the Russian government announced plans to relaunch manufacturing of the aircraft and developing the new modification.

(Polina Montag-Girmes - ATWOnline News)

JetBlue pilots request federal mediation

jetBlue Airbus A320-232 (c/n 1327) N517JB "Blue Moon" rotates from Rwy 12 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on April 21, 2017 bound for New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK/KJFK).
(Photo by Michael Carter)

JetBlue Airways pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), requested mediation services from the National Mediation Board (NMB) July 18 to assist with contract negotiations.

The request was made after two years of negotiations between the pilots and management of the New York-based carrier have shown little progress. JetBlue’s pilots made their first request of JetBlue management for open contract negotiations in March 2015, in an effort to secure the pilots’ first contract with JetBlue since organizing as a union in 2014.

“We’re hopeful that a mediator will help us speed along the process and come to an agreement that recognizes our contributions to JetBlue’s success,” ALPA’s JetBlue unit chairman Patrick Walsh said.

ALPA said the pace of negotiations “has slowed in the last few months, prompting the pilots to request professional mediation from the NMB.” JetBlue’s pilots are in “pursuit of a contract that includes market-rate compensation, compared to pilots who fly similar routes and aircraft,” ALPA said in a statement, adding JetBlue’s recently proposed pay structure would provide limited increases and keep pilots “near the bottom among major carriers.”

ALPA said JetBlue’s pilots have been briefed on strike preparation activities the union may deploy if negotiations prove unsatisfactory.

JetBlue told ATW: “This week, we were notified by ALPA that it has decided to file for mediation with the NMB in our negotiations for an initial collective bargaining agreement for JetBlue pilots. As we work through this next stage of negotiations, our objective remains the same—to reach an agreement that is fair and equitable to both our pilots and JetBlue.”

(Mark Nensel - ATWOnline News)

Air France names Boost airline ‘Joon’

(Air France)

French Skyteam carrier Air France has christened its new lower-cost airline, which was previously known as the Boost project, as ‘Joon’ and named Jean-Michel Mathieu as CEO.

With pilot backing for the startup recently secured, Joon will launch this autumn, initially operating medium-haul flights from Paris-Charles de Gaulle, before branching out to long-haul routes in summer 2018.

The new airline will be led by Air France-KLM veteran Mathieu, who has spent most of his career with the group in network, revenue management, digital services and customer relations.

Joon is aimed at young working millennials, aged 18 to 35. “We started with our target customer segment, the millennials, to create this new brand that means something to them. Our brief was simple: to find a name to illustrate a positive state of mind,” Air France VP-brand Caroline Fontaine said.

Air France said digital technology will play a large role for the new brand; however, the company added: “Joon will not be a low-cost airline, as it will offer original products and services that reflect those of Air France.”

The underlying desire to funnel more passengers back to Air France is clear. “Joon is Air France’s complementary younger sister, which will also inspire its customers to travel with its elder sibling,” Air France said.

At strategic level, Air France is hoping to use Joon to fend off low-cost competition on short- and long-haul routes, as well to win market share back from its Gulf-carrier rivals.

“Joon is another step in the deployment of the Trust Together strategic project. Its creation will improve the profitability of the Air France Group, enabling it to reduce its costs and ensure the sustainability of its business model,” Air France CEO Franck Terner said.

Air France said further details about Joon, including the airline’s product, network and prices, will be revealed in September 2017.

(Victoria Moores - ATWOnline News)

Study uncovers cultural tensions at Air France-KLM

Air France-KLM has admitted there is room for improvement, after a research report exposed a cultural rift between the Dutch and French sides of the group.

The study was performed by Philippe d’Iribarne from the French Institute of Science and Niels Noorderhaven of Tilburg University, involving 47 interviews with Air France and KLM staff between January and April 2017.

Detailing their findings in a report called “The relationship between Air France and KLM as experienced by the employees,” the researchers identified cultural friction between the two airlines and their respective nationalities.

“Mutual understanding between the French and the Dutch is often weak,” the report concluded.

KLM replied to the findings, noting that the report was commissioned by Franco-Dutch trade unions.

“We understand the sentiments expressed and acknowledge the circumstances sketched in the report. There is room for improvement in some areas. However, the report also addresses other areas which are performing well. We will consider these sentiments with all due diligence. During the coming period, we will join hands with Air France to see how we can learn from this and bring about improvements wherever necessary,” KLM said.

Air France also responded to the report, saying the research was supported at group-level as a way to restore trust between Air France, KLM and Air France-KLM under the Trust Together strategic plan.

“The conclusion of this study identifies cultural differences and different visions, sometimes leading to difficulties, but also a common interest and the desire to find solutions in the interest of Air France-KLM group and each airline. During the coming period, we will see within Air France, KLM and Air France-KLM how we can learn together from the outcome and bring about improvements wherever necessary,” Air France said.

(Victoria Moores - ATWOnline News)

American Airlines dedicates Boeing 777 to 91-year-old mechanic for 75 years of service

After 75 years with American Airlines, Azreil “Al” Blackman says he isn't thinking about retirement.

"That's not my style," he told ABC News.

Based out of New York City his entire career, the 91-year-old aviation maintenance technician started off making 50 cents an hour as an apprentice in the sheet metal shop, when American was known as American Export Airlines.

Since then, Blackman has worked on some of aviation's most storied aircraft, from the Sikorsky flying boat that kicked off American's trans-Atlantic service, to the original jumbo jet, the Boeing 747.

The former U.S. Navy service member has dedicated his life to American Airlines aircraft.

On Tuesday, his long-time employer returned the favor.

At a ceremony at John F. Kennedy International Airport, a curtain dropped to reveal a Boeing 777 dedicated to his 75 years of service.

The aircraft is capable of holding at least 247 people and flying American Airlines' longest routes. For the remainder of the jet's life at American Airlines, his name and signature will be inscribed to the left of the aircraft's main cabin door.

Guinness World Records also awarded Blackman with the title of "Longest career as an airline mechanic."

At the Tuesday ceremony the New York native climbed into the jet -- before it makes its inaugural trip to London Wednesday sporting its new paint job -- and received a sky-high tour of his hometown.

Blackman took off from JFK at 2:59 p.m. and and flew north up the Hudson River to West Point before turning right and looping around the northern edge of Long Island at an altitude of just under 3,000 for before returning to the airport. The flight lasted about an hour-and-a-half to commemorate a lifetime's worth of service to country's largest airline.

"Slightly hazy," he said of the view from the flight deck. "Very calm, quiet."

Blackman says he has no plans to retire from his work any time soon.

"What's the big deal about retirement, really? What do you do when you retire?" Blackman told ABC News. "You stay home and watch the television, that's not my style."

(Jeffrey Cook, David Kerley, Whitney Lloyd, Nathan Luna, Erin Dooley and Connor McCarthy - Good Morning America / ABC News)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Alaska Air CEO weighs in on replacing Virgin America's Airbus fleet with Boeing jets

Alaska Airlines will likely shed the Airbus jets it inherited in its takeover of Virgin America and slowly replace them with Boeing aircraft, Alaska Air Group CEO Brad Tilden said Tuesday.

"My dad was a 32-year Boeing guy," Tilden told a Seattle business audience at a breakfast organized by the Puget Sound Business Journal. "This company could not be more in love with Boeing, or loyal to Boeing."

"We actually just need to get this worked out with Boeing because we have 63 – growing to 73 – Airbus airplanes and they'll likely be in the fleet for some number of years," Tilden continued. "If I were to guess, they won't be in the fleet permanently."

"It will take some time to get a transition done," Tilden added.

Airline industry analysts have speculated for months that Alaska Airlines would phase out Virgin America's Airbus fleet, much of it involving leased aircraft, but Tilden's remarks were his clearest yet in terms of the airline's long-term plans for the Airbus planes it inherited.

In February, Alaska Air executives revealed they were working to extricate the company from a lease deal that Virgin America signed before the takeover. The deal involved 10 Airbus A321neo (new engine option) jets.

In a securities filing last year before the takeover by Alaska, Virgin America reported maintenance costs for its Airbus aircraft fleet increased a whopping 33 percent to $16.9 million during one financial quarter.

Virgin America had five major jet maintenance events during the 90 days compared to none in the 2015 period.

Though Virgin took delivery of a trio of new Airbus A320 aircraft, it also warned that the average age of the Airbus A320 jets in its fleet was 6.3 years, and those aircraft were starting to need more "scheduled and unscheduled maintenance" as they get older.

"These more significant maintenance activities result in out-of-service periods during which certain of our aircraft are unavailable to fly passengers," Virgin said at the time.

Alaska's fleet is mostly made up of Washington-made Boeing 737 jets, but its Horizon subsidiary also operates Embraer E175 regional jets and twin-propeller Bombardier Q400 aircraft.

The morning breakfast event at Seattle's Rainier Club was organized by the Puget Sound Business Journal and featured Tilden in a conversation with Providence St. Joseph Health CEO Dr. Rod Hochman.

(Andrew McIntosh Puget Sound Business Journal)

American Airlines says 'passed gas' did not cause flight evacuation

American Airlines officials say reports that a flight was evacuated Sunday after flatulence caused passengers to become ill are false.

WNCN-TV reported that passengers were "forced" from a flight at Raleigh-Durham International Airport after experiencing headaches and nausea spurred by a foul-smelling odor in the cabin.

According to the station, a Raleigh-Durham International Airport spokesperson said the odor was from a passenger who "passed gas."

American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein refuted the "passed gas" claim late Sunday, AP reported.

“We did have an aircraft from Charlotte to RDU this afternoon, that landed at 2:19 p.m. ET, and arrived the gate at 2:21 p.m. ET, that is currently out of service for an actual mechanical issue – and odor in the cabin. But It is not due to “passed gas” as mentioned,” Feinstein said.

In another statement, the airport confirmed that the flight was never evacuated. According to the airline, a medical call for people affected by the scent came in after the plane deplaned.

“Plane was not evacuated. Medical call for persons affected by an odor came in after plane deplaned normally.”

(Mary Bowerman - USA Today)