Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Korean Air expands US presence, strengthens Delta partnership

Korean Air is aggressively expanding on the US west coast and strengthening its relationship with SkyTeam partner Delta Air Lines “to ensure the airline’s continued leadership in 2017 and beyond,” the Seoul-based carrier said in a statement.

Korean Air said it is increasing flights from Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and creating a “massive network between the US and Asia through a blossoming partnership with Delta Air Lines.”

By June, Korean Air said it will operate nearly 50 flights a week from the west coast, including 19 from Los Angeles, 14 from San Francisco beginning in September, seven from Seattle, and five from Las Vegas.

“We’ve added flights and improved our schedules for fast and easy connections to Singapore, China, Vietnam, Japan and almost any destination in Southeast Asia,” Korean Air VP John Jackson said in a statement. “Korean Air is the largest non-Chinese airline operating in China and our connections from the US are outstanding.”

Korean Air also will be growing its Delta network, offering Delta customers easy access to more than 30 markets in Asia beyond Seoul, and Korean Air customers more than 150 markets in the Americas.

“Delta will be putting its code on our flight from Houston, San Francisco and dozens of destinations beyond Seoul served by Korean Air,” Jackson said.

He added that Korean Air has been “quietly building an impressive global network”—131 cities in 46 countries on six continents—and is poised to continue to build on that network in the future.

(Linda Blachly - ATWOnline News)

Aeroflot to cancel 787s in 3-way deal with Boeing and Russian lessor

Russia’s largest airline, Aeroflot, plans to cancel orders for Boeing 787s and will rely instead on the Boeing 777 and Airbus A350 for long-haul flights.

The decision is expected to receive final approval at the airline’s shareholder meeting at the end of December. The rights to purchase the 22 787s will be transferred to Avia Capital Service, a leasing subsidiary of Russian government-owned industrial conglomerate Rostec, under an agreement among Aeroflot, Avia and Boeing.

Shareholder approval will allow Aeroflot to amend its 2007 contract with Boeing for the 787s.

Boeing will return Aeroflot’s advance payment of $43.7 million and receive the same amount from Avia.

Under the renewed schedule, the 787 deliveries to the lessor will be postponed by another two years. Avia is to get its first seven aircraft in 2019 followed by five each in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

The new trilateral agreement should be signed before Jan. 1, 2017, or the initial contract between Aeroflot and Boeing will be just canceled.

Aeroflot ordered 18 787-8s and four 787-9s in 2007. A Russian industry source explained to ATW’s sister publication Aviation Daily that the reason for change is that it prefers to use larger 777-300ERs for long-haul routes. It now operates 15 out of its 16 ordered 777-300ERs in a three-class, 420-seat configuration.

Aeroflot also plans to change out its aging fleet of 22 Airbus A330s with the same number of new A350s. Its order includes 14 A350-900s with a 440-seat capacity and eight smaller A350-800s.

(Maxim Pyadushkin - ATWOnline News)

United to unveil new Polaris business-class upgrade Dec. 1

(United Airlines)

Chicago-based United Airlines will roll out its new premium business-class product United Polaris in all of the company’s markets Dec. 1.

The product rebranding includes all aircraft interiors, digital media, inflight service and airport lounges. The first United Polaris airport lounge will open at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, with additional lounges in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, New York/Newark, Washington Dulles, Tokyo Narita, Hong Kong and London Heathrow to follow.

“We are rethinking and reimagining all we do,” United CEO Oscar Munoz said, adding the new program will “offer an elevated customer experience … from lounge to landing.”

Among other amenities, the United Polaris service intends to improve the sleeping experience for international business-class passengers.

“We [are putting] the legacy of the weary business traveler to bed for good,” United EVP and CCO Julia Haywood said. “We heard from our customers, and what resonated as a very consistent theme was that they needed a tailored experience that would maximize comfort and sleep.”

To that end, the new service will offer designer bedding, duvets, multiple pillows, cushions, slippers, United Polaris-branded pajamas (by request on flights exceeding 12 hours), ergonomic eye shades, calming pillow mist and a relaxation-oriented IFE channel. Meal service will also be shorter, United said, so passengers can have undisturbed sleep times.

United said its new business-class seats will debut in 2017. The airline’s Boeing 777-300ER aircraft will be the first to feature the new seats. The seats will be installed subsequently on the airline’s forthcoming 787-10 and Airbus A350-1000 aircraft. United’s 767-300 and 777-200 fleet will also be retrofitted with the new business-class seats, which are custom-designed.

United partnered on the new seat design with Acumen Design Associates and PriestmanGoode; the seats are manufactured by Zodiac Seats United Kingdom. Each new seat will have direct access to the aisle, a 180-degree flat-bed recline and up to 78 inches of bed space, encased in a forward-facing individual pod.

(Mark Nensel - ATWOnline News)

Investigators Probe Fuel Exhaustion In Jet Crash

Investigators examining the crash of a chartered Avro RJ85 this week in Colombia are focusing on the possibility that the jet flew a route that exceeded its fuel range. The aircraft, operated by Bolivian charter company LaMia, crashed in a rugged area short of its destination in Medellin late Monday, killing 71 of the 77 people on board. Reports of fuel exhaustion had emerged soon after the accident due to the lack of fuel in the wreckage or a post-crash fire.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that an analysis of the chartered route from Viru Viru International Airport in Bolivia to José María Cordova International Airport in Colombia shows a distance of 1,839 miles. The Avro’s range is about 1,842 miles. In addition, a Colombian aviation official said the jet flew a holding pattern while two airliners were approaching Medellin, according to the Journal’s report. “They did say ‘emergency,’ but at the very end, when it was too late,” he said.

The jet’s passengers included a group of journalists and members of a Brazilian soccer team who were to compete in the Copa Sudamericana tournament. Audio recordings obtained by news outlets show a crew member reporting an electrical failure and lack of fuel to ATC, according to CNN. 

Colombian media also quoted the copilot of a Colombian airliner who said he and the captain heard the LaMia jet crew reporting “fuel problems” without declaring an emergency, the Wall Street Journal reported. CNN also said the co-pilot witnessed the moments before the crash, saying “we even saw the plane lights as it was going down.”

(Elaine Kauh - AVweb)

Trump Selects New Transportation Secretary

The federal Transportation Department, which oversees the FAA and air traffic control, will be headed by Elaine Chao when the Trump administration takes office, CNN reported on Tuesday. Chao is a former labor secretary and also is married to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. The post is currently filled by Anthony Foxx, who has served since 2013. The DOT has a budget of more than $70 billion and employs more than 55,000 workers. The agency oversees all air, maritime and surface transportation in the U.S.

Chao previously served as the deputy secretary of transportation from 1989 to 1991, and as secretary of labor from 2001 to 2009. Most recently she has held a position as a distinguished fellow at the Hudson Institute. Earlier in her career, Chao also worked for United Way and the Peace Corps, and earned an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School.

(Mary Grady - AVweb)

Canadian Pilot Dies In F-18 Crash

Sadly this sounds all to familiar!!

A ten-year veteran of the Royal Canadian Air Force died Monday when the CF-18 Hornet fighter he was flying crashed while on a low-level attack training mission in northern Saskatchewan. Capt. Thomas McQueen was flying with another Hornet on the training run at the Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake weapons range that straddles the Alberta/Saskatchewan border. He was a combat veteran with deployments in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. "I can tell you first-hand how much of an incredible person he was and that he was dedicated to the service of Canada,'' Col. Paul Doyle, commanding officer of the base, told reporters Tuesday. It was the latest in a string of recent crashes of legacy F-18s.

Canadian CF-18s are of the same vintage as those flown by the U.S. Marines (including the Blue Angels), Navy and some other air forces. At least eight of the 30-plus-year-old jets have gone down since last June resulting in three other deaths. Most of the other crashes were Marine and Navy incidents but a Swiss Air Force pilot also died in an F-18 crash in that country. The Navy had planned for most of its F-18s to be retired by now and replaced by F-35s but delays in the Lightning II program have left them short of front-line fighters. Boeing has been contracted to take 30 old F-18s out of desert storage and get them flying again with modern avionics until the F-35s take over.

(Russ Niles - AVweb)

Amazon Pilots Claim Understaffing

Amazon customers likely got all their packages delivered on time over the busy Thanksgiving weekend but a spokesman for the union representing pilots at ABX Air said last week it likely took a toll on those flying the 20 aircraft now leased to Amazon.

Last Wednesday, a federal judge ordered 250 pilots striking against schedule-disrupting “emergency flights” to strap back in to make sure Black Friday and Cyber Monday went off without a hitch. ABX also serves DHL but the high-profile deal with Amazon came under the greatest scrutiny with the job action. A pilot shortage appears to be at the heart of the dispute and a spokesman for the 250 ABX night flyers said it’s likely to get worse.

Rick Ziebart, an ABX pilot and the spokesman for the Airline Professionals Association, Teamsters Local 1224, which represents the pilots, said ABX has a crippling staff shortage that results in demands for “emergency flights” to meet its obligations. “ABX Air’s failure to address the staffing crisis hurts our families and compromises our ability to do our jobs and meet the needs of Amazon, DHL and other customers,” he told The New York Times.

(Russ Niles - AVweb)

Spirit AeroSystems delivers first 737 MAX thrust reverser with a composite inner wall and completes rate readiness expansion

Spirit AeroSystems Inc. today announced completion of an expansion project on the Spirit Wichita campus to support production of the 737 thrust reverser. The expansion supports production rate increases already planned for the Boeing 737 program. The company also celebrated delivering the first 737 MAX thrust reverser with the new composite inner wall to the flight test program. Spirit produces the 737 MAX fuselage, pylon, thrust reverser and engine nacelle at its Wichita, Kan. , facility and the wing leading edges at its Tulsa, Okla. , facility. Spirit is responsible for delivering about 70 percent of the 737 structure to Boeing."We're excited to celebrate completion of this expansion project and delivery of the first thrust reverser with a composite inner wall," said Tom Gentile, Spirit AeroSystems president and chief executive officer. 

The first 737 MAX thrust reverser with a composite inner wall undergoing tests at Spirit AeroSystems' engineering lab. (AeroSystems)

"Spirit has delivered assemblies and components for more than 9,000 737s since the model entered service, and we look forward to supporting the 737's continued success and competitiveness through this newest expansion."

Spirit is using a proven composite inner wall material, providing Boeing with a maintainable, producible and reliable solution for the 737 MAX. The new design includes a thermal protection system, which provides reliable protection from the heat generated by the new fuel efficient Leap-1B engines made by CFM International. The 737 MAX is 20 percent more fuel efficient than the original Next-Generation 737.

The 737 MAX will extend the Next-Generation 737 range advantage with the capability to fly more than 3,500 nautical miles (6,510 kilometers), an increase of 340 to 570 nautical miles (629 to 1,055 kilometers). Delivery of the first 737 MAX is scheduled for the first half of 2017.

Boeing, which currently produces 42 737s per month, will increase the rate to 47 airplanes per month in 2017. To support rate increases, Spirit also opened a new expansion to support 737 MAX thrust reverser production. The new expansion is 45,000 sqft. and will deliver 94 thrust reversers per month to support the next rate increase.

"Delivering this very important capability to our customer is our top priority," said Duane Hawkins , Spirit's senior vice president of Boeing Programs. "Spirit helped design and develop a technical solution for our customer and now we have the capacity to deliver the product on time and with the highest quality possible."

Spirit employs about 15,000 people worldwide designing and building complex aerostructures for the world's most recognizable airplanes. Spirit builds the forward fuselage section of every Boeing Commercial Airplane in production today, as well as wing and propulsion components.

(CNW Group / Yahoo Business News)


(Gulfstream Aerospace)

Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. is pleased to display three of its business jets at the Middle East and North Africa Business Aviation Association (MEBAA) Show Dec. 6-8 in Dubai. The static display will include the company flagship Gulfstream G650ER as well as the high-performing Gulfstream G550 and the class-leading Gulfstream G280.

The four-living-area G650ER will headline Gulfstream’s presence, showcasing the company’s commitment to exceeding customers’ expectations for customization, comfort and craftsmanship.

Customers will have the opportunity to see the three Gulfstream aircraft firsthand and discuss Gulfstream’s advances in innovation, reliability, safety and performance.

The aircraft will be available for viewing outside Chalet A13-14 at Dubai World Central. In addition to the aircraft on display, Gulfstream will have a reception area for customers.

“We are looking forward to a productive show in an important region,” said Mark Burns, president, Gulfstream. “Gulfstream aircraft deliveries to the Middle East began in 1976. Forty years later, we have more than 120 aircraft based in the Middle East and North Africa. With this growth, we continue to invest in Product Support capabilities throughout the region, including expanding our parts and materials inventory at Dubai World Central.”

Select members of the company’s leadership team will be on hand for the three-day air show as will Trevor Esling, regional senior vice president, International Sales for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and Allan Stanton, regional vice president, International Sales, Middle East.

(Gulfstream Aerospace)

Blade Kicks Off NYC-to-Miami Helicopter-bizjet Service

BLADEone, a per-seat helicopter-private jet link between New York City and Miami, is kicking off its second season tomorrow in time for this weekend's Art Basel event in Miami Beach. It will use “Blade Bounce” helicopters and a Bombardier CRJ200 reconfigured for 16 passengers in a VIP cabin.

Customers can book flights using their personal mobile devices via the Blade app and can also access FBOs' passenger lounges. Jet service from Westchester County Airport in White Plains, NY, to Miami has been reduced to $1,750 per passenger one way; adding the helicopter link from Manhattan to planeside at Westchester adds $250.

To kick-start the service, BLADEone is offering a complimentary suite at Miami Beach's Faena Hotel this weekend only, for customers who purchase a roundtrip ticket for two. Service will continue on a weekly basis through April 16, with flights departing Manhattan's West 30th Street heliport at 8:30 a.m. on Friday mornings and returning from Miami on Sundays at 4 p.m.

Jet flights are operated by Corporate Flight Management, while Lima NY Corp. Helicopter flights are operated by Liberty Helicopters, Zip Aviation and other operators. Blade’s Miami hub will also be offering intra-Florida flights, as well as flights between Miami, the Bahamas and Cuba.

(Mark Huber - AINOnline News)

Stratos VLJ Makes Short Maiden Flight

The four-seat Stratos 714 single-engine very light jet completed its first flight November 21 from its base in Redmond, Oregon. The company is not taking orders or deposits for the all-composite airplane, nor is it providing a timetable for certification. 
(Photo: Stratos Aircraft)

More than eight years after it was introduced, the four-seat Stratos 714 single-engine very light jet completed its first flight on November 21 from its base in Redmond, Oregon, Stratos Aircraft announced today. During the 10-minute flight, the all-composite airplane reached a speed of 128 knots and an altitude of 3,700 feet with the flaps set at 24 degrees and the gear extended. Pilot Dave Morss was at the controls.

Stratos plans to continue a “vigorous” flight-test program to expand the 714’s envelope to stated performance goals of 415 knots at 30,000 feet, 1,500-nm range and a 41,000-foot ceiling. When the aircraft was unveiled, plans called for it to be powered by a Williams FJ44-3AP turbofan; however, the test aircraft was equipped with a 2,900-pound-thrust Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D-5. According to Stratos, with the Pratt engine the time to climb to 37,000 feet is expected to be 17 minutes.

The company is not taking orders or deposits and is not providing a timetable for certification. However, Stratos said that interested parties could register on the company's website “for airplane availability updates and investment opportunities.” Stratos plans to reintroduce the aircraft at EAA AirVenture next year.

(Mark Huber - AINOnline News)

Losses Mount at Lufthansa as Pilots Strike Again

Costs at Lufthansa Airlines continue to mount as members of the Vereinigung Cockpit (VC) pilots’ union engage in yet another strike called for November 29 and 30. The action has affected all short-haul services from Germany on Tuesday and, unless the sides reach an agreement, short-, medium- and long-haul services from Germany on Wednesday.

Lufthansa said it has instituted special schedules for both days, allowing for the operation of 2,184 of the 3,000 scheduled Lufthansa Group flights on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Lufthansa Group plans to operate a total of 2,110 flights. The resulting 816 cancellations of short-haul services will affect some 82,000 passengers on Tuesday, while the 890 cancellations on Wednesday will affect around 98,000 travelers.

In all, Lufthansa expects the latest six days of strike action since last Wednesday to affect 525,000 passengers through a total of 4,461 flight cancellations.

The strike has not affected group airlines Eurowings, Germanwings, Swiss, Austrian Airlines, Air Dolomiti and Brussels Airlines. Vereinigung Cockpit has also not called on the pilots of Lufthansa Cargo to strike.

Lufthansa has promised affected customers to rebook or cancel their flights free of charge. For routes within Germany, the airline has also agreed to exchange flight tickets for Deutsche Bahn rail travel vouchers.

The latest action marks the 15th strike since early 2014 by Reuters’ reckoning.

Lufthansa has offered pilots a 2.4 percent salary increase for 2016, a 2 percent raise in 2017 and a single payment worth 1.8 months’ pay. The union continues to insist on an average annual pay raise of 3.7 percent over a five-year period retroactive to 2012.

(Gregory Polek - AINOnline News) 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Bombardier Delivers First CS300 Airliner to Air Baltic

Bombardier celebrated the delivery of the first CS300 narrow-body to Latvian flag carrier Air Baltic during a ceremony held in Montreal on Monday. The larger of the two C Series models developed by Bombardier, the CS300 will enter service on December 14 on a route between Riga and Amsterdam, according to Air Baltic’s schedules. The handover of the 130- to 150-seat jet comes five months after the smaller CS100 entered service with Swiss International Airlines.

Last month the CS300 finished a series of route-proving flights in Europe and the Middle East alongside Air Baltic in preparation for its entry into service. The single-aisle jet received European certification on October 7 and Bombardier expects it to gain U.S. approval by the end of the year.

On November 23 Transport Canada and the European Aviation Safety Agency granted the CS100 and CS300 Same Type Rating (STR) status. According to the manufacturer, the approval will save operators “significant” costs and reflects the 99 percent parts commonality that the two aircraft share. Bombardier designed the two versions of the CSeries in tandem, making only the center section of CS300 longer than that of the CS100.

So far three CS100s have entered service—all with Swiss International Airlines—and have logged 1,100 hours of trouble-free revenue flights, Bombardier CEO Alain Bellemare said during the company's recent third-quarter earnings call. Mechanics performed the first A-check on a CS100 earlier this month “with no issue or findings.” The process took less than five hours, “well below the current industry standards,” he noted.

Backlog for the CSeries at the conclusion of the third quarter stood at firm orders for 356 (121 CS100s and 235 CS300s) and options for 232 (99 CS100s and 133 CS300s).

(Gregory Polek - AINOnline News)

Airbus calls for global pact on aircraft aid after WTO ruling

Airbus called on Monday for a global agreement to set rules for the aerospace industry after the World Trade Organization partially ruled in Europe's favor in the latest round of a marathon subsidy dispute with Boeing.

"I continue to think that the only way out of the ridiculous series of disputes initiated by the U.S. is to agree on a set of globally applicable rules for the support of the civil aircraft industry, which would benefit both sides of the Atlantic," Airbus Group Chief Executive Tom Enders said in an emailed statement.

"The duopoly is no longer the framework of reference in the future," he said, noting recent support by the Quebec government for Canada's Bombardier.

In a separate statement, the EU's executive Commission called on the United States to withdraw a prohibited tax break for the new 777X jetliner following the WTO ruling.

"The panel has found that the additional massive subsidies of $5.7 billion provided by Washington state to Boeing are strictly illegal," EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said.

"We expect the U.S. to respect the rules, uphold fair competition and withdraw these subsidies without any delay."

The United States has accused the European Union of failing to comply with earlier WTO rulings in a parallel case involving European government loans for Airbus.

(Tim Hepher and Foo Yun Chee - Reuters)

More US Airlines Land in Cuba

Despite uncertainty from Washington, two more airlines have begun service to Havana, Cuba.

On Nov. 28, American Airlines began its 10x daily flights from Miami to Havana. The airline plans to launch daily service to Havana from Charlotte and Dallas. American Airlines also plans to launch weekly service to Havana from Los Angeles and Chicago. Routes from Miami to Santa Clara, Holguin, Varadero, Camaguey and Cienfuegos are also planned. The Nov. 28 flight was American Airlines first commercial flight to Cuba in over 50 years.

Also on Nov. 28, JetBlue Airways began daily service from New York to Havana. JetBlue already flies from to smaller Cuban cities from Fort Lauderdale. By December, JetBlue will also add daily routes to Havana from Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.

United, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Spirit Airlines and Southwest Airlines will launch service to Cuba before Christmas.

Following the death of former Cuban ruler Fidel Castro, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump tweeted “If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal.” “The deal” refers to concessions made by the U.S. government to normalize relations with Cuba.

These concessions include an August 2016 decision by the American government to allow commercial airlines to fly between the United States and Cuba, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

(Vanessa Page - Investopedia)

Norway eyes $1.15B order for Boeing P-8A Poseidon 'submarine-hunter' planes

Norway is planning to order five P-8A Poseidon submarine-hunting patrol planes from Boeing in a deal valued at $1.15 billion.

The P-8A Poseidon is a heavily militarized version of Boeing's 737-800ERX civilian passenger jet made at a top-secret manufacturing facility in Renton.

The deal likely will face only minor political opposition after Norway's parliament agreed to increase long-term military spending, Reuters reports.

The new Poseidon patrol planes will help Norway maintain its surveillance capacity as the country's maritime border with Russia has become a renewed focus following Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region, according to the news service.

"The new security situation increases our demand for situational awareness in our own vicinity," Defence Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide said in a statement. "The ability to handle current and future challenges must therefore be strengthened."

Neighboring Sweden and Finland, two nations not in the NATO alliance, have also been worried about potential threats posed by by Russian submarines and other naval vessels.

According to Chicago-based Boeing, “ The P-8 is what is known as a Commercial Derivative aircraft, a process whereby a commercial airplane is converted for military purposes. In this case, the P-8 uses a first-in-industry in-line production process to capitalize on the efficiencies and streamlined production systems of the existing commercial 737 factory” in Renton.

(Angela Mueller - St Louis Business Journal / Puget Sound Business Journal)

Monday, November 28, 2016

**BREAKING NEWS** Plane carrying soccer team from Brazil crashes in Colombia

A chartered aircraft carrying a Brazilian soccer team to Colombia for a regional tournament final has crashed on its way to Medellin's international airport, officials said Tuesday.

Medellin's Mayor Federico Gutierrez said Tuesday that it is possible there are survivors.

"It's a tragedy of huge proportions," Gutierrez told Blu Radio on his way to the site in a mountainous area outside the city where the chartered aircraft is believed to have crashed shortly before midnight on Monday local time.

He said ambulances and rescuers were on their way. It is not clear what caused the crash of the LAMIA British Aerospace AVRO RJ85 (c/n E2348) CP-2933. Local weather reports indicate that the area had been hit by heavy rains and thunderstorms in recent hours.

The plane was reported to be carrying at least 72 people on board, although it was not known if that figure included the crew.

Medellin's airport confirmed that the aircraft, which made a stop in Bolivia, was transporting the first division Chapecoense soccer team from southern Brazil. The team was scheduled to play Wednesday in the first of a two-game Copa Sudamericana final against Atletico Nacional of Medellin.

A video published on the team's Facebook page showed the team readying for the flight earlier Monday in Sao Paulo's Guarulhos international airport.

The team, from the small city of Chapeco, joined Brazil's first division in 2014 for the first time since the 1970s and made it to the Copa Sudamericana finals last week by defeating Argentina's legendary San Lorenzo squad.

(Joshua Goodman - Associated Press) 

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Avianca McDonnell Douglas MD-83 (53463/2089) N160BS

Taxies onto Rwy 12 at Miami International Airport (MIA/KMIA) for a late afternoon departure on January 10, 2007.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Airrow Air Douglas DC-8-63 (45998/416) N441J

Arrives at Miami International Airport (MIA/KMIA) on January 11, 2005.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Varig McDonnell Douglas MD-11 (48404/523) PP-VPJ

Rotates from Rwy 30 at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on November 19, 2003.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Air China Cargo Boeing 747-4FTF (34240/1373) B-2476

Taxies to the International freight facilities following her arrival at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on January 20, 2008.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Singapore Airlines Cargo Boeing 747-412(F) (26553/1069) 9V-SFD "Mega Ark"

Short final to then smokes the mains on Rwy 7R at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on January 26, 2008 during east traffic operations.

(Photos by Michael Carter)

Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-312(ER) (42242/1355) 9V-SNC

Captured taxing past the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) as she makes her way to the north runways and a departure from Rwy 24L on November 18, 2016.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-367(ER) (36161/818) B-KPL "Oneworld"

During normal west traffic operations on November 18, 2016, this Cathay Pacific flight deck crew requested to depart from Rwy 7L while LAX Ops looks on.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-990 (30013/774) N305AS

One of the carriers (non-ER / WL) -990's departs Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) November 18, 2016.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Avianca Airbus A321-231 (c/n 6861) N747AV

Climbs from Rwy 25R at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on November 24, 2016.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Aeromexico Boeing 737-8FZ(WL) (34954/2483) XA-AMW

"Positive Climb, Gear Up" as this Aeromexico machine departs off Rwy 25R at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) bound for Mexico on November 18, 2016. 

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-890(WL) (35178/2026) N559AS "Salmon-30-Salmon"

Taxies to the gate at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on November 18, 2016.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Delta Airlines McDonnell Douglas MD-95 (Boeing 717-2BD (55051/5148) N923AT

Climbs from Rwy 25R at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on November 11, 2016.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Swift Air Boeing 737-4B7 (25022/2010) N458UW

Captured on short final to Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) as it arrives from Phoenix - Mesa Gateway Airport (IWA/KIWA) as "SWQ9231" at 15;10 PST. It later departed at 17:56 PST as "SWQ5231" bound for Lincoln Airport (LNK/KLNK) in Lincoln, Nebraska.

(Photos by Michael Carter)

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-7H4 (36639/2837) N932WN

Arrives at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on a simply gorgeous afternoon following the passing of a storm front.

(Photos by Michael Carter)

The future of the A380

Three years ago Emirates rescued the A380 aeroplane. Its own problems now cast doubt on the super-jumbo’s future.

At the world’s major airports, plane-spotters often spend days waiting for the world’s largest passenger plane, the Airbus A380, to make an appearance. The nerds at Dubai International Airport are spoiled for choice. It is home to Emirates, an airline that owns 86 of the monster aircraft, almost half of the global A380 fleet.

These planes have propelled Emirates from insignificance a decade ago to its position as the world’s biggest carrier (measured by international passenger mileage in 2015). Now the airline has hit a rough patch. That is bad news for Airbus, the European aerospace and defense giant which makes the A380, and for the plane itself.

Demand once seemed insatiable for flights through Emirates’ hub in Dubai, which is known in the industry as a “super-connector” airport. Now its location helps explain the airline’s difficulties as well as its spectacular past growth, says its president, Sir Tim Clark. When he helped set up the airline in 1985, he says, Dubai was “an enchanting Arab village” that generated little air traffic. Instead of filling up the planes with locals, his strategy was to use its position halfway between Asia and Europe to connect flights between cities that lacked obvious links, such as Cairo and Shanghai or Moscow and Cape Town.

Connecting these “strange city pairs”, as he puts it, led to soaring passenger numbers. A string of purchases of A380s, starting in 2008, helped traffic to more than double to 51m in 2015. Good airport facilities and access to cheap labor (even expatriate pilots are inexpensive in Dubai because of low taxes) contributed to profits as well: the airline has the lowest costs of any long-haul carrier in the world.

But over the past year or so problems have mounted. Low oil prices have hit the economies of many of Dubai’s neighbors, reducing regional passenger traffic. Terrorist attacks in cities and airports in Europe and the Middle East have dampened tourism activity generally.

Although Dubai itself is safe, conflict in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, as well as Turkey’s attempted military coup in July, are prompting passengers to choose other connecting cities. Currency volatility has also meant abrupt drops in revenue on some routes. “We used to have one of these business-damaging events once a year but now we have them more than once a month,” groans Sir Tim. In the year to March, Emirates made a record $1.9bn in profits, but since April its earnings have tumbled by 75%. Weak demand has forced it to slash its fares to keep planes full.

Emirates can take some solace from the fact that its super-connector rivals in the Middle East—Etihad of Abu Dhabi, Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines—are also hurting. Turkish Airlines has had to suspend flights on 22 routes and mothball 30 planes. Industry analysts reckon the airline will this year suffer its first annual loss for a decade. Qatar and Etihad may also end up in the red.

Tricky geopolitics is nothing new for Emirates, which was founded during the Iran-Iraq war, argues Sir Tim. Dubai is trying to boost its own tourism industry, which should help replace some of the connecting passengers the airline is losing. No one doubts that it will pull through.

Emirates’ appetite for the A380 is a different story. That may dwindle more quickly than Airbus had anticipated. On December 2nd the first planes in a new batch of super-jumbos are due to arrive in Dubai. In total, Emirates has a further 56 A380s on order: 31 are to be delivered between now and 2019, with another 25 due to arrive in the 2020s to replace older ones nearing retirement. Emirates rescued the A380 program with its last big order in 2013. The airline had wanted to buy another 200 A380s equipped with more fuel-efficient engines. But in current conditions Sir Tim says there is little chance of his airline making another large order anytime soon.

Airbus has orders for only another 18 super-jumbos from other airlines that are likely to be delivered and paid for, according to Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group, a consultancy in Virginia. The manufacturer has already cut planned production, but may still run out of customers for even this diminished number.

So Airbus is on the hunt for new buyers in China and Japan, places where runways are most congested and the need for larger planes is most acute (the firm originally gave the A380 its name because eight is considered lucky in some Asian countries). Chinese airlines have only bought five so far but the hope is they might buy more now that the country’s aviation regulator, a noted super-jumbo skeptic, retired earlier this year. If they are not willing to step up, as Emirates once did, plane-spotters will have even more reason to cherish their sightings of the A380.

(The Economist)

Orange County sues to block flight changes at Wayne Airport

Orange County, concerned that proposed changes in flight paths at its John Wayne Airport could inundate surrounding communities with noise, has joined the city of Newport Beach in suing the Federal Aviation Administration.

The county filed a petition earlier this month in federal court to join the suit that seeks to prevent the FAA from changing the paths of arriving and departing flights, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

The petition argues the proposed changes could lead to a significant increase in jet noise for the areas surrounding the county-owned-and-operated facility.

"We have an absolute duty to speak up for citizens who will be affected by airport noise, and Newport Beach has been so aggressive in doing that. We as a county need to be right alongside it," said county Supervisor Todd Spitzer.

The action was prompted by an environmental impact review the FAA conducted in connection with plans to replace an outdated, ground-based air traffic control system with a GPS-based one at 21 airports, including John Wayne.

The report concluded that changing flight patterns to accommodate the system would cause no significant impact.

But county officials say a consultant hired by the airport to study that review told them it was inadequate, adding he couldn't determine from it what the impact would be.

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said the agency does not comment on pending litigation. However, he added that it focuses on balancing local communities' concerns with the need for advanced air traffic systems.

The county board's vice chair, Michelle Steel, said it's crucial that county residents clearly understand how any changes in flight patterns will affect them.

"Our residents are the ones who live every day with aircraft operating overhead," said Steel, who represents Costa Mesa, Newport Beach and other areas in the path of planes leaving the airport.
(Associated Press)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Mass. lawmakers decry loud JetBlue landings at Logan

Members of Massachusetts’ Congressional delegation are asking JetBlue to retrofit its older aircraft with noise-reducing equipment to make their descent into Logan International Airport less disruptive.

The Nov. 21 letter to JetBlue chief executive Robin Hayes repeated a September request made by Milton’s board of selectmen asking the airline to install “vortex generators” that would reduce a high-pitched whistling sound emanating from aircraft during landing.

“Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa — and most recently, United Airlines — have voluntarily retrofitted, or have developed plans to retrofit, their series A320 aircraft with vortex generators,” the letter stated. “We ask JetBlue to thoroughly evaluate the Milton board of selectmen’s request.”

Philip Stewart, a spokesman for JetBlue, said the airline had received the letter and would respond to the request after a full review.

In recent years, noise complaints from Milton and other communities in the Boston area have surged as a result of a new navigation system deployed by the Federal Aviation Administration that concentrates more planes into narrower flight paths.

The FAA began rolling out the new GPS-based navigation system in 2013, saying it could plot takeoffs and landings at Boston’s Logan Airport more precisely, improving safety and efficiency.

The letter to JetBlue, signed by US senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, and representatives Michael E. Capuano and Stephen F. Lynch, said numerous communities have recently experienced increased airplane noise.

Noise-reducing vortex generators should be considered for JetBlue’s Airbus A320 series aircraft built prior to 2014, the letter said. Retrofitting would involve mounting small air flow detectors on the underwings of aircraft, it said.

In October, also under pressure from federal lawmakers, the FAA and the Massachusetts Port Authority — which operates Logan — said they were creating a task force to investigate flight patterns and noise problems.

Researchers, led by R. John Hansman Jr., a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, are currently studying alternatives for Logan landings. Possibilities include planes flying into Logan at higher altitudes, over the ocean, or in airspace above a major highway.

(Magen Woolhouse - Boston Globe)

Turkey's Pegasus may postpone Boeing deliveries as costs weigh, CEO says

Turkish budget carrier Pegasus Airlines may postpone delivery of three new Boeing aircraft next year, lease some of its current fleet and sell older planes to cut costs after a difficult year for tourism, its chief executive said.

Pegasus, which competes with national carrier Turkish Airlines, has increased passenger numbers more slowly than planned this year as series of bombings, a failed coup in July and tension with Russia deterred tourists. A weak lira currency has driven up fuel costs and other expenses.

"We were going to take delivery of five planes ordered from Boeing next year. Two of them will come but three of them we may take later," Mehmet Nane told Reuters in an interview late on Thursday.

Pegasus initially expected passenger growth of 13-15 percent this year, then cut that target in August to 5-7 percent. Now, Nane said: "Current developments show we will do better than our revisions." He did not elaborate.

The airline has been cutting costs by closing some less popular routes, he said. It is also leasing out two of its aircraft, complete with crew, maintenance and insurance - known in the airline industry as "wet lease".

"If our planes are empty, why not?" Nane said when asked if more lease deals were possible. Pegasus has a fleet of 77 aircraft, which is set to rise to 82 by year-end, not including next year's Boeing deliveries.

Pegasus plans to sell off older, less fuel-efficient planes as new ones arrive, Nane said. He does not expect the fleet to shrink overall.


The number of tourists visiting Turkey slumped 32 percent to 20.3 million people in the first nine months of the year. Relations with Russia, traditionally a major source of tourism, soured after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane over Syria last year.

Rival Turkish Airlines has also been hurt, postponing delivery of a total 39 aircraft from Airbus and Boeing due to arrive between 2018 and 2022.

Ankara has worked to restore relations with Russia and Nane said he was optimistic that 2017 would be a better year. Pegasus was waiting for regulatory approval for 40 new routes and could open them as soon as it gets permission, he said.

"The majority of routes will be international. The new flights will be not just from Istanbul but Ankara, Izmir and Antalya too," he said.


At Boeing’s 777X wing factory, robots get big jobs

Boeing’s latest venture in advanced manufacturing marks a significant step toward a future in which much of an aircraft factory’s work is done by automated machines and robots. Some areas of the Everett facility will have massive machines and just a handful of humans.

As the first 110-footlong wing skin panel for Boeing’s new 777X jet moved slowly across a mammoth new Everett factory building one morning earlier this month, a small crew walked alongside, watching for any possibility of an expensive collision.

The “spotters” escorted the panel’s bright-orange transport platform as it followed invisible tracks embedded in the concrete floor and slid with a tight fit into the big cylindrical autoclave where the part would bake to hardness.

Until the automated system for moving these big wing parts is proved, “we do have four people watching it,” said Darrell Chic, acting director of 777X wing fabrication. “But the intent is to work our way to autonomous and allow the navigation system to do its thing.”

Autonomous. Not needing any humans to guide it.

The 777X Composite Wing Center, Boeing’s latest venture in advanced manufacturing, marks a significant step toward a future in which much of an aircraft factory’s work is done by automated machines and robots.

Once the wing skin was inside the giant pressurized oven, the lone operator at a computer station pushed a button. Lights flashed, a klaxon sounded.

Slowly, a 55-ton, 28-foot-wide circular door slid into place and locked to form an airtight seal for the seven-hour baking cycle.

Eric Lindblad, the newly appointed head of the 777X program, said having machines load the wing parts autonomously is safer and more precise. There isn’t room for error inside the oven: When the long stiffening rods called stringers are baked in the autoclave, they’ll go in six at a time with just 3 inches of clearance between them.

The only necessary human will be the person at the computer.

“There’ll be one guy that essentially runs this station,” Lindblad said.
The trend toward automated manufacturing was evident already at Boeing’s older local plants.

In Frederickson, robots drill 80 percent of the holes in the 787 and 777 tails fabricated there.

In Auburn, robots drill the engine heat shields for the 787 and 777 jets, and will do the same for the 737 MAX. Another robot uses lasers to clean the dies used to shape the heat shields.

In its most productive factory, the 737 final-assembly plant in Renton, Boeing has replaced the traditional multistory fixtures used to hold wings in place during assembly with smaller, flexible, increasingly automated equipment as it ramps up toward an unprecedented output of 52 planes per month by 2018.

Introducing new automation is a challenge: In another new building in Everett, Boeing is struggling to smooth out the kinks in a robotic system for assembling the 777’s metal fuselage.

Still, a new generation of airplanes like the 787 and 777X built with carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic composite structures have triggered a transformative shift taking automation to a new level.

Fabricating complete fuselage barrels or huge wings out of this material is simply not possible by hand. Only robots can lay up the strips of carbon fiber with enough speed and precision.


Production rates

Mark Summers, head of technology at the U.K. government’s Aerospace Technology Institute, said increasing automation will allow Boeing and Airbus to ratchet up production rates without adding employees.

“Jobs will not be lost, but there will not be so many new jobs created,” Summers said during a panel discussion at the Farnborough Air Show in July. “I don’t see it as an impact on the current aerospace workforce. There’s just fewer jobs in aerospace in the future.”

He foresees blue-collar machinist jobs increasingly supplanted by “more technologically focused” positions operating the machines.

However wary machinists may be of what the new technology means for the future, Pete Goldsmith, who led automation-technology projects at local companies Electroimpact and Nova-Tech, and now works for a third, MTorres America, said he got “a universally positive reaction” from mechanics at both Airbus and Boeing when he installed equipment to do repetitive riveting.

“That’s a job that beats you up all day every day,” Goldsmith said. “We were replacing an operation that was physically very debilitating for the mechanics.”

Gary Laws, a Boeing mechanic for more than two decades who operates computer-controlled machines assembling wings in Renton, said automation makes his job much easier.

And if this region wants new work in aerospace, he sees no choice but to embrace the shift.

“It’s the way it has to be,” said Laws. “Technology is obviously going to be the future.”

Today, the current 777’s metal wing parts are made largely by machinists in Auburn and Frederickson, then assembled into a wing by machinists in Everett.

Though Boeing doesn’t provide a detailed breakdown of employment figures, this work certainly provides hundreds of jobs.

With the new 777X, that work changes dramatically. But it does stay here.

Boeing is spending $1 billion to make the giant 777X carbon fiber wing in-house, rather than outsourcing the wing to Mitsubishi as it did on the 787.

Lindblad said that after a production ramp-up that will take a few years, at peak the new wing center will employ somewhere between 600 and 900 people.

Making test parts

The first production 777X parts that will fly on an airplane won’t be made before April. Until then workers in the wing center are making test parts, used to certify and fine-tune the new manufacturing process.

With wing skin No. 1 in the autoclave over on the fabrication side of the wing center, Jerry Schultz operated an Electroimpact machine making wing skin No. 2.

White lab coats are required in this “clean room” environment, where an overhead robot like a giant tape dispenser zips back and forth along a 110-footlong mold, building up the skin panel layer by layer.

As the robottraverses the part at various angles, it lays down plies of epoxy resin-infused carbon fiber in about 300 separately programmed runs.

Between setup, inspections and the robot work, completing a wing skin this way takes six shifts over three days.

The goal is to have just two people operating the cell, Boeing said, with possibly another worker floating between it and an adjacent cell also making wing skins.

Nearby, similar big Electroimpact machines are making the first 777X spars — the long, U-shaped, single-piece beams to whichthe leading and trailing edges of each wing attach.

Again, just three people will operate a pair of these spar manufacturing cells, says Boeing. The spars will then be inspected by robots that use an ultrasonic probe to check for invisible flaws in the material.

An exception to the full automation is the way Boeing is producing four of the 43 stringers, the rods that stiffen each 777X wing. These four are partly made by hand because of their more complex shape.

A half-dozen workers — five of them women, who are often preferred by manufacturers for jobs that require meticulous handwork — stood on each side of a long, thin stringer tool, positioning 4-foot-long ribbons of uncured, textilelike carbon fiber.

When they’d lain out each piece of fabric by hand, an overhead machine swung over and pressed down to secure it for curing.

“For this particular shape … it turns out to be more cost-effective to do it this way,” Lindblad said.

Labor-intensive process

It’s a mistake to think robots can do it all, said Ben Hempstead, chief of staff and lead mechanical engineer at aerospace-tooling designer Electroimpact.

After these 777X skin panels, spars and stringers are fabricated in the wing center, Boeing will deliver them to the main Everett factory building where mechanics will first assemble the pieces into a basic wing box, then add the folding wingtip and the leading- and trailing-edge control surfaces.

That assembly process is inherently more labor-intensive.

“With wing-box assembly, if in the future it’s half-automated, that’ll blow my mind,” said Hempstead, whose company supplies Boeing and also provided much of the equipment Airbus to build the composite wing of the A350.

“Many of the steps require skill and judgment and are very hard to automate,” he said.

Hempstead said Boeing asked Electroimpact to look at automating one specific 737 wing process in Renton that’s done today by about a dozen mechanics.

“We couldn’t figure out how to do it faster with machines,” Hempstead said.

And don’t even think about robots doing intricate jobs like installing hydraulic tubes and electrical wiring in the crowded space of an airplane wheel well.

“Oh, man, nobody has even talked about automating that,” Hempstead said. “I can’t even envision how you’d do it.” 

Leading automation firms

After World War II, Boeing gave Washington state a thriving middle class, allowing blue-collar workers — some with only a high-school education — to live the American dream.

As robots revolutionize the industry, the region has become a hotbed of leading aerospace-automation firms — including Electroimpact, Nova-Tech and MTorres America as well as Janicki Industries in Sedro-Woolley — that are hiring young engineers as fast as they can.

But is a golden age of manual labor ending with Boeing’s automation drive?

In 2005, almost 3,500 machinists in Renton produced 21 single-aisle 737s per month, according to employment data filed with the state.

In 2014, just over 6,000 machinists there produced exactly twice as many.

While production rose 100 percent, employment of machinists rose 75 percent.

As robotic systems and the automated processing of carbon fiber proliferates, that gap is certain to widen.

While Boeing employed more than 100,000 in Washington state in the late 1990s, it seems unlikely those days are ever coming back. Its payroll here is down to about 73,000 today.

Yet that’s still a big workforce, crucially important to the economy. And well-paid manual jobs remain a vital thread in the social fabric of the state.

“We can’t all be baristas and software engineers,” said Electroimpact’s Hempstead.

At the industry discussion of automation in Farnborough, Craig Turnbull, director of engineering at Electroimpact U.K. who oversees the company’s work at the Airbus wing plant in Broughton, Wales, emphasized that “there is a point where man and machine have to meet.”

Even in a highly robotized auto plant, he said, the car radio is installed by a mechanic. It’s too difficult for a robot.

And when it comes to hiring an operator for this new equipment, he suggested looking to machinists.

“The best person to operate a machine that drills holes is someone who has done it for 20 years by hand,” Turnbull said. “They know what they are looking for. They are then becoming more of a quality-control person than actually pushing the drill through a hole.”

To prepare the next generation of factory workers for such jobs, the state is pushing STEM education (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and providing community-college-level training for hands-on careers.

Becoming a machine operator will probably require a two-year associate degree with course work on the basics of electromechanics.

“These are some of the highest skilled and best compensated jobs in the factory,” Hempstead said.

John Janicki, president of Janicki Industries, sees the drive toward more automation speeding up, “driven by the need to get the price down.”

Though expensive to install, he said, robotic systems should allow plane makers to sell more jets over a production run that can last more than 20 years.

“If you amortize all the equipment over the life of the program, it’s not that big a deal,” Janicki said.

His firm — currently employing about 750 people in the state and expanding — still regularly hires local people straight out of high school and trains them to operate its sophisticated machines.

And he points to a big upside for the Pacific Northwest in having the 777X wing center: After investing so heavily, Boeing needs to use it to the fullest.

“It’s absolute state of the art. It’s not going anywhere,” said Janicki. “You have all that equipment and the personnel trained to use it. It’ll build 777s, yes. But 50 years from now, they’ll still be building something in that plant.”

(Dominic Gates - The Seattle Times)

Delta pilots oppose larger regional aircraft, in blow to Embraer -sources

Delta Air Lines Inc pilots are expected to keep existing rules in their new labor contract that prevent the U.S. No. 2 carrier from flying aircraft above a certain weight on regional routes, in a blow to Embraer SA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd , whose latest models exceed that limit.

The pilots' new labor contract will keep what is known as a "scope clause," which restricts planes heavier than 86,000 pounds and with more than 76 seats from being flown on regional routes, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Voting results on the new contract are expected on Dec. 1.

The clause effectively protects well-paid pilot jobs at major airlines, as it prevents the carrier from using bigger planes on outsourced regional routes, which generally pay less well and have inferior working conditions.

When planemakers such as Brazil's Embraer and Japan's Mitsubishi designed their latest regional jets, with heavier but more fuel-efficient engines, they expected the scope clause to have loosened, but unions have managed to hold on to it.

Delta's vote will follow similar decisions by unions at American Airlines Group Inc and United Continental Holdings Inc earlier this year and in 2015.

Pilots' opposition to relaxing scope clauses is a problem for Embraer's E175-E2 regional aircraft that is to be delivered in 2020, and Mitsubishi's MRJ90 jet, slated for delivery in mid-2018, which both exceed the weight limit.

UBS downgraded Embraer to a 'sell' rating this week after it resumed coverage, citing risks from the scope clause pushback at American, Delta and United. Analyst Darryl Genovesi said it was unlikely the carriers would fly the E2 on only mainline routes, due to higher costs.

"This puts the viability of the E175-E2 at risk since most of the demand for it originates at those three airlines," Genovesi wrote in a note to clients.


Regional carrier SkyWest Inc, which operates flights for Delta, among others, is the launch customer for the E175-E2, with 100 firm orders.

Embraer spokesman Nicolas Morell Gonzalez said its existing E-175 dominates the 70-seat market where it holds 84 percent of market share and the Brazilian planemaker would continue to sell that jet past 2020 if scope clauses do not change.

However, he said, "Embraer believes scope clauses will eventually be relaxed in the future as fuel prices increase and airlines look for more efficient products."

A Mitsubishi spokesman was not available for comment, outside normal business hours in Japan.

In September, the company said it is working with customers to address weight issues for the MRJ90, which is about 600 kilograms (1323 lbs) too heavy.

U.S. pilot unions have taken an increasingly hard line on higher salary demands and are making fewer concessions to U.S. carriers.

Their current stance against changing scope clauses could, however, be a boon for Embraer's Canadian rival Bombardier Inc , which sees it as an opportunity to boost sales of its CRJ-900, which fits current weight limits, one of the sources said.

Mesa Air Group Inc Chief Executive Jonathan Ornstein said he will not purchase new planes that do not comply with existing scope clauses as he does not believe the current limits will be changed in the near future.

Instead, the Arizona-based regional carrier will buy more current generation E-175s, along with additional CRJ900s to replace 38 regional jets being phased out over the next four years.

"I don't think there's any chance the pilots will change their weight requirements. Zero," Ornstein said.

(Allison Lampert - Reuters / Yahoo Business News)

An airline pilot reveals why a plane Boeing discarded 12 years ago is the one they desperately need

Twelve years after Boeing discontinued the 757, the long-time 'tweener in the company's lineup is still popular among U.S. airlines.

American, Delta, and United all operate large fleets of the airplane.

Even though the Renton, Washington-based plane maker booked more than 1,000 orders for the jets over its two decades in production, it was never a hot seller.

By the early 2000's, sales of the 757 had all but dried up, and Boeing put the plane out to pasture in 2004.

Although many of the planes are pushing 25 years of service, airlines are hanging onto their 757s. For instance, Delta, who has spent big bucks on a fleet of new jets, recently refurbished the cabins of its aging 757s instead of replacing them with newer planes.

So why are its customer's so loyal? Is the 757 that good? To get some answers, Business Insider recently spoke with author and Boeing 757 pilot Patrick Smith about the plane.

"There's no denying the 757 is an old plane that was designed in the late 1970s, but the versatility of the plane is remarkable and unmatched," Smith, the author of the book Cockpit Confidential, told Business Insider in an interview."It's profitable on both short-haul domestic as well as trans-Atlantic routes."

 Delta Boeing 757
(REUTERS - Tami Chappell) 

During it's production life, the 757 was always a bit of an oddity — a 'tweener of sorts. It's larger and offers greater range than the average narrow body jet, but smaller and cheaper to operate than a wide-body. Boeing and its customers, for many years, didn't quite know how to take full advantage of the plane's capabilities. However, when they did figure it out, it became an integral part of the operators' fleets.

Boeing is currently marketing a new stretched variant of its long-serving 737 — called the MAX 9 — as a potential replacement for the 757. Now, there's talk that Boeing may make the 737 even larger to get closer to the 757's capacity.

"Boeing is trying to push the 737 as a viable 757 replacement," Smith said, "In some respects it can and in some respects it can't."

For instance, the 737 simply isn't capable of the same kind of engine performance as the 757.

According to Smith, the 737 falls way short of the 757 in terms of runway performance. The 737 requires a much higher takeoff speed and much more runway to get off the ground.

"The 757 can be off the ground in 4,000 ft. and under 140 knots," he told us. However, Smith recounts being in the cockpit jump seat of a 737 as two other pilots were flying. During takeoff, the author noticed that the plane didn't lift off until 160 knots and used up much more runway.

Furthermore, the 757 can comfortably climb straight to its cruising altitude. On the other hand, the 737 requires a step climb procedure that calls for the plane to climb to a certain altitude and burn off some fuel to lighten the load before climbing to a higher altitude.

Runway performance matters. Especially when it comes to the type of flying the 757 and the 737 are asked to perform — trans-continental or oceanic flights with a full payload from smaller secondary airports.

Boeing 737 MAX 9

"The 737 falls short when you're trying fly it longer haul, coast to coast. It can do it, but not by much," Smith said. In addition, when it comes to flying across the Atlantic, "there's concern in the winter, when there are ferocious head winds, the 737 may need to stop for fuel."

The reality is that Smith believes the Boeing 737 is a good plane, but is being asked to take on a mission the design wasn't meant to perform.

"The Boeing 737 was essentially conceived as a small regional jet nearly five decades ago," Smith told us. "It's an extremely popular plane, but it's being asked to perform missions it wasn't designed for."

As a result, Boeing is simply not in a position to bolt bigger engines onto the 737. Since its introduction in the 1960s, Boeing has been installing larger and larger engines on the 737 as the size of the plane grew. Unfortunately, the amount of room underneath the wing hasn't changed. Thus, Boeing has all but maxed out on the size of the engines it can mount on the 737 without completely redesigning the plane's under carriage.

Instead of a stretched 737, Smith believes Boeing should have gone for an updated version of the 757 at some point during its production run.

"Somewhere along the way, had Being just re-engined the 757 with a new cockpit and new internal systems, it could have been a big hit," Smith told us.

In a statement to Business Insider, a Boeing spokesperson wrote:

"The 737 MAX will extend the Next-Generation 737 range advantage with the capability to fly more than 3,500 nautical miles. That’s an increase of 340-570 miles over the 737NG which gives our customers the flexibility to open up new markets."

Icelandair Boeing 757
(Flickr - Eric Salard)

With that said, the 757 isn't a perfect plane.

"It's a 6-across (seating) narrow body that's long and thin," Smith said. "And for passengers, it can take a long time to board and disembark."

In addition, the 757's cockpit is pretty old-fashioned when compared to modern airliners such as the 737 MAX. The controls of the 757 are also much heavier for pilots than its sibling — the Boeing 767. The 757 and 767 were developed at the same time and feature virtually identical cockpits.

Finally, the Boeing 757 generates a massive amount of wake turbulence as it flies — forcing air traffic controllers to keep other planes far away from passing 757s.

"No one really knows why, but the 757 has really strong wake turbulence," Smith told us. "The early 757s had worse wake turbulence than the 747."

Although Smith added that the addition of winglets on later 757s have greatly decreased the wake turbulence. The Boeing 757 is an aircraft that's come and gone. It served its tour of duty with honor and distinction. Now, it's time for Boeing to find a replacement worthy of stepping into its shoes.

(Benjamin Zhang - Business Insider / Yahoo Business News)

Friday, November 25, 2016

Lockheed Lands $1.2 Billion F-16 Contract

Lockheed Martin calls the F-16 Falcon, in its F-16V configuration, "the most technologically advanced 4th generation fighter in the world." (Image - Lockheed Martin)

Three years ago, Lockheed Martin suffered a setback -- but Lockheed is back, baby!

From 1994 to 2004, the Republic of Korea paid $5.5 billion to Lockheed Martin to build 134 KF-16C/D fighter jets under license from the American defense contractor. Nearly a decade later, however, as those fighter jets were beginning to show their age, Korea hired not Lockheed, but its British rival BAE Systems to upgrade the jets to a new KF-16V (for "Viper") configuration, featuring advanced Active Electronically Scanned Array radar systems, modernized avionics, a new high-resolution display, and greater data transfer speeds for communication.

That upgrade contract was supposed to be worth $1.7 billion in sales to BAE, but it didn't take long for prices to begin spiraling out of control. Last week, this situation resulted in an upset for Lockheed Martin, when the U.S. Pentagon announced that Korea has chosen to take the F-16 contract away from BAE, and give the remainder of the work back to Lockheed Martin.

It's not 100% clear how much of BAE's original $1.7 billion contract it was able to bill before losing the business to Lockheed Martin. Certainly not all of it, because in its contract announcement, the Pentagon confirmed that Lockheed will receive $1.2 billion for its share of the upgrade work. So what does this mean to Lockheed?

$1.2 billion is equal to about 2.4% of the business that Lockheed Martin does in a year, and this money will flow into Lockheed's aeronautics business, which earns 10.7% operating profit margins -- implying profits from the contract could total $128 million or more.

In this particular instance, however, the $1.2 billion will be spread out over the course of the nine years it will take to complete upgrades on Korea's air force. Thus, this contract win, while sizable on the surface, actually works out to only about $133 million in extra incremental revenue for Lockheed, adding only roughly $14.2 million to Lockheed's annual profits -- or $0.05 per share.

(Rich Smith - The Motley Fool)

Gulfstream Continues Sonic-boom Mitigation Research

Gulfstream's most prominent research in sonic boom mitigation for an aircraft is its Quiet Spike, a telescoping nose meant to reduce or possibly eliminate the boom that is has previously tested on a NASA F-15. In the past two months alone, it has logged two new patents for sonic-boom mitigation technologies: one for an inlet design and another for twisting wings via fuel shifting. 
(Photo: NASA)

Gulfstream Aerospace continues to pursue technologies that would enable building a supersonic business jet (SSBJ). The company has logged two new patents for sonic-boom mitigation technologies in the past two months alone. Queried about the new patents, a company spokeswoman told AIN, “Gulfstream has a small team committed to researching sonic-boom mitigation. We also continue to work to remove the ban on flying supersonically over land.”

The Savannah, Georgia-based aircraft manufacturer’s most prominent research in this field is its Quiet Spike, a telescoping nose meant to greatly reduce or possibly eliminate the sonic boom. It has previously tested the Quiet Spike on a NASA F-15.

The company, however, previously noted that the engine inlet is also a major factor in reducing sonic boom noise. On this note, Gulfstream received a patent on November 1 for a “sentropic compression inlet for supersonic aircraft,” which shapes “the compression surface of the inlet to defocus the resulting shocklets away from the cowl lip.” This improves inlet and interference drag characteristics, according to the patent.

Gulfstream has also developed a way to shift fuel loads to mitigate the sonic boom. In a patent issued on September 20, its engineers outline a computerized fuel redistribution system “to adjust an amount of fuel stored within a wing to minimize a twist in the wing caused by the [weight] deviation.” Such redistribution will reduce the magnitude of the sonic boom caused by the deviation, the patent notes.

(Chad Trautvetter - AINOnline News)