Monday, September 15, 2014

United Airlines offers $100,000 buyout to flight attendants

United Airlines and union officials said Monday that eligible flight attendants will be paid up to $100,000 to leave the company through a voluntary buyout, in a deal that aims to end furloughs at the over-staffed airline.

The agreement comes six years after United, which employs more than 23,000 stewards, retired a number of its planes, leaving the company 2,000-plus flight attendants above capacity.

While some 1,450 were still on unpaid leave for the company this month, United said Monday that it now is recalling all of its attendants so they may apply for the separation payment or return to work.

The Association of Flight Attendants, which represents United's stewards, lauded the high-paying severance as "virtually unprecedented in the airline industry."

United's cooperation with AFA bodes well for contract negotiations that have been going on since the carrier merged with Continental Airlines in 2010. The relative seniority of each carrier's flight attendants has yet to be determined, and despite a single operating certificate, United and Continental stewards have not yet integrated.

"Recalling furloughed flight attendants and aligning our staffing to match our flying schedule will further facilitate the company and AFA reaching a joint collective bargaining agreement," said Mike Bonds, United's executive vice president for human resources and labor relations, in a statement. "It's another positive step in what has become a productive relationship with AFA."

The deal also has the potential to cut United's costs if the carrier replaces senior flight attendants who accept the severance with junior ones hired at a lower pay grade, according to industry consultant George Hamlin.

Still, Hamlin offered a word of caution.

"Why did it take so long to get to this?" he said, adding that United and Continental "still have to come up with a way to deploy all (of their) flight attendants as one entity."

The airline has made separate collective bargaining agreements with its pilots, fleet service and passenger service groups.

United's stock fell almost 1.7 percent Monday to close at $49.56 per share. The announcement came out after the close of New York trading.

(Jeffrey Dastin - Reuters)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Will Southwest Airlines look north to Canada?

Southwest Airlines has been a changing carrier in recent years. It has resisted the urge to bilk its customers with endless fees, it has acquired AirTran, it has started flying outside of the continental United States and it has started to run into performance issues that historically were not the norm. Now a new issue may lie ahead: Southwest may look to start flying into Canada.
Southwest’s desire to expand is far from a secret. You might not be flying Southwest to Paris or Hong Kong any time soon, but flying into Toronto, Montreal, Calgary or Vancouver could be in the works.

A report in the Globe and Mail outlines some of the issues that make Canada a potential destination for Southwest. One issue to consider is that Southwest could bring in more competition to a market that is fairly expensive to fly into relative to U.S. destinations.

Another issue to consider is that Canada could push back if it wants to protect its carrier network. Air Canada’s woes of the past could become an issue again if a more stable and powerful competitor like Southwest came in and shook things up (Air Canada went into bankruptcy in 2003).

Southwest is still growing revenues, but its model has started to look a bit more like many of the legacy carriers now that it has acquired AirTran. Revenue growth is expected to almost 5% in 2014 and to be more than 5% in 2015 as its efforts into Mexico and the Caribbean become more realized. Can Canada bring that next leg of near-domestic growth? Perhaps.

The thought of entering Canada is not an entirely new one for Southwest. What is different this time in that Globe and Mail article that has differed from articles in the past is that management seemed to indicate that it may be closer to a “when” rather than “if.”

At $32.91, Southwest shares have traded in a 52-week range of $13.69 to $33.44. Its market cap is $22.5 billion, and the stock trades at close to 15.5 times expected 2015 earnings per share.

(Jon C. Ogg - 24/7 Wall St.)

Canadian carrier Westjet moving forward with trans-Atlantic and cross-border expansion plans

WestJet 737-7CT (33970/1556) C-GCWJ arrives at Las Vegas - McCarran International (LAS/KLAS) on December 15, 2011.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Calgary-based Westjet is using its daily, seasonal flights from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Dublin, Ireland as a testing ground for future European expansion, airline CFO Vito Culmone told analysts at the Cowen and Co. Global Transportation & Aerospace/Defense Conference in Boston.
                                                                       
The service, which uses a Boeing 737-700, comes ahead of WestJet’s plans to acquire four used Boeing 767-300ERs and deploy them to Hawaii in late 2015.

Dublin was chosen as a destination for two reasons—it is in the 737’s range and allows customers the option of buying an onward European ticket on various low-cost airlines. 

“This gradual entrance into the market will provide us with the opportunity to get comfortable with the requirements for operations, government relations, sales and distribution, currencies, taxes and many more items as we move further abroad,” Culmone said. “We plan to consider slowly adding European destinations as we become more comfortable with the market.”
 
Westjet owns 36% of the domestic Canadian market share, but it seems to have pivoted to a more international strategy in the past year. In addition to considering trans-Atlantic expansion, it is also growing in the trans-border market—and for good reason.

In a recent presentation, analyst Mike Boyd of Group International predicted transborder traffic would grow from about 25 million passengers this year to roughly 32 million by 2023.

“Transborder has the leisure and business component,” Culmone said. “[New York] LaGuardia is performing very well for us—better than it was at the start. We continue to see opportunities going forward. It is a competitive space, particularly the sun leisure space.” 

Air Canada Rouge is the obvious competitor, but Culmone named Sunwing Airlines, a 12-aircraft Canadian charter and scheduled carrier, as a legitimate challenger. This week, Sunwing announced new weekly service between Toronto and Cozumel, Mexico. 

Separately, Culmone said WestJet is on track with its previously announced agreement to sell 10 737-700s to Southwest Airlines, a deal announced in May 2013. WestJet will transfer one aircraft to Southwest this month, four in the fourth quarter, and five in the first quarter of next year.

Concurrently, WestJet will take delivery of 10 737-800s from Boeing.

(Brian Sumers - ATWOnline News)

Bags will continue to "Fly Free" at Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly
Courtesy, Southwest
 
Southwest Airlines—which this week revealed a new logo and brand overhaul—is committed to keeping fares low. But in order to do so it must cut costs, with the bulk of those cost savings coming out of labor, CEO Gary Kelly says.

                       About one-third of the carrier’s costs are for fuel, one-third is for labor, and one-third for “everything else.” The airline can do little about the cost of fuel, but labor costs are the variable it can control. “We need to execute against our people cost.”  However, how Southwest plans to do that remains unclear, except Kelly said that “our people understand this.”
 
Southwest’s costs are about 35% lower than those of the legacy carriers, although this is historically high for Southwest, Kelly said.
 
Kelly noted that Southwest, unlike virtually all of its competitors, has not sought to manage costs via bankruptcy protection, nor has it had a single layoff or pay cut in its 43-year history. “We have no intention of doing that,” he said.
 
“Our current cost performance is quite good,” he said. The carrier will continue to operate the remaining AirTran Airways Boeing 717s until the end of the year, when the integration of AirTran is completed. All 88 717s eventually will go to Delta Air Lines. Of those, 43 have been modified to Delta’s specifications, while 45 are being pulled from service by year end and parked. These will be modified over the course of next year, with the aim of delivering the remaining 717s by the third quarter of 2015. “The 717 is a cost-inefficient aircraft for us,” Kelly said.
 
The last decade has been “very difficult” for Southwest, Kelly said. The carrier battled both the economic slump in 2008 and the spike in fuel prices. This led to a period of contraction, during which Southwest eliminated almost 150 routes, but recent years have seen the airline restore about as many routes, although not all service has been restored.
 
Now, Kelly forecasts Southwest to add 3% in capacity in 2015. By 2017, Southwest will be poised to start adding to its fleet, which has remained stable at just under 700 aircraft for several years, he said.
 
Turning to one revenue item that could offset rising costs, Kelly was adamant. The carrier will not be charging fees for checked baggage anytime soon. Kelly estimates that Southwest earns $1 billion in extra revenue from passengers choosing it over carriers that charge baggage fees, which is roughly equivalent to the amount it is leaving on the table by not charging those fees.
 
To skeptics who suggest the carrier is eschewing revenue for no reason, Kelly was blunt. “We are churning out 17% return on invested capital” without having to resort to baggage fees, he said. “Our customers love us for not charging for bags and they hate bag fees.”
 
(Madhu Unnikrishnan - ATWOnline News)

UPS crew to blame for Birmingham crash

 A UPS cargo plane crashed near a Birmingham, Alabama, airport on August 14, 2013.
A UPS cargo plane crashed near a Birmingham, Alabama, airport on August 14, 2013.

Federal accident investigators Tuesday pinned blame for a 2013 UPS cargo plane crash in Alabama squarely on the pilots, but some members saved caustic criticism for UPS, saying the company could have taken steps to prevent the deadly crash.
 
"Yes, the pilots flew the airplane into the ground, there's no question," said National Transportation Safety Board member Robert Sumwalt, a former airline pilot.
 
Though the NTSB did not blame UPS in its formal report, Sumwalt pointedly told cargo company representatives: "You have got problems. Get them cleaned up."
 
In a three-hour meeting in Washington, the NTSB cited a litany of errors the pilots made: The captain failed to correctly program an aircraft computer, failed to monitor the plane's altitude, didn't relay important information to his co-pilot, and failed to abort the landing when it became apparent the plane was in trouble.
 
The first officer, meanwhile, failed to communicate altitudes to the pilot as the plane approached Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport. In a conversation captured on the plane's cockpit voice recorder, the co-pilot also confessed to being fatigued, evidently after failing to use her off-duty time to get appropriate rest.

Both pilots died in the pre-dawn incident August 13, 2013, when the Airbus A300-600 crashed a short distance from the Birmingham runway.
 
But Sumwalt said UPS also failed to take actions that could have prevented the crash.
 
The global delivery company did not update software on a ground proximity warning system, which could have given the crew an earlier indication they were too close to the ground, he said.
 
If UPS officials had an iPhone, "I guarantee they would keep their software up to date," yet they failed to update software on a plane carrying two of its employees, he said.
 
A UPS official called Sumwalt's claim "the speculative opinion of one member," saying the company's software met FAA standards, and that there is no evidence the upgrade would have prevented the accident.
 
"Based on the rate of descent of this particular aircraft, it would be impossible to determine whether a software upgrade would have made a difference," Capt. Houston Mills, UPS director of airline safety, told CNN. He noted that the NTSB does not cite the software in its official finding.
 
Sumwalt said the cargo carrier also did not provide all of the available weather information to the pilots. As a result, the pilots likely expected to see the airport after descending below clouds at 1,000 feet, but didn't clear the clouds until 350 feet.
 
"Everything UPS does is about efficiency. They have guys running around with clipboards and stopwatches to make sure if an airplane is a minute late, someone will be held accountable for it. But the sad thing here -- this (technology) could have possibly prevented this accident."
 
"If you're interested in efficiency, I can guarantee you on August 14 of last year, those packages on the airplanes did not get delivered by 10:30 in the morning," Sumwalt said.
 
UPS' Mills acknowleged that known information about the cloud ceiling was not relayed to the pilots. But, he said, the pilots had been given a forecast that included a variable cloud ceiling, giving the pilots enough to plan and execute their approach.
 
NTSB: No distress call prior to UPS cargo plane crash in Alabama
 
The board said the captain did not have a stabilized approach -- meaning the plane's speed, direction and descent were not within established standards -- in the final minutes. It was the same problem that led to the 2013 crash of an Asiana jetliner in San Francisco.
 
"An unstabilized approach is a less safe approach," said NTSB Acting Chairman Christopher A. Hart. "When an approach is unstable, there is no shame in playing it safe by going around and trying again."
 
The U.S. aviation industry has closely watched the UPS crash investigation largely because it highlights different FAA standards for commercial and cargo aircraft. In January of this year, the FAA required additional rest hours for commercial pilots, but it exempted cargo pilots.
 
Cargo pilots say rest rules should be uniform, regardless of the type of aircraft flown.
 
Wednesday, the NTSB concluded the pilots of Flight 1354 had been given an adequate opportunity to rest, even under the rule that applies to commercial pilots. The rule did not make a difference in this case, the board said.
 
UPS pilots complained of fatigue before fatal crash
 
Asked if the UPS culture encourages pilots to call in fatigued when they are tired, 91% "strongly disagreed" or "somewhat disagreed," according to a survey conducted in March by the Independent Pilots Association, a union that represents UPS pilots.
 
"You probably have some bias in here as it was issued by a (union)," Sumwalt said. "But when you have 2,202 people responding to that, they are trying to tell you something."
 
UPS spokesman Malcolm Berkley said the union was "politicizing" the investigation in an effort to change pilot work hours. UPS pilots typically work 70 hours a month -- 30 in the air, Berkley said, less than the 55 hours the typical commercial pilot flies.
 
The safety board approved more than 20 recommendations, including one that board member Mark Rosekind called "ground-breaking" that would require warnings about flying fatigued during pre-flight briefings on overnight flights.
 
(Mike M. Ahlers -CNN)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Garuda Indonesia returns to London-Gatwick

Garuda Indonesia 777-3U3(ER) (29148/1203) PK-GIF arrives at London-Gatwick (LGW/EGKK) on its inaugural flight, September 8, 2014.
(Photo by James Mepsted) 

Garuda Indonesia has re-launched services between Jakarta and London Gatwick and is aiming to boost frequencies to daily by next summer.

The new 5X-weekly route, which launched Sept. 8, will operate as an onward service from Amsterdam. It will be served by a Garuda Boeing 777-300ER, configured with 314 seats in a three-class layout.
                                                                       
“We hope by next summer we will be able to offer daily, nonstop flights,” Garuda Indonesia UK GM Jubi Prasetyo told ATW during an event at London’s Gatwick Airport to mark the route launch. “If we get a good response, we will launch other European destinations.”

London is the second European city on Garuda’s network, joining its Amsterdam service which started in May. The opening of the London link was delayed because of slot constraint issues at Gatwick, but Prasetyo is confident a daily service will be possible.

Gatwick has a maximum capacity of around 45 million passengers per year and it is expecting to handle 38 million passengers in 2014, up from 36.4 million last year.

(Photo by Robbie Shaw)

“We do have capacity left,” London Gatwick CCO Guy Stephenson told ATW, although this is primarily at nonpeak times. “The good thing about airlines coming from places like Indonesia is that they can operate outside peak hours. You mentioned the delay in flights because of the shortage of capacity; if it had gone nonstop, the arrival time wouldn’t be that constrained.”

Indonesia is a rapidly emerging country, projected to be fifth largest economy in the world by 2030. Likewise, air traffic to the country is expected to grow from 105 million in 2010 to more than 358 million by 2025—averaging 8.5% annual growth.

“This route will undoubtedly help increase trade through cargo and tourist numbers,” Indonesian Ambassador to the UK, T.M. Hamzah Thayeb, said at the launch ceremony. In 2012, Indonesia and the UK committed to double trade to £4.4 billion ($7.2 billion) by 2015.

The new route forms part of Garuda’s Quantum Leap 2011-2015 program, a restructuring plan that paved the way for the airline’s SkyTeam membership in May 2014. Garuda serves 60 domestic and international destinations. It currently operates a fleet of 140 aircraft, which it is aiming to grow to 194 by 2015.

(Victoria Moores - ATWOline News)

Ryanair launches the high-density 737-800 "MAX 200"

Irish budget carrier Ryanair is ordering up to 200 Boeing 737 Max aircraft, which will be configured with a higher-density seat layout unveiled by the airframer earlier this year.

Ryanair is ordering 100 firm aircraft and placing options on another 100, the carrier says. The jets will be fitted with 197 seats.

The airline will take delivery of the jets – branded as the ‘Max 200’ – from 2019 to 2024.

asset image
(Ryanair)

All 737 Max variants are powered by CFM International Leap-1B engines.

Ryanair had already disclosed it was holding talks over a possible Max agreement, following its order for 175 Boeing 737-800s last year.

The 737-800 has a maximum capacity of 189 seats and Ryanair had expressed strong interest in a 200-seat version of the re-engined Max 8.

Boeing revealed during the Farnborough air show in July that it would offer such an aircraft, through modifications to the exit-door arrangement.

(David Kaminski-Morrow - Flight Global News)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Southwest Airlines new livery unveiled

 
Southwest 737-8H4 (42525/5022) N8642E "Heart One" at Dallas-Love Field (DAL/KDAL) September 8, 2014.
(Photo by Keith Laing)
Southwest Airlines unveiled a new color scheme for its airplanes on Monday, previewing an appearance change for only the third time in its history.

Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said the new design, which the airline has labeled "Heart," reflects its strength as its nears conclusion of a merger with AirTran Airways that has been in the works since 2010.

“Our collective heartbeat is stronger and healthier than ever, and that’s because of the warmth, the compassion, and the smiles of our People,” Kelly said in a statement. “The Heart emblazoned on our aircraft, and within our new look, symbolizes our commitment that we’ll remain true to our core values as we set our sights on the future.”

Southwest has said that it will complete its merger with AirTran Airways in December.  The airline last changed the appearance of its planes in 2001

Kelly said Monday the completion of AirTran's integration into the new company was a fitting occasion for a redesign.

“With all these exciting changes happening, we thought it was time for a new visual expression of our brand—one that marries our past to our present and sets the course for where we’re headed in the future,” he said.

(The Hill)

Friday, September 5, 2014

American Airlines A321-231 N586UW

American Airlines A321-231 (c/n 6230) N586UW is captured just having pushed from Gate 15 at John Wayne Orange County Airport (SNA/KSNA) bound for Phoenix (PHX/KPHX) this morning, September 5, 2014.
 
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Could this be the new Southwest livery?

Comming to a FLL, MCO, JAX and TPA runway near you.

I for one sure would like to see this be our new livery! WOW is all I can say!

Michael Carter
APF Editor

Plane enthusiasts allege harassment in Connecticut

A group of aviation enthusiasts says it has been harassed by Connecticut airport officials for taking part in a well-established hobby that includes photographing planes and recording tail numbers.

Group spokesman Dennis Michaud, 63, of Wethersfield, said Thursday that the plane spotters went to the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut to complain after repeatedly being thrown off Bradley International Airport property and told by police their activities are illegal.

There have been heightened restrictions on airport access since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but Michaud said aircraft aficionados are doing nothing illegal.
     
He said the harassment began about two years ago, which is around the time the Connecticut Airport Authority took control of Bradley from the Department of Transportation.

Since then, he said, authorities have been getting increasingly more aggressive.

"They say, 'Get out of here, you're not supposed to be photographing airplanes,' and it got worse and worse and worse to the point where we were basically not allowed anywhere at the airport," he said.

The Connecticut Airport Authority responded to an ACLU inquiry this week with a letter that says the hobbyists can photograph in any public area of the airport.

"That is a well-established Constitutional right," said David McGuire, a lawyer for the ACLU of Connecticut. "We're happy they recognized that."

The airport authority's executive director, Kevin Dillon, said the letter does not represent any change in policy. He said the spotters still will not be allowed in restricted areas because of liability and public safety concerns.

"At one point, staff here tried to accommodate them even in non-publicly accessible areas if they called in advance," he said. "This particular group did not want to do that."

The airport's perimeter road is public, but there is no parking along it, and people are not allowed to stop at the fence, he said.

Michaud said spotters, who typically carry cameras with large lenses, are being treated differently than people who jog along the perimeter road or walk there with their children or pets to watch the planes take off.

Trooper Kelly Grant, a Connecticut State Police spokeswoman, said officers ask the spotters to move when they receive calls from citizens reporting suspicious activity.

"Part of the problem with that is that we have other stuff going on also, and then we have to pull a trooper away" from more pressing matters, Grant said.

Michaud said many spotters are pilots. Others just enjoy looking at planes or sharing photos of planes with unique paint jobs. Many U.S. airports have designated areas for spotters; some have even built observation decks for them.

Dillon said they have told the spotters they are more than welcome at the airport's cellphone lot, where drivers wait for arriving passengers.

But Michaud said that lot has poor sight lines, and would not allow them to get good photos.

"What they don't realize is that we could be their best friends," Michaud said. "I know every inch of this airport and we are the ones who would actually notice if something was amiss."  
(Pat Eaton-Robb - Associated Press)

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/09/04/4327741/plane-enthusiasts-allege-harassment.html#storylink=cpy

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Wide-body MRO work slowly returning stateside says AAR

Demand in the USA for MRO work on widebody aircraft is on the rise as airlines increasingly chose to have such work completed stateside, according to MRO service provider AAR.

The company tells Flightglobal that a facility it plans to open in Rockford, Illinois, is being designed specifically to accommodate newer widebody types like Boeing 787s and 777s, and competing products from Airbus.

“The focus will be on next-generation widebody aircraft,” the Wood Dale, Illinois-based company tells Flightglobal.

AAR, which announced plans for the new 200,000ft2 facility in August, says it expects to break ground this year and complete the site in spring 2016.

The facility will include two 90,000ft2 hangers.

Until recently, AAR says, US carriers often favoured having such widebody MRO work done overseas, typically in countries in Asia and South America.

But airlines are now bringing MRO work back to the USA, due partly to the increasing complexity of the newest aircraft and to rising overseas labor rates, according to the company.

“We see that [trend] only continuing,” says AAR, noting that its facilities in Indianapolis and Lake Charles (Louisiana) are already seeing more widebody work.

“We know the market is out there,” AAR insists.

It will be at the Chicago Rockford International airport about 145km (90 miles) west of Chicago O’Hare International airport — a central-US location that the company says should make it convenient for customers.

AAR does not intend the site to siphon work from its other facilities.

Rather, AAR expects work from new widebody customers will keep the Rockford site busy.

The company says it does not have any new customers lined up yet, but that the site “is gaining visibility with potential customers.”

Like AAR’s other sites, the Rockford location will provide a range of services, including scheduled and unscheduled maintenance and modification work and interior modifications.

“As these new airliners accumulate more miles, we will do more [work] as necessary,” says AAR.

asset image
AAR rendering of its Rockford (Illinois) MRO site, scheduled to open in Spring 2016

The Rockford location is being developed by AAR in partnership with the state of Illinois, which has agreed to invest $15 million in construction and $600,000 in employee training.

One benefit of the Rockford site, AAR says, is that it will be designed from scratch for the newest widebody types.

“[It] is nice to be involved with the design from the beginning, to make sure everything is state-of- the-art and meets our needs,” says AAR.

By comparison, many of AAR’s six other MRO sites were already operational when AAR acquired them.

For instance, Northwest Airlines previously operated AAR’s Duluth (Minnesota) facility and United Airlines previously operated its Indianapolis facility, says AAR.

(Jon Hemmerdinger - Flight Global News)

United takes delivery of its first 787-900

Boeing has delivered the first GE Aviation-powered 787-9 off the production line to United Airlines, which also becomes the first North American customer to receive the stretched model of the Dreamliner.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last month approved certification of GE’s second performance improvement package (PIP II) of the GEnx-1B engine, clearing Boeing to begin deliveries of the 74,000lb-thrust variant that powers the 787-9.

The GE-powered aircraft joins deliveries of 787-9s powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 Package C engines to All Nippon Airlines and Air New Zealand. The latter was the first carrier to take delivery of the 290-seat-class 787-9 on 9 July.

asset image
Boeing

United has ordered 26 787-9s to be configured with 252 seats, including 48 in the carrier’s premium BusinessFirst cabin, 88 in Economy Plus and 116 in Economy.

The Star Alliance carrier also operates 249-seat 787-8 aircraft.

United vice-president of fleet Ron Bauer says the 787-9 will offer “even more flexibility and range”.

Boeing lists the 787-9 with 8,300nm (15,400km) range, or 350nm greater than the 787-8 in the company’s standard configuration.

United will install a battery of bespoke software and hardware on the 787-9s before commencing route-proving flights in late September between Los Angeles and the carrier’s Houston hub.

Inaugural service from Los Angeles to Melbourne, Australia, is scheduled for 26 October.

(Stephen Trimble - Flight Global News) 

American and US Airways pilots reach tentative deal on seniority integration

The union representing US Airways pilots said it has reached a tentative deal on a protocol agreement with the union representing American pilots on a process for seniority integration of the two pilot groups.

If the deal is approved by the 11-member board of the U.S. Airline Pilots Association, which will meet Thursday and Friday, USAPA would rapidly cease to collect dues but it would not cease to exist.

Rather, USAPA and a merger committee responsible to the USAPA board would continue to represent US Airways pilots on seniority issues.


Dues would be collected by the Allied Pilots Association, which would become the sole representative of American and US Airways pilots for bargaining and all other collective issues, pending the approval of the National Mediation Board.
 
The NMB is expected to decide as soon as next week whether to declare APA the bargaining agent for the combined pilot group. The board would also have the option to schedule a union election, in which the options would be APA representation or no union representation at all.

 A key provision of the protocol agreement specifies that the McCaskill-Bond legislation will apply.

The legislation protects employee rights when two unions combine. Under its guidelines, a panel of three arbitrators will compile the seniority integration list. Merger committees from USAPA and APA will select the arbitrators.

On the crucial question of what happens to the America West pilots' battle for implementation of the controversial Nicolau seniority award, the tentative protocol agreement would establish a preliminary panel of three arbitrators to consider whether America West pilots could be separately represented in merger discussions.  US Airways merged with America West in 2005.

In binding arbitration conducted under Air Line Pilots Association protocol, arbitrator George Nicolau devised a seniority list that tended to favor America West pilots over pilots from US Airways, known as "the east." In reaction, the east pilots left ALPA and formed USAPA as the merged airline's pilot representative, dragging along the west pilots, who composed only about a third of the pilot group.  Since then, the conflict has played out in court.

In a January decision, U.S. District Court Judge Roslyn Silver said she didn't care much for USAPA's courtroom tactics, but she nevertheless ruled that USAPA had not breached its duty of fair representation, as the west pilots had claimed, and that the west pilots need not be separately represented in seniority list discussions with the APA.

Since Silver is the only judge to have ruled on the impact of the Nicolau ruling, east pilots generally believe that her decision should prevail in the seniority debate at the new American. However, a former America West pilot, who asked not to be named, said the three arbitrators who decide on separate representation for west pilots likely "abhor it when willful and voluntary parties to a final and binding arbitration subsequently snub the result."

Under the tentative protocol agreement, the status quo at the start of the seniority list integration process consists of three lists: the US Airways list and the America West list, both still in place, because no merged list was ever implemented, as well as the American list. The Nicolau award is not reflected in any of the three lists.

(Ted Reed - The Street)

Qantas 737-800 experiences trim issue on takeoff due incorrect load sheet calculations

Qantas 737-838 (34195/2502) VH-VZA "Port Augusta" departs Perth (PER/YPPH) on April 28, 2010. 
(Photo by Robbie Shaw)

Primary school children mistakenly assigned the standard adult weight of 87 kilograms (192 pounds) each tipped the nose of a Qantas Airways plane, prompting the pilot to take corrective steps during a takeoff.

Ground staff loaded 87 primary-school students on to the back of a Boeing Co. 737 plane on a May 9 domestic flight and then wrongly entered them as adults, changing the weight of the aircraft in the data supplied to the pilots, Australia’s Transportation Safety Board said on its website today. The mistake prompted the pilot to set the instruments incorrectly, making the plane nose-heavy, it said.
 
The load-sheet provided to the pilots had overstated the aircraft take-off weight by about 3.5 to 5 tons, according to the report. The single-aisle plane with 150 passengers, including the group of 87 students, was flying to Perth in Western Australia from national capital Canberra. The children were seated together at the rear of the cabin.

To “lift off from the runway, the captain found that significant back pressure was required on the control column,” the agency said in the report. The captain was “conscious of the potential of striking the aircraft tail on the runway” if he put too much pressure on the controls. Boeing pilots pull back on their controls to lift the front of the aircraft.
 
A list of passengers sent by travel agents had listed the average age of the group as 12 years. All 87 children and 8 adults in the group were recorded with the adult weight rather than the 32 kilograms used for children.

(David Fickling - Bloomberg News)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

First Qatar A350-900 emerges from paint shop



Qatar Airways A350
Qatar Airways A350
(Photo Airbus)
 
Airbus has rolled out the first fully painted A350-900 for Qatar Airways, the launch customer for the twinjet.
 
The aircraft, seen at Toulouse without its Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines, is due be delivered and enter service by the end of this year.
 
The airline has ordered 80 of the type.
 
The A350 MSN005 development aircraft recently concluded a route proving tour, touching down in 14 cities, demonstrating its readiness for airline operations.
 
Meanwhile, the airline has introduced the Boeing 787-8 on the Doha-Vienna route, replacing a smaller A320 and almost doubling weekly capacity on the route. The carrier said it is the first airline to operate the 787 to the Austrian capital.
 
Qatar operates its 787s in a two-class, 254-seat layout, with 22 business- and 232 economy-class seats.
 
(Alan Dron - ATWOnline News)

China Southern Cargo commences LAX-Tianjin service

China Southern Cargo 777-F1B (37313/888) B-2081 departs Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on January 17, 2014.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

China Southern Airlines, the largest airline in the People’s Republic of China, has begun a B777 freighter service between Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Tianjin, China.

The 13-hour direct service is the only dedicated cargo route linking Tianjin and north America, says a company statement.

From 5 September, the Chinese carrier will also start operating a Los Angeles-Tianjin-Shanghai cargo service.

The new twice-weekly LAX-Tianjin-Guangzhou service departs at midnight, direct to Tianjin and continues onto Baiyun International Airport in Guangzhou before returning to Los Angeles.
 
China Southern offers 135 tonnes of cargo capacity from LAX to Tianjin per week. Some 200 tonnes of online sales generated freight is being moved from the USA to Tianjin each month and 85 per cent of online sales generated shipments are being moved through Los Angeles to Tianjin, it adds.

“With the addition of cargo services to Shanghai and belly cargo on our daily A380 commercial flights, commercial clients now have abundant options to move freight to each of these important business markets, as the two new routes will be connected with our domestic network through the carrier’s twin hubs in Guangzhou and Shanghai.”

(Air Cargo News)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

U.S. Government shoots down Norwegian Air Internationals bid for cross pond flights

In a case that has labor and trade policy implications, the Obama administration on Tuesday rejected a request that would have immediately permitted a low-cost air carrier to begin flights between the U.S. and Europe while the government is still reviewing its application for new service.

The Transportation Department turned down a request by Norwegian Air International that would have allowed the carrier to offer new service between London's Gatwick Airport and New York, Orlando, Florida, and other U.S. cities. Officials for the airline said they hoped to charge as little as $150 each way. Such exemptions are usually granted European carriers under a U.S.-European Union aviation agreement.

Norwegian Air International is a subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle, a low-cost carrier founded in 1993 and headquartered in Fornebu, Norway. The parent company has 417 routes to 126 destinations. Most of those routes are in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, but it also flies some long-haul flights to the U.S. and Southeast Asia.

Its subsidiary, Norwegian Air International, plans to register its planes in Ireland, an EU member, to take advantage of the U.S.-EU treaty that extends many privileges granted domestic carriers to each other's airlines.

That also would make Ireland responsible for the airline's safety oversight even though the carrier hasn't announced any plans to fly into or out of Ireland. The airline also plans to hire flight crews through a Singapore hiring agency and base them in Thailand.

U.S. airlines and pilot unions in the U.S. and Europe vigorously campaigned against the exemption, saying Norwegian Air International would set a dangerous precedent by driving down wages and undermining the ability of U.S. airlines to compete in the global market.

Ed Wytkind, head of the AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department, recently accused Norwegian Air of trying to "usher in a Walmart-style race to the bottom for cheap labor."

Critics also questioned the ability of Irish authorities to safely oversee planes and pilots that are only available at distant locations. Dozens of members of Congress signed letters to the Transportation Department opposing the exemption.

Norwegian officials, however, have said the large airline mergers and establishment of global airline alliances in recent years have undermined competition and created great pent-up consumer demand for the cheaper air travel.

Calling the case "novel and complex," Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement that the department doesn't believe the exemption "is appropriate or in the public interest."

But airline industry analyst Robert W. Mann Jr. said the opposition to Norwegian's proposal is "the business equivalent of Chicken Little and the sky is falling."

"This is no clear evidence of what people are concerned about actually having happened," he said.

(Joan Lowy - Associated Press)

Xiamen Airlines becomes third Chinese 787 operator as it takes delivery of first aircraft

Xiamen Airlines has taken delivery of its first Boeing 787-8 aircraft, making it the third Chinese carrier to receive the type.

The carrier plans to use the type on long-haul routes to Europe, North America, and Australia, says Boeing in a statement. The carrier has orders for six 787s.

"We are excited to receive our first 787 Dreamliner which is also the first widebody airplane of our all-Boeing fleet," says Che Shanglun, president and chairman of Xiamen Airlines.

asset image
Boeing
 
"With the innovative technology and exceptional efficiency, the 787 Dreamliner will be key to our further growth and international expansion."
 
Boeing adds that Xiamen Airlines is China’s only all-Boeing carrier. Flightglobal’s Ascend Fleets database shows that the carrier operates 106 737s.

When the Xiamen 787 enters service, it will be the 19th example of the type to become operational in China.

Ascend shows that the other two Chinese operators of the type are China Southern (10 aircraft) and Hainan Airlines (eight aircraft).

(Greg Waldron - Flight Global News)

Service bulletin issued by Gulfstream on gust lock procedures

Gulfstream G-IV (c/n 1131) N55TD operated by Threshold Ventures Inc., rolls for takeoff on Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on February 20, 2014.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Initial reports into a 31 May fatal Gulfstream GIV crash in Bedford, Massachusetts has led the airframer to issue a service bulletin warning pilots to ensure the flying control gust locks are not engaged before the start of the take-off run.

The US National Transportation Safety Board says the aircraft failed to take off at Bedford, overrunning the end of the runway into a gulley and killing all six people on board.

The jet’s gust locks were found to be disengaged, but it is believed during the take-off run they were engaged. This locks the elevator in the down position, and the rest of the flying controls in a neutral position.

The NTSB says the gust locks are supposed to be disengaged before engine start. As the engines run the hydraulics power up, and it becomes difficult to disengage the mechanical locks.

The NTSB’s recommendation is to shut the engines down, disengage the gust locks and restart. The controls are then to be checked for full and free movement, with another such check just before take-off.

The NTSB says the GIV’s flight data recorder shows no attempt to check control movement, but the flaps were correctly set for take-off and the engines operating according to the power lever position.

The calls for V1 and rotate were normal, but after the rotate calls the cockpit voice recorder “captured comments concerning aircraft control”, the NTSB says.

The GIV has an embedded interlock system to prevent the throttles being advanced beyond 6% when the gust locks are still engaged. However, it has been discovered that under certain circumstances the throttles can be advanced to take-off power with the gust locks still engaged.

There is question as to whether the gust lock handle was forced into the “off” position with the engines running. The NTSB says: “The gust lock handle, located on the right side of the control pedestal, was found in the forward (OFF) position, and the elevator gust lock latch was found not engaged.”

The investigation is ongoing, and Gulfstream says it is not clear whether the appropriate reaction is for the company to make design changes or modify procedures.

(Kate Sarsfield - Flight Global News)