Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Boeing reveals some 777X facts

Passenger-friendly interior details like big windows, clean air, and comfortably high cabin pressure that Boeing introduced with its 787 Dreamliner will also come to its larger long-haul sibling, the 777X passenger jet due in 2020.
 
Boeing announced the details for the 777 successor here at the Farnborough International Airshow, a premier event for the aviation industry where aircraft manufacturers try to win over the world's airlines. In addition, the company said it's bringing robotic manufacturing to some parts of fuselage assembly for both the 777 and 777X, a move that should increase production rates and quality.
 
The 787 Dreamliner family -- including the existing 242-passenger 787-8 and the new 787-9 that just started shipping -- has a range of change designed to make passengers more comfortable.
 
That includes large windows that let more than just window-seat passengers see out; high ceilings and reworked higher-capacity overhead bins; air-filtering systems that can absorb odors like perfume; higher humidity; and cabin pressure that's the equivalent of 6,000 feet above sea level, not the usual 8,000 feet.
 
Among the features that will move to the 777X will be the humidity, cabin pressure, and large windows, said Scott Fancher, Boeing's senior vice president of airplane development. It'll also get lower cabin noise by virtue of a quieter new engine housing.
 
"One thing we learned from the 787 is the amazing passenger experience -- the cabin altitude, the cleanliness, the openness and airiness of the interior. We've learned from it and replicated it in the 777X," Fancher said. "From every seat in this airplane, the passenger will see the horizon."
 
Some of the changes may seem cosmetic or simple, but they aren't necessarily. Structural changes are necessary to accommodate larger windows and the higher pressure from the 6,000-foot equivalent altitude.
 
But the prospect of happier passengers -- especially on the long trips up to 10,700 miles (17,220km) the 777-8X -- is a good argument for airplane salespeople to use, and right now the market is fiercely competitive. Both Boeing and its rival Airbus are scrambling to satisfy new demand from customers.
 
On the first day of the airshow, customers placed about $41.9 billion worth of orders and commitments, triple the rate of the last Farnborough show in 2012. "Prospects for the rest of the week are looking extremely positive," show organizers said in a statement.
 
At least some of that demand is directed at the 777. Air Lease Corp. said Tuesday it's ordered six of the current 777-300ER (extended range) jets. But Boeing has to be more excited by last week's news that Emirates Airline finalized its order for 150 777X jets. That's fully half of the 300 orders so far, and at list prices is worth $56 billion.
 
Boeing is ramping up production to keep pace with passenger-jet demand. For instance, its 787 manufacturing is moving from 10 per month now to 14 per month in 2018.
 
A rendering of Boeing 777X's interior
                                              A rendering of Boeing 777X's interior Boeing

Here come the robots
 
Helping the production-line speedup will be increased use of robots for manufacturing, a move that follows the auto industry's footsteps. Boeing is moving to a new assembly technology in which robots join some 777 and 777X fuselage panels together by drilling holes and attaching about 60,000 fasteners. A German company with a major presence in the auto industry, Kuka Robotics, is supplying the robots.
 
Robots can improve quality and speed, and Boeing also pointed to safety improvements: the process that's being automated is responsible for more than half of worker injuries today, the company said.
 
Workers often aren't happy to be replaced by robots, but those affected by the robotic assembly won't lose their jobs. Instead, they'll be moved to other manufacturing jobs or to operating the robots, said company spokesman Doug Alder.
 
The company already opened the door to robots in 2013, using them to paint 737 wings. And it's accepted delivery of robots that will automate 737 wing assembly.
 
Boeing plans to keep making 777 models for another six or seven years, said Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing for Boeing's commercial airplane division.

Other 777X improvements
 
Boeing and Airbus are steering away from major new designs like the Airbus A350 XWB and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Instead, they're moving toward updates to existing craft. Airbus announced its A330neo on Monday, for example, a model that will be 14 percent more fuel-efficient than the current A330 and can carry 10 more passengers. And Boeing's 737 Max is 20 percent more efficient than today's 737 and can carry 11 more passengers.
 
The 777X -- a placeholder name during the development and testing phase -- is another such update. It's a lot more than just cabin improvements and a fresh coat of paint, though.
 
Boeing says the 777X will have 12 percent better fuel efficiency and 10 percent better operating costs than Airbus' A350-1000.
 
One big aspect of the 777X will be a technology called hybrid laminar flow control. In laminar flow, a fluid or gas travels smoothly, with none of the vortices and pressure differences characteristic of turbulent flow.
 
"It's a competitive advantage for us," Fancher said. "The longer that laminar flow length, the more efficient that surface is. It's very economical, maintainable, supportable, and on our airplanes."
 
The 787 uses hybrid laminar flow control on its tail assembly's vertical and horizontal stabilizers.
 
Fancher wouldn't detail where it'll be used on the 777X, but said it's applicable to that same area. The wings, though, won't get the technology, because anti-icing technology makes it too complicated.
 
The 777X, announced in May 2013, will come in two varieties, the 350-passenger 777-8X and the 400-passenger 777-9X. The twin-aisle planes are wide-body models, but are two-engine craft that aren't as big as the venerable four-engine 747 jet line.
 
The planes aren't an impulse buy: The 777-8X has a list price of $350 million and the 777-9X $377 million.
 
(Stephen Shankland - CNET)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Air New Zealand takes delivery of 787-900

(Mike Siegel - The Seattle Times) 

Painted black with white wings and a traditional fern design on its tail, the first delivered 787-9 Dreamliner was unveiled Wednesday by Boeing and Air New Zealand.

Air New Zealand will be the first airline to fly the new plane, which is scheduled to enter service Oct. 15, on a route from Auckland, New Zealand, to Perth, Australia.

The 787-9 will be used on Air New Zealand’s flights to Shanghai and Tokyo as well. Rob McDonald, the carrier’s chief financial officer, said it will also enable the airline to open new routes, but he would not give details.

The airline will start to replace its Boeing 767-300 planes with 787-9s, completing the switch by 2016, he said. The company has ordered 10 787-9s and should receive them all by late 2017.

Boeing Vice President Mark Jenks said Air New Zealand, as the launch customer, worked closely with Boeing on both the interior and exterior design of the plane.

“We involved them (Air New Zealand) very early,” Jenks said. “Having them there was really fantastic from the development perspective.”

Jenks praised Air New Zealand’s innovations on the jet’s interior, from the seating arrangements to USB ports for passengers’ electronic devices.

(Mike Siegel - The Seattle Times) 

Inside the 302-seat plane, there are four different seating sectors: Business Premier, Premium Economy, Economy Skycouch and Economy. Each seat comes with a high-definition touch-screen entertainment device.

Business Premier includes a leather armchair that can turn into a lay-down bed with memory-foam mattress.

In the economy section, there are 14 three-seat groupings that can be turned into a flat, sofalike surface that Air New Zealand calls a Skycouch.

The windows on Air New Zealand’s 787-9 are 30 percent bigger than the airline’s current 767. This allows in more natural light, and passengers can easily see out the windows on the other side of the aircraft.

(Mike Siegel - The Seattle Times)

At 206 feet in length, the 787-9 is 20 feet longer than Boeing’s first version, the -8. Boeing boasts a 20 percent improvement in fuel efficiency compared with earlier airplanes of similar size.

Through June 2014, Boeing has received 409 orders for the 787-9 from 26 different customers, according to its website. In total, it has 869 unfilled orders for the 787 Dreamliner.

(Brandon Brown - The Seattle Times)

Let jetBlue check you in for your next flight!

Consider our preflight rituals: packing, maybe pet care, stopping the mail, driving or getting a lift to the airport. Oh, and also the business of checking in 24 hours ahead of time. JetBlue Airways has a new idea: Automatically checking you in for flights and e-mailing the boarding pass.

“The idea of asking customers to jump an additional hurdle before their flight is an increasingly antiquated concept,” Blair Koch, a JetBlue vice president, said in announcing the new process. “By having the right systems in place, we can remove this step and even help identify and prevent issues that can hinder customers from fully enjoying their travel experience.”

The idea is to catch potential name typos and other security problems earlier and to identify passengers who have special service needs, such as a wheelchair or traveling with a pet. That should also help JetBlue, over time, shorten its airport queues.


The current process for people who need to alter or cancel their reservation will not change, said airline spokesman Morgan Johnston.

(Justin Bachman - Bloomberg Businessweek)

Sources say Airbus to launch rebranded A330-800/900neo

European plane-maker Airbus will both revamp and rebrand its A330 passenger jet at a launch expected to kick off next week's Farnborough Airshow, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.
 
The A330-800neo and A330-900neo will be upgraded versions of the A330-200 and A330-300 respectively and include some cabin improvements and 400 nautical miles more range, while Airbus will also study ways of improving the use of floor space.
 
As reported by Reuters in June, next week's announcement will highlight at least 14 percent greater fuel efficiency and a new version of the Rolls-Royce Trent engine, but will also accelerate the end of the poor-selling A350-800.
 
Airbus declined to comment.
 
"We do not comment on the usual air show noise," a spokesman said.
Leasing companies are expected to be among the initial buyers, but it was not immediately clear whether the launch would be subject to further board approvals.
 
In service since the 1990s, the A330 is Airbus's biggest-selling wide-body jet.
 
Sales have been stronger than expected recently due to delays in producing the newer Boeing 787. But that advantage is evaporating and Airbus now wants to refresh the design in order to defend its position in the lucrative 250-300-seat market.
 
Its arrival is expected to spark greater price competition for sales at the lower end of the market for wide-body jets.
 
Anticipating an air show move by its rival, Boeing said on Thursday the A330 upgrade papered over a series of strategy changes after Airbus counted on its future A350-800.
 
Sales of that jet have been disappointing, with just 34 left on order.
 
The name change appears designed to smooth that transition, but Airbus is also keen to distinguish between the current A330, which will remain on sale for regional trips, and the "neo" which will be pitched as a step towards the newer A350.
 
There had been some speculation that Airbus might call it after the A350 for that reason, but borrowing the name of a different aircraft family can pose branding and certification problems or clash with airlines' pilot union agreements.

The engine, a modified Trent 1000-TEN, will be dubbed Trent 7000, sources said, confirming a Wall Street Journal report.

The numerology of aircraft models is virtually a science in itself and is watched closely in some key markets such as China. Boeing also uses the 800/900 tag, or more recently 8/9.

"Rebranding the A330 (and) ... adopting the more modern -800/-900 speaks to the significant upgrade of the airplane," said aviation analyst Scott Hamilton.

"It speaks to adopting new technology and is consistent with the sub-type branding of the A350."

Details are also emerging of what the A330 redesign, which is still under wraps, will look and feel like to passengers.

The A330neo will have between 252 and 306 seats, slightly more than the Boeing 787-8 or 787-9 and 10 more than the current type of A330, according to an airline briefing seen by Reuters.

In terms of performance, airlines have been told the smaller version of A330neo will have the same range as the Boeing 787-8, while the larger variant will lag the 787-9 by 1,000 miles.

Airbus says most airlines don't need the 787's range or some of its widely publicized features such as large windows. Boeing says its carbon-fibre jet is more comfortable and efficient, whatever length of trip is considered.

(Tim Hepher -Reuters)

Another new G650 arrives at Long Beach Airport


Gulfstream G650 (c/n 6098) N698GA arrived at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) at 12:41pm as "GLF25" from Savannah - Hilton Head International Airport on July 10, 2014.

(Photos by Michael Carter)

Congress Wants to Keep Norwegian Airlines’ Cheap Flights Out of America

An amendment was introduced to block the low-cost carrier from flying to the U.S. Is this about safety or competition?
 
As if they weren’t unpopular enough, lawmakers in Congress could make your next overseas jaunt more expensive and they’re going to dramatic ends to defend their move.
 
Norwegian Airlines, Europe’s third-largest low-cost carrier, is hoping to expand the number of trans-Atlantic flights between the European Union and the United States. They claim they’ll bring cheaper flights to American consumers, and their introductory fares from New York to London for $225 one way have already garnered attention.
 
But the House approved a measure last month to stifle that proposed expansion. An amendment in the spending bill for the Department of Transportation essentially called for the agency to deny a Norwegian Airlines subsidiary from operating in the U.S.
 
Norwegian Airlines set up an Irish subsidiary, arguing that the greater global traffic rights afforded to airlines based in Ireland would allow them to cut costs through more streamlined flight schedules. The airline will also be flying the new Boeing 787 aircraft, which burns less fuel than its counterparts, to offer lower long-haul fares.
 
“It would be an affront to over 300 million American consumers, the U.S. tourism industry, and Boeing and other U.S. aerospace manufacturers to deny the application of Norwegian Air International to satisfy the demands of special interest groups at U.S. airlines and their unions,” said John Byerly, a former State Department official who now works as a consultant for Norwegian Airlines.
 
One lawmaker behind the bill acknowledged that airline fares could be lower through Norwegian Air—but warned that consumers might not like what they get.
 
Rep. Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, championed the House measure along with GOP Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, and was provocative in his defense of it.

The lawmaker accused Norwegian Airlines of trying to “drive this industry to the lowest common denominator,” even suggesting that approval of their application could lead to deaths.
 
“I have yet to sit next to a person who wants to pay a lower fare with the prospect of having an incompetent pilot who’s going to kill them,” DeFazio told The Daily Beast.
 
Norwegian Airlines hires pilots with EU licenses and has previously said that questioning their airline’s safety record was “slanderous.” Opponents of their expansion, Norwegian Airline argues, are simply against new competition.
 
“Such false and irresponsible attacks on Norwegian’s highly experienced pilots are a sad commentary on the blatant politicization of this regulatory proceeding by the opponents of competition,” Byerly said.
 
The Air Line Pilots Association, the largest airline pilot union in the world, has launched a campaign to block Norwegian Airlines’ Irish subsidiary, and was more measured in its criticism than DeFazio.
 
It doesn’t object to existing Norwegian Airlines flights, ALPA official Michael Robbins said, but it does reject Norwegian’s move to set up shop in Ireland. ALPA claims the Irish subsidiary has been set up to take advantage of the country’s more favorable labor, tax and regulatory laws.
 
ALPA said that if Norwegian Airlines were to be allowed to set up in Ireland, it could upend the entire aviation industry’s status quo, threatening the jobs of American pilots and the safety of passengers. If other airlines followed Norwegian Air’s footsteps and began basing themselves in Ireland, American pilots without European licenses could become less valuable in the job market.
 
Approving the Irish subsidiary’s operation in the U.S., Robbins said, would be “setting a precedent that would force other carriers to look at doing the same thing, which could lead to a loss of flying opportunity [for] American pilots.”
 
Norwegian’s Irish subsidiary has no plans to fly in and out of Ireland—the subsidiary is just taking advantage of the country’s laws to operate its business.
 
“How comfortable are you flying with an airline that doesn’t fly into or out of the country that’s supposed to be providing oversight of it?” Robbins asked.
 
(Tim Mak - The Daily Beast)

5 Things about Airbus's revamped wide-body airliner plan

Airbus Group NV is preparing to up the ante in its long-running rivalry with Boeing Co. with a new competitor for Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner.

The twist?

Airbus doesn’t have another new plane to woo airlines as its A350 wide-body jetliner prepares to enter service later this year.

Instead, it is talking to airlines about a major upgrade of its existing A330 long-range jet which it would equip with more fuel-efficient engines. With Airbus possibly planning to confirm details of the revamped plane at this year’s Farnborough Air Show, it will hope to repeat the success of the new engine option it offered airlines on its A320 single-aisle jet which grabbed market share from Boeing’s 737 equivalent.

1 -  Saving Fuel with the A330neo

Improvements should make the A330 14% more efficient than the current versions through the combination of new engines and better aerodynamics. Fuel is the single biggest cost for airlines. The A330neo would fly as much as 400 nautical miles farther, giving a smaller A330-200neo and larger A330-300neo models ranges of 7,450 and 6,250 nautical miles respectively.

2 - More Efficient Thrust

Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC will develop the Trent 7000 engine to deliver 72,600 pounds of thrust. The engine will have a  fan of 112 inches in diameter, significantly larger than the 97 inches on the current A330 engine, one of the main reasons for its more efficient performance.

3 - Potential Customers

Airbus expects A330neo sales to top 1,000 aircraft if it goes ahead and builds the jet.  If so, the aircraft would gain a significant extra lease of life considering Airbus has so far notched up more than 1,300 orders for the plane in its current form.

4 - The Price for Airlines

The A330neo will likely cost slightly more than the current models. The list price, one usually heavily discounted by Airbus, for the A330-200 is $221.7 million while the A330-300 retails for $245.6 million. But Airbus is betting that the new A330 will still be cheaper than Boeing’s nearest competitor aircraft.
 
5 - Chasing the Dreamliner
 
Airbus is under a degree of pressure from Boeing now that the U.S. group’s 787 Dreamliner is in service. Airbus’s newest plane, the A350 which shares some similar new technology with the 787 such as lightweight composite materials, is still undergoing test flights. Revamping the A330, which first flew back in 1992, remains a potentially lucrative option. It lets Airbus keep an older, profitable aircraft, whose development costs are long sunk, viable  for many more years.
 

Hawaiian Airlines might consider A330neo

Hawaiian Airlines said on Friday it is prepared to look at a revamped version of the A330 passenger jet proposed by Airbus, but indicated it would not take an immediate decision.

The airline has previously been seen as reluctant to back away from an order for six future Airbus A350-800, a newer but slow-selling model that Airbus would now prefer to stop developing in favour of the more promising A330neo.

"We have always thought that the A350-800 had the right economics and range for our future growth," a spokeswoman said.

"Since that aircraft may not be produced we are evaluating our options. The A330neo may be an alternative to the A350-800, though today we have not had the opportunity for a full assessment of the aircraft or the other alternatives."

Airbus is expected to launch the revamped A330neo at the Farnborough Airshow next week.

Hawaiian Airlines is not expected to be among the launch customers, but industry sources say its willingness to rethink the A350-800 order may be key to the future of both projects.

(Reuters)

Boeing to offer bigger overhead bins on 737's

Of all the inconveniences afflicting airline travelers, there might be none worse than the shortage of overhead bin space.

Passengers will do just about anything to find room for their carry-on bag. They creep forward at the gate long before their boarding group is called. They stow their bag above someone else's seat. They even pay extra for early boarding.

Boeing Co. says it is responding to the battle of the bins: It will offer airlines the option for bigger bins on new models of its 737 jet, which is commonly used on domestic routes.

Boeing said Thursday that its "space bins" will hold six standard-size carry-on bags — two more than fit in current bins on the 737.

Alaska Airlines will be the first carrier to get the larger bins on new planes, starting in late 2015. The airline's treasurer, Mark Eliasen, says the extra space will let passengers keep personal items in the cabin.

Boeing says airlines could retrofit some current 737 models with the new bins.

(The Associated Press)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

New Gulfstream support vehicle

Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. today announced it has increased its support of Gulfstream operators in Europe with the addition of a custom-outfitted Field and Airborne Support Team (FAST) vehicle.

(Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation)

The rapid-response vehicle, an Iveco cargo van, can transport a team of up to three technicians to support operators in aircraft-on-ground situations or other assistance-needed scenarios. It is based at Gulfstream’s facility at London Luton Airport and manned by personnel from the site.

“This FAST vehicle is outfitted with the tools and storage that enable our Luton technicians to become an even more valuable resource for customers at airports throughout the United Kingdom and Europe,” said Mark Burns, president, Gulfstream Product Support. “The ability to travel to an aircraft’s location typically results in faster return to service for an operator and financial savings because there’s no need for relocation expenses.”

The 22-foot-by-13-foot/6.71-meter-by-3.96-meter FAST vehicle is equipped with tools, a work table, vise, generator, hydraulic ramp, wheel storage, jacks, compressed gas, consumables such as oil, paint and sealants, and Wi-Fi. With these resources, Gulfstream technicians can perform:

•    Line-service repairs
•    Post-flight and storage inspections
•    Minor cabin interior repairs


Luton’s FAST van, which is already being used to support customers, will make its official debut July 12 at the TAG Airshow Challenge bicycle race, serving as the Gulfstream team’s support vehicle. The event, a 250-mile/402-kilometer cycling stage race, features 10 teams, each sponsored by a business aviation company. The teams will race from Paris-Le Bourget Airport to England’s Farnborough Airport over 2 ½ days to raise money for U.K. aviation charity fly2help.

Gulfstream Luton is a certified European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and U.S. Federal Aviation Administration repair station, and holds EASA Part 21 design organization approval. The facility is also authorized to work on Gulfstream aircraft registered in Aruba, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Canada, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania and Turkey.

Gulfstream Luton technicians perform work on more than 100 aircraft monthly at their facility or on location elsewhere in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

(Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation Media Release)

United sued for bumping bags instead of cargo

A lawsuit against United Airlines contends the carrier will leave passenger bags behind to make space for cargo shipments when a plane is too heavy.

Gina Spadoni, the plaintiff in the suit, took a United flight from Chicago to Los Angeles in September and paid $25 to check her luggage—yet the bag did not make her same flight. That represents a breach of the carrier’s contract of carriage, according to the lawsuit filed last week.

Her attorney, Tom Zimmerman, said she was forced to purchase new clothes for an event she was attending in California. “It was really an inconvenience and a stressful time for her.” Zimmerman said a United baggage handler and flight attendant confirmed to him that the practice is widespread.

“United’s removal of checked baggage, or failure to place checked baggage onto the aircraft altogether, is done arbitrarily, capriciously, with improper motive, and in a manner inconsistent with the reasonable expectations of its passengers,” the lawsuit says.

“It costs United nothing to remove checked baggage, rather than cargo, in order to arrive at an acceptable aircraft weight because the checked baggage fee is purportedly nonrefundable, and United can simply transport the checked baggage on a later flight to the passenger’s destination.”

Jennifer Dohm, a United spokeswoman, said “cargo does not take precedence over passengers and their luggage” when a particular plane needs to lighten its weight. The airline said the suit “is without merit, and we will vigorously defend against it.”

United reported cargo revenue of $209 million in the first quarter, down 8 percent from the previous year. Checked-bag fees represent a major source of revenue for the airline industry, but cargo shipments typically offer guarantees on delivery times and financial recourse for customers whose packages arrive late. Most airlines do not refund their baggage fees if a suitcase and its owner end up on separate flights and arrive at different times.

Boeing raises by 4% its global forecast for new aircraft demand over the coming 20 years

Boeing Co. raised its long-term forecast for new airplane demand by more than 4 percent, based on expected orders of smaller, more fuel-efficient planes and burgeoning travel in Asia.

The Chicago company said Thursday that it expects deliveries of 36,770 new airplanes over the next 20 years, with total list prices valued at an estimated $5.2 trillion.

That's up from Boeing's forecast last year that global airlines would need 35,280 jets worth $4.8 trillion over the next 20 years.

Low-cost carriers are fueling the fastest growing segment of the market — single-aisle airplanes. Those aircraft, such as the Boeing 737 and rival Airbus A320, make up 70 percent of all orders, with the heart of that demand found in the 160-seat range.

"There's no question the market is converging to this size, where network flexibility and cost efficiency meet," said Randy Tinseth, Boeing's commercial airplanes marketing vice president.

Small, widebody planes in the 200- to 300-seat range are leading demand in the twin-aisle segment of the market, the company said. Boeing forecasts 4,520 deliveries for those planes over the next 20 years, compared to 620 for widebody jets with 400 seats or more.

Boeing slightly reduced its forecast for large jets such as the Boeing 747 and Airbus A380. It now expects airlines will need 620 of the larger planes over 20 years, down from a forecast of 760 last year.

Boeing said in its annual current market outlook that about 37 percent of the airplane deliveries, or 13,460, will be made in the Asia-Pacific market, with North America and Europe the next two most common destinations.

Tinseth described the market for airplanes as "strong and resilient."

Boeing updated its forecast ahead of next week's opening of the Farnborough Airshow near London, one of the aviation industry's prestige events.

Shares of Boeing Co. rose 11 cents to $126.90 in morning trading despite a decline in the broader market. The shares hit an all-time high this year, but have fallen almost 8 percent this month.

(The Associated Press)

Boeing defends 787 against the re-worked A330neo

Boeing hit back on Thursday at proposals by rival Airbus to revamp its A330 passenger jet, saying it would "fight" in the marketplace and was confident that its newer 787 Dreamliner was a more valuable plane.

European plane-maker Airbus is close to launching an upgrade of its best-selling jet with new Rolls-Royce engines in an effort to bolster sales in the largest segment by volume for wide-body jets seating more than 250 passengers.

"We have more value and have to sell our value, but we will fight, there is no doubt about that," said Randy Tinseth, Vice President of Marketing at Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "But we also have a better product with better value and that is the card we will play."

The two plane-makers, which will both be announcing deals and showcasing their latest products at next week's Farnborough Airshow, have clashed over the weight and efficiency of their jets in the 250- to 300-seat segment of the jetliner market.

Airbus says its proposed A330neo will cost the same to run per seat as the 787-9 and cost less to buy, while Boeing says its Dreamliner will be at least 10 percent more efficient, even after the Airbus upgrade which could be announced next week.

Speaking during a presentation on Boeing's latest market forecasts, Tinseth said Airbus's plans to upgrade the 20-year-old A330 proved its strategy for large twin-engine jets, which had previously revolved around the brand new A350, had failed.

The remarks set the tone for what is expected to be a noisy debate about the market for wide-body jets at the July 14-20 air show, where both plane-makers are also expected to announce large orders for smaller jets like the A320 and Boeing 737.

(Tim Hepher - Reuters)

Air Force Seeks Proposals for $55 Billion Bomber Program

The U.S. Air Force said today it has asked contractors for proposals on a new long-range strike bomber, setting up a competition between Northrop Grumman Corp. and a Lockheed Martin Corp.-Boeing Co joint venture.
 
The Air Force has said it may build as many as 100 of the bombers, at a cost that may top $55 billion, to replace the aging B-2 stealth bomber built by Northrop. The service said in an e-mailed statement that it expected to choose the bomber’s developer “in the spring 2015 timeframe.”
 
Calling the bomber “a top modernization priority,” Air Force Secretary Deborah James said in the statement, “It will be an adaptable and highly capable system based upon mature technology.”
 
The Air Force has described the bomber as crucial to its ability to reach far-flung, heavily defended targets around the world. When research and development costs are included, the price per plane may rise from $550 million to $810 million, according to calculations by three defense analysts cited by Bloomberg News.
 
The Air Force’s five-year plan released in March proposed spending $11.8 billion to develop the new plane.
 
The cost will draw close scrutiny in an era of declining defense spending, as the Pentagon faces the budget-cutting process called sequestration. The Air Force’s track record also is being questioned after soaring costs for the B-2 and Lockheed’s F-35 fighter jet, the most expensive U.S. weapons system, which is now being built.

Best Credentials
  
The competing contractors for the bomber both issued statements arguing that they had the best credentials to win the contract.
 
“Northrop Grumman’s design, production and sustainment of the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, the bomber most recently produced for the U.S. Air Force, positions the company well for” the long-range bomber program, Randy Belote, a spokesman for the Falls Church, Virginia-based contractor, said in an e-mailed statement.

The team formed by Chicago-based Boeing and Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed issued a statement saying: “We have been part of the bomber community for more than 80 years, going back to the earliest days of bomber development. We have the breadth and depth of proven technologies and talent, plus the infrastructure and scale that matches the importance of this mission.”

(Jonathan D. Salant - Bloomberg)

GULFSTREAM IMPLEMENTS SAFETY MANAGEMENT SYSTEM FOR SALES AND MARKETING ORGANIZATION

Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. reinforced its position as an industry leader with the expansion of a safety management system (SMS) to its Sales and Marketing department, making the company one of the first business-jet original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to implement an SMS for a non-manufacturing or service organization.

“Safety has always been our top priority at Gulfstream, and I commend all of our employees, especially those in Sales and Marketing, for embracing it,” said Scott Neal, senior vice president, Worldwide Sales and Marketing, Gulfstream. “In an effort to continuously ensure the safety of our employees and sustain a safety culture environment, Sales and Marketing initiated the SMS. It is vital that we, individually and collectively, take steps to identify and report safety hazards.”

An SMS is an organized approach to managing safety and airworthiness. It includes proactive hazard and incident reporting, hazard assessments, a robust investigation process, a consistent and just disciplinary process, open communications and inclusive participation by everyone in the organization. The move to bring Sales and Marketing under the Gulfstream SMS umbrella is in line with the company’s goal to have the entire corporation operate under an SMS.

“Having a standard and consistent approach to managing risks helps us enhance what we’re already doing: delivering and servicing the safest possible aircraft for our customers,” said Neal. “Sales and Marketing employees aren’t on the manufacturing floor installing rivets, but they do go on aircraft ramps with customers, walk through the manufacturing plant and travel around the world. If they see a potential hazard, this system gives them a voice and the tools to report it, which benefits the entire company, no matter what organization they work in.”  

Gulfstream Appleton was the company’s first business unit to test and implement the corporate SMS program, in June 2009. Today, all Gulfstream service centers; Flight Operations; Engineering; Flight Test; Initial and Final Phase Manufacturing for large-cabin aircraft; Final Phase Manufacturing for mid-cabin aircraft, and Sales and Marketing have implemented an SMS. Later this year, Gulfstream Mexicali and Material Management are scheduled to implement an SMS program. 

“We are committed to sustaining a safety culture that supports our SMS,” said Fred Etheridge, senior manager, Corporate SMS, Gulfstream. “We are setting the standard in terms of safety and we will be one of the first in our industry to have nearly our entire corporation participating in SMS. This shows that our employees, whether in Manufacturing, Product Support, Sales and Marketing or another area, understand the value of safety and the importance of making the system function.”

Along with the implementation of the Sales and Marketing SMS, Gulfstream has developed teams that focus on SMS activities, including the Site Safety Council, Event Review Team and Incident Investigation Team. These teams and councils provide the oversight and drive for SMS-related actions and program sustainability. They ensure the SMS is being used properly and enhance follow-up efforts by investigating and identifying the root cause of each documented or potential hazard. 

Gulfstream also provides employees an easy and, if preferred, anonymous way to report a hazard or near miss. Q-Pulse is an electronic documentation system where employees can submit a report online. It augments the SMS program by eliminating waste and rework, making the problems visible and electronically managing the process. 
 
Gulfstream’s SMS framework exceeds the SMS requirements outlined by the International Civil Aviation Organization and is compliant in 42 countries. Additionally, Gulfstream’s Flight Operations holds an external SMS International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations certification. 

At this time, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not require SMS adherence; however, the FAA Aviation Rules Committee is drafting regulation and guidance material pertaining to SMS requirements. In 2011, Gulfstream’s Engineering organization participated in and successfully completed necessary stages of the FAA SMS pilot program. The program allowed for OEMs to provide the FAA with best practices, policies, procedures and pitfalls when implementing an SMS.

(Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation Media Release)

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

American, Southwest signal solid demand ahead of earnings

American Airlines Group Inc and Southwest Airlines Co forecast growth in an important revenue measure for the second quarter, signaling that demand for air travel is solid during the summer.

Unit revenue, also known as passenger revenue per available seat mile, is expected to grow between 5.5 percent and 6.5 percent in the second quarter at American, while Southwest forecast a rise of more than 8 percent. Unit revenue is a gauge of how full planes are and of pricing power.

Demand "is as strong as ever," said Bob McAdoo, an airline analyst with investment bank Imperial Capital, who said American gave a stronger-than-expected outlook and that Southwest revenue results were up "meaningfully."

Recent profit warnings from European airlines such as Air France-KLM and Lufthansa had raised concern about demand trends, pummeling share prices.

Last week, Delta Air Lines said unit revenue for June grew less than it had forecast, citing lower business demand for travel to Latin America during the World Cup soccer tournament and capacity increases that hurt ticket prices. Delta forecast a rise of 6 percent in its second quarter unit revenue.

McAdoo said the European carriers faced issues that did not affect U.S. airlines as much, such as heavier competition from low-cost rivals.

The second quarter is typically a strong period for airlines because it includes some vacation travel.

American Airlines, formed in the December 2013 merger of AMR Corp and US Airways Group, said it could take charges of up to $630 million in the period. It cited a charge of about $330 million tied to the sale of its portfolio of fuel-hedge contracts and an added $250 million to $300 million in charges related to its merger and other items.

Shares of U.S. airlines were mostly higher in morning trading, with American Airlines up 1.9 percent at $41.01 and Southwest up 2.1 percent at $27.26. Delta was up 1.5 percent at $36.98, and United Continental was off 0.1 percent at $39.50.

(Reuters)

Frontier captain buys pizza for for his stranded passengers and crew

Domino's pizza manager Andy Ritchie has taken a lot of orders, but never one quite like this: to feed an entire plane full of hungry, delayed passengers, stuck on the tarmac.

It was about 10:30 pm on Monday when the pilot of the Frontier Airlines flight called in, said Ritchie, manager at the pizza chain in the western US city of Cheyenne, Wyoming.

The pilot wanted to feed all 160 passengers and crew to make up for the delay, so Ritchie and his two employees whipped up around 35 pizzas and sent them to the plane.

"We took them up to the front desk at the airport and they escorted our driver to the back and they handed the pizzas directly to the flight attendants," Ritchie told AFP.

The plane was en route from Washington when it was diverted to Cheyenne while it waited for bad weather to clear in Denver, US media said.

The plane, which was already hours behind schedule, sat on the ground at the small airport for about two hours, and there was no food on board.

Eventually, one passenger told a Denver affiliate of Fox, the pilot made an announcement.

"He said, 'Ladies and gentlemen, Frontier Airlines is known for being one of the cheapest airlines in the US, but your captain is not cheap,'" Logan Marie Torres recounted to the news station. "'I just ordered pizza for the entire plane.'"

Ritchie confirmed that it was the pilot who paid by credit card for the order, which was several hundred dollars, though he could not specify whose card it was.

(AFP)

Emirates and Boeing finalize 150 777X deal

Dubai airline Emirates finalised a $56 billion order to buy 150 Boeing 777X jets on Wednesday, firming up a commitment made last year, just weeks after scrapping an order with rival planemaker Airbus.

The deal includes purchase rights for an additional 50 airplanes which, if exercised, could increase the value to about $75 billion at list prices, Boeing said in a statement.

"With the order for 150 777Xs, Emirates now has 208 Boeing 777s pending delivery, creating and securing jobs across the supply chain," Emirates president Tim Clark said.

The agreement comes days before the Farnborough International Airshow, traditionally an event at which billions of dollars of new plane orders are announced.

It follows the surprise cancellation in June of a $16-billion order by Emirates to buy 70 of Airbus' A350 aircraft, which delivered a blow to the European planemaker's newest aircraft and hit its share price.

Airbus ended the first half of the year behind its U.S. rival in orders and deliveries, but is widely expected to unveil hundreds of new orders at the Farnborough show next week.

The Emirates' order was part of the 777X launch at the Dubai Air Show in November last year, one of the largest product launches in commercial jetliner history. Along with Emirates, Gulf carriers Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways also announced deals for the plane, totalling $100 billion at list prices.

Emirates, which is the world's largest operator of the Boeing 777 jet, was close to finalising the order, Reuters reported last week.

Emirates and Qatar Airways, which also ordered 50 777X jets, had jointly negotiated the deal at the Dubai Air Show. However, it was not clear whether the Doha airline had finalised its order yet.

Qatar Airways could not be immediately reached for a comment.

Emirates and Qatar Airways are part of a trio of Gulf carriers, alongside Abu Dhabi's Etihad, that have secured large fleets of widebody jets to support the growth of new hubs.

The 777X is the latest version of Boeing's best-selling widebody jet, a so-called mini-jumbo, which carries a list price of up to $320 million.

The current versions are capable of seating up to 550 passengers in a single-class configuration, according to Boeing. In a more typical three-class configuration, the jet family seats up to 386 passengers and has a range of up to 9,395 nautical miles.

(Reuters)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The A321neo Will Be a Game Changer for Hawaiian Holdings

For several decades, Hawaiian Holdings has flown between the U.S. West Coast and Hawaii with an all-wide-body fleet. Wide-body aircraft have high seating capacities, which has helped Hawaiian Holdings keep its unit costs competitive. But rivals like Alaska Air have gained share by using long-range narrow-bodies that are more suitable for markets with less demand.

For that reason, Hawaiian Holdings has ordered a fleet of Airbus A321neo narrow-body planes, which will arrive beginning in 2017. These highly fuel-efficient narrow-bodies will give Hawaiian a much more flexible fleet. This will enhance its competitiveness on West Coast-Hawaii routes, leading to higher long-term profit margins.

Alaska Air fills a void

For almost a decade beginning around 2000, Hawaiian Holdings maintained a rivalry with Aloha Airlines on routes between Hawaii and the U.S. mainland. But Aloha folded in 2008 due to the combination of soaring fuel prices and a slowing economy. This left Hawaiian in a very strong position.

However, it's rare that a vacuum lasts for long in the airline industry. Sure enough, Alaska Air began a rapid expansion in Hawaii following the demise of Aloha. In 2009, just 7% of Alaska's system capacity was devoted to Hawaii service.

By 2012, flights to Hawaii represented roughly 20% of Alaska's capacity. That puts Alaska roughly on par with Hawaiian Airlines in terms of West Coast-Hawaii capacity.

Much of Alaska's new service connected cities in California to secondary destinations in Hawaii -- not Honolulu. Alaska is able to make these flights work because it has a relatively good cost structure and flies 737-800s on most Hawaii routes. These planes have been configured with 157 seats, although Alaska has recently added a row to increase capacity to 163 seats.

This is a good size to match supply to demand on many of the routes to the outlying Hawaiian islands. Even so, Alaska only operates three to four flights per week on some routes to Kona and Lihu'e.

Hawaiian Holdings' dilemma

Unlike Alaska Air, the vast majority of Hawaiian Airlines' flights from the West Coast go to Honolulu. (Hawaiian Airlines also operates a small hub in Maui with flights to a few West Coast cities, and this summer it began offering seasonal service from Los Angeles and Oakland to Kona and Lihu'e.)


Indeed, one of the big reasons why Hawaiian Airlines did not move quickly to backfill all of the routes previously served by Aloha and ATA (another defunct carrier that previously flew to Hawaii) is that it does not have long range narrow-body aircraft in its fleet. All of its flights beyond Hawaii use wide-bodies with 250-300 seats.

This meant that Hawaiian Airlines couldn't profitably serve routes with lower demand. While it offers connections in Honolulu to the other islands, most travelers understandably prefer a nonstop flight.

The San Jose-Honolulu route -- which has more demand than many routes to Kona and Lihu'e -- is a case in point of Hawaiian's dilemma. Hawaiian Airlines reduced service on this route last fall and cut it altogether in early 2014 due to weak profitability. Then it restarted daily service on the route in mid-May. Clearly, the route is right on the margin between being viable or not.

A solution is coming

In order to avoid situations like this in the future, Hawaiian Holdings placed a firm order for 16 Airbus A321neos last year. It also has purchase rights for nine additional A321neos. These planes are expected to seat 190 passengers and will be some of the most fuel-efficient planes available when they debut in a few years.

Hawaiian Airlines will be able to use the A321neos in 3 different ways to improve its results. First, Hawaiian Airlines can take advantage of the lower seating capacity to add routes that could not handle a wide-body plane.

Second, Hawaiian Airlines can "downgauge" on marginal routes by swapping out a wide-body plane in favor of a smaller A321neo. This would dramatically improve the profitability of routes where Hawaiian can't reliably fill a wide-body. For example, this might solve the carrier's issues on the San Jose-Honolulu route.

Third, Hawaiian Airlines can use the A321neos to add capacity in smaller increments. Swapping two 190-seat A321neos for a 294-seat A330 increases seat capacity by 29%, whereas flying two wide-bodies would double capacity.

These strategies can also be combined. For example, instead of flying one A330 into Honolulu each day, Hawaiian could fly one A321neo to Honolulu and one A321neo to Maui. This would allow it to offer nonstop flights to two islands, while increasing its seat capacity by less than 30%.

Higher earnings ahead

The A321neo will allow Hawaiian Airlines to keep its costs down. But what makes it a game changer is that it will enable Hawaiian to better match capacity to demand both on existing routes and potential new routes. The A321neo will give Hawaiian Airlines the flexibility it needs to compete with Alaska Air on routes to Hawaiian destinations other than Honolulu.

In the long run, this will be good for Hawaiian Holdings shareholders in two ways. First, the arrival of the A321neo will increase the company's growth potential by making a variety of new routes feasible. Second, substituting the A321neo for wide-body aircraft will boost Hawaiian's profit margin. Both impacts will lead to significantly higher earnings at Hawaiian Holdings.

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Will Southwest Airlines Follow WestJet's Example of International Expansion?

Canada's WestJet Airlines is often thought of as the Southwest Airlines of the north. WestJet, having started out decades after an expanding Southwest found reliable profits in a turbulent industry, is now Canada's second-largest airline, behind the 78-year-old Air Canada.

But as WestJet looks beyond the domestic Canadian market for growth, does its expansion strategy give us a hint at what Southwest Airlines may do next?

Challenging the big guys

Southwest and WestJet have both built their businesses on challenging big, established legacy airlines. In Southwest's case, it was the legacy carriers that had divided domestic and international flying among themselves, and in WestJet's case, it was competition with the privatized former Crown corporation, Air Canada.

These two airlines managed to succeed in an industry where almost all start-ups perish, dragging millions of investor dollars down along with them. But having established themselves solidly in their respective domestic markets, Southwest and WestJet are increasingly looking abroad for additional growth.

Where to go

Despite being around nearly 30 years longer than its Canadian counterpart, Southwest hasn't needed to look internationally for continued growth as much as WestJet.

With the Canadian market being about one-ninth the size of the U.S. market based on population, continued growth has pushed WestJet to launch flights to the U.S., Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America.

Meanwhile, the larger U.S. market has provided plenty of room for Southwest's expansion, with flights to Mexico being available only through AirTran, which Southwest acquired in 2011.

Southwest is now busy making former AirTran routes into Southwest routes and recently announced plans to switch its international service in the Caribbean from AirTran to Southwest. While not brand-new expansion of the company's overall network, it does begin international service under the Southwest name.

Continuing in its own expansion, WestJet looked to Europe next, starting seasonal flights between St. John's, Newfoundland, and Dublin, Ireland. While transatlantic flights seem like a major increase in distance for an airline that previously kept to within the Americas, WestJet notes that St. John's is actually closer to Dublin than it is to Calgary.

Following WestJet?

WestJet has long been seen as a follower of Southwest by introducing the model of a low-cost carrier into the Canadian market. But as expanding airlines know, the domestic market can only fulfill growth plans for so long before international expansion is required.

WestJet ran into this issue faster because of the smaller size of the Canadian market and began expanding internationally and across the Atlantic sooner than Southwest did.

Fleet management

Southwest and WestJet have taken very similar fleet management strategies, with both carriers having Boeing 737 variants as their only jet aircraft, allowing them to benefit from reduced maintenance costs and increased pilot flexibility.

But WestJet is realizing it will need new equipment to compete in the transatlantic market on longer routes and has noted plans to introduce widebody aircraft within the next couple of years.

While having 737 aircraft as its only jets makes sense for a fleet flying within the domestic market and the Americas, transatlantic flights always always involve larger aircraft. Looking at how WestJet is adding wide-body aircraft for transatlantic operations, it wouldn't be surprising to see Southwest do the same once it decides to expand across the Atlantic.

Transatlantic expansion is probably at least a few years down the road for Southwest, since the airline is still working to restructure flights in Mexico and the Caribbean. However, if Southwest does decide to expand beyond the Americas, investors should keep an eye on what new equipment the airline buys.

Has the student become the master?

Southwest Airlines posted a remarkable record of growth and profitability from over the past few decades, and a similar strategy and performance by WestJet has led to frequent comparisons between the two.

But as Southwest has expanded within the domestic U.S. market, WestJet has sought opportunities outside its smaller domestic Canadian market. This has led WestJet to begin transatlantic flights and even discuss ordering wide-body aircraft for further overseas growth.

So as WestJet expands beyond its home market, Southwest investors should watch to see what may lie ahead.

( - The Motley Fool)