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Puckinflight

An all things aviation blog

Monthly Archives: March 2012

Lufthansa’s sale of bmi to IAG (BA) has been conditionally approved. The combined airline will have to divest slots at LHR. For those that are heavily in the bmi program should think of burning their miles, lest they change into AVIOS miles.

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Thoughts on gauge

Commercial airplanes range from the very large A380, to the very small, CRJ-200 and smaller. With gas prices and specifically Jet-A hitting record highs, airlines are starting to re-evaluate their fleet plans.

Economists have preached the benefits of economy of size, aka bigger is better. However, this is not always the case. It takes X amount of gas to fly one passenger, and then it takes X+Y gallons of gas to fly two passengers. This proceeds along a U-curve. On the lower end, there are not enough passengers to justify the cost of flying the route. On the higher end, the so much fuel has to go into getting the plane in the air, no amount of passengers can justify the expense.

At the recent PHX aviation conference, Delta Airlines mentioned that are having to re-evaluate the use of the 50 seat regional jets. Delta uses these on regional routes out their hubs to airports where oddly enough there is no equivalent service on other carriers.

What this tells me is that the economics of the 50 seat regional jets just isn’t there. If airlines are in the position of not being able to sustain service on routes where these is no competition, it does not bode well for service to those cities.

On the higher end side, there will always be trunk routes NYC-LHR, for example that will always be able to justify service on the largest of jets. But those routes are fairly limited. The buyers of the A380’s are the larger airlines, that have well established hubs, with a significant amount of long-haul routes. SQ, LH, AF, EK, ect

The extremes show where there are no or limited economics. What is the sweet spot currently? The most popular plane in history is the 737, but this short/medium range plane doesn’t have the range to make full load TATL trips. The current multi-roll plane is the 757-200, developed in the 1980’s it currently flys TATL trips, intra-asia flights, short hops and trans-cons in the US.

The major problem with the 757, is that it is old and not in production. The frames that are in use are starting to come to the end of their useful service lives. Currently, there is no real replacement on the books for the 757. The A321 and 739ER doesn’t have the range of the 757. The 787 and A330-200 are both too big to be an effective replacement for the frame. Both Boeing and Airbus have released their next generation narrow bodies, and neither are designed to replace the 757. Boeing is trying to drive business to the 787, but the buyers are not flocking to the 787 as the repacement.

The market drives the producers. Both Boeing and Airbus look to the airlines for information on what their next set of aircraft that they will develop. The airlines do not seem to be clamoring for a 757 replacement, which begs the question, what plane will fill this niche ten years from now?

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Air China announced that on March 31, 2012 they will retire the 767. The most direct replacement for the 767 is the 787 or A330. I have not heard that Air China ordered the 787. I think they are A330 customers. This seems to mark the beginning of the end 767 passenger service around the globe. It is an aging airframe, and with the exception of the 767-400’s (UA and DL are the sole operators of the type) so more airlines will be moving the frames out of service.

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Lufthansa set their first route for the 747-8 passenger plane, Frankfurt-Washington D.C., replacing the 747-400 currently on the route. Lufthansa is set to take delivery of the 747-8 in April.

The 747-8 hasn’t been the best selling aircraft in the history of commercial aviation. I have my own opinions of the size of planes and who should buy what, but that is neither here nor there. Either way the plane has the new business seats and I assume the current 747 F seat. With the larger upper-deck I expect the addition of more F seats.

Getting back to the new business class seat on the 747-8, it looks to be very good. It looks like another version of the U.S. Airlines new Envoy seat. I can’t wait to try it myself.

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EVA Airlines based out of Taipei, Taiwan has been announced as the newest star alliance member. This fills a gap that was left when Shanghai Airlines left the Alliance. EVA will provide another option for trans-pacific flyers. They have departures out of Seattle and Los Angeles to Taiwan.

Star Alliance is well on the way to establishing an Asia gateway in Seattle. Seattle will have Star Alliance departures to TPE, NRT, and ICN. Other Star Alliance will SEA departures to IAH, LAX, SFO, ORD, EWR, YVR, YYC, YYZ, FRA, and IAD.

Seattle continues to expand and will provide a great way for people to find available reward space to Asia.

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Lot airlines is slated to get its first 787 this year. According to USA Today they have announced their first route, Chicago-Warsaw.

Interestingly, this is the first european route announced and it is the first 787 route out of Chicago, a United Airlines hub and American Airlines hub. This will replace the current 767 on the route.

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If you have been living under a rock, AA entered chapter 11 several months ago. Chapter 11 is a section of the U.S. Bankruptcy code that allows companies to continue to operate while staying some financial obligations. In order to use Ch. 11, the companies must obtain debtor-in-possession financing. AA must find someone to continue financing them through the bankruptcy process.

In order to exit Ch. 11 AA must put together a plan that shows it will be able to make a sustained profit. That plan has to be approved by AA’s creditors. Normally this is a pro-forma step. A lot of companies have doing so “prepackaged bankruptcy” where there is a plan ready to go from the moment ch. 11 is declared. But with AA they neither had a plan ready to go and there is another issue.

U.S. Airways is going to make a bid for AA in Bankruptcy. What this means is that US presents its plan to the creditors and tries to get them to approve the plan. Then it goes before the judge who will make the final decision on the case. US tried this before with the DL bankruptcy back in 2006 and it did not work. DL fought off US. The big advantage to picking up AA in bankruptcy is that gets to dictate the terms of the merger, much like the AA/TW merger in 2001.

Will US be able to pick up AA? I don’t know. AA is a much weaker company than DL when it entered bankruptcy, with an inferior cost structure. It all depends on how the creditors see AA and the US bid. What we do know is that US wants to merger badly, and AA wants to fight them off just as badly.

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A criminal complaint was issued by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Dallas, TX today. The complaint consists of the basic information the U.S. Attorney has and is the first step in criminal proceedings against the pilot. Now the complaint is only the word of an FBI agent who is recounting what he was told by witnesses to the event itself. If it is anywhere close to accurate it is a very chilling account of what happened.
You can read the complaint in full here.

JetBlue has also responded to the event in their own words here.

Getting back to the complaint, it alleges violation of 49 USC 46504

An individual on an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States who, by assaulting or intimidating a flight crew member or flight attendant of the aircraft, interferes with the performance of the duties of the member or attendant or lessens the ability of the member or attendant to perform those duties, or attempts or conspires to do such an act, shall be fined under title 18, imprisoned for not more than 20 years, or both. However, if a dangerous weapon is used in assaulting or intimidating the member or attendant, the individual shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life.

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Stratfor, a private intelligence firm out of Austin, TX published an online article detailing how to deal with terrorism.

http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/keeping-terrorism-perspective

Personally, I fall more on the libertarian side of politics so I agree with the premise of the article. The premise is that terrorism is only terrorism because we make it so. Terrorist attacks are going to happen. The government will stop some, but not all. However, the overall effectiveness of a terrorist attack is measured by how we as a society respond to it. For example, the Madrid train bombing changed the course of the Spanish election and 9/11 spawned numerous armed conflicts around the world and created a color coded “awareness” scale that even though it has been retired it still ingrained in the American consciousness.

 

Terror is terror only if you let it be so.

 

 

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A JetBlue pilot has been taken in to FBI custody after a flight from JFK-LAS diverted to AMA. Apparently the pilot has some sort of panic attack and tried to do something to plane. The Co-pilot managed to remove the pilot from the flight deck and passengers at the front of the plane secured him. See ABC news link, here.

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