By now it’s well known that American Airlines will test AirCell’s air-to-ground (ATG) broadband solution next year on board its transcontinental Boeing 767-200 aircraft.
But the Oneworld alliance member is also “actively engaged" with connectivity suppliers in the satellite area, says American manager of in-flight communications and technology Doug Backelin.
You may recall that American was one of three US majors, including Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, to sign on as equity partners in Boeing’s now-defunct Connexion (CBB) in-flight broadband service. All three carriers pulled out of the project following 9/11.
AirCell can offer ATG service across the USA, and expects to expand to Canada and Mexico. But overseas flights require a satellite link.
“We’re concentrating most of our efforts right now to make the AirCell test a success, but at the same time keeping an eye on satellite solutions, talking to satellite providers,” says Backelin.
Mary Kirby: November 2007 Archives
By now it’s well known that American Airlines will test AirCell’s air-to-ground (ATG) broadband solution next year on board its transcontinental Boeing 767-200 aircraft.
Well, it has finally happened. A former Connexion by Boeing (CBB) customer, Japan Airlines (JAL), has confirmed plans for removing from its Boeing widebodies the Mitsubishi Electric (MELCO) antenna that supported the now defunct airborne connectivity service.
Over the last year, the in-flight entertainment/communications industry has speculated about whether the likes of JAL - and CBB launch customer Lufthansa - might seek out a provider willing to assume the service requirements of CBB (and let that big ole MELCO antenna stay put).
Panasonic, for one, proposed a solution that would support that very scenario, as part of a wider commitment to its own Ku band-based connectivity system.
But it wasn't meant to be for JAL, which says the MELCO antennas will come off in 2008. “At the moment we are focusing on broadband connectivity options similar to CBB rather than using an on-board mobile phone station called a ‘picocell’," says a JAL spokesman.
As previously reported here, Lufthansa is strongly believed to have selected a team that includes T-Mobile for its connectivity needs.
Key notes from Bombardier's third quarter earnings conference call:
1) Don't expect an update on a CSeries launch this year. Bombardier, which recently selected P&W's GTF geared turbofan for the CSeries, is updating its business case given that the product has evolved and the latest variation in currency. Continue to expect a launch decision in 2008. Bombardier's plan to have components made in Belfast and the aircraft assembled in Canada remains unchanged.
2) Development costs for the CSeries have changed, however. "For sure costs have changed over the years," says Bombardier, declining to discuss a "specific increase" until next year's update.
3) Bombardier continues to see negligible financial impact from the three SAS Q400 prangs. These kinds of events are insured and are mainly the responsibility of suppliers (Goodrich supplies the Q400 landing-gear). The third incident appears maintenance-related. In this case, the manufacturers would not be liable.
4) Bombardier is working with SAS to remarket the batch of Q400s grounded by the carrier. The manufacturer doesn't own these aircraft - they are leased and the responsibility of SAS. The demand is very high for these aircraft and Bombardier is looking to reach agreement with SAS on which would-be customers should be focused on.
5) Despite some predictions that SAS's decision to dispose of its 27 Q400s could reduce market values by 10%, Bombardier management "don't view that the Q400 will take a hit".
6) Production of CRJ700s and CRJ900s is being stepped up due to very high demand. Bombardier will produce one aircraft every three days (compared to the current four-day rate).
7) Bombardier's CRJ1000 development costs total about $300 million dollars. This is spread through 3.5 years. "That’s our cost, and we would have some supplier contribution in that," says Bombardier.
8) There is no order activity or campaigns arising in the 50-seat RJ sector. "We do not anticipate that in the US or outside of the US," says Bombardier. Overseas, larger RJs will be more effective for regional general travel.
(Photo from Bombardier)
While Lufthansa has yet to officially confirm how it will replace the in-flight connectivity service previously provided by now defunct Connexion by Boeing (CBB), industry insiders believe a deal is all but wrapped up.
One executive with deep knowledge of the industry says Lufthansa has apparently made a decision on its replacement for CBB and that it involves a partnership with T-Mobile.
The two firms are already well-acquainted. HotSpot by T-Mobile is available in nearly all Lufthansa lounges around the globe.
The launch customer for Connexion, Lufthansa issued a request for proposals for a Connexion replacement in February of this year, following Boeing’s decision last year to drop the system.
This summer the Wall Street Journal reported that T-Mobile, satellite operator SES Global and ViaSat, maker of wireless communication products, were in talks to provide an airborne broadband service to Lufthansa.
The airline has not yet announced its selection. But in-flight broadband providers are anxiously awaiting an official announcement from the German carrier, as its decision could have a significant impact on the broadband selection of other former Connexion operators.
Given that Lufthansa was Connexion's largest customer, the T-Mobile team "can very much get a head start" in offering a Ku band-based broadband solution to airlines, notes the executive.
(Photo from Lufthansa.com)
It seems there is some confusion over at American Airlines and its regional sister American Eagle Airlines over whether management has the right to exercise options for 25 more Bombardier CRJ700 regional jets.
A tentative agreement (TA) covering seniority protection for American's pilots and career progression for Eagle's pilots has fallen apart after management attempted to insert language into the pact that would establish rights to purchase the 25 70-seaters, according to the Allied Pilots Association (APA), which represents the mainline pilots.
The APA claims management has been unable to document rights to purchase these aircraft under the pilots’ existing contract, and that its language add-on demonstrates "underhandedness".
American Eagle began operating the CRJ700 in January 2002 (photo from AA.com)
There IS language covering the CRJ700 purchase in a 2003 agreement between American and the APA. See for yourself if the pact covers a firming of those 25 options now.
Here’s the “Letter Agreement on CRJ700 Aircraft” in its entirety:
This Agreement is made and entered into in accordance with the provisions of the Railway Labor Act, as amended, by and between American Airlines, Inc., hereinafter known as the "Company" and the Air Line Pilots in the service of the Company as represented by the Allied Pilots Association, hereinafter known as the APA.
Whereas the APA and the Company have agreed that in the future, Commuter Air Carriers operating under Section 1.D. of the Agreement shall utilize only aircraft that are not certificated in the United States or Europe with a maximum passenger capacity of more than 50 seats and that are not certificated in any country with a maximum gross takeoff weight of more than 64,500 pounds;
Whereas American Eagle Airlines currently has twenty five CRJ700 aircraft in service or on firm order, and also has options on an additional twenty five CRJ700
Now, therefore, the parties hereby agree to the following:
1. The Company and APA shall have one year from May 2003 to meet and negotiate in good faith the transfer of the CRJ700 aircraft currently in service, on order, or on option at American Eagle to the Company's operating certificate in a manner that shall be cost-neutral as to labor costs under collective bargaining agreements.
2. The APA hereby grants to the Company an exception from the 50 seat and 64,500 pound limitations on aircraft at American Eagle for the CRJ700 aircraft during the time period of negotiations pursuant to paragraph 1, above, and for one year after reaching agreement with the APA under paragraph 1, above, in order to effect the transfer to the Company's operating certificate of all CRJ700 aircraft operated by the Company or an Affiliate.
3. If the parties do not reach agreement under paragraph I of this agreement, the APA grants to the Company an exception from the 50 seat and 64,500 pound limitations on aircraft at American Eagle specifically for the CRJ700s currently in use, on order or on option as of the signing of this letter. This exception is for a maximum of fifty (50) CRJ700 aircraft with the understanding that the cancellation, transfer or expiration of any of the current (as of DOS) orders or options reduces this maximum number by a like amount.
For the American Airlines, Inc.
signed/ Mark L. Burdette
Director, Employee Relations
For the APA
signed/ Captain John E. Darrah
President, Allied Pilots Association
Should further evidence be needed to prove that US Airways has no intention of withdrawing plans to offer Philadelphia-Beijing service, one should look no further than the carrier’s latest filing to the US DOT.
Replying to a request by Maxjet Airways for back-up authority to US Airways’ China rights, the Star Alliance member tells the DOT: “Maxjet’s assertion that US Airways is not committed to the City of Philadelphia and Philadelphia-Beijing service is wrong.
“US Airways’ discussions with the City of Philadelphia are intended to ensure that sufficient gates are available so that the company can operate current and future international services from Philadelphia, including service to China.
"It would make little sense for US Airways, or any carrier, to bargain for additional international gates to support a service it does not wish to operate.”
The filing follows US Airways' announcement that it has delayed a decision on withdrawing Philly-Beijing until the Pennsylvania city's Mayor-elect Michael Nutter can see what might be done about gate space at the airport (the whole reason for US Airways' gripe in the first place).
For the record, US Airways told its employees in a recent newsletter that it has informed the airport authority, city and Pennsylvania Commonwealth officials "that if the airport moves Delta domestic flights to three international gates, we will have to reconsider international expansion from Philadelphia next year, and withdraw our authority for Philadelphia-China service that we hoped to begin in spring of 2009”.
Delta made the move last week.
Peddle fast and backwards.
A Las Vegas-based operator that made headlines in October 2004 when it announced its intent to acquire 20 Boeing 787-8s (then known as the 7E7) and 20 Boeing 737-800s is still touting plans on its web site to operate both types in all-business class configuration.
I’m sure Primaris Airlines does not mean to be disingenuous when it says: “As early as 2009, Primaris will be the first US airline with a fleet of the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner – a new airliner for a new world”.
It also says its initial new aircraft deliveries, which will be “from the Boeing 737 family”, will offer 2x2 wide leather seating and separate restrooms for ladies and gentlemen.
In June 2006, Boeing stopped recognizing Primaris as a potential customer for either its 787 or 737-800.
What Primaris does offer – and what its web site should more clearly state – is Boeing 757 charter service. Trinidad-based travel agency Constellation Travel Service contracts Primaris to fly charters to Fort Lauderdale, Florida; New York; and Toronto as well as to Guyana.
Flight International’s ACAS database says the carrier’s fleet comprises two 757-200s on lease from Lehman Brothers and Pegasus Aviation.
Primaris is also in a hiring push, but not for the aircraft types its web site most vocally promotes. Rather, the carrier is seeking Boeing 757 and 767 mechanics, as well as flight attendants and a crew scheduler.
What’s the deal, Primaris? Or rather, what isn't your deal?
(Photo Above: Copyright Carlos Borda)
Lithuania’s Aurela, a private airline that flies charters for tour operators in the Baltic States, is pressing ahead with plans to expand its fleet with Boeing 757s.
Spotters in Germany have scored some of the first shots of Aurela’s first 757, an ex-Vim Airlines bird.
The carrier’s current fleet comprises two Boeing 737-300s on lease from Pembroke and Triton.
Just as it was inevitable that Kyla Ebbert, the scantily-clad Hooters waitress who suffered untold mental anguish at the hands of Southwest Airlines, would pose for Playboy, so too is Bombardier assured that every Q400 glitch – no matter how minor – will be scrutinized for some time to come, following SAS Group’s decision to axe its Q400 fleet after three prangs.
Take an incident that occurred on November 5, which was only just picked up by the press this week (including by myself). A Q400 being delivered to Algerian operator Tassili Airlines experienced problems with its landing-gear shortly after taking off from a refueling point in Portugal.
To be precise, one of the landing-gear doors failed to close. The aircraft is currently being repaired at Flybe’s facility in Exeter, UK and is likely to be delivered to Tassili this weekend.
That the incident received any coverage at all is a sign of just how much the Q400 remains under the microscope, despite broad industry backing and regulatory clearance.
As a close colleague of mine said, after hearing about the Tassili glitch: “Ye Gods, hey the toilet didn’t flush first time – stop the presses!”
Stop the presses, indeed. And while we're at it, let's give a hand to Kylie, who has parlayed her agonizing Southwest experience into big bucks (photo above courtesy of Crissy Pascual/Union-Tribune).
Kylie's Playboy shoot, by the way, is titled "Legs in the Air" (sarcasm aside, you gotta love that).
Anyone want to buy a Boeing 747? Air New Zealand (ANZ) has begun a dedicated effort to shed its 747-400 widebodies.
The carrier is listing four 747-400s for sale – three powered with Rolls-Royce engines and one with General Electric CF6 powerplants for delivery in 2012. There’s nothing like having a four- or five-year time period to make a sale.
The aircraft, with build dates ranging from 1989 to 1998, are being replaced with Boeing 777-300ERs that ANZ has on order with the manufacturer. The 777s will be delivered in parallel with already-ordered Boeing 787-9s between late 2010 and 2011.
Once the 777s are in service and have replaced the carrier’s 747-400s, by 2012, ANZ’s fleet will be made up entirely of twin-engined aircraft.
Philadelphia’s Mayor-elect Michael Nutter must be a powerfully persuasive guy. He has apparently succeeded where Senators Arlen Specter, Bob Casey and a host of state and local officials have floundered – convincing US Airways to delay a decision on withdrawing plans for offering nonstop service between Philadelphia and Beijing.
“Mayor-elect Nutter has asked us to ‘refrain from taking action’ until he and his staff have time to study the gate issue and we will honor that request,” says US Airways in a statement.
No doubt US Airways is glad he asked. The request could not have been any better timed. For the moment, it relieves US Airways from making good on a threat to scuttle Philadelphia-Beijing service should Delta Air Lines move over to Terminal A-East – which Delta did last night!
Just what remedy might Nutter produce to satisfy US Airways, which claims its international growth is being hampered by Delta’s move?
Previous ideas that have been floated – and ceremoniously rejected by one party or another - include constructing an additional wing, as well as building a brand new terminal at the airport.
Referring to the latter plan, Specter last week said: “Well I don’t know that I’m going to back federal expenditures on a new terminal for Philadelphia with the way that this company [US Airways] conducts itself.”
According to US Airways, Nutter and his team will “evaluate options that would meet the dual goals of expanded domestic gate capacity for new domestic service and dedicated gates to allow US to jointly grow Philadelphia as an international hub”.
It all sounds so simple. And maybe it will prove to be just that.
Does anyone really believe US Airways will give up its China rights, flying in the face of all those Philadelphians who supported its application to the DOT? Or that US Airways will allow Maxjet Airways to slip in and take the authority?
Maxjet has already called on the DOT to investigate US Airways’ threat, and to give the all-premium operator back-up authority to fly Seattle-Shanghai.
Virgin America is receiving a lot of press this week for flying a group of Victoria Secret supermodels from New York to Los Angeles in advance of a lingerie show. A lesser-known group of Angels are shedding some clothing, but for a good cause.
Meet this year’s Cabin Fever girls, a group of flight attendants who pose for an annual calendar with proceeds benefiting The Princess Margaret Hospital Foundation.
This year’s calendar, aptly titled “In the Wings”, depicts “the many roles that flight attendants play both on and off the aircraft”, including, but not limited to, hostesses, public speakers, bartenders, therapists, firefighters and security personnel, according to the web site.
A shot of a flight attendant acting as paramedic is sure to be a crowd pleaser (scroll down the page).
Now back to Virgin America. It appears the marketing machine that is behind the Virgin brand may be facing a little competition.
AirTran Airways tomorrow will celebrate its new service between Indianapolis and Las Vegas by treating passengers to an in-flight performance by “a resplendent Elvis in full stage-wear” (the tight, white jump suit!!).
Supermodels and The King. What’s next in the world of in-flight entertainment? Naked flight attendants? By George, You've Got It!
A bi-partisan body that promotes state-based initiatives to strengthen the nation’s aviation, aerospace and space development is about to resurface, and become a lot more vocal.
The Aerospace States Association (ASA), which is comprised of all the US States’ Lieutenant Governors and associate members including Rockwell, Gulfstream and Orbital, has been flying under the radar for some time (it's web site hasn't been updated for about 11 months).
The site, which on all accounts could use freshening up, will start posting new information in December, reveals an ASA spokeswoman. She insists that ASA remains "very, very active".
To that end, ASA’s Policy Committee is presently developing a Hearing on International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) that will be held at the Rayburn building on March 11, 2008 and will consist of testimony from three panel groupings that include industry, government, and academia. The agenda and speakers are in the process of being defined.
Lest there be any lingering doubt that US Airways has in fact threatened to scuttle plans for serving Philadelphia-Beijing, the carrier released the following statement to employees:
“…The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Wednesday [November 7] that US Airways may give back its authority to fly PHL-China because international gates may not be available. This is the result of decisions by PHL airport officials to boost domestic flying in Terminal A at the expense of international operations.
“These news reports are true, and may become an unfortunate reality. We’ve told the airport authority, city and Commonwealth officials that if the airport moves Delta domestic flights to three international gates, we will 1) have to reconsider international expansion from PHL next year, and 2) withdraw our authority for PHL-China service that we hoped to begin in spring of 2009.”
“We’ve pledged that we wouldn’t subject our customers or employees to an unreliable international operation again. We haven’t given up. US Airways and Philadelphia worked hard to win this award together, and in that spirit of partnership, we hope to find a solution.
“We’ll continue to work for an agreement right up until the time the airport finalizes its decision, and we’ll keep employees posted as these events unfold.”
US Airways’ threat is being made in response to Delta's move tomorrow from Philadelphia’s Terminal E to Terminal A-East, which will make more room for Southwest Airlines at Terminal E, and strip US Airways of three of 16 widebody gates at the international concourse.
Last week, during a heated joint press conference between Senator Arlen Specter and US Airways CEO Doug Parker, the former likened US Airways' threat to extortion. At that time, Parker did not outright confirm the accuracy of the Inquirer's report, but said: "What we have simply said, and very careful to say in a way that we’re not trying to threaten anybody, simply to give facts that if indeed we have fewer gates than we had last summer, not only can we not expand, we are going to have to contract on our international operations."
Delta confirmed today that it plans to move to Terminal A-East tomorrow.
It didn't take long for operators to start sniffing around SAS Group's grounded Q400 fleet.
Air Canada Jazz officials revealed yesterday during an earnings conference call that they are checking out the goods.
It makes perfect sense. Well over two years ago, Jazz said it was looking to add 70-seat Q400s "at some point" possibly by trading in some older, 50-seat CRJ100s (it flies about 22 of the type).
At that time, Jazz said the Q400 would be useful for some of its high-frequency turboprop routes such as Vancouver-Victoria.
Toronto City Center-based newbie Porter Airlines - of which Jazz is locked in a fierce legal battle - also happens to operate Q400s and claims to be doing quite well after one year of service, thank you very much.
When SAS grounded its 27 Q400s in the wake of three landing-gear incidents (two related to corrosion, and the last revealed as a maintenance error), analysts predicted the turboprops wouldn't have a problem finding homes.
Looks like the talking-heads were right.
Every now and then, when I emerge from my home office in Lancaster County, outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I catch a whiff of the Dairy Farm down the road. It’s a powerful scent, but it’s no longer entirely unpleasant. My tolerance for shit, it seems, has increased.
Why then did I find yesterday’s joint press conference of Senator Arlen Specter and US Airways CEO Doug Parker so uncomfortable to watch? Perhaps it’s because a 77-year lawmaker, who has battled a brain tumor, bypass heart surgery and Hodgen’s Disease, with somewhat halting speech was able to back Parker into a corner, and make his carefully tailored explanation for why US Airways is threatening to withdraw plans for Philadelphia-Beijing service seem, well, foul-smelling.
US Airways’ threat, by the way, is being made in response to Delta Air Lines' move next week from Philadelphia’s Terminal E to Terminal A-East, which will make more room for Southwest Airlines at Terminal E, and strip US Airways of three of 16 widebody gates at the international concourse.
It’s a deal struck by Philadelphia a couple of years ago when US Airways was floundering under its second Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, and made sense for the airport at the time, Parker admits. Now-profitable, the dominant carrier at Philadelphia doesn't quite see the sense anymore. In addition to its warning about Beijing, the carrier says it may have to shrink its entire international operation at Philly, and divert service to its Charlotte and Phoenix hubs.
The most-talked-about moment of the press conference came when Specter – still furious over US Airways’ planned draw-down at Pittsburgh – responded to the carrier's new Phillly threat by saying: “In talking to Mr Parker, I said to him, and I don’t use this word lightly, it sounds like extortion.”
But for me, things turned most interesting at the end.
Asked repeatedly by Specter if US Airways – which claims to have a bevy of solutions to solve the gate problem - has ever in fact offered to give up two or three of its total 67 domestic gates to facilitate Delta’s plans, Parker hemmed and hawed and finally said: “I don’t know that we said that specifically because there are other airlines flying less domestic than we do.”
Specter retorted: “You don’t know. That’s the answer.”
This one gets filed in the "No Shit Sherlock" folder. SAS CEO Mats Jansson reportedly said today that the company will not buy a new generation of Q400 aircraft.
His last statement is a little curious, however. Referring to the fact that SAS will not rule out buying other aircraft types from Bombardier, Jansson is quoted by Dow Jones as saying: "This is about a long-term relation and then the recent accident isn't of major importance."
Say what? Has something been lost in translation here? Did Jansson actually say this? If so, is it safe to assume that the back-peddling has begun?
Last night, I attended a party in DC to celebrate the launch of Today Show travel editor Peter Greenberg’s new Travel Detective Bible. After the event, I sat down with Peter (aka the Travel Detective) to discuss his take on the latest topic de jour – the spate of SAS Q400 landing-gear-related incidents, and the company’s subsequent decision to axe its entire Q400 fleet.
Of particular concern to Peter is the FAA’s decision to wait until October 30 to issue an airworthiness directive (effective November 14) covering Q400s certificated for operation in the USA - six weeks after seperate SAS Q400s suffered gear-collapses at Aalborg and Vilnius. Corroded retraction actuators, which had then disconnected, were found on the Q400s involved.
Horizon Air (sister to Alaska Airlines) operates a fleet of 33 of the type. Peter says he is “amazed that the FAA of this country did not ground these planes until their airworthiness could be proven. It’s more then just erring on the side of caution, it’s erring on the side of intelligence".
That the FAA has given operators so much time to complete the inspections “could border on what some might say is criminal negligence".
He later added: “If you have a problem which could jeopardize people’s lives and you make a conscious decision not to ground the aircraft immediately, then you are criminally negligent”.
Suffice it to say that a Travel Detective and a Runway Girl don’t always see eye-to-eye (actually, at 6ft tall, I don't see eye-to-eye with most folks, but that's beside the point).
While the FAA’s timeline for issuing it’s own AD does seem rather “Johnny come lately”, I think it’s important to note that, in the wake of the gear-collapse accidents at Aalborg and Vilnius, Horizon grounded its Q400 fleet and began conducting immediate landing-gear inspections in response to a Transport Canada airworthiness directive (which was preceded by Bombardier's own call for inspections).
Horizon gave all of it aircraft “a clean bill of health” and returned them to service on September 25.
The FAA's AD (released after reviewing Transport Canada's findings) does not address the Q400 accident on October 27 at Copenhagen. Danish investigators have indicated that a maintenance error led to that gear-up landing, and is unrelated to the accidents in Aalborg and Vilnius.
Additionally, the European Aviation Safety Agency today announced that the Q400 accident at Copenhagen was “not due to a design error” and adds that the airworthiness of the aircraft “is maintained”.
Nonetheless, Peter believes the FAA should be held to task for its response time to the initial two incidents, noting that the latest findings concerning the Copenhagen incident “still doesn’t get them off of the other two”.
When my three year old daughter asked to ride a train on Saturday at Disney World and I responded by taking her on Thunder Mountain Railroad, it became pretty clear about 10 seconds into the ride that we were in fact on a roller coaster, and that mommy had made a big mistake (easily judged by my wee one's ghostly white complexion and insistence that she doesn't like trains anymore). I quickly regained ground by acquiescing to every whim and fancy for the rest of the day. But the fact remains: I could have avoided a lot of anguish (and money) had I not rushed headlong into a decision before becoming well-informed.
It's a lesson that SAS Group might be pondering right now, after Danish investigators indicated that a maintenance error led to the landing-gear actuator blockage which caused a Scandinavian Airlines Bombardier Q400 to conduct a gear-up landing at Copenhagen last month, and SAS to axe it entire Q400 fleet.
The hoopla and negative press that followed may prompt Bombardier to take legal action. But the Canadian manufacturer has received a resounding vote of confidence from the industry, which largely sees SAS's decision as a knee-jerk reaction. Should SAS start back-peddling like a apologetic mom at Disney World, or stand it's ground? The roller coaster ride is just beginning, me thinks.