Low cost or catch all? I read with interest "Boom in South-East Asia as low-cost carriers vie for dominance" (Flight International, 9-15 November). There is no doubt that the no-frills airlines are the growth factor in the region; after all there are over 20 of them now, with many more planned, and with the lowering of airline entry barriers we expect these "boom" conditions to last for at least another 18-24 months. However, what evidence do you have that the named new entrant carriers are bona fide low-cost airlines, and what criteria are being applied to describe such an airline? It strikes me that "low cost" is rapidly becoming a catch-all phrase that any airline can (and often does) apply to itself without necessarily providing ratification. There is an established set of criteria based on existing, and successful, Western low-cost airlines that broadly encompasses several things, including the majority of product sales distribution achieved via the internet and credit card; a limited or non-existent in-flight service; and point-to-point operation and outsourcing of work wherever possible. Many such airlines no longer fit one or more of these categories. It is time that we all applied a more accurate description - neither "budget" nor "no-frills" is necessarily any more precise. From the passengers' point of view, of course, low cost is not the issue - low price is and all too often these airlines fail to live up to that description. D J Bentley Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, Oldham, Lancashire, UK

A400M: a black hole? I'm sure I'm not the only reader who couldn't bear to read the extended article on the A400M (Flight International, 9-15 November). As a UK taxpayer who will be shouldering the burden of the Eurofighter Typhoon for years to come, please don't ask me to be enthusiastic about this latest European multi-partner cash black hole. We've heard it all before. "Better, faster, more capable, cheaper to operate blah blah blah". But unlike your correspondents, who appear to have swallowed the Airbus PR hook line and sinker, most military pilots know from bitter experience that phrases such as "exorbitantly expensive, massively over budget, 10 years late in service, less capable than US equivalents, unexpected development delays, last-minute capability reduction to defray costs" will constitute a more accurate description of the end product. How much longer will the threadbare Royal Air Force and the oppressed taxpayer be expected to settle for inadequate, out-of-date kit in the name of indigenous manufacturing capability? Perhaps the "Smart Procurement" initiative will save us from the excesses this time, like it did for the Nimrod MRA4 - not! Graham Cownie Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK

Supersonic conflicts Arguably, much of the strife in the world results from antagonism between the affluent and the dispossessed. Even within the UK there is enmity between the impoverished and the "fat cats" whose business perks take a disproportionate amount of the world's resources. Supersonic business travel could justifiably fall into this category. Taxpayers have paid heavily to fund a supersonic transport that from the beginning was clearly never going to be an economic success, however beguiling the technology. We now seem to be going down that route again. And, on the subject of profligacy, few would question the use of widebody jets to ferry emergency aid to disaster-stricken areas. But for the routine delivery of tractors and ubiquitous fish? (Flight International, 19-25 October). Anthony Phillips Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK

Alenia and 7E7 investment In the article "Alenia reveals plans for Boeing 7E7 risk-sharing" (Flight International, 26 October-1 November), there is an assertion about the "undisclosed loan" that the Italian government will provide for the Boeing 7E7 programme. This is untrue and misleading: the planned investments by Alenia Aeronautica for the 7E7 programme will be entirely funded only by Alenia Aeronautica together with 7E7 programme partners. Should Alenia Aereonautica be given any additional funding, it will be in compliance with the Italian, European Union and international rules. Stefano Tagliani Alenia Aeronautica Rome, Italy

First pilot to fly at Mach 2 With reference to your NBAA preview (Flight International, 5-11 October), I would like to point out that if Scott Crossfield was the first to fly at Mach 2 (with the Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket II on 20 November 1953), that was not the case for Mach 3: on 27 September 1956, Mel Apt reached a speed of M3.2 with the Bell X-2, although he unfortunately lost his life when he afterwards lost control of the aircraft. Philippe Jung Association Aéronautique et Astronautique de France, Verneuil-sur-Seine, France

Source: Flight International