Archive For The “General Category” Category

Podcast – Airport Development Challenges

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We have a deep dive into the issues of airport developments with an industry expert.  Henrik Rothe is a

senior lecturer at Cranfield University in the UK, where he teaches urban planning with reference to airports.

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The LA Fires Underscore the Need for Preventive Aerial Firefighting

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As we see priceless works of art at the Getty Center in LA endangered by a fire just across the freeway and thousands of people displaced by wildfires, the need for increased aerial firefighting support is quite clear.

The technology is available. The CL-415 built by Viking in Vancouver BC was initially a Bombardier design purpose-built for firefighting. Viking Air in Sydney BC is considering restarting the production of the CL-415. This “super-scooper” can land on a lake or river and scoop up a full load to be back fighting fires much more quickly than other tankers, which need to land and be refilled from water systems.

Just as we had flights of bombers in World War II, imaging 12 or 24 of these water bombers, flying in formation, dousing wildfires just after they begin and before they become massive conflagrations. Is it possible? Yes. Does it make sense? Yes. Will it happen? Not without government getting out of the way.

The government can’t fund aircraft purchases, and can’t enter into leases longer than a year under current fiscal regulations.  The CONOPS,  to rewater at an airport is antiquated.  You need persistent delivery with minimum time between refilling airplanes and only the CL-415 and BE-60 can do that.

This is why the US Forest Service fleet is a mishmash of old aircraft that have been converted to firefighting operations.  Unfortunately, those aircraft aren’t as reliable nor as effective as new aircraft that are purposely designed for that purpose. (The 747 Supertanker is an exception)

Major players in the insurance industry claim to be expert at risk management.  If they truly were, however, they would create a joint venture to quickly handle wildfires and avoid multi-billion losses.  Every year, we see massive fires in the Western US, and similarly, as the seasons change, massive wildfires in Australia.  The cost of a fleet of CL415s, strategically placed to hit wildfires as soon as they emerge, would be much less than the cost of paying insurance claims when homes are lost and the lives of people negatively impacted.

The Bottom Line:
There is a solution.  Have the insurance industry privately fund a fleet of aircraft that can be dispatched to knock down major fires before they become disasters.  Looking at the cash flows, it would be cheaper than paying massive claims.  As the old adage states, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure“.  Early action is essential in knocking down fires, and clearly, the current practices are not working.  Whatever happened to common sense?

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City pairs explode

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IATA released data showing that this year airlines across the world connected a record number of cities, with unique city-pair connections exceeding 20,000 for the first time. The annual percentage increase in the number of city pairs served was the largest since 2004 and represents a doubling of services since 1996 when there were fewer than 10,000 city pairs in operation.

The implication of this move should be clear to our readers – the change has been enabled by newer, longer range, aircraft.

Nearly three-quarters of the change between 2016 and 2017 came from within Asia and Europe.  Note that more city-pairs were added in the domestic China market in 2017 than within the whole of Europe combined.  As IATA notes: “China accounted for 11.4% of all city-pairs globally this year, up from 5.5% a decade ago.”

China is especially interesting because there is a general assumption that high high-speed lows air travel growth. Yet even with a highly developed high-speed rail network in Europe, it too has seen strong air route changes and growth.

The implications are that as markets start to come on stream in China, more aircraft will likely be needed.  In September, Boeing released its forecast that states China will need 7,200 new aircraft over the next 20 years.  Not just China, by the wider Asian region also needs longer-range aircraft to connect communities.  Clearly, the same logic applies in all travel growth markets, Africa being another example.

While one naturally thinks about single-aisle aircraft as being the bulk of the growing demand,  bear in mind that as economies develop, urbanization accelerates.  It is the big urban areas that generate the greatest economic wealth and these areas also want more travel options.  Which brings us to another IATA chart.

Take a look at this presentation from IATA’s media day.  Airport growth is not keeping up with urbanization.  Slot constraints are going to get worse, especially in the big cities. IATA then takes us through a series of options like slot pricing and auctions.

Of course, the way the problem is most likely to be solved is by deploying VLAs in these markets.  The airline offering the highest price for an auctioned slot would best recoup that investment by selling the most seats for that slot. Ergo, the case for the VLA remains as strong as ever.

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Major Changes in EFB Applications

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The FAA has made a 180-degree turn in its attitude towards the display of own-ship position on electronic flight bags.  Advisory Circular AC120-76D eliminated the prohibition from using geo-referencing or own-ship position displays while using moving map features on an EFB in the air.  Using geo-referencing on the ground has always been acceptable.

This applied to operators under Part 91, 91K, 121, 125, and 135.  Operators from parts 91K to 135 require FAA approval of their EFB programs, but Part 91 operators can use EFBs as they wish, without formal approvals.

This will enable many general aviation pilots operating under Part 91 to gain the benefits of moving map technology on their iPads without having to replace their steam-gauge panels with glass cockpits.  As the sophistication of EFB applications from companies like Jeppesen (Boeing) and ForeFlight has increased and the ability to demonstrate the accuracy of positioning information, the FAA became more comfortable with the use of position-information in flight.

EFB classification has also been eliminated, and the former Classes 1, 2, and 3 are now history.  The new definition of an EFB is “a device displaying EFB applications.”  That could, in the near future, turn out to be a smartphone as well as an iPad.

In other changes, operators can make changes to their EFB programs without contacting their FAA principal inspector.  The approval and updating process for EFB applications has gotten easier.

The Bottom Line:
EFBs are here to stay and have proven themselves.  While for hire operations still require FAA approved EFB programs, the regulatory process has been streamlined, reflecting the reliability and sophistication of many EFB apps.  The FAA is keeping up with technology, and recognizing the capabilities of an EFB.

This should result in the industry-leading applications that are approved by the FAA expanding their productivity and utility in the cockpit.

Now if we could only get ADSB into an EFB…..

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Emirates News Dominates Dubai Air Show

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Emirates, as is customary, places orders and makes headlines at the Dubai Air Show. This year is no exception, as the carrier has ordered 40 Boeing 787-10s, and is demanding a production guarantee for the next decade from Airbus prior to ordering additional A380s.

Positive News for Boeing:

The firm order for 40 787-10s from Emirates is good news for Boeing, who secure another major customer for this airframe. While this order has long been anticipated, the finalization cements another type in the Emirates fleet for Boeing, who have already secured a number of orders for the 777-8 and 777-9 from EK. Each of these aircraft will be utilized in missions for which they are optimized.

The 787-10 order is a blow to Airbus, as an order for 70 A350s was cancelled in 2014. Boeing has now won that competition, as the 787 and A350 are similarly sized. In an interview, Tim Clark indicated that over the ranges Emirates planned to utilize the aircraft, the 787-10 had slightly better economics than the A350 in their estimation, although Airbus might disagree. While the 787-10 has a range that is 1,400nm shorter than the A350-900, it has a smaller wing and is lighter, providing more efficiency for shorter-haul routes on which Emirates plans to utilize the aircraft.

Mixed News for Airbus

Airbus was hoping to announce an order for 36 additional A380 aircraft to Emirates. But negotiations are still underway, with Emirates demanding that Airbus continue production of the aircraft for another 10-15 years.

At current rates of less than 1 per month, the A380 order would provide another 4 years of backlog that should enable Airbus to easily continue the aircraft through 2027. One would think a 10 year guarantee would be quite easy to achieve.

But the backlog for the A380 is somewhat deceiving, as a number of order have been deferred substantially and remain at risk of cancellation over the longer-term. Airbus is counting on increasing airport and traffic congestion to fuel additional demand for the A380, but this hasn’t happened yet.

While the growth of traffic at higher rates than infrastructure in China and other areas is continuing, the question is whether this will become critical enough over the next decade to generate orders for the A380. Because smaller aircraft now offer nearly equivalent seat-mile economics with lower aircraft mile costs, the offer less risk to an airline.
If an airline can fill an A380, it is a marvelous and profitable aircraft. But most airlines are quite risk-averse and likely won’t order the A380 until they have little choice due to slot and gate constraints that make large aircraft necessary. It does make sense to consolidate frequencies at London Heathrow and utilize the additional slots for other routes, as infrastructure costs are escalating dramatically. But there aren’t that many airports with Heathrow economics – yet.

It is in the interest of both Airbus and Emirates to come to an agreement on A380 production, and we expect that a deal will get done. But whether that can be done during the Dubai Air Show is another question entirely. Stay tuned, as we expect an agreement will be reached.

The Bottom Line:

Boeing has scored a major victory for the 787-10 over the A350XWB at Emirates. Given that the 787-10 order is for 40, while the cancellation of the A350XWB was for 70 aircraft, there may be further growth potential for Boeing at Emirates.

The influence Emirates wields over the A380 program with Airbus will be tested, as Tim Clark wants 10-15 years of continuing production. Airbus would prefer not to make a long-term commitment to an aircraft that it may not be able to sell a decade from now without an expensive upgrade. Such an upgrade doesn’t appear to make economic sense given the lack of demand for the A380 from customers other than Emirates. While it is in the interest of both Emirates and Airbus to reach an agreement, both parties will need to compromise.

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Russia and Ukraine to start discussing the AN-124’s future

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[UPDATE – Antonov will support Russia’s AN-124 fleet]

News from both Ukraine and Russia indicate the two countries are possibly going to start talking about the AN-124.   Both sides need to do this because the AN-124 is a product of the Soviet era.  The current political abyss that the two nations find themselves staring across does not help either side with respect to solving the AN-124’s unique capabilities.  And it’s capabilities are impressive.

Russia has a dozen AN-124s in service where Volga Dnepr is the big user.  On the Ukraine side, we have Antonov Airlines with seven aircraft.  Both these fleets find a lot of work moving extra heavy cargo all over the world.  The AN-124 is unique in commercial cargo service. The big engine makers need them to move engines to the aircraft OEMs.  Given the demand for the Airbus neo program, there is an AN-124 in Hartford regularly.  We saw two parked in Detroit waiting for the next call.

Both sides in the embroglio thought they could go their own way.  Antonov (Ukraine) is the certificate holder of the AN-124 and requires flight worthiness checks every 4,000 flight hours.  The Russians were not going to send any of their aircraft to Kiev for this.  Indeed one Volga Dnepr airframe went to the UK (Marshall Aerospace) for maintenance and other work, details of which have never been made public.   Antonov was challenged by the Russians for the transfer of its certificate rights for maintenance of the aircraft to Russia’s Ilyushin Aviation Complex. While the airframe and engines are Ukrainian, the flight deck and systems are all Russian.  Indeed we have heard from Volga Dnepr that without the Russian inputs the AN-124 could not fly.  The impasse between the two sides is entirely political and, frankly, shortsighted.

In the Soviet era, work on aerospace projects was spread over various facilities across the system.  This gave everyone a share and stake and kept thousands of skilled people at work.  Economics was not a consideration.  The collapse of the Soviet Union brought overnight change, with economic reality immediately becoming the primary consideration.  The impact was brutal to those thousands of people in Soviet aerospace jobs.  Russia moved to combine its aerospace assets in UAC and UEC.  Ukraine only had Antonov and its engine maker.  There was not enough work to keep the Ukraine side busy. Antonov started an airline to employ its assets.  Recently it even refurbished an AN-22 which is now based in Leipzig, Germany for cargo charters.  Here you can see it, unpainted, on a test flight.

For both commercial operators, some sort of collaboration is essential.  Politics must get out of the way.  If the two sides can sort this out, the current AN-124 fleet can be refreshed.  Antonov started to work on an update in June 2007 and got an updated certificate for the AN-124-150.  Tweaked engine work continues.  Russia has the bigger fleet and possibly the greater financial clout to move the project forward.  Will the Ukraine allow this to move forward?  Antonov told us they have 14,000 skilled people in Kiev that are under-employed.  The solution is staring both sides in the face.

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