Monday, June 30, 2008

Bad week for freight carrier ABX Air

ABX Air DC-9Last week was not a good one for ABX Air. On June 26, 2008 the Air Transport Services Group, parent company of ABX Air, announced in a press release that its principal business partner in the U.S., DHL, would release 23 ABX Air DC-9 aircraft from service between June 30, 2008 through December 31, 2008. This announcement reflects the first phase of DHL's intention, stated in May of this year, "to remove from service over next 12 to 18 months, 39 of 55 DC-9 aircraft that ABX Air has dedicated to DHL’s U.S. network."

In addition, DHL notified ABX Air that it had commenced negotiations with UPS that could lead to the assumption by UPS of substantially all of the services that ABX Air currently provides to DHL.

ABX Air says it also provides 31 Boeing 767 aircraft and related flight crews to DHL, however that number is likely reduced by one aircraft since Saturday, June 28. On the evening of that date, an ABX Air B767 in DHL livery caught fire on the ground at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and appears to be substantially damaged, judging from post-fire photos posted on

According to a press advisory issued by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) about the a fire that erupted aboard the parked B-767 cargo jet, this is what happened:
About 10:00 p.m. PDT, the flightcrew of a Boeing B-767 (N799AX), operated by Airborne Express as cargo flight 1611, reported smoke and fire just aft of cockpit while preparing to start the engines. The airplane was parked at the time, and all cargo had been loaded. Both flightcrew members exited the airplane safely via cockpit window. The airport rescue and fire fighting unit extinguished the fire; however, a hole had been burned through the crown of the aircraft above the forward galley area.
The FAA preliminary report about the fire also stated that no injuries occurred.

Various news articles reported that the fire and smoke caused more than 100 people to be evacuated from a nearby building. Roads into the SFO airport were closed temporarily while emergency crews responded to the scene. Radio station KCBS reported on its website that it took firefighters two hours to extinguish the blaze.

[Photo Source]

Sunday, June 29, 2008

NetJets flight attendant sues Jennifer Lopez over dog bite, injuries

US District CourtA former NetJets flight attendant filed suit in New York late last week against Jennifer Lopez and her company, Nuyorican Productions, Inc., alleging that a dog belonging to the actress attacked her during a flight between Farmingdale, NY and Burbank, CA on July, 3, 2006. The flight attendant says that the dog, a German shepherd named Floyd, lunged at her as she passed by in the passenger cabin of the Gulfstream IV, and bit her pant leg. When the flight attendant twisted to get away from the dog, she fell, injuring her back.

According to documents filed in court, the flight attendant began treatment for back pain within days of the incident, but was unable to achieve relief from her pain. As a result of the injuries, the flight attendant had to have major surgery on her back in April of 2007, and she continues to undergo treatment.

The lawsuit alleges that the flight attendant's injuries are permanent and will require additional treatment. She has been unable to return to work. She is seeking $5 million in compensation. The flight attendant's attorney was quoted in a number of news reports such as this one in the New York Daily News, saying she is not out to capitalize on J. Lo's celebrity, and had made attempts to settle the case that were ignored. NetJets is not named in the suit.

Predictably, this story quickly went viral, spreading like wildfire around the Internet, especially on celebrity gossip websites. Once that happens, stories begin to mutate and become sensationalized, like an earlier story about Jennifer Lopez and a flight attendant that I wrote about  nearly two years ago.

If you are interested in the details of this incident, I suggest that you read the actual court documents (8-page 'pdf' file), posted to the Internet by, and that you take many of the accounts in the entertainment media with a grain of salt.

My sympathies are with the injured flight attendant.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Midwest Airlines flight attendants call proposed concessions 'ludicrous'

Midwest AirlinesMidwest Airlines is seeking to reduce its flight attendant work force by more than half, and also wants those remaining on the job to agree to massive cuts in pay and benefits. This week the Seabury Group, an outside consulting firm hired by Midwest Airlines, presented this potentially devastating plan to the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), the union representing Midwest's flight attendants. The union called the proposed concessionary package "ludicrous."

The plan proposes to cut 217 flight attendant positions, meaning over half of the Midwest Airlines flight attendants would lose their jobs. Those remaining would be asked to agree to hourly pay rate cuts ranging from 34 to 56 percent, plus other concessions that would reduce their income even further.

The union leadership calls the proposed plan "ludicrous" because Midwest Airlines flight attendants already earn 19 percent less than flight attendants at other low cost carriers. The AFA points out that the proposed Seabury plan included no supporting evidence to indicate that Midwest Airlines flight attendants' pay is too high.

In response to the proposed plan, Dory Klein, President of the Midwest Airlines unit of the AFA stated:
"This proposal is insulting, irrational, and fails to be fair and equitable. Midwest flight attendants are currently working under concessions that were negotiated five years ago in order for management to have the resources they needed to return our airline to profitability. Since that time, management has failed to create a viable business plan. It should be their responsibility to carry the burden of restructuring, not the flight attendants'.

"We have made repeated requests to review management and non-contract employee concessions, but have not received this information, which is particularly critical in light of what happened during our last round of concessions in 2003. Shortly after we took pay and work rule cuts, management gave themselves a pay increase and restored the concessions from all other non-union work groups."
The union leader said, "As we wait and see what the future holds for Midwest Airlines, we will continue to do everything we can to protect the careers of Midwest flight attendants."

Friday, June 27, 2008

New safety recommendations for operators of turbojet aircraft

NTSB logoToday, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a set of new safety recommendations of interest to professional pilots flying turbojet aircraft operating under CFR Parts 121, 135, and 91K, that is, all scheduled and charter passenger and freight airlines; on-demand passenger and freight operations; and fractional operations. The new recommendations arose from the findings of the NTSB investigation of a runway overrun accident at Cleveland in February of 2007.

Among the safety recommendations are several that address arrival landing distance assessments and rejected landings. Specifically, the NTSB recommendations address aspects of pilot training for rejected landing procedures for cases in which sufficient visual references are not distinctly visible at or below the decision height or minimum descent altitude. Recommendations regarding carriers' pilot fatigue policies also are included.

Here are the new NTSB recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration:
Require 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121, 135, and Part 91 subpart K operators to include, in their initial, upgrade, transition, and recurrent simulator training for turbojet airplanes, (1) decision-making for rejected landings below 50 feet along with a rapid reduction in visual cues and (2) practice in executing this maneuver. (A-08-16)

Require 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121, 135, and Part 91 subpart K operators to include, in their initial, upgrade, transition, and recurrent simulator training for turbojet airplanes, practice for pilots in accomplishing maximum performance landings on contaminated runways. (A-08-17)

Require 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121, 135, and Part 91 subpart K operators to have a written policy emphasizing that either pilot can make a go-around callout and that the response to the callout is an immediate missed approach. (A-08-18)

In cooperation with pilot unions, the Regional Airline Association, and the Air Transport Association, develop a specific, standardized policy for 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121, 135, and Part 91 subpart K operators that would allow flight crewmembers to decline assignments or remove themselves from duty if they were impaired by a lack of sleep. (A-08-19)

Once the fatigue policy described in Safety Recommendation A-08-19 has been developed, require 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121, 135, and Part 91 subpart K operators to adopt this policy and provide, in writing, details of the policy to their flight crewmembers, including the administrative implications of fatigue calls. (A-08-20)
The following previously issued safety recommendations were reiterated:
Immediately require all 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121, 135, and 91 subpart K operators to conduct arrival landing distance assessments before every landing based on existing performance data, actual conditions, and incorporating a minimum safety margin of 15 percent. (A-07-57) (Urgent)

Require all 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121, 135, and 91 subpart K operators to accomplish arrival landing distance assessments before every landing based on a standardized methodology involving approved performance data, actual arrival conditions, a means of correlating the airplane’s braking ability with runway surface conditions using the most conservative interpretation available, and including a minimum safety margin of 15 percent. (A-07-61)
Two safety recommendations pertaining to airports also were issued.

If you are interested in these topics, it is worth downloading and reading the whole document that contains these new safety recommendations: NTSB Safety Recommendations A-08-16 through -20 (14 page 'pdf' file)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Frontier Airlines joins the capacity reduction juggernaut

Frontier AirlinesThis week Frontier Airlines announced plans to reduce capacity by 17% this September, grounding seven more aircraft in addition to the four announced earlier this year. The capacity reduction also will result in the loss of a "proportional" number of jobs at the airline, according to an article in the Denver Post. The same article quoted a Frontier spokesman who said the airline is negotiating with Denver International Airport to relinquish one or more of its 22 gates.

More from the Denver Post:
The company said it hasn't determined how many employees it will let go. Competitive severance packages will be offered to those laid off and furloughed, [Frontier spokesman] Snyder said.

Some Frontier staff already have accepted pay cuts. Pilots took a 14.5 percent reduction and other concessions in May. But the chief of Frontier's pilots union said Wednesday he understands Frontier's position.

Airlines have been unable to raise fares enough to cover the rising costs of fuel, said John Stemmler, president of the Frontier Airline Pilots Association. "Something's got to give."

He sent a note to the union's 718 members Wednesday explaining that he is trying to get Frontier to allow senior pilots to take voluntary leaves of one to two years to reduce the number of involuntary furloughs.
Frontier Airlines, which is based in Denver, filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in April.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

United pilots decry furloughs as 'drastic over-reaction'

United AirlinesWhat a difference a year makes: Last July, I wrote in this blog that United Airlines was recruiting 100 new pilots. Now, barely a year later, United has announced plans to furlough 950 pilots, with the first furlough notices scheduled to go out next month.

It should surprise no one that pilot furloughs were coming in the wake of of United's decision to reduce capacity by eliminating all Boeing 737 aircraft from its fleet, along with six Boeing 747-400s. Neither should it be surprising that the United pilots' union, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), is not happy about these developments.

Yesterday, the United Master Executive Council (MEC) of ALPA issued a message to United pilots in which MEC Chairman Captain Steve Wallach expressed frustration with negotiations between management and the pilots' union regarding plans for fleet reduction and the effect on pilot livelihoods, saying "Even while discussions were taking place last week, the company continued to treat their planned furlough numbers as confidential information, and, as such, we were not able to report their manpower proposal to you."

Wallach said that, while the union is continuing to talk with management about ways to lessen the impact of involuntary pilot furloughs, they have made "meager progress." Wallach stated:
We believe United’s fleet reduction, as compared to our competitors, is a drastic over-reaction to current market realities. We think that the company is being overly pessimistic about our ability to compete. And we know that the company’s timetable for accomplishing their manpower reduction is overly ambitious, if not simply unachievable.

While we remain hopeful that we can reduce some of the furloughs, manpower reduction will be the near term reality for United pilots until the company alters its business plan. For the sake of our pilots and other employees, the customers, and United’s shareholders, we hope that our management isn’t placing our company in yet another untenable and poorly considered market position.
Acknowledging that the wait to learn their fate has been "agonizing" for United pilots, Wallach said that the MEC expects to have negotiations completed by the end of next week.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Delta and Northwest pilots reach pre-merger agreement

Delta-NorthwestThe Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) has announced that the pilots at Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines have reached a tentative agreement (TA) with Delta management on a joint pilot contract, necessary for a successful merger of the two carriers. ALPA represents both pilot groups.

In an ALPA press release, the union described the TA as "the first important step in the process of combining two pilot groups with long, proud histories, into the largest unified pilot group in the world." Details of the TA were not released at this time.

Delta Air Lines confirmed that a tentative agreement had been reached with the two pilot groups "on a joint contract to take effect upon closing of the Delta-Northwest merger, expected later this year." Delta CEO Richard Anderson said:
"We are pleased that the Delta and Northwest pilot groups have reached a tentative agreement and have outlined a process for seniority integration that will allow us to move forward with a unified pilot group. Achieving a joint contract and combined seniority list in advance of the closing of the merger is something that has never been done in this industry and is a testament to the leadership of ALPA and a working together culture."
The culmination of intensive negotiations, the TA now will be presented to the ALPA Master Executive Council (MEC) of each of the pilot groups to be considered for ratification. After review and ratification by each MEC, the agreement will need to be ratified by the membership of both pilot groups.

Delta says that the pilot groups also have established a separate process designed to establish a single pilot seniority list by the close of the merger.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Furloughs coming for 950 United Airlines pilots

United Airlines Boeing 737-300United Airlines disclosed today that 950 of its pilots will be furloughed by the end of 2009. This move comes in the wake of United's announcement earlier this month that it will retire six Boeing 747-400 aircraft, and all 94 of its Boeing 737s in an effort to reduce overall capacity.

An article in the Wall Street Journal about the United Airlines pilot furloughs quoted the airline's chief pilot, Keith Rimer, who said that "due to the number of pilots on military and personal leaves, furlough notices will be sent to more than 1,400 of the airline's least senior pilots in order to cut the active roster by 950." The furloughs will begin in September when United will lay off 100 pilots. CBS 2 in Chicago, quoting a United Airlines spokeswoman, says the initial furlough notices will go out in mid-July.

So far there is no official press release about the pilot furloughs on the United Airlines website. Neither has the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the union representing United's 6,500-plus pilots, issued any statements or public announcements.

There is no word yet on the number of furloughs in the works for flight attendants, mechanics, or other unionized employees at United Airlines. However, if the carrier plans to furlough nearly 1,000 pilots, furloughs for other work groups are sure to follow.

UPDATE: The Chicago Tribune has published the full text of the Memo from United management to pilots.

[Photo Source]

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sudan Airways Grounded

Sudan Airways logoThe Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of Sudan has announced that it is suspending the Air Operator Certificate of Sudan Airways, effective from Monday, June 23, 2008. The suspension is for "an undefined period," and applies to both domestic and international operations of Sudan's national flag carrier.

Although the suspension comes less than two weeks after the crash of a Sudan Airways A310 at Khartoum, a CAA official quoted in several news reports said that the accident was not the CAA's reason for grounding Sudan Airways. Instead, the suspension is due to the carrier's failure "to undertake measures outlined by the CAA in an annual audit carried out in May of this year," said Mohamed Hassan al-Mujammar, director of safety and flight operations for Sudan's CAA. The nature of the airline's deficiencies were not specified, but a BBC News article, quoting Mr. Mujammar, cited "non-compliance with international standards."

The BBC News article reported that Sudan Airways has one month to appeal against the suspension or to carry out the necessary improvements. An article on the South African news website IOL mentioned that "the airline could be grounded permanently, if it does not comply with international security standards."

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Ethiopian Aviation Academy graduates 18 new pilots

Ethiopian Aviation Academy June 08 gradsEighteen new pilots from Ethiopia and Chad have graduated this month from the Ethiopian Aviation Academy. They were awarded their wings by Ethiopian Airlines Chief Operating Officer Mr. Tewolde G.Mariam (pictured at right). The class included 12 Ethiopians and six Chadians, one of whom is a woman.

According to information provided by Ethiopian Airlines, the new pilots successfully completed two-years of commercial pilot training to earn their Instrument and Multi-Engine Ratings. The training program is comprised of 1,000 hours of classroom instruction and at least 250 hours of practical flight training, on both single and multi-engine trainer aircraft.

The new graduates bring the total number of pilots trained by the Ethiopian Aviation Academy to 822, of whom 522 are Ethiopian nationals. The academy also has trained pilots from many other countries, mostly nationals of countries elsewhere in Africa and the Middle East, and a few from Asia and Europe. The Ethiopian Aviation Academy, which was begun in 1964, trains aircraft technicians, cabin staff and other aviation professionals in addition to pilots.

[Photo Source]

Friday, June 20, 2008

Pilot killed in Wiggins Airways Twin Otter accident

Pilot Mark ConwayJust after 10:00 AM on Wednesday, June 18, 2008, a DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft operated by Wiggins Airways crashed on departure from Barnstable Municipal Airport (HYA), Hyannis, MA. The pilot, identified as Mark Conway (pictured at right), was killed in the accident. No one else was aboard the cargo flight, which had been headed for Nantucket. Damage to the aircraft was "substantial," according to the FAA preliminary report about the accident.

A Cape Cod Times article about Wednesday's accident said:
Conway was killed yesterday when the cargo plane he was piloting crashed shortly after takeoff. Witnesses told investigators the plane cleared the ground during takeoff shortly after 10 a.m., got about 200 feet in the air rolled and came straight down at the end of Runway 24, according to airport manager Quincy “Doc” Mosby.

The plane came to rest, its nose crumpled and tail broken on the runway, about 100 yards from Willow Street.
The Cape Cod Times article included news photos of the wreckage at the accident scene, showing the inverted aircraft where it crashed beside runway 24 at HYA.

Mark Conway, a native of Nantucket, had been flying since 1984. He began working for Wiggins Airways in 2007. He is survived by his wife and two young daughters. An article about Mark Conway's life can be found on the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror website.

Condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Mark Conway.

[Photo Source]

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bankrupt Gemini Air Cargo eliminates 75 pilot jobs

Gemini Air Cargo MD-11Last week Gemini Air Cargo filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for the second time in two years. The carrier plans to continue to operate during restructuring, however 75 of its 225 pilots are being furloughed or terminated, a move that the pilots' union says is in violation of the terms of their contract.

The Gemini Air Cargo pilots, represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), released the following statement about the bankruptcy announcement:
“We are very surprised by the bankruptcy announcement,” said Capt. Bill Atchison, chairman of the Gemini unit of ALPA, “and we are also very troubled by the additional news that 75 crewmembers were terminated or furloughed. The furloughs were done in direct violation of Section 23 of our current contract, and we will take whatever steps are necessary to protect the rights of those pilots affected.

“However, we remain optimistic that these cost-saving measures are necessary during this financially turbulent time to re-position the company as an attractive opportunity for prospective investors.

“Gemini filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2006, and emerged five months later as a stronger airline. I am confident we will see the same results during this restructuring and Gemini will emerge with prospects for a healthier future by the end of summer.

“We are scheduled to open Section 6 contract negotiations in March 2009, and we will move forward with the development of a strategic plan to support those negotiations. We want and need to be prepared for the future growth of this airline, any increase in the types of services we provide, and the possible expansion of the current and additional aircraft type we fly.”
Aviation news website, quoting from a letter to Gemini employees from the cargo airline's management, reports that the decision to file for bankruptcy was driven by "record-shattering fuel prices" coupled with revenue shortfalls encountered over the past 12 months.

[Photo Source]

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

New Delhi's Airport: What a zoo!

How many times have you heard someone say, "It's a zoo!" to describe a busy airport scene? At New Delhi's Indira Ghandi International Airport (DEL) this week, that expression is close to being the literal truth.

Indira Ghandi International AirportIt's the monsoon season in India, so it has been raining heavily lately. Problems such as torrential downpours and ponding on runways are frequent during this season, but according to a story in the Hindustan Times, there is an additional factor hindering traffic at the airport in New Delhi: animals on the runway. Lots of animals. Lots of kinds of animals.

Some 100 flights were delayed this past Monday when monitor lizards, jackals, and birds took over a runway, presumably seeking to a place to dry out and warm up after being drenched by the rains. In addition to these sunbathing critters, ponded water near the runways and taxiways attracts (are you ready for this?) ducks!

Animal welfare groups had to be called in to rescue the big monitor lizards and chase away the jackals and birds. The Hindustan Times article notes, "This is not the first time IGI airport authorities sought help from voluntary organisations to clear animals from the airport premises as monkeys, jackals and peacocks sometimes disrupt flights during the monsoons."

All of this animal control activity takes time. Meanwhile, many flights are canceled or delayed. The Hindustan Times adds:
But then flight delays are probably the good news. For a menagerie on the runway is one of the worst nightmares of pilots and ATCs. For instance, on its landing roll, it’s nearly impossible for a 747 to avoid an animal on the runway — a risk that is multiplied manifold if an engine sucks in a bird while taking off.

It is no use depending on surface-movement radar to detect small objects like cattle or birds on the runway. Airport authorities should work out plans to avoid animals incursions on runways. Tried-and-tested methods like deploying noisemakers or fireworks, along with fencing and animal population management will help them maintain clear safety zones at the airport.
Remember this if you are scheduled for a trip to DEL in the near future. It's a zoo. A real zoo.

[Photo Source]

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Air Canada to cut 2,000 jobs in capacity reduction

Air Canada CEO Montie BrewerCiting the impact of record high fuel prices, Air Canada announced earlier today that it will reduce the size of its fleet and its staff in coming months. The planned capacity reduction will result in cuts of up to 2,000 positions across all levels of the organization, according to an announcement made by Air Canada's President and CEO, Montie Brewer.

"The loss of jobs is painful in view of our employees' hard work in bringing the airline back to profitability over the past four years," said Mr. Brewer. "I regret having to take these actions but they are necessary to remain competitive going forward. Air Canada, like most global airlines, needs to adapt its business and reduce flying that has become unprofitable in the current fuel environment. If fuel prices remain at current levels, we can anticipate further capacity reductions," he added.

According to information released today by Air Canada, in the fourth quarter of 2008 and first quarter of 2009, the carrier plans to reduce domestic capacity by 2.0 per cent, U.S. transborder capacity by 13.0 per cent and international capacity by 7.0 per cent, for a total system capacity reduction of 7.0 per cent for the two quarters compared to the prior year's period.

The revised capacity reduction plan includes the previously announced suspension of Toronto-Rome non-stop service (with resumption planned for the peak summer season) and the withdrawal of Vancouver-Osaka non-stop service effective October 26, 2008. A revised fall and winter schedule, and specifics about fleet reduction, have not yet been announced.

UPDATE July 10, 2008: Air Canada has notified its flight attendants' union of plans to lay off 632 cabin crew. The airline also intends to close its flight attendant bases at Winnipeg and Halifax as of November 1, 2008.

[Photo Source]

Monday, June 16, 2008

Uniform Update for Emirates Airline Cabin Crew

Emirates Cabin Crew uniformsLater this summer, Emirates will take delivery of its first Airbus A380 'superjumbo' aircraft. To coincide with the introduction of the new flagship A380 into service, the airline's cabin crew will begin wearing updated uniforms, pictured here. An Emirates announcement about the uniform changes says that crew flying on the A380 will be the first to wear the new uniforms.

According to Emirates, the most noticeable elements of the new uniform for women include "beige piping detail on the new red hat, subtle red pin stripes throughout, more fitted, chic blouses and eye catching, red kick-pleats in the skirts." Men will wear a "chocolate brown suit, also featuring pinstripes, with a cream shirt and a caramel, honey and red tie."

Women cabin crew wear beige, while the dark uniform is for the purser. The photo above shows the concourse look. The second photo illustrates how the new uniform will be worn on board during in-flight service.

Emirates cabin crewTerry Daly, Emirates’ Divisional Senior Vice President, Service Delivery, said: “The Emirates uniform has been the same since 1997, with a few tweaks here and there. In this new design we have addressed style, comfort, the suitability for different climates – for cabin crew and ground staff – and managed to retain the iconic and instantly recognizable hallmark of our uniform worldwide.”

Mr Daly continued: "I'm immensely proud of the in-house team from Emirates who worked with UK based uniform supplier Simon Jersey plc. Using a catalogue approach with mix and match items, they have produced a superb uniform that can be adapted to suit different environments and climates. This is vital when the conditions on the ground for staff can vary from Sao Paulo in Brazil to Newcastle in England to Hong Kong in Asia."

[Photo Source]

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Video: Dallas Love Field Time Lapse

This Southwest Airlines video was posted to YouTube earlier this month. The introduction says:
This time-lapse sequence was shot at 1 frame per second.

It was shot from the roof (deck) of Southwest Airlines Headquarters and begins with a segment at 6:00 a.m. as the airport and our Headquarters are waking up. Then, it switches to mid afternoon.

The 2 minute, 44 second run time represents about an hour and a half of actual time, and our famous 25-minute turn becomes a less-than-one-minute turn.
The first half minute of the film is a bit dark (presumably because it was shot so early in the morning) but once the sun gets a bit higher in the sky and the airport comes fully to life, it's pretty snappy. The focus is on Southwest operations, of course, but take note of the number of biz jets that zoom into and out of the frame, too.

(If the video does not play or display properly above, click here to view it on YouTube.)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

US Airways to cut 1,700 jobs, reduce fleet

US Airways logoUS Airways is the latest mainline carrier in the United States to announce capacity reductions. The airline has made public what it calls a "business model transformation," announcing plans to pare its operations, reduce the size of its fleet, and eliminate 1,700 jobs system-wide, including roughly 300 pilots, 400 flight attendants, 800 airport employees and 200 staff and management.

Regarding the job cuts, the US Airways announcement said, "For front line employees, the staffing reduction is expected to be handled through attrition throughout the summer. Any necessary furloughs following the summer travel season will be offset as much as possible by voluntary leaves of absence as permitted by the respective labor contracts."

US Airways intends to return 10 aircraft to lessors, and cancel deliveries of two additional aircraft in early 2009. The airline announced, "Aircraft coming out of the fleet include the return of six Boeing 737-300 aircraft by the end of 2008, four Airbus A320 aircraft in the first half of 2009, and the cancellation of leases of two Airbus A330-200 wide-body aircraft that had been scheduled for delivery in the second quarter of 2009." Additional fleet reductions are being planned for 2009 and 2010.

The airline will reduce its fourth quarter domestic mainline capacity by six to eight percent on a year-over-year basis, compared to the previously planned two to four percent decrease in domestic mainline capacity in its fourth quarter 2008. Domestic mainline capacity for 2009 is planned to be reduced seven to nine percent from 2008 levels.

Friday, June 13, 2008

NTSB: Pinnacle Airlines pilots' poor decisions, fatigue caused 2007 accident

Pinnacle Airlines logoThe U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued its synopsis report on the investigation of an accident in which a regional jet operated by Pinnacle Airlines overran the end of a runway in Michigan last year. The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the accident was the pilots' poor decision-making, and that the poor decision-making "likely reflected the effects of fatigue."

Quoting from the Executive Summary of the NTSB Accident Report:
On April 12, 2007, about 0043 eastern daylight time, a Bombardier/Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ) CL600-2B19, N8905F, operated as Pinnacle Airlines flight 4712, ran off the departure end of runway 28 after landing at Cherry Capital Airport (TVC), Traverse City, Michigan. There were no injuries among the 49 passengers (including 3 lap-held infants) and 3 crewmembers, and the aircraft was substantially damaged. Weather was reported as snowing. The airplane was being operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121 and had departed from Minneapolis-St. Paul International (Wold-Chamberlain) Airport, Minneapolis, Minnesota, about 2153 central daylight time. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident flight, which operated on an instrument flight rules flight plan.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the pilots’ decision to land at TVC without performing a required landing distance assessment based on runway contamination initially reported by TVC ground operations personnel and continuing reports of deteriorating weather and runway conditions throughout the approach. This poor decision-making likely reflected the effects of fatigue produced by a long, demanding duty day, and, for the captain, the duties associated with check airman functions.

Contributing to the accident were 1) the Federal Aviation Administration pilot flight and duty time regulations that permitted the pilots’ long, demanding duty day and 2) the TVC operations supervisor’s use of ambiguous and unspecific radio phraseology in providing runway braking information.

The safety issues discussed in this report include the pilots’ actions and decision‑making during the approach, landing, and landing roll; pilot fatigue and line check airman duty time regulations; weather and field condition information and ground operations personnel communications; and criteria for runway closures in snow and ice conditions. [NTSB/AAR-0802]
As a result of the investigation of this accident, the NTSB made recommendations to the Federal Aviation Administration in the following areas: the pilots' actions and decision-making during the approach, landing, and landing roll; landing distance assessment training; weather and field condition information and ground operations personnel communications; criteria for runway closures in snow and ice conditions; and alcohol testing.

Editor's Note: Before anyone jumps to any conclusions about the 'alcohol testing' item among the NTSB's recommendations, please note that it arose because the investigation showed that, while both pilots tested negative for illicit drugs, they were not tested for alcohol after the accident. This was an omission on the part of the airline. The text of the NTSB report clearly states, "Although there is no reason to believe their performance was affected by alcohol, the failure of the airline to perform required postaccident alcohol tests prevents a definitive statement on the issue."

Here is the link to the full text of the Synopsis Report: NTSB/AAR-08/02. The full report will be available on the NTSB website in several weeks.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Details of the United Airlines Flight Attendant 'Early Out' Program

United AirlinesLast week, United Airlines announced plans to retire 100 aircraft, end its low-fare Ted service, and cut over 1,000 jobs. In conjunction with those plans, the airline announced that it will offer "a one-time opportunity for eligible flight attendants to voluntarily separate from the company." Known as the Early Out Program, the voluntary separations will be made available for up to 600 senior United flight attendants.

The United Airlines announcement about the Early Out Program summarizes:
Flight attendants who are at least 45 years old and have at least 15 years of flight attendant service with the company as of August 1, 2008 will be eligible to participate. Participants will be entitled to severance payments based on years of service and retiree travel benefits.
Sounds potentially attractive on the surface, but is this a good deal for senior flight attendants or not? The answer is, "It depends."

Mostly it depends on whether the flight attendant has another source of income to rely on, and access to affordable health insurance coverage.

The present Early Out Program is based on a collective bargaining agreement reached between United Airlines and the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), the union representing United's flight attendants. The details of the Early Out Program have been made available on the public section of the website of the United Master Executive Council (MEC) of AFA:
  • Eligibility

    • Flight attendants aged 45 or greater, and with at least 15 years service are eligible for the Early Out.
    • Flight attendants aged 55 or greater, and with at least 15 years service are eligible for retirement, plus the Early Out.
  • Early Out Severance Pay will consist of $500 for each year of service as a Flight Attendant up to 25 years ($12,500 cap). Total pay is distributed in 12 equal installments beginning January 2009.
    • Example: 18 years of Flight Attendant service equals $9000. This would be paid out at $750 per month, before taxes, for 12 months.
  • Travel Benefits - retiree travel pass benefits provided for all Early Out participants.
  • Life Insurance will be provided only for those who enter retirement at the time of the Early Out.
  • Medical Insurance will be provided for those Early Out participants who also retire, but not to those who are too young to do so. The latter will be able "to purchase COBRA for continued medical coverage for 18 months at the full cost of the insurance and administration."
United Airlines flight attendants who meet the age and length of service criteria for the Early Out Program would have been employed by the airline prior to and during the carrier's recent bankruptcy period. That means that they had their company pension plans terminated in 2005. At that time, United Airlines defaulted on its pension obligations, and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) took over pensions for workers at the airline, including the flight attendants.

Federal regulations limit the amount of pension payments the PBGC can make -- an amount far less than the original pensions -- and by law, that amount is further reduced if the worker retires early, i.e., before age 65. As a result, many flight attendants at United have since felt that they had no practical choice but to continue working until their 65th birthdays. To do otherwise would put them in serious financial straits.

In light of that situation, it seems that the current Early Out Program will be attractive mostly to those who already have a substantial second income, or whose spouses' or partners' income and health care benefits are sufficient to support them.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Update on Sudan Airways accident at Khartoum

Sudan Airways A310 accident at KhartoumMore details are emerging about the Sudan Airways accident at Khartoum, which happened yesterday, June 10, 2008. According to an official from Sudan’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), quoted by several news organizations, the Sudan Airways A310 aircraft (registration number ST-ATN), operating as Flight SD109, erupted into flames and veered off the runway shortly after arriving at Khartoum in poor weather.

More than 200 people were said to have been on board the flight, including 11 crew members. At this writing, 30 deaths have been confirmed, with 14 people still listed as "missing." Some of those missing were thought to have left the accident scene without reporting to authorities. Dozens of survivors were hospitalized with injuries. Several media reports mentioned that one crew member had yet to be accounted for, but quoted a Sudanese CAA official who confirmed that all 11 crew members survived.

The flight originated in Damascus and made a scheduled intermediate stop in Amman before continuing on to Khartoum. Due to poor weather conditions at Khartoum, the aircraft diverted to Port Sudan where, some reports said, the plane was refueled and more passengers boarded. The aircraft subsequently returned to Khartoum and landed. Many news reports stated initially that the aircraft "overshot the runway," but these reports appear to be false, as official sources concur that the aircraft did land on the runway. (It is possible that the writers mistakenly used the term "overshot the runway" to describe what turned out to be a runway excursion after landing.)

Various news reports state that an engine fire broke out on the starboard side of the aircraft after it landed, and that the aircraft "veered off the runway," however there is still some confusion regarding the order of events. Some reports state that the engine fire preceded the runway excursion, while other reports seem to indicate that the fire did not occur until after the aircraft had come to a stop. What is clear is that there was a fire that ultimately engulfed the entire fuselage, and that the aircraft did leave the runway.

Videos of the accident scene:,

[Photo Source]

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sudan Airways crash at Khartoum

Sudan Airways logoBreaking News: A passenger aircraft burst into flames shortly after arriving at Khartoum International Airport in Sudan a short time ago. The story is still unfolding, and details are still incomplete, but according to several news reports, the aircraft involved was operated by Sudan Airways. There are conflicting reports about how many crew and passengers may have been on board, and about the number and condition of those who survived the accident.

Information posted on a Sudanese news website, the Sudan Tribune, identified the aircraft as a Sudan Airways Airbus, and said that it "veered off the runway as it landed in the airport, and then burst into flames." The Sudan Tribune also reported that "The crashed plane had already tried to land at Khartoum Airport but due to the rains it had landed at Port Sudan and then resumed its flight to Khartoum."

Several news sources said that the flight had originated at Damascus, with an intermediate stop in Amman before continuing to Khartoum, where the accident occurred. According to information on the Sudan Airways website, the carrier does operate an Airbus A310 on that route every Tuesday as Sudan Airways Flight SD150. has posted a video of the Khartoum accident scene on its website.

Updates about this accident will be posted here on Aircrew Buzz as details become available.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Emirates Airline announces Dubai-JFK A380 service

Emirates A380 over DubaiEmirates Airline announced today that it will begin commercial service using its brand-new Airbus A380 aircraft between Dubai and New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), beginning August 1, 2008. The 14-hour non-stop flight will also be the first-ever commercial A380 service to The Americas.

The first Dubai-JFK flight, EK3801, is scheduled to depart Dubai at 11:00, and arrive at JFK at 16:45 local time on August 1, 2008. The return run, operating as Flight EK3802, will depart JFK at 21:00 on August 1, and arrive in Dubai at 17:45 local time on August 2, 2008. (Planespotters, dust off your cameras!)

Emirates, the largest customer for the A380, has ordered 56 of the superjumbo aircraft, and is scheduled to take delivery of its first A380 in late July. Emirates says it expects delivery of five A380s in its current financial year, all featuring its ultra long-haul configuration of 489 seats: 14 in First Class, 76 in Business and 399 in Economy; with 13 tonnes of bellyhold capacity for cargo. After New York, these aircraft are slated to operate on Emirates’ routes from Dubai to London Heathrow, and Sydney-Auckland.

[Photo Source]

Sunday, June 08, 2008

South Africa's Comair Limited hires ex-Nationwide Airlines crew

British Airways Comair logoIn the past few weeks, South Africa's Comair Limited has hired 70 people formerly employed by Nationwide Airlines, which went out of business in late April, including pilots, cabin crew, and staff who worked in airports and revenue management. According to an article on, among those hired by Comair Limited was Daniel Perry, the pilot who successfully landed a Nationwide Boeing 737-200 in Cape Town last November after an engine separated from the aircraft on take-off.

Comair Limited CEO Gidon Novick said, "We're fortunate to have the best team in the industry and we're always looking to take on additional talented and energetic people. We're delighted to welcome these ex-Nationwide staff onto our team."

Comair Limited is a holding company that provides domestic and regional airline service, trading under the names of British Airways and British Airways Comair has a fleet of 15 Boeing 737 aircraft. The Kululu flights are operated with four MD-82 aircraft.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

New designer uniforms for Singapore Airlines male cabin crew

Singapore Airlines male cabin crew uniform tiesWhen Singapore Airlines male cabin crew begin wearing their new designer uniforms later this month, it will not be a hat that makes the man -- it will be the tie. Designed by veteran French fashion designer Christophe Galibert, artistic Director of Balmain Uniformes, the new look features a smart new single-breasted navy blue suit, worn with a sky blue shirt and a striped tie. It is the tie that will distinguish one crew position from another.

The new ties are pictured at right. Each color represents a different crew rank. From left to right:
  • Purple – Inflight Supervisor
  • Red – Chief Steward
  • Green – Leading Steward
  • Blue – Flight Steward
The designer, Mr. Galibert, said, "The entire Balmain team was thrilled to embark on the mission of designing the Singapore Airlines male cabin crew uniform and bringing to it our own international touch.

"In designing this new look, our main aim was to retain the legendary elegance of the Singapore Airlines male cabin crew but at the same time make it more consistent with the iconic creation of Mr Pierre Balmain’s sarong kebaya. Our challenge was, therefore, to find a matching smartness and unique sophistication for the male crew uniform."

The sarong kebaya uniform worn by female cabin crew at Singapore Airlines also is a Balmain design. The colors of the new male cabin crew uniform, including the ties, were chosen to coordinate with the colors of the women's sarong kebaya.

Singapore Airlines male cabin crewMr. Tan Pee Teck, Senior Vice President Cabin Crew at Singapore Airlines added, "The new uniform projects a smart and professional image and will instill a sense of pride in the crew. This is even more so since many of our crew members were themselves actively involved in the selection and fine-tuning of the design concept and colour scheme of the uniform."

The current male cabin crew uniform, consisting of grey pants and jackets in several colors, was designed by Lanvin in 1991. Male cabin crew at Singapore Airlines will begin wearing their new designer uniforms on June 30, 2008.

According to Singapore Airlines, the carrier currently employs 7,375 cabin crew members, of which almost 40% are male.

[Photo Source]

Friday, June 06, 2008

Flight attendant union files charges against Delta Air Lines

AFA-CWA logoThe Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) has filed formal charges with the National Mediation Board (NMB) against Delta Air Lines alleging that the carrier's management illegally interfered with a recent union representation election among Delta's flight attendants. The allegations "include substantial evidence that Delta flight attendants were denied a free and fair election due to management's aggressive tactics aimed at defeating union representation."

In February of this year, a majority of Delta Air Lines flight attendants signed cards indicating that they wanted union representation. This was the first step in the unionization process. The second step was an official election to determine union representation, a process which ended on May 28.

Under the rules of the NMB, which supervises such elections, 50%-plus-one of all those eligible to vote must do so in order for an election to be certified. In the recent election, only 40% of eligible Delta Air Lines flight attendants cast ballots, thus even though the vast majority of those votes favored the AFA, the election could not be certified.

In a statement issued by the AFA, the organization's International President, Patricia Friend, said, "Delta flight attendants were denied the opportunity to freely participate in this election without being intimidated by management and heavy-handed efforts to keep them from gaining a voice. A majority of Delta flight attendants wanted the opportunity to have an election and they deserve an election that is free and fair. We now look for the NMB to stand up for that right and hold Delta executives accountable for their actions."

The AFA has charged that Delta management acted illegally to suppress the union vote, leading to the less-than-majority turnout, and the subsequently nullified election result. The AFA says:
If the NMB finds sufficient evidence that illegal interference occurred, it can set a new election. AFA-CWA is asking for a new election with a balloting procedure that will limit the effects of any further illegal conduct by Delta management. By rerunning the election using a 'Laker' Ballot, flight attendants will be permitted to vote "Yes" or "No" for AFA-CWA representation. In the previous election, flight attendants were discouraged from participating in the voting process as only the "Yes" votes were counted, thereby automatically counting those who did not vote as "No" votes.
Meanwhile, Delta's plans for a merger with Northwest Airlines are moving forward. Northwest's flight attendants already are represented by the AFA, and they have expressed an intention to stay with the union after the merger is complete.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Continental Airlines to retire aircraft and eliminate thousands of jobs

Continental Airlines Boeing 757-200This month is beginning to remind me of a period earlier this spring, when it seemed that almost every day brought news of another air carrier going out of business. This month the recurrent theme among major carriers is capacity reduction, a process that entails retiring aircraft, trimming flight schedules, and cutting jobs.

Just yesterday I wrote about the United Airlines capacity reduction plan, and American Airlines made a similar announcement late last month. Today it is Continental Airlines that is making this kind of news.

In an Employee Bulletin issued earlier today, Continental announced that, starting in September, "Continental will reduce its flights, with fourth quarter domestic mainline departures to be down 16 percent year-over-year. This will result in a reduction of domestic mainline capacity (available seat miles, or ASMs) by 11 percent in the fourth quarter, compared to the same period last year."

Then came the news dreaded by airline employees:
As a result of the capacity reductions, Continental will need fewer co-workers worldwide to support the reduced flight schedule. About 3,000 positions, including management positions, will be eliminated through voluntary and involuntary separations, with the majority expected to be through voluntary programs.

The company will offer voluntary programs in an effort to reduce the number of co-workers who will be furloughed or involuntarily terminated due to the capacity cuts. Details of these programs will be available next week.

The reductions will take effect after the peak summer season, except for management and clerical reductions, which will begin sooner.
To their credit, Continental's two top executives, CEO Larry Kellner and President Jeff Smisek, announced that they will decline their salaries for the remainder of the year and "have declined any payment under the annual incentive program for 2008." While unusual in the airline industry today, this gesture, though welcome, will do little to ease the pain for the thousands of front line workers facing unemployment in the near future.

Like American Airlines and United Airlines before it, Continental announced plans to retire a number of aircraft, removing the least efficient types from its all-Boeing fleet, namely all of its B737-300 aircraft and over 60% of its B737-500 types. Quoting again from the Employee Bulletin:
In the first six months of 2008, Continental removed six older aircraft from service. Continental will retire an additional 67 Boeing 737-300 and 737-500 aircraft, with 37 of these additional retirements occurring in 2008 and 30 in 2009. Given the need for prompt capacity reductions in today's environment, 27 of the 67 aircraft will be removed in September. By the end of 2009, all 737-300 aircraft will be retired from Continental's fleet.
The announcement added that the airline will continue to take delivery of new, fuel-efficient NextGen Boeing 737-800s and 737-900ERs. Continental took delivery of its first Boeing 737-900ER in January of this year.

Click here to read the full text of the Continental Airlines announcement, including the text of the Employee Bulletin, with tables summarizing the planned network and fleet changes.

[Photo Source]

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

United Airlines to eliminate Ted, reduce its fleet, and cut jobs

Ted A320 aircraftTake a look at that airplane in the photo at right. It will undergo some 'remodeling' very soon. United Airlines, which operates a fleet of 56 Airbus A320 aircraft as low-fare all-economy Ted flights, announced today that Ted will no longer exist after the end of 2009. The airline intends to reintegrate the aircraft into its mainline fleet, meaning that the 56 planes now flying in the Ted livery all will be repainted in the standard United livery, and will be reconfigured to include a First Class cabin.

That's not all. United also announced that it will retire six Boeing 747-400 aircraft, and all 94 of the Boeing 737 type, thus eliminating the oldest and least fuel-efficient aircraft from its fleet. Most of this fleet reduction will take place before the end of 2008, a move that will reduce the airline's mainline domestic capacity in the fourth quarter of 2008 by 14 percent, year over year.

Along with a reduction in the size of its fleet and a paring of flight frequencies on certain routes, the carrier announced that layoffs are forthcoming for well over 1,000 employees. A United Airlines press release issued today, June 4, 2008, included the following paragraph:
As United reduces the size of its operation, it is further reducing staff. United expects to reduce the number of salaried and management employees and contractors by 1,400-1,600, including the previously announced 500 employee reduction by year-end, and the company will determine the number of front-line employee furloughs as it finalizes the schedule over the next month.
In other words, no word yet on exactly which work groups will be affected, or when -- but the furloughs are coming.

United's announcement today parallels plans made public by American Airlines last month, when that airline revealed it would retire 40 to 45 mainline aircraft (mostly the MD-80 series), as well as 35 to 40 regional jets and some turbo-prop aircraft from American Eagle. American's capacity reduction also will result in job cuts that will affect thousands of American Airlines workers.

[Photo Source]

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

JAL adopts 'Electronic Flight Bag' technology for its Boeing 777 fleet

JAL logoJapan Airlines International (JAL) and Boeing have announced that the airline will equip its entire current and future fleet of Boeing 777 aircraft with the Boeing Class 3 Electronic Flight Bag (EFB), following a validation trial conducted over the past year. JAL has been operating the EFB on two of its 40 Boeing 777s since June 2007.

JAL is scheduled to take delivery of three more 777-300ERs in 2008, all of which will be delivered with the EFB installed. The rest of JAL's 777 aircraft will be retrofitted with EFBs, beginning in April of 2009. All installations should be complete by the end of the 2011, according to Boeing.

"The Boeing Class 3 Electronic Flight Bag is a key aspect of our vision for future operations," said JAL Vice President, Flight Operations Engineering, Mitsuo Koga. "EFB allows us to create a link between our airplanes and ground teams and helps us to be safer and more efficient in our operations."

The EFB combines hardware, software, data and services to create an integrated package that saves money by optimizing takeoff and flight settings, while providing increased safety, efficiency and the ability for airplanes and flight crews to communicate with airline maintenance teams.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Window on American Airlines MD-82 breaks in flight

American Airlines MD-80 aircraftLast evening, June 1, 2008, the outer layer of a window in the passenger cabin of an American Airlines MD-82 aircraft shattered in flight. According to an American Airlines spokesman, the incident occurred about 20 minutes after Flight AAL 2094 had departed from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) bound for Southwest Florida International Airport at Fort Meyers. Shards from the window were ingested into one of the aircraft's engines. The engine was shut down, and the aircraft returned to DFW, where it made a safe emergency landing. No one among the five crew and 127 passengers on board was injured.

The American Airlines spokesman, quoted in an Associated Press article about the incident, said that although oxygen masks were deployed in the passenger cabin, the aircraft did not depressurize. A news report on quoted a passenger who was on board the flight who said that the noise created by the shards hitting the engine was "one of the most horrific sounds" she had ever heard.

[Photo Source]

Sunday, June 01, 2008

United Airlines Pilot Is New Executive Air Safety Chairman for ALPA

Capt. Rory Kay, ALPA Executive Air Safety ChairmanThe Executive Board of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) has confirmed a United Airlines pilot, Capt. Rory Kay (pictured at right), as the union's Executive Air Safety Chairman.

According to an ALPA news release about Capt. Kay's appointment:
Currently a full-time line pilot, Kay flies and serves as a line check airman for B767s and B757s throughout the United States, Europe, and South America. He has served his fellow pilots within the local, MEC, and national ALPA safety structure since 1989, holding numerous leadership positions along the way. From organizing Air Safety & Security Week forums to working at the Shanksville, Pa. UAL Flight 93 crash site in the days following 9/11, Kay has consistently embodied the professionalism and passion pilots commit to implementing airline safety improvements.
As he assumes his new position, Capt. Kay will lead the largest non-governmental safety organization in the world. Capt. Scott Schleiffer (Atlas) will continue serving ALPA members as the Executive Air Safety Vice Chairman.

Congratulations and good luck to Capt. Kay.

[Photo Source]