Friday, January 02, 2009

Aircrew Buzz New Year Review

Airplane logo2008 was not a very good year for aviation, nevertheless it was a good year for Aircrew Buzz. Traffic to this aviation news blog increased by a whopping 222% over 2007!

Let's take a look back at some of the most popular topics and articles on Aircrew Buzz during 2008. As in past years, articles about aircraft accidents and safety incidents, and the investigations that followed, topped the list.

Curiously, the one article that had the most visits in 2008 was one that actually was posted in late 2007:
I can't explain the continuing fascination with this one article, but it has averaged close to 1,500 readers per month -- month after month -- throughout 2008. Go figure...

The 2008 event that brought the most traffic to Aircrew Buzz was the crash on take-off of a Kalitta Air Boeing 747 freighter at Brussels in May. In July, another Kalitta Air freighter crashed in Colombia, and that article also was among the top ten most visited items on Aircrew Buzz.

The British Airways Boeing 777 that crash landed at Heathrow last January also generated huge interest, as did the succession of AAIB updates and reports about the accident.

Other aircraft accidents that drew large numbers of readers to Aircrew Buzz included the TACA A320 crash at Tegucigalpa in May; the Qantas B747 explosive decompression in July; the Spanair MD-82 crash at Madrid in August; the Qantas A330 in-flight upset in October; the Ryanair multiple bird-strike emergency at Rome-Ciampino in November; and of course the Continental B737 runway excursion and crash last month in Denver.

Sadly, most of the other high-interest stories on Aircrew Buzz in 2008 were about airline bankruptcies, capacity reductions, and crew furloughs. In fact, for several months -- beginning in late March when Aloha Airlines shut down its passenger operations -- it seemed as though there would be no end to that kind of news. In early April, ATA folded; Champion Air announced it would shut down; Skybus ceased operations; and Oasis Hong Kong Airlines not only halted operations, but stranded its crews around the globe.

Also in April, Frontier filed for bankruptcy, but continued (and still continues) to operate. Late that month, all-premium airline Eos ceased operations, and South Africa's Nationwide Airlines called it quits. Silverjet collapsed in late May, and Zoom abruptly folded in August. XL Airways UK went bust in September; and in October, both Sterling Airlines and Spanish low-fare carrier LTE International Airways ceased operating. In November, Turkish carrier Inter Airlines folded.

In May, the capacity reduction/furlough stories began when American Airlines said it would reduce its mainline fleet by 40-45 aircraft and lay off thousands, system-wide. In early June, United Airlines announced it would retire 100 aircraft and lay off over a thousand, including 950 pilots. Just one day later, Continental Airlines followed suit, announcing that some 3,000 jobs would be eliminated in conjunction with its capacity reduction plan. Next came US Airways, which said it would downsize its fleet and reduce its work force by about 1,700; and Air Canada, which announced plans to cut about 2,000 jobs. Frontier Airlines, already in bankruptcy, also joined the capacity reduction trend.

In the first half of July, AirTran announced pay cuts and furloughs; Comair eliminated more than 500 jobs and reduced its fleet; Northwest announced an 8% work force reduction; and Republic Airways laid off 10% of its employees. Later in July, Qantas said it would reduce its work force by 1,500 worldwide. In September, Alaska Airlines announced a capacity reduction of 8% and plans to lay off 850 to 1,000 staff. In November, job cuts were announced by Air New Zealand.

One of the more interesting tales in the bankruptcy/furlough category was that of Sun Country Airlines. In October, the airline's employees took a 50% pay cut, and were warned that furloughs or even a total shutdown of the airline might occur if new financing could not be obtained. Last month, Sun Country restored back pay to its employees -- a relatively happy ending for those folks, although the carrier remains in bankruptcy.

Not all of the popular articles on Aircrew Buzz this past year were about accidents, bankruptcies, capacity reduction and furloughs. These two articles got huge amounts of traffic, for example:
The most watched video posted on Aircrew Buzz in 2008: Lufthansa A320 in dramatic crosswind landing attempt.

I think it's safe to say that most people in the civilian air transport industry were happy to see the end of 2008. We all hope -- fingers crossed -- that in 2009 we will begin to see some signs of recovery. At the very least, we can hope that the bloodletting will subside.

In any case, Aircrew Buzz will continue to report news of interest to crews as it happens.

Happy New Year!