Tag Archives: jetBlue

802 Boeing Safety and Quality Plan

We take a look at the Boeing Safety and Quality Plan, the NTSB recommendations after the Southwest/FedEx near miss, the suspension of some ATC staff in India, Essential Air Service contracts, BARK Air’s lawsuit over airport-use restrictions, the sale of a B-17, and the NTSB inspection of the USAirways flight 1549 engines.

Aviation News

Boeing Safety & Quality Plan

Boeing had 90 days to deliver a comprehensive plan to the FAA to improve the company’s safety management and quality assurance, including in the supply chain. We look at The Boeing Product Safety and Quality Plan Executive Summary [PDF, 11 pages.]

The Plan includes the containment and mitigation actions Boeing took immediately after the accident. It also introduces Boeing’s new Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of production system health and associated control limits for each KPI. Boeing intends that these metrics will provide “a continuous assessment of factory health and provide early warning of emerging quality and safety risks. They also will facilitate tracking of Boeing’s improvement under the Product Safety and Quality Plan and guide decisions about system readiness for rate increases.”

Boeing’s Immediate Containment and Mitigation

Improvements directed at the Boeing production system:

Photo of Admiral Kirkland Donald.
Admiral Kirkland Donald
  • Revised the build plans, training, maintenance planning, aircraft manual documentation, removal requirements and inspection criteria for the Mid-Exit Door (MED) plug;
  • Instituted additional controls to prevent defects in the MED plug and similar structures and assemblies;
  • Added conformance inspections to nine critical build points;
  • Processed fleet and production inspection findings through Boeing’s SMS and Quality Management System (QMS);
  • Published alerts on removals and rework, signed by all factory employees;
  • Hosted representatives from 737 airline customers to review Boeing’s production and quality procedures, and to provide feedback;
  • Appointed a recognized safety and quality leader, Admiral Kirkland Donald, to independently assess Boeing’s production system; and
  • Implemented a revised management and salaried compensation model focused on quality and safety, with aligned key performance indicators across all programs.

Improvements directed at the Boeing supply chain:

  • Instituted additional controls at Spirit to prevent defects in the MED plug and similar structures and assemblies;
  • Added new inspections at Spirit, as well as pre-shipment approval requirements on fuselages prior to shipment to Boeing;
  • Added competency assessments for all supplier mechanics doing structural work at Boeing sites; and
  • Issued supplier bulletins to strengthen focus on conformance and reduce the risks of defects being shipped.

Key Performance Indicators

A significant component of the Product Safety and Quality Plan is the identification of six critical, safety-focused production health KPIs:

  1. Employee Proficiency (measures share of employees currently staffed to commercial programs who are proficient);
  2. Notice of Escape (NoE) Rework Hours (measures rework due to Fabrication and supplier-provided escapes to Final Assembly);
  3. Supplier Shortages (measures Fabrication and supplier shortages/day);
  4. Rework Hours per airplane (measures total rework hours per airplane in Final Assembly);
  5. Travelers at Factory Rollout (measures jobs traveling from Final Assembly); and
  6. Ticketing Performance (measures average escapes per ticketed airplane).

Each KPI also has associated control limits and defined criteria that will trigger corrective action and SMS risk monitoring.

Product Safety and Quality Plan Attention Areas

Safety Management System three main initiatives: 

  1. Streamlining employee reporting channels; [Submissions are up 500%]
  2. Addressing traveled work risk; [implemented a “move ready” process—737 airplanes may not move to the next factory position until identified build milestones are completed, unless a Safety Risk Assessment (SRA) is conducted and a mitigation plan is in place.]
  3. Deepening the integration of Boeing’s SMS with the QMS.

Simplification of Processes and Procedures [To help employees better understand their obligations, execute work instructions, and deploy solutions to overcome roadblocks.]

Supply Chain Defect Reduction

  • Strengthening data and analytics capabilities to provide proactive notification of supplier issues, including the creation of an advanced analysis tool;
  • Standardizing supplier oversight actions to prioritize safety and quality, including through the implementation of a common supplier engagement model; 
  • Simplifying and improving supplier quality processes;
  • Driving industry change and dialogue about quality and safety issues.

Training

  • Planned enhancements in late 2024, 
  • New manufacturing and quality employees will receive up to two more weeks of foundational training, followed by enhanced structured on-the-job training (SOJT)

Production System Compliance

  • Foreign Object Debris (FOD) control; 
  • Tool control; 
  • Parts and materials control; 
  • Employees’ adherence to work instructions. 

Engagement and Communications

  • Holding full-day quality stand downs and Safety and Quality events across the Company;
  • Creating and supporting Employee Involvement Teams (“EITs”) to conduct weekly problem-solving sessions and review employee ideas for improving the production system; 
  • Establishing a leadership program for manufacturing, quality, and fulfillment managers;
  • Improving the Company’s messaging about safety, quality, and compliance.

Installation Plan Improvements [work plans]

Special Audit Items

  • For Boeing quality escapes; 
  • Boeing liaison engineering and Material Review Board (MRB) issues; 
  • and Boeing’s approach to Spirit-related findings

Expert Review Panel Recommendations

Boeing agrees with the findings and recommendations of the Expert Review Panel.

NTSB Proposes More Training, Tech After Southwest and FedEx Jets Near-Miss in Texas

In February 2023, Southwest Airlines and FedEx jets came close to colliding in Austin, Texas. After seeing the Southwest Boeing 737-700 plane at the last second, the FedEx pilots flew their Boeing 767-300 over the Southwest jet to avoid a collision. The two planes were only about 150 to 170 feet apart.

The NTSB determined the probable cause of the near miss was a bad assumption by the air traffic controller that the departing Southwest plane would be clear before the FedEx plane landed on the same runway.

 The Board also identified two contributing factors:

  • Southwest crew members failed “to account for the traffic on short final approach and to notify the controller” that they would need additional time for takeoff. 
  • The FAA did not require surface detection equipment at the Austin airport.

India’s Aviation Regulator Suspends Mumbai ATC Staff Involved In IndiGo & Air India Airbus A320neo Close Call

The IndiGo A320neo was on approach to Runway 27 at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (BOM) in Mumbai, India. The plane touched down seconds after an Air India A320neo had departed the same runway. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is investigating and has “derostered” the ATC staff working at the time of the incident.

Video: Indigo a320 Landing and Air India a320 Takeoff at The Same time at Mumbai Airport

JetBlue Awarded First-Ever Essential Air Service Contract

JetBlue will serve Presque Isle under a two-year contract. 

Essential Air Service

The Essential Air Service (EAS) program was implemented to guarantee that small communities served by certified air carriers before airline deregulation maintain a minimal level of scheduled air service.

This is generally accomplished by subsidizing two round trips a day with 30- to 50-seat aircraft, or additional frequencies with aircraft with 9-seat[s] or fewer, usually to a large- or medium-hub airport.  The Department currently subsidizes commuter and certificated air carriers to serve approximately 60 communities in Alaska and 115 communities in the lower 48 contiguous states that otherwise would not receive any scheduled air service.

2024-6-3 Order Selecting Air Carrier

Posted by the Department of Transportation on Jun 4, 2024:

“By this Order, the U.S. Department of Transportation (the Department) selects JetBlue Airways Corporation (JetBlue) to provide Essential Air Service (EAS) at Presque Isle, Maine (Presque Isle), for the two-year term from September 1, 2024, through August 31, 2026. JetBlue will provide Presque Isle with seven (7) nonstop round trips per week from Presque Isle International Airport (PQI) to Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) using 100-passenger Embraer E190 (E190) aircraft for the first year and 140-passenger Airbus A220-300 aircraft for the second year. JetBlue will be compensated at the annual subsidy rates outlined below.”

BARK Air for dogs sued days after first flight

Westchester County sued BARK Air alleging violations of the county’s airport-use restrictions.  Those restrictions include a prohibition on the operation of commercial and chartered aircraft with more than nine seats from using the private jet terminal. BARK Air’s Gulfstream Aerospace GV jet has 14 seats. In a filing to the FAA, Westchester County said that the public charters “closely resemble” services offered by large, commercial airlines.

Michigan Flight Museum (former Yankee Air Museum) Sells Centerpiece B-17 ‘Yankee Lady’

The Boeing B-17G has been sold to an undisclosed buyer for an undisclosed price. For some 40 years, the museum generated revenue with rides on the B-17. The money from the sale will be invested to support the museum.

Mentioned

NTSB Docket No. SA-532 Exhibit No. 8-A

William (Bill) Anders, Apollo 8 astronaut, Killed in San Juan Islands Plane Crash

Apollo 8: Earthrise

Taken aboard Apollo 8 by Bill Anders, this iconic picture shows Earth peeking out from beyond the lunar surface as the first crewed spacecraft circumnavigated the Moon, with astronauts Anders, Frank Borman, and Jim Lovell aboard.
Taken aboard Apollo 8 by Bill Anders. Image Credit: NASA.

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, and our Main(e) Man Micah.

796 Air Traffic Controller Fatigue

To combat controller fatigue the FAA issued new rules for rest periods, another airport runway incursion, American Airlines pilots say the number of safety issues is increasing, Boom Supersonic received a Special Flight Authorization from the FAA to exceed Mach 1 for their XB-1 demonstrator, the Feds are using state resources to help enforce airline consumer laws, evidence shows someone other than a pilot at the controls of a charter flight operated by United, and a California bill would ban the CLEAR system at airports in the state.

Aviation News

New FAA rest rules to address ‘fatigue’ issues with air traffic controllers

Near-miss incidents continue to occur at the nation’s airports. After he toured air traffic control facilities, FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said he “heard concerns about schedules that do not always allow controllers to get enough rest.”

From Statement from FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker:

Portrait of Michael Whitaker
Michael Whitaker, courtesy FAA

“In December 2023, we commissioned an independent panel of scientific fatigue experts to assess the risks introduced by controller fatigue in our system and to give us a roadmap to mitigate the risks. The panel’s report [PDF] brought into focus key reforms which we’re implementing immediately to ensure air traffic controllers are getting sufficient rest, while we also work to implement some longer term, systemic changes. As an initial step, I will require 10 hours off between shifts, and 12 hours off before a midnight shift, effective in 90 days, consistent with the expert panel’s recommendations. I am also directing the Air Traffic Safety Oversight Service to ensure the agency has a robust methodology to ensure compliance with this direction.”

The panel:

  • Mark Rosekind, a safety and sleep/fatigue professional and former National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) member.
  • Charles Czeisler, chief and senior physician, Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Departments of Medicine and Neurology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
  • Dr. Erin Flynn-Evans, head of the NASA Ames Research Center Fatigue Countermeasures Laboratory.
NATCA logo

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) has expressed concern that they were not consulted about the new controller fatigue rules, and those rules may not produce the intended result given the current controller shortage. See NATCA calls on FAA to collaborate on air traffic controller fatigue.

Southwest B38M at Washington on Apr 18th 2024, runway incursion forces rejected takeoff

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-8 MAX performing a flight from Washington National, DC to Orlando, FL (USA), was taxiing for departure from runway 01 and taxied past the hold short line of runway 04. Meanwhile, a Jetblue Embraer ERJ-190 performing a flight from Washington National to Boston was cleared for takeoff from runway 04 and was accelerating.

Ground Control shouted that the Southwest plane should stop immediately and the crew stopped the aircraft about 40 meters/130 feet past the hold short line and about 30 meters/100 feet short of the runway edge line. The Jetblue crew aborted their takeoff at low speed and stopped about 240 meters/790 feet down the runway.

Aerial view of the airport showing relative positions of the two jets.
Graphics: AVH/Google Earth

American Airlines Pilots Claim There Has Been a “Significant Spike” in Safety Issues at the Carrier

In a leaked memo noting “problematic trends,” the Allied Pilots Association (APA) representing pilots at American Airlines asks members to take their time when conducting pre-departure checks. The union cites tools being left out, an increased number of aircraft collisions during towing, incorrect paperwork documenting aircraft damage, and hazards left by inexperienced ground staff on taxiways and around stands.

XB-1 to Mach 1

The FAA issued a Special Flight Authorization (SFA) to Exceed Mach 1 for Boom’s XB-1 demonstrator. Supersonic operations will occur in the Black Mountain Supersonic Corridor and some of the High Altitude Supersonic Corridor. This R-2515 airspace has been used extensively for research and military supersonic aeronautical operations.

Edwards AFB R-2515 Restricted Airspace: R-2515 Users Handbook [PDF]

The SFA extends to chase plane aircraft. A total of 10-20 flights are planned at the Mojave Air & Space Port (R-2508 Complex) before reaching supersonic speeds.

Biden Recruits 15 States to Help Enforce Airline Consumers Laws

Enforcement of consumer-protection laws covering airline travelers is the federal government’s purview. The U.S. Department of Transportation has signed memorandums of understanding with the attorneys general of 12 states and 3 others allowing them to investigate airline service complaints. If the states believe an airline violated the law or is refusing to cooperate with investigators, the states could refer cases to the DOT for enforcement.

The DOT will allow those states to access its consumer-complaint system and train state employees about applicable laws. Participating are Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

FAA, United Investigate Cockpit Visitor During Baseball Team’s Flight

On a Colorado Rockies charter flight operated by United Airlines, a man is seen in a video sitting in the captain’s chair during the flight. The FAA and United Airlines are investigating the incident. The video was posted to social media and YouTube, but subsequently removed. The man is seen at the controls of the Boeing 757.

California Moves To Ban CLEAR From Airports: No One Should Go Through Security Faster

Some California lawmakers think the CLEAR document verification system is anti-egalitarian. They are seeking to ban the service from airports in that state. The CLEAR service uses biometrics to identify passengers and allows them to go to the front of security queues. PreCheck and Global Entry would not be affected by the proposed law.

Mentioned

Ladybug Launch book cover.

Ladybug Launch: Inspired by a true story of chinitas in space by Melissa Trempe. The children’s book is based on the true story of Chilean high school girls who convinced NASA to send ladybugs to space. Find it on Amazon, at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, and in bookstores.

Boeing and the Dark Age of American Manufacturing

AI on the Ascent: Empowering the Aviation Maintenance Technician – Aviation Week Webinar, Wednesday, May 15, 2024 at 11:00 am ET / 8:00 am PT.

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, David Vanderhoof, Max Trescott, Rob Mark, and our Main(e) Man Micah.

791 U.S. Space Force

We learn about the U.S. Space Force with this week’s guest. In the news, aviation groups are unhappy with new tax proposals, a probable cause for the LATAM B787 sudden dive, results from the recent FAA production audit at Boeing, the NTSB plans a hearing on the 737-9 MAX door plug blowout, and JetBlue is getting an unfavorable response after a couple didn’t get what they paid for.

Guest

Colonel Erin Dick, standing.

Colonel Erin Dick currently serves in both civilian and military roles. On the civilian side, she is the Director of Public Affairs for the RAND Corporation. This non-profit, non-partisan research organization helps improve public policy through research and analysis. Her military position is IMA to the Director of Public Affairs, U.S. Forces Japan.

Erin’s previous military assignments were with the Space Training and Readiness Command (Space Force) and the US Space Command (Joint Combatant Command). She is a communications and public affairs executive with over 26 years of experience including leadership positions with multiple Fortune 100 aerospace/defense and engineering/architecture firms.

While Erin is not currently in the U.S. Space Force and did not speak to us as a representative of the Space Force, she provides valuable insights that help us understand the organization, its mission, people, and training.

Erin explains that space has become a contested domain and the Space Force was created to address the resulting challenges. The Space Force was formed by pulling resources from all the services and only includes three career fields: satellite operations, cyber, and space intel.

Seal of the US Space Force

Erin helps us understand the challenges of public perception faced by the service and provides her insights on the future of the Space Force and the importance of partnerships with industry and academia.

On a personal level, Erin shares her background in aviation, including her experience as a private pilot. She tells of joining the CV-22 squadron and reflects on her involvement in crisis communication following the recent tragic CV-22 crash.

A Colonel in the US Air Force Reserve, Erin has served for 26 years. As an Individual Mobilization Augmentee (IMA) in the Air Force, Erin has some unique responsibilities being directly assigned to an active duty unit and stepping in when needed. She has an MA in Strategic Public Relations from George Washington University and a BA in English from Texas A&M University.

New Commands, Ranks, and More: Big Changes for Air Force & Space Force

Growing the Space Force: Is Outsourcing Operations the Answer?

Space Force reveals official song: ‘Semper Supra’

Video: The Official United States Space Force Song (Lyric Video)

Aviation News

Aviation-Labor Coalition Warns of Harm from Tax Proposals Targeting Business Aviation

President Biden recently unveiled the Administration’s FY25 budget plan. It includes increasing the business aviation fuel tax five times and reducing the depreciation schedule to seven years from five for purchased business aircraft. The aviation and labor alphabet groups expressed their displeasure by sending a letter [PDF] to the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance and the House Committee on Ways and Means.

The letter was signed by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), National Air Transportation Association (NATA), National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots (NJASAP), and Vertical Aviation International (VAI).

Boeing Tells Airlines to Check 787 Cockpit Seats After Mishap on Latam Flight

The “technical event” on the LATAM flight that recently experienced a severe dive, injuring many passengers, may have been identified. It appears that a flight attendant serving a meal to the cockpit crew might have inadvertently bumped the switch that adjusts the pilot’s seat. The pilot then pitched forward into the controls. In a memo to 787 operators, Boeing recommends inspecting cockpit seats for loose switch covers and instructs operators how to turn off power to the pilot seat motor if needed. Boeing says this is a known issue and issued a service bulletin in 2017. 

FAA audit of Boeing’s 737 Max production reportedly found ‘dozens of issues’

The New York Times reports that in a recent FAA 6-week production audit at Boeing, the airframer passed 56 tests and failed 33 tests. The NYT based its reporting after reviewing an internal FAA slide presentation. Many of the failed tests centered around a failure to follow “approved manufacturing processes” and a failure to keep proper quality control documentation. The FAA also performed a product audit at SpiritAerosystems which resulted in six passes and seven fails.

NTSB to hear sworn testimonies at public hearing into 737-9 door plug blowout

On August 6 and 7, 2024 the NTSB plans to hold an investigative hearing into the Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 door plug blowout on January 5, 2024. Sworn testimonies from witnesses help the NTSB determine the facts, circumstances, and probable cause of the incident. The hearing will be open to the public and will be live-streamed. Only NTSB board members, investigators, scheduled witnesses, and parties to the hearing will be allowed to participate.

See:

Alaska Airlines Flight Was Scheduled for Safety Check on Day Panel Blew Off

Alaska Airlines “engineers and technicians” had concerns and the aircraft was due to go out of service that evening. The NYT implies that the airline should have immediately taken the plane out of passenger service. They report that “Alaska Airlines says the plane did not meet its standards for immediately taking it out of service.”

JetBlue is slammed for charging elderly couple $5,200 for lie-flat seats that wouldn’t recline during seven-hour flight – then offering them just $400 travel credit even though neither wants to set foot on airline again

Traveling from Boston to California and wanting to travel in comfort, the 83-year-old couple purchased JetBlue’s “Mint Class” seats. Available on all transatlantic and select coast-to-coast flights, the service offers: “All suites. All aisle access. All the better to deliver our personalized, award-winning service. Featuring lie-flat seats and our exclusive Tuft & Needle sleep experience.”

But his seat was stuck halfway between upright and flat. Her seat was stuck fully upright. The crew managed to get his seat upright, but neither would recline. Then on the return flight, his seat reclined but her seat did not. Jetblue offered the couple $400 in Jetblue credit, but they plan to never fly on Jetblue again. The airline did increase their offer to $1,200 in travel credit.

Mentioned

Masters of the Air on Apple TV.

35th and Final Heli-Expo Sets Record Attendance Mark

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Max Trescott, David Vanderhoof, and our Main(e) Man Micah.

789 Scaled Composites

We talk with both the President of Scaled Composites and the VP of Flight Operations. In the news, the FAA tells Boeing to make a plan, Boeing looks at re-acquiring SpiritAerosystems, Skyryse takes deposits for a fly-by-wire helicopter, the V-22 Osprey could be returning to flight, airlines scale back pilot hiring, and the JetBlue – Spirit merger is off.

Guests

Peter Siebold and Greg Norris of Scaled Composites standing on the apron.
Peter Siebold and Greg Morris

Greg Morris is the president of Scaled Composites, and Pete Siebold is the VP of Flight Operations. Scaled Composites is the aerospace company founded by Burt Rutan to develop experimental aircraft. Currently owned by Northrop Grumman and located at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, Scaled focuses on designing and developing concept aircraft that are often unconventional.

Greg and Pete describe the Scaled “secret sauce” and the company culture that keeps employees engaged and operating at their creative best. We hear about the experience of a first flight in a Scaled aircraft and the preparations made before test flights. Also how Scaled helps customers define their requirements and then designs the aircraft technology to meet those requirements. Interestingly, the design for a technology demonstrator can be quite different than the design for manufacturability. The two explain the personal and professional qualities that position an individual for an aviation career such as you might find at a company like Scaled Composites.

Greg Morris

Greg joined Scaled Composites in 2023 from Gauntlet Aerospace where he was President and Chief Test Pilot. He operated a flight school for 7 years and had 10 years of experience in flight test operations, including teaching in the Qualitative Evaluation Program for the United States Air Force Test Pilot School and target and chase support for the 412th Test Wing. Greg is a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and serves on the SETP Membership Committee. He is a nationally designated FAA Experimental Examiner and he’s conducted check-rides for a variety of aircraft, both Scaled Composites and others. 

Greg received a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Southern California and a Masters of Science in Flight Test Engineering from the National Test Pilot School.

Peter Siebold

Pete joined Scaled Composites in 1996 as a Design Engineer on the VisionAire Vantage. He worked extensively as a Flight Test Engineer on multiple programs before becoming a Test Pilot for the company. During his time at Scaled, Pete has held multiple leadership positions within engineering and flight operations, including Director of Flight Operations. Pete has flown 4 first flights at Scaled and 11 different Scaled aircraft. He was heavily involved in the development of Scaled’s simulator and avionics capabilities.

Pete obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He became a certified flight instructor while attending the university, a rating he retains to this day. He is an Associate Fellow in the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and holds an Airline Transport Pilot Rating with seven Experimental Aircraft Authorizations and two Type Ratings. In 2004, Pete was part of the test team that won the Iven C. Kincheloe award for SpaceShipOne. He was bestowed the honor again in 2009 for his work as Project Pilot for WhiteKnightTwo.

Video: Model 401 Sierra First Flight

Video: Proteus: 25 years of Flight

Find Scaled Composites on Twitter/X, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Aviation News

FAA to Boeing: Develop a plan to fix your quality issues within 90 days

At a meeting in FAA headquarters, FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker told Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun that Boeing has 90 days to provide an action plan that addresses its “systemic quality-control issues.” After the meeting, Whitaker said, “Boeing must commit to real and profound improvements. “Making foundational change will require a sustained effort from Boeing’s leadership, and we are going to hold them accountable every step of the way, with mutually understood milestones and expectations.”

The plan must take into account the findings of the expert review panel report and the results of an FAA production-line audit. It will include the steps necessary to mature Boeing’s Safety Management System and integrate this with the company’s Quality Management System, to “ensure the same level of rigor and oversight is applied to the company’s suppliers.”

Justice Department Looking Into Boeing Blowout

The DOJ is examining whether the door panel incident falls under the government’s 2021 deferred-prosecution agreement with Boeing after the two fatal 737 Max crashes. If prosecutors determine that Boeing’s handling of the incident violated the 2021 agreement, they could rescind it and bring criminal charges against the company.

Engineering union and Boeing face off in fraught pilot contract dispute

The labor contract is with 23 flight technical and safety pilots in the flight operations group. These pilots don’t routinely fly production aircraft. The flight technical pilots develop pilot training programs and pilot manuals and liaise with airlines on their flight operations. The safety pilots help develop flight deck systems for new aircraft and support the certification process. The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace union (SPEEA) says its members have “first-hand experience of the kinds of safety-culture problems an expert panel reported on…”

Boeing in Talks to Buy Troubled Supplier Spirit AeroSystems

Spirit AeroSystems has had preliminary discussions with Boeing and has hired bankers to explore strategic options. Spirit is also looking at selling its Ireland unit that makes parts for Airbus. Both companies have confirmed they are having merger discussions. The talks might not result in a deal. In a statement, Boeing said, “We believe that the reintegration of Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems’ manufacturing operations would further strengthen aviation safety, improve quality, and serve the interests of our customers, employees, and shareholders.”

Skyryse Taking Deposits for Fly-by-wire Turbine Single

Skyryse One is a Robinson R66 helicopter that has been retrofitted with the proprietary SkyOS operating system. This features a single-stick control and two touchscreens. It’s an IFR-capable, aircraft-agnostic, triple-redundant fly-by-wire system. Skyryse is taking refundable, non-transferrable $2,500 deposits.

V-22 Osprey Fleet To Return To Flight After 3-Month Worldwide Grounding

The V-22 Osprey fleet received approval from U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for a safe and measured return to operations. The Naval Air Systems Command could lift the grounding and allow the services to resume V-22 flight operations. The cause of the crash has been identified, but the reason for the failure has not. The investigation continues.

Southwest Airlines Scales Back Pilot Hiring In 2024

A Southwest memo says, “Based on expected capacity growth beyond 2024, we’ve made the difficult decision to suspend Initial First Officer Training classes through the remainder of 2024 and defer job offers, beginning with our April classes.” The airline said pilots with conditional job offers would be placed in a “deferred candidate pool.” Once hiring resumes, those pilots would be called up.

JetBlue, Spirit end $3.8 billion merger agreement after losing antitrust suit

Citing regulatory hurdles, the two airlines ended their merger agreement. Attorney General Merrick Garland said, “Today’s decision by JetBlue is yet another victory for the Justice Department’s work on behalf of American consumers.”

Mentioned

Making Like Maverick in an L-39 by Rob Mark in JetWhine.

Bob Heil

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver

Tesla Model S and Model 3 vulnerable to GNSS spoofing attacks

Wheel Bearings podcast.

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, Max Trescott, and our Main(e) Man Micah.

785 The Boeing Company

Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems continue to dominate the news, along with 737 MAX certification, lap babies, the proposed JetBlue and Spirit Airlines merger, route growth at United Airlines and Breeze Airways, and the demise of the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter. Also, flight tests for the B-21 Raider and more favorite aviation movies.

Aviation News

Boeing, not Spirit, mis-installed piece that blew off Alaska MAX 9 jet, industry source says

Wichita-based Spirit AeroSystems builds the 737 fuselage for Boeing. A person familiar with the situation says the door plug was removed by Boeing, and then reinstalled on the 737.

127 Days: The Anatomy of a Boeing Quality Failure

In The Air Current, Jon Ostrower reconstructs the journey of fuselage 8789 from Spirit AeroSytems to Alaska Airlines. It’s an insightful look at the relationship between Boeing and Spirit AeroSystems.

Opposition grows to Boeing 737 MAX 7 safety exemption

Boeing wants an exemption to certify the 737 MAX 7 and MAX 10, despite problems with the engine anti-ice system.

Video: United Airlines CEO: Boeing’s 737 Max-9 grounding is ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ for us

NTSB Urges Parents Not to Fly With Children on Laps After Alaska Incident 

At a recent press conference, NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy said “We would urge passengers to put their children under two in their own seat, in an FAA-approved car seat, so they are secure and safe in case something like this happens.” Currently, the FAA allows children under the age of two to be held in an adult’s lap.

Boeing CEO to meet with senators scrutinizing 737 MAX 9 blowout

Dave Calhoun has been meeting with U.S. senators to answer their questions about the 737 MAX 9. After meeting with Calhoun, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth said he “offered no assurance” that Boeing would withdraw its exemption request for the 737MAX 7 jet. 

Boeing Whistleblower: Production Line Has “Enormous Volume Of Defects” Bolts On MAX 9 Weren’t Installed

JetBlue casts doubt on its merger deal with Spirit Airlines after judge rules against merger

JetBlue Airways has informed Spirit Airlines that the merger agreement might be terminated. JetBlue feels some conditions of the merger agreement can not be met while Spirit says there is no basis for terminating the merger agreement.

United Airlines To Launch First-Ever Route From Washington DC To Alaska

Breeze Airways Adds Three Airports, 11 Routes To Network

After Three Years on Mars, NASA’s Ingenuity Helicopter Mission Ends

On April 19, 2021, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter made history by becoming the first craft to achieve powered, controlled flight on another planet. After sustaining rotor blade damage, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson announced that the Ingenuity mission had come to an end after  72 flights.

Ingenuity Mars Helicopter sitting on the surface of Mars.
This view of NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter was generated using data collected by the Mastcam-Z instrument aboard the agency’s Perseverance Mars rover on Aug. 2, 2023, the 871st Martian day, or sol, of the mission.

For more information about Ingenuity, see https://mars.nasa.gov/technology/helicopter.

Mentioned

Do Electric Aircraft Face Lapse Rate Challenges?

B-21 Raider Flight Testing Now Underway

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, Max Trescott, David Vanderhoof, and our Main(e) Man Micah.

778 China Aviation Market

We take a look at the China aviation market, including the aviation boom in China, the aircraft that will support that market, and the impact on the global aviation industry. In the news, the V-22 Osprey is grounded worldwide, a judge wants more concessions from JetBlue as they seek to acquire Spirit, how airport expansion plans can come under fire on environmental grounds, and producing Sustainable Aviation Fuel through CO₂ direct air capture technology.

Guest

Vance Hilderman photo.

Vance Hilderman is the CEO of AFuzion, a safety certification consultancy for the aviation industry. Vance is the founder, CEO, and CTO of multiple safety-critical companies. He’s a world-renowned safety-critical expert, speaker, trainer, and author.

Vance describes the growth potential of the China aviation market, the challenges and opportunities for Western companies, and the implications of technology transfer and intellectual property concerns. He highlights the importance of the Chinese market for the aviation industry and the need for strategic approaches to navigate the complexities of doing business in China.

Takeaways:

  • China is a rapidly growing aviation market with a large middle class and increasing domestic and international travel demand.
  • Western companies, including Boeing and Airbus, are eager to tap into the Chinese market, but they face challenges related to technology transfer and intellectual property concerns.
  • The Chinese government plays a significant role in the aviation industry, and partnerships and joint ventures are often required to do business in China.
  • The China aviation market offers both opportunities and risks, and companies need to carefully navigate the political and economic landscape to succeed.

Vance is a top authority in the aviation industry and has been featured in the Associated Press, Aviation Pros, and Aviation Today. He is the author of The Aviation Development Ecosystem and Avionics Certification – Complete Guide to DO-178, DO-178C, DO-254. Vance holds BSEE, MSEE (Hughes Fellow), and MBA degrees.

References:

Aviation News

Osprey Crash Triggers Worldwide Grounding

A USAF CV-22B Osprey tiltrotor crashed offshore near Yakushima, Japan, on November 29, 2023, during a training mission, killing eight service members who were aboard. The U.S. Air Force’s Special Operations Command ordered an “operational standdown” of the CV-22 fleet, and all other V-22 operators have done the same. More than 400 Osprey’s are currently in service with U.S. forces and Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force, which operates 14 of the aircraft. 

USAF Special Operations Command says, “Preliminary investigation information indicates a potential materiel failure caused the mishap, but the underlying cause of the failure is unknown at this time. The standdown will provide time and space for a thorough investigation to determine causal factors and recommendations to ensure the Air Force CV-22 fleet returns to flight operations.”

V-22 Osprey inflight with rotors in vertical flight position.
A CV-22 Osprey practices hoist operations near Albuquerque, New Mexico Feb. 22, 2021. Image: Airman 1st Class Ireland Summers Air Force.

Judge Seeks Further Concessions as JetBlue-Spirit Trial Concludes 

Judge seeks more sacrifices as JetBlue-Spirit trial ends

The US District judge concluded that fares would likely increase if the proposed $3.8B acquisition of Spirit by JetBlue goes through, and commented that JetBlue will most likely need to divest additional assets.  The airline already said it would divest gates and slots at Boston, New York Newark, and Fort Lauderdale International.

Portland jetport plan to cut trees, add surface parking draws opposition

The Portland International Jetport wants to build an additional parking lot. Meanwhile, the new Mayor has prioritized fighting climate change and expanding Portland’s tree canopy. The Jetport says demand for long-term parking exceeds capacity so travelers park at an offsite city lot and use a shuttle to the airport. They say onsite parking has the smallest carbon footprint. The opposition says clearing trees and destroying wetlands is short-sighted and environmentally harmful. They say the jetport should expand the shuttle service to include other existing parking lots.

UK’s first air capture plant is turned on to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and turn it into jet fuel

Mission Zero Technologies was founded in 2020 to develop direct air capture (DAC) technology that recovers atmospheric CO₂, which can then be used or stored. Their machine will run on solar power, recover 50 tonnes of CO₂ per year, and then turn it into Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).

Australia Desk

Mentioned

Early Winter Snow Stops Flights at Munich Airport

Video: Cessna Citation X from ARFF World

Video: EP 31: Smithy’s Southern Cross Replica Flies Again!

Hosts this Episode

768 Xwing Autonomous Aircraft

Autonomous aircraft with the regulatory affairs lead at Xwing. In the news, Delta Airlines reconsiders loyalty program changes, GPS spoofing of commercial flights, the Schiphol airport capacity cap, a crash takes the life of an AOPA senior vice president, and a 104-year-old woman goes skydiving.

Guest

Anna Dietrich is the regulatory affairs lead at Xwing, a company that flies piloted commercial cargo operations under a Part 135 certificate with a fleet of Cessna Caravans. The company has developed an autonomous aircraft for cargo operations and has conducted the world’s first fully autonomous gate-to-gate demonstration of a commercial cargo aircraft.

Anna Dietrich, regulatory affairs lead at Xwing.

Anna leads the certification program for advanced aircraft control and detect and avoid systems for the company’s autonomous flight operations. She gives us an overview of the Xwing autonomous program and the Superpilot autonomous flight technology. A remote pilot monitors the flight and can modify the flight plan if necessary.

We hear how the regulator’s viewpoint on airworthiness is now a more performance-based approach to safety. Operational rules can be the same as with a crewed aircraft, but in this case, some are performed by a system, and some by a pilot on the ground. For now, airman certification is unchanged, but some requirements are different and these will need to change over time.

Anna brings up the roles of humans in autonomous aircraft operations: who has liability and responsibility, and what training is appropriate? Also, how AI is regulated, thoughts on the certification process, and even public acceptance. We take the opportunity to ask Anna about the Terrafugia roadable airplane project that she co-founded.

Anna is an industry-recognized leader in policy, certification, and government relations for advanced air mobility (AAM), eVTOL aircraft, and autonomous aviation. Her experiences include Mars rover testing, being the founding COO of Terrafugia, testifying on AAM for Congress, and speaking at TED Global. She has appeared on or been published in a wide range of outlets including CNN, Ms. Magazine, and Good Morning America. She runs AMD Consulting, serves as Director of Regulatory Affairs for Xwing, is the co-founder and Director of Industry and Strategy at the Community Air Mobility Initiative (CAMI), and is a Senior Policy Advisor for AUVSI. She was the founding chair of the GAMA EPIC EVTOL committee and continues to have key roles in industry, including standards development efforts such as ASTM AC377 Autonomy in Aviation. She received her BS and MS in aerospace engineering from MIT and is a private pilot. More at annamdietrich.com.

See also:

  • Aviation Xtended Episode 184 with Max Gariel, the Co-Founder, President, and Chief Technology Officer for Xwing. 
  • Airplane Geeks Episode 736 with Earl Lawrence, the Chief Compliance and Quality Officer at Xwing, and former Executive Director of Aircraft Certification at the FAA.

Video: Xwing – Gate to Gate demo – Feb 2021

Aviation News

Delta CEO Admits Airline May Have Gone ‘Too Far’ With Loyalty Changes

Last week we described how Delta Airlines planned to change its SkyMiles program. The airline said it would retire Medallion Qualifying Miles and Medallion Qualifying Segments to focus on Qualifying Dollars. Many Delta customers were not happy with the change, and CEO Ed Bastian responded by saying, “No question we probably went too far in doing that. I think we moved too fast, and we are looking at it now.”

‘We moved too fast’: Delta Airlines may reverse controversial change

After the initial Delta announcement, Alaska Airlines said Delta SkyMiles Medallion members could join their Mileage Plan program with no flight segment or spending requirement. JetBlue offered elite status in its Mosaic loyalty program to Delta flyers through Oct. 31, or until 30,000 people take advantage of the offer.

Increasing Fake GPS Signals Near Iran Prompt FAA Alert

The OpsGroup reports that the number of GPS spoofing incidents in Iraq is increasing along a flight path alongside the Iranian border. The FAA calls this a “safety of flight risk to civil aviation operations.” OpsGroup said about a dozen business jets and airliners received fake GPS signals, and many of them lost navigation capability.

OpsGroup is a membership organization for pilots, flight dispatchers, schedulers, and controllers involved in international flight operations. The 8,000-member-strong organization shares new information on changes and risks that members have reported. Members get a Daily Brief, live Ops Alerts, and other resources. OpsGroup founder Mark Zee describes the organization in What Is Opsgroup All About?

US’s JetBlue challenges Dutch, EU over Schiphol capacity cap

The Dutch government is planning to cut capacity at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport from 500,000 annual flights to 440,000 flights. This is an effort to reduce noise and carbon emissions, but it is not a popular move within the industry. Opposition comes from KLM, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and A4A representing ten US airlines. Other industry associations against the plan include BARIN (representing airlines in the Netherlands), Air Cargo Netherlands (ACN), Airlines for Europe (A4E), and the European Regions Airline Association (ERA).

JetBlue Airways has made a regulatory filing with the US Department of Transportation (DOT) against the Dutch government and the European Union, calling on the DOT to take action. The airline claims is it under an immediate threat of expulsion from Schiphol in 2024.

AOPA’s Vice President of Air Safety Institute, Richard McSpadden Dies in Plane Crash

Richard McSpadden Jr., senior vice president of the AOPA Air Safety Institute, was one of two people killed in an aircraft accident on October 1, 2023, in Lake Placid, New York. The Cessna 177 Cardinal experienced an emergency after takeoff. The airplane attempted to return to the airport but failed to make the runway. Also killed in the crash was former NFL player Russ Francis.

104-year-old Chicago woman becomes oldest tandem skydiver

The Guinness Book of World Records may certify Dorothy Hoffner as the oldest person in the world to tandem skydive. The woman turns 105 in December and wants to go for a ride in a hot air balloon.

Mentioned

From The American Helicopter Museum & Education Center:

Aviation Newstalk Podcast

Portland jetport briefly shut down Sunday after car crashes through gate, drives on runway

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, David Vanderhoof, Max Trescott, and our Main(e) Man Micah.

750 Northeast Alliance

A ruling in the Northeast Alliance antitrust suit, American Airlines flight attendants troubled by the “ConnectMe” app, new service and routes from Breeze Airways, Republic Airways to fine pilots who leave early, Cessna Citation Ascend unveiled, and a YouTuber charged in the crash of his plane.

Aviation News

Northeast Alliance partner logos: jetBlue and American Airlines.

Judge ends American Airlines-JetBlue alliance, says it is anticompetitive

In a May 19, 2023 ruling, the judge in the Northeast Alliance antitrust suit determined that the Alliance “substantially diminishes competition in the domestic market for air travel.” The Department of Justice alleged that by codesharing and collaborating to run complementary route networks through New York and Boston, the Northeast Alliance would “eliminate significant competition between American and JetBlue that has led to lower fares and higher quality service for consumers traveling to and from those airports.” Unless the ruling is appealed, the Alliance must end within 30 days.

In his ruling [PDF], Judge Sorokin says:

In the first months of 2020, executives at American Airlines and JetBlue negotiated and signed a first-of-its-kind alliance, in which the two carriers essentially agreed to operate as one airline for most of their flights in and out of New York City and Boston.

This case turns on what “competition” means. To the defendants, competition is enhanced if they join forces to unseat a powerful rival. The Sherman Act, however, has a different focus. Federal antitrust law is not concerned with making individual competitors larger or more powerful. It aims to preserve the free functioning of markets and foster participation by a diverse array of competitors. Those principles are generally undermined, rather than promoted, by agreements among horizontal competitors to dispense with competition and cooperate instead. That is precisely what happened here.

American Airlines and Microsoft Partnership Takes Flight to Create a Smoother Travel Experience for Customers and Better Technology Tools for Team Members

In May 2022, American Airlines announced they were partnering with Microsoft “to use technology to create better, more connected experiences for customers and American Airlines team members… American will use Microsoft Azure as its preferred cloud platform for its airline applications and key workloads.”

American Airlines Flight Attendants Say Mobile App Designed to Improve On-time Performance is a ‘Hazard to Passenger Safety’

Now the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) representing American Airlines flight attendants takes issue with the Airline’s “ConnectMe” app. The mandatory internal messaging app works within Microsoft Teams and allows flight attendants to communicate with gate agents, pilots, and engineers during pre-boarding and boarding.

The union says they didn’t have any input into the use of ConnectMe, interruptions through the app are a distraction, and there is a “constant barrage of texts [which] prioritizes another department’s objectives over safety which should be first and foremost.”

New Routes, Amenities, and a New First Class: An Update on a Busy Week for Breeze Airways

LCC Breeze Airways is announcing new cabin features, a new class of service, and the launch of some new routes. The “Breeze Ascend” first-class section upgrades its previous “Nicest Fare” seats. It will be introduced on its A220 aircraft and offer more space, premium seats and cocktails, and free snacks. Onboard WiFi is coming to the A220 fleet through Viasat satellite internet. The price is TBD and the rollout is expected to be complete by early 2024. See Cranky’s comments on this in Cranky Weekly Review Presented by Oakland International Airport: WestJet Fights off Strike, Breeze Gets Even Nicer, and More…

Republic Airways To Issue $100,000 Fine If Pilots Quit Within First Three Years

The new Republic Airways New First Officer Career Advancement Pathway Program Agreement is designed to retain pilots, but it comes with some provisions:

  • Pilots must stay with the regional airline for at least three years.
  • After one year, pilots may have the opportunity to graduate to the captain position but will need to fly as much as they can in order to do so.
  • New hires are committing to being a captain for two years.
  • Pilots who voluntarily break the agreement and leave the airline before the three-year mark are subject to a $100,000 fine.
  • If a pilot resigns before the three-year mark, they are not allowed to work for any other competing airline within a year.

Teamsters, the union representing the airline’s pilots, filed a grievance against Republic, saying the agreement is problematic.

Textron Aviation Unveils Cessna Citation Ascend in Geneva

The fifth-generation Citation 560XL arrives in 2025 at a price of $16.7 million. ​Changes include a new and larger flight deck and cabin windows, Pratt & Whitney Canada PW545D engines, and interior improvements. The APU now is approved for unattended operation and the cockpit incorporates the latest version of the Garmin G5000 integrated flight deck, as well as Garmin’s 3D exocentric view airport diagrams on PFDs, including runway and taxiway signs, obstacle symbols, and building images.

Santa Barbara County Man Who Deliberately Crashed Airplane for YouTube Video Admits to Obstructing Federal Investigation

It’s a felony charge for the YouTuber who deliberately abandoned his plane in 2021 and recorded the event while he parachuted out, in an effort to get views.

Mentioned

AeroXplorer (previously TheExplorerBlog) is an aviation photography and news source that provides industry news and an airframe photography database with more than 30,000 photos. They have a map showing many airports. Click on one and see spotting photos from that airport. 

Ukraine’s F-16s Could Come From These Countries

SR-71 pilot, photographer and storyteller Brian Shul dies at 75

Brian Shul, our guest from Episode 375 (2015) died on May 20, 2023. He was an Air Force fighter pilot, flew A-7D, flew A-10, taught at the Air Force’s TopGun school in the F-5B, and became an SR-71 spy plane pilot.

History This Week PodcastThe World’s First Budget Airline Takes Off,  Monday, May 1, 2023.

Bill Barry is the 2023 winner of the Roger R. Trask Award from the Society for History in Federal Government.

National Air & Space Museum Innovations in Flight – Outdoor Aviation Display.

2023 Aerospace Media Awards

Aviation Xtended EP.172 – VC10DERNESS

myFlightradar24

myFlightradar24.com

 Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Max Trescott, David Vanderhoof, and our Main(e) Man Micah.

744 DOJ Antitrust Lawsuit

More states join the Justice Department antitrust lawsuit to block the JetBlue-Spirit Merger, a Delta flight aborts takeoff after another jet raises concerns, Shell cancels it’s plans for a SAF plant in Singapore, Delta uses its partnership with Lyft, and the FAA warns about summer travel disruptions. We also offer a little bit of aviation career advice and talk more about lap babies on airlines.

Aviation News

California, New Jersey Join Suit to Block JetBlue-Spirit Merger

jetBlue logo.

The Attorneys General of California, Maryland, New Jersey, and North Carolina joined the civil antitrust lawsuit filed by the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. Those states now join Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia. The civil antitrust lawsuit seeks to block JetBlue’s proposed $3.8 billion acquisition of Spirit Airlines. The 42-page amended complaint says:

JetBlue’s proposed $3.8 billion acquisition of Spirit would eliminate the largest and fastest-growing ultra-low-cost carrier in the United States. Spirit’s ultra-low-cost business model has increased competition and brought low fares to hundreds of routes across the country, making it possible for more Americans—particularly the most cost conscious—to travel. JetBlue competes hard against Spirit, and views it as a serious competitive threat. But instead of continuing that competition, JetBlue now proposes an acquisition that Spirit describes as “a high cost, high-fare airline buying a low-cost, low-fare airline.”

If the acquisition is approved, JetBlue plans to abandon Spirit’s business model, remove seats from Spirit’s planes, and charge Spirit’s customers higher prices. JetBlue’s plan would eliminate the unique competition that Spirit provides—and about half of all ultra-low-cost airline seats in the industry—and leave tens of millions of travelers to face higher fares and fewer options.

The DOJ’s suit is scheduled to go to trial in a Massachusetts courtroom on October 16, 2023.

Delta flight aborts takeoff as another aircraft crosses runway

Delta Air Lines logo.

Delta flight DL-1482 was cleared for takeoff from New Orleans runway 11 when ATC canceled the clearance and the A321-200 (N342DN) screeched to a halt. The FAA says the Learjet did not cross the “hold short line,” but the controller canceled the takeoff clearance out of an abundance of caution. The Aviation Herald reports the crew rejected takeoff at high speed (about 125 knots over ground) and stopped about 1500 meters/4920 feet down the runway. The Tower explained another aircraft had crossed the hold short line of the runway.

Shell cancels sustainable aviation fuel and base oil plant projects in Singapore

Shell logo.

Shell announced in 2021 that it was planning a biofuel project in Singapore to produce 550,000 tonnes of SAF per year for major Asian hubs like Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) and Singapore’s Changi Airport (SIN). Shell had planned to make their final investment decision by early 2023. Now the company says the market demand in that region will not support the investment.

Delta Rebooks Passengers On Lyft When There’s No Airline Seats Available

Some Delta Air Lines passengers arriving in Detroit found that strong thunderstorms in the area prevented them from flying to nearby final destinations. Delta stepped in and rebooked some passengers on Lyft. Lyft has been a Delta partner for six years.

FAA Warns of Air Traffic Controller Shortage Ahead of Summer Travel Season

The New York airspace is so congested that the FAA has asked airlines to make operational changes. For the peak summer travel season, the FAA would like to see larger planes and fewer flights. Consumer demand is forecasted to be seven percent higher during the summer than last year. The FAA says if nothing changes, we can expect 45 percent more delays. Staffing at air traffic control centers averages 81 percent of what’s needed. Staffing at the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) is only 54 percent of the need.

Career Advice

An Electrical Engineering student with an interest in aviation asked us about career opportunities, how to fund pilot instruction, and general advice. We provide our thoughts and strategies. Mentioned:

Australia News Desk

Australia’s newest airline, Bonza, continues with the rollout of its new route network with the opening this week of its base in Melbourne, Victoria.  The opening comes as figures show they’ve sold over 100,000 seats since commencing operation two months ago. Will the strategy of offering budget fares for Melburnians to access the warmer weather of Queensland and points north be sustainable in the medium to long term?   And will other airlines move to match their destinations and pricing?  Business is business, after all.  We’ll continue to watch with interest.

Bonza hits 100k bookings as it launches Sunshine Coast-Cairns route

Qantas meantime have ventured into the sustainability stakes from another angle – biofuels.  Partnering with Queensland-based biofuel manufacturer LanzaJet & JetZero Australia, the airline will aim to jointly fund the construction of a facility to produce sustainable aviation fuel (SAF)

The proposed facility will utilise LanzaJet’s alcohol-to-jet technology to produce up to 100 million litres of SAF per year. Construction is expected to start in 2024.

Queensland biofuel refinery to turn agricultural by products into sustainable aviation fuel

The Royal Australian Air Force has returned from a successful Exercise Cope North in Guam, testing new strategies for the use of its C-17J Spartan fleet.  The platform continues to evolve for the RAAF, having been reclassified in 2021 from that of a battlefield airlifter to “Light Tactical Fixed Wing Airlifter”, with impressive results to date.

Exercise Cope North wraps up

Flying with Children and Infants

After the discussion on this topic in the last episode, a listener wrote in to present a different viewpoint on any ban on “lap babies” on airlines.

Mentioned

This battery safety feature can break your Apple AirTags. Here’s how to fix it

FAA Airport Design Challenge

The Airport Design Challenge (ADC) is an interactive learning and collaboration opportunity for students in grades K-12. 

  • Small teams of students work together to learn about their local airport and to complete development tasks in Minecraft Organized lesson plans covering topics from airport layout, pavement, lighting, structures, and innovative growth. Collaborative work between students, parents, and teachers performed in a virtual environment.
  • Airport Design Challenge enrollment opened on April 1, 2023.

Emil Bocek, last Czech RAF pilot during WWII, dies at 100

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, David Vanderhoof, and Max Trescott.

740 Status Match

Status match and airline loyalty programs with an industry leader. Also, an alleged export control violation involving Russia, a hydrogen-powered regional airliner takes flight, Jetblue court cases, and an FAA system problem impacts check rides. We also have an Australia News Desk report from Avalon and a visit to an El Al MRO shop.

Guest

Mark Ross-Smith.

Mark Ross-Smith is an award-winning global airline loyalty industry leader. He’s an author, the founder of industry news site Travel Data Daily, and the CEO of Status Match.com, which helps switch loyalty tier status to a new airline or hotel. Mark has 20 years of experience leading loyalty programs in telecoms and travel, most recently at Malaysian Airlines. He’s published dozen of papers and articles on airline loyalty and is a frequent speaker at conferences and other events.

Mark describes the “status cliff” faced by airlines and customers. As the pandemic halted travel, airlines extended customer loyalty status. Now that demand has returned, airlines don’t want to extend status for free. Large numbers of customers have been or are in danger of being downgraded.

We also learn that an airline’s loyalty program is sometimes valued higher than the airline’s operations. Credit cards are a high-margin business for airlines and contribute significantly to an airline’s valuation. We wonder if airlines these days airlines, or are they marketing companies and loyalty programs that have an airline division? Mark explains that regardless, airlines need to provide the kind of service that makes the loyalty program attractive to their customer demographics.

Mark tells us about the concept of the status match. This is where one loyalty program gives you some status based on the status you have with another. It’s a process that shifts consumer behavior and Mark explains why airlines (and hotels) engage in this practice, and what it means for the consumer. For a fee, StatusMatch.com may be able to arrange one for you.

Aviation News

2 Americans arrested for allegedly sending aviation technology to Russia

The charges include exporting controlled goods without a license, falsifying and failing to file electronic export information, and smuggling goods contrary to US law. US-based KanRus Trading Company allegedly sold equipment to Russian companies and provided repair services for Russian aircraft. Prosecutors say the pair concealed who their clients were, lied about how much the products cost, and they were paid through foreign bank accounts. All this to circumvent U.S. sanctions.

First hydrogen-powered airplane takes flight in Moses Lake

The 40-passenger regional airliner flew for 15 minutes using hydrogen fuel cell propulsion.  Universal Hydrogen developed the plane, nicknamed Lightning McClean. A fuel cell electric powertrain replaces the existing turboprop engines. The FAA granted Universal Hydrogen approval for the test flight under a special airworthiness certificate. The flight test campaign is expected to run through 2025, followed by entry into passenger service of ATR 72 regional aircraft that same year converted to run on hydrogen.

JetBlue is at the center of two cases that could remake the industry

JetBlue is deeply into a pair of high-profile antitrust cases that some say could redefine the way U.S. airlines compete. In one case, the Justice Department is looking at JetBlue’s Northeast alliance with American Airlines where the two airlines coordinate schedules and share revenue on selected Northeast routes. The airlines call it an alliance. The DOJ says it’s a de facto merger. In the other case, JetBlue seeks to merge with Spirit Airlines. The DOJ hasn’t yet said what it will do.

Check Rides Grind to a Halt When the IACRA System Coughs

It’s not a NOTAM system crash this time, it’s the FAA’s Integrated Airman Certification and Rating Application system (IACRA) that is failing. Without IACRA, designated pilot examiners are having difficulty performing check rides. The FAA confirmed that the IACRA system lost some data.

Australia News Desk

The Australian International Air Show made a triumphant return after a covid interrupted four-year break, and Grant and Steve were there to take in all the action.

The event is located at Avalon Airport, roughly 60 kilometres southwest of Melbourne, and is a major event on the world air show calendar.  This year saw attendance from many nations including the United States, Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Japan, Germany, and South Korea.

Standout displays included the Republic of Korea Air Force Black Eagles, RAAF F-35A and  F-18F’s, USAF F-22, Air Race World Champion Matt Hall, and aerobatics ace Paul Bennet.

Ostensibly a trade, government, and business exposition, it runs across six days, culminating in two and a half public open days, where the aerial action kicks into high gear.

In this report, the guys discuss some of the military announcements made during the show, take in the impressive array of USAF tankers that made the trip, and a new remote-operated aircraft designed and built by the ADF for ISR operations, which cost only $AU50,000 each.

Finally, they catch up with veteran air show commentator Peter Meehan, who’s retiring from his role as the voice of Avalon after more than 30 years, and his successor, well-known aviation writer and radio presenter Tony Moclair.

Steve Visscher and Grant McHerron.
F-35 in flight at Avalon.
F-35 at Avalon.
Biplane flying with explosions in the background.
Action at Avalon 2023.

Aircraft images by Wayne Nugent and Victor Pody.

El Al MRO Facility

Brian Coleman talks with Max Flight about his visit to an El Al MRO facility in Tel Aviv.

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, and David Vanderhoof.  Contributions by Grant McHerron, Steve Visscher, and Brian Coleman.