Airlines face downward booking trends and very large furloughs, flight training in a time of social distancing, airlines struggle to enforce face-covering policies, airports are responding to the pandemic, Boeing issues draft pilot training document for the 737 MAX, and Spirit Airlines steps up to help a family in need.
United Airlines sent employees a notice saying that 36,000 employees may be subject to involuntary furloughs. That would represent 45% of its U.S. front-line workers. Most of these (26,000) would be flight attendants and airport customer service and gate agents. Up to 2,250 pilots could be affected.
In mid-April, there were days when TSA checkpoint volume was only 4% of previous year levels. In May and June, the volume rose slightly and airlines started operating more flights. But now Covid-19 infections are spiking upward in many U.S. states and bookings are again dropping.
A few months ago, Redbird Flight Simulations started thinking about social distancing and flight training. They’ve developed a platform for flight instructors and their students that uses video conferencing technology and a web-based version of the Redbird Navigator flight simulator operating system.
Airline passengers are required to wear face coverings in flight, except when eating and drinking. Most do, but not everyone. Cabin crew have difficulty enforcing a mask policy since there is no Federal requirement, only a recommendation.
In July 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation published a 44-page “Runway to Recovery” plan [PDF] subtitled “The United States Framework for Airlines and Airports to Mitigate the Public Health Risks of Coronavirus.”
DFW and American Airlines plan to roll out self-check-in for luggage and touchless restrooms at the airport. The airport is piloting three luggage self-check-in systems: Amadeus’s ICM, SITA, and Materna IPS. DFW is also testing new sanitization technology including ultraviolet light to kill germs before they circulate into the HVAC system.
Boeing has a draft of its new 737 MAX pilot training document. The Allied Pilots Association (APA) representing American Airlines’ pilots has a copy and they say the document is vastly more thorough than previous drafts. The APA is generally pleased with it but some concerns remain. Boeing’s latest draft includes some 10 documents and 200 pages.
A family was flying on Spirit Airlines from San Juan to Philadelphia when their 4-year-old daughter had a medical emergency. The plane diverted to Turks and Caicos so the girl could get medical treatment. (She’s fine.) But the family didn’t have the necessary documentation when they tried to leave the island. Plus international travel is shut down there. They were trapped but Spirit and others came to the rescue.
NYCAviation.com editor Ben Granucci on plane spotting, CEO change at Spirit Airlines, drone news from the 2016 CES, a new FAA app, the Airbus A350, hand flying the airplane, five-engine airplanes, and the odd-looking Northrop Tacit Blue.
Ben Granucci inside Fedex A300 at EWR’s Airport Day. Photo by Maggie Bradley.
Ben Granucci is the Standards Editor for NYCAviation.com, a New York City-based, globally focused aviation news, commentary, and enthusiast website. He is an avid aviation photographer and a lifelong avgeek. In addition to his work with NYCAviation, Ben also occasionally writes for AirlineReporter.com. Follow him on Twitter at @blgranucci and visit his Facebook page.
Some of Ben’s favorite photos:
Plane spotting at St Maarten
A Tarom A310 carrying the Hungarian delegation taxis to depart while a Cathay Pacific 777-300ER lifts off in the background during UN Week 2015.
An F-22 Raptor and P-51 Mustang perform the Heritage Flight during day 2 of the first ever New York Air Show.
A LAN Airlines A320 departs Santiago, Chile at sunset.
The Spirit Airlines board announced that board member Robert Fornaro would replace Ben Baldanza as the CEO of the ultra low-cost airline. Fornaro was the AirTran CEO who managed the sale to Southwest 2011. While Spirit remains profitable, it is less so than before, and stock prices have tumbled. Could there be a merger in Spirit’s future?
China-based EHang announced its EHang 184 autonomous electric drone at CES, and says it should be in production in a year. The aircraft carries a single passenger, is limited to a 23 minute flight, and is expected to have a price of $200,000-$300,000.
At CES, FAA Administrator Huerta announced the public release of the B4UFLY app for iOS, and the beta of a version for the Android operating system. The FAA says, “B4UFLY tells users about current or upcoming requirements and restrictions in areas of the National Airspace System (NAS) where they may want to operate their unmanned aircraft system (UAS).”
The U.S. Transportation Department Office of the Inspector General released a report saying the FAA is not ensuring that airline pilots maintain the skills they need to take control from automated systems during an unexpected event.
The FAA has issued a new advisory circular for flight instructors that promotes hand flying skills during flight reviews and proficiency checks. The AC says, “The FAA reminds CFIs conducting flight reviews and IPCs to ensure that a pilot under evaluation is proficient with the automated system and knows what to do if it fails.”
An enthusiast talks about PC flight simulation, Dubai Air Show 2015 debrief, flight training with the Cirrus Aircraft SR22 at Emirates, antitrust lawsuit blocks United’s plan to purchase slots, and bag fees increase at low cost carriers.
Guest Nicolas Jackson talks about PC-based flight simulators. We learn that you can create the flight simulation experience you want – from flying a GA airplane in the pattern around your local airfield, to a transcontinental commercial flight.
We talk about alternatives to Microsoft Flight Simulator X (FSX), such as Lockheed Martin’s Prepar3D® simulation software and X-Plane from Laminar Research. Nicolas recommends the Steam edition of FSX distributed by Dovetail Games for new simmers. He also tells us about VATSIM.net, an international online flying network, and broadcasting on Twitch.tv, a live streaming video platform and community for gamers.
Nicolas Jackson fell in love with aviation at the age of 10 when he got his first ride in a GA aircraft. Five minutes at the stick and he was hooked. Soon after that first flight, he bought Sierra Pro Pilot 99. He later switched to Microsoft Flight Simulator starting with FS98 and running all the way to FSX. He started flying on the international online flying network VATSIM with complex airliner add-ons in 2006, and hasn’t looked back since. Nicolas currently flies a variety of FSX aircraft and co-hosts the Unicom Podcast as part of The IFlySimX Team.
airBaltic becomes the launch customer for the CSeries CS300 airliner when it takes delivery in the latter part of 2016. The Latvian flag carrier has orders for 13 firm and 7 options for the 160 passenger CS300.
Bombardier said it has 603 orders and commitments for the CS300 and CS100, 243 of which are firm orders. Also, Bombardier said it was nearing completion of the CS100 flight test program and was “on track” for certification of the airplane by Transport Canada this year. CSeries flight test vehicles took more than 1,000 flights during testing.
Embraer plans to build six test aircraft as part of the E2 E-Jet re-engining program: four of the E190-E2 variant and two of the E195-E2. Both E195-E2s and three of the E190-E2s would be ready by end of 2016, with the fourth following in 2017. The Pratt & Whitney PW1900G will power the planes, and Dutch lessor AerCap will be the launch customer for the 97-seat E190-E2.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Air Force bought two Saab Global 6000 long-range surveillance aircraft, and will upgrade two existing Saab 340 jets. Lebanon will purchase six Embraer Super Tucano aircraft for basic missions and training. Boeing says five customers are interested in its Maritime Surveillance Aircraft, a long-range spying plane. Lockheed Martin was awarded a $262.8 million contract from the U.S. Air Force to service Saudi Arabia’s F-15 sniper targeting system.
United Continental Holdings Inc. wants to buy 24 slots at Newark Liberty International Airport, from Delta Air Lines Inc. The U.S. Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit to block the sale.
Justice Department antitrust chief Bill Baer says, “Allowing United to acquire even more slots at Newark would fortify United’s monopoly position and weaken the ability of other airlines to compete. That would leave the 35 million air passengers who fly in and out of Newark every year holding the bag.”
Last year, ultra low cost carrier Spirit Airlines began increased bag fees for the holidays, and they are doing the same this year. Frontier Airlines is also increasing their bag fees, but not just for the holidays. Frontier says they’ll charge a higher fee during the college spring break season, and during the summer travel season, from June 9 through Aug. 16.
Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, the ranking Democrat on the Senate’s transportation committee sent letters to major airline CEOs asking them not to raise bag fees. Nelson wrote, “These increased surcharges fly in the face of declining fuel costs and appear focused on increasing profitability on the backs of American families,”
Airplane of the Week
This week David looks at the tip of the spear for the Armee de L’Air, the Dassault Rafale.
Across the Pond
Pieter welcomes back Diego López-Salazar from Aeropodcast to talk about his recent visit to Airbus and their Innovation Day presentations. They talk about some of the non-flying innovations Airbus is creating that may well find uses in other industries, such as Airbus Glasses, waste compactors, and paper cable ties. Pieter and Diego also get a short discussion in on the latest British Airways news, that IAG owned Vueling boss Alex Cruz is to become Chairman and Chief Executive of British Airways.
Terrafugia founder Carl Dietrich appears in the movie “Back in Time,” a documentary tribute to the Back to the Future movie series. The film is available on Netflix, Amazon, and iTunes, with tour dates running through November 24th. (The Terrafugia segment starts at 1:13:30 if you want to skip straight to it.)
A young aviator makes his mark online, the Internet of Things creeps into aviation, Spirit Airlines plans to expand, a secret airport security check, and the Solar Impulse 2 starts an around the world journey.
Daniel Morley is a college student studying Human Factors in Aviation at Nova Southeastern University, and he’s training to become a commercial pilot. Daniel is also the Social Media Manager at Airline Geeks. He helps manage social media, pushes articles, interacts with readers, and occasionally writes articles.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the concept where physical things in our lives have sensors and computational power, but they are also interconnected and share information. This article looks at some of the ways that IoT might impact the airline industry.
Spirit Airlines calls itself an Ultra Low Cost Carrier, and they plan to bring on new aircraft and flights in 2015. To do that they need more people – 1,500 more people in 2015, 500 of them flight attendants.
Jonathan Corbett was questioned at Heathrow by an American Airlines security contractor, who asked why he was traveling and for how long. Corbett was told that if he didn’t answer the questions, he couldn’t board his flight home. In later communication with the airline, he learned that this is program is directed by the DHS/TSA, but the details are SSI, Sensitive Security Information.
The Solar Impulse 2 aims to be the first aircraft to fly around the world on solar power. It launched from Abu Dhabi on March 9, 2015 and is planned to take over 5 months to accomplish the planned 25 flight days.
The Australia News Desk
Grant’s back from the Canberra Balloon Spectacular in time for the Melbourne Grand Prix, but it seems Red Bull aren’t happy with how that’s going. Hey, maybe they’ll put money into more aviation events? At least the Qantas 747 handling display was pretty awesome.
The air show industry suffered last year under sequestration with the loss of the military demonstration teams. This year, however, many of the military performers are back, to the benefit of the military and the public. So now the focus is on contingency planning for any possible repeat of the loss of military performers.
We discuss the impact of rising fuel prices on the air show industry, how air show spectator satisfaction is measured, and the annual ICAS convention.
ICAS works to maintain safety at air shows, serves as an information resource on air show issues, provides for the training and continuing education needs of the members and air show professionals generally, and promotes the air show industry to the media, Corporate North America, and the general public.
This week the guys are having some fun flying all over the countryside but still managed to bring in a quick report.
Steve and ATC Ben host the segment from the cockpit of a Cirrus SR20, VH-SJA, at 9000 feet and 162 knots on their way up to the annual NatFly event in Temora, New South Wales. They chat briefly about the flight and the news this week that Avalon Airport in Victoria are trying to pitch themselves as “GA friendly” by offering “discounted” user fees. And yes, they still charge a fortune to use that airport, along with Essendon, which they also operate.
Grant in his balloon
Grant also drops in with a quick report from on board his hot air balloon at 1,500 feet, which he was flying at Leeton in New South Wales, not too far away from Temora. Sounds like he was having way too much fun!
Steven Frischling (“Fish”) builds jigsaw puzzles that divine the state of air travel, and he might be unique in his methodology. Fish also follows aviation security pretty closely.
We talk with him about what he sees in the air travel industry, including which airline is the best when it comes to social interaction and demonstrating a commitment to customer service. And of course, you can’t talk with Fish without getting his comments on airport security.
David Vanderhoof’s Aircraft of the Week: From Failure to Success, Part 3, The Many Countries of the P-3.
In this week’s Australia Desk:
Staying closer to home this week, the boys lead off with a story about Hainan Airlines’ parent company HNA Group signing an MOU with Avalon Airport owners LinFox to spend 18 months expanding Avalon in readiness for a Melbourne-China route.
Victoria’s premier promises to build a rail link from Melbourne CBD to the airport. Must be an election coming up, eh?
Rob Mark’s Aviation Minute: This week Rob talks about SATAS – the synthetic air traffic advisory system to prevent midair collisions at non-towered airports.
BA 777 by XTP Media
In this week’s Across the Pond segment:
Pieter goes back to the spot 40 years ago at London Heathrow Airport, where he watched the planes come in wave after wave as a young boy. He still wonders at the awesome nature of aircraft flight and ponders the question how something as big as a Boeing 777 can vanish.
Pieter also has a suggestion for a great museum to visit – the Farnborough Air Sciences Trust (@FASTmuseum), followed by a visit across the road to the National Aerospace Library, both of which are free and you will see aircraft, aerospace items and memorabilia seen no where else in the world.
Virgin America photo by Ron McCormick taken from the SEA terminal.
Brett Snyder, the Cranky Flier (and also the Cranky Concierge) returns to the show to talk aviation and travel. Brett writes CNN’s “Out of the Office” column for the business traveler, and you can follow him on Twitter as @crankyflier.
Be sure to see Max, Rob, Dan, and David at the Become a Pilot Family Day and Fly-In June 18, 2011, 10 a.m. – 3p.m., at the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center next to Dulles International Airport. The Geeks will be joining Milford and Charlie from FlightTime Radio, along with some other aviation podcasters as they broadcast their show live.
The Cranky Jackass Award
Follow the @AirplaneGeeks on Twitter and on Facebook, send us email at email@example.com, or leave a message on our listener line: (361) GEEKS01.
Guest Dave Pascoe from LiveATC.net explains how he provides real-time Air Traffic Control feeds directly to your browser, mp3 player, and mobile device. LiveATC will be streaming ATC communications live from EAA Airventure at Oshkosh (in a joint partnership with EAA) – including both Tower frequencies and some other goodies. Look for Dave during the first few days of the show.
Guest Louis Smith, a retired NWA DC-10 captain offers some unique insight into the market for professional pilots. The future looks bright, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy for pilots. Louis runs FLTops.com, a site offering information and advice for pilots looking to advance their professional careers.
David takes the week off, but will return next episode with This Week in Aviation.
Grant and Steve continue their journey back across the Pacific in the Australia Desk Report. This installment features the voices of Dan Morris and Michelle Lowrie, and the music is “Slice of Heaven” by Dave Dobbyn. Last episode included Anthony Simmons, the man behind the View From the Lounge segment you can hear on the Plane Crazy Down Under podcast.
This week airline analyst Darryl Jenkins joins the guys to add his considerable industry knowledge to the conversation. Darryl is Managing Director at Aviation Consulting Group and author of the Handbook of Airline Economics. He’s worked for many of the world’s airlines, he’s consulted for the FAA, DOT, NTSB and other government agencies as well as many foreign countries. Among other places, you can find Darryl at The Airline Zone (http://www.theairlinezone.com/) which contains a series on the future of the airline industry.
David’s got a short interview with Sean D. Tucker, the Australia Desk sent an interview with Owen Zupp during his arould Australia flight, this time in person at the RAAF Museum at the RAAF Point Cook airbase, and we have This Week in Aviation.