Recorded at Cranky Dorkfest 2021 at LAX. This is an annual one-day event just outside the airport where avgeeks meet to plane spot, see old friends, meet new ones, and tell stories. It’s hosted by Cranky Flier and this year about 300 people attended.
Our guest is Steve Hinton, the president of the Planes of Fame Air Museum. In the news, Delta Airlines signs a contract for sustainable aviation fuel, United Airlines decides to resume cargo-only flights, Qatar Airways profits were cut by Covid, and British Airways pilots may have the opportunity to fly for Qatar.
Steve Hinton is president of the Planes of Fame Air Museum and the owner of Fighter Rebuilders. Steve tells us about the living history collection of aircraft that is the museum, as well as the events held to create participation. Planes of Fame restores many warbirds to flightworthy condition and these are flown at demonstrations, airshows, and even in movies. A Bearcat and a Corsair were used in the production of the upcoming action war drama film Devotion.
Steve also works with the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation which celebrates U.S. airpower history and is a living memorial to those who have served in the U.S. Air Force. Heritage Flight demonstrations are flown around the world which pair modern aircraft with fighter aircraft from the past. Steve explains how the selected civilian pilots practice with the military pilots and he describes the challenges of flying old prop warbirds with modern jets.
After our conversation with Steve, Brian Finnegan joined us and he describes the history of Planes of Fame which was founded by Ed Maloney. Brian is the Director, Education Programs and Development at Planes Of Fame Air Museum.
Delta Airlines signed an agreement with Aemetis for sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). The 10-year contract is worth more than $1 billion for 250 million gallons of blended fuel. The fuel will be produced at the company’s Riverbank, California renewable jet/diesel plant from waste forest and orchard wood. Aemetis expects the fuel to be available in 2024.
United Airlines had just responded to a surge in passenger bookings by phasing out special freighter services. Now the airline will resume cargo-only flights using empty passenger planes. Passenger planes can be used for freight by simply using the cargo hold or carrying the freight in the passenger cabin. Some airlines just strapped items to seats and others removed the seats to make even more room.
According to an internal BA memo, up to 40 Boeing 777 Captains and First Officers have an opportunity to fly planes with Qatar for around six months during the London winter lull. Pilots would temporarily relocate to Doha and would retain their contracts and seniority. They would continue being paid by British Airways.
Those losses in revenue are a result of reduced demand for long-haul travel over the last fiscal year. However, Qatar reported an increase in earnings to $1.6 billion (before taxes and other costs) over the prior year. While the airline saved on jet fuel, it also reduced salaries by 15% and cut 13,400 employees from its workforce. Qatar had been the subject of a political embargo that kept them from flying in the airspace of Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
The Head of Tiltrotor Marketing at Leonardo describes the world’s first commercial tiltrotor. In the news, a United stationary tail strike, Congress steps in on the controversial FAA flight training policy, DOJ files an antitrust suit over the American Airlines-JetBlue alliance, an industry-wide no-fly list is proposed, and Rolls-Royce wins the contract to re-engine the B-52 fleet.
William M. (Bill) Sunick is Head of Tiltrotor Marketing at Leonardo. Their AW609 is the first commercial tiltrotor to enter the market and the world’s first pressurized cabin tiltrotor. The AW609 is well-positioned to serve a number of markets, including VIP, corporate, search and rescue, emergency medical services, and offshore energy exploration, as well as government roles.
Bill describes how the AW609 tiltrotor was designed to commercial standards, and how it offers the speed, range, and altitude of a fixed-wing turboprop airplane with the vertical take-off and landing versatility of a helicopter. We learn that the lower vibratory environment and pressurized cabin of this tiltrotor offer advantages for medical flights. Bill explains the FAA certification requirements for this aircraft, which falls into the new Powered Lift category.
Bill is responsible for the development of marketing and business strategies that create new opportunities, shape emerging markets, and influence customer thinking and actions. Prior to joining Leonardo Helicopters, Bill held numerous leadership positions at The Boeing Company within Strategy, Marketing, Sales, Market Development, and Engineering. He was also a member of the Presidential Helicopter team while at Sikorsky Aircraft in 1992.
Bill’s educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from Drexel University and a master of business administration degree in Marketing from Saint Joseph’s University.
A United Airlines Boeing 737-900ER experienced a “stationary tail strike” on the ground at Lewiston (LWS Idaho) after a flight from LAX. United explained:
United flight 2509 flying from Los Angeles, California to Lewiston, Idaho landed without incident. Due to a shift in weight and balance during the offloading process, the tail of the aircraft tipped backward. No injuries were reported among our customers, crew or ground personnel. The return flight was on a different aircraft as originally planned.
The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bipartisan amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that clarifies that a flight instructor providing student instruction, flight instruction, or flight training shall not be deemed to be operating an aircraft carrying persons or property for compensation or hire. If passed, this would reverse the FAA’s recent flight training policy for certain types of aircraft.
The DOJ claims the American Airlines-JetBlue Northeast Alliance eliminates competition in New York and Boston and harms air travelers nationwide:
The U.S. Department of Justice, together with Attorneys General in six states and the District of Columbia, sued today [September 21, 2021] in the District of Massachusetts to block an unprecedented series of agreements between American Airlines and JetBlue through which the two airlines will consolidate their operations in Boston and New York City. The civil antitrust complaint alleges that this extensive combination, which they call the “Northeast Alliance,” will not only eliminate important competition in these cities, but will also harm air travelers across the country by significantly diminishing JetBlue’s incentive to compete with American elsewhere, further consolidating an already highly concentrated industry.
American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said, “They’re wrong and we’ll prove it. It’s entirely pro-competitive.” Parker argued that the alliance allows the two airlines to compete against Delta and United, which are largely entrenched in the Northeast market, while American and JetBlue would otherwise not be able to mount enough of an offense on their own.
Delta is suggesting a national “no-fly” list (different from the government’s No-Fly List, which is terror-based). Delta’s own blacklist includes more than 1,600 people. A Delta VP said their list doesn’t work if the person can just hop on another carrier.
In this deal, Bamboo Airways will purchase nearly $2 billion worth of General Electric GEnx engines to power Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. The Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 and General Electric GEnx-1B compete on the 787. Bamboo will operate its Dreamliner fleet on non-stop routes between Vietnam and the United States.
The U.S. Air Force selected Rolls-Royce’s North American division to re-engine the fleet of B-52H bombers with F130 engines. The Drive reports: “Rolls-Royce’s new contract from the Air Force is valued at $500,870,458 over the next six years but could grow to over $2.6 billion if all of its options are exercised.” Work will be performed at the Rolls-Royce facility in Indianapolis and is expected to be completed by September 2038.
An airline captain focuses on pilot mental health and tells us what she is doing to bring that conversation into the light. In the news, another aerial refueling tanker competition, a Rolls-Royce electric airplane first flight, an X-Wing at the Smithsonian, a criminal charge stemming from the 737 MAX probe, the Cranky Dorkfest you missed, and emergency landings in Maine. Also, checked baggage issues and gifts for flight attendants.
Reyné O’Shaughnessy was a commercial airline pilot for over 34 years with a Fortune 50 company. She was a captain on the B767 and logged over 10,000 hours of total heavy jet flight time. In addition to the B767, her experience includes the A300/310, B727, and B747. Notably, thirty-four years ago she was one of the first women to be B747 qualified.
Now retired, Reyné founded Piloting 2 Wellbeing (or P2W) with a mission to create awareness about pilot mental health and mental wellness in the aviation industry. P2W serves individuals, schools, and corporations that want to implement supportive and practical training, experience compassionate forums, and be part of creating a better aviation world.
Reyné explains why the aviation community is so averse to talking about pilot mental health. We look at the need to normalize the conversation about pilot mental health and teach airlines and pilots a more holistic approach to wellbeing, that being a factor in safety performance. Companies need to support their employees with mental health training but the regulator is not currently forcing this. Reyné argues that reaching student pilots with information early in their career will help normalize mental health. The top flight schools are focused on technical training, but they need to incorporate wellness training into their programs.
Reyné’s new book, This is Your Captain Speaking: What You Should Know About Your Pilot’s Mental Health is available on Amazon.com. It looks at stress, anxiety, and depression in the aviation community.
The U.S. Air Force has a bridge tanker competition coming up, also known as the KC-Y, and they released a sources-sought notification in June. The Boeing KC-46 is the incumbent, but they don’t have a lock on it. Lockheed Martin has just announced they will offer their LMXT aerial refueling tanker, based on the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT).
We previously reported Rolls-Royce’s intentions to build an all-electric airplane and use it in a world-record attempt reaching speeds of 300+ MPH (480+ KMH). They’ve built the plane, which they call the “Spirit of Innovation,” and succeeded in flying it for the first time. Power comes from a 400kW (500+hp) electric powertrain. Rolls-Royce says it has “the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for an aircraft.”
The National Air and Space Museum has a Star Wars X-wing on loan from Lucasfilm. Dr. Margaret Weiteka, Curator and Department Chair of the Space History Department, explains why they have it and how it is being prepared for display.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Federal prosecutors plan to criminally charge Boeing’s chief technical pilot during the 737 MAX development. Mark Forkner was Boeing’s lead contact with the FAA concerning pilot training for the jet. In a criminal settlement with prosecutors earlier this year, Boeing admitted that two unnamed employees conspired to defraud the FAA about 737 MAX training issues in order to benefit themselves and the company.
Bangor International Airport will shut down for runway repairs. Concrete runways can degrade as a result of an alkali-silica reaction, which is sometimes called concrete cancer. Since BGR is the last US airport for emergency landings eastbound over the Atlantic, and the first westbound, any emergencies will have to land elsewhere.
In Defense of the Flight Attendant by Joe A. Kunzler.
We talk with the founder of Winged Vision about aerial sports broadcasting. In the news, Emirates intends to fly the A380 for the next two decades, Scaled Composites may have a Loyal Wingman contender, legislation that would eliminate the diversion of the airline ticket security fee, a 2-megawatt electric motor for aircraft propulsion, and an eVTOL company founder plans to be the first passenger on their uncrewed aircraft.
Bob Mikkelson is the president and founder of Winged Vision, a pioneering leader in aerial sports broadcasting and the largest operator of stabilized aerial camera systems for sports coverage in the country. If you’ve watched professional football, golf, and many other sports events, you’ve probably seen the work of Winged Vision.
The company was the first in the world to stabilize 40x lenses from aerial platforms in the mid-1980s and the first to fly a new generation of ENG-style telephoto lenses in the early 1990s, setting the pattern for today’s aerial camera systems.
Dubai-based Emirates has three more A380’s to be delivered this year. The airline’s president says the airline will continue to fly the A380 for two decades.
“Emirates will continue to be the largest operator of this spacious and modern aircraft for the next two decades, and we’re committed to ensuring that the Emirates A380 experience remains a customer favorite with ongoing investments to enhance our product and services.”
Under the “Loyal Wingman” concept, networked unmanned aircraft would accompany manned fighter aircraft. The U.S. Air Force has the Skyborg program and the U.K. Royal Air Force has Project Mosquito. A number of companies are developing prototype vehicles and Scaled Composites might have a contender with the Model 437, which is derived from the Model 401 Sierra, which first flew in October 2017.
A $5.60 Security Fee for air travelers was established in 2003 to pay for aviation security. In 2013, Congress began diverting one-third of the revenue generated by this fee to pay for unrelated programs. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) have reintroduced the Funding for Aviation Screeners and Threat Elimination Restoration (FASTER) Act that would end the diversion of the Security Fee.
The founder of air-taxi startup Kitty Hawk said he’ll be the first passenger in the company’s prototype. The autonomous Heaviside single-seat drone will likely fly for five minutes at about 1,000 feet above the ground.
Daedalean AI-based flight control software for pilot assist and eventual autonomous flight, a Boeing 737MAX flight report, and a travel report on a trip to Germany.
Dr. Luuk van Dijk is CEO and co-founder of Daedalean, a Zürich-based startup developing flight control software for autonomous flight. The eventual goal is to create an AI pilot that measurably outperforms human pilots. Currently, Daedalean is working with regulators, leading aerospace manufacturers, and major eVTOL companies to test and certify the first machine learning-based sensor systems for guidance, navigation, and flight control.
Daedalean has created a pilot assist system that uses optical cameras for visual positioning without GPS, visual traffic detection without transponders or radar, and visual landing guidance without ILS. The Avidyne PilotEye system using Daedalean technology was introduced on the first day of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2021.
“Daedalean’s neural network functions by taking high-resolution video input extracted in real-time by high-resolution cameras and sends it through a Convolutional Neural Network, which determines whether the images captured by the cameras are part of cooperative or uncooperative traffic. The system can also be used to identify safe landing areas if the pilot encounters an emergency situation.”
Luuk holds a PhD in Physics (UvA, RuG) and previously held Senior Software Engineering positions at Google Zürich and SpaceX, where he worked on infrastructure, flight software, and machine learning projects, among others.
Brian’s Travel Experience
We have two travel experience reports for this episode. First. Brian Coleman talks with Micah about his recent 737MAX flight. Then we hear about Brian’s trip to Germany on United, where everything did not go according to Brian’s perfectly planned itinerary.
An Avelo Airlines trip report and a conversation with the CEO of Crew Dog Electronics. Also, bonuses for Piedmont pilots, the FAA Zero Tolerance for Unruly and Dangerous Behavior Toolkit, late-night TV hosts roast Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines cuts flights, and new startup Avelo Airlines makes route changes.
Avelo Airlines Trip Report
Contributing Editor Brian Coleman and our Main(e) Man Micah discuss Brian’s second flight on Avelo Airlines.
Avelo Airlines pulled Monterey, California (MRY) and St. George, Utah (SGU) from its route map. Those destinations were scheduled to start in late September and early October 2021. The airline said they’d “…take another look at our plans for these two markets next spring.” Avelo is also delaying the launch of flights to Provo, Utah (PVU). Service was planned to commence on Sept. 17, but Avelo confirmed that it’s now been pushed to Nov. 15.
Piedmont, the American Airlines wholly-owned subsidiary that operates under the American Eagle brand, has reached a deal with the ALPA pilots union. Captains would receive a $30,000 “retention bonus” in November while current First Officers would get $30,000 when they were promoted to the Captain. Pilots who move on from Piedmont to American’s mainline business would get $70,000. Additionally, pilots who meet working hours targets over the next two years would be eligible for an additional $50,000.
Southwest Airlines responded to complaints from Southwest Airlines pilots about flight delays and cancellations by reducing the number of flights. In a statement, CEO Gary Kelly said “We’re confident these adjustments will create a more reliable travel experience.”
Report from EAA Airventure Oshkosh
Aviation Entrepreneurship and Innovation Correspondent Hillel Glazer speaks with Sean Chuplis, the CEO of Crew Dog Electronics.
Mike Busch, founder and CEO of Savvy Aviation, talks about aircraft maintenance. Also, calling up the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, United Airlines says no duct tape, and unhappy Southwest Airlines pilots.
Mike Busch is the founder and CEO of Savvy Aviation, which provides aircraft maintenance services for the owner-flown General Aviation industry. The company offers professional maintenance management and consulting, a nationwide 24/7 breakdown assistance service, engine monitor data analysis, and predictive analytics.
Mike is a well-known aviation writer, teacher, aviation type club tech rep, aircraft owner advocate, and entrepreneur. He assists aircraft owners with their maintenance problems through his lectures, articles, and books. Mike is a National Aviation Maintenance Technician of the Year and previously appeared as our guest in Episode 446.
The Pentagon activated the Civil Reserve Air Fleet allowing commercial airlines to assist with the Afghanistan evacuation. Eighteen aircraft will be provided by American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines, Omni Air, Hawaiian Airlines, and United Airlines. This is the third activation in the history of the program and the Department of Defense stressed that the commercial aircraft will not fly into Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. Instead, they will be used to move passengers from temporary safe havens and interim staging bases.
United Airlines has informed flight attendants they should not use duct tape to subdue poorly behaved passengers. In a recent memo, the airline asks flight attendants to de-escalate the situation where possible, use designated items onboard, consult United’s safety manual for guidance, and file an incident report.
The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association says working conditions this summer have been unfair and has authorized members to hold picketing demonstrations. Complaints include forced additional days of flying, lack of hotel accommodation and transportation, and reshuffled flight schedules.
The North America Air Transport Reporter with Cirium talks about airline recovery, Boeing, Airbus, and electric aviation. In the news, duct tape on a plane, the preliminary NTSB report on Launchpad Marzari’s crash, options for an upgraded F35 engine, an A330 that tried to take off from a taxiway, and the X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (QueSST) jet. Also, a women in aviation quiz and how to refuel two B737s with one B747.
Tom Risen is the North America Air Transport Reporter for Cirium, a global aviation data company. He’s based in Washington, DC, and focuses his insights, analyses, and content on airlines and aerospace manufacturers. Of course, the topic of the moment is the airline recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to reporting on airline business, Tom’s expertise includes the development of supersonic passenger jets and electric aircraft.
We look at the airline recovery, including bookings, variant infection concerns, and vaccination rates for the general public and at the airlines. Also the impact of international travel restrictions, and leisure versus business travel recovery. Tom talks about the airframers and the different trajectories for narrow-body and wide-body jets. He also shares some of his insights into the emerging electric aircraft, eVTOL, and Urban Air Mobility market.
Tom is the co-author of a forthcoming book about government oversight. He was formerly technology and business reporter at U.S. News & World Report, and a staff reporter for Aerospace America. Tom has also written stories for The Atlantic, The New York Times, and Slate.
Recent examples of passengers subdued with the sticky tape include an unruly woman on an American Airlines flight and a man on a Frontier Airlines flight who allegedly groped and punched flight attendants. More recently, an American Airlines cabin crew member had duct tape during an incident with a young passenger, although restraint cuffs were used instead. In a statement, the FAA said, “The flight crew is responsible for cabin safety and has latitude on how to handle individual situations.”
The planned F-35 Block 4 upgrades include new weapons, computing technologies, and software. But a Pratt & Whitney F135 engine modernization proposal could be applied to all three variants of the F-35. Pratt described an enhanced engine would provide an 11 percent improvement in range, a 10 percent improvement in thrust, and a 50 percent increase in thermal management – important for stealth.
The NASA video shows the construction of the X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology (QueSST) jet. Lockheed Martin plans nine months of flight tests in 2022, with aircraft delivery to NASA in 2023. The video shows work being done on the aircraft at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works factory in Palmdale, California between May 2019 and June 2021.
Our Main(e) Man Micah brings us two stories in this episode. “And Now Verlla” tells us about the loss of a long-time airplane geek. Then Micah tells a lighthearted story that could be called “The Covert Chocolate War” or “The Fight for the American Palate” or “Launchpad’s Last Chocolates.”
Spirit Airlines cancels over 2000 flights, American Airlines offers free TikTok access, a cargo flight returns to Narita with a fire indication, a GA gallery is coming to the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum, and aviation jet fuel shortages impact aerial firefighting operations. Also, an Across the Pond segment with Pieter Johnson and managing editor of Aerospace magazine, Tim Robinson.
Spirit Airlines canceled more than 2000 flights around the country, resulting in long lines of passengers trying to find flights. At Fort Lauderdale International Airport in Florida, the wait to re-book was as long as 2½ hours on August 7 and grew longer.
Spirit Airlines says all this was caused by weather, technology outages, travel volume, and staffing shortages. Delays caused crews to time out. On one day alone, Spirit canceled 450 flights, 56% of its operation. Spirit does not have interline agreements which compounds the problem.
American Airlines provides some free inflight WiFi offerings, and they’ve just added TikTok, the popular social networking service owned by Chinese company ByteDance. On Viasat-equipped narrowbody aircraft, American will let you connect free for 30 minutes.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) sent a letter to American Airlines Chairman and CEO Doug Parker after the airline announced an “innovative partnership” with TikTok.
“As you know, in 2019, the U.S. Government launched a national security review of TikTok due to data privacy and data security concerns — a review which remains active to this day.”
“By partnering with TikTok, American Airlines is now lending its brand credibility to a company that endangers national security and the data security of tens of millions of Americans, many of them minors. I urge you to suspend American Airlines’ ‘innovative partnership’ with TikTok while the U.S. Government completes its investigation into the national security risks posed by the Chinese-owned app.”
A National Cargo Boeing 747-400 (B744), registration N756CA, performing flight NCR891 / N8891 from Tokyo Narita International Airport (Japan) to Seoul Incheon International Airport (South Korea) during climb out of Narita Airport, about at 27000 feet, reported a fire indication in a cargo compartment and requested return back to Narita.
The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum has a new general aviation gallery scheduled to open in 2022. The Thomas W. Haas We All Fly gallery will tell the story of GA, how it impacts everyday life and how it has influenced society. This will be through interactive exhibits and audiovisual displays and is scheduled to open in 2022. The Thomas W. Haas Foundation made a $10M donation for the gallery.
Air travel dropped as a result of the pandemic, and the supply of Jet A aviation fuel scaled back. Now air travel is rebounding but fuel logistics has not. Shortages include the fuel supply for firefighting. One contributing factor is that a wildfire could explode in no time at all and when that happens the demand for fuel in that area can soar.
Last month, American Airlines said it might have to add stops to some flights because of fuel delivery delays. They also asked pilots to save fuel when they could. Airlines have experienced delays due to a lack of truck drivers, trucks, and fuel supply.