636 Boeing Criminal Fine

Boeing agrees to pay a $2.5 Billion settlement for criminal charges relating to the 737 MAX MCAS system, the FAA issued final rules for supersonic aircraft testing, Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary says the government mismanaged travel restrictions, flight attendant unions are concerned about disruptive air travelers and the FAA responds with a stern warning, initial reports from the Sriwijaya Air flight SJ182 crash, and on a lighter note, the TSA celebrates agency canines in a 2021 calendar.

Aviation News

Boeing Charged with 737 Max Fraud Conspiracy and Agrees to Pay over $2.5 Billion

Boeing Reaches $2.5 Billion Settlement With U.S. Over 737 Max

The Boeing Company has entered into an agreement with the Department of Justice to resolve a criminal charge related to a conspiracy to defraud the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aircraft Evaluation Group (FAA AEG) in connection with the FAA AEG’s evaluation of Boeing’s 737 MAX airplane.

Boeing entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) in connection with criminal information that charges the company with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Under the terms of the DPA, Boeing will pay a total criminal monetary amount of over $2.5 billion:

  • A criminal monetary penalty of $243.6 million, 
  • compensation payments to Boeing’s 737 MAX airline customers of $1.77 billion, 
  • and the establishment of a $500 million crash-victim beneficiaries fund to compensate the heirs, relatives, and legal beneficiaries of the 346 passengers who died in the Boeing 737 MAX crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302.

The tragic crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 exposed fraudulent and deceptive conduct by employees of one of the world’s leading commercial airplane manufacturers. 

Boeing’s employees chose the path of profit over candor by concealing material information from the FAA concerning the operation of its 737 Max airplane and engaging in an effort to cover up their deception. This resolution holds Boeing accountable for its employees’ criminal misconduct, addresses the financial impact to Boeing’s airline customers, and hopefully provides some measure of compensation to the crash-victims’ families and beneficiaries.

Acting Assistant Attorney General David P. Burns of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

Aviation analysts react to Boeing criminal fine

Aviation consultant Scott Hamilton (our guest in episode 398) says the penalty is a “slap on the wrist.” He notes that Airbus paid nearly twice that for a bribery case and there were no fatalities involved there. Hamilton wants to see leadership changes at Boeing.

Charles Herrmann, a lawyer representing more than 50 families of 737 crash victims says the fine is appropriate. Boeing has already suffered financially and doesn’t need to be put out of business. “He blames Boeing’s problems on a change in culture that began when they moved headquarters to Chicago.”

See Jon Ostrower’s The Air Current piece Boeing’s MCAS on the 737 Max may not have been needed at all for many insights.

Individuals who believe they may be an heir, relative, or legal beneficiary of one of the Lion Air Flight 610 or Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 passengers in this case should contact the Fraud Section’s Victim Witness Unit by email at: Victimassistance.fraud@usdoj.gov or call (888) 549-3945.

FAA issues rules for supersonic jet flight testing in the US

Press Release – FAA Announces Final Rule to Facilitate the Reintroduction of Civil Supersonic Flight

On January 6, 2021, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a final rule (PDF) to facilitate the safe development of civil supersonic aircraft. The government says the rule is intended to streamline the application procedure for special flight authorizations to operate in excess of Mach 1 over land in the United States by 

  • Amending the administrative requirements for a special flight authorization,
  • clarifying the information that is needed for submission,
  • and specifying the program office within the FAA that processes the applications.

Outside the special flight authorizations under this final rule, the FAA continues generally to prohibit civil supersonic flight over land in the United States. In place since 1973.

This item came to our attention through an issue of Starburst Weekly, the newsletter of Starburst, a global aerospace accelerator.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary says airline’s flights have collapsed from 2,000 a day to 10 but claims summer holidays WILL go ahead

From 2,000 flights per day to “ten or twenty” starting January 21, 2021 is an enormous drop. Covid reductions are catastrophic to the travel industry but O’Leary anticipates that with vaccine availability, by the summer air travel should rebound. He opined that the failure of the Government to end travel restrictions was “beyond him” and it is “one of the great contradictions of the Government’s mismanagement of the Covid travel restrictions.”

Flight attendant union wants pro-Trump rioters barred from flights

FAA chief issues stern warning to travelers after politically-motivated flight disruptions

The president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, Sara Nelson, (our guest in episode 545) said “The mob mentality behavior that took place on several flights to the D.C. area yesterday was unacceptable and threatened the safety and security of every single person onboard.”

On an American Airlines flight to Dulles International Airport, passengers shouted and cursed at each other. The flight attendant had to turn up the cabin lights and ordered passengers to return to their seats. On a Delta Air Lines flight carrying Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, some passengers started chanting “traitor.” Alaska Airlines banned 14 passengers on a Washington D.C.-Seattle flight.

in a statement, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said.“The FAA will pursue strong enforcement action against anyone who endangers the safety of a flight, with penalties ranging from monetary fines to jail time.” Passengers can face fines of up to $35,000.

The message here is clear: Do what the crew tells you to do and don’t argue. It doesn’t matter what the issue is, or if you are right and somebody else is wrong. Do what the crew says or you face serious consequences.

The Sriwijaya Air Crash: A Brief Rundown of What We Know

Sriwijaya Air Flight SJ182: Hope for survivors fades as plane wreckage found off Indonesian coast

Indonesian LCC Sriwijaya Air flight SJ182 with 62 people on board (50 PAX, 12 crew) crashed into the water off the Indonesian coast about five minutes into its flight. Four minutes after departing Jakarta, the Boeing 737-500 lost over 10,000 feet of altitude in less than a minute. Bad weather was reported in the area. Some wreckage and human remains have been found. A navy ship detected the emergency signals from the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder.

TSA’s 2021 dog calendar stars airport pups. Here’s how to get a free copy

The Transportation Security Administration has more than 400 canine teams at airports around the country. Now you can see photos and learn fun facts about thirteen of the dogs with the 2021 TSA Canine Calendar [PDF]. For each dog, you’ll find the dog’s name, breed, airport, handler, favorite treat and favorite toys.

Pipistrel G4
Pipistrel G4

Mentioned

Wendover Airfield

Wild Nevada – Episode 411: Wendover to Elko, a PBS video that aired in 2018.

The Pentagon Has 6 Months to Disclose What It Knows About UFOs

635 Positive Aviation News

This special episode offers a roundtable discussion of the positive aviation news stories from 2020, the year everybody would like to forget.

Participating are: Max Flight, David Vanderhoof, Max Trescott, Rob Mark, our Main(e) Man Micah, Airplane Geeks reporter-at-large Launchpad Marzari, and uber-AvGeek Isaac Alexander.

WWII letters point author to pilot who saved her dad’s life

12 wild things that happened in aviation in 2020

Top Aviation Stories Of 2020, Part I

Top Aviation Stories Of 2020, Part II

Congress Poised to Raise Standards for Assessing New Airliner Designs

Good News for 2021 – Super Jumbo Still Possible

You’ll definitely want to listen to the story Micah tells. We all wondered where it was going and what it had to do with aviation and this podcast, but Micah pulls it all together in a surprise ending.

Also, we put out a call to listeners for a possible Airplane Geeks challenge coin. If you have content ideas for such a coin, pass them along. If you have graphic design talents, we’d similarly love to see some sketches.

634 The F-35 Demo Team

An interview with an F-35 pilot from the United States Air Force F-35 Lightning II Demonstration Team, and an audio recording of her aerobatic performance.

F-35 Lightning II Demonstration Team aircraft in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo © Max Flight.)
F-35 Lightning II Demonstration Team in Lakeland, Florida. (Photo © Max Flight.)

This episode focuses on the United States Air Force F-35 Lightning II Demonstration Team that flew both days at the Sun ‘n Fun Holiday Flying Festival and Car Show held December 4-5, 2020 in Lakeland, Florida. That event included Central Florida Classic STOL qualifying and finals, a nighttime balloon glow, a car show, and an air show with the F-35, F-16, P-51, and the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Black Daggers.

We recorded an interview with F-35 pilot Kristin “Beo” Wolfe that was posted on Facebook Live. This podcast episode includes the audio from that conversation but we’ve compensated for some audio quality issues in the video.

In addition to the interview with Beo, we have a recording of her F-35 aerobatic performance at the Flying Festival. If you like the sound of a jet fighter on afterburner, you’ll enjoy this recording.

We captured Beo’s F-35 flight as a high-resolution binaural recording. You can listen with earbuds or a good home speaker system, but for the best effect, you’ll need high-quality headphones. Good headphones will reproduce the spatial perspective of the F-35 flight and produce a visceral feeling almost like being there.

Max Flight and F-35 demo pilot Kristin “Beo” Wolfe.

We’d like to thank the F-35 Demo Team for giving us access to pilot Kristin “Beo” Wolfe after her first flying performance of the weekend. And thanks to Beo for her time after a long day.

Mentioned

Sun ‘n Fun Aerospace Expo coming to Lakeland, Florida April 13-18, 2021.

633 Aviation Safety

A Congressional report is critical of aviation safety and the FAA, the Air Force flies an AI co-pilot, precision airdrops as a service, Antonov AN-124 cargo, Chinese SODramjet, world’s first female aeronautical engineer, airline emissions statistics, flying through smoke.

Aviation News

Boeing ‘inappropriately coached’ pilots in 737 MAX testing: U.S. Senate report

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation released a Committee Investigation Report titled Aviation Safety Oversight prepared by the Committee Republican staff. In testimony, whistleblowers were critical of Boeing and the FAA.

The report says that concerning this year’s testing of the MCAS system, Boeing officials “had established a pre-determined outcome to reaffirm a long-held human factor assumption related to pilot reaction time … It appears, in this instance, FAA and Boeing were attempting to cover up important information that may have contributed to the 737 MAX tragedies.”

Southwest Airlines Allegedly Cut Corners, Pilots Struggled to Get Planes to Take Off

Southwest livery

In the same report, a whistleblower working as an FAA safety inspector at a Southwest base alleged that the airline’s Performance Weight and Balance System (PWB) was flawed. The PWB system was introduced in 2017 but Southwest removed safety buffers and some pilots reported difficulty getting airborne. A Southwest spokesperson said, “We discovered a discrepancy between data systems involving the weight of a number of aircraft earlier this year. Southwest took immediate actions to prevent a recurrence, which included notifying the FAA, correcting the data discrepancies, and launching a daily audit to review each of the impacted systems.”

Dash Systems raises $8M for precision-airdrops-as-a-service at distant or disaster-stricken destinations

Dash Systems wants to expedite the “middle-mile” with military-inspired airdrops. They say Land the package not the planeTM and seek to drop pallets of parcels (“pods”) at their penultimate destinations, no matter how inaccessible the location is. The pods have control surfaces and a tail kit, and a method of slowing down and landing.

Swirl-in Airlift: Irregular Antonov Flights Deliver Relief to Phoenix Laxative Factory

Ukraine’s Antonov Airlines has been operating curious flights between Mumbai and Phoenix. Three An-124s have completed the route so far, and a fourth is enroute. Many speculated what the cargo is, but JetTip uncovers the true mission:

“The avgeek rumor-mill provided some hints at its cargo, with people saying it was carrying silica, seeds, or medicine; the payload is tons and tons of psyllium (pronounced “si-lee-uhm”), a plant grown in India, whose primary use is as a fibrous laxative. Coincidentally, psyllium is the main ingredient in Metamucil, which is manufactured in Phoenix.”

The Queen of the Hurricanes drove a Model A Roadster

Elsie MacGill is reported to be the world’s first female aeronautical engineer. Born in Vancouver in 1905, she wore leg braces because of polio. At one point she was told she’d never walk again. In 1938 she became the chief aeronautical engineer at Canadian Car and Foundry (Can Car) in charge of the design and construction of the Maple Leaf II training biplane, the world’s first aircraft designed and built by a woman. MacGill retooled the Can Car factory to mass-produce the Hawker Hurricane, and she was responsible for coming up with a winterized version with skis. Elsie MacGill died in 1980, at the age of seventy-five. She was posthumously inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame in 1983. 

The Experimental Engine That Could Get Us Anywhere in the World in 2 Hours

The Chinese have developed and demonstrated a Standing Oblique Detonation ramjet engine, or SODramjet for hypersonic propulsion at Mach 16. It’s an old concept that utilizes shock waves produced in the engine. The Chinese demonstrator reached Mach 9 in a wind tunnel. See The criteria for hypersonic airbreathing propulsion and its experimental verification in the Chinese Journal of Aeronautics.

Air Force U-2 Surveillance Plane Flies First Mission with AI Copilot

The U.S. Air Force flew a U-2 Dragonlady reconnaissance aircraft with an artificial intelligence system as the co-pilot. Going by the call sign ARTUµ (pronounced R-2), the algorithm took control of the sensor systems after take off in an exercise that simulated a missile strike. As the pilot flew the U-2, ARTUµ controlled sensors and navigation and watched for enemy launch weapons.

Countries Ban U.K. Flights Amid Mutant Coronavirus Concerns

Flights between the U.K. and a number of other countries are being banned after a new, more contagious coronavirus strain was detected.

Mentioned

Facebook’s artificial intelligence robots shut down after they start talking to each other in their own language

Flying Dirty: Why Airlines Emissions Rise Even When They Try to Cut

632 Flight Training with Jason Miller

Guest Jason Miller produces flight training videos, a critically acclaimed podcast (The Finer Points), and now the Ground School flight training app. In the news, legend Chuck Yeager dies at 97, flight training restrictions due to Covid-19 and airline plans to transport vaccines, insurance rates for pilots, Designated Pilot Examiners, and a hydrogen fuel cell-powered research aircraft.

Guest

Jason Miller

Jason Miller is an award-winning CFI with more than 20 years of experience. He is the founder of the original flight training podcast, The Finer Points, and is the host of the fastest growing flight training channel on YouTube. He’s passionate about developing products that make a difference for real pilots in the real world and can be found online at learnthefinerpoints.com.

Video: Ground School Tour.

Aviation News

Yeager Leaves a Legacy of Speed

On December 7, 2020, Charles E. Yeager died of natural causes, at age 97. Besides breaking the sound barrier on October 14, 1947 in the Bell X-1, Yeager tested the YF-100 prototype of the F-100A, evaluated a Russian MiG 15 that had fallen into American hands, and on December 12, 1953, took the Bell X-1A to Mach 2.44 where he encountered “inertia coupling” at 76,000 feet. His skills were evident as he regained control at 25,000 feet.

Flight School Association of North America (FSANA)

FSANA says they are getting some reports of flight training restrictions and limitations that would limit in-person flight training. For example, Michigan has terminated all in-person collegiate instruction for at least a 3-week period. FSANA is also hearing concerns about crossing state boundaries for flight training and being subject to “return quarantines” due to state restrictions.

Potential insurance relief on the horizon for older pilots?

Many AOPA members are complaining that their premiums are spiking, coverages are being limited, and restrictions to just get covered are sometimes harsh—often with little to no explanation. “Not a day goes by that I don’t get a call about insurance rates,” says AOPA President Mark Baker. ow, AOPA’s strategic insurance partner AssuredPartners Aerospace, has teamed with an aviation insurer that will explore options for pilots up to age 79. This insurer will also offer potential coverage options for younger and newer pilots.

Flight School Association of North America (FSANA)

Although airman certification in the United States is conducted by the FAA, most of the actual certification of pilots is done by Designated Pilot Examiners (DPEs). They are certified as instructors, administer practical tests for airmen, and charge for their services. DPE’s serve at the pleasure of the FAA, meaning the FAA can revoke the privilege at any time, with or without need for cause. Recently, there have been two terminations of DPEs that have been reported in the press. FSANA is interested in the review process and termination, and/or appeal of such a termination process. Perhaps some additional transparency is needed.

Airlines Gear Up to Transport Vaccines That Could Revive Travel

US Airlines have been planning the distribution of Covid vaccine for months in anticipation of a huge demand for transport capacity. Airlines even are preparing to run vaccine-only flights. United says a single 777 can carry up to one million doses. Some vaccines need extreme cooling with dry ice – carbon dioxide – which is regulated by the FAA. United conducted some tests and asked the FAA to raise the limit so it could fly the Pfizer vaccine from Brussels to Chicago. The agency agreed, allowing the airline to carry up to 15,000 pounds of dry ice aboard a Boeing 777-224, compared with the previous limit of 3,000 pounds. See FAA Advisory Circular Re: Transporting Dry Ice [PDF].

Hydrogen-Powered HY4 Rolled Out

The HY4 research aircraft was shown by a consortium of European companies and organizations. Details are scarce, but the twin-boom HY4 looks like it is based on the Pipistrel Aircraft Taurus G4. The Taurus utilizes two electric gliders joined by a center section wing with an electric motor. The HY4 hydrogen drive uses a fuel cell powering a 160-HP electric motor. With a top speed of 108 knots, range is claimed to be up to 900 miles. Test flights began last month and more than 30 takeoffs and flights of up to two hours have been completed. See the HY4 website.

HY4 – 2020 6th Generation, courtesy H2FLY.

631 Airlines Plan 737 MAX Return to Service

US airlines are releasing plans for the 737 MAX return to service, pilots are being advised to hold off participation in clinical vaccine trials, Southwest Airlines warns of its first-ever furlough, in-flight cell phone calls are off the table at the FCC, a final rule is announced for traveling by air with service animals, and the Paris Air Show is canceled for 2021.

Aviation News

US airlines detail plans for resuming Boeing 737 Max flights

In the US, the 737 MAX is operated by American Airlines, United, and Southwest. Those airlines are already making return to service announcements and passengers who don’t want to fly the MAX can change flights without penalty. American starts service on December 29, 2020, between New York LaGuardia and Miami, United service starts first quarter 2021, and Southwest service starts in the second quarter of 2021.

Post-crash recovery: How one airline plans to restore confidence in the Boeing 737 MAX

American Airlines COO David Seymour says, “We didn’t intend to be first to put the Max back in the air. But the only way to truly build confidence is by flying it. You don’t build that back by sitting on the ground.” American Airlines TechOps said it will take six to eight days to make each aircraft compliant with the new requirements for MCAS software updates (which take six hours) and flight control system re-wiring. That will be followed by a two-hour Operational Readiness Flight (ORF).

AA Reviewing Whether Pilots Can Take COVID Vaccine

Should commercial pilots take the Covid vaccine when it becomes available? Can they and still keep their medical? The FAA is waiting for the outcome of the upcoming meeting of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee. The Air Line Pilots Association is telling its members to not take part in clinical trials for vaccines.

Southwest Airlines warns it could furlough 6,800 employees to cut costs

If they occur, these would be the first furloughs ever for Southwest Airlines. The number amounts to 12% of the airline’s staff. Southwest says negotiations with labor unions to cut costs have produced a “lack of meaningful progress.”

FCC Walks Back Plan To Allow In Flight Cell Service

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) is no longer going to look into a ruling that would allow passengers to make in-flight cell phone calls on domestic United States flights. 

The FCC said, “The record is insufficient to determine any reasonable solution that would strike an appropriate balance of competing interests.  There is strong opposition to the Commission’s proposals from many commenters in this proceeding, including our nation’s airline pilots and flight attendants.”

U.S. Department of Transportation Announces Final Rule on Traveling by Air with Service Animals

The U.S. Department of Transportation is revising its Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) regulation concerning the transportation of service animals by air. The final rule defines a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. An emotional support animal is no longer considered to be a service animal. The final rule will be effective 30 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register.

Cancellation of the 2021 edition of the Paris Air Show [PDF]

“In light of the uncertainty linked to the current COVID-19 health crisis, the Paris Air Show organization has made the decision to cancel the 2021 edition of the show, which was scheduled to take place from 21 to 27 June 2021. The next edition of the Paris Air Show will be held in June 2023, at a date that will be announced shortly. Exhibitors will receive a full refund of all sums already paid and the Paris Air Show will take full financial responsibility for this decision.”

Airplane Geeks Listener Poll 628 

Do you intend to fly to a vacation destination in 2021? 50% said Yes, 16% said No, and 34% said Maybe.
Do you expect to fly for business in 2021? 41% said Yes, 36% said No, and 23% said Maybe.

Mentioned

Obituary: Ralph Weymouth

630 Flying During a Pandemic

In this special episode, we talk with former co-host Brian Coleman. He recently flew commercial from California to Florida and he tells us about his experiences at the airport, inflight, and at the hotel during a global pandemic.

Mentioned

TABfabric, specializing in vintage fabrics, notions, masks, and more.

629 Boeing 737 MAX Return to Service Airworthiness Directive

We talk with an Air Traffic Controller at London Heathrow who also acts as deputy manager of the ATC team for the RIAT airshow. In the news, FAA airworthiness directive permits the Boeing 737 MAX to return to service, Delta and tariffs on Airbus aircraft, Gatwick slot usage and planned labor action at Heathrow, speed dating in the air, Norwegian Air Shuttle troubles, autonomous airplane tugs, and a F/A-18C Hornet goes into the National Air & Space Museum.

Guest

Adam Spink has been an air traffic controller at the Heathrow Airport tower for 22 years. He’s also an instructor, examiner, and supervisor. Adam’s main job is in the Procedures and Development office working on new procedures and equipment.

Adam explains aircraft wake turbulence and the Time Based Separation (TBS) used at Heathrow to increase the aircraft landing rate, including the implications for air traffic controllers when planes are separated by time instead of by distance. See: New separation standard permanently adopted over the North Atlantic.

We also learn how the environmental aspects of aviation fit into key performance measures and controller metrics that include reduced emissions.

In addition to his job as a NATS controller at Heathrow, Adam acts as deputy manager of the ATC team for the Royal International Air Tattoo airshow (RIAT) held at RAF Fairford in the UK. He’s a member of the UK Air Transport Confidential Human Factors Incident Reporting Programme (the equivalent of NASA ASRS), and a member of various international working groups on low visibility ops, satellite-based navigation, and radar systems. Adam speaks about human factors at various medical school/medical university courses.

Find Adam on Twitter and Instagram.

Aviation News

U.S. lifts Boeing 737 MAX flight ban after crash probes, tough hurdles remain

On November 20, 2020, the FAA issued AD 2020-24-02, Airworthiness Directives; The Boeing Company Airplanes [PDF] superseding Airworthiness Directive 2018-23-51, which applied to all Boeing Company Model 737-8 and 737-9 (737 MAX) airplanes. AD 2018-23-51 required revising certificate limitations and operating procedures of the Airplane Flight Manual (AFM) to provide the flight crew with runaway horizontal stabilizer trim procedures to follow under certain conditions. 

The new AD requires installing new flight control computer (FCC) software, revising the existing Airplane Flight Manual to incorporate new and revised flight crew procedures, installing new MAX display system (MDS) software, changing the horizontal stabilizer trim wire routing installations, completing an angle of attack (AOA) sensor system test, and performing an operational readiness flight.

Southwest deploys team to bring 737 MAX jets out of desert

Southwest Airlines has 34 Boeing 737 MAX jets in storage in Victorville, California. The airline sent a team of mechanics to start the process of bringing its jets out of storage. 737 MAX flights at Southwest should resume the second quarter of 2021. There will be no re-booking charge for passengers who are uncomfortable flying on the MAX.

European regulator to lift Boeing 737 MAX grounding in January

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) executive director said the 737 MAX is safe to fly.  “We wanted to carry out a totally independent analysis of the safety of this aircraft, so we performed our own checks and flight tests. All these studies tell us that the 737 MAX can return to service. We have started to put in place all the measures. It is likely that in our case we will adopt the decisions, allowing it to return to service, sometime in January.”

Delta Skirts Trump Tariffs by Sending Airbus Jets on World Tour

As part of the Boeing/Airbus subsidy battle, tariffs were placed on European-built Airbus aircraft in October 2019. Delta has taken delivery of seven planes since then, but instead of flying them to the United States, the airline based them overseas, avoiding the tariff because they weren’t imports. In a statement to Bloomberg News, Delta said “We have made the decision not to import any new aircraft from Europe while these tariffs are in effect. Instead, we have opted to use the new aircraft exclusively for international service, which does not require importation.”

Suspension of airport “80/20” slot usage rule to last till end of March 2021 – Gatwick not happy

Until March 2020, European regulations required that an airline use 80% of its landing slots or they were lost. But because of the huge drop in travel demand, the rule was suspended for six months, then extended for another 6 months, to 27th March 2021. Gatwick airport wants the old slot rules reinstated before summer 2021.

Heathrow Staff To Strike For 4 Days In December

London’s Heathrow Airport wants to cut costs by reducing wages. The large Unite trade union says the airport plans to fire some 4,000 workers, then rehire them at lower wages. 85% of the union membership voted in favor of strikes in protest.

Airline offers speed-dating on dead-end ‘flight to nowhere’

Taiwanese carrier EVA Air and travel experience company are offering flights called “Fly! Love Is In the Air!” Twenty men and twenty women will depart from Taipei, fly around the island for three hours, return to the airport, and pairs will then enjoy a two-hour date. Seating on the plane is by random draw, but mingling is allowed. Food is prepared by a Michelin-starred chef.

Norwegian Air Is the Latest Trans-Atlantic Carrier to File for Bankruptcy in 2020 Due to Covid-19

Norwegian Air Shuttle has filed for protection from creditors in Ireland.

Autonomous Electric Tow Tugs Could Cut Handling Costs

Californian start-up Moonware says the aviation industry is stagnant. They want to do something about that. Moonware says they are “building an AI-powered fleet management network and subsequently deploying autonomous & electric vehicles to fundamentally reshape airport operations.” The company is developing a family of autonomous electrically powered tow tugs for aircraft ground handling.

National Air and Space Museum Welcomes Blue Angels’ F/A-18C Hornet

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum has brought a Blue Angels’ F/A-18C Hornet BuNo 163439 into the collection. This is the first “Blue Angels” aircraft and the first F-18 the museum has acquired. 

Mentioned

Save Whiteman airport, a change.org petition.

Dobbins Reservists Tie the Knot Aboard a C-130

628 Cranky Flier

Brett Snyder, the Cranky Flier, returns as our guest. In the news, United changes its MileagePlus frequent flyer requirements, Costco is selling private jet program memberships, Korean Air and Asiana merge, the outlook for business aviation, Covid testing at the airport, and an “immunity passport” proposal.

Guest

Brett Snyder, Cranky Flier.

Brett Snyder is the president of Cranky Flier LLC. He’s passionate about airlines and has been since he was a child. Brett’s main activity is centered around the Cranky Flier blog and the Cranky Concierge air travel assistance service. He also produces the Cranky Talk podcast and the Cranky Daily which offers the day’s top five airline stories. The Cranky Network Weekly is the newest member of the Cranky family with expert analysis of strategic US airline network changes.

Aviation News

United Airlines lowering requirements for ‘premier’ frequent flyer program

For 2021, United Airlines reduces the requirements for MileagePlus premier status, and offers bonus points in some cases.

Korean Air to take over rival Asiana in $2.2bn buyout

Korean Air owner Hanjin Group announced it will acquire Asiana Airlines. This would make Korean Air one of the world’s largest airlines. Hanjin said the deal will “stabilize the Korean aviation industry, which is suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Costco selling $17.5K private jet membership that lasts 1 year

Multinational Costco is a retailer that operates membership-only warehouse clubs. They are offering a $17,499.99 one-year membership to a private jet charter company Wheels Up.

Virus Outbreak-Business Travel story

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, business travel represented 21% of the $8.9 trillion spent on global travel and tourism in 2019. Business travel revenue is down 85% at Delta Air Lines, but CEO Ed Bastian thinks a “new normal” for business travel might be 10% to 20% lower than in the past, and he believes it will come back faster than many people think.

United Airlines Becomes First Airline to Integrate State of Maine Testing on arrival into Travel Experience

Maine currently has some tough requirements for those who travel to that state. According to the government Covid-19 travel page, “It is mandated that all out-of-state travelers coming into Maine, as well as Maine residents returning to Maine, complete a 14-day quarantine upon arrival,” although this can be modified after passing a virus test. 

Lufthansa Predicts Immunity Passports In The Future

Future air travel restrictions could change with the availability of vaccines. Governments are already discussing the concept of an “immunity passport” for people who are vaccinated or otherwise immune. Meanwhile, airlines have been putting testing solutions in place for their customers.

Listener Poll

Airplane Geeks Listener Poll 628: Do you intend to fly to a vacation destination in 2021? Do you expect to fly for business in 2021?

Mentioned

Video: Worst Place To be a Pilot Season 1 Episode 1 HD from the UK mini-series Worst Place To Be A Pilot.

627 Airline Pay Cuts

Airline pay cuts, prospective student pilots told to wait, proposed 737 MAX training requirements, the boat that Boeing sold, and a Brit is set to pilot Air Force One. Also, a holiday flying festival, the Kitty Hawk Flyers, an A-10 pilot receives the Distinguished Flying Cross, an upcoming electric air speed record attempt, and New Zealand’s first electric airplane.

Aviation News

Dutch Airline Pilots Association VNV signs commitment clause

KLM pilots agreed to accept pay cuts that allow the government to make the next installment of a 3.4 billion-euro ($3.96 billion) bailout package that includes a 1 billion-euro loan and guarantees for 2.4 billion euros in bank loans. The Dutch Airline Pilots Association VNV and seven other trade unions agreed to sign a “commitment clause.” 

Nearly all Cathay Pacific pilots, vast majority of cabin crew sign new salary-slashing contracts

98.5% of Cathay Pacific pilots (or 2,613 pilots) and 91.6% of the airline’s cabin crew staff (or 7,346 cabin crew) have accepted what’s characterized as a take-it-or-leave-it deal. Those who refused to accept the new contract would receive an exit package on their way out. The new contracts cut flight attendants pay by 20 to 40 percent, and aircrew pay by 40 to 60 percent.

Air New Zealand’s Staff Ask The Airline To Save Jobs

Over 1,000 staff signed a petition asking the airline to keep jobs in New Zealand. The Kia Kaha Aotearoa petition, meaning Be Strong New Zealand in Maori, asks Air New Zealand to save jobs and stop outsourcing work.

The airlines insist flying is safe. But nearly 100 U.S. air marshals have been infected with COVID-19.

The Transportation Security Administration says 98 federal air marshals have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. 14 of those cases are active. It’s not known if those Marshals contracted the virus on the job.

Pilots union warns students against starting pilot training courses for the foreseeable future

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) has issued a warning to everyone who is thinking about starting a pilot training course – think again. BALPA wants to help students avoid paying upwards of £100,000 for training only to find there are no jobs available. BALPA urges “potential pilots to get experience in another profession first which will postpone any training until the industry is in a more robust shape, provide additional skills and experience and also give them another avenue to fall back on.”

Pilots Want More Frequent 737 MAX Special Training

The public comment period on the FAA proposal for 737 MAX training ended November 2, 2020, and we are hearing about some concerns from the pilot unions. Unions feel the 8-step runaway stabilizer non-normal checklist (NNC) has too many steps and would be difficult to remember. The frequency of recurrent training is also being questioned.

RAF pilot is set to become first non-American to fly US President on Air Force One

According to the Daily Mail, a non-American has never piloted Air Force One. A wing commander with the RAF is set to become the first foreigner to do so. 

Boeing Just Sold The Superyacht You Didn’t Even Know They Owned

Reportedly, Boeing has sold the 151-foot motor yacht Daedalus for $13 million. The yacht can accommodate 10 guests in cabins and has been used for entertaining and hosting corporate customers.

A private jet company is offering $28,000 ‘weddings in the sky’ as charter firms try to offset the loss of business travel

If you want to get married during the pandemic, Air Charter Service is offering a “Wedding in the Sky” experience. These take place in a private jet during a 2-hour flight to nowhere. Vows must have been exchanged in an official setting before boarding the flight. 

Listener Poll

This episode’s listener poll: Besides the Airplane Geeks podcast, what other podcasts do you listen to in order to feed your aviation habit?

Mentioned

Sun ‘n Fun Holiday Flying Festival and Car Show, December 4-5, 2020 on the SUN ‘n FUN Expo Campus in Lakeland Florida.

Kitty Hawk ends Flyer program, shifts focus to once-secret autonomous aircraft. (The American Helicopter Museum has acquired two Flyer aircraft.)

Kitty Hawk Flyer

Kitty Hawk Flyer at the American Helicopter Museum.

A-10 pilot awarded Distinguished Flying Cross for dramatic landing with missing canopy and no landing gear

Maj. Brett DeVries, an A-10 pilot with the Michigan Air National Guard, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for “extraordinary achievement” during a 2017 training flight in which his landing gear failed and his canopy tore off.

The Electro-Flight ACCEL project with Rolls-Royce and Yasa Motors to set a new electric air speed record. See Rolls-Royce set to break world record for fastest electric aircraft and Bremont Launches ionBIRD Timepiece as the Company Becomes Official Timing Partner for Rolls-Royce’s Groundbreaking World Record Attempt, which includes footage of the testbed.

Video: NZ’s first electric plane takes off in Christchurch

Seth Jaworski’s great photographs of aircraft parked at Alice Springs.