Tag Archives: American Airlines

800 Tail Strike

Airplane tail strike, miracle flights, 737 MAX Deferred Prosecution Agreement, the FAA Reauthorization Act, airport name changes, and fatal helicopter crash in Iran. Also, a report on the Valdez Fly-In and Airshow, and a scenic flight around Denali Mountain.

Aviation News

NTSB Releases Final Report Of United Airlines Boeing 737 Tail Strike In Houston

The NTSB report of the January 2024 tail strike says the 737-900ER touched down three times while landing. The aircraft’s aft fuselage “impacted the runway as a result of a delayed flare and subsequent nose-high pitch inputs.” The initial touchdown force was 1.87G and the second touchdown was 2.87G.

An article in SKYbrary states that “various studies by several of the major aircraft manufacturers have arrived at similar conclusions regarding the primary cause of tail strike. The most significant common factor is the amount of flight crew experience with the specific model of aircraft being flown.” Studies identified eight specific Causal Factors that greatly increase the risk of a tail strike:

During take-off:

  • Improperly Set Elevator Trim or Mis-Trimmed Stabiliser 
  • Rotation at Incorrect Speed
  • Excessive Rotation Rate
  • Improper Use of the Flight Director

During landing:

  • Unstabilized Approach
  • Excessive Hold-Off in the Flare 
  • Crosswinds
  • Over-Rotation During Go-Around

Over 65% of tail strikes occur during landings, while only 25% happen during takeoffs.

With One Simple Change, Southwest Airlines Will Deal Blow To Wheelchair Scammers, Unruly Passengers And Seat Savers

Southwest Airlines is considering implementing assigned seating, eliminating the need for passengers to board early to get a good seat. The change would address “the phenomenon of passengers faking disabilities to board early, end the practice of seat saving, and make it easier to identify unruly passengers on board.” Currently, Southwest is the only airline that doesn’t have passenger names and seat assignments on the flight’s manifest.

DOJ Takes Key Step to Hold Boeing Accountable for 737 MAX8 Crash Deaths

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has determined that Boeing breached the January 2021 Deferred Prosecution Agreement. The Clifford law firm (which represents families of the Boeing 787 MAX8 crash victims) says that Boeing could now face a criminal trial, although more action is needed from the DOJ.

Bipartisan FAA Reauthorization Act Signed Into Law

American Airlines Bus Service Connecting Wilmington Delaware Airport (ILG) to PHL to Start This Fall

The Delaware River & Bay Authority announced that American Airlines and its partner Landline Co. plan to launch a bus service between Wilmington Airport (ILG) and Philadelphia International Airport (PHL). Passengers flying out of Philly can park, check bags, and pass through security at the Wilmington Airport.

Chicago-Bound United Airlines Boeing 767 Diverts to Ireland After Passenger Gets Laptop Wedged Stuck in Business Class Seat

United Airlines flight 12 from Zurich to Chicago O’Hare was forced to make an emergency diversion to Shannon, Ireland after a passenger got their laptop stuck in a Business Class seat aboard the Boeing 767-300.

Two More Airports Are Fighting Over Using a City Name, This Time in Canada Where a Lawsuit Is Already Underway

Montreal-Trudeau International Airport (YUL) is suing Saint-Hubert Airport after the smaller airport decided to rebrand itself as Montreal Metropolitan Airport.

Valdez Fly-In and Airshow

Listener Brian and Cora attended the 2024 Valdez Fly-In and Airshow in Alaska and provided a trip report. The couple also took a scenic flight around Denali Mountain and the report highlights the unique experiences and stunning views.

The Valdez Fly-In and Airshow is an annual aviation event held at Valdez Pioneer Field Airport in Valdez, Alaska. Established in 2003, the Valdez Fly-In features world-class competitions, aerobatic displays, and a variety of activities for aviation enthusiasts and families alike.

Brian and Cora on the glacier.

Hosts this Episode

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

799 Doomsday Planes

Korean Air 747s will become the new doomsday planes, the new ATC rest rules have been delayed by the FAA, Breeze flight attendants voted to join the union, a United jumpseat pilot has upset some Southwest pilots, the GA flyover in DC was a success, Boeing employees were found to have falsified 787 Dreamliner inspection records, Airbus hasn’t leveraged an advantage in light of Boeing’s woes, and airlines sue the DOT over a new rule requiring the disclosure of fees.

Aviation News

Former Korean Air 747s Slated To Become USAF Doomsday Planes

Korean Air has confirmed the sale of five of its 747-8s to Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), which is building the new Survivable Airborne Operations Center (SAOC) aircraft, also referred to as “doomsday planes.” The USAF states: 

The E-4B “Nightwatch” serves as the National Airborne Operations Center and is a component of the National Military Command System for the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

In case of national emergency or destruction of ground command and control centers, the aircraft provides a highly survivable command, control, and communications center to direct U.S. forces, execute emergency war orders, and coordinate actions by civil authorities.

SNC acquired five Boeing 747-8s from Korean Air. The current E-4B aircraft are based on the 747-200. SNC specializes in aircraft modification and integration as well as space technologies.

FAA Delaying the Start of ATC Rest Rules

The new FAA ATC rest requirements require controllers to have at least 10 hours off between shifts and 12 hours off before a midnight shift. The rule was to have taken effect by mid-July. However, the FAA has delayed those requirements while it talks to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) union. FAA Air Traffic Organization Chief Operating Officer Timothy Arel hopes to reach a joint rest period agreement for the 2025 schedule “or sooner where feasible.”

Flight attendants at this Utah airline just voted ‘overwhelmingly’ to unionize

More than 76% of the roughly 600 Breeze Airways flight attendants voted to join the Association of Flight Attendants. AFA international president Sara Nelson said “We are inspired by their solidarity and thrilled to welcome them to our AFA family. Our labor movement is growing. Everywhere.” See: Breeze Flight Attendants Vote Overwhelmingly to Join the Flight Attendant Union.

“Breeze Flight Attendants organized for a union and a contract due to ongoing issues with constantly-changing work rules, substandard pay for time on the job, inadequate hotel accommodations, insufficient work hours, and inconsistent and disrespectful treatment from management.”

American Airlines is Issuing ‘Poverty Verification Letters’ For New-Hire Flight Attendants Because Their Wages Are So Low

Nearly One in Ten Alaska Airlines Flight Attendants Have Experienced Homelessness in the Past Year and Over a Third Have Been Forced to Use a Food Bank

Poverty verification letters are being sent to some new-hire flight attendants based in expensive areas.

Airline Feud Escalates: United Pilots Barred From Southwest Airlines Jump Seats After Controversial Incident

This stems from an incident where a “relatively new” United pilot reported some “inadequacies” to the FAA after jumpseating on a Southwest flight.

AOPA’s General Aviation Flyover in DC

Video: LIVE DC Flyover – AOPA’s National Celebration of General Aviation

FAA is investigating Boeing for apparent missed inspections on 787 Dreamliner

Boeing voluntarily disclosed to the FAA that some B787 Dreamliner inspections may not have been performed, but were signed off as completed. The inspections are intended to verify adequate bonding and grounding at the wing-fuselage joint.

In a statement to NPR, the FAA said it’s also investigating “whether Boeing completed the inspections and whether company employees may have falsified aircraft records.” The agency also said Boeing is re-inspecting “all 787 airplanes still within the production system and must also create a plan to address the in-service fleet.”

Boeing told NPR it “promptly notified the FAA and this is not an immediate safety of flight issue”.

Commercial jet maker Airbus is staying humble even as Boeing flounders. There’s a reason for that

Airbus has over 8,600 orders in backlog and can’t build planes fast enough. There is not much ability of Airbus to take orders from Boeing. (Boeing’s commercial backlog is more than 5,660 planes.)

Major airlines sue Biden administration over fee disclosure rule

The airlines don’t like the new DOT rule requiring upfront disclosure of airline fees. Filing a lawsuit against the DOT are Airlines for America, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, and Alaska Airlines. A4A said the new rules would confuse consumers and that its “attempt to regulate private business operations in a thriving marketplace is beyond its authority.”

Mentioned

Leo J. Kohn Digitization Project and Fundraising – Press Release [PDF]. The digitization and preservation project page where donations are accepted is https://www.wahf.org/kohn/.

Boeing YB-29J, "Pacsuan Dreamboat" on the tarmac.
Leo J. Kohn Photography Collection, #957 – Boeing YB-29J, “Pacsuan Dreamboat”, 44-84061. New York, NY. Photo by Larkins.

Exciting #SpotLAX24 Updates

ANA Star Wars livery
SpotLAX is a must-attend event!

Got $200K & Want To Fly Electric? This Ultralight eVTOL Ships In July & Doesn’t Require A Pilot License

Pivotal Helix eVTOL

Pivotal Helix eVTOL rendering.
Pivotal Helix eVTOL

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Max Trescott, 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.

790 Airline Ticket Price

The components of an airline ticket price, Boeing’s contract negotiations with the International Association of Machinists, the NTSB’s frustration with Boeing’s cooperation, American Airlines’ order of 260 planes, an Alaska Airlines flight with an open cargo door, pilots falling asleep mid-flight, an Alaska Supreme Court ruling on aircraft surveillance, and a “technical event” involving a LATAM flight.

Aviation News

UK Air Passenger Duty Increasing, Premium Cabins Hit Hardest

The passenger tax in the UK is called the Air Passenger Duty (APD) and it is just one part of an airline ticket price. One Mile at a Time calls the APD “the highest passenger tax on air travel anywhere in the world.” As of April 1, 2024, the APD is going up:

  • The domestic economy APD will increase by £0.50, from £6.50 to £7 (~$9)
  • The domestic premium APD will increase by £1, from £13 to £14 (~$18)
  • The long haul economy APD will increase by £4, from £84 to £88 (~$112)
  • The long haul premium APD will increase by £9, from £185 to £194 (~$246)
  • The ultra long haul economy APD will increase by £1, from £91 to £92 (~$117)
  • The ultra long haul premium APD will increase by £2, from £200 to £202 (~$257)

Additional increases are planned for 2025.

An airline ticket price is made up of the base fare and carrier-imposed surcharges. Government taxes and fees include an excise tax (a 7.5% tax imposed by the U.S. government on domestic flights), flight segment tax (a $4 fee per flight segment), a passenger facility charge (an airport fee determined by the U.S. airport from which you depart), the September 11 security fee ($5.60 per one-way trip to offset security costs), Air Passenger Duty (APD) (for flights departing from the U.K.), and other country-specific charges.

As watershed contract talks with Boeing open, Machinists think big

International Association of Machinists logo.

Boeing and the International Association of Machinists are negotiating a new labor contract. The union’s District 751 represents more than 32,000 Boeing Machinists. The union says they’ll ask for a wage increase of over 40% over the next three years and the restoration of its traditional pension. Also, a commitment to build the next new Boeing airplane in Seattle, more quality inspectors, more union input into quality control, and a shift in the corporate culture to one that doesn’t alienate employees. IAM president Jon Holden said the union “must stand up and save this company from itself.” A mass meeting and strike authorization vote are scheduled for mid-July. The contract expires on September 12, 2024.

NTSB Chair Not Pleased With Boeing’s Cooperation On Door Plug Probe

Regarding the investigation into the Alaska Airlines door plug incident, NTSB chair Jennifer Homendy recently testified at a Senate hearing that “Boeing has not provided us with the documents and information that we have requested numerous times over the past few months.” At the hearing, Homendy complained that Boeing was not cooperating as the NTSB attempted to interview team members.

NTSB Chair: Alaska 1282 investigation is like ‘peeling an onion’

In an exclusive interview with The Air Current, Jennifer Homendy said the NTSB is planning a public investigative hearing into the January 5 accident aboard Alaska Airlines 1282. Homendy told TAC that the hearing will occur towards the end of the summer.

American Airlines to buy 260 new planes from Boeing, Airbus and Embraer to meet growing demand

American Airlines ordered 260 new aircraft and placed options for up to 193 more planes. The orders include 85 Boeing 737 Max 10s, 85 A321neo planes from Airbus, and 90 E175 aircraft from Embraer.

Alaska Airlines flight carrying pets arrives with cargo door open as carrier and Boeing face $1B lawsuit

Alaska Airlines logo

An Alaska Airlines flight from Los Cabos, Mexico arrived at Portland, Oregon with its cargo door partly open. None of the pets in the cargo hold were injured. Alaska Airlines told KOIN in a statement that “there was no indication to the crew that the door was unsealed during [last Friday’s] flight and all indications point to the door partially opening after landing.” Also, “Our maintenance teams inspected the aircraft, replaced a spring in the door, tested the door, and reentered it into service.”

A plane was flying with 159 onboard. Then both pilots fell asleep

A preliminary report by Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee says both pilots of a PT Batik Air Indonesia flight fell asleep at about the same time for around 28 minutes. The plane was carrying 153 passengers and four crew members headed to Jakarta on a two-hour and 35-minute flight.

Officers need warrants to use aircraft, zoom lenses to surveil areas around homes, Alaska court says

According to the Alaska Supreme Court, law enforcement officers cannot use aircraft with binoculars or cameras with zoom lenses to surveil a person’s home, unless they obtain a warrant. This stems from a 2012 case where Alaska State Troopers flew past a property to verify a tip that marijuana was being grown there. The officers used a camera and zoom lens to take photos of the property. Based on what they saw, a search warrant was obtained.

At least 50 hurt as LATAM’s Boeing 787 to Auckland ‘just dropped’ mid-flight

A Boeing 787 operated by LATAM Airlines experienced what the airline called a “technical event” mid-flight from Sydney to Auckland. Reportedly, the plane abruptly dropped and at least 50 people were hurt. Ten passengers and three cabin crew members were taken to a hospital. One person is in serious condition. The 787-9 Dreamliner (registered CC-BGG) operated as flight LA800 between Sydney, Australia, and Auckland, New Zealand.

A passenger told the BBC “The plane, unannounced, just dropped. I mean it dropped unlike anything I’ve ever experienced on any kind of minor turbulence, and people were thrown out of their seats, hit the top of the roof of the plane, throwing down the aisles. Some of the roof panels were broken from people being thrown up and knocking through the plastic roof panels in the aisle ways. And there was blood coming from several people’s heads.”

Mentioned

Understanding The UK Air Passenger Duty (APD)

FlightSimExpo

This new Airbus air taxi has a 50-mile range and is quieter than a hairdryer

XPeng’s AeroHT flexes its eVTOL expertise, taking its X2 flying car to the skies above Guangzhou

Aviation Careers Podcast

Hosts this Episode

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

781 Astronaut

A veteran NASA astronaut, scientist, and author discusses his journey to becoming an astronaut and his experiences in space. In the news, FAA orders Boeing 737 Max 9 planes grounded, a JAL A350 collides with a Dash-8, seating layout and air rage, American Airlines launches Smart Gating, and JSX plans to buy more than 300 hybrid-electric aircraft.

Guest

Astronaut Tom Jones standing in front of the Atlantis Space Shuttle

Thomas D. Jones is a veteran NASA astronaut, scientist, author, pilot, and speaker. He flew on four space shuttle missions to Earth orbit in more than eleven years with NASA. In 2001, Tom led three spacewalks to install the American Destiny laboratory, the centerpiece of the International Space Station. He has spent fifty-three days working and living in space. Tom has written seven space, aviation, and history books. 

Tom’s latest title is Space Shuttle Stories: Firsthand Astronaut Accounts from All 135 Missions from Smithsonian Books. This book is a comprehensive oral history of the thirty years of the Space Shuttle. Tom collected stories from astronauts across all 135 shuttle missions.

Book cover: Space Shuttle Stories

A Distinguished Graduate of the Air Force Academy, Tom piloted B-52D strategic bombers, earned a doctorate in planetary sciences from the University of Arizona, studied asteroids and robotic exploration missions for NASA, and engineered intelligence-gathering systems for the CIA.

Tom’s awards include the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, four NASA Space Flight Medals, the NASA Exceptional Service Award, the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, the NASA Exceptional Public Service Award, Phi Beta Kappa, the Air Force Commendation Medal, and Distinguished Eagle Scout. Asteroid 1082 Tom Jones is named in his honor. In 2018, Tom was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.

Tom served on the NASA Advisory Council and the Association of Space Explorers and the Astronauts Memorial Foundation boards. He consults on the future direction of human space exploration, uses of asteroid and space resources, and planetary defense. A frequent public speaker, he is often seen on-air delivering expert commentary on science and space flight.

For more, see Tom’s website, follow him on Twitter/X at @AstroTomJones, and he’s also on Facebook.

Aviation News

FAA orders grounding of certain Boeing 737 Max 9 planes after Alaska Airlines incident

FAA orders temporary grounding of Boeing 737 Max 9s

A new Alaska Airlines 737 Max 9 lost a plugged rear-aft door as it climbed out from Portland, Oregon. The plane depressurized and immediately returned to the airport. No injuries were reported. The FAA ordered maintenance and safety inspections.

Haneda accident outcome the sum of decades of integrated air safety lessons

What if the Haneda Accident Had Occurred in the US?

A landing Japan Airlines A350-900 collided with a Japan Coast Guard (JCG) Dash 8-300 resulting in the deaths of five members of the JCG and the total loss of the A350. All 368 passengers and 12 crew members of JAL plane evacuated safely.

Class ‘Inequity’ Fuels Air Rage

The Physical and Situational Inequality on Airplanes Predicts Air Rage study by Princeton University found that the chance of an air rage incident increased four times when the aircraft had a first-class section. The chance doubles again when boarding economy-class passengers pass through the first-class section.

Smart Gating: How American Airlines Is Using Machine Learning To Reduce Taxi Times By 20%

The American Airlines Smart Gating system is designed to streamline operations, reduce taxiing times, save jet fuel, reduce carbon emissions, and improve operational efficiency. The system uses real-time flight information and assigns aircraft to the closest gate. This can reduce taxiing time by up to 20%. Smart Gating has been deployed across American Airlines’ major hubs.

Video: American Airlines Smart Gating

JSX Plans To Add 300+ Hybrid-electric Aircraft to Fleet

Public charter operator JSX intends to purchase up to 332 hybrid-electric aircraft: 82 Electra nine-passenger eSTOL aircraft (32/50 firm/options), up to 150 Aura Aero 19-seat Era model (50/100), and up to 100 Heart Aerospace 30-seat ES-30 (50/50).

Mentioned

Ramrod to Munster by Stephen C. Ananian [PDF]

Aircraft Accident Investigation (AAI) course, University of Southern California.

The course is designed for individuals who have limited investigation experience. All aspects of the investigation process are addressed, starting with preparation for the investigation through writing the final report. It covers National Transportation Safety Board and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) procedures. Investigative techniques are examined with an emphasis on fixed-wing investigation. Data collection, wreckage reconstruction, and cause analysis are discussed in the classroom and applied in the lab.

Can you spot Max Trescott?

The Journey is the Reward podcast, Episode 60: A Conversation with Capt Jeff of the Airline Pilot Guy.

Hosts this Episode

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

775 Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

The Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey talks about the $30 Billion capital plan to rebuild airport facilities and the transportation infrastructure. In the news, an unruly passenger is fined almost $40,000 for costs related to the resulting flight delay, FAA certification for remote airport tower operations, public charter flights and regulatory loopholes, American Airlines flight attendants might strike, and the FAA is allowing graduates of college and university air traffic control programs to skip training and go right to ATC facilities.

Guest

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Executive Director Rick Cotton.

Rick Cotton is Executive Director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, a post he’s held since August 2017. The Port Authority has jurisdiction over the transportation infrastructure in the region, including air, land, rail, and sea. That includes five airports: John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport, Stewart International Airport, and Teterboro Airport.

Rick describes the history and function of the Port Authority, and the $30B plan to create world-class facilities that include rebuilding the airports. We discuss transportation between the airport and the city, the focus on the curb-to-gate passenger experience, and even the pricing of airport food.

Before joining the Port Authority, Rick served as New York State’s Special Counsellor to the Governor for Interagency Initiatives. He focused on the State’s major downstate infrastructure projects such as LaGuardia and JFK Airports, the Moynihan Train Hall and Penn-Farley Complex, the new Tappan Zee Bridge, the expansion of the Javits Center, and the MTA’s Second Avenue Subway project.

Rick spent 25 years at NBC Universal, where he held several positions, including 20 years as EVP and General Counsel and four years in London as President and Managing Director of CNBC Europe. He also served as Executive Secretary to the Department at the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare under Secretary Joseph A. Califano, Jr. and Special Assistant for Renewable Energy to Deputy Secretary of Energy John Sawhill at the U.S. Department of Energy. Rick received an A.B. from Harvard College and a J.D. from Yale Law School, and served as a law clerk to Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Video: About the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey

Aviation News

An expensive flight: American Airlines passenger fined almost $40,000 for being disruptive

After pleading guilty to interfering with a flight crew member, the federal district court in Arizona ordered the passenger to pay American Airlines $38,952 in restitution for delay-related costs due to her actions. The woman was also sentenced to time served in prison (3.6 months) and three years of supervised release, during which time she cannot fly commercially without prior authorization. This stems from a Feb. 13, 2022 flight where the passenger used profanity and threatened flight crew members flying from Phoenix to Hawaii. The plane was diverted and returned to Phoenix.

See also: Woman Ordered to Pay Over $38,000 in Restitution for Interference with Flight Crew on Hawaii-Bound Flight from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona.

Another Remote Control Tower Option Bites the Dust

Searidge Technologies will end its five-year effort with Colorado’s Department of Transportation to implement a remote technology (RT) digital tower at Northern Colorado Regional Airport in Loveland. Bob Poole writes that new FAA certification requirements have also forced Saab to discontinue its participation as the RT technology provider for the remote tower for Leesburg Airport in Virginia.

In March 2023, the FAA announced that to have a remote technology system certified for a U.S. airport, it must first be installed at the Atlantic City, NJ, airport. That is where the FAA Tech Center is located. In addition, the Tech Center staff must be allowed to reverse engineer the system over three years so the FAA can determine if the system meets FAA certification requirements.

Searidge Technologies is a provider of services for remotely managing air traffic control. The company says they have “technology at over 40 sites in 25 countries [and they] are a global leader and preferred partner for Digital Towers and Advanced Airport solutions.” Searidge is owned by NATS (UK). Other RT service providers include Saab, Frequentis, and Kongsburg.

Big U.S. airlines fight over safety of ‘travel hack’ charter flights

“Public charter flights” have limited schedules (perhaps once or twice weekly) and set departure and arrival times. Booking is by individual seat and these flights are typically available during the tourist season. Flights are operated by tour operators or airlines that sell seats directly to passengers. Some charter operators offer these flights from private terminals and market themselves as providing flights without the hassle of the large terminals. (Avoid long security and boarding lines.) Dallas-based JSX is an example.

American Airlines and Southwest Airlines want to see the safety and security of these operations examined. They consider public charters a “loophole.” Meanwhile, United Airlines and JetBlue don’t want to see any changes. But they each own a stake in JSX.

See also: What Is a Charter Flight: Cost And All The Basics, What is Public Charter, and Plane Talk: Public Charter Flights – US Department of Transportation.

American Airlines Flight Attendants Expected to Formally Announce Christmas Strike On Monday

The American flight attendants are negotiating a new contract with the airline. The airline proposed a 19% pay rise over the four-year contract. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) wants a 50% pay rise.

FAA Now Says AT-CTI Grads Can Skip Oke City Training Academy

The FAA is allowing graduates of college and university air traffic control programs to skip training at its own ATC academy in Oklahoma City and go directly to on-the-job training at ATC facilities.

Mentioned

Pentagon unveils new form for reporting UFO sightings

The form is available through the Defense Department’s All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO). That website provides official declassified information on UAPs, including pictures and videos, for the public to view.  At this time, the form is not meant for the public but methods are being explored to change that. See DOD press release: The Department of Defense Launches the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office Website.

Hosts this Episode

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

774 Why Flying is Miserable

We talk with the author of Why Flying is Miserable: And How to Fix It. In the news, the NTSB comments on the increase in near-miss aviation incidents, the FAA will appoint an ARC to examine pilot mental health, an NTSB preliminary report on the Hawker/Cessna collision, cargo pilots are offered $250,000 to go regional, and United adjusts their frequent flyer program.

Guest

Ganesh Sitaraman, author of Why Flying is Miserable: And How to Fix It.
Ganesh Sitaraman

Ganesh Sitaraman is a policy expert, Vanderbilt law professor, and the author of the book titled Why Flying is Miserable: And How to Fix It. The book was written to stimulate conversation about the state of air travel in the U.S. and what might be done to make it serve more Americans, more efficiently, with fewer federal bailouts and headaches.

Why Flying is Miserable takes the reader through the history of the U.S. airline industry and how deregulation has brought us to where we are today. In the early years of flight through the 1930’s, policies were defined by the needs of airmail. Then in the 1930s to the 1970s, airlines were regulated largely under a public utility model, ultimately through the Civil Aeronautics Board. This regulated oligopoly was changed to a free market model with deregulation in 1978. The resulting unregulated oligopoly resulted in cutthroat competition in the 1980s which led to consolidation without regulation.

Ganesh describes why flying is miserable for the flying public and miserable for the industry itself. With no changes, another bailout situation will present itself sooner or later, he argues.

Why Flying is Miserable: And How to Fix It book cover

Ganesh offers some reform principles that consider the dynamics of the industry and the goals of a national airline policy: no more flyover country, no bailouts or bankruptcies, and fair and transparent prices. He offers some creative and thought-provoking approaches to achieve those principles.

Ganesh is director of the Vanderbilt Policy Accelerator for Political Economy and Regulation. He’s the author of numerous books, previously a senior advisor to Elizabeth Warren for her presidential campaign, and is a member of the Administrative Conference of the United States and the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee

Follow Ganesh on X (Twitter) at @GaneshSitaraman. Why Flying is Miserable: And How to Fix It is available wherever books are sold, as an Audible Audiobook, and on Kindle.

Aviation News

NTSB chair says US near-miss aviation incidents ‘clear warning sign’

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chair Jennifer Homendy told a U.S. Senate aviation committee that the increase in near-miss aviation incidents is a “clear warning sign that the U.S. aviation system is sharply strained.” Homendy stated the need for “more technology for runway and cockpit alerting… We cannot wait until a fatal accident forces action.”

American Airlines dangles a $250,000 bonus to lure pilots from FedEx and UPS to fill job shortage that has led to canceled and delayed flights

American Airlines regional carrier PSA Airlines is reportedly offering cargo pilots a $175,000 bonus in the first paycheck, with an additional $75,000 after one year. As the airline cancels flights due to staffing shortages, FedEx and UPS are experiencing reduced demand and flight cuttings. So those carriers are encouraging their pilots to consider the American offer.

Hawker Crew Ignored Instructions from ATC in Houston Bizjet Collision

As previously reported, the left wing of a Hawker 850 (N269AA) hit the vertical stabilizer of a Cessna Mustang (N510HM) landing on a crossing runway at Houston Hobby Airport (KHOU). According to the NTSB preliminary report:

HOU has intersecting runways, and the local controller had instructed the crew of N269AA [Hawker] to line up and wait (LUAW) on runway 22. The crew of N269AA said in a post-accident interview that they believed they heard that they were cleared for takeoff when they took off. The collision between the two airplanes occurred at the intersection of the two runways.

N269AA was in the takeoff roll on runway 22 when the flight data/clearance delivery controller alerted the local controller about N269AA’s movement, and at 1519:47 the local controller stated “november nine alpha alpha, stop, hold your position.” There was no response from the crew of N269AA, and at 1519:53 the local controller again stated, “alpha, alpha, hold your position, stop,” to which there was still no response.

The flight crew from N269AA stated in their post-accident interview they had a rudder bias alert, and a pitch trim alert which they had to resolve as they were in the takeoff roll.

NTSB

HOU tower is equipped with an Airport Surface Detection Equipment – Model X (ASDE-X) system that the FAA describes as “a surveillance system using radar, multilateration and satellite technology that allows air traffic controllers to track surface movement of aircraft and vehicles. It was developed to help reduce critical Category A and B runway incursions.”

ASDE X collects data from 

  • Surface surveillance radar located on top of the air traffic control tower and/or on a remote tower
  • Multilateration sensors located around the airport
  • Airport Surveillance Radars such as the Mode S
  • Automatic Dependent Surveillance — Broadcast (ADS-B) sensors
  • Terminal automation system to obtain flight plan data.

By fusing the data from these sources, ASDE-X can determine the position and identification of aircraft and vehicles in the airport movement area, as well as aircraft flying on final approach to the airport. Thirty-five major airports have received ASDE-X.

FAA Naming Panel to Address Pilot Mental Health Issues

The FAA says it is appointing a Pilot Mental Health Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC). The committee will provide recommendations on breaking down the barriers that prevent pilots from reporting mental health issues to the FAA. FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said, “Mental health care has made great strides in recent years, and we want to make sure the FAA is considering those advances when we evaluate the health of pilots.”

The FAA said it would also work to address uncompleted recommendations from a July inspector general’s office report on pilot mental health, which found the FAA’s “ability to mitigate safety risks is limited by pilots’ reluctance to disclose mental health conditions.”

Source: FAA to Appoint Rulemaking Committee to Examine Pilot Mental Health.

In addition, the FAA will work with the ARC to address open recommendations from the July 2023 DOT Office of Inspector General report on Pilot Mental Health Challenges, which found that the agency has “comprehensive procedures to evaluate pilots’ psychological health.”

FAA fact sheet on pilot mental health oversight, Pilot Mental Fitness.

United Airlines tweaks frequent flyer program to reward credit card spending 

UA says they won’t change overall requirements for elite frequent flyer status in 2024. Instead, the airline will give customers 25 qualifying points for every $500 they spend on co-branded credit cards. United will also lift caps on credit card spending that can qualify for elite status. Presently, customers earn 500 points for every $12,000 spent.

Australia Desk

The Indo-Pacific International Maritime Exposition (IndoPac 2023) was held between November 7th and 9th in Sydney, and Grant was in attendance, gathering content for Australian Defence Magazine.  We take a brief look at the expo, particularly in terms of a focus on maritime aviation and defence.

Indo Pacific International Maritime Exposition

Local company Rosebank Engineering has secured a contract for RAAF F-35 component maintenance, activating their wheel & brake repair depot, east of Melbourne.

Rosebank Engineering activates F-35 repair depot

The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) this week celebrated 30 years of operations at RAAF Base Pearce in Western Australia, conducting lead-in and advanced training for their military pilots.  The Australian Defence Force enjoys a close working relationship with the Singaporeans not only at Pearce but in several other aspects of training including CH-47 Chinook training at the Army Aviation Regiment’s base at Oakey in Queensland.

The RSAF Commemorates 30 Years of Training in Pearce, Australia

And speaking of maritime topics, what exactly was Steve eating for lunch that has Grant so concerned?  Tune in to find out!  Anchors away….

Mentioned

Frank Borman (left) and Rob Mark (right) at the airport.
Frank Borman and Rob Mark.

Video: Stackhat (Australian ad – 1988)

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, and Brian Coleman. Contribution by Grant McHerron and Steve Visscher.

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.

741 Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance

We look at how the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance advances an aerospace cluster. In the news, the American Airlines flight attendant union asks for compensation increases, the last year for the air races at Reno, and the first Boeing Dreamliners to leave service are being parted out. Also, an Australia News Desk report, the State of NASA, hydrogen fuel, Rolls Royce F130 engine testing, an Aerospace Media Awards call for nominations, and Boeing 747-400 N401PW.

Guest

Nikki Malcom photo. Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance CEO and Executive Director.
Nikki Malcom

Nikki Malcom is the CEO and Executive Director of the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance (PNAA), a non-profit trade association that promotes the growth and global competitiveness of the Pacific Northwest aerospace cluster.  The PNAA holds conferences and educational events, provides market intelligence, conducts B2B meetings, and provides networking opportunities.

The region is attractive for aerospace companies because it has a built-in “ecosystem” and offers sustainability advantages for the industry. The workforce is skilled but Nikki feels that diversity needs to be taken more seriously by the industry. She also comments on the conservative and risk-averse reputation that aerospace holds, and the ongoing supply chain challenges.

Nikki encourages others to join the aerospace industry, and volunteers on multiple trade school advisory boards and STEM education programs in an effort to promote the message that “Aerospace is for Everyone.” To support the effort of encouraging more women and girls to join the aerospace industry, she registered National Women in Aerospace Day for May 20th and is continuing that campaign to celebrate all of the cutting-edge work being done by women to advance the industry past, present, and future. 

Nikki has spent the past 23 years dedicated to the aerospace industry. She has had roles in supply chain, business development, and executive leadership in companies ranging from materials to manufacturing and testing. She’s obsessed with all things aviation and aerospace, including manufacturing, and is also president of NFM Enterprises, LLC. Nikki is looking forward to chasing her dream of pursuing her private pilot’s license this year!

See: Washington state aerospace companies take off for AVALON airshow and exposition in Australia this week.

From the Washington State Dept. of Commerce: Aerospace & Aviation.

Aviation News

American Airlines Flight Attendants Demand 35% Hike in Hourly Pay Rates and Boarding Pay in Latest Contract Proposals

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) represents about 23,000 members at American Airlines. They are demanding a 35 percent hike in hourly pay rates, boarding pay of 50% of the standard hourly rate (the same as Delta), pay increases for galley work and night shifts, increased per diem allowance rates, a “me too” clause that would automatically increase allowances if pilots won a higher rate, and an hourly pay rate increase of 6 percent in each of the three contract years.

Related: American Airlines CEO Offers Pilots Up To $590K In Pay.

Reno Stead Airport to Hold its Final National Championship Air Races Event in 2023

The Reno Air Racing Association issued a statement saying, “While we knew this day might come, we had hoped it wouldn’t come so soon. Citing the region’s significant growth amongst other concerns, the Reno Tahoe Airport Authority has made the decision to sunset the event. However, we are confident the event will continue. In fact, we are currently exploring several other possible locations to host the event in the future.” The National Championship Air Races have been taking place outside Reno since 1964. See To Our Loyal Fans and Passionate Community.

Two 10-year-old Boeing 787 Dreamliners are already being scrapped

Two former Norwegian Air Shuttle Boeing 787-8s are being parted out at Prestwick Airport near Glasgow, Scotland. These were delivered in June and August 2013 and are the first Dreamliners to be retired. The Dublin-based EirTrade Aviation is managing the disassembly. The planes were coming up to their 12-year heavy maintenance check.

Australia News Desk

ATSB releases preliminary report from on-going Gold Coast helicopter mid-air collision investigation

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) this week released a preliminary report into the collision of two EC130 helicopters on January 2nd, at the Gold Coast in Queensland, resulting in the loss of four lives. It is important to note that this is not the full finding of the investigation – only a preliminary, high-level overview.  The full findings will be many months away, or longer.

Straddie ‘brewairy’ flight takes beer tasting to new heights

Grant’s found a new air-charter operation further north in Queensland which combines his love of flying with his other great passion….beer!   The company is called Brewairy and allows tourists to climb on board a Cessna and sample a few local ales while making the short hop to Stradbroke Island.  At last news, Grant was hightailing his way north to file a first-hand report…

More flying coffees forecast as Google to expand drone tech

Switching from beer to coffee, Australians could see many more of them flying around the suburbs after Google announced plans to test technology designed to load its drones and boost the number of airborne deliveries.

Mentioned

Alyssa Carson –  Future Mars Walker, creator of the Blueberry Foundation. Find her on LinkedIn. The Spring 2023 Issue of Let’s Go Aerospace magazine has an article about Alyssa.

Inside the world of aviation, space and defense news with the team behind Hype Aviation – The GeekWire Podcast talks with Isaac Alexander and Robin Koenig of Hype: Aviation, Defense and Space News.

Video: 2023 ‘State of NASA’ Address from Administrator Bill Nelson

Hydrogen colours codes

Video: Rolls-Royce Begins F130 Dual Pod Engine Test For B52 Aircraft

The 2023 Aerospace Media Awards, Fourth Call for Nominations, closing date – 31st March.

Delta Flight Museum, Boeing 747-400

Hosts this Episode

Max Flight, Rob Mark, and Max Trescott. Contributions by Grant McHerron and Steve Visscher.

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.