Monday, February 28, 2011

Aircraft Accident Rate is Lowest in History, still Room for Improvement

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced the aviation safety performance for 2010 showing that the year’s accident rate for Western-built jet aircraft as the lowest in aviation history.

The 2010 global accident rate (measured in hull losses per million flights of Western-built jet aircraft) was 0.61. That is equal to one accident for every 1.6 million flights. This is a significant improvement of the 0.71 rate recorded in 2009 (one accident for 1.4 million flights). The 2010 rate was the lowest in aviation history, just below the 2006 rate of 0.65. Compared to 10 years ago, the accident rate has been cut 42% from the rate recorded in 2001. A hull loss is an accident in which the aircraft is destroyed or substantially damaged and is not subsequently repaired.

“Safety is the number one priority. Achieving the lowest accident rate in the history of aviation shows that this commitment is bearing results. Flying is safe. But every fatality is a human tragedy that reminds us of the ultimate goal of zero accidents and zero fatalities. We must remain focused and determined to move closer to this goal year by year,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

In absolute numbers, 2010 saw the following results:
2.4 billion people flew safely on 36.8 million flights (28.4 million jet, 8.4 million turboprop)
17 hull loss accidents involving western-built jet aircraft compared to 19 in 2009
94 accidents (all aircraft types, Eastern and Western built) compared to 90 in 2009
23 fatal accidents (all aircraft types) compared to 18 in 2009
786 fatalities compared to 685 in 2009
IATA member airlines outperformed the industry average with a Western-built jet hull loss rate of 0.25. That rate is equal to one accident for every 4 million flights. The IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) became a condition of IATA membership from 1 April 2009. All 234 IATA member airlines are now on the IOSA registry. The IOSA registry is open to all airlines and it currently consists of over 350 airlines.

“The numbers tell the story. In the first full year after the IOSA became a condition of IATA membership, the accident rate for IATA carriers has never been so low. The data confirms that IOSA is helping to drive safety improvements around the world. It is an important part of a comprehensive safety strategy involving governments and industry working together to further reduce the number of accidents and fatalities,” said Bisignani.
There are significant regional differences in the Western built jet hull loss accident rate:
North America (0.10), Europe (0.45), North Asia (0.34) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (0.0) performed better than the global average of 0.61
Asia-Pacific was higher than the global average at 0.80 in 2010 and about the same from the previous year (0.86)
The Middle East and North Africa region saw its accident rate fall significantly to 0.72 (compared to 3.32 in 2009) with only one accident involving a carrier from the region
Latin America & the Caribbean reported a higher accident rate of 1.87 with four airlines from the region involved in accidents, compared with a zero accident rate in 2009
Africa had an accident rate of 7.41, which was lower than the 2009 rate of 9.94. While showing improvement, Africa once again has the worst rate in the world.  There were four Western-built jet hull losses with African carriers in 2010. African carriers are 2% of global traffic, but 23% of global western-built jet hull losses.

Safety in Africa

In 2010, the accident rate of IOSA carriers in Africa (for all aircraft types) was more than 50% better than non-IOSA airlines. Among IATA’s efforts in Africa, it established the IATA Program for Safe Operations in Africa (IPSOA). IPSOA ensured that flight data analysis tools are available to all IATA carriers in Africa, and as of the last quarter of 2010, all IATA carriers have this essential safety tool in place. IPSOA will provide IATA with the data needed to develop safety programs targeted at specific challenges in the region.

“Flying must be equally safe in all parts of the world. An accident rate in Africa that is over 12 times the global average is not acceptable. Improvements can happen. IATA’s African carriers performed significantly better than non-IATA airlines in the region. I encourage all governments in the region to make use of the IOSA tool to boost the region’s performance,” said Bisignani.

An analysis of the causes of the 2010 accidents focuses on several areas:

Runway excursions, which are instances when an aircraft departs the runway during takeoff or landing, were once again the most common cause of accidents, accounting for 21% of all accidents in 2010 (vs. 26% in 2009).  The number of industry runway excursions accidents dropped by 13% (20 vs. 23 in 2009) and IATA members have reduced their runway excursion accidents by 43% since 2008 (4 vs. 7 in 2008).

IATA analysis shows about 35% of runway excursions on landing occurred on wet runways.  Another leading cause of runway excursions on landing is an “unstable approach,” where the aircraft is approaching too fast, too high, or touches down beyond the desired runway touchdown point. IATA is working with industry and regulators to address this safety challenge.

In 2009, IATA released the Runway Excursion Risk Reduction (RERR) toolkit which provides high-level reference material as well as an in-depth analysis of runway excursion accident data and a compilation of significant risk factors. The toolkit also provides recommendations for operators, pilots, airports, air traffic management, and regulators. A major update to the RERR toolkit is planned for the spring of 2011 and will bring together all major international safety organizations in a collaborative effort to eliminate these types of accidents.

Ground damage accounted for 11% of all accidents in 2010, improved from 17% in 2008 when IATA launched the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations (ISAGO) to address this challenge. ISAGO is the industry’s first global standard for the oversight and auditing of ground handling companies. The program, containing over 400 standards, was launched in February 2008 and the first audits took place in May of the same year. To date, a total of 288 audits have been conducted and 56 providers operating at 81 different locations are already on the ISAGO registry. The program has gained broad support from several aviation authorities and airports and has been mandated in Lebanon and Turkey.

Data Driving Further Improvements
Further improvements to the industry’s safety performance will be guided by data that can assist airlines in identifying trends and initiate preventive measures. IATA established the Global Safety Information Center (GSIC) in 2010.  This interactive website is a one-stop resource combining safety data from sources such as IOSA and ISAGO audits, flight data analysis, pilot reports and accident investigations without compromising commercial privacy.

“Safety is a constant challenge. Industry and governments need to accelerate their efforts on data sharing.  In 2010, IATA launched GSIC providing its members with unprecedented access to safety information. More than 430 different organizations are already submitting safety data into the GSIC, and over 50% of IATA member carriers are participating. Substantial GSIC expansion is planned over the next few years and the industry will reap the benefits,” said Bisignani.

In September 2010, IATA signed an historic agreement with the International Civil Aviation Organization, the US Department of Transportation and the Commission of the European Union to launch the Global Safety Information Exchange. This first global private/public partnership will exchange safety information aimed at improving safety by reducing risk.
“Safety is not a competitive issue—among carriers or governments. Improvement is in everybody’s interest. By sharing data and best practices we will continue to drive improvements to make a safe industry even safer,” said Bisignani.

Source :

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Beijing raises domestic jet fuel prices 5.8%

The Chinese government on Saturday responded to escalating oil prices by raising domestic jet fuel prices 5.8% to CNY6,340 ($963.56) per ton, putting added cost pressure on the country's airlines.

Fuel costs, on average, comprise about 40% of Chinese carriers' total expenses. Air China and China Eastern Airlines previously used fuel hedging to offset rising fuel prices, but Beijing disallowed it in 2008 after the two carriers took big hits on their hedging contracts when the oil bubble burst (ATW Daily News, Nov. 25, 2008).

CA and CEA are reportedly considering restarting fuel hedging but first must receive government approval. As a short-term solution, most Chinese carriers announced they have increased fuel surcharges on domestic routes.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

French city scraps subsidies to 'blackmailing' Ryanair

A French city said Wednesday it was ending the subsidies it pays Ryanair to maintain flights there because the Irish low-cost airline's demands were "intolerable" and amounted to blackmail.

The chamber of commerce in Pau, which runs the southwestern city's airport, has informed Ryanair of its decision "not to pay another penny in fees," said chamber official Christian Cloux.

Ryanair had asked Pau to hike its subsidies from 1.4 million euros ($2 million) a year to 1.5 million if it wants to maintain flights to Britain, Belgium and Paris, he said, calling the demand "financial blackmail."

"The situation had become intolerable," he told AFP.

Cloux said it was now up to the airline to decide if it wanted to maintain its routes or not, and added that low-cost airlines CityJet and Flybe were starting up routes from Pau without being promised any subsidies.

He said that if Ryanair services from Pau cease when its contract expires in April, this could cause a "small drop in traffic" but this would be "quickly compensated" for by other services and would not impact on jobs.

Ryanair mostly flies to cheaper and less busy airports across Europe where it pays a fraction of the fees charged at major hubs and where it can achieve faster turnaround times for its planes.

It often pressures regional authorities to provide financial aid in return for its continued presence.

The airline said earlier this month that it would reopen most of the routes from the French city Marseille which it shut in protest at being prosecuted over its employment practices.

Ryanair in January abandoned its base at Marseille airport in protest over French prosecutors' refusal to drop charges against it for hiring workers on Irish contracts, which they said breached labour laws.

The company cut 13 routes from Marseille to destinations in Europe and Morocco, served by four aircraft based in the French city. But it continued to run 10 routes to and from the airport by planes based elsewhere.

But Ryanair later said it would reopen routes and get around the court ruling by not basing its planes in Marseille on a permanent basis and by regularly changing the pilots and air crew working on the reopened routes.

Source :

Ryanair to significantly reduce presence in Girona

Ryanair will prune its base at Girona Airport at the end of this month, removing five aircraft, closing 18 routes and reducing frequencies on a further 17 routes, citing the refusal of the new government of Catalonia to honor the five-year extension agreement it reached with the outgoing government in December. The planned reduction equates to some 100 weekly flights. The five aircraft will be moved to “other airports elsewhere in Europe,” it said.

On Dec. 23 Ryanair and GRO management announced a new deal to expand the LCC’s presence at the airport, which would have seen it base up to 10 aircraft at the start of its summer 2011 schedule and open eight new routes, lifting its network to/from the airport to 64 routes.

“Ryanair sincerely regrets that the new government of Catalonia has failed to honor the recent five-year extension of our base agreement at Girona Airport despite the fact that it was consulted on its detail by the outgoing government,” Ryanair CEO Michael Cawley commented, claiming that the capacity cuts will result “in the loss of 1.7 million passengers annually and 1,700 jobs to other airports elsewhere in Europe.” 

Besides GRO, Ryanair operates two bases in the Barcelona region, at Reus and Barcelona El Prat. It opened the latter in September, raising speculation that it might result in the closure of GRO or REU (ATW Daily News, May 27, 2010).

Separately, Ryanair on Wednesday officially opened its second maintenance hangar at Glasgow Prestwick. The 6,000 sq. m. hangar will maintain a large portion of Ryanair’s 260 aircraft fleet and represents an investment of £8 million ($12.9 million). The Scottish government, Scottish Enterprise and PIK secured the investment early last year, following a tender and competition from five other Ryanair bases throughout Europe. The Scottish government contributed £1.5 million toward the cost of the hangar through a series of grants, including £640,000 in training grants.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Aviation Industry's Love Affair with Crowd Sourcing

The Air transport industry has recently seen a flurry in open competitions that merge brand development with the idea that the crowd might have the next breakthrough in mind. Let's go for a brief summary of what is currently done in this field.

The Airbus Fly Your Idea challenge

Airbus said more than 2,600 students have registered for the second biennial Fly Your Ideas contest that challenges university students from around the world to develop new ideas for a greener aviation industry. Students of 75 nationalities made up the 315 teams that entered the first round, a 40% increase compared to the first year of the competition in 2009.

Of the 315 teams representing 287 universities, 84 have been selected to advance to Round 2. Five teams with the most exciting projects will be chosen in May and advance to the FYI final with the winner to be announced at the Paris Air Show in June. The winning team will take away a €30,000 first prize with the runner-up receiving €15,000.

The Boeing 2008 Boeing Shanghai Challenge

The Boeing Shanghai Challenge, hosted by Boeing, Boeing Shanghai Aviation Services, Tsinghua University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, invited teams of students from across China to prepare "green" concepts for the Boeing Shanghai Aviation Services MRO operation.

More than 35 teams from 10 top universities and five aeronautical universities in China participated. The entries were judged on creativity of solution, technical feasibility, depth and completeness of technical analysis, and clarity of presentation.

The Amadeus Brighter, Bolder, Better Ideas for Travel

"At Amadeus we aspire to be Brighter, Bolder, Better in everything we do. Our aim is to improve the travel experience and you can help make the difference. Remember, the greatest ideas can have the simplest beginning.

Participate in our "Brighter, Bolder, Better ideas for travel" competition and share your idea to make the travel experience Brighter, Bolder, Better. Amadeus will reward the best ideas with up to € 20,000 to help you make your idea happen."

- Text from the competition website :

To get to know their system, I posted an idea myself which is entitled "An Intelligent Natural Language Booking System" : (Do not hesitate to vote for it since I would really like it to come true and I will study in the field of computational linguistics to be able to work on the matter!)

What does these moves suggest?

Networking and creating facebook/twitter events are the new buzzwords in advertisement. Theses campaigns have the merit of developping brand awareness for business to business companies (Airbus and Boeing are aircraft manufacturers and Amadeus is a GDS provider) that would otherwise never be known by the average consumer and traveler.

It is also a good way to boost recruitment of young engineers and scientists. For its part, AMADEUS is currently hiring many programmers. Many Engineer students from the ENAC (Mostly from the Computer Science and Civil Aviation Majors) have been contacted for a training period in Sophia Antipolis where the company's headquarters are based. Wages are impressive compared to what cash strapped airlines have to offer. Showing an open mindedness in looking for ideas and a presence on social networks is a good bet to lure the new generation.

Beyond that, it is interesting to point out that the Airline industry has been pretty stable in its business for the past decades. It is true that Low Cost Companies have been a disruptive force, but they fly exactly the same planes as Legacy Airlines. And many people notice that airplanes are looking a lot more alike nowadays : Russian Sukhoi 100, European A350 and American B787, Chinese C919 all have the same fuselage and wings!The last truly different technology was the Concorde which provided supersonic travel. The return on investment in research on how to reach perfection in the current airliner is getting lower and lower. And many new challenges arise. What will fly when there won't be any more oil?

These are all state of the art air planes by different manufacturers
 (Bombardier, Comac, Embraer, Sukhoi, Airbus, Boeing). Spot the difference!
To this great question, the best R&D labs in the Industry are as likely to come up with the IDEA as the average joe. FYI, BBB and BSC might be as many aknowledgements of that shift in how quantum leaps are made.

By Thibaut Labarre (student at the ENAC National School for Civil aviation)

Airport capacity will be the next blocking factor to growth in air transport

Eurocontrol released its latest 20-year forecast that shows the number of flights increasing 1.8 times to 16.9 million IFR movements from a 2009 base in the most likely scenario.The range of the forecast scenarios is between 13.1 and 20.9 million flights in 2030 with growth at an average of 1.6% to 3.9% annually, with 2.8% the most likely.

It warns that future air traffic will be limited by capacity at the airports, with between 0.7 and 5 million flights not being accommodated in 2030, or between 5% and 19% of demand. However, that congestion is lower than in the forecast two years ago, with the drop in traffic in 2009 giving the system some extra years to react and adapt. But once the limits are reached, the number of unaccommodated flights increases quickly.

The forecast says that even with capacity restrictions, airports will grow, and in 2030 there will be 13 to 34 as big as today’s top seven, with some of the faster growing East European airports joining the top 25.

The report suggests that on short-haul, high-speed trains will continue to compete with air transport. However, while there will be new or improved HST connections on some 40 city-pairs, the impact on air travel will only be 0.5%.

Source :

The Rise of Gulf Carriers

For Emirates Airline, all routes lead to Dubai. The strategically located aviation hub is the centrepiece of the carrier’s ambitious expansion strategy to tap economic growth in India, China and the Middle East.

For its competitors, the renegade carrier and its grand plans have the potential to change global air traffic patterns, disrupting a fragile industry that’s already under pressure from rising fuel prices.

Emirates’ game plan – funnelling travellers through Dubai instead of Europe, and on larger and larger planes – has worked wonders so far. The state-owned carrier has managed to not only survive but thrive as an independent carrier, declining to join one of the three major airline alliances in the world – Star, SkyTeam and Oneworld. When it launched in 1985, Emirates flew only to Pakistan and had just two planes. Now, it flies to more than 110 destinations in 66 countries and has some 150 wide-body jets, including 15 Airbus A380 double-decker planes and 85 Boeing 777s. Emirates has become the world’s sixth-largest airline for international passenger traffic. Emirates also sharply increased its orders for new Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s – planes that are larger and more fuel-efficient than the Airbus A330s and A340s in its fleet. More than 190 aircraft are on order, including about 75 Airbus A380 double-decker planes, which seat almost 500 passengers, and nearly 50 Boeing 777s, which have room for about 400 travellers. In 2015, the 350-seat Airbus A350 will be introduced into the Emirates fleet.

Dubai on a map
Emirates’ success reflects the emergence of a new world economic order, one in which other Gulf carriers such as Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways and Doha-based Qatar Airways are also rapidly expanding, said Robert Kokonis, president of airline consulting firm AirTrav Inc. “The balance of economic power is shifting away from North America and Europe,” said Mr. Kokonis, who depicts Emirates as a trailblazer seeking to take advantage of Dubai’s location in the thick of global air traffic routes.”

Travellers appreciate Emirates’ far-reaching network and its attentive in-flight service and quality meals – impressive enough for Air Transport World magazine to name it the world’s “airline of the year” for 2011. The carrier specializes in long-haul flights connecting the globe’s major cities: Are you flying from Toronto to Mumbai, or Sao Paulo to Delhi, or Milan to Sydney? Aboard Emirates, the common theme is a stopover in Dubai, one of seven sheikdoms in the UAE.

Even travellers who could take a non-stop flight between western Europe and southeast Asia have opted for Emirates since it offers the comfort of bigger and newer planes, as well as better departure times on competitive flight paths and posh seating pods in first class and the executive-class cabin. On the upper level of the Emirates-operated A380, there are 14 suites in first class and 76 lie-flat seats in business class. First class includes a lounge and two shower spas.

But in opting for Emirates and its mandatory Dubai stopover, passengers are forsaking the traditional aviation map, in which national-flag carriers carved out lucrative routes for themselves and their alliances by focusing on such cities as London, Paris and Frankfurt.

Many passengers are accustomed to flying through these European hubs en route to China, India and the Middle East. But Emirates wants to increase its flights from North America, South America and Europe – via Dubai – to China and India, and to a lesser extent, Africa and Russia. It’s also counting on boosting traffic east to west, hoping to persuade more travellers in China and India to catch its planes when flying to Africa, Russia, North America, South America and Europe.

Boeing unveils new 747-8 Intercontinental

US planemaker Boeing has unveiled the latest version of its jumbo jet.

The 747-8 Intercontinental will seat 467 passengers - 51 more than the current 747 - while burning less fuel, the firm says.

But Boeing has won just 33 orders for the passenger version of the plane so far - from Lufthansa and Korean Air Lines.

However it has also sold 74 of the cargo version of the plane, which has already flown.

The new plane was unveiled to a crowd of 10,000 Boeing employees, their families and invited guests in the same hangar where the first 747 was seen in 1968.

"Of all the airplanes that we've built, there is one that is identified more closely with Boeing than any other, and that's the 747," said James Albaugh, head of Boeing's commercial airplane unit.

Other features of the Intercontinental include new wings, a new tail, a sharper nose, state-of-the-art engines and a new cockpit.

And while it carries fewer passengers than the Airbus A380, it will be the world's longest airliner.

Boeing said it was confident it would receive more orders once the passenger plane enters service later this year - although the first delivery will be for an unnamed VIP customer.

It also hopes that US president's fleet of two planes - Air Force One - will eventually be replaced with 747-8s.

The first Boeing 747 was launched 42 years ago, with more than 1,400 sold until the 747-400 was withdrawn from sale last year.

Its new model is seen as competition for the Airbus A380 superjumbo.

But many analysts say carriers were interested in smaller wide-bodied planes such as the 787 and the Airbus A350 which are designed to bypass busy hubs and take passengers closer to their final destination.

On Monday, Boeing will give an update on the progress of its long-delayed 787 Dreamliner - whose late arrival has heavily damaged its credibility.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lufthansa, TAP Portugal, Turkish, Brussels Airlines targeted in EC codeshare probe

The European Commission announced Friday that it has launched formal antitrust investigations into the free-flow codeshare agreements between Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines on the Munich-Istanbul Ataturk and Frankfurt-IST routes and between Brussels Airlines and TAP Portugal on the Brussels-Lisbon route. The two investigations are separate. All four airlines are members of Star Alliance.

"While codeshare agreements can provide substantial benefits to passengers, some types of such agreements may also produce anti-competitive effects," the EC said in a statement, noting it had opened the investigations on its own initiative. "These investigations focus on a particular type of codesharing arrangement where these airlines have agreed to sell seats on each others' flights on the Germany-Turkey routes and on the Belgium-Portugal routes, where both companies already operate their own flights between their own hubs ('parallel hub-to-hub codesharing') and should, in principle, be competing with each other."

LH and THY are the major operators on the MUN-IST and FRA-IST routes while SN and TAP are the only operators on the BRU-LIS route. LH holds a 45% stake in SN, with the option to buy the remaining 55% this year.

The EC pointed out that the investigation does not imply that it has conclusive proof of an infringement.

Source :

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Airlines Cancelling Flights to Avoid Fines

Dec. 27, 2010: Snow removal crews work to clear runways at Philadelphia International Airport. A powerful East Coast blizzard menaced would-be travelers by air, rail and highway, leaving thousands without a way to get home after the holidays and shutting down major airports and rail lines for days.

Airlines managed to keep their on-time rate for December flat with year-ago results despite severe weather and a higher rate of flight cancellations, with carriers scrubbing scheduled flights in part to avoid costly tarmac delays.

Cancellations in December rose to 3.7 percent of all scheduled flights for the 18 largest domestic carriers, versus 2.8 percent in the same month last year, according to data provided Thursday. The on-time rate for the month was 72 percent, the same as a year ago.

“Airlines are pre-canceling simply to avoid a potential tarmac delay,” said Terry Trippler, a travel analyst at consultancy Rules to Know.'

Starting in April, airlines face fines of up to $27,000 a person on aircraft sitting on a tramac for more than three hours. Lawmakers passed the rules following a string of horror stories of passengers being stuck on planes for long periods of time without food, fresh water or clean lavatories.

Pre-canceling flights have helped airlines avoid such costly fees, but it has also provided some benefit to fliers. With the use of social networking Web sites and text messages, airlines have gotten better at keeping customers up to date on their flight status.

“If they are notified of a cancellation early enough, they don’t even have to go to the airport,” Trippler said. “The only problem is that because of heavy load factors, you don’t always have a flight to get out on right away.”

Load factors among major carriers, which reflect how many seats are purchased on an average flight, have been at record levels for the industry following two years of seat capacity reductions.

Source :

Thai airline trains transsexual flight attendants

Four Thai "ladyboys" have been recruited as flight attendants for a start-up charter airline that says it will be Thailand's first to include transsexuals among its cabin crew.

P.C. Air, which will fly to several Asian destinations starting in April, had its first training session this week for 30 recruits, including four from "the third sex."

Thailand is known for its tolerance for transvestites and transsexuals, known locally as "katoeys" or "ladyboys." An annual transsexual beauty pageant is broadcast nationally, and Thai doctors' well-honed skills at the snipping and reassembling needed to switch genders - not to mention bargain prices - have made Bangkok a sex-change capital.

But while katoeys are prominent in entertainment, frequently appearing on television series and in cabaret shows, other job opportunities are limited.

"I had applied to many airlines and was repeatedly turned down. They said because I was a transsexual, not a real woman," said Phuntakarn Sringern, 24, from Bangkok. "This is the first time somebody told me to come as I am and put on my best dress."

Company president Peter Chan, 47, who worked as a flight attendant for 10 years, said he doesn't "see any reasons we cannot let ladyboys work as flight attendants" as long as his carrier complies with civil aviation laws.

"I think it's time for the Thai society to be more open and support freedom of all sexes," he said.

The airline has separate orientation sessions for male and female recruits, and the transsexuals have been placed with the natural-born women. Chan said the transsexuals must live up to feminine standards.

"For ladyboys, we have to spend more than one day with them to make sure they can keep their feminine personalities. Their voices and their postures must be naturally feminine and they must be very patient," he said.

Becoming a flight attendant has long been the dream of Dissanai Chitpraphachin, 23, a native of Mahasarakam province in Thailand's rural northeast and a former winner of the Miss Tiffany pageant for transsexuals.

"When I was young, I couldn't take my eyes off those nicely dressed ladies in the airline commercials every time they came on the screen," Dissanai said. "I simply want everyone to open up their hearts and judge us by our work, not because of our sex."

Source :

Friday, February 11, 2011

Report: Air France A318 near Aurillac on Jun 2nd 2010, near collision with private plane indicating false altitude

An Air France Airbus A318-100, registration F-GUGJ performing flight AF-7850 from Lyon to Toulouse (France), entered Bordeaux FIR at FL230 intending to climb higher. The airplane was tracking on an southwesterly heading towards OLRAK waypoint at N44.7844 E2.8372.

Some time earlier a private Pilatus 12 enroute from Buochs (Switzerland) to San Sebastian,SP (Spain), had entered the FIR of Bordeaux indicating FL270. The airplane was equipped with two independent pitot systems, one supplying the left hand and the other supplying the right hand instruments. The pilot reported that he had a disagreeing altitude indication, his left hand instruments showing FL270 (also indicating an airspeed of 90 KIAS) and the right hand instruments showing FL290 (and an airspeed of 160 KIAS). His GPS did not allow him to determine which altimeter was indicating correctly. He requested military radar should determine by any means except secondary radar (e.g. using primary radar) which altitude he was at. The pilot was using procedures for unreliable airspeed setting according cruise thrust and monitoring his attitude. Upon being contacted by the civil air traffic controller the military stated that they had no primary radar available, but would check. The military controller subsequently called the civil coordination center, then told Bordeaux controllers that the airplane "reads FL270 in mode C".

Following that information Bordeaux cleared the Air France A318 to climb to FL290, the A318 tracking at a ground speed of about 170 knots faster than the Pilatus and behind the Pilatus on the same track.

Bordeaux subsequently informed the Pilatus about being at exactly FL270.

About 10 minutes later the Pilatus pilot reported that an Air France Airbus had passed very close to him and asked what altitude that Airbus was. The controller replied that the Airbus had been 2000 feet above the Pilatus, to which the Pilatus pilot replied that the Airbus had been just below and inquired whether the military was sure about the altitude.

Another minute later the Air France captain reported an airprox incident stating that they had just overtaken another aircraft at the same level while making an avoidance maneouver to the left. They had no TCAS information about the traffic.

The Air France crew had noticed some strange roll oscillations of about 5 degrees of their aircraft as if in wake turbulence and checked their instruments. Seeing nothing abnormal they continued their preparations for the arrival in Toulouse, when they encountered another series of roll oscillations as if in wake turbulence. The co-pilot therefore looked outside and spotted an aircraft slightly above and to the right. The co-pilot disconnected the autopilot, pitched the aircraft down and rolled left, the crew observing their navigation display for conflicting traffic below, seeing no other traffic at their level and becoming aware of a displayed target at FL270 without making the connection to the Pilatus. The A318 descended by about 200 feet before becoming clear of conflict. The crew estimated the minimum separation between the aircraft by about 100 feet vertically and 15-30 meters (0.008nm-0.016nm) laterally.

The Pilatus pilot realized after seeing the A318 that they were at FL290, not at FL270, and requested to descend to a level where they were clear of all traffic.

The short term collision warning did not trigger in the ATC control room, no TCAS traffic or resolution advisory was issued.

The Airbus continued to Toulouse for a safe landing, the report did not state, whether the Pilatus continued to destination or diverted.

The French BEA released their final report concluding the probable cause was:

This incident was due to a leak at level of the static pressure line supplying the left side barometric and speed unit. This leak caused erroneous altitude and speed information to be supplied and led the PC 12 to fly at a level that was in conflict with flight AF 850 NE, without the risk of collision between the 2 airplanes being detected either by the ATC, or by the anti-collision systems such as the STCA or the TCAS.

The flight level displayed on the ground systems did not make it possible to dispel the doubt and thus led all of those involved (crew and controllers) to believe a flight level for the airplane that was erroneous. Due to this, the crew did not search any further for the causes of the inconsistency in the speed observed on the left side unit.

The Pilatus pilot reported that both altimeters had indicated the same altitude during departure. During the climb slight variations were observed that increased with altitude. He therefore considered to return to the departure aerodrome which had mediocre weather conditions and was in the midst of mountains with an unreliable altimeter. Given that the weather forecast enroute and at destination were very favourable he therefore decided to continue. While level at FL100 he informed Bern ATC that he had variations on his altimeters and asked Bern to confirm his altitude. Bern replied they were on FL100.

While the airplane climbed towards cleared FL270 the differences between the altimeters and air speed indicators increased further. He tried to verify his altitude with the GPS but the GPS was indicating exactly between FL270 and FL290 and did not allow the identify the altimeter indicating correctly (due to the standard pressure setting and altimeters showing barometric altitude the GPS showing geometric altitude is not a suitable tool to identify the altitude, the BEA annotated). The pilot noticed that the right hand speed of 160 KIAS was consistent with his aircraft weight and indicated flight level 290 (manual stated an indicated airspeed of 165 KIAS), while the left hand airspeed of 90 KIAS was inconcistent with the indicated FL270 (manual stated 158 KIAS). However, after the assurance of being at FL270 he decided to trust the left hand pitot system but continued to use unreliable airspeed procedures.

The BEA determined that the left hand static port pressure line had a leak at a connector, which allowed the air from the pressurized cabin (service ceiling 30,000 feet) to penetrate the static port line and increase the pressure at the static port. This pressure increase was equivalent to 2000 feet at FL290, so that the left hand altimeter showed FL270 and the air speed indicator showed a less than real value.

The Pilatus had just undergone an annual maintenance during which both static port lines were subjected to tests. This required the connector to be unscrewed before the test und reconnected after the test with re-screwing being made difficult due to limited space and the presence of an electrical plug nearby.

The BEA released three safety recommendations as result of the investigation:

- "that the DSNA implement, in the shortest possible time, an emergency procedure so that ATC ensures that there is a safety space around an aircraft as soon as the crew casts doubt on its vertical position, without waiting for the latter to declare a distress or emergency situation."

- "that procedures in the flight manual relating to situations of doubtful or erroneous altitude be completed or developed by manufacturers."

- "that these cases be considered as emergency situations that must be declared without delay by crews to the ATC services."

The left hand instruments at FL290 (Photo: BEA/Pilatus crew):
 The right hand instruments at FL290 (Photo: BEA/Pilatus crew):
 The leaking connector (Photo: BEA):
 Radar Image (Photo: BEA):

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Sick of Surly Airline Staff? Delta Sends 11,000 Employees to Charm School

The Atlanta-based airline hopes customer-service classes will help its staff lose the 'tude, and bring back service with a smile.

But Delta has a long way to go before passengers will forget its abysmal record in 2010. During the first nine months of last year, Delta recorded the highest rate of customer complaints with the Department of Transportation. It finished the year with the highest rate of canceled flights. And, as of November 2010, it was ranked second-to-last for on-time arrivals among major carriers. "Nobody here aspires to being what we were last summer," said Delta Executive Vice President Glen Hauenstein.

So, as part of a $2 billion improvement plan, the airline is sending its ground staff to finishing school. All employees who come face-to-face with travelers—that includes ticketing agents, gate agents and their supervisors—must attend a one-day session where they engage in role play scenarios with angry, confused and lost customers. Scenes involve late-arriving passengers who will likely miss their next flight and travelers with lost luggage that contains important medicines. Apparently some staff need to be taught that the goal is to assist customers, not to pass them on to someone else.

Adjusting an employee's attitude is one thing; bending the rules is something else entirely. Delta doesn't encourage staff to bypass procedures or offer waivers as part of the training. Instead, the airline emphasizes delivering bad news with a smile instead of a scowl. Should customers complain about baggage fees, staff shouldn't blame fuel prices. And they should never apologize for the fees, but explain that they are part of an "a la carte" program where customers pay for what they use.

"That is a better way to have that conversation," Michael Hazelton, a Delta agent and trainer, told the Journal. "You may think you are bonding with the customer by agreeing the fees are horrible, but the customer thinks, 'This person just threw his company under the bus.'"
Depending on the customer's point of view, that could be a bonding experience.

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European Airlines Drop After Air France Cuts Outlook

Air France-KLM Group, Deutsche Lufthansa AG and International Consolidated Airlines Group SA, Europe’s three biggest carriers, all dropped after Air France reported an unexpected quarterly loss and cut its forecast.

The fiscal third-quarter net loss was 46 million euros ($63 million), missing a forecast for 60 million euros in profit, based on the average of seven analyst estimates. Air France now targets a “positive operating result” for the fiscal year, after earlier predicting profit of more than 300 million euros.

Earnings declined after French air traffic control strikes and weather disruptions caused the cancellation of flights. Air France, Europe’s largest airline, also said overcapacity was crimping yields, a measure of profitability, and that fuel costs rose by 28 percent to 1.35 billion euros.

“The one-off items are an added negative distraction, but fuel and capacity are the big issues,” said Chris Logan, an analyst at Echelon Research and Advisory in London. “IAG and Lufthansa are also exposed, not just on fuel costs but also pricing if capacity returns faster than expected.”

Air France declined 1.05 euros, or 7.7 percent, to 12.57 euros in Paris, the biggest drop since Feb. 11, 2010. Lufthansa fell 2.5 percent, while IAG, owner of British Airways and Iberia Lineas Aereas de Espana, dropped 3.3 percent.

Capacity Gains

Capacity, or available seats, is up about 10 percent across the North Atlantic in February as rival European carriers, particularly British Airways, have added seats, Air France-KLM Chief Executive Pierre-Henri Gourgeon said today. Air France has boosted capacity on the routes by 1 percent to 2 percent.

Airlines worldwide slashed services in the wake of the global recession as demand for air travel plummeted. As economies recovered demand for flights exceeded supply, allowing airlines to boost yields.

Air France canceled 6,900 flights after the French strikes in October and heavy December snowfalls in northern Europe and the U.S. The disruptions led to the loss of 100 million euros in revenue, the airline said yesterday.

“The impact of the weather is much higher than was expected,” said Yan Derocles, an analyst at Oddo Securities in Paris who recommends buying the stock. “The overcapacity situation is clearly worrying and clearly negative.”

Air France also said “security issues” in countries the airline serves, including Tunisia and Egypt, where there have been uprisings against the ruling governments, would likely hurt revenue in the current quarter.

Lowering Costs

Employee costs fell by 1.3 percent to 1.84 billion euros in the quarter, partially helping offset a surge in fuel costs. Air France hedged 14 percent of fuel costs, mitigating the rise. The airline has hedged about 50 percent of fuel for next year, it said today.

“Air France has done a reasonable job on head count and employee costs, but the fuel bill is now so big relative to the other costs that airlines just can’t take non-fuel costs down enough to keep overall costs unchanged,” said Echelon’s Logan.

IAG will post its first earnings report as a joint company on February 25, it said today. The company will announce full- year earnings for Iberia and nine-month results for BA. Lufthansa reports its 2010 full-year earnings March 17.

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Monday, February 7, 2011

Senate would criminalize laser targeting of planes

Pointing handheld lasers at aircraft - a growing problem that aviation officials warn could lead to a crash - would become a federal crime punishable by up to five years in prison under an amendment approved by the Senate on Thursday.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., the sponsor of the amendment, said he was responding to a surge in incidents in which people have pointed at aircraft powerful lasers capable of temporarily blinding pilots.

The Federal Aviation Administration says the number of incidents in which people pointed lasers at planes and helicopters nearly doubled last year, from 1,527 in 2009 to 2,836 in 2010. FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt has said that in some instances pilots have had to relinquish control of their aircraft to another pilot because they couldn't see.

"This is a national security threat," Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., said. "As the technology increases, it's going to blind pilots permanently. Maybe if they're accurate, they blind both the pilot and co-pilot. ... There will be a future for terrorists in this business."

The amendment was approved on a 96-1 vote. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., was the only senator to vote against the proposal.

"I think that it is a bad idea to point lasers at pilots and there are a lot of states that already have laws" against doing that, Paul said. "I think the states ought to take care of it."

A similar proposal has been introduced in the House.

The rise in incidents has coincided with a growing hobbyist market for handheld lasers that are far more powerful — and potentially dangerous — than the typical laser pointer. At the same time prices have dropped. Lasers that once cost more than $1,000 can now be bought online for a few hundred dollars or less.

Dozens of people in the United States and around the world have been arrested for pointing lasers at aircraft cockpits, most often near airports during takeoffs and landings. Those are the most critical phases of flight, when pilots need to be their most alert.

In some cases authorities have described the laser pointings as malicious acts. But in others, laser enthusiasts have said they didn't realize the lasers could cause harm at seemingly long distances. Hobbyists often use the lasers at night when they are most visible against the night sky.

Interference with commercial airlines is already a federal crime. But current law has a gap that weakens the FBI's ability to investigate laser incidents involving helicopters, said Dave Joly, a spokesman for the FBI in Denver, where 38 laser incidents were reported last year. The law covers mass transportation, but helicopters aren't considered mass-transit aircraft, Joly said.

There have been many instances of lasers pointed at helicopters, including police helicopters. Helicopters are especially vulnerable because they fly at lower altitudes than planes.

The vote makes the amendment part of a bill pending before the Senate to authorize FAA programs for the next two years. It also would speed up the FAA's transition from an air traffic control system based on World War II-era radar technology to one based on satellite-based technology.

The Senate also rejected an amendment by Paul that would have exempted FAA programs from a federal law that requires government contractors to pay construction workers the prevailing local wage.

Read more:

Thursday, February 3, 2011

IATA: Business traffic shows strong growth in 2010; rising oil prices fuel uncertainty in 2011

IATA reported that world international RPKs rose 8.2% last year compared to 2009, while FTKs climbed 20.6%, showing the “the world is moving again.” However, the sharp rise in oil prices could make for a difficult 2011, IATA cautioned.

“After the biggest demand decline in the history of aviation in 2009, people started to travel and do business again in 2010,” IATA DG and CEO Giovanni Bisignani stated. “Airlines ended the year slightly ahead of the early 2008 volumes but with a pathetic 2.7% profit margin,” he said, noting that “the challenge is to turn the demand for mobility into sustainable profits.”

According to IATA, traffic growth outstripped capacity increases of 4.4% for passenger traffic (ASKs) and 8.9% for cargo (AFTKs). Average passenger load factor for the year was 78.4%, which is a 2.7 point improvement on 2009. The freight load factor saw a 5.2 point improvement to 53.8%, said IATA.

IATA noted that the severe weather in Europe and North America in December “put a dent into the industry’s recovery,” as estimates show “this shaved 1% off of total traffic demand for the month.” As a result, said IATA, international RPKs grew just 4.9% in December compared to December 2009 levels, significantly lower than the 8.2% growth recorded in November. Hardest hit was Europe, which saw December growth slow to 3.3%, the report stated.

IATA said Middle Eastern carriers reported the strongest full-year passenger growth at 17.8%, “on the back of a 13.2% capacity increase fueled largely by aircraft deliveries to Gulf-based airlines.” African carriers experienced a “sharp rebound," with RPKs up 12.9%, the report said. Asia-Pacific carriers recorded a 9% year-on-year increase, followed by Latin American carriers at 8.2%, despite a 1.1% decrease in December, a reflection of the Mexicana bankruptcy. North American and European carriers had an increase of 7.4% and 5.1%, respectively.

According to the report, international freight demand growth varied widely over the year from a high of 35.2% in May to a low of 5.8% in November. However, IATA noted that “overall the industry is trending toward normal growth pattern in line with the historical growth rate of 5%-6%.”

Source :

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A new in-flight news bulletin, exclusively produced by Euronews

Starting on 29 January 2011, Air France offers on all its long-haul flights a new weekly news broadcast produced by Euronews, the leading international news channel in Europe.

This news bulletin, produced exclusively for Air France, offers a 40-minute round-up of the week’s main news.

Accessible in French and English versions as part of the in-flight entertainment programme, the bulletin covers worldwide, economic, cultural and sports news, from an international angle.

This new news service provides viewers with in-depth, contextual reporting on the major stories, complementing the daily news bulletin. It will replace the different news programmes available to date.
About the Air France in-flight entertainment programme
Air France offers on board its long-haul flights a “VOD” (video-on-demand) in-flight entertainment system, comprising over 500 hours of programmes, including 85 feature films – some of them translated into nine languages -, 30 hours of TV programmes (cult series, exclusive news programmes, documentaries, etc.) and a juke-box selection of 200 CDs, 23 radio channels, video clips and music programmes. 17 interactive games are also offered, including the Berlitz® language learning programme and the RelaxLine® personalized relaxation programme.

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Winter storm snowballs airlines

Airlines canceled thousands of flights for a second day and began to regroup as a historic winter storm pushed through the upper Midwest and into the Northeast on Wednesday.

O'Hare International Airport was expected to have limited or no flight operations as up to two feet of snow was forecast to fall on the Windy City, said Karen Pride, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Aviation. More than 1,300 flights were canceled on Tuesday.

At Chicago's Midway Airport, airlines canceled flight operations on Tuesday. The carriers expect to begin operating again on Wednesday afternoon, although most weren't likely to resume before evening, Pride said.

Both Chicago airports remained open despite the grounding of flights. Hundreds of cots were made available to passengers stranded by the storm, according to Pride. Some concessions were to remain open to accommodate them.

Airlines canceled more than 4,000 flights on Tuesday as the massive storm surged out of the southern Plains, spreading snow and ice from Texas into the Ohio Valley.

"It's going to take days to clear out this storm," said CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras. "This is a monster."

It was also slow going at other airports.

Dallas-Fort Worth International reopened late Tuesday morning after shutting down for several hours because of ice, spokesman David Magana said.
American Airlines canceled about 1,900 flights for Tuesday, 800 of those at Dallas-Forth Worth alone. The carrier is also scrubbing more than 1,000 flights for Wednesday.

American Airlines is allowing travelers who are scheduled to fly on Monday through Thursday from more than 30 airports in the Midwest -- including those in Chicago, Detroit and Milwaukee, Wisconsin -- to change their plans without penalty.

Southwest Airlines canceled more than 900 flights on Tuesday, according to spokeswoman Marilee McInnis, who said hundreds of flights will likely be grounded for Wednesday.

Passengers with reservations for travel through Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit and other cities are eligible to reschedule their flights.

AirTran Airways scrubbed 185 flights for Tuesday and has canceled another 75 flights on Wednesday, spokesman Christopher White said.

AirTran passengers traveling through two dozen cities in the region -- including Chicago, St. Louis and Boston -- can change their reservation without penalty.

Delta Air Lines canceled 625 flights for Tuesday and was grounding at least 800 more for Wednesday.

Ahead of the storm, Delta issued a winter weather advisory for the northern United States. Passengers traveling to airports in 20 states through Friday can reschedule their itineraries without a fee or get a refund if their flights are canceled or significantly delayed.

Continental Airlines, which canceled 650 flights, will allow changes for travel to, through and from nearly three dozen airports, including the airline's hubs in Newark in New Jersey and Cleveland for travelers scheduled to fly through Thursday.

Continental said operations at Newark airport would be suspended through noon Wednesday.

US Airways has also relaxed its change-fee policies for passengers scheduled to fly through Thursday to or from 27 cities from Portland, Maine, to Akron, Ohio.

Travelers on JetBlue flights to and from six cities and metropolitan areas in the Northeast on Tuesday and Wednesday will also be able to change their plans with no fees.

United Airlines, which canceled 800 flights, has issued travel waivers for passengers traveling to, from or through 19 states in the Midwest and Northeast as well as five Canadian cities. Travelers will be able to alter their plans without fees or get a full refund if their flight is canceled.

Facebook for Free on Flights in February

This month, a cross-country flight won't be a reason to temporarily suspend a poke war. Seven airlines will offer free access to Facebook via their Wi-Fi networks for the month of February.

The no-cost service will be available through a partnership between Gogo Inflight Internet and Ford, and will be offered on North American flights of Virgin America, AirTran, US Airways, American Airlines, Delta, United Airlines, and Alaska Airlines, Gogo said in a blog post.

Passengers that want to use the Internet beyond some in-flight Facebooking will have to pay extra. Prices for onboard Wi-Fi range from $4.95 on short trips to $12.95 for longer flights.

USA Today said Facebook is the number one trafficked site that passengers visit via Gogo, a service that provides Wi-Fi connections for 1,100 commercial planes on roughly 3,800 flights every day. Gogo said that emailing is the top activity passengers do on its network.

Virgin was the first airline to offer Gogo, and the company said in the USA Today report that a third of its passengers use Wi-Fi via Gogo onboard.

Gogo has been working to promote its service recently to gain more visibility. Through a partnership with Google, it recently offered free Wi-Fi on holiday flights on Virgin, AirTran, and American Airlines.

Although in-flight Wi-Fi has been available for some time, one analyst told USA Today that just seven to 10 percent of passengers on connected planes actually use the service.