Friday, September 28, 2012

ParisTech Review. Air traffic is expected to rise globally, particularly in Asia, but if it is to comply with the environmental objectives set out by the international community, the energy consumption of aircrafts has to be reduced. Are we on track?

Didier-François Godart. The whole aviation industry is focused on this ambition. Engine improvements, the electrification of planes and new solutions such as “green taxiing” (rolling on the tarmac with engines offline) will allow airline companies to save both CO2 and money. One should not underestimate the operational benefits: punctuality will increase and congestion at gates and parking areas will be reduced. As an indication, a major airline that adopts “green taxiing” on all its planes will save enough to buy a new plane each year. It is anything but a marginal factor.

The “electric plane” is all the rage in aeronautics. But what will truly be electric in it?

The only primary energy source on board of a commercial plane, in 2012, is kerosene. From that kerosene three other secondary energy sources are generated: hydraulics, pneumatics and electrical. These energies, also known as non-propellant, are used to power various items on board. About 5% to 6% of kerosene is consumed to power the non-propulsive secondary sources. This is an average. It depends on the phases of flight. The so-called “electric airplane” is a vehicle in which all three secondary energies will be replaced by electric-only systems. And believe me, this is quite a disruption already.

Given that kerosene is burned as primary energy anyways, what is the benefit of having electricity as the only secondary energy source?

Electrical power has many advantages over hydraulics and pneumatics. First, it consumes less, overall, because it consumes just what you need, whereas you need to maintain hydraulic pressure even when it is not in use, which involves an energy cost. Another significant gain revolves around maintenance: it is much easier to maintain and repair an electrical system than a hydraulic one. This improved maintenance will have important consequences on the availability of the aircraft, which is a key factor for operators. Finally, the electric plane will burn less fuel because the consumption of non-propulsive energy will be optimized. It won’t have to be grounded as often and will therefore be cheaper for airlines and thus, for passengers too.

Airplanes, excepting the most recent ones, have been designed in an era of cheap oil, without much attention to the secondary consumption. Where are we wasting the most?

For instance, take the design of the pressurization system, which is powered by collecting air on the engines. It can be streamlined, dramatically optimizing its overall energy balance… Today, when pressurizing the cabin, part of the compressed air which comes from the reactors is pumped in. But this bleed air is extracted at high temperature (over 300° C/570°F). So we must begin by cooling it with a “pre-cooler” or heat exchanger, hence incurring a loss of energy. In an electric-only airplane configuration, air will be taken from outside the fuselage and compressed as needed, therefore at a minimal energy cost. In general, as it is, switching to electric will allow an in-depth revamping of systems for an improved energy optimization.

The trend seems to be around electricity nowadays but with a single secondary energy source, what happens in case of failure?

In reality, the “reconfigurability” of the system, that is to say its ability to take over in case of local failure, will not only be maintained but even improved with electricity. Today, it is impossible to substitute with electric if pneumatic power or the hydraulics are faulty. With electric-only systems, we are going to much better detect and isolate breakdowns.

When will airplane electrification happen?

It already has begun. The A 380 and B 787 include electric systems that were formerly hydraulic or pneumatic. On the A 380, for example, reverse thrust and backup flight control actuators are electric. On the B 787, the brakes, the engine starter, and cabin pressurization have switched to electric power.

Taxiing will also be electric on the next generation of aircraft, which will benefit very unevenly to diverse planes.

“Green taxiing” will be a valuable asset, especially for short and medium haul: these planes spend about 30% of the time on the ground rolling on the tarmac. On a Paris-Toulouse flight, for example, time spent taxiing in Paris can take up to 20 minutes for a flight time of one hour. In that case green taxiing can save you 3% or 4% kerosene. Whereas a 0.5% gain in efficiency for a modern turbojet engine would be a dramatic success. We will have to wait until the next generation of Safran engines (LEAP) installed on the Airbus A320 NEO, the Boeing 737 Max and the COMAC C919, to truly step into a new era. The Leap engine will save 15% on average, but at the cost of an in-depth overhaul of engines.

Green taxiing seems a modest achievement, compared to what has already been done with the electric car…

Think again. Electric green taxiing requires considerable power which is difficult to mobilize. For a single-aisle A 320 type airplane, power of about 100 kilowatts must be applied at wheel level. This is a technical challenge. Some smaller aircraft include a motor in the nose wheels, but that does not guarantee the required performance of a large airplane as the front end typically supports only 8% of the weight of the aircraft and the front wheels would skid on a wet tarmac. Therefore, one must install electric motors on the main wheels but available space is scarce because of the brakes that are not only bulky but also heat up to several hundred degrees.

So green taxiing, which seems to be a local issue, is somehow also a systemic problem for planes?

Yes, because wheel motors are managed by “power electronics” (the one driving the different actuators, that is to say, the electric motors that power air compressors or control surfaces like flaps). Power electronics constitutes a critical issue for aircraft electrification. It must be reliable enough, dense enough and light enough to be embedded. In 2012, we are able to embed electronic power of up to 120 kW. The catch is they have a tendency to heat. We require them to be at once effective, light and dense. They are therefore inevitably compact and hot spots are very punitive, and very difficult to reverse. You want to evacuate these calories out of the plane. All current research revolves around this one goal: cooling down power electronics.

Can an electric airplane be manufactured with the same teams, the same processes, and the same management as a conventional airplane?

No, an entirely new approach is needed. For generations, the aviation industry has been organized around silos, the famous “ATA chapters” which cut a plane into several almost independent segments: landing gear, wheels and brakes; cabin conditioning, engines; etc. As we further electrify systems, we will have to build bridges between these different systems, notably by pooling electronic power between different uses and users. This is a major technological revolution. Take the case of a plane about to take off. In the future, the same power electronics elements will successively feed wheel motors, then the electric starter for the aircraft’s main engines, then landing gear retraction actuators, then slats and flaps retraction actuators, and finally, the electric compressors for cabin pressurization.

Specifically, what are the changes commanded by electrification in the management of aeronautical groups?

To achieve the pooling of power electronics, it will be necessary to break down the walls between the old silos so to speak, and to build technical gateways but also gateways for business models and management. This will have a deep impact on the industrial organization of major aerospace OEMs, worldwide.

In the old silo model, each division of a group would probably have come up with its own power supply, with many redundancies and wastage. The new model streamlines it all. At Safran, we have created two entities named Safran Power and Safran Electronics, whose respective missions are to design future power electronics and command/control electronics, to the benefit of the firm’s diverse users. The transversality demanded by electrification rests with those entities. Safran Power and Safran Electronics provide solutions to all companies within the conglomerate and this cross-cutting dynamic, that is to say, the confrontation with all the specific requirements of the former, is enriching the skills of these two poles.

Are corporate groups in the sector going to change their scope of business?

The strategic specialty is now electrical distribution. The best positioned corporate groups will be those able to offer a wide range of electrical systems and to conduct transverse cross-system optimizations, but also engine optimization. Regarding the latter, their design will have to take into account the specificities and contributions of electrification. Thus we see the emergence of engine and equipment manufacturers groups capable of offering complete electrical solutions to aircraft manufacturers. The number of such groups is likely to be very limited.

General Electric has bought Smiths Aerospace, a British company. UTC, owner of Hamilton Sundstrand, has just acquired the supplier Goodrich. For our purposes, Safran has partnered with Esterline, a world leader in on-board electrical distribution systems. This partnership has allowed our subsidiary Hispano-Suiza to be selected by the Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer to supply the electrical distribution system and full aircraft electrical system integration for the KC-390, its future military transport aircraft.

A 100% electric airliner, propulsion included: conceivable or science fiction?

For now, this is science fiction. One can consider creating electric motors to propel small crafts with limited capacity, but electric propulsion for airliners is not coming anytime soon. To imagine an onboard electric motor delivering the power of a CFM56 is just not an option today. And anyway, the issue of massive generation or storage of electricity would have to be resolved first. Storing large amounts of electrical energy in a plane is impossible with the technology available in 2012.

Be it the case, where would the primary energy able to deliver propulsion electricity come from?

Hydrogen could well be the energy of the future. One would therefore have to embark large amounts of hydrogen. Safran is a world-class leader in hydrogen utilization in its rocket engines. We have also been working in the field of fuel cells for several years. However that was on a rather modest power scale, in the order of a few tens of kilowatts. A major challenge remaining is the complexity and the mass ratio (about 10 to 1) of hydrogen storage. It still meets the same reality constraint: kerosene is an extraordinarily effective fuel and its storage constraints are relatively easy… making it quite difficult to replace. Again, electricity as a total energy solution is not coming anytime soon.


EasyJet founder Sir Stelios moves closer to low-cost African airline

Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder of EasyJet, is set to launch a low-cost airline in Africa this year after taking a 5% stake in a new venture.

The easyGroup tycoon, who is embroiled in a long-running boardroom battle with easyJet, is backing a carrier that will operate under his Fastjet airline and be run by former easyJet executives.

Fastjet will operate from Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana and Angola. The ambition is to carry more than 12 million passengers a year, from the 500,000 at present, by cashing in on demand for regional travel from a burgeoning African middle-class.

EasyJet remained tight-lipped about the move, referring queries to a statement made last year that said the Luton-based airline would take "necessary action" if Fastjet infringed its rights.

However, Ed Winter, Fastjet's chief executive-in-waiting and formerly easyJet's chief operating officer, said the airline would avoid antagonising its European peer. "We have been 100% careful. We are absolutely aware of the agreement, and so is Stelios, and we are not infringing it in any way," he said.

Under the terms of Wednesday's announcement, an Aim-listed cash shell company called Rubicon has bought the aviation arm of Lonrho, an ancestor of the pan-African conglomerate formerly run by Tiny Rowland, in a deal worth $85.7m (£55m). As part of the deal, easyGroup will own 5% of Rubicon, and the airline will use Lonrho Aviation's network. It will operate from the Lonrho hubs in the four African countries. Operating as Fly540, Winter said a 12-million passenger target was feasible.

"If you take the four countries, they have a total population of 100 million people. If you estimate that all our customers come from just those countries alone, you could see three million of them becoming customers with us, flying a couple of times a year. That would generate something like 12.8 million passengers [annually]."

Winter said Fastjet would launch towards the end of the summer but not use its fleet of 10 turboprops and small jets. Instead it would seek to lease larger modern jets like the Boeing 737 or Airbus A319.

Another former easyJet director set to join Fastjet is Richard Boden. He said the business would aim at the west African market. "There is a significant shortage of direct point-to-point flying within the continent, particularly with west Africa. It is very difficult to get from capital city to capital city."

However, the financial health of African airlines remains fragile. According to the International Air Transport Association, airline traffic in the continent will grow by 4% this year, but African carriers will make a collective loss of $100m in 2012, having made no profit in 2011 and a profit of $100m in 2010.

EasyJet has been locked in a dispute with Haji-Ioannou since 2008 over its capacity plans and the purchase of new Airbus aircraft, although another dispute over further use of the easyJet brand was settled in a deal that could earn the tycoon at least £65m over 10 years. Haji-Ioannou and his family control 37.5% of the airline.

Haji-Ioannou said the move would help bring low-cost air travel to more Africans. "This is another small but significant step in bringing the dream of low-cost air travel to millions of people in Africa – the aviation industry's last frontier. Past experience shows that by halving fares, a successful low-cost carrier can encourage those people, who have never previously travelled by air, to fly."


Thursday, September 27, 2012

American Airlines and US Airways sign NDA on the path to merger?

American Airlines' parent company company, AMR Corp. (PK: AAMRQ), and U.S. Airways Group Inc. (NYSE: LCC) announced Friday that they have entered into a non-disclosure agreement under which each company will exchange confidential information as they study a potential merger.

The companies said that they would work closely with AMR's Unsecured Creditors Committee as the Fort Worth-based airline company works its way through Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Both companies agreed that they would not talk with other parties about potential mergers while the agreement is in place, but said that a merger between AMR and US Airways is not guaranteed.
American Airlines filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November, citing high labor costs as part of the reason for its financial distress.

US Airways within days expressed an interest in merging with American and reached agreements with the three unions representing American's workers in case such a merger could be reached.

The Allied Pilots Association, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants and the Transport Workers Union have all expressed support for a merger of the two airlines.

On Friday, the flight attendants union said it "looks forward to the prospects of a merger."

"The next few months will be an intensive exercise between the two management teams during which both US Airways and American Airlines will examine and explore the possibility of strategic alternatives," the APFA said. "APFA's position remains consistent regarding a possible merger with US Airways: We support a strategic alternative that includes a management team with a proven record of effective leadership."

APFA President Laura Glading said Thursday that she has been meeting with the union representing US Airways flight attendants. The two unions issued a joint statement saying that a merger was in the best interest of flight attendants at both carriers.

Glading and Veda Shook, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, said they would work on merger-related issues of mutual concern "at the appropriate time." Those issues include seniority integration at a merged carrier, representation issues and collective bargaining agreements.


Air France offering digital version of newspapers to passengers

Starting from 2013, Air France will offer for free to its passengers digital versions of several newspapers and magazines on their tablets or smartphones. In order to define future services, the company requested the opinion of its passengers: for several weeks now, a large panel of frequent travellers have been questioned about their expectations and opinions in an aim to determine the main lines of a more upmarket positioning of the company’s products and services.

The company will first make tablets with those newspaper available in airports. It will later on allow passengers to download the newspapers and magazines of the day.

iFly Magazine: an online experience by KLM

KLM has launched its online magazine and made it shareable. It has the visual quality of the Air France Magazine with the added dimensions of sound and video.

The goal is clearly to viralize breathtaking images and content in order to drive traffic to the airline.

Link to the magazine:

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Lufthansa readies to offer mobile phone connectivity; could decide plan for short/medium-haul fleet before year-end

Lufthansa will soon bring inflight mobile phone capability to passengers, after receiving certification for AeroMobile’s “eXPhone” GSM connectivity system for an aircraft type, the APEX editor’s blog can exclusively reveal.

The German carrier says it has started “testing the performance” of the eXPhone system in-flight. AeroMobile is majority owned by Panasonic Avionics, which has been reigniting inflight Wi-Fi on Lufthansa’s long-haul fleet.

A total 71 Lufthansa aircraft now offer the Internet service, which is branded as FlyNet by the airline. However, rollout of eXPhone on Lufthansa has been slower than expected due in part to the fact that in Europe “there is lack of manpower at EASA to review aircraft modification projects”, says Panasonic Avionics VP of global communications David Bruner.

“We’re somewhat a victim of our own success. We have so many projects; these are just lining up on their desks and they’re going one-by-one. So there is a bottleneck because there is a lot of demand,” he says.

He also confirms that Lufthansa has switched on eXPhone and is in the process of verifying performance.

From a marketing standpoint, it’s understandable that Lufthansa has not started widely marketing the fact that eXPhone is present on board an aircraft; once an inflight connectivity service is advertised, passengers expect to be able to access the service on their flights. Lufthansa previously said that passengers would be able to use inflight GSM for text and data use, but not voice. The carrier already tells passengers not to use FlyNet for VoIP services.

Lufthansa is a former customer of Boeing’s Connexion Internet service, a Ku-band satellite-supported service that ceased operating at the end of 2006. Some 65 aircraft are equipped with Connexion’s Melco Ku antenna; these are again supporting FlyNet. A further six Lufthansa aircraft are carrying Panasonic antennas (manufactured by EMS/Honeywell).

Is there a difference in system performance between the two antennas? Lufthansa says it is “still evaluating results but so far do not see any significant difference”.

Panasonic’s Bruner says the Melco antennas work particularly well over the equator. “They will get equivalent performance to the Panasonic two-panel antenna; there are no other antennas around that do that, so from that standpoint they offer equivalent performance.” Elsewhere, he says, the Panasonic antenna performs better.

Passenger take-up of the service also continues to rise. “With the growing fleet we see constantly higher take-up rates,” says Lufthansa. “As promised, we started the roll-out of live TV; five aircraft offer the service but this number is growing.”

Lufthansa has been studying connectivity for its short- and medium-haul fleets in a bid to ultimately offer fleet-wide connectivity to passengers. The carrier reveals that it is “evaluating the possibilities and will try to reach a decision by the end of this year”.


Expensive Ryan Air iPhone app to find cheap flights?

Launching the app in London today, Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary said:
“Ryanair is pleased to launch our latest passenger initiative (the iPhone/iPad app) which will allow passengers to book Europe’s lowest fares, manage their booking, and keep up-to-date with Ryanair news, directly from their iPhone or iPad.
Passengers can now book Ryanair flights anywhere they take their phone, day or night, ensuring that they never miss out on our lowest fares. Our new app is available today from the iTunes store for just €3.”

According to reviews, little work seems to have been put in the app (it is just a wrapper around the website) and it looks like another scam ancillary revenue, 3€ at a time.

  • Just a wrapper that sends a password to "unlock" their mobile site. Surprised Apple left this through.
  • HTML web app, does the job but fiddly, pages don't always load and buttons don't always react when selecting airports on booking screen. Fare text tiny and hard to see in clutter, ugly blurry icons. Ok as a web app but rip off charging as a native app.
  • Rubbish. Does not even give you a total price when you select your flights.


Delta to deploy 4500 iPads in airports

Delta Enhances Travel Experience at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport with iPads and Unique Restaurants
Delta continues to invest in MSP with local chefs and superior amenities

Delta Air Lines DAL +0.87%  today begins deployment of more than 250 iPads in three new restaurants on Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport's Concourse G. Delta continues to transform the airport experience by providing travelers a new level of access to high-quality food and hi-tech amenities.

"Delta is following through on our commitment to invest in our Minneapolis-St. Paul hub by improving the airport experience with these truly unique amenities," said Bill Lentsch, Delta's senior vice president - Minnesota Operations. "These enhancements on the ground coupled with our in-flight investments such as installing full flatbed seats in BusinessElite and Wi-Fi on more than 800 aircraft, make for a unique traveling experience on Delta that no other carrier can match."

New iPads located at each seat inside the restaurants will allow travelers to order catered and customized meals through an intuitive visual menu. Orders are then prepared fresh and delivered to their seat in 15 minutes or less.

The three new restaurants include: MinniBar - an upscale sandwich bar with a menu designed by celebrity chef/host Andrew Zimmern; Mimosa - a French country eatery and raw bar with Chef Russell Klein of Meritage; and Shoyu - a modern Japanese restaurant with Tanpopo's Chef Koshiko Yonemura. Delta is working with its partner, OTG, to help redefine how an airport concourse can feel and look.

In addition to customized food ordering from the iPads, a custom browser delivers entertainment by letting travelers easily log in to their Facebook, Twitter and personal email accounts. Travelers can also check their flight status, play games and watch the news through pre-loaded apps such as Bloomberg News. Once the customer is done using each iPad, personal information is securely removed the moment the home button is pressed and automatically deleted after two minutes of idle time.

"OTG and Delta are committed to dramatically improving a traveler's airport experience. This deployment is extremely exciting because it allows us to share our vision of how we're making the new airport experience a reality," said Rick Blatstein, chief executive officer of OTG. "We continue to expand our offerings around the nation and now to the millions of travelers that come through Delta's hub at MSP. Travelers flying through Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport will be able to experience our customized technology along with quality, chef driven food."

By the end of 2013, MSP's Concourse G will have 12 new local chef-driven restaurants and fresh markets and more than 2,500 iPads for passengers to use in the restaurants and in the gate-house areas.

Previously, Delta and OTG have deployed iPads and local, chef-driven restaurant concepts in LaGuardia Airport Terminals C and D. The full deployment of more than 4,500 iPads at three of Delta's hub airports will occur over the next year.


Qantas enters 10 year partnership with Emirates

Struggling Australian carrier Qantas has inked a 10-year partnership with Emirates that will see it transfer its hub for European flights from Singapore to Dubai from April next year in a bid to boost business.
Qantas said its daily Airbus A380 services to London from Melbourne and Sydney will transit via Dubai's Terminal 3, the world's only purpose-built A380 terminal.
"This is a partnership of independent peers, based on shared standards and aspirations," said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce at a joint press conference with Emirates President, Tim Clark, in Sydney Thursday.
"We have agreed to join forces to give our customers the most comprehensive premium travel experience on the planet.
"We will be poised to deliver the best in networks, frequencies, lounges, loyalty programs and customer experience."
The deal will not involve equity investment on either side, he informed.
The 10-year tie-up is part of Qantas's move to turn around its fortunes after it last month posted its first annual loss since privatisation in 1995. It posted $256 million for the year to June 30.
The move was welcomed by the market with Qantas shares rallying nearly five per cent to Aus$1.17 by early afternoon.
According to Joyce, the new partnership would especially benefit its frequent flyers, with the airlines offering reciprocal access to tier status benefits, including end-to-end recognition of customers, lounge access and priority check-in and boarding.
Earlier this month, Qantas announced its first annual loss since being privatized and also scrapped an order worth $8.5 billion for 35 Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets. Emirates, which has also been hit by rising fuel costs, welcomed the deal.
"The time was right for developing a long term, future forward partnership with Qantas, the iconic Australian airline," Clark said.
The deal includes coordinated pricing, sales and scheduling and a benefit-sharing model, although neither airline will take equity in the other.
For Emirates customers, the alliance will open up Qantas's Australian domestic network of more than 50 destinations and nearly 5,000 flights per week.
The arrangement, which requires approval from Australian regulators, is expected to start in April 2013.
Shares in Qantas rose by almost 5% on news of the alliance.


Paid Upgrade, outstanding results

Paid Upgrade is a way for customers to be upgraded to a better class for an attractive price. It is also a great way for companies to fill up unused higher classes that would otherwise be 'polluted' (Airline lingo for upgrading overbooked passengers for free so that they at least have a seat on the plane).

Air France reports results almost three times as good as forecast for its first roll out of the option. Starting this September it will be available as self service on Air France targets long haul flights.

Alaska Airlines will be offering First Class Upgrade starting on December 1st. The option will be available 24h before departure and prices will be based on the flight mileage:

One-Way Distance in MilesPrice
0 - 1,000$50
1,001 - 2,000$100
2,001 - 3,000$150
3,001 and above$250