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American Airlines Offers a Look at Airline Operations

As a kid I always loved going to the airport and just watching things happen.  Loading bags, fueling the plane, passengers boarding; it really didn’t matter, I just loved watching all of it.  In reality, nothing has really changed, I still love everything about aviation.  The difference is that now I actually understand a lot more about what is going on.

Most people aren’t as in love with aviation as I am, and that is fine, but there is still something to be said for understanding how some of the different aspects of an airline work.  Apparently American Airlines feels the same way as they are rolling out a series of videos through their twitter feed (@AmericanAir).

The videos are designed to answer questions about some of the basic aspects of how an airline functions like how deicing works(see video below), where bags go after you check them, and what happens during weather delays.  They seem to be interested in answering actual customer questions as they ask for feedback with all of the videos, as well as regularly on the Twitter feed itself.

I think this is a great concept, and I genuinely hope they keep doing it.  If people actually understand how it all works, they will handle it better when not everything goes as expected.  Not that this will fix all of their problems, but by creating informed customers they are simply adding one more level to the customer experience, and that is always a good thing.


July 22, 2012 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Boeing Delivers 2nd Production P-8A Poseidon Aircraft to US Navy

1st aircraft being used to train crews; feedback positive
Boeing Delivers 2nd Production P-8A Poseidon Aircraft to US Navy

SEATTLE, July 20, 2012 — Boeing [NYSE: BA] on July 17 delivered the second production P-8A Poseidon aircraft to the U.S. Navy. The P-8A is one of 13 low rate initial production (LRIP) maritime patrol aircraft that Boeing is building for the Navy as part of two contracts awarded in 2011.

Navy pilots flew the P-8A from Seattle to Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., where the first LRIP P-8A is being used for aircrew training.

“We’re proud to be able to meet our commitment and deliver another Poseidon to the fleet,” said Chuck Dabundo, Boeing vice president and P-8 program manager. “Navy crews have had a couple of months of training with the first plane, and their feedback has been positive.”

Three P-8As currently are undergoing mission systems installation and checkout in Seattle, and three are in final assembly in Renton, Wash. In order to efficiently design and build P-8A aircraft for the Navy and P-8I aircraft for India, the Boeing-led team is using a first-in-industry, in-line production process that draws on the company’s Next-Generation 737 production system. All aircraft modifications are made in sequence during fabrication and assembly.

Overall, the Navy plans to purchase 117 of the Boeing 737-based P-8A anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft to replace its P-3 fleet.

As part of the two LRIP contracts, Boeing is providing aircrew and maintenance training for the Navy, in addition to logistics support, spares, support equipment and tools. Separate from the LRIP contracts, Boeing was awarded a System Development and Demonstration contract in 2004 to build and test six flight-test and two ground-test P-8A aircraft. The flight test aircraft have completed more than 600 sorties and 2,800 flight hours, mainly at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.

A unit of The Boeing Company, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is one of the world’s largest defense, space and security businesses specializing in innovative and capabilities-driven customer solutions, and the world’s largest and most versatile manufacturer of military aircraft. Headquartered in St. Louis, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is a $32 billion business with 61,000 employees worldwide. Follow us on Twitter: @BoeingDefense.

July 21, 2012 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Contract Towers: Saving Money and Providing Essential Service

With as much as I write about air traffic control you would think I was a controller or something.  The reality is that atc is just the hot topic in aviation these days.  After relatively little change in half a century, we are at a point where drastic changes are happening that will make the whole system for effective and more efficient.

One of the important sectors of the atc world is the contract tower program.  Through this program, smaller airports are able to hire contract air traffic controllers as opposed to those employed by the FAA.  This allows the tower to function at a lower cost, while still providing the essential service of air traffic control.

This is by no means a new service as it has been functioning for 30 years.  Over the last year, the 246 towers that are part of the contract tower program handled 14.8 million operations at a cost of $133 million.  That equates to handling 28% of all tower operations, while only using 14% of the FAA’s budget for tower operations.

In a time when the vast majority of government programs provide less with more, the contract towers are doing the exact opposite.  Despite their efficiency and effectiveness, the program is looking at changes coming from Congress as they look for places to cut costs everywhere.  Hopefully, Congress will see that this is one area that is already operating at a relatively low-cost for the services they provide.

Most people will never know if the controller handling their aircraft is part of the contract tower program, and that is the beauty of it.  These are FAA certified controllers that are getting the job done just as effectively, but at a lower cost.  It is absolutely essential that they be able to continue to provide these services at smaller airports so that safety can be maintained.


I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

NextGen ATC: Creating Highways in the Sky

I have been a big fan of NextGen ever since I first heard about it a decade ago.  It just makes sense that creating more efficient routes would be good for business.  It saves time and money and is better for the environment.

It may not be quite as easy for those that are not familiar with aviation to understand the value of this new technology, but Steve Fulton of GE Aviation wrote a great piece that describes NextGen as creating “highways in the sky”.

It is really so simple that I can’t believe I haven’t seen the comparison before.  By streamlining the system it is unreal the amount of time, money, and fuel that can be saved.  According to Steve’s article, deploying these new routes at 46 regional airports across the country would result in the following savings: 12.9 million gallons of fuel, $65.6 million, 274.6 million pounds of CO2 emissions, and 747 days of time.

If those numbers don’t open your eyes to the value of the system, I don’t know what will.  Keep in mind, that is only at 46 airports, not including any of the major ones, and they are the ones that could use improved systems more than anyone else.

As we move forward with the implementation of NextGen and companies start to realize all of these savings, I hope it works to expedite the process even more.  They always say that money talks, and there is no industry where that is more true these days than in aviation.

July 18, 2012 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Alaska Airlines Letting Passengers Tag Their Own Bags; Processing Passengers 30% Faster

For anyone that has been late for a flight and needed to check a bag, they know how painful it can be to stand in line while someone in front of you takes fifteen minutes to check their bag.  I have always found it interesting that I can stand in line and watch ten people take a good 5-10 minutes each, yet I walk up and am out of there in under a minute.  Whether you are late or not, it is painful how long some people take.

Alaska Airlines is now making that process simpler by allowing passengers to tag their own bags.  Much the way that we have been printing our own boarding passes for years, they will now let you tag your bags and hand them to the TSA agent.  Apparently, in many other countries they will let you do the whole thing unsupervised, but naturally TSA wants to maintain their job security, so they have to watch you.

This was one of those things that made me go “duh” when I read about it, because it just seemed to be such on obvious way to save time in the whole process.  According to an interview Jeff Butler of Alaska Airlines did with The Cranky Flier, it has actually shaved 30% off the time it takes passengers to be processed, which is a significant enough that Alaska is working to make this a reality at all of the airports they serve.

Unfortunately, TSA is once again trying to make it as difficult as possible.  The above mentioned article goes into more detail about the whole process Alaska went through to get permission, and it is pretty ridiculous if you ask me.  Not only did they have to prove the safety of their program, they must reapply for permission to implement it every time they want to roll it out somewhere new.

Time is quickly becoming one of the biggest assets in aviation.  People want, and in some cases need, to be able to flow through an airport as quickly as possible from the time they pull up, until they drive away after arrival.  That is why we see all of these new programs to get you through security faster, and why airlines have invested so much money on kiosks that allow you to print your own boarding pass.

A 30% reduction in processing time is a big enough benefit that every airline will likely look at this option, if they aren’t already.  Maybe that is the push that TSA needs to streamline the process and make it easier for airlines to use this new concept.

I remember as a kid being able to walk into the airport, get through security, and be at the gate in fifteen minutes or so, but now I have to plan to be at the airport at least an hour early if I don’t want to miss my flight, and I live in a relatively small city.  Speeding up the whole process would be a benefit to everyone involved, and hopefully TSA will not be the speed bump that prevents everyone from taking advantage of it.

July 17, 2012 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.