Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Frontier Airlines Announces Major Expansion to Washington Dulles

Today Denver-based Frontier Airlines had big news to report, announcing that they would be launching service to Washington Dulles with 14 new destinations that include Orlando, Chicago and Las Vegas. The first flight will take place on Aug 19 with flights to Atlanta and Orlando, with the expansion topping off on Sept 15 with the first flight to Chicago-O'Hare.

“Customers who fly Frontier from Dulles International Airport will love our jaw dropping prices and our friendly service,” said Daniel Shurz, Senior Vice President at Frontier Airlines.

To demonstrate these low prices, Frontier is coupling this announcement with a huge 12 hour fare sale. Until 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time May 13, fares on these new flights will be as low as $15 each way for travel through Nov 19. Additional fares as low as $39 will be available through May 17.

“The addition of Frontier to the Dulles family represents a significant, positive development for passengers interested in additional low cost, domestic travel options to and from the National Capital region,” said Jack Potter, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority President and CEO.

Frontier’s announcement comes on the heels of new investment at Dulles. The airports authority has enhanced parking options, concourse makeovers and new food, beverage and retail options coming down the pipeline throughout the year.

“With the Washington area economy growing and the Metrorail Silver Line on the way, Dulles will continue to fill the expanding air travel needs for the region and these new options from Frontier will play an important role. We welcome Frontier aboard,” said Potter.

Frontier is currently in the process of becoming more of an ultra low cost carrier. By cutting certain amenities like free onboard food and beverage options and charging for them separately, Frontier is able to offer very low fares.

”At Frontier, we are committed to offering customers Low Fares Done Right and that means offering choices and friendly service. Customers can easily choose what is important to them and optimize their travel experience for the comfort and value they seek” said Shurz.

The airline will fly A320s on all of the new routes and will use the Z gates, connected to the Main Terminal at the airport, which currently house US Airways flights. The new flights will add a total of 60 new weekly departures from the Washington D.C. area, on top of Frontier’s 21 weekly flights from Reagan National.

The full list of new destinations out of Dulles is as follows: Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Orlando, Fla. Minneapolis/St. Paul, Tampa, Fla., Chicago-O’Hare, Cincinnati, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Las Vegas, Memphis, Tenn., Fort Myers, Fla., St. Louis, and St. Augustine/Jacksonville, Fla.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

When The News Stops Telling Us The News

Ever since Malaysia Airlines flight 370 disappeared on March 8, CNN has had wall to wall coverage of the incident, broadcasting live 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and only stopping for commercial breaks and jumping right back to MH370 within minutes.

They've used high tech hologram graphics, full size 777 cockpit mockups and flight simulators and even model planes to fill time. They've discussed theories ranging from the almost expected like mechanical failure or pilot error to the absolutely insane like alien abduction or black holes and everything in between. They've talked to enough “experts” to fill a missing 777, played enough B-roll to last your local news station a decade and shown enough CGI to make a Malaysia Airlines 777 the world’s most recognizable airplane. They’ve discussed every press conference and satellite image for hours, dissected every little piece of mundane news as if it’s a massive revelation and even given weather reports for the search area.

They’ve flashed a breaking news banner across the screen for something as obvious as the fact that a plane will struggle to maintain altitude if fuel runs out. They’ve asked on multiple occasions on the air if there is too much coverage of the incident. They’ve invited a psychic with no background in aviation onto their sister network HLN to give her theory on what she thinks happened. They’ve even been so kind as to put a little graphic in the bottom left hand corner to remind you just how many days of this bastardized news coverage you’ve had to endure.

All this begs the question; isn’t there other news? Why can’t CNN talk about Putin exercising his might on Crimea and the ongoing diplomatic crisis in Ukraine? Or about the mudslide north of Seattle that has resulted in at least 35 confirmed deaths, with many more still missing? Surely there’s more going on in the world than a plane that disappeared without a trace more than a month ago.

CNN will say that it’s boosted their ratings, which is true; since the night of March 7 in the United States, the night the plane was declared missing by the airline, CNN’s ratings in the 25-54 age group have more than doubled compared to the month before, while their competitors at Fox News have only seen moderate gains, and MSNBC has actually seen it’s viewership decline over the same period of time.

I understand everything is a business, but CNN is still supposed to be a responsible news organization. Responsible news organizations actually report the news and keep the speculation to a minimum. Responsible news organizations don’t sensationalize stories and know when a story has exhausted its useful lifetime. Even the ones you’d most expect to still be talking, the aviation community has stopped talking about the story for the most part, only returning to it when there’s actual news.

All the speculation does nothing to help the situation or educate the public. Some of CNN's experts don’t even know what they're talking about. They pronounce things wrong, they get their facts wrong and sometimes I question whether they’re actually experts. Aviation enthusiasts watch CNN's coverage to laugh at it and/or groan. And now it’s not just aviation enthusiasts anymore; there are jokes all over the internet about CNN’s coverage. Sure it boosts ratings, but I'm sure a good portion of people watching are watching for the train wreck.

CNN really needs to tone it down. This case is not a rapidly developing story in which new details are released every few minutes; we learn something new once a day, and sometimes not even that. But instead, CNN keeps going back to it. Their analysts discuss their theories as though they believe them to be fact and some people believe it, when in reality, nobody knows what happened to this plane, and the investigation will take months, most likely years, and that’s if we find the plane at all. CNN is still a lot of people’s go to source for news in a crisis, but this isn’t a crisis anymore. This is normalcy, and it’s time to move on.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The 777 Is (Still) The Safest Plane In The World And I Have Stats To Prove It

In the wake of the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370, a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing two days ago, the internet is abuzz with news, pictures, and falsified reports. But a smaller discussion is going on behind the scenes that is far more upsetting to me as an AvGeek.

Tucked away in tiny corners of the internet, members of the general public are swearing never to fly the 777 again. I've even seen some comments calling the 777 the worst plane in the world.

The truth is that the 777 has the best safety record in the industry. The plane entered service in 1995 and before two days ago, only three people have died in crashes or other fatal accidents involving the aircraft. Asiana's crash last July was the first ever fatal accident in the aircraft's very successful career.

Three deaths is rather incredible for a 19 year career. In its first 19 years of service from 1970 to 1989, the iconic Boeing 747 was involved in twelve fatal accidents, accidents which killed a total of 2608 people (Source: airsafe.com, terrorists not included). Included is the Tenerife disaster in 1977, a collision between two 747s which resulted in the loss of 583 as the deadliest crash in aviation history. Also in the 747's first 19 years, the crash of Japan Airlines flight 123, the deadliest single aircraft crash in history in 1985 which took the lives of 520.

The 737, the best selling commercial aircraft in the world cannot hold a candle to the safety record of the 777 either. In its first 19 years of service from 1968 to 1987, the 737 was involved in 21 fatal incidents which killed a total of 1073 people, five of which involved the death of more than 100 people (Source: airsafe.com).

Before you make the claim that the 747 and 737 are much older aircraft and were built and debuted in a time where aviation safety was much different, note this: Airbus' A330 debuted one year before the 777 and has already been involved in three fatal accidents that killed a total of 338 people (Source: airsafe.com). One such accident was Air France flight 447 that was lost over the Atlantic Ocean in a flight from Rio to Paris in 2009.

The circumstances of the flight are similar to the circumstances of the lost Malaysian Airlines flight that disappeared two days ago. Both flights suddenly disappeared at cruise altitude, both flights were confirmed, after they were due to land at their destination, and both were lost over the ocean. The crash of Air France 447 alone resulted in 228 of the A330's 338 fatalities.

The only airliner that can come close to the 777's outstanding safety record is the A340. The A340 debuted two years before the 777 and have not had a fatal accident. However, the 777 has only been involved in two hull loss accidents, three if you assume the worst about the Malaysia Airlines flight currently missing, The A340 has been involved in five. The most notable of which was Air France flight 358 which overran the runway in Toronto during a stormy landing. All 309 people got out in time, but some 43 were injured, 12 seriously.

The 777 has more than three times the amount of aircraft currently in service than A340. This only adds to the reliability and safety record of the 777.

An important note to all fearful fliers who may happen to be reading this: while no aircraft is perfect, no aircraft currently in service could be considered a disaster with wings. Aircraft types have their ups and downs, but for the most part, commercial airliners have never been safer in the history of aviation.

So while everyone else buzzes around worrying about the 777's safeness, that fact still stands that the 777 is closest you can get to perfect. So next time you book an international flight, don't shy away from a 777, book it. Not only is it a great overall experience, it's one of the safest ways to get anywhere in the world. Period.

CORRECTION: The article initially said that Air France flight 358 overran the runway in Montreal, when in fact it was in Toronto. The correction has been made within the article.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Boeing Wins Dubai

Boeing and the Big Three Gulf stole the show at this year's Dubai Air Show, held between Sunday Nov. 17 and Thursday Nov. 21. Officially launching its 777X program, Boeing made a big splash on day one of the air show, securing 225 firm orders of the jet from the Big Three Middle Eastern carriers; Emirates' orders alone totaled 150 aircraft. Including Lufthansa's 34, orders for the 777X now total 259, worth over $95 billion. Boeing also received orders for Dreamliners and 737 MAXs, including their 1000th 787 order, thanks to Etihad, bringing their air show total up to 367 airplanes, with a list price valuation of $100.5 billion.

Boeing may have taken the spotlight Sunday in Dubai, but they weren't the only ones on stage. That same day, Emirates placed an order for another 50 Airbus A380s, bringing their total orders to 140 of the massive superjumbos. Despite being the largest A380 order ever, worth $20 billion, it was also the first order placed for the jet all year. Airbus also secured a substantial order from Etihad: 36 A320NEOs, an A330F and 50 A350s. In total, Airbus secured 162 commercial aircraft orders worth $44 billion, mostly earned in the first days of the air show.

Albeit small, Bombardier had their own day to take the headlines in Dubai, scoring sparse orders on Tuesday. Most of their orders were for their Q400s, but also a few for their new flagship jet, the CSeries. The biggest order, from Iraqi Airways, brought in $387 million (plus $1.2 billion in option) for five CS300 aircraft and 11 more options. All together, the Canadian manufacturer put 22 new entries in their order book, and $1.75 billion in their bank accounts.

What the Dubai air show really showed the world is that the Gulf Big Three are at the helm. While manufacturers would have preferred to have their order announcements spread out over the week, but the Gulf Three had other plans. In a competition to see who could announce their order for the 777X, Etihad pushed their announcement up an hour so they could beat out Emirates and Qatar. The three carriers placed orders worth $84 billion in a short 15 minutes. More than half of the money exchanged for commercial aircraft at the air show came from Qatar, Etihad, or Emirates. Their eagerness to fill their order books and empty their fat checkbooks shows that the Gulf Three are here to stay.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Week of First Flights

This week, two different plane models took to the skies for the very first time; Canadian manufacturer Bombardier flew their brand new CSeries aircraft for the first time on Monday, and Tuesday, American aerospace giant Boeing sent their stretched 787, the 787-9, to fly the skies.

On Monday, it was Bombardier's turn to take the first flight spotlight. The entire aviation world looked to Montreal as the CS100, the smaller of the two models, lifted off from Mirabel Airport, just outside Montreal. Taking off just before 10 AM local time, the two and a half hour flight went smoothly, almost without a hitch; the only problem reported was an advisory notice that crew say would not have stopped a commercial flight. Chief test pilot Chuck Ellis said to the media that the flight went exactly according to predictions. "In many ways, we didn't learn anything new; we validated everything we did know," he said.

After more than 10 years of development and a couple of delays, the CS100, which seats 110, is on track to begin deliveries next September. The CS300, which seats 130, is expected to take flight in about six months, and start deliveries at the end of 2014. As the crown jewel of the Canadian aerospace company's commercial jets, the CSeries is expected to compete with Boeing's 737 and Airbus' A320, starting Bombardier's entrance into the mainline aircraft arena. So far, the CSeries has received 177 firm orders from 15 customers, but the manufacturer hopes that this successful test flight will lure more customers.

Just the very next day, across the continent in Seattle, Boeing's newest 787 variant would take to the sky for the first time as well. The 787-9, a stretch version of the 787-8, is 20 feet longer and carries 38 more passengers in a three class configuration for a total of 280. Thanks to the addition of a forward fuel tank added later in the design process, the 787-9 has an increased range as well, able to fly an additional 300 miles per flight. So far, Boeing's order book for the 787-9 variant consists of 388 firm orders from ___ customers. Thanks to the increased capacity and increased range, Boeing believes that, now that it's off the ground, that this stretched 787 will be easier to sell and more profitable than the base model.

The first flight of the variant started an hour later than originally planned, but ultimately went smoothly. Finally taking off at 11 AM local time, the 5+ hour flight took the new jet to 15,000 feet, north around the city of Everett, amd then east toward central Washington, going as far east as Spokane, despite original plans to fly west over the Puget Sound first. The plane landed at Grant County airport in central Washington at approximately 4:20 PM local time. The flight went well according to chief test pilot Randy Neville, "The aircraft did exactly as expected."

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

JetBlue's First A321 Appears in Hamburg

Video of JetBlue's first A321 surfaced over the weekend
JetBlue's first ever A321 has been spotted being towed around the ramp at Hamburg's Finkenwerder airport in Germany. As is typical with airbus aircraft which has the tails assembled and painted in a separate facility before arriving for final assembly, this aircraft is no different. But for a JetBlue aircraft, the tail is all we need to notice that this plane will be different from the others in the airline's fleet for more reasons than one.

This particular aircraft, to be registered as N903JB upon delivery, sports a livery not seen on a JetBlue aircraft before. The tail consists of a mosaic of triangles of different shades of blue and surprise, surprise, green. Blue has been all but the exclusive color of tail designs since the airlines inception in 1998, with only one of the nine main designs featuring a color other than blue, but green has never been featured on the tail in unison with blue, making for an interesting sight on the end of the plane. While JetBlue has yet to officially unveil the new livery and have not set a date to do so, they have announced that the livery that appears on the first A321 will be on all aircraft of the type in the fleet.

The A321 is expected to be delivered to the airline late this year, and the first four aircraft will be equipped with the typical all-economy seats that are typical with JetBlue, but the rest of the A321 fleet will be outfitted with their new premium cabin seating, including 16 lie-flat beds and 4 private suites. Those will be introduced in the second quarter of 2014. The first aircraft will be used on flights from JFK to Florida and the Caribbean. The A321s equipped with the premium seating will be used on the premier transcontinental routes of New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco

No official dates have been set for unveiling or delivery of the aircraft.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Department of Justice Tries to Intervene in American Airlines/US Airways Merger

While not quite cancelled, the mega merger between American Airlines and US Airways to form the world's largest airline, has certainly been delayed. Announced in February, the deal is supposed to create, yet again, the largest airline in the States and be the grand finale of airline mergers after more than 5 years of industry consolidation through mergers and acquisitions. The deal was put on hold Tuesday however, when the Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit against the merger, claiming the merger would reduce competition on routes, raise fares, and increase the likelihood of coordinated actions by the industry. While unlikely to derail the merger, which was scheduled to be finalized next month, the lawsuit will definitely delay its progress.

Washington has become a hot spot for debate for regulators, with officials pushing the new airline to give up slots at National. The joint airline would control 69 percent of takeoff and landing slots, and the Justice Department fears that this will lead to increased fares and fees out of and into the airport, as well as more limited choices for passengers. The lawsuit also alleges that the merger may threaten the presence of airlines like JetBlue at national, who entered the market when they traded slots at JFK in New York with American for slots at National, and they still maintain a relatively weak presence in DC.

The Department of Justice claims the merger is also anti-competitive across the board, not just here in washington. Since the airlines don't share any hubs, they only directly compete on 12 non-stop routes, however, the merger would make the new airline the only carrier to fly the route on seven of the 12. Using an algorithm called the Herfindahl-Hirshman Index to measure market concentration and competition, the DoJ also says that the merger will lower competition on 1,677 routes, including the non-stops, and increase competition on only 210 routes.

Lawyers for American Airlines and US Airways have said they fully intend to fight the suit in court, rather than pursue a compromise or settle out of court.

Special note: From this point forward, blog posts will not come every Monday like clockwork as they have in the past. School is starting soon and the pressure to have one post every week at the exact same time has proven to be too much as sometimes topics will be harder to come by than other times. I will still try to post an average of one post a week, sometimes there will be multiple posts in a week, other times none at all.

Monday, August 12, 2013

What Has Happened in the Past Month

I arrived back from New York about a week ago, and so I thought I'd make this week's post about what all has happened in the month since I last posted. In an attempt to brush up on my journalism skills, I wrote a short paragraph on each event. Enjoy.

Ethiopian Airlines 787 Catches Fire in London: On July 12 Ethiopian 787 ET-AOP at London Heathrow Airport had a fire near the back of the plane. Currently being investigated is the plane's ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter) battery is being investigated as the cause of the accident. Unrelated to the battery problem that plagued the plane in the beginning of the year, the system is activated in the event of a crash and is located in the rear of the plane, above the cabin just before the tail. The damage was sufficient enough that it blackened the roof just above the battery and the airline is considering writing off the airplane that was delivered a year ago, which would be the first time a Dreamliner has ever been written off.

Southwest Jet's Nose Gear Collapses at LaGuardia Airport: On July 21, Southwest Airlines Flight 345 had its nose gear collapse upon landing at LaGuardia Airport in New York. The flight from Nashville was uneventful until landing when the nose gear on the 737-700 suddenly collapsed. A total of five passengers and three flight attendants reported injuries from the incident. An official cause has yet to be determined, but preliminary reports suggest that the plane landed nose gear first at LaGuardia.

American Airlines Receives First Airbus A319: On July 23, American Airlines took delivery of their first A319 from the European manufacturer Airbus. The airline received their first aircraft in the A320 family at a ceremony in Hamburg, Germany, marking the start to a series of more than 130 deliveries over the next 4 years as part of a fleet renewal program. They also have another 130 A320neo family aircraft on order that they will begin taking deliveries of in 2017.
On August 1, the airline also debuted its Embraer E175 regional jet in Chicago.

JetBlue Unveils Premium Transcontinental Product: Announced two months ago, JetBlue's premium transcontinental product was revealed last Monday to much fanfare in the aviation world. The product, which does not yet have a name, will be fitted onto all of JetBlue's newest aircraft type, the A321, set to begin delivery in December of this year. The product will be somewhat separated into two classes. First, a two-to-a-set business class style seat will be found in rows 1, 3, and 5. Second, a suite style first class like seat in rows 2 and 4. JetBlue intends to use the new product initially on routes out of JFK to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Terminal Building at Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi Kenya Catches Fire: On August 7, Kenya's main international airport suffered a small fire that escalated quickly into major catastrophe. The flames destroyed the international arrivals hall, several banks, and foreign exchange bureaus. It caused East Africa's busiest international gateway to be shut down. When the airport reopened later that day, only domestic flights were allowed to arrive and depart. Airport officials say they intend to convert an area of the domestic terminal into an international terminal for the time being. While no cause has been established yet, a widely circulating rumor is that the fire could have been started purposefully as part of a terrorist plot, being that the fire occurred exactly 15 years after the al-Qaeda bombings on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Monday, July 15, 2013

An Extended Trip to New York City

I will be taking a two and a half week trip to New York City, starting this Wednesday, the 17th, which means I will be unable to write three new blog posts. In addition to the normal tourist sightseeing around the city, starting next Sunday, I will be taking a business intensive course at Adelphi University on Long Island for two weeks to learn more about business, and of course get college credits. But because I will be studying such a wide range of subjects in such a short period of time, I will have little if any time to write for this blog. While I thought I would be able to write a little bit here and there, after looking at the schedule, I've come to realize that it would be impossible. So i chose my future career over my hobby, and I think I made the right decision.

You can expect my first blog post on August 12, a week after I come back.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Asiana Airlines Flight Crash Lands at San Francisco Airport

Saturday morning started like any other morning at San Francisco International Airport. But after the marine layer had dissipated, that would change. At 11:27 AM, Asiana Airlines flight 214, a Boeing 777-200ER, experienced a hull-loss accident upon landing at the airport. The crash landing caused the tail and landing gear to separate from the plane, the aft pressure bulkhead to burst, and the plane to spin like a top. The crash of flight 214 was the first fatal accident to happen on American soil since the Colgan Air crash in Buffalo, New York, which killed all 49 passengers and one person on the ground. Killing two and injuring 183, the flight from Shanghai via Seoul hit the seawall and left a trail of debris as it spun out of control off the runway and into the dirt nearby. The accident was the first involving a fatality for the 777, going to show the outstanding safety record of the model first delivered in 1995.

Among the 307 passengers and crew on the flight, two were killed, 183 were injured ten of which were in critical condition (as of the this writing that number has been downgraded to 6), and 122 walked away uninjured. Most of the injuries consisted of head trauma from the initial impact and burns from the fire that ensued. The two that were killed were Chinese 16-year-old girls Ye Meng Yuan and Wang Li Jia. The flight had 141 Chinese citizens on board, including 70 students and teachers traveling to the US for a summer school program. 91 passengers and crew were South Korean citizens, 61 were American citizens, and the other 11 were citizens of 6 other countries.

Witnesses reported seeing the plane flying extremely low before the accident, and passengers reported hearing the engines revving and the plane tilting upwards seconds before impact. The National Transportation Safety Board has indeed confirmed that the plane was flying too low and too slow to make a safe landing. They have also stated that according to the cockpit voice recorder, the pilot called for a go around, which of course, failed, hence the engines revving moments before impact. Because the plane survived the crash for the most part, the two black boxes were easily recovered, and thanks also to eyewitness and survivor testimonies, the NTSB knows exactly what happened. The investigation must continue however to determine a cause.

At this point so early in the investigation, everything is still on the table, including pilot error and mechanical failure.

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