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AirAsia X ponders new Avalon routes after summer success

AirAsia X Avalon
Avalon Airport has introduced Australia's first Aviramp. Photo: Avalon Airport

AirAsia X  believes its gamble to switch to cheaper digs at Melbourne’s Avalon airport is paying off and says new destinations may be on the horizon.

The airline switched its service from Melbourne Airport to Avalon in early December and AirAsia X chief executive Benyamin Ismail said the airline was pleased with early demand over summer.

Ismail said more than 100,000 people had already flown on its two daily flights between Avalon and Kuala Lumpur with loads at a healthy 80 to 85 percent through December, January and February.

“Avalon Airport is now AirAsia’s largest destination in Australia by capacity with plans to potentially add new destinations from Avalon in the future – based on demand and overall commercial viability,’’ he said.

“Fly Through services via Kuala Lumpur onto India, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam are proving popular also from Avalon for leisure and visiting friends and family.”

Ismail said the airline was also happy with its operations out of Avalon, near the regional city of Geelong and about 45 minutes from the center of Melbourne. A SkyBus service connects the airport to the city.

READ: Bus boost for AirAsia’s Avalon service

The airport signed a 10-year agreement with the Kuala Lumpur-based LCC after lengthy discussions as part of an ongoing campaign to attract international flights.

The agreement provides more than 500,000 seats annually on the twice-daily flights.

The Linfox Group-owned airport spent $50 million redeveloping its terminal and car parking facilities – more than double the original plan —  and introduced separate international facilities.

This allowed the introduction of time-saving SmartGates for outbound border control with inbound gates due to be installed in the coming months.

Other facilities include duty-free, a travel agency and a bar as well as faster, more convenient Computed Tomography (CT) cabin baggage screening.

In February,  Avalon introduced a new undercover mobile ramp for loading aircraft that increases the flow rate at disembarkation by 30 percent compared to stairs.

The Aviramp, the first of its kind in Australia,  also creates easy access to the plane for all passengers.

“The purpose-built low-cost international terminal is very much in synch with our model, providing state of the art facilities without adding to the cost of travel,’’ Ismail said.

“(This means) AirAsia can continue to provide great value fares for our customers to and from Avalon Airport with a more streamlined and affordable experience for our guests, from door to door. “

AirAsia is targeting the nearby Geelong catchment, those in the fast-growing western suburbs of Melbourne and people in the central business district.

Ismail said it was also well placed for tourists wanting to visit Victoria’s internationally-renowned Great Ocean Road and more convenient and affordable for many central city residents when commute time, tolls, parking costs and congestion were factored in.

“We are aware there is always more education required to promote the many “Avalon Advantages” to continue to build appeal for Avalon Airport,’’ he said.

“While there have been some minor teething issues which are to be expected with any new terminal opening, we’ve found by far the majority of our customers flying from Avalon Airport — 99 percent —  have been  satisfied with the seamless experience and convenience of the new facilities.”

The AirAsia X boss said he was excited by new technology and innovations coming soon.

These included self-serve check-in kiosks and facial recognition technology which will continue to enhance the experience for travelers in and out of Avalon Airport.


Famous wreck hunter David Mearns supports levy to find MH370


Famous wreck hunter David Mearns supports a passenger levy to find MH370.

Mearns, who has found many ships including HMS Hood and HMS Sydney, said on Twitter that “over 4 billion people fly each year, [and] adopting Dick Smith’s suggestion would raise $400 million, enough to fund a multi-season search for MH370” and “build a future funding model to protect the flying public.”

“We can take responsibility for our own flight safety,” he said.

He added:  “The previous searches for MH370 have all been professionally conducted” but “the main failure has been managing expectations.”

Mearns said a “multi-season commitment and plan is required to search an expansion of probable areas.”

READ Boeing 737MAX disasters: What we know, what we don’t. 

Last month,Aussie aviator and adventurer Dick Smith called on airlines to place a 10-cent levy on tickets to fund a new search for missing MH370.

Smith, a former chairman of Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority who flew the first solo helicopter flight around the world, said the search must be restarted in the interests of aviation safety.

The fate of MH370 remains one of aviation greatest mysteries after it disappeared with 239 people on board while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014.

He cited three incidents — the metal fatigue problem with de Havilland Comets, the fire on South African Airways Flight 295 and the pitot tube problems on Air France Flight 447 — as examples of why the missing Boeing 777 should be found.

Smith said all three accidents had led to improvements in safety and the thing that really worried him about MH370 was that “we’ve stopped searching for this plane”.

He said there was simply not enough evidence to know what happened to the plane and it was imperative it be found so that any potential safety problems could be ruled in or out.

“Yes, many people believe it was a murder-suicide, and we’re not going to learn a lot if we do recover the plane and that’s so,’’ he said.

“But let’s say there was an airworthiness design problem, not just in that 777 but in all aircraft. It could be so, it could be possible.”

Smith said airlines already gave passengers the option to pay to offset carbon emissions and fly green.

He believed they would also opt to pay 10 cents to guarantee their future safety and this would generate enough money to restart the search and keep it going.

“It’s not possible for governments to (use) taxpayers’ money to keep paying, but surely IATA or ICAO or someone can get together and work out a simple system to raise some money to find that plane.




First pictures as battered Ethiopian black boxes reach Paris

Ethiopian Boeing recorders
The flight data recorder, Photo: BEA

French investigators have provided the first picture of the battered flight data recorder from Ethiopian Flight 302 that will help determine how long the global Boeing 737 MAX fleet remains grounded.

All eyes are on France’s Bureau d’Enquetes & d’Analyses (BEA) after the flight data and cockpit voice recorders were sent there for analysis by Ethiopian authorities.

There is some irony that the home of Boeing rival Airbus holds the key to what happens next for the MAX fleet, grounded worldwide after the second fatal crash of a Boeing MAX 8 in less than five months.

An Ethiopian team has accompanied the recorders to Paris after investigators resisted pressure from US officials for them to be taken to the US.

The Wall Street Journal reported he Ethiopians were keen to show American investigators wouldn’t have undue influence over the probe.

The BEA is due to start downloading data Friday but it is not clear how long an analysis will take.

The US National Transportation Safety Board has also sent three investigators to Paris.

US president Donald Trump, who announced the decision by the US Federal Aviation Administration to follow the rest of the world in suspending 737 MAX operations, has said he hopes Boeing resolves the situation quickly.

READ:  Boeing 737 MAX disasters – what we know, and what we don’t.

The cozy relationship between Boeing and Trump prompted criticism that politics and a desire to protect The US aerospace giant played a role in the US delay in grounding the planes.

Some US politicians have called for an oversight review of the FAA’s late decision and its certification of the aircraft.

However, FAA acting administrator Dan Elwell said the decision was based on new satellite tracking data that became available and allowed on Wednesday to establish a potential link between the first crash in October involving a Lion Air plane and Sunday’s crash of Flight 302.

He said the satellite data showed similarities between the flights of the Lion Air and Ethiopian plane which, coupled with physical evidence on the ground, led to the decision.

Challenged about the issue on NPR,  Elwell reiterated earlier comments that the FAA was a data-driven organization.

He acknowledged that many experts had been talking about a link between the crashes but said none had possessed the data to act on it.

“It was all conjecture and in aviation, the FAA and the US have always acted on data,” he said. “We’re a data-driven organization. We have the safety record we have today based on science, risk analysis and data.”

Elwell said the FAA had been hopeful it would get information from the black boxes sooner but they had been damaged and couldn’t be read in Ethiopia.

He said there were some lines or data from the black boxes that would confirm or deny a link between the crashes.

“Remeber if a link isn’t made, you don’t have a common thread, there is not a need for grounding,” he said.

“So once we got the data that made that relatively clear — it’s still not certain, it’s an ongoing investigation, there’s a lot more information we need to get — we got enough information to make this prudent action.”

Asked how much the agency was thinking about not harming a major American company, Elwell said the agency no longer had a dual role regulating and promoting aviation.

“It did about 30 years ago up until the ValuJet crash and then that dual role, which was part of our mandate, was ended,” he said, adding “the FAA makes safety decisions. Period.”.

He said the agency had consulted with Boeing at a technical level about the aircraft and what the company did or didn’t know.

“Consultation — absolutely that took place,” he said. “That always takes place with safety discussions and incidents but that’s it.”

The US planemaker’s stocks began to slide again in early trading on Wall Street after appearing to stabilize Wednesday night.





Etihad posts another massive loss in 2018

Etihad loss massive

Financially-embattled Gulf carrier Etihad Airways lost another $US1.28 billion in 2018 but this was lower than the $US1.52 billion it lost in 2017.

It was the third year of losses greater than $US1 billion but the airline hailed a  15 percent improvement in core operating performance as a sign its transformation program was working.

The 2017 loss came as it faced significant fuel cost increases, the fallout of its failed expansion plans involving Alitalia and airberlin and investment in its restructuring program.

In 2018, it managed to raise average fares to help offset what it described as challenging market conditions and higher fuel prices.

It said a 4 percent increase in yields was driven largely by capacity discipline, network and fleet optimization and growing market share in premium and point-to-point markets.

Passenger capacity was down by 4 percent but the number of passengers also fell from 18.6m to 17.8m and the seat factor dropped 2.1 percentage points to 76.4 percent.

Overall revenue fell from $US6 billion in 2017 to $5.9 billion in 2018 but passenger revenue remained unchanged at $US5 billion.

The airline is now in the second year of its transformation program and said it reduced total costs by $US416m to $US6.9 billion.

“In 2018, we continued to forge ahead with our transformation journey by streamlining our cost base, improving our cash-flow and strengthening our balance sheet,’’ group chief executive Tony Douglas said in a statement.

“Our transformation is instilling a renewed sense of confidence in our customers, our partners and our people.’’

Etihad announced in February it was concentrating on the “efficient rationalization” of its fleet by reducing the number of widebody aircraft it would take from Airbus and Boeing.

READ: Etihad fleet rationalization continues as it cuts widebody orders.

It took delivery of eight new aircraft during 2018: three Boeing 787-9s, four Boeing 787-10s and a Boeing 777-200 freighter.

This brought its fleet count to 106, down from 115 in 2017,  with an average age of 5.7 years.

The Abu Dhabi-based carrier also cut a number of unprofitable routes, including Tehran, Jaipur, Entebbe, Dallas/Fort Worth, Ho Chi Minh City, Dhaka, Dar es Salaam, Edinburgh and Perth.

Added to the network were Baku and Barcelona and there were frequency increases to destinations such as Toronto, Amman and Rome.

Product developments included its “Choose Well” inflight retail campaign and new seating with streaming technology on its short-haul Airbus A320 and A321 fleets.


Boeing 737 MAX disasters: What we know, what we don’t.

737 MAX

The decision by the US Federal Aviation Administration to ground the US 737 MAX  fleet has been applauded by nervous flyers but raises more questions about the two tragic accidents that claimed 346 lives.

The FAA turnaround, initially announced by US president Donald Trump, came as it received additional information about the final seconds before the plane nosedived into the ground shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa.

The  FAA had been resisting political pressure at home and abroad to ground the plane, saying it did not have sufficient evidence to order the planes out of the sky.

The US decision came after Canada pulled the plug on the plane, citing additional evidence from satellite tracking data showing the plane’s flight path was similar to that of Lion Air plane that crashed last October.

READ: Trump announces grounding of US planes.

Canada provided that information to the US and it was this and evidence from the wreckage about the flight configuration that the FAA says prompted it to act.

FAA acting administrator Dan Elwell said the track was close enough to that of Lion Air to warrant the grounding of the aircraft while regulators got more information from the black boxes to determine if there is a link between the two and to find a fix if there was.

The Ethiopians have sent the recorders to France to be downloaded.

READ: Why the Boeing fiasco will not kill the 737 MAX.

Elwell said the FAA previously had raw data from satellite tracking known as space-based ADS-B but this was hard to interpret, was only three minutes long and displayed no obvious link between the two tracks.

But enhancements to a longer version of the track by the company that operates the link as well as Boeing and US investigators showed the full track of the Ethiopian flight was “very close to Lion Air”.

“Also evidence that we discovered on the ground actually was even further evidence that the flight was very similar to Lion Air,’’ Elwell said in an interview with CNBC’s “Closing Bell”.

READ: The 737 is a plane many at Boeing did not want.

The flip-flop raised questions about the politics of the decision and who had made it.

Elwell said it had been his decision, but he had consulted with Trump and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

He said he was aware of decisions by other aviation authorities to ground the planes but said the FAA had not been able to find any additional data they had used to support the groundings.

“We said all along, we weren’t going to ground until we had actionable data and that’s what FAA looks for,’’ he said, adding that the agency did not feel global pressure.

“As I said, we are a data-driven, action-oriented agency and we don’t make decisions about grounding aircraft or regulating or even shutdown decisions for airports or aircraft without actionable data. And in this case, the actionable data didn’t arrive until today.”

Even with apparent similarities between the flight profiles of the Lion Air and Ethiopian aircraft, there remains much that is not known about both tragedies.

In the Lion Air crash, a faulty sensor told the plane’s computers the 737 MAX was about to suffer an aerodynamic stall.

This activated new flight control software that pitched the nose down and caused an automatic system that balances out the plane by controlling the horizontal stabilizer at the back of the plane to go into overdrive.

This “runaway” stabilizer trim started continually pitching the nose down.

Put simply an aerodynamic stall is caused when the plane’s angle of attack is too high and air flowing across the wing is disrupted causing a loss of lift.

The pilot instruction for a “runaway stabilizer trim” is to switch it off by flicking two switches on the center console. This is what the pilots on a Lion Air flight operated by the same aircraft suffering the same problem did the night before the fatal crash.

The problem wasn’t fixed correctly before the fatal flight and the pilots did not disconnect the system and were still fighting it when it plunged into the sea.

Why the pilots didn’t switch it off is still not in the public arena because the Indonesian investigators have yet to release the cockpit voice recorder transcript.

The FAA issued an emergency airworthiness directive for the new Boeing 737s following the crash urging pilots to follow the correct procedures in the case of a malfunction.

Despite the new revelations from the FAA, the fault that caused the control problems on the Ethiopian flight is still unknown.

According to Ethiopian’s chief executive,  the airline’s pilots had been trained and were aware of the 737 MAX’s new background stall protection system and would have been aware just to switch off any stabilizer trim event.

Next month, as a result of the Lion Air crash,  Boeing will release an upgrade package which includes changes to the software flight control law, pilot displays, operation manuals, and crew training.

Boeing says that the new package’s “enhanced flight control law incorporates angle of attack (AOA) inputs, limits stabilizer trim commands in response to an erroneous angle of attack reading, and provides a limit to the stabilizer command in order to retain elevator authority.”

Boeing says that it has been working closely with the FAA on the “development, planning and certification” of the software upgrade, which also incorporates feedback from airlines.



Qatar Airways latest superjet revealed

qatar Airways
Qatar Airways 777X-8

Qatar Airways latest superjet, revealed this month, is called by airline executives an absolute peach and passengers will just love it.

Boeing’s new 777X that has just been unveiled was launched by a group of the world’s leading airlines in 2013.

Qatar Airways ordered 50 of the -9 and later added another 10 of the longer range but smaller -8 model

The reason airlines and passengers will love the 777X is that it combines all the cabin features of the 787, with a new super-efficient engine and wider fuselage than the standard 777.

It will be a 787 on steroids!

The GE9X engine is the world’s most fuel-efficient commercial engine and is a key contributor to what makes the 777X the largest and most efficient twin-engine jet, according to Boeing.

READ: Qatar Airways flying high as 10 years downunder nears.

The 777X will have 12 percent lower fuel consumption and 10 percent lower operating costs than competing airplanes, says Boeing.

Compared to the A380, the 777X will use an incredible 40 percent less fuel per passenger.

The engine’s front fan measures 3.4m in diameter, the largest ever produced for a commercial aircraft, according to GE.

The massive fan is the same width as a 737 fuselage, which can seat six passengers across its width.

Boeing says the 777X’s first delivery is slated for 2020.

To date, Boeing has 340 orders and commitments for the 777X from a range of airlines.

READ: Qatar Airways wins Best Business Class and Catering awards

Boeing is building two models of the 777X family: the 400-seat -9, which will be the first to roll out and the longer range -8, which can seat 350 passengers and has a range capability of more than 17,220 km.

Boeing has taken the 777 fuselage, for which has over 20 years’ experience and has widened it by 4 inches by re-sculpturing the fuselage ribs.

This has been possible because the 777 was over-engineered when it was originally conceived and is arguably one of the strongest aircraft fuselages ever built by Boeing.

That strength has also enabled Boeing to increase the window size and it has moved the windows higher to enable passengers seated in the middle seats to see out.

Another benefit of the fuselage strength is Boeing is able to lower the cabin altitude to close to that of the 787 eliminating one if the contributors to “jet lag”. It has also been able to increase the humidity to reduce dehydration.

The 777X will be the flagship for Qatar Airways and will feature the airline’s award-winning Business Class Qsuites.

Built by seat maker B/E Aerospace and three years in development Qsuites bring “a new level of luxury” to business class.

Qatar Airways Qsuites

They are more a revolution than evolution because business class turns into first class and redefines expectations of business travelers.

On one hand, passengers get a private suite but at the same, there is the flexibility to turn the center suites into a family space with “paired rear and forward-facing suites” which take cabin innovation to an entirely new level.

The interior is designed with the airline’s signature colors of burgundy and grey, enhanced with elegant and warm rose gold detailing which drip opulence and class.

The main event is the sliding door, although there is plenty of privacy with it open.

Qatar Airways is understandably keeping its other 777X plans a closely guarded secret but observers suggest that it will be the showcase for the airline’s latest passenger innovations.

The 777X’s GE9X engine is not only more fuel efficient but much quieter than current engines of the same class which is great for passengers and airport neighbors alike.

Deliveries of the 777X will start later in 2020.



Why the Boeing fiasco will not kill the 737 MAX.

Boeing Ethiopian 737 MAX
Image: CNBC

This week should have been a triumph for Boeing with the much-anticipated rollout of the 777X in Seattle.

Instead, the 777X has been quietly rolled out to staff and the aviation giant is facing a major crisis involving its most popular product.

The crash of two new aircraft of the same model, the 737 MAX 8, within less than five months of each other has battered the aerospace company’s share price, inflicted reputational damage and raised safety concerns about the latest variant of its workhorse 737 family.

READ: Trump announces US grounding of all Boeing 737 Max planes

Boeing has faced crises before.  Most recently, the launch of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner turned out to be more of a nightmare as it was hit by production problems and the fledgling fleet was grounded for three months in 2013 due to overheating batteries.

Yet how many people today step on board a now commonplace 787 worrying whether the batteries will catch fire?

The planemaker quelled public disquiet by introducing a solution to the problem and embarking on a publicity offensive to explain what had happened and how it had dealt with it.

But that crisis involved a much smaller number of aircraft and nobody died.

This time 346 people are dead, social media and the 24-hour news cycle reign supreme and company’s problems are unfolding in a politically-charged global climate.

READ: The 737 is the plane many at Boeing did not want.

A big problem for Boeing is that is not clear yet what caused the crash but, even so,  it lost control of the story early on.

The immediate damage could be seen on the New York Stock Exchange

Boeing’s share price experienced its biggest intraday fall since 9/11 on news that the second 737 MAX 8, Ethiopian Flight 302, had crashed with 157 people on board.

Two days of significant falls wiped almost $US28 billion from Boeing’s market cap but the share price appeared to have stabilized by market close on Wednesday, closing 0.46 percent higher at $US377.14.

This was despite the US announcement that the Federal Aviation Administration had joined other regulators in suspending  737 MAX operations and Boeing’s revelation that it had recommended the global fleet be grounded.

There is likely to be more financial pain coming as airlines claim compensation for the groundings, something Norwegian Air has already vowed to do.

Carter Copeland, the president and lead aerospace analyst at Melius Research, told CNBC  the cost reparations and fixes could be as high as $US1 billion and other analysts have come up with similar back-of-the-envelope calculations.

Some airlines might also consider their orders for the fuel-efficient jet: Virgin Australia softened its language this week on the question of whether it would proceed with its order and Garuda Indonesia and Lion Air have  threatened to cancel.

However, that would mean they would not benefit from the advantages offered by the MAX in terms of fuel efficiency, range and costs. Switching to the rival Airbus A320neo family is a major exercise and can result in a less efficient mixed fleet.

Then there is the reputational damage as passengers, rightly or wrongly, link the new Boeing 737 to safety issues.

In addition to the sobering fact that two relatively new planes of the same type have gone down within months of each other, there are also so-far unproven suggestions that the two might be linked.

Speculation about this has generated no shortage of TV images with people saying that they don’t want to fly on a 737 MAX because they’re worried the plane is unsafe.

Boeing, pilots and several airlines continue to stand by the aircraft and its safety. These include airlines that have had experience operating the plane such as US carriers Southwest and American as well as Fiji Airways.

But that stance suffered something of a dent Wednesday when the FAA said new satellite data and about the aircraft’s configuration during take-off could together indicate some similarities between the Ethiopian and Lion Air tragedies.

It said these warranted “further investigation of the possibility of a shared cause for the two accidents that needs to be better understood and addressed”.

Further adding to this was comments by Ethiopian’s chief executive that one of the doomed plane’s pilots had told air traffic control the plane was experiencing “flight control problems”.

The key to the conundrum will be, as it always has been, will be the information retrieved from the flight data recorder (FDR)  and cockpit voice recorder (CVR).

It was the FDR that gave some insight into what happened in the Lion Air crash and showed that the pilot was fighting the plane’s automatic systems to the end.

Why that was and what part a new flight control law known by the acronym MCAS that tried to push down the plane’s nose after it received erroneous information from a faulty angle of attack sensor has yet to be fully explained.

Maintenance appears to have played a role and an important factor was the failure of the pilot to follow to an established procedure to shut down the automatic trim stabilization system.

The US Federal Aviation Administration issued an emergency airworthiness directive after the Indonesian crash warning pilots to follow procedures and has since been working with Boeing on improving the system.

It could still be that the two crashes are not linked and it seems unlikely that the sequence of events leading to the Lion Air accident would be replicated exactly in Ethiopia.

Ultimately, it will down to Boeing and regulators to do what they did with the 787s in 2013: explain to the public what happened and what they are doing to make the MAX family safer.

A saving grace for the planemaker is that the public memory is notoriously short and today’s controversy is likely to quickly become whatever is the digital equivalent of a fish wrapper.

There’s even precedent for this involving the 737, albeit without the firestorm accelerator of the internet.

USAir in 1994 had two fatal accidents over three months and suffered an initial hit to its reputation and sales but it had recovered just 12 months later.

The second of those crashes, USAir Flight 427, was due to a fault in the 737 rudder system and produced the longest investigation in the history of the National Transportation Safety Board.

After an investigation lasting more than four and a half years, the NTSB concluded in 1999 that a jam in the rudder caused it to deflect in a direction opposite to that commanded by the pilots.

It also concluded that similar rudder problems were involved in crashes of 737s operated by United Airlines and Eastwind Airlines.

Boeing pointed to pilot error as the cause of the USAir accident but agreed to redesign the rudder system and paid for a retrofit of the global 737 fleet.

The 737 motored on as Boeing’s biggest success story to become the best-selling jet in history.

The 737 is a plane many at Boeing did not want

Boeing's first 737
Boeing's first 737.

Many at Boeing never wanted to build the world’s bestselling and most reliable plane, the 737, and at one stage the non-believers almost sold the design to a consortium of Japanese aerospace manufacturers.

Key to the success of the 737 has been the ability of Boeing to improve the plane. The latest design, the MAX, is the fourth major upgrade but the subject of a global grounding.

Boeing started studies of a short-haul jet plane to supplement the company’s very successful 727 for short routes.

Design work began in May 1964, with the original design for a 60-passenger plane for routes up to 1600km.

The plane flew for five hours before landing successfully.

Many in Boeing thought the move was crazy because three other competitors already had similar jets flying or about to fly and there were few major customers left.

But Boeing had a major advantage with its family concept as its 737 would use many of the parts and the same cabin cross-section (six across) as its best-selling 707 and 727.

Boeing’s sales pitch was big-jet comfort on regional routes.

Germany’s Lufthansa and United Airlines were sold and the 737 was launched.

By the time the first flight took place in April 1967, 17 airlines had signed up. However, storm clouds were brewing for Boeing.

By 1969 the 747 was in trouble with its weight and engine performance and Boeing’s Super Sonic Transport had to be totally redesigned.

In 1970, starved of funds, Boeing looked for products to quit and the 737 which had sold only 23 that year was the prime candidate.

The 747’s issues were resolved with compromises on all sides, the US government canceled the SST in 1971 and the pressure came off. The future was not going to be high-speed travel across the globe but more a focus on regional flights connecting thousands of cities, with the 737 set to be both the magic carpet and a golden goose.

There is possibly no better example of how engine and aerodynamic technology has advanced aviation than the 737.

The first 737 could carry 124 passengers over 2775km, whereas the latest version to fly, two weeks just last Friday, the 737MAX 9 can carry 204 passengers in the same configuration over 7000km. And the fuel consumption improvements have been spectacular.

Since 2000, for instance, the fuel burn has declined 20 percent from the current model in airline service to the MAX.

As well as countless under-the-skin improvements, Boeing has given the 737 a new interior incorporating design concepts from its bigger brothers the 787 and 777.

Dubbed the Sky Interior, it totally transforms the 737. Boeing is building 42 737s a month and that rate is moving to 47 this year, 52 next year and 57 in 2019 to clear the backlog.

Since 1965 Boeing has received orders for 15146 737s, with 4668 still to be delivered.

The problem now for Boeing is how to replace its bestselling jet.

The aerospace company may launch one more version of the MAX series, with 12 extra seats, but a clean-sheet design is needed to take it to the middle of this century.

Challenge is where is the sweet spot to capture the bulk of the market. The original 737 was positioned in the 90-150 seat segment but that has grown to 150-220 seats over the years, with airlines now asking for even more seats.

More seats mean a push from a single-aisle plane to a twin-aisle for ease of boarding but that makes it less attractive at the lower capacity end of the market.

Boeing, and its now merged partner McDonnell Douglas dabbled with 200-seat twin-aisle designs in the 1980s and 1990s but airlines were lukewarm.

The width of the cabin allowed for economy seating of 2-2-2 rather than the familiar single-aisle 3-3.

But fast forward to today’s nightmare of passengers’ demands, particularly in the US, for carry-on baggage only and a twin-aisle solution with more overhead space, and the design plans have great appeal.

Hawaiian still the one when it comes to US on-time arrivals

Hawaiian on-time arrival 2018
Hawaiian nailed on-time arrivals in 2018.

Hawaiian Airlines remained the US airline to take if you want to arrive on time in 2018 as it chalked up its 15th successive year as the nation’s most punctual airline.

The airline’s 87.8 percent on-time arrival rate for the year made it a clear winner and was 8.6 percentage points ahead of the national on-time arrival average of 79.2 percent.

Other airline networks with an above-average performance included Alaska Airlines (82.7 percent of arrivals on time), Delta Air Lines (83.2 percent) and Spirit Airlines (81.1 percent).

Southwest Airlines sat on the national average with 79.2 percent of its aircraft arriving on time.

READ: American joins the ban on kittens, puppies, but small horses still allowed.

Of the other two major carrier networks, United Airlines just edged out American Airlines with 77.9 percent of its flights arriving on time compared to 77.4 percent of its rival’s services.

The worst performer was Frontier Airlines with an on-time arrival figure of 69.4 percent. It trailed rivals JetBlue Airways (71 percent) and Allegiant Air (76.9 percent).

Hawaiian is celebrating its 90th anniversary and Hawaiian chief executive Peter Ingram said the punctuality win reflected the meticulous focus and commitment of its employees.

“Nature presented us with some operational challenges last year, including increased volcanic activity in East Hawai’i and flooding on both ends of the Island chain, and our teams worked together to keep our flights operating safely and as punctually as possible,’’ he said.

The carrier will launch its 13th North American destination on April 4 when it starts non-stop service between Honolulu and Boston.

The new service continues the growth that has seen Hawaiian expand its international network in the last 15 years with service to Sydney, Haneda and Narita airports in Tokyo, Seoul, Osaka, Sapporo, Brisbane and Auckland.

Its 260-plus daily flights include more than 170 daily services operated on average between the Hawaiian Islands using Boeing 717-200 aircraft.





Boeing unveils 777X to employees


Boeing has unveiled its giant Boeing 777X to its employees in a low key event at Everett Washington.

No media attended after the grand unveiling was canceled in the wake of the Ethiopian Airlines tragedy on Sunday.

These photos were taken by a Boeing employee and provided to Sam Chui.

Boeing is building two models of the 777X family: the 400-seat -9, which will be the first to roll out and the longer range -8, which can seat 350 passengers and has a range capability of more than 17,220 km.

SEE Video 777X takes to the sky in Germany

SEE Greenpoint’s luxury 777X interior. 

The driving force behind the 777X is Emirates’ President Sir Tim Clark, whose airline is the lead buyer with an order for 150.

Sir Tim describes the 777X as “an absolute peach”.

Key to his enthusiasm is the aircraft’s economics and greater space — it is 20 percent more efficient per seat than the industry’s long-time benchmark the 777-300ER and its cabin is wider with bigger windows.

The Boeing 777X combines the best features of the current 777 with a longer fuselage, new engine and the composite wing design from the Boeing 787.

Other airlines that have ordered the 777X are Lufthansa, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, All Nippon Airlines and last week British Airways.

Downunder Qantas and Air New Zealand are also evaluating the 777X along with its arch-rival the A350-1000.

Qantas’s competition, called “Project Sunrise” demands Sydney to London non-stop capability with 300 passengers.

Both Airbus and Boeing say they can meet the airline’s demands or “close to it.”

Qantas plans to add underfloor bunks to the winner of its competition because on ultra-long-haul flights the aircraft will carry virtually no cargo, just passenger’s bags.






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