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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why 7’s been a lucky number

Why 7’s been a lucky number
Boeing 707One of the most frequently asked questions posed to Boeing company historians is, "How did Boeing come up with the 7-7 name for its commercial jets?" There are many myths about the Boeing 7-7 name, one of the most famous brands in history.
People who lean toward math and engineering are certain that 707 was chosen because it is the sine of the angle of wing sweep on a 707. It's not, since the wing sweep is 35 degrees and not 45. However, more people lean toward superstition and feel that the positive connotation of the number seven was the reason it was selected.
The truth is a bit more mundane. Boeing has assigned sequential model numbers to its designs for decades, as have most aircraft manufacturers. Boeing commercial aircraft use their model number as their popular name: Model 40, Model 80, Model 247, Model 307 Stratoliner and Model 377 Stratocruiser.
Boeing planes built for the military are best remembered by their military designations, such as the B-17 Flying Fortress or the B-52 Stratofortress. These airplanes also had Boeing model numbers assigned to them-the B-17 is the Boeing Model 299 and the B-52 is the Boeing Model 454.
After World War II, Boeing was a military airplane company. William Allen, Boeing president at the time, decided that the company needed to expand back into commercial airplanes and pursue the new fields of missiles and spacecraft. To support this diversification strategy, the engineering department divided the model numbers into blocks of 100 for each of the new product areas: 300s and 400s continued to represent aircraft, 500s would be used on turbine engines, 600s for rockets and missiles and 700s were set aside for jet transport aircraft.
Boeing developed the world's first large swept-wing jet, the B-47. That aircraft sparked interest with some of the airlines. One in particular, Pan Am, asked Boeing to determine its feasibility as a commercial jet transport. At the same time, Boeing began studies on converting the propeller-driven model 367 Stratotanker, better known as the KC-97, into a jet-powered tanker that would be able to keep pace with the B-52 during in-flight refueling.
Boeing product development went through several renditions of the model 367, and finally a version numbered 367-80 was selected. It was soon nicknamed the "Dash 80."
Boeing took a calculated risk by financing the development and construction of the Dash 80 prototype with its own funds. The goal was to put the airplane into production as both an Air Force tanker/transport and a commercial jet transport.
Since both of these offspring of the Dash 80 would be jet transports, the model number system called for a number in the 700s to identify the two new planes. The marketing department decided that "Model 700" did not have a good ring to it for the company's first commercial jet. So they decided to skip ahead to Model 707 because that reiteration seemed a bit catchier. Following that pattern, the other offspring of the Dash 80, the Air Force tanker, was given the model number 717. Since it was an Air Force plane, it was also given a military designation of KC-135.
After 717 was assigned to the KC-135, the marketing department made the decision that all remaining model numbers that began and or ended in 7 would be reserved exclusively for commercial jets. (After the Boeing-McDonnell Douglas merger in the late 1990s, the model number 717 was reused to identify the MD-95 as part of the Boeing commercial jet family.)
Other than the 717, the only anomaly to the Boeing commercial jet numbering system was the Boeing model 720. The 720 was a short-range, high-performance version of the 707 and was first marketed to the airlines as the model 707-020. United Airlines was very interested in the 707-020 but had previously decided to go with Douglas and the DC-8. To help United avoid any negative public relations for going back to the 707, Boeing changed the name of the 707-020 to the 720.
Since the naming of the initial 717, all Boeing commercial jets have been named in succession based on the 7-7 formula: 727, 737, 747 . up to the latest Boeing commercial jet transport, the 7E7.

Monday, October 3, 2011

An a-MAZE-ing photo of a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner in South Carolina. To view current opportunities in South Carolina, visit:
Boone Hall , one of America's oldest working plantations, unveiled an annual attraction at its sprawling grounds in South Carolina: a specially-themed corn maze. This year, the maze was meticulously cut to showcase a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Boeing, which began building the first 787 at its new Sou...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Boeing Introduces the 737 MAX – Really?

Is this the new Boeing 737 MAX livery? Nope, but a great Photoshop by Lyle Jansma.
Is this the new Boeing 737 MAX livery? Nope, but a great Photoshop by Lyle Jansma.
There are two stories with the unveiling of the new Boeing 737 MAX: the actual aircraft (which promises greater efficiency) and the choice of the name “MAX.” When I heard about Boeing’s name for their 737 re-engine, for some odd reason, I got really thirsty and wanted a Pepsi… weird. While this story should lead with the differences of the new 737, I feel I have to talk about the new name first, since it is the most shocking.
Boeing is a smart company that makes respected aircraft. They have a history of creating legendary names:StratocruiserStratoliner, and of course Dreamliner. The name “MAX” is just not in the same category in my opinion — it seems lazy and very “been there, done that.”
There has been a lot of speculation on what Boeing might call their 737 Re-engine: the 737RE, 737-8, 737NNG. Many people have been excited to find out the new name. Reading different reactions on the internet, it appears I am not the only one who is disappointed.
According to Boeing, these next, next generation aircraft will be written as the “737 MAX 7″, “737 MAX 8″ and “737 MAX 9″ without dashes. I think I might be writing them as 737-7, 737-8, 737-9 with dashes and no “MAX.”
The 737 Next Generation was a great name. I even like Airbus’ new A320neo name to describe their more efficient aircraft to compete with the 737.
Yes, I understand the ideas behind Boeing choosing this name, but it doesn’t mean the name works. During the press conference announcing the re-engined 737, Nicole Piasecki explained why Boeing chose the MAX name. “We wanted the name to capture how exceptional the 737 is not only to in terms of its performance but we wanted it to be able to differentiate the 7, 8 and 9. We wanted to make sure the name was easily identifiable from 4-year olds up to 90-year olds and we wanted to make sure that it represented the best that it will truly be… We thought about how do you convey superiority, the best, the gold standard in single-aisle airplanes. And how do you come up with a name to describe already a great airplane. We wanted to make sure that it talked about what it was going bring to the industry in terms of maximum benefit, maximum competitive advantage for our customers, maximum value and absolute maximum in what an airplane could deliver to our customers. So we came up with something that fit that and we will be calling this airplane the 737 MAX.”
With all the creative and smart people at Boeing this is the best (er max) that they could do?
I like the new real livery of the 737 MAX, but not so sure about the name. Image from Boeing.
I like the new real livery of the 737 MAX, but not so sure about the name. Image from Boeing.
Will an airline not choose this aircraft because of the name? Of course not. They are going to care more about the performance and the bottom line.  Going with a re-engine 737 versus a whole new product makes sense. Airlines have already showed a strong demand for an updated single-aisle aircraft sooner rather than later. Going with a re-engined 737 will allow Boeing to  improve the 777 and develop additional models for the 787.
There are already496 orders for the new MAX aircraft from five airlines. Those that already have 737NG’s on order will most likely have the opportunity to change over to MAX aircraft.
Boeing states the 737 MAX will have a 16% less fuel consumption than their “competitor’s current offering” (we will assume that is the Airbus A320) and it will have 4% less than the A320neo. The new plane will use CFM International LEAP-1B engines and is expected to have its first delivery sometime in 2017.
So what are your thoughts? Do you like the 737 MAX name?

Friday, July 22, 2011

§  American splits jet order between Boeing and Airbus
American Airlines announced plans to split an order for 460 jets between longtime supplier Boeing and European manufacturer Airbus. American ordered 200 737-class jets from Boeing, as well as 260 A320 aircraft from Airbus. "We'll have the youngest fleet among our U.S. peers within five years as a result of this deal," said Tom Horton, the president of American Airlines' parent company. (7/20), USA TODAY/The Associated Press (7/20), The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (7/20) LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmail this Story
§  Republic Airways CEO expects Frontier to be profitable
Bryan Bedford, the president and CEO of Republic Airways, wrote in an e-mail to company employees that he expects Frontier Airlines to be profitable in the second half of 2011, despite losing about $10 million in revenue due to a recent storm. Frontier was forced to cancel numerous flights as 18 of its planes were damaged on July 13 by a hailstorm in Denver. American City Business Journals/Denver (7/19) LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmail this Story
§  AMR announces plans to spin off American Eagle
AMR Corp., the parent company of American Airlines, today announced plans to spin off American Eagle. The regional carrier launched its first flight in 1984 and now has a fleet of about 281 planes. AMR did not offer a timeline for the spinoff. ABC News/The Associated Press (7/20) LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmail this Story
§  American Airlines reports wider loss for Q2
American Airlines reported a loss of $286 million for the second quarter, compared with a loss of $11 million in the same quarter of last year. The loss exceeded analysts' estimates. Meanwhile, American also announced plans to shutter a call center in Dublin. (7/20), The Irish Times (Dublin) (7/20) LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmail this Story
§  Other News
·         Chase launches new United Airlines-branded credit card
Houston Chronicle (7/19)
LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmail this Story
Airlines kick off autumn airfare sales
Los Angeles Times/Daily Travel & Deal blog (7/19)
LinkedInFacebookTwitterEmail this Story

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

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Friday, June 3, 2011

A320 passenger-to-freighter conversion program suspended

Note: The following article is excerpted from the current issue of Cargo Facts Update. We encourage those of you who do not already subscribe to the weekly Update, and its companion the monthly printed Cargo Facts newsletter, to click here for more information.

Many separate industry sources have independently told Cargo Facts that the A320 passenger-to-freighter conversion program is about to be postponed, with an official announcement expected today (Friday 03 June).

As it currently stands, the program is spearheaded by Airbus Freighter Conversions (AFC), a joint venture of EFW (EADS’ MRO and conversion arm), Airbus, and Russian aerospace companies UAC and Irkut, with EFW holding a 32% stake, Airbus 18%, and the two Russian firms holding 25% each. The program was launched with an order for up to 30 conversions from Netherlands-based lessor AerCap, however, Cargo Facts believes that at least one other order was in late-stage negotiation at the time of the program's suspension. The only end user so far identified by AerCap is Sweden-based West Atlantic, which had agreed to take three A320Fs, one in 2012, and the remaining two in 2013.

The conformity aircraft (ex-Tunisair, msn 211) was inducted at EFW’s Dresden facility in April (although actual conversion work was not scheduled to start until later this year). 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Denver (CO) KCNC: Tonight At 10: CBS4 Investigates Outsourcing Airline Maintenance . More   -

Monday, May 16, 2011

Air France 447: The Cost of What We’ll Learn

By Robert Mark on May 1st, 2011
There is some good news to report as we approach the two year anniversary of the the Air France 447 accident in the South Atlantic during the late evening hours of May 31, 2009. An unmanned submarine exploration team headed by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution – the same group that found the Titanic – located the flight data recorder from Air France 447 on the ocean floor in 12,000 feet of water.
Flight recorderThe flight disappeared without a distress call, other than a few last-minute computer-generated messages announcing electrical issues, some 750 miles northeast of Brazil that night taking 228 men, women and children, residents from 32 countries, to their death.
Two years later, there is little more than speculation about what brought the aircraft down offering few opportunities for closure of any sort to the grieving families, nor Air France, Airbus, the French BEA or anyone else wondering how and why. The recorder may offer some hope, provided it has not been damaged by two years of exposure to the sea.
An Abundance of Theories
Not surprisingly, there has been plenty of speculation. The flight plan called for the Airbus A300-200 to depart Rio de Janiero for Paris along a route that would drive  it squarely through the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), an area near the equator with nearly calm upper-level winds. That lack of wind makes weather behave a bit differently from what we normally see in latitudes further north.
A translation from pilot-speak means that in the warm, moist air of the region, thunderstorms often grow unrestricted to enormous heights, some considerably more than 10 miles above the ocean surface making them impossible to fly over.  Significant lines of storms were forecast along the route the Airbus planned to fly that evening, leading some to initially believe the experienced crew flew directly into the storms, or at least too close to them. Other experts believe the initial wreckage recovered indicates the aircraft hit the water in-tact, but at an enormous speed partially debunking the thunderstorm concept. Without solid data from the flight recorders, everything though, is likely to remain simply speculative.
The Cost of Answers
I chatted not long ago with Matt Bradley, vice president of business development at Vancouver-based Flyht, a commercial aviation data collection and delivery company. I was more than a little surprised to learn that we could have had some useful answers about Air France 447 before the aircraft hit the water that night if real-time data streaming equipment had been on-board. Not long after I mentioned a similar idea in a June, 2009 TV interview on WGN, a source told me the technology was non-existent, as well as impractical.
After talking to Bradley, I wondered how a better understanding of the accident two years ago might have changed the industry. Would we have changed the A330 airspeed probes or was that simply a great sound bite? Was it some operational issue that took the aircraft outside it’s normal performance envelope? Was it the way the pilots attempted to penetrate to thunderstorms that was the problem? Imagine if we’d known the answers two years ago.
Bradley – an A330 pilot himself – said not only does the data-streaming technology exist now, but that it did at the time of the Air France 447 accident. The Airbus simply didn’t have the equipment installed. One simple reason is money. Bradley said a unit installed on the Airbus could have run somewhere “between $35,000-$50,000,” with similar prices for installation on Boeing, Embraer and Bombardier airframes. Then of course there is the cost to stream the data.
Another reason? “Because the public hasn’t yet demanded it,” he told me. Of course, how could they when no one knows the options even exist. But airframe manufacturers knew it existed in 2009.
Bradley did tell me that full-time data streaming really IS impractical, not to mention some system to analyze those enormous amounts of information. At least it’s impractical right now.
That doesn’t mean an airplane couldn’t regularly phone home with a short burst of vital operational data so people knew what was going on every so often. The maintenance messages the Airbus did send were pretty much useless for figuring out what happened that night. Or what about an “emergency” button a crew or computer could trigger with useful data when things get hairy?
Certainly maybe every commercial airplane doesn’t need this capability, but airplanes flying the Atlantic, the Pacific or the polar regions certainly should employ it. They carry life rafts for emergencies. Why not emergency data transfer capabilities?
When I mentioned this story to a bunch of magazine journalists in New York this weekend, to a person, each thought the capability already existed on international flights.  No one could understand how in this day and age, with the state of technology, that an airline could lose an airplane at sea and have no idea what happened for two years … assuming again the recorder delivers something valuable
Honestly, I can’t understand not having this device aboard an international airplane either.
Rob Mark, publisher

Thursday, May 12, 2011

No explanation for 'outbreak of insanity' on planes

By Gary Stoller, USA TODAY

Updated 3h 15m ago
 228 |  6
Aviation experts cannot explain what has prompted three airline passengers to try to open cabin or cockpit doors while in flight the past few days, but they say other passengers shouldn't worry.
  • A Delta Air Lines jet headed to San Diego from Detroit sits at a remote area of Albuquerque International Sunport on Sunday after the flight was diverted due to a "potential security threat."
    By Tim Cole, AP
    A Delta Air Lines jet headed to San Diego from Detroit sits at a remote area of Albuquerque International Sunport on Sunday after the flight was diverted due to a "potential security threat."
By Tim Cole, AP
A Delta Air Lines jet headed to San Diego from Detroit sits at a remote area of Albuquerque International Sunport on Sunday after the flight was diverted due to a "potential security threat."
Exit doors cannot be opened while the plane is in the air, they say, and doors to cockpits have been hardened and locked since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
"It's not possible to open an aircraft door in-flight, and cockpit doors have been reinforced," says American Airlines spokesman Ed Martelle.
Former Federal Aviation Administration security director Billie Vincent says he has no idea and no theories for "this outbreak of insanity" by passengers.
The latest incident occurred Tuesday night on a flight from Orlando to Boston. Massachusetts police say they arrested 43-year-old Robert Hersey after his alleged attempt to open an emergency door on a Delta Air Lines Airbus A320. Passengers say he had been drinking and appeared upset when the flight was late.
"The report I saw indicated that the Delta passenger was drunk, but why try to open a door in-flight?" Vincent asks.
•On Sunday, American Airlines flight attendants and passengers subdued a Yemeni native who was screaming and pounding on a cockpit door of a Boeing 737-800 jet 40 minutes before it was scheduled to land in San Francisco, Martelle says.
Police arrested Rageh Al-Murisi, 28, and charged him with interfering with a flight crew. A federal judge on Tuesday denied bail.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Elise Becker says Al-Murisi yelled "God is great" in Arabic before heading to the cockpit.
Martelle says American flight attendants didn't understand what Al-Murisi was saying and initially thought he was mistaking the cockpit door for the bathroom door. When they pointed him to the bathroom door, he again tried to open the cockpit door, Martelle says.
The flight from Chicago was carrying 156 passengers, four flight attendants and two pilots.
•Also on Sunday, Continental Airlines Flight 546 was diverted to St. Louis after a passenger tried to open a cabin door and was subdued by flight attendants and passengers. The Boeing 737-800, carrying 160 passengers and six crewmembers, was en route from Houston to Chicago.
Prosecutors say that Reynel Alcaide, 34, of Burbank, Ill., rushed up the aisle toward the front of the plane, pinned a flight attendant against a wall and tried to open the door.
Passengers shouldn't be concerned about the rash of incidents because they "are so infrequent," Martelle says.
"The only reason anybody is talking about this is because Osama bin Laden was killed last week," the airline spokesman says.
According to aircraft manufacturer Boeing, cabin doors "cannot be opened once an airplane is airborne and pressurized."
Planes are pressurized to the equivalent atmosphere of 8,000 feet to assist passenger breathing and comfort, Boeing's website says.
"Since airplanes typically cruise above 30,000 feet, the air pressure inside the plane is much greater than the pressure outside — and that pressure differential makes it impossible to open the door," Boeing's website says.
Vincent says fliers are aware of security concerns following the death of bin Laden and have become more alert and ready to act to resolve in-flight disturbances since 9/11.
Aviation consultant Michael Boyd, however, says "the most dangerous and amateur concept today is that passengers won't let another event happen."
It "is stupid," he says, to assume that "the next event will be a replay" of what occurred when passengers reportedly fought hijackers before all were killed when their plane crashed near Shanksville, Pa., on Sept. 11, 2001.
Contributing: The Associated Press