Saturday, March 17, 2018

Boeing's newest 737 Max makes first flight into a cloudy market

SEATTLE — Boeing's newest and smallest 737 Max jetliner took flight for the first time, into blue skies — and a cloudy, crowded market.

The takeoff, at 10:17 a.m. Friday outside Seattle, was characteristically drama-free for the third of four planned models in the Max family. Boeing's upgraded planes have largely met milestones on a schedule plotted years ago even as the manufacturer pushes single-aisle output to record highs.

But prospects for the new aircraft — the Max 7 —  are hazy. Sales have flagged as low-cost carriers migrated to larger, more economical models. Even Southwest Airlines, the launch customer for the Max 7 and largest operator of the 737-700, the jet's predecessor, is part of the trend. The Dallas-based carrier has ordered 30 Max 7s, and 210 of its larger sibling, the Max 8.

Chicago-based Boeing responded to the Max 7's two biggest customers, Southwest and Canada's WestJet Airlines, by stretching the narrow-body plane's airframe to seat 138 passengers, a dozen more than originally planned. The new model also flies farther than other Max models or its competitors. With a range of 3,850 nautical miles, the new jet should be able to fly directly from Dallas to Honolulu.

Boeing's propulsion center in North Charleston designs and assembles engine nacelle inlets for the 737 Max program. Boeing also designs the engine nacelle fan cowls at the Palmetto Commerce Park site, a few miles from the aerospace giant's 787 Dreamliner campus.

Competition in the small-jet market is fierce. New models from Brazil's Embraer and Canada's Bombardier are jockeying for sales in the same sliver of the market: jets that seat between 130 and 150 travelers. France's Airbus has all but conceded sales for its A319neo as it prepares to take control of Bombardier's C Series through a joint venture forged last year.

The flood of new planes might rekindle airline interest in the category, however, said Richard Aboulafia, aerospace analyst with Teal Group.

"It could be the Max 7 stays in a small niche," he said. "Or maybe the Embraer and C Series jets stimulate the 130-seat market. It is a notch up from the no man's land of 100-seaters."

Original article can be found here ➤

San Antonio Police Department boasts only female police helicopter pilot in Texas: Years of being denied made Army veteran more determined

SAN ANTONIO - The only woman to operate a law enforcement helicopter in the entire Lone Star State will retire at the end of the year after serving 32 years with the San Antonio Police Department.

“The freedom of flying, yes, I’ll miss it,” Officer Kathy O’Connor said. “And I’ll miss the guys I work with.”

Finally becoming a pilot — and working with “the guys” — took years of tenacity.

Before flying, O’Connor worked as an SAPD patrol officer and was shot in the line of duty, earning honors for her brave police work. She then became a tactical flight officer, sitting next to the pilot in the chopper.

“Running the camera system, calling the chases, talking to the dispatchers while the pilot flies,” O’Connor said. “And I did that for about three and a half years and I finally said, ‘I want to do that other side.’”

But O’Connor was told it would never happen.

“I was told for those couple of years that I came in as a tactical flight officer, that this unit would never have a female pilot,” she said.

Each "no" she heard only bolstered her determination.

“I kept knocking on the door and applying every time they had a pilot's position open, and I said, ‘One of these days, you're going to let me in.’ And finally I got in,” O'Connor said.

O’Connor said flying the SAPD Eagle helicopter is the best job in the department. She calls it “searching for bad guys from the sky.”

“The day begins with everything from robberies in progress to foot chases of wanted people to looking for missing children who hadn't shown up from school to elderly people who have walked away from nursing homes,” she said.

Growing up in a housing project on the south side of Chicago, O’Connor’s yearn to fly began while watching planes go in and out of Midway International Airport. She joined the Army, in part, as a way to go to college. Her service brought her to Military City, U.S.A., where she stayed after leaving the Army.

O’Connor joined SAPD in 1986. It was in the 1990s when she began to see more women enter the ranks.

Besides landing the job as a pilot, O’Connor doesn’t feel like she has faced any challenges unique to being a woman in the male-dominated skies. So what’s it like to be the only woman in her position?

“It's great! The guys I work with are great. They’ve all accepted me very well,” she said. “It's a great working environment.”

Don’t expect her to brag. O’Connor knows what she has achieved is extraordinary, and others have taken notice, too. She earned a lifetime achievement award from Texas Women in Law Enforcement and won an Inspiring Women's Award from the Silver Stars, the city's former WNBA team.

As her three decades in law enforcement come to a close, O’Connor said she hopes to see even more women soar.

“If there's something you want to do in life, go do it,” she said. “Don’t take no for an answer, because if you really want to do it, you'll find the way to accomplish it.”

O’Connor has one more promotion coming her way before retirement: She’s about to become a grandmother. 

Original article can be found here ➤