Monday, August 20, 2012

Ensuring flights are good to go

Bird strikes, lightning strikes, wear and tear, loose nuts and bolts - everything is inspected and repaired before an airliner can take off again. Yang Jian talks to inspectors who signs the checklist certifying that an airliner is safe and good to go.

When an airliner touches down at Hongqiao International Airport, Zhao Gangfeng, a senior aircraft maintenance engineer-inspector rushes onto the tarmac with his two partners.

Armed with flashlight, tools and clipboard, he crouches under the fuselage to carefully check the undercarriage, engines, fuel tanks and other parts to ensure everything is in good operating condition and every nut, bolt and screw is tight. He checks the tires.

Zhao, a veteran with 24 years' of maintenance, works for Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines. He is one of around 1,800 airline maintenance employes checking around 400 flights that land and take off each day at the Hongqiao airport, according to Huang Shaohu, deputy manager of China Eastern Engineering and Technology Co.

Many thousands of maintenance workers are employed at Hongqiao and Pudong international airports in Shanghai, going through check lists required by Chinese and international civil aviation authorities.

While Zhao checks the fuselage, one of the other two inspectors on his team enters the cockpit and makes a thorough check, with the other checking the tail and rudder.

After all the checks required by civil aviation authorities are completed an hour or so later, Zhao signs his name on a safety check-off chart to confirm the airliner is ready to take off again.

Zhao makes minor repairs. If there's a serious problem, repair work is ordered at once.

By this time, the team's uniforms are soaked through with sweat; temperatures on the tarmac can reach 60 degrees Celsius, while those in the cabin can reach 40 degrees in summer, when the air-conditioning is switched off.

After a brief rest, when their uniforms are barely dry, they rush off to do the same thing again when another plane lands.

"We must not only check every part carefully, but also complete the checks as soon as possible to ensure the aircraft can take off on time," Zhao says.

Zhao, 46, checks at least six aircraft every day, from 8am to 8pm. Then the night shift takes over.

As head of his maintenance team, each time Zhao signs his name, he assumes responsibility for the safety and airworthiness of every aircraft he checks.

"Sometimes I feel pressure when I sign my name, but I always tell myself to think of the pressure as responsibility for every passenger onboard," Zhao says.

In all his years, he has never made a mistake in maintenance or certification of aircraft safety, Zhao says.

Bird strikes are among the most common problems, occurring when birds and aircraft collide during take off or landing. If the birds are sucked into engines, there can be serious malfunctions.

"It can cause big problems, since we have to change entire parts if there are bird strikes on the wings or engine casings," Zhao says.

Some strikes are obvious, but some can be difficult to notice. Zhao says they go over the aircraft carefully, looking for blood, even tiny specs, as well as feathers or dents, which could indicate impact damage beneath the surface.

Lightning strikes are another problem, especially in summer. Whenever inspectors spot a burn on the surface, they check inside parts and electrical systems that could be damaged by lightning.

If problems cannot be fixed in a short time, the aircraft is grounded and repaired overnight, if possible, to ensure the flight schedule won't be affected the following day.

Overnight work is not uncommon; Zhao works five nights a month.

Nighttime work on the tarmac is painful in winter, when temperatures are lower and the windchill makes it seem worse.

Liu Xiaofeng, one of Zhao's colleagues, has been an airline mechanic for 20 years and says he has severe arthritis in his fingers and knees.

"Our fingers get wet with fuel while we repair engines and they turn numb when the cold wind blows," Liu says.

He and others must crouch or kneel under the fuselage for several hours during major repairs at night and it can get freezing cold. "Arthritis is a common problem for nearly every mechanic here," Liu says.

Stomach problems also are not uncommon since workers frequently must interrupt their meals and rush to the runway whenever an aircraft lands. The food can go bad in summer and get cold in winter.

Apart from daily checks and repairs, inspection and maintenance staff such as Zhao and Liu undertake longer, comprehensive checks on every aircraft every year.

One of the biggest nuisances is the annual opening and checking of the inflatable evacuation slides that are used in emergencies.

With a big bang, the escape slide is fully inflated by 3,000 pounds of helium within seven seconds. Then the slide is checked for leaks and damage. It then takes at least four days for four men to refold the slides, working in a small room, and put them back in place. Each large airliner usually has three evacuation slides on each side.

Each slide also contains 15 emergency packages that include torches, signal flares and a simple sea water purification system.

At Hongqiao airport, China Eastern staff must check and fold 40 slides each month.

Despite all the hard work and pressure, Zhao says he never regrets his work, but he's sorry he doesn't have more time to spend with his wife and 12-year-old son.

He feels especially proud when his son points to an airliner in flight and says, "that's repaired by my father."


Editorial: Mayors right to focus effort on ailing Memphis International (KMEM) Airport, Tennessee

Editorial:   The mayors are right to focus attention on Memphis International Airport, but where to focus? 

Mayors A C Wharton and Mark Luttrell rightly are aligning forces to try to keep Memphis International Airport strong. But they need to focus their efforts with one top priority in mind — keeping Pinnacle Airlines headquartered in Memphis.

Other airport-related issues will, in time, need attention from the mayors and the Memphis political and business leadership: attracting a new low-cost airline, working with FedEx to help retain its contract with the U.S. Postal Service, making sure Delta Air Lines doesn't further gut its service in Memphis.

But these important issues pale in comparison to the front-burner challenge: not letting Pinnacle Airlines relocate its headquarters from Memphis to Minneapolis, Detroit or anywhere else.

Here's why this must be a priority. Pinnacle is currently in bankruptcy proceedings. As a result, it can get out of its lease in Downtown Memphis. It can renegotiate contracts with pilots and other employees. Working with Delta, it can basically do whatever the company thinks is necessary to cut costs and survive. And all those decisions will be made by October, when the company plans to come out of bankruptcy.

Just days ago, Pinnacle management asked its nonunion employees to take a 6 percent pay cut, chop a week of vacation and otherwise help the company trim $76 million in costs. Only weeks ago, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport pitched the idea of Pinnacle pulling up stakes in Memphis and relocating its employees to the airport up there — where Pinnacle already has unoccupied office space.

A relocation would not leave a pretty picture in Memphis. Pinnacle Airlines, even after emerging from bankruptcy as a smaller company, likely will still employ 450 or more well-paid men and women in its company headquarters at One Commerce Square — the most important office building in the Downtown core.

Having Pinnacle headquartered in Memphis means most Pinnacle pilots come here for training and staff events — filling up hundreds of hotel rooms annually. And the headquarters here helps keep Delta at the airport, since Pinnacle is its largest regional partner.

How might the two mayors help keep Pinnacle in Memphis? Getting Gov. Bill Haslam to follow through on state incentives to keep Pinnacle in Memphis will be important. Working with the airport authority to keep Memphis the lowest-cost hub of operations will be crucial. Making sure the current headquarters are viewed as a bargain will be a factor, too.

Memphis needs to keep Pinnacle. That's job one for the mayors as they join the effort to shore up Memphis International Airport.


Delta Airlines to end flights from Columbia to Memphis in November

COLUMBIA — Delta Airlines will cancel its morning flights from Columbia Regional Airport to Memphis beginning Nov. 2 and replace them with flights to Atlanta beginning March 3, Public Works Department spokesman Steven Sapp said Monday morning. 

The schedule changes represent the latest development in fluctuating flight service at the airport. Mayor Bob McDavid announced last week that Frontier Airlines will offer two weekly nonstop flights to Orlando, at 4:15 p.m. and 10:25 p.m. each Tuesday and Saturday, beginning Nov. 20. Frontier will fly new Airbus 319s capable of carrying 138 passengers.

Sapp said Delta Airlines has full autonomy over its flight schedules and the new changes are part of normal seasonal adjustments. Sapp said the changes are market driven.

The morning flights to Memphis International Airport depart at 6:30 a.m.; the flights to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport that begin in March will leave at the same time. There will be three flights to and from Atlanta Sundays through Fridays starting in March. Delta Airlines will continue to offer two flights to Atlanta on Saturdays.

Detailed departure and arrival times can be viewed on


Sixty-Five Percent of Business Travelers in Greater Philadelphia Say Non-Stop Flights are Extremely Important

(PRWEB) August 20, 2012 

Sixty-five percent of business air travelers in Greater Philadelphia say that non-stop flights are extremely important according to a survey conducted by Select Greater Philadelphia and the CEO Council for Growth. Among these business travelers, Tokyo, Japan and Orange County, California are the most desired new non-stop international and domestic business destinations respectively from Philadelphia International Airport. 

“We’re excited about the responses to this important survey and we value everyone’s feedback,” said Philadelphia International Airport Chief Executive Officer Mark Gale. “The results of this exercise will help us build the business case in targeting additional non-stop domestic and international destinations from Philadelphia, and further our mission as a world-class airport.” 

Domestic destinations desired by business travelers for non-stop service from PHL were Orange County, CA; Austin, TX; and Honolulu, HI, while internationally Asia was the clear top choice with Tokyo, Japan; and Shanghai and Beijing, China in the top three. Top overall domestic destinations for current travel by business travelers are Chicago, Dallas and Boston.

“We applaud Select Greater Philadelphia and the CEO Council for Growth for conducting this Air Travel Survey,” said John Saler, Chairman, Government & Public Affairs Group of Stradley, Ronon, Stevens &Young, LLP and Chairman of the Philadelphia International Airport Advisory Board. ”The data will help us better understand the current travel needs of those living and/or working in the Greater Philadelphia region.”

For business travelers responding to the survey, both non-stop flight availability and convenient flight times were found to be extremely important. Over half the respondents use their organization’s corporate travel department to make travel arrangements. 

“The Philadelphia International Airport is a critically important asset in the Greater Philadelphia region for business travel and to attract leisure visitors, “said Tom Morr, President & CEO of Select Greater Philadelphia and member of the Philadelphia International Airport Advisory Board. “This survey helps identify passenger demand for potential new flights in key markets. It is intended to help airlines make more informed choices about where to add flights from PHL.”

Top destinations for current travel by leisure travelers are in the West with Chicago, San Francisco/San Jose and Los Angeles rounding out the top three spots. Top domestic destinations desired by leisure travels for non-stop service from PHL were all warm weather locations domestically with Honolulu, HI; Austin, TX; and Orange County, CA in the top three, while internationally Milan, Italy; Vancouver, Canada; and Sao Paulo, Brazil were among the top choices.

Half or more of survey respondents describing their leisure or personal travel needs ranked price and non-stop flight availability as extremely important factors when booking air travel. Leisure travelers were primarily booking coach class tickets for travel. Over 80% of respondents were heading straight to the airline website to purchase their leisure airfare tickets. 

The survey was distributed to members of the business and non-profit communities in Greater Philadelphia. Over 1,000 individuals responded to the survey detailing their personal and business travel needs. The goal of the survey is to use information gathered to assist the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) in their efforts to seek additional domestic and international air service.

Top Non-Stop Desired International Destinations (Business Travel)
1    Tokyo, Japan
2    Shanghai, China
3    Beijing, China
4    Mumbai, India
5    Milan, Italy

Top Non-Stop Desired Domestic Destinations (Business Travel)
1    Orange County, CA
2    Austin, TX
3    Honolulu, HI
4    San Jose (US), CA
5    San Antonio, TX

Top Non-Stop Desired International Destinations (Leisure Travel)
1    Milan, Italy
2    Vancouver, Canada
3    Sao Paulo, Brazil
4    Tokyo, Japan
5    Buenos Aires, Argentina

Top Non-Stop Desired Domestic Destinations (Leisure Travel)
1    Honolulu, HI
2    Austin, TX
3    Orange County (SNA), CA
4    San Jose (US), CA
5    San Antonio, TX

About Select Greater Philadelphia

Select Greater Philadelphia (Select) is an economic development marketing organization dedicated to attracting companies to the Greater Philadelphia region. Select assists companies interested in the vicinity by providing detailed information about the 11-county area and a one-stop connection to numerous resources that help companies make informed decisions about locating to the region. Through global marketing efforts, Select works to promote the region’s key assets to help build the area’s economy. The Greater Philadelphia region encompasses northern Delaware, southern New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania. Select is a private, non-profit organization and an affiliate of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. For more information, visit or call 215-790-3777. Follow Select on twitter at: @selectgrphila.

Read the full story at

Southwest raises fares; other airlines follow

Airfares look to be going up for the fifth time this year. 

Southwest Airlines led the latest attempt by U.S. airlines to raise fares, with a $5 increase on one-way routes of less than 500 miles.

Usually, when Southwest raises fares, other U.S. carriers match, and the increase lasts.

So far, some of the largest legacy carriers — Delta, US Airways, United and American — have followed Southwest's lead. Virgin America also raised fares on short-haul markets where it competes with Southwest, including San Francisco to San Diego, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Airlines have had a profitable year so far but still complain of higher operating expenses, primarily jet fuel costs. They've been able to keep fares up by cutting back on the number of flights and making fewer seats available.

"We never want to increase fares for customers, and are proud of the low fares we offer on," says Ashley Dillon, a spokeswoman for Southwest. "Sometimes, though, an increase is necessary to cover the cost of our business, including fuel."

Airlines have tried to raise fares eight times so far this year. Four have been successful. This latest Southwest-led move would bring the tally to five.

Southwest's average passenger airfare is $141.72 one-way, and the average passenger trip length is about 939 miles.

Last year, airlines made 22 attempts to increase fares. Nine were successful.

Airlines are changing their strategy this year, says Rick Seaney, CEO of

Typically, carriers increase fares on a wider range of routes. But last week, Delta tried to raise prices on fares more common among business travelers, those tickets bought at the last-minute for higher-price seats with more leg room. That attempt failed when other airlines didn't match.

"It is pretty clear that domestic airlines would like to hike domestic prices … but seem skittish about continued broadbased hikes and are switching, at least temporarily, to plan B — targeting specific segments of the flying public," Seaney says.

Seaney expects this latest fare jump to stick.

"It is rare for any type of hike where Southwest participates to fail," he says. "Rather, the opposite is normally the case, as many hikes fail due to their lack of participation."


Nigeria's domestic airlines ''to raise fares by 30%''

Domestic airline operators in Nigeria are to raise their fares by 30% following an increase in the cost of leasing aircraft as well as higher insurance premiums, the local media reported Monday. 

The report said the recent classification of Nigeria among ''high risk nations'' have raised the cost of leasing an aircraft by 60%.

It is also believed that the recent crashes involving Nigerian airlines have led to higher insurance premiums for the country's operators.

On 3 June, a DANA Air MD-83 plane flying from the inland capital city of Abuja to the economic capital city of Lagos crashed into a residential area on the outskirts of the city, killing at least 150.

When the planned increase in fares is effected, the price of a round trip ticket for a one-hour flight will increase to between 37,000 (US$231) and 42,000 Naira (US$262), from the current average of 28,000 (US$175) and 33,000 Naira (US$206).

The increase will be the second in recent times, coming closely on the heels of a 20 per cent hike in fares by the airlines.

Nigeria's domestic airline operators have been groaning under tough operational conditions, including rising cost of fuel.

Philadelphia International (KPHL), Pennsylvania: "A little love" for Terminal F at airport - More upgrades are planned

Businessman Thomas Bennett did not relish taking a shuttle bus from Terminal C, where he flew in from Pittsburgh, to connect to a flight in Terminal F, at the other end of Philadelphia International Airport. 

Especially in the rain.

"I would put a cover where the bus drop is here," Bennett said the other day, as he waited in busy Terminal F to board a commuter jet to Manchester, N.H.

Bennett, who clocks 100 to 150 flights a year, gives the Philadelphia airport a general thumbs-up.

But, he said, "if you are talking specifically about F Terminal, it seems a little distant, and it needs a little love."

Love is just what the commuter Terminal F is getting: a $127 million expansion and makeover aimed at making travel easier and more fun.

Soon, those inclement weather days will be over for Bennett and the 4.9 million other travelers who fly each year on small planes into or out of the 38-gate commuter terminal.

Terminal F is getting a new, larger shuttle bus stop with a covered vestibule. Passengers won't have to step into rain or snow when connecting by bus to other terminals.

And passengers may rejoice that, inside, the terminal is getting twice as many restaurants and concessions, more passenger seating, and an expanded security checkpoint to accommodate the crowds.

The improvements are unrelated to a long-term $5.2 billion airport proposal that calls for a fifth runway along the Delaware River. US Airways is acting as construction manager of the Terminal F redesign, which will be completed in early 2016 and financed by fees charged to airlines.

One-sixth of the Philadelphia airport's 31 million annual passengers start or end trips in Terminal F, which was designed in the late 1990s for smaller 30- and 50-seat regional jets.

When the $98 million terminal opened in 2001, US Airways Group Inc. flew 175 daily Express flights out of it. Today, US Airways operates 275 daily Express flights and uses all 38 gates.

When 50-seat jets were in fashion, fuel was $1 a gallon. "Now at $4 a gallon that changes the economics," said Rhett Workman, US Airways managing director of corporate real estate. Delta Air Lines recently announced plans to shed 218 50-seat jets.

"Regional jets are not going away," said aviation consultant Michael Boyd in Evergreen, Colo. "We are just going to have bigger airplanes."

As US Airways expanded in Philadelphia, its second-largest hub and primary international hub, more "feeder" traffic has come into Terminal F.

Aeroflot Gets $1.26Bln to Buy Boeings

VEB Leasing has concluded a $1.26 billion deal to finance Aeroflot's acquisition of four Boeing 777-300ER airliners, the airline said. 

VEB Leasing is a subsidiary of state lender VEB.

The aircraft will be supplied from January to April 2013. The acquisition is part of an Aeroflot agreement to buy six Boeing 777-300ER aircraft and eight Boeing 200ER planes that was concluded in March 2011.

Andrei Rozhkov, an analyst at Metropol, said the contract was a profitable deal for Aeroflot. Usually airlines have to wait longer for Boeing supplies, he said.

Aeroflot could use the new aircraft to operate flights in the peak traffic period during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Rozhkov said.

The Boeing contract will help Aeroflot in its future negotiations with Airbus, Rozhkov said, adding that the airline would have more leverage in talks with Boeing's main competitor.

Currently, Aeroflot has eight Boeing 767-300ER aircraft, according to the company's website.

Boing 777 airliners are the world's largest twin-engine jets. They also have the biggest turbofan engines of any aircraft.

The Boeing 777 is Boeing's first fly-by-wire airplane and its first entirely computer-designed aircraft.

Boeing 777-200ERs are used for international flights. They have a capacity of 327 passengers and a range of 13,400 kilometers.

The Boeing 777-300ER has a capacity of 365 passengers and a range of 14,685 kilometers.

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Now, fly from Ahmedabad to Bhavnagar in less than 2 hours

From Monday, Deccan Charters will begin its Ahmedabad-Bhavnagar air service which will touch Surat along the way. Travelling to Bhavnagar by air may prove slightly expensive for Amdavadis but, for a Surti, going to the Saurashtra city by the same flight may prove economical. 

Sources said that a ticket on the Bhavnagar–Ahmedabad flight is likely to cost around Rs6,000 while the Surat-Bhavnagar ticket will come for around Rs4,500.

Deccan Charters Limited (DCL), formerly known as Deccan Aviation Limited, is launching its intra-state flights in Gujarat from Monday. The airline will operate non-scheduled chartered flight services within Gujarat under the brand name, Deccan Shuttles.

There will be six flights daily and these will be serviced by 15-seater aircraft between the three cities.

It will take 1 hour 45 minutes to fly from A’bad to Bhavnagar via Surat. The first flight on Monday will take off from Ahmedabad at around 7:30 am and go straight to Surat.

The aircraft will make four Surat-Bhavnagar flights by evening that day. It will finally take off from Surat at around 6 pm for its return flight to Ahmedabad.

Flights on the Ahmedabad-Kandla route will be started from August 27 and the Ahmedabad-Jamnagar route will be added subsequently, said a statement issued by the company. In the coming days, this service will connect key economic hubs of Gujarat, viz, Ahmedabad, Surat, Jamnagar, Bhavnagar and Kandla.

“Later two more aircraft are likely to be added. By the end of the month, the A’bad–Kandla–A’bad and A’bad–Jamnagar–A’bad services will be started,” a source said.

Deccan wants to identify tourist, industrial and other important clusters that are currently not serviced by airlines to provide customised charter flights on these routes.

When asked about the high ticket prices estimated for the service, a government official said that currently travelling in luxury to any city of Gujarat from Ahmedabad does not cost more than Rs1,000.

On May 1 last year, Deccan Charters, under the brand name of Deccan 360, had planned intra-state services for Gujarat connecting 11 cities of the state. But for various reasons, it got delayed. Later, Deccan Charters wanted to start the service under the brand name of Simply Fly but DGCA did not approve it.

According to industry experts, financially the business is not very viable. “Flying to Bhavnagar from Ahmedabad will be expensive. It will take almost 2 hours. By road, it takes around 3 hours and a road trip costs less than Rs500,” said an expert.