Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A380 Demo Tour Arrives; Natives Puzzled

As everyone but three guys in a coal mine in West Virginia have heard, yesterday was the simultaneous arrival of two A380 airliners, one on the shaky side and one on the dirty side as the truckers say. This, it is alleged, will allow operators to get some information on handling arrangements and amenities for future passengers.

Much has been said, and it does seem that there are a lot of airplane watchers who got a visual treat, particularly in my old home town of Los Angeles. On the north side of Mines Field, a/k/a Los Angeles International Airport are the remains of a residential development whose occupants were bought out years ago because of noise. All that's left is the eucalyptus and the odd curving streets and the slabs where the ticky tacky (as Malvina Reynolds called it) once stood. It was a good place to watch airplanes from, most notably the nonstop B747 to Paris struggling to get airborne in the late afternoon.

Credits to Airbus for a good show, no doubt in advance of the Paris Air Show in June-I am sure we can expect quite a bit of grandstanding from those quarters in the runup to the show.

It occurs to me that the Pennsylvania Dutch had a saying that the folks who are looking at buying airplanes might well read, mark and inwardly digest: Kissin' don't last, but cookin' do.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Go Get 'Em, Patel: Kingfisher Reports In

Flight International has this to say this morning: "Based on the information I have, just like the 777 killed the A340, the A350 will kill the 777 for sure and it will come close to the 787 as well" says Kingfisher Airlines executive VP Hitesh Patel.

The percipient observer of average intelligence and prudence would think that by the time the reports are in and the A350 is in service (if ever), there's going to be a lot more killing to do than there is at the present. Boeing will be happily churning out 777s and 787s for at the very least another five or six years, and that's if the A350 meets every milestone and then goes on and slays the dragon of the hated bumpkins in America, and that's if the entire engineering department of Boeing says "Hey-we're done here and we're not doing any more competitive R&D for the next six years, see ya".

What tea leaves Mr. Patel is reading are unknown but one might think that they come from Toulouse by express mail, no doubt carried on Boeing airframes.

Rather, what we're no doubt seeing is the first flakes in a snowstorm of publicity from da Festung leading up to the Paris Airshow this year. I suppose it's all to be expected, being as the news has been unremittingly bad from Airbus, and they've got to put on a good show for the home crowd.

This newest iteration of the Airbus strategy seems to be a further iteration of the 'pie in the sky when you die' routine that they beat to death with the A380 until that emperor proved to have no clothes.

Wake me when it's over.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Business Times: Malaysia To Cancel A380?

Business Times is reporting that Malaysia Airlines is likely to cancel its order for 6 A380 passenger jets because, despite the offer of deep discounts on the A350, the new delivery dates do not fit with Malaysia' business plan.

Stay tuned. This could get ugly.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Desperately Seeking Galileo: An American Perspective on a European Problem

We here on the western side of the Atlantic are sometimes bemused and rarely astounded at the antics of our European colleagues, particularly perched here on the bleachers as we are with our picnic hampers and cans of Budweiser.

In particularly we've watched as Airbus has faltered in an attempt to determine whether as fractious a combine as Airbus can ever succeed in a project as ambitious and star crossed as the A380 has proved to be, and what effect it will have on the future of whatever Airbus becomes. The jury's far from rendering a verdict on the question and much remains to be proven, but the A380 may well prove to be the answer to a question that it wasn't worth asking in the first place. Time will surely tell, and hindsight is always 20/20.

In our view the A380 program is symptomatic of a European compulsion to outdo the hated Yanquis in anything and everything whatever the cost, from matters of business, cuisine and philosophy to deciding the weightier questions of what we've all collectively done to the planet. Nothing warms the European (and particularly our French colleagues') hearts so much as the sure knowledge that the hated Yanquis are a bunch of cultural Philistines and low grade morons.

For our part as Americans, we take peevish delight in deflating the overblown egos of our friends in Europe as only rude frontiersmen and country bumpkins might when seeing our citified friends step off the stage from Carson City and land face first on the manure heap. I suspect that the concept of "Eff 'em if they can't take a joke!" is a uniquely American one.

Thus it was that I stumbled over the EU Referendum blog and its article entitled "The Airbus of Space" that brought me back up to speed on another manifestation of this distressing syndrome, and that is the Galileo Project. The EU Referendum blog is an excellent site and I commend it to your kind attention.

All navigation is premised on a principle of triangulation. Whether it was Polynesian mariners reading reflective waves from atolls below the horizon or the merchant seaman with his sextant and clock, the idea was the same. If you can take a bearing on a couple of known positions, you can figure out where you are on the planet. If you can do this with three or more known positions, you can get pretty accurate.

This principle took a quantum leap when commercialized marine radio became a reality about a hundred years ago. In 1916, Dr. Frederick Kolster of the U.S. Bureau of Standards patented the direction finding loop antenna which advanced the science of RDF, or radio direction finding. Triangulation became a less complicated matter when reference was made to onshore stations.

Technological innovations in radio, space flight and computer technology all came together in the second half of the last century. Computer technology coupled with RDF gave us systems like LORAN, VLF, and Omega, but these depended on shore based stations under uncertain political regimes and they were rendered obsolete by the advent of GPS, or Global Positioning System.

Developed by the US Department of Defense, GPS depends on a system of satellites in medium earth orbit that transmit information on position and time to a user's receiver, which then can deliver positional information with great accuracy. This information may be used by a pilot or sailor, or it can be used to guide precision munitions or perform mapping functions.

GPS is free to everyone who can purchase a receiver, but many have thought that having the Pentagon with its thumb on the switch is a bad thing.

Particularly those in Europe.

Particularly those in France.

Particularly those in France who would like to sell all weather precision guided weaponry to all comers with a plump billfold without having to genuflect toward Washington and hence Tel Aviv.

And that is where the Galileo Project came in. It is pretty much the same idea as GPS or Glonass with a few bells and whistles added and a gloss of civilian control. Of course it is 'better', although the issue of navigating a vehicle to within 5 meters as opposed to 15 meters is but a talking point for most of the world.

From the force de frappe to the A380 to Ariane to Galileo, the French have had a knack for coming up with grand schemes like this and dragging the rest of Europe along kicking and screaming. Whether the project makes any real sense, can ever make any money, or serves any purpose is simply not relevant when overweening national pride is at stake.

Galileo, it was said, would be more accurate than GPS or Glonass (the Russian satnav system), not subject to Pentagon veto in time of war, and free to all. Galileo, it is said, would be a political statement of independence from the yanqui Philistines.

Galileo was to have 30 satellites in orbit that would offer three levels of service on three distinct frequencies.

Open service would allow for positional accuracy of 4 meters horizontally and 8 meters vertically. If the receiver grabs only one of the bands, accuracy under Open System will be 15 meters horizontally and 35 meters vertically. Commercial service for a fee would offer accuracy to within 1 meter in any direction, utilizing a third frequency. A secure system, allegedly safe from jamming would be available to security, law enforcement, military and air transport control authorities.

There were supposed to be 30 Galileo satellites in orbit by 2010 but the timetable is in disarray.

At this point, the project's up in the air. Pravda reports that there is an agreement for cooperation between the civilian Galileo project and Russia's military Glonass satellite navigation system. However, the best guess is that the future of Galileo is up in the air, according to an atricle the other day in the Financial Express.

How it'll play out is anyone's guess, but it may be another example of the pitfalls of defining yourself by what you think the other fellow's done.

Stay tuned.

Friday, March 16, 2007

News Flash: Cold Cases Being Cleared All Over Town

It's reported today that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has confessed to the Lindbergh Kidnaping, the disappearance of Judge Crater, is accountable for the rise in the price of petroleum, has been known to cause warts by looking at his picture for more than 30 seconds, singlehandedly was responsible for the death of Buddy Holly, and has provided the answer to the questions that's been bugging philosophers since the dawn of history, viz:

Who put the bomp
In the bomp bah bomp bah bomp?
Who put the ram
In the rama lama ding dong?
Who put the bop
In the bop shoo bop shoo bop?
Who put the dip
In the dip da dip da dip?
Who was that man?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

You Load Sixteen Tons, Whaddya Get? Tim Clark, the Ghost of Johnnie Johnson, and the A380

Air Transport World is quoting Tim Clark, el Presidente of Emirates, as saying that the six tons of weight on the A380 he's been worrying about the last few years are still there and not likely to succumb to Slimfast, Nutrisystem, TrimSpa, or anything else that da Festung is throwing at it.

Now. As we here have mentioned on numerous occasions, there are persistent reports of weight problems on the A380 that have not, as yet, seen a resolution in the form of getting the weight under control or raising the operating limits. For a while, the full extent of it was in the realm of rampant speculation as no hard scale figures were forthcoming from the Toulouse folks. We did a thumbnail sketch and some sample loadings based on Airbus published information and we weren't thrilled either.

However. Speculation changed to better informed opinion as a result of the Airbus Grand Imperial Joyride for the media that occurred last month. There, we got some actual numbers on something closely resembling a production aircraft with a lotta seats in it and it is not cause for rejoicing. A little bit of interpolation tells the tale. We reported that here, and it is a story we've been following for a while now.

Whatever. Cassandra I'm not. The numbers are there and I don't like them much. See for yourself. Grab your AC43-13-1 or your CAM18 if you have one, get your pocket calculator and a copy of the type certificate data sheet. Do the math, as they say.

UPDATE: One of my correspondents has correctly pointed out that Tim Clark is el Presidente of Emirates. Changes have been made. The offenders have been chastised.

Good Ole Boys and Drip Gas: Qatar Goes Shopping For Fuel

Qatar Airways is reportedly talking to Royal Dutch Shell and engine manufacturers about using a form of diesel fuel known as GTL-gas to liquid. Seems they're sitting on top of a lot of natural gas and it seems logical enough.

It kinda reminds me of a guy I used to know who'd grown up in Oklahoma in pipeline country. One night we were talking about life as kids and he said he'd never had to pay for gasoline as a kid because he'd run his truck on drip gas. That was the light fraction of petroleum that condenses out of natural gas in low spots in gas pipelines. You can run a car on it as long as it's not too finicky-which describes a six cylinder Chevrolet pickup pretty well.

The folks who have natural gas production also use chillers to sweat out any likely looking fluids from wellhead gas before it's moved on, so this seems like a pretty good idea for Qatar.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Qatar Airways: Launch Customer for the A350XWB UPDATE

It's being reported that Qatar Airways has reached an agreement to become the launch customer for the A350XWB from da Festung. At this point no letter of intent has been signed but that is expected shortly according to Akbar al Bakr, CEO of the airline. Qatar Airways had originally ordered 60 of the last iteration of the A350 but that's as we know, came a cropper.

Good news for Airbus to announce with mucho fanfare at the Paris Airshow this year.

UPDATE: It is reported this morning by Forbes that Aeroflot, the Russian state airline is ready to place an order for up to 22 of the A350XWB-another bit of good news for the program.

The Man With His Ear To The Rail?

Our buddy Addison Schonland over at IAGblog is reporting that there are rumors circulating that Etihad is about to cancel its order for the A380 and place orders for the B747-8 or the B777.
He says it's not all bad news because that'll move the Emirates order up a couple clicks.

It's worth a look. We here at the Dougloid Papers are a mite more perspicacious about such things after reporting similar rumors a while ago about a Chinese airline that proved to be unfounded.

Don't worry Addison....there's plenty enough egg for both of us to wear.

Stay tuned.

Friday, March 09, 2007

British Airways: The Next Big Battle?

The Times has an interesting article on the arm wrestling that is going on behind the scenes as Airbus and Boeing are jockeying to get themselves a hunk of the next really big aircraft order, reputed to be worth in the neighborhood of $15 billion USD. The Independent said last year it could be a lot bigger-on the order of $30 billion USD.

At present, British Airways has a fleet that looks like this:

A319-100 .................33
A320-100 ................. 5
A320-200 ...............22 (6 on order)

B737-500 ...................9
B747-400 ...................57
B757-200 ...................13
B777-200ER .............40 (4 + 6 orders)

In addition, BA has options for quite a number of A320s and members of the A320 family.

The Airbus short haulers operate out of Heathrow, and the B737s operate out of Gatwick to points in Europe and the UK.

BA announced that it was initially seeking 34 aircraft to replace its long haul fleet, and that it was considering the A330, A350, A380, B787, B777 and B747-8.

If I was a betting man, which I'm not, I'd have to say that the short hauler orders, such as they are, are going to go to Airbus. They can deliver, they've got an incentive to deal because they're short on cash, and the capacities of the aircraft themselves do not appear to offer anything much to choose from in this class.

The real action is going to be in the long haul, large capacity class.

There, we have the B747-8 matched against the A380, and the A330 and A350XWB matched against the B787 and B777. Airbus has been pitching the A330 as a low cost gap filler until the A350XWB arrives on the scene seven years hence barring no unforeseen delays, and Finnair's bought that particular fish.

If we look at it from a project management standpoint, Airbus has not proved with the A380 that it can handle a large project or get it to the market on time or on price. Plus there's the ongoing issue of weight on that project, which nobody but me seems to be concerned about-of which more in the archives.

So in the heavy hauler class, advantage Boeing. The A380 is as dead as last week's salmon.

In the medium heavy hauler class, buying the B777 today is likely a better choice than buying the A350XWB for delivery seven years hence and stuffing the cracks with stopgap A330s.

In the medium heavy hauler class, then, advantage Boeing.

The real question on everyone's mind has to be whether British Airways will buy the B787, and whether the A350XWB has any traction. I would say the chances are slim that the A350XWB is going to win over BA, as it is not even in a state of product development that would allow a customer to identify whether it has any advantages.

No amount of incentives can change that, and I am willing to bet that Airbus' mishandling of the A380 program and its diffident approach to whatever the A350 turns out to be will tell the tale.

Stay tuned-this is going to be interesting.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Chinese Aircraft Engines: Coming To An Airport Near You?

China Daily reports that Liu Daxiang, of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress has said that the country cannot rely on imports to satisfy its future needs for new aero engines. China, it seems, has embarked on a large aircraft project and will therefore need to produce an indigenous engine that is coequal with the best of Western technology.

Well. What's that mean?

Reverse engineering and technology transfers from the West is what it means. One can study the process by which China acquired the technology to build large hydroelectric generators from Alstom, the French firm that contracted for some of the initial installations at the Three Gorges Dam project.

One may also take a look at the airliner engine industry as a whole. There are the majors: General Electric, Rolls Royce, Pratt & Whitney, and there are consortia such as Engine Alliance (GE/PW), International Aero Engines, GE/Snecma and the like.

So here's my SWAG prediction.

If the story's for real, look for China to take a position in a company that needs a large infusion of cash to continue in the airline engine business. And then look for a 'consortium'.

Pratt & Whitney, anyone?

A380 Passes Major Milestone: RTO Braking Test

It's reported by Flight International today that the Airbus A380 passed the maximum effort rejected takeoff braking test in good form. Here's how it's done.

The aircraft is loaded to maximum takeoff weight-in this case, 1,487,000 pounds. A set of brakes that are 90 per cent worn out are installed. The aircraft is then taxied and run to V1, which is 167 knots, and then all hell breaks loose as the aircraft is brought to a stop with the wheel brakes only.

It's a good day for the A380 program, and it's also a good day for the fine folks at Honeywell's Bendix Wheels and Brakes Division and their partners at Dunlop Aerospace Braking Systems in the U.K..

You can see what happens in an A380 brake pack at maximum effort on the test bench here.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

New Composite Applications: Window Frames

The JEC people have an article on their website that details the qualification of CFRP window frames for the B787 by Nordam. As anyone who has followed the history of commercial pressurized aviation and who quakes when they hear the words "Comet" and "hoop stress" knows, this is a very classy, high durability high strength product.

It's well worth a look to see how the material science is progressing and to see all the other interesting stuff and good information on composites the JEC people are getting out there.

It is said the B787 first flight is set for sometime around August of this year. It will be one of two things-a game changing, rule changing event on the order of magnitude of the B247 or DC1, or it will be a huge balls up that finishes Boeing. They really have bet the company on the technology.

Huge Job Cuts at Airbus?

There's an interesting article I've linked to that characterized the Airbus job cuts that are coming as 'huge'. I probably would have used the words 'significant, unavoidable, but likely insufficient'.

I guess it's all in perspective. When I was at Douglas, the highest the employment ever got was about 47,000. When I got the layoff notice that could not be avoided, we were down to 34,000.

The day I went out the plant gate for the last time, 3,600 other workers hit the bricks as well on that same day-it was raining like hell and they let me keep my slicker which was something.

That's 'huge'. But life, as they say, goes on within you and without you.

If I have any words of wisdom to the Airbus worker bees who are going to lose their jobs it is this.

It won't happen for a while so you've got some breathing room. Stop buying anything on time. Work all the overtime you can get and stash that money in the bank. Instead of a new car, give the Citroen a ring and valve job and some new tires. Forget about the big screen teevee and the vacation. Stay around the home place and plant a vegetable garden.

Start developing a plan for the rest of your life without Airbus.

And this: start a blog. It's good therapy.

Friday, March 02, 2007

UPS to Cancel A380F. It's Official. UPDATE

UPDATE: My buddy Addison Schonland over at IAGblog noted yesterday that Mark Giuffre, spokesman for UPS, said in an interview that da Festung never even told them that they were stopping work on the A380F. Business Week confirmed that today.

Addison thinks somebody told somebody a whopper. I think so too. Negotiating an agreement to defer delivery and then pulling people off the program the next day without bothering to inform your customer what you're doing tells me one of two things: either you don't know what you're doing, or you're ok with treating a paying customer like crap.

Either way you slice it, it smells worse than last week's salmon. Treating customers like this is a sure way to get your name known in airline circles. People DO talk to each other.

Now.....look at the chronology of this affair. There seem to be two distinct threads emerging from it. We went from a revised delivery schedule to an agreement to defer delivery to a future time to a cancellation inside of a week. That's not a good place to be if you're Airbus and trying to save a foundering program. ANY customer desertions can't be tolerated.

Business Wire has a UPS press release stating that they will cancel their order for 10 A380F freighters at the first opportunity.

By the way, I just discovered Business Wire. You've got to register but it is most interesting reading.

Here's the text of the press release.

UPS (NYSE:UPS - News) today announced its intent to cancel later this year an order for 10 Airbus A380 freighters.The final cancellation decision will be formally presented to Airbus on the first date specified under an agreement reached last week that gives either party the right to terminate the order.Last week's agreement specified a revised delivery schedule that delayed UPS's first A380 jumbo freighter from 2010 to 2012. UPS originally expected its first freighter in 2009.UPS had intended to complete an internal study of whether it could wait until 2012 for the aircraft, but now understands Airbus is diverting employees from the A380 freighter program to work on the passenger version of the plane."Based on our previous discussions, we had felt that 2012 was a reasonable estimate of when Airbus could supply this plane," said David Abney, UPS's chief operating officer and president of UPS Airline. "We no longer are confident that Airbus can adhere to that schedule. UPS has built one of the largest airlines in the world in order to ensure reliable service to our customers, and we're confident we have the resources to continue doing so in the future."

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Update on Floyd Landis

It's been reported that Floyd Landis is pressing ahead with his quest to vindicate himself and his victory in last year's Tour de France.

Israel's Sportingo suggests that the case against Landis may be taking on more water than it can hold. Let us fervently hope that the 'case' sinks beneath the waves. The article's well worth the read, also the linked Los Angeles Times story.

At this point, there are enough doubts about the veracity and reliability of the WADA procedure as to cast a cloud of doubt over the entire process by which Landis has been crucified. Recently revealed problems including:
  • a document that was anonymously altered after Landis questioned its accuracy
  • improper operation of critical lab test equipment contrary to specifications
  • not having the operating manual and using obsolete system software
  • lab possession of documents linking Landis with his sample

Most troubling is that the USADA has also asked the same French lab to retest nine Landis B samples in which the A samples were found to be clean and destroyed. USADA is thus seeking to introduce 'new' evidence at the Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing on May 14 in which Floyd's fate, and that of all other athletes being clobbered by this modern day Salem witch hunt, depends.

There is, however, some good news. WADA's own answer to Il Duce, Dick Pound, will be stepping down this year. He's been in the news, too. The Montreal Mouth has been criticized by no less than the International Olympic Committee for-as usual-making snotty comments about Lance Armstrong and an alleged doping incident in 1999, said incident having already been thoroughly discredited in everybody's mind except that of His Nibs.

Lest it be forgotten. Floyd Landis won the Tour last year fair and square all the while dragging a bum leg that would have you and I writhing in pain and unable to get out of bed.

From the Big Surprises Department: A380F Stop Work Order Cut.

Word from da Festung today is that all work's been temporarily halted on the freight hauler version of the A380 and efforts are going to be redirected to the passenger versions. Although this does not mean an official end to the A380F program you can stick a fork in it because it is done.

This effectively means that the UPS order is a dead issue, so lop those ten off the total.

The Tex Antoine Award For The Year Goes To Asian Week

As all but three people have heard, Asian Week magazine published a column by Kenneth Eng entitled Why I Hate Blacks.

Attaway, Ken. You get the Tex Antoine Award with Grand Imperial Wizard Oak Leaves.

What's incredible about this story is that not only did Eng have the chutzpah to submit this for publication, the publishers of Asian Week actually printed it. What's up with that?

Black folks are rightly incensed about this.

And anyone with a functioning brain ought to be offended and say so.

Now. Why do I hate Kenny Boy and Asian Week?

Because they're stupid and offensive idiots and morons. They should be run out of town on a rail for this crap and spend the rest of their sorry careers like Tex Antoine did, apologizing to an empty room.

Here's what Kenny Boy passes off for 'knowledge' and it's what was printed.

See for yourself.

Here is a list of reasons why we should discriminate against blacks, starting from the most obvious down to the least obvious:
• Blacks hate us. Every Asian who has ever come across them knows that they take almost every opportunity to hurl racist remarks at us.
In my experience, I would say about 90 percent of blacks I have met, regardless of age or environment, poke fun at the very sight of an Asian. Furthermore, their activity in the media proves their hatred: Rush Hour, Exit Wounds, Hot 97, etc.
• Contrary to media depictions, I would argue that blacks are weak-willed. They are the only race that has been enslaved for 300 years. It's unbelievable that it took them that long to fight back.
On the other hand, we slaughtered the Russians in the Japanese-Russo War.
• Blacks are easy to coerce. This is proven by the fact that so many of them, including Reverend Al Sharpton, tend to be Christians.
Yet, at the same time, they spend much of their time whining about how much they hate "the whites that oppressed them."
Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't Christianity the religion that the whites forced upon them?
• Blacks don't get it. I know it's a blunt and crass comment, but it's true. When I was in high school, I recall a class debate in which one half of the class was chosen to defend black slavery and the other half was chosen to defend liberation.
Disturbingly, blacks on the prior side viciously defended slavery as well as Christianity. They say if you don't study history, you're condemned to repeat it.
In high school, I only remember one black student ever attending any of my honors and AP courses. And that student was caught cheating.
It is rather troubling that they are treated as heroes, but then again, whites will do anything to defend them.

That's what passes for journalism at Asian Week these days.