Sunday, September 30, 2007

4 Engines 4 Long Haul Going The Way of The Edsel?

There's been a fair amount of palaver over the recently announced BA first chunk of the fleet renewal program order in which 12 A380 EdselLiners and 24 B787s were ordered.

Reuters tells us that the future of the B747 with BA may be no future at all, as BA is considering aircraft to replace a further 34 B747s in its fleet, and nowhere in the aircraft that BA are considering does the 747 show up. Rather, BA will look at the 777-300ER, the A350XWB IWannaBeLikeMikeLiner, and the as yet unlaunched B787-10.

If you're inclined to read the tea leaves (or the chicken entrails if you like) it suggests a tectonic shift in BA's view of what its fleet is and what it ought to be doing with it, and it does not sound like the marketing and traffic model that led to the improvident launch of the A380 EdselLiner.

It sounds a lot more like what Boeing has in mind and has been working on for the last fifteen years, and that spells heavyweight airplanes with two engines. It also seems to be sounding the death knell for "4 Engines For Long Haul".

Thursday, September 27, 2007

For the Dragon Lady

They don't write stuff like this any more.

Come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away
If you can use some exotic booze
There's a bar in far Bombay
Come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away

Come fly with me, let's float down to Peru
In llama land there's a one-man band
And he'll toot his flute for you
Come fly with me, let's take off in the blue

Once I get you up there where the air is rarifie
We'll just glide, starry-eyed
Once I get you up there I'll be holding you so near
You may hear
angels cheer
'cause we're together

Weather-wise it's such a lovely day
You just say the words and we'll beat the birds
Down to Acapulco Bay
It's perfect for a flying honeymoon, they say
Come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away

Once I get you up there where the air is rarified
We'll just glide, starry-eyed
Once I get you up there
I'll be holding you so near
You may hear
angels cheer
'cause we're together

Weather-wise it's such a lovely day
You just say the words and we'll beat the birds
Down to Acapulco Bay
It's perfect for a flying honeymoon, they say
Come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly
Pack up, let's fly away!!

Remove This Face From The Milk Carton

A great day for news-I haven't done a thing worthwhile today like change the brake pads in the pickup but nevermind.

The picture is ostensibly that of Vijay Malya, chairman of United Breweries and Kingfisher Airlines, but he looks a lot like Wolfman Jack to me.

How do I know this? Malya said in the Telegraph (thebes' li'l ole scandal sheet in Calcutta) that he was "excited about the phenomenal opportunites that Epic has in the industry today.....Owoooooooooo! Fifty thousand watts of Soul Power comin' right at ya from south of the border, baby!"

Credits to the Telegraph and the Wolfman Jack Online Museum.

British Airways UPDATE: Artificial Respiration For The A380

The word's in on the BA order, and it's 12 A380s and 24 B787s.

A vote of confidence in a program that was on life support until now? Fo' sho'.
A vote of no confidence in the A350 I Wanna Be Like MikeLiner? Fo' shizzle.

The real question is will this order save the A380's bacon? That's another story that's yet to be written. The Airbus cheerleaders will have their much needed day in the sun and long life and good health to them.

However, one robin does not make spring as we say here on the prairie. This gets Airbus back to where they were before UPS and Fedex dumped their A380F orders.

All this order means is that the patient didn't die on the way to the hospital.

On the other hand, it's too early to say the clouds are gathering over the B747-8I, but it may well be relegated to the status of a perpetual wallflower. Future orders from the legacy carriers in the US will tell the tale of the B747-8I, but for now, advantage Airbus.

On the other hand, the B747-8F may well have permanently greased the skids under the A380F. The buyers of freight capacity have voted with their dollars. The A380F was always like the Honda Ridgeline-it looks like a truck to people who don't understand transportation logistics, and that appeals to people who don't know anything about trucks and why you buy them.
You buy trucks to haul heavy loads, not to haul feathers.

We've often opined that the B747I program was akin to Kaiser Wilhelm's fleet-not important enough to dominate, but certainly enough to tie up huge resources, annoy the hell out of Airbus, and slurp up some loose orders here and there. Had the B747-8I not been available, it's likely that Lufthansa would have ordered 20 more A380s than they did.
If you're a contrarian thinker as we here are at times, that 747-8I order might have done Airbus some good because it was 20 money losers they didn't have to build, likewise the orders that Fedex and UPS cancelled. Following this line, the BA order puts the A380 back in the crapper for EADS because that's 12 more money losers they have to build before the life support for this turd of a program is discontinued.
As my pal Saj over at the Fleetbuzz Towers informs me, Bloomberg has said that the development costs of the A380 TurkeyLiner have now reached an astounding $18 billion. Fleetbuzz is the bes' li'l ole blog in the UK.
Stop by, look around, sit in the chairs and put your feet up on the coffee table, ole Saj don't mind.

Some might suspect that the deal was done earlier in the year as Ole Swampgas Hisself, John Leahy alluded to the distinct possibility of new customers for the A380. I believe he said "20 orders by the end of the year".

Well. I'll start paying closer attention to him.
No, nevermind. I've got a hammer and a handful of carpet tacks I need to pound into my head. That ought to be more fun.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Floyd Landis UPDATE: The Arbitration Emperor Ain't Got No Clothes, Ma.

Jim Caple, writing for has a good piece on the aftermath of the Floyd Landis arbitration decision.

Because of my low opinion of arbitration and arbitrators, I'll let Jim speak for himself a little bit here.

Landis got hosed. The arbitration verdict was unfair and harsh. Despite the questionable evidence, Landis lost his case, his title and possibly his career (not to mention the $2 million he invested in his defense). But even so, the drug testing system came out looking worse. The Landis verdict ran the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's record to 35-0. Which isn't surprising given how the appeal system is stacked against athletes.

How's that? There's more.

After four months of deliberation, the arbitration panel ruled 2-1 against the cyclist. It did so even though it acknowledged that the French lab workers didn't follow proper testing procedures, called them "sloppy" and essentially warned that they were being placed on double-secret probation until they clean up their act.
In other words, the panel admitted that the lab tests weren't completely reliable or properly conducted, but it accepted the results anyway.

And this.

I think most athletes who test positive are in fact guilty despite their loud protests and excuses. But I'm also suspicious of a system in which no athlete ever wins an appeal. It smacks of a dictator claiming 99 percent of the vote.

All of which is exactly what I've been saying about the test procedure and notions of fundamental fairness, which can never be served by self styled adjudicative bodies that practice arbitration.

Arbitration, for the most part the way it's practiced these days is ethically challenged, morally bankrupt, doesn't allow the consumer a fair fight and it exists only because we've somehow or other let ourself get convinced that it serves our needs.

There is room for hope though. Every arbitration award has to be confirmed in the courts, and the hubris and arrogance of the creditor bar is being exposed to the strong light of judicial scrutiny in mesne ways. Courageous jurists willing to actually look into the details of a case are, surprisingly, seeing arbitration NAF style for what it is-a roust and a humbug.

BA: Who Put The Bomp In The Bomp-A-Bomp-A-Bomp?

The silence around here is deafening and it makes me think that BA's planned fleet renewal buy may be the best kept secret since 'who put the bomp in the bomp-a-bomp-a-bomp?'.

Of course, the subject is what BA chooses to order for its heavies. It's of major significance for several important reasons, not the least of which is that BA is seen as one of a very few blue chip operators in the field.

BA is looking to replace at least 34 of their long distance fleet, and the reason why it's so significant is that it will either be a vindication of the Boeing 'smaller and direct' theory of traffic or the Airbus 'cram 'em in and let 'em change planes at a hub' theory-at least in the ultra large end of the class. In the next to ultra large class, it'll be a choice between 'soon to be available' and 'no chance before 2013'.

I tend to discount the likelihood of any significant seating capacity growth in the A380. In fact, seat numbers have quietly declined since the program got started, and I've often expressed what I think this signifies.

This was accompanied with a subtle shift in the marketing/publicity spin from 'bulkliner to the masses' to 'luxury cruiser for them what can afford it', which might be a way of rationalizing the problem

Simply stated, it's the weight, stupid, and it's not going anywhere.

On the other hand, with the exception of Lufthansa, the 748-I has not set the world on fire with orders, only garnering 25, although the 748-F has done well with 65 orders. The 748 has a major advantage in that the tooling and development costs are long since paid for, and it's proved to be a rugged and durable hauler of people and cargo. Also, the lead time to deliveries may well be less than Airbus can promise.

The other interesting choice will be in the slightly smaller class of aircraft that seat around 300-350 passengers, and this will be between the 777, the 787, or the A350.

Here are some random observations.

The lack of information is informative in itself. BA and Boeing are not in the habit of strewing their mess from the rooftops, so the lack of information tells us something right there. Airbus has also been pretty quiet, and it's not like them to hide their light under the proverbial bushel.

The 777 is available today and its operating characteristics are well known. It doesn't break any new ground technology wise, but neither does the A380 or the 747-8I. The 787 is a cutting edge product utilizing CFRP technology that has a 5 year lead over the A350.

The number of orders that the 787 has received suggests the industry thinks Boeing has got it right.

The takehome is that the 777 is flying today, the 787 is headed that direction, the 747I is also headed that direction, but there's only one A380 that's in what one might call completed form, and the A350 design has yet to be finalized. That suggests that Airbus is failing to execute on its project management promise, and that may well be a critical factor.

In addition, the decline in the dollar makes Boeing look better every day.

On the other hand there is a persistent drumbeat to 'support the home team' that BA is hearing, mostly from Airbus, because the wings are made in Britain. That's no mean consideration, either.

Ultimately the shakeout will come and the lion's share of the order may well go to Boeing, with some orders to Airbus for delivery in 20-nevernever to mitigate the eurowhining from across the channel.

That's how I'm going to call it.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Whither Floyd Landis?

As nearly everyone's heard, Floyd Landis lost his appeal and was stripped of the mayeux jaune and his victory in 2006's Tour de France. Whether Floyd will pursue further appeals is unknown.

There seems to be a degree of conceptual severance here, and I believe it is that the people who are making the adjudicative decisions here do not understand the process of working with sensitive test equipment and the procedures that must be rigorously followed to obtain consistent, reproducible results that are directly traceable to a standard.

It's a very simple notion, really, and anyone who spent as long as I did in the aviation field understands it well. It goes like this.

If you can't document and depend on the accuracy, traceability, and consistency of your processes and methods, you've no business assuming that you've got a reproducible result that you can bet the ranch on.

That's why we calibrate our measuring and test equipment from torque wrenches and calipers to sophisticated vibration analyzers, and why we use a checklist that ensures that the setup and test sequence is by the book. If you don't have that traceability, you don't have a consistently reproducible result.

And if you do not have a consistently reproducible result, you have no business releasing an aircraft for flight, pronouncing something good or bad, or hanging a guy out to dry on that basis.

Whatever. At its rock bottom worst, Floyd will be back, with his integrity intact.

He didn't roll over and play dead as he was expected to.

And he got himself across the finish line.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Yes, Yes, I Know But Is It Better, Sparky?

Out of the mouths of babes.
This is ad copy for the A380 if the anonymous person who posted it over on is to be believed, it was in the Sydney Morning Herald on September 19-that's tomorrow for us.
It's not the first time this comparison has been made, either as googling A380+diplodocus produces an unnerving number of hits.
Another coup for the A380 marketing department?

Barrels for the A350? Maybe, Maybe Not.

Aero-News informs us that the A350 PotemkinLiner has undergone another stunning iteration of the paper aircraft-the fuselage will now be constructed of CFRP barrel sections.

If this story holds up, it represents a stunning turnabout from all that has gone before.

Last week we were informed by the Wall Street Journal that the fuselage frames of the PotemkinLiner were to be made of CFRP and the Airbus cheerleading section lead by the Dutchman were falling all over themselves with this demonstration that yet again Da Festung got it right while the competition was hopelessly stuck in the past, might as well pack it in, panels are better than monolithic construction, change em out in a jiffy without even deplaning the passengers, we always said titanium was bad stuff, all frames are not created equal, and so on and so forth.

I guess that this is about the 10th iteration of the A350. It is not profitable to restate the obvious. The original idea was a quick and dirty, low cost upgrade of the A330, capture some sales that might otherwise go to Boeing's 787 then in development, and according to John Leahy, why they'd just write the operators a check for the fuel mileage penalty. Wrong.

The market was unimpressed, and Airbus, mired in the toils of the A380 debacle and not yet coming clean about it, reluctantly decided that Al-Li skin would get the j-o-b done while avoiding the unknown problems of composites, which of course the hated yanqui backwoodsmen were threatening the safety of the flying public with. Wrong again.

The market spoke again and it said "Wrong again." Meanwhile the trade was voting with its dollars and its orders.

Then we had the A380 meltdown go prime time. Airbus reinvented the A350 CFRP concept, only this was going to be panels on aluminum frames-black aluminum if you will, and if you recall we have stated on frequent occasions that this approach could not maximize the benefits of CFRP monolithic construction.

The advantage is one of integrity. What monolithic structure gets you is strength of the structure as a whole, and your formers and frames need only be stout enough to support the in cabin necessities for carrying folks around-ductwork, seats, flooring and the like. The barrel is the primary structure.

Think I'm wrong? Go to Office Despot and get a cardboard tube of the type used for rolling up and shipping girlie calendars. Try and bend it.

Now, after you've done that take the same tube, and cut a bunch of panels out of it. Tape them back together right where they came from with cardboard formers to back them up. Then go aheand and bend that sucker. But I'm getting away from my story.

Well, nevermind. The panel approach would be much more maintenance friendly, unzip the velcro, change a panel in a jiffy and Bob's your uncle-ignoring the fact that the kind of damage that would necessitate such a repair is so infrequent as to be statistically insignificant. Nevertheless it was a talking point that a lot of true believers bought.

Now we've come full circle. The A380 is still the answer to a question people stopped asking years ago, maybe one will get delivered in a few months or so, and if Aero News proves accurate on the point, the latest iteration of the PotemkinLiner has probably been set back a couple more years as Airbus tries to figure out how to build CFRP barrels while contracting around Boeing's intellectual property in the field.

Maybe they'll buy a license.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Memo to James Wallace: Cleanup In Aisle 3.

As much as I enjoy reading James Wallace's blog and commentary on the Seattle PI, the comments section has become troll central and pigpen deluxe.
It's painful to read so I've sworn off. I even offered to moderate it for free but heard nothing from the S. P-I ivory tower.
Here are a few recent examples. Nuff said

#49885....YOU ARE A MORON ! I GUESS AIRBUS EXECUTIVES MUST CALL YOU AT HOME EVERY HOUR AND GIVE YOU THE INFO ON BOEING HU? What a shocking week for Boeing, incompetence demonstrated in simple build procedures, programme management and lying, and now this.Airbus is not so cavalier about these issues!I AM AN INSTRUCTOR ON THE 777. I WORK FOR ONE OF THE LARGEST OPERATORS OF THE BOEING AND AIRBUS AIRCRAFT IN THE WORLD. I KNOW BOTH FLEETS VERY WELL. YOU ARE A MORON

Hey #49968Morons also can't turn off CAPS lock it seems too.Lighten up, if you really had a job in the know you wouldnt be posting as if you have the authority of Orville Wright :-)Dont try and pull pishers unless you can back it up and talk the talk

You Airbust boyz should go back and review all the lies that Airbus told when the A380 was hittin' the skids. Then there's the whole A350 mess.It's the A380 that's 2 years late. You Eurologists are eurinating all over the place because 787 first flight has slipped? Get real.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning?

This is a strange day, indeed.

I don't think I'll ever feel the same way about mid September ever again.

When you live in the midwest as I do, you get attuned to the seasons even if you live in town-it's mostly a matter of temperature and color that you never really feel in places like Los Angeles-that is, unless you go seek it out. We're a little closer to the land here.

You can see the evidence all around you of maturing field crops and a bustle of anticipatory activity prior to harvest. The downtown cafes in small towns all across the state are more active. Dusty pickup trucks are parked all over as folks in coveralls and Carhartt suits take time from their busy days to grab lunch and see how the neighbors are getting along. That sort of thing will go on here as long as there are farmers and dirt.

But mid September is never going to be right again. It's broken here, and it can't be fixed.

I'm in mind of the sad, sweet words of Alan Jackson.

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day
Out in the yard with your wife and children
Working on some stage in LA
Did you stand there in shock at the sight of
That black smoke rising against that blue sky
Did you shout out in anger
In fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry
Did you weep for the children
Who lost their dear loved ones
And pray for the ones who don't know
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below
Did you burst out in pride
For the red white and blue
The heroes who died just doing what they do
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself to what really matters

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell you
The difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith hope and love are some good things he gave us
And the greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day
Teaching a class full of innocent children
Driving down some cold interstate
Did you feel guilty cause you're a survivor
In a crowded room did you feel alone
Did you call up your mother and tell her you love her
Did you dust off that bible at home
Did you open your eyes and hope it never happened
Close your eyes and not go to sleep
Did you notice the sunset the first time in ages
Speak with some stranger on the street
Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow
Go out and buy you a gun
Did you turn off that violent old movie you're watching
And turn on "I Love Lucy" reruns
Did you go to a church and hold hands with some stranger
Stand in line and give your own blood
Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family
Thank God you had somebody to love

I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell you
The difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith hope and love are some good things he gave us
And the greatest is love
Where were you when the world stopped turning that September day?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Say It Ain't So, Joe.

As I've often remarked (well, at least once) the internet gave everyone a voice but it didn't guarantee that they have anything worthwhile to say. In the field of aviation commentary and opinionizing (and bloviating, to be sure) that holds true as well.

Sometimes we here in the hothouse atmosphere of Airbus v. Boeing blogging can make outrageous statements but it's the general rule that personal attacks in public are bad form-unless you're an unidentified commenter at James Wallace's P.I. blog. Then you can be as nasty as you wanna be.

This operation here at the Dougloid Towers is a fair example, and it's a funny thing to speculate that people like us are the old established journalistic voices in the field...well, us and Fleetbuzz and Radar Vector and a few others who do it for the fun of it. I'm coming up on two years here, and I've not made a nickel from it, and I haven't even attempted it.

Quite simply this is not a commercial site and it isn't for sale. You do not see any advertising here. You probably never will, either.

On the other hand there are those who are self promoters who are not always observant of the conventions of this tribe. When the Seattle P.I. needs a gadfly, there is usually one of these fellows ready made to trot out contrarian agitprop from da Festung. It's a nifty bit of niche marketing, but it is a contrived alternate reality.

Performance and consistency and a nose for truth is what's real. That's at the heart of any observation of this industry. What it means is that what you do is what's important, not what you're trying to market.

You've got to remember that on the web, with instant retrieval of every lame thing we've ever said, we're all pretty much naked and calling people ass kissers and toadies is bad form that usually emerges to the discredit of those who've ignored Mother's maxim: If you can't say anything nice (or at least neutral) about someone don't say anything at all. I myself have been guilty of such things at times but I haven't been caught yet. I should probably go wash my mouth out with soap right now, in fact.

Bob Dylan once opined that if you live outside the law you must be honest, and were he writing today, he might say that if you fool around on the web at all sooner or later every silly and poorly thought out opinion you've held and intemperate remark you've made is going to become fair game.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Pinocchio's Nose?

Every once in a while the truth stretching that's indulged in by people in the aircraft business is a bit overt and rates a mention, but rarely is it accompanied with photographic evidence of its....well.....questionability in as blatant a manner.

This picture is from Flight International and it purports to show the A400M on the final assembly line.

Funny. I could have sworn that the wings and landing gear are missing, the empennage is somewhere between here and Seville, there ain't no motors, and the nose hasn't been joined to the fuselage.

I may be wrong about this but this shows some major subassemblies in close proximity but not married up in any substantial way. If that's final assembly I'm Wilson Pickett.