Thursday, July 31, 2014

Delta's 747s to Fly Into the Sunset

In a startling change of plans, Delta Air Lines today confirmed that it will retire four of its Boeing 747s beginning in September. Employees were notified in a memo penned by Glen Hauenstein the airline's chief revenue officer.  Hauenstein described the decision as way to "reduce Delta's footprint at Tokyo Narita" and to do less intra-Asia flying.

Sixteen 747s came to Delta through its 2009 merger with Northwest. This spring, when I interviewed vice president of fleet strategy Nat Pieper for an article on the plane for Air & Space magazine, he told me executives spent a lot of time trying to decide whether to keep the planes which ranged in age from 7 to 20 years. Ultimately they decided to upgrade the interiors and fly them. The benefit of ownership was worth the extra operating expense, he told me.

The Accident That Didn't Happen and What it Says About Safety

Airplane crashes make headlines. Missing airliners get the all-news channels into round-the-clock regurgitation of speculation. Missile-downed airliners throw global diplomacy and the entire air travel industry into turmoil. All this I get. What continues to baffle is the lack of interest in the news that is far better indicator of how particular airlines handle their duty to protect customers.

Two stories this week make my point. In his excellent article for Forbes, former NTSB member John Goglia reports on the unfortunate case of a mother traveling on Delta Air Lines who was prohibited from using the FAA approved child-seat she brought with her on the airplane.  Flight attendants were unaware of the rules and the airline hadn't taught them how to discern which seats can be used and which cannot.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Airlines and Governments Oblivious to Warnings of MH 17 Disaster

It is missing the point to "blame" Malaysia Airlines for its decision to continue to fly over the conflict zone in the Ukraine despite the disastrous outcome of that choice. At the same time, Malaysia and the dozens of others who opted to continue using the route should be asking, what exactly are they paying their security advisors for?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Malaysia Flight 17 May Be Victim of Geopolitical Turbulence

The apparent shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 in the Ukraine today is a shocker  for many reasons, not the least of which is that this is a double dose of tragedy for an airline already off-balance over the mysterious disappearance of another jumbo jet in March of this year. It is also deeply troubling to think of air travelers as casualties of geopolitical turbulence. But perhaps it should not be so shocking. Over the past decades, nearly two dozen passenger airliners have been hit by missiles. Among them

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Century Later The Same Old Thrill

The first time I flew in an airplane, I was six. It was an Eastern Airlines flight from Miami to Newark, probably in a DC-8, but I can't say for sure. I do remember that a flight attendant strung a cardboard bib in the shape of a Teddy Bear around my neck with my name and other information printed on it, and off I went. If my parents worried about me, I was unaware of it.
Marian flies alone to visit grandparents

Many years later when I bundled my own 8-year old daughter off to see her grandparents in Connecticut, I worried some, but I'd already done it myself.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Malaysia Flight 370 Will Share the Fate of TWA 800; Conspiracy Theory Will Never Die

A press briefing in Kuala Lumpur March 2014
Nearly 18 years separates today's most-riveting air disaster from the explosion of TWA Flight 800 over the Atlantic on July 17, 1996. They are similar in many ways. Both disasters captured world attention, happening suddenly on mid-length trans-oceanic flights. In neither accident was there sufficient warning for a "Mayday" call and neither flight crew communicated to the ground what was happening in the air. Both planes disappeared into a dark ocean, Flight 800 with 230 on board. There were 239 on the still missing flight of Malaysia 370.