Archive for April, 2008

Monster Mash

Posted in Uncategorized on April 28, 2008 by luckyjet

Delta and Northwest are trying to merge. What does that mean?  I dunno.

How does this affect the valued customer?  I dunno.

Who stands to benefit from this?  I dunno.

What will happen if the maneuver doesn’t work? I dunno.

What could possibly go wrong?  I dunno.

Where does all this lead? I dunno, and niether does anybody else.  So, here are my semi-informed guesses.

A merger can be any number of different arrangements. It really doesn’t seem intuitive that the joining two failing organizations could result in a great improvement.  It never has before.

There might be some “economy of scale” savings to be made but these would probably only be effective at the highest levels of management. This never .. ever .. happens in American corporate culture.

Delta and Northwest have both screwed thier pilots in a big way already. I think that as passengers everyone would want the pilots to be happy, healthy, and worry free.  They aren’t. Neither are the mechanics, flight attendants, or anybody else.

The valued airline customer can probably expect to be served by employees that are far more worried about the future.  And they have plenty to worry about.

The only direct beneficiarys of this “merger” are likely to be the deal makers themselves. Investment bankers, underwriters, consultants, and other specialists that neither bank, invest, underwrite, or consult will make tons of money. These are guys that think Mont Blanc pens are disposable.

With the exception of the wierd one that always seems to make a profit  airlines don’t really own much of anything anymore. General Electric, for example, owns most of the engines on most of the big guy’s airplanes.  When an airline can’t make the payments for equipment the creditors turn around and “loan” it more money.  In return the creditors like G.E. or American Express get special kinds of promises and stock that simple people like us would not understand.

If an airline were to stop operating and park the planes in the desert cash flow would stop. Even if the river of cash is running dry  when it is flowing there is still something to drink from, so the creditors will do anything possible to keep ’em flying.

If the desert becomes full of parked airliners the big creditors will be holding empty promises and interesting classes of worthless stock. They have known this for a long time.

The “Deal” in and of itself creates considerable economic dustup. Both companies have all manner of diligence to do duly, audits to be approximated, assets have to be misstated

The airlines have already betrayed a fiduciary trust promised to the employees in an attempt to remain viable in these trying times.

These mergers are a means through which the stockholders will get their share of the screw job, it should be really interesting.

One thing that never works during a merger is combining the pilots from two established carriers in to one big pilot group. They can be put together in an amazing number of ways that are never really fair to everybody but nobody has come up with a compromise that has enjoyed full support from all of the pilots involved.

 So what will happen … If the thing is approved the airline will begin to merge. This is a little like the way spiders mate. Maintenance gradually is taken over between the two fleets, and pilot seniority lists must be combined through negotiations,  this will take a while. During the five or six year transition period the attitude of the employees might be great. It might not.

 Happy Landings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Inspecting Gadgets

Posted in Uncategorized on April 17, 2008 by luckyjet

By now you are wondering what the HELL is going on with the airlines and all these FAA inspections, grounding of hundreds of airplanes, thousands of cancelled flights, and scary media reports.

There is an old saying in the industry “The FAA is a pack of idiots”.  At times it seems true, but they are always the FAA and that much will never change.

Here is a brief and simplified explanation of the whole inspection thing.

Each critical aircraft component will have an inspection, overhaul, and/or replacement interval. This interval might be a certain number of landings, days, months, engine hours, engine cycles, years, or even something else that I don’t remember at the moment.

The inspection, overhaul, or replacement interval is decided largely by experience. Engineers at the aircraft maker with FAA agreement provide a schedule of maintenance and inspection for each new airplane when it is certificated.

 As a new aircraft type is used by the airlines any problems that come up are managed by changes to the maintenance program. Like about everything else in aviation this varies from one airline to another. Service difficulties with an airplane are reported to the FAA.  In response, depending on the severity and urgency of the problem the FAA will issue a directive to all operators of the same aircraft type.

This might be an informational service bulletin along the lines of “Hey, we just thought you might want to know that some other guys noticed that if you put too many potato peels down the disposal it seems to clog the sink”.

A little more urgent thing would be an Airworthines Directive, or A.D. Note. These are usually no big deal but can be extensive and expensive enough to scrap an entire fleet of airplanes. A typical A.D. Note might require a replacement or inspection of a dingus within a certain number of days, landings, months or so on.

The home version of this might be “Please get a new lock for the front door This Weekend,  while you’re at it get one for the back door too”.

Some A.D. Notes are recurring and some have conditional intervals. This just means that the interval will change depending on what the last inspection revealed. This ads an order of magnitude to the complexity of record keeping.  “Please take out the trash every Tuesday and Friday, unless you change the cat litter box, then take it out right away. But if nobody has been home all week and the trash is still empty you don’t have to take it out, except if there is cat litter in it. If somebody else changes the cat box you still have to take out the trash. Or, you can just look in the bag and see if it is full. Then give it a sniff and if it isn’t nasty don’t worry about it till tomorrow.

Some A.D.s have three or more different compliance intervals depending on any number of things like the results of the last inspection, the method of the inspection, or the method of repairing the problem in the first place.

Something really important and urgent will require compliance right away. These are called Emergency Airworthiness Directives and are always a big deal. “Check to make sure the wings are still bolted on before you try to fly again”. Now.

When this is multiplied by thousands of airplanes you can see that the record keeping task is challenging. You would need a computer or something just to keep track of it all.

Since we can be fairly sure that the airlines all have at least one computer and an I.T. person somebody can understand then why oh why are there so many compliance problems?  And why all at the same time?

This brings us back to why the FAA is often referred to as a pack of idiots when they are for the most part dedicated Federal Employees doing a difficult job fairly well.

The rules are written by and for attourneys. “To all persons using or causing to be used the kitchen sink. Not limited to the sink in the kitchen provided that such sink is used for purposes outlined in Subpart D excepting that said sink is equipped with garbage disposal appliance or accessory. Foreign materials defined under Subpart E category Peels of Potato Origin have been shown to cause clogging as reported by operators of similiar certificated type. Persuant to these subparts and provided herein previous directives regarding not reaching in the appliance while under power remain in effect”.

And then there are P O L I T I C I A N S

It doesn’t take much political Harumph to get a lot of attention when you are simply promoting aviation safety. Who doesn’t like safety? How can more safety be a bad thing?

The diversion of resources to hurredly re-inspect something that would in all likelyhood be just fine forever if it was never repaired seems scary. I think it might be important to ask “What were all those mechanics doing before the FAA Blue Ribbon Team showed up and started kicking tables over?”

In short, like I promised, the airlines do a good job of fixing things before they break. These is no profit incentive in not taking care of your equipment. Huge fines seem a little silly when the industry is going rapidly out of business.

Please expect more of this election year nonsense as the agency examines the remaining airlines. While they last.

Happy Landings.

Just Another Luckyjet Comment

Posted in Uncategorized on April 7, 2008 by luckyjet

Unexpected software changes require a new look for the page. This is a comment response from yesterday.  It is posted here cause …. it was just easier

The only real problem the aviation industry has is the price of fuel.

I just finished a four day trip with several flights each day. Our only delays were minor and a result of passenger issues. Four drunks were denied boarding, unaccompanied minors showed up at the last minute, battery powered wheelchairs had to be loaded etc.

All but one of our arrivals were on time and that one was a result of air traffic control being overwhelmed by corporate jet traffic.

As far as driving goes, It only takes a single fatal car accident to delay your travel considerably. Car travel kills way more than 50,000 people in America every year. I understand the benefits of driving but it doesn’t always come without delays too.

Every airline that is still in business is ready to fly all the time. We really do want to go, we just don’t want to get killed doing it, penalized by the FAA, or leave passengers behind. So we wait for severe weather, we wait to fix things that break, and we wait for connecting passengers.

It doesn’t make sense to have a 50 or 75 million dollar airplane and a crew sitting around just to not go if we can do so.

Some of the Air Traffic Control delays are possibly the result of a controller perception that the FAA is not bargaining in good faith to reach a fair work agreement. Maybe not, it’s hard to say.

The only reason over booking happens is that people think it is smart to reserve a seat on more than one flight. This is rarely a matter of a last minute travel plan necessity.

Suppose we were to hold a deposit for a reservation like hotels do. Then over booking would not be needed.

As for the twenty dollar penalty, consider that the largest airline in the USA makes a profit of about 40 dollars per flight. Not per passenger. TOTAL.

The rest of the airlines usually don’t make a profit anyway.

Thanks for your comments, Happy Landings

You Ain’t Seen Nothin Yet

Posted in Airplanes n Stuff on April 5, 2008 by luckyjet

This week ATA Airlines, Aloha Airlines, and Skybus Airlines ceased operations. 

If this doesn’t seem like a big deal just wait. The airline industry as we understand it today is melting away faster than the Antarctica ice.

Fares are cheap. Planes are full. Fuel is expensive.

Most airline companies will fail financially and cease operations. Pilots at United, Delta, American, and others have taken HUGE pay cuts, lost thier pensions and are still suffering the stress of lost job security. How can this be a good thing?

Pilots at Southwest were the lowest paid five years ago and never had a pension to start with. They do seem to have job security though.

Historically when times get tough airline management comes to the pilot group for concessions. The idea is that after a while things will get better and we can all share in the rewards. It hasn’t worked yet.

If the pilots had never agreed to pay concessions the industry would have had a total crisis about six years ago, twelve years ago, in the early nineties, mid eighties and several others. This seems to have happened about every six or eight years since 1930, and it has been much worse since de-regulation.

After the big industry “crash” there will be thousands of airliners parked in the desert with foil on the windows. General electric, American Express Credit, Guiness, and a host of others that hold the financial paper on the airframes and engines will suffer.

Maybe they can get a few billion from Congress and make it all better.

We are rapidly headed for a Re-Regulated airline industry, or a Domestic System with only one carrier, maybe two.  You’ll pay for it one way or the other.

Please check your seat belt, this will be a wild ride.

Happy Landings

FAA RAMPAGE

Posted in Uncategorized on April 4, 2008 by luckyjet

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Regulatory agencies have a peculiar character. They are similar in that they are part of the same system of bureaucrazy. They each have a “cultural personality” which is unique. Just like people and corporate entities they tend to do the same things the same way.

Over and over and over.

They will also tend to cope with circumstances and change in the same manner as in the past without regard as to whether the method was effective.

Our FAA is no exception. Generally, everybody wants the seas to be smooth, the tide to be high and the moon to be full. Full moon, high tide and smooth water make for good sailing and good press. Invariably though, about every seven years some jackass will make a wave and the entire agency will convulse.

The convulsions are usually the result of an airline disaster and go like this:

1 Something horrible and predictable happens

2 Everybody says “How could this happen?”

3 Congress says HARUMPH!

4 The FAA requires a new procedure or piece of equipment, or both.

Last time it was the 911 disaster that set it all off.  The FAA should have prevented it. Plain and simple. There was such a Hurrumph over that one that an entire new Department Of Guberment was formed out of thin air and bad suits.

Before that was the tragic Value Jet crash. This resulted in thousands of pointless cockpit “ride along” FAA observation rides. A lot of farting about and the installation of cargo compartment fire detection and suppression technology that had been available since 1959.

The FAA only moves in response to the “normal” stimulus of an airline crash.  Anything that appears to be movement any other time should be classified as farting about.

The latest news media aviation nonsense is all about airline inspections. The numnuts congressman from some cold place said harumph because Southwest had “self disclosed” some documentation errors and might have overlooked some of the thousands of  fatigue crack inspections that are required.

They screwed up. They admitted it. They  parked several airplanes for a few days but they have a bunch more and seem to be doing just fine.

Now the entire industry is having to put up with hundreds of  “inspectors” that usually don’t inspect anything so they might not be very good at it, rooting around bothering our valued co-workers when they should be fixing the very problem the FAA is there to inspect.

American has suffered hundreds of cancellations for this same reason the last few days. The other carriers will have thier turn soon.

Don’t worry much about the whole inspection thing.  All of the airlines do a dang good job of keeping the airplanes airworthy. Whenever there is a problem that is caused by a failure or malfunction it is very rarely something that an inspection of any sort would have revealed anyway.  This is largely a record keeping issue.

The following guideline for FAA oversight may help.

 1. Has there been a disaster?   Yes, No

2. If no, is it an election year?   Yes, No

3. If yes then yell  HARUMHP!

4. Fart around and act busy, have a press conference, you might a better gig in the new administration.

Happy Landings