Bjorn’s Corner: Two in cockpit makes sense

By Bjorn Fehrm

March 27, 2015; As we informed yesterday, the Germanwing’s co-pilot had a pause in his training at Lufthansa’s pilot school in Bremen during 2009. Further details have since been revealed by, among others, the Dusseldorf’s prosecutors office. The leave for Andreas Lubitz, the co-pilot that flew 4U9525 to ground, due to sickness, from pilot training in 2009 was a long one; sources talk about 18 months.

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Germanwings; co-pilot deliberately crashed aircraft, had burnout during training.

March 26, 2015, update 3: The Marseilles prosecutor Brice Robin confirmed mid-day that the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz 28, from Montabaur Germany, deliberately put the autopilot on descent in an act to crash the aircraft.

The prosecutors office has a full transcript of the Flight Voice Recorder’s recording on what happened in and around the cockpit of 4U9525 until impact with ground. He says the co-pilot’ breathing could be heard on the recording at all times but he did not say anything. He was therefore alive at the impact with ground. Read more

Guarantees, commitments and marketing claims

March 25, 2015: When the early Boeing 787-8s emerged overweight and falling short of the marketing claims, Boeing said that nonetheless the fuel burn and performance guarantees to customers would be met.

When we revealed the first flight test performance results for the Bombardier CSeries, BBD acknowledged fuel burn and noise results were better than guarantees and meeting the “brochure” numbers.

With questions raised over the CFM LEAP-1B fuel burn at this stage of development, Boeing responded by saying it will meet customer “commitments.”

What does all this jargon mean? We interview a Marketing Executive, experienced in aircraft evaluations to find out. Read more

Update (3), Germanwings: Authorities confirms co-pilot deliberately crashed aircraft.

Update March 26, 2015: The Marseilles prosecutor Brice Robin has confirmed that the co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz 28, from Montabaur Germany, put the autopilot on descent and was alive at the impact with ground, the accident is now turning from an involuntary to voluntary manslaughter investigation says the prosecutor.

He further revealed that the co-pilots breath can be heard on the tape as can the calls from ATC and the Captains efforts to enter the cockpit. The autopilots “Pull Up, Pull Up” can also be heard as the ground proximity warning triggered. Passengers screaming just before impact can also be heard. The co-pilot did not say anything but his breath is heard until impact. Research has failed to show any terrorist connections for Andreas Lubitz says Robin.

French news is now analyzing possible reasons for this act by the co-pilot pictured here in front of Golden Gate bridge:

Copilot 4U9525 2015-03-26 14.06.33

Flightradar24 has a private receiver network for the aircraft’s intelligent transponder of type ADS-B. They now confirm that the aircraft’s autopilot was manually changed from 38,000 to 96 ft at 09:30:55 UTC.

March 25, 2015: In a breathtaking, stunning revelation, the New York Times reported today that an investigator of the Germanwings accident says the Cockpit Voice Recorder indicates one pilot was out of the cockpit and was unable to get back in.

The pilot can be heard initially knocking on the door to gain reentry, then pounding on the door and yelling to the other pilot. No response.

The scene is horrific to contemplate: the passengers must have heard the locked-out pilot and became increasingly alarmed as the plane descended from 38,000 ft to impact at around 6,000 ft.

This scenario immediately raises two possibilities: an intentional act by the pilot remaining in the cockpit; or an incapacitating medical emergency occurred.

We spoke with John Cox of Safety Operating Systems and a former Airbus A320 captain to discuss this latest news. Cox is also a safety analyst for the NBC network in the US.

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Update on Germanwings; news conference highlights

March 25, 2015: It’s the end of the business day in France, where the Germanwings A320 crashed. Here’s the latest:

  • The cockpit voice recorder was recovered yesterday, badly damaged. It’s been reported that investigators are having difficulty recovering data.
  • The flight data recorder was recovered today, but it, too, was badly damaged and the memory chip is reported missing.
  • There is a theory emerging in Europe that the cockpit windscreen cracked, causing a depressurization that led to hypoxia and pilot incapacitation. Christine Negroni, who is a safety journalist, talks about this possibility in a recorded interview. However, John Cox, a safety expert, emailed us that the windscreen is double-paned and this hasn’t happened before. He is a former A320 captain with a major US airline.
  • A news conference is reportedly scheduled for 11am Eastern time.

News conference highlights

As could be expected, there was little concrete information about the events of the airplane and what caused the accident. Remi Jouty, director of of the French Bureau of Investigation, recounted the flight path and communication concerns of the Air Traffic Control. He also said:

  • The descent began eight minutes after the last communication with the airplane.
  • The CVR has audible data, but it’s too soon to have any kind of analysis of what’s on the data. Initial analysis could be days away but a detailed transcript weeks and months.
  • Although the New York Times reported the second black box, the flight data recorder, has been recovered but was missing the all-important data chip, Jouty said (via the translator) “We have not at all localized the second black box.” News reports quote the French president saying the box itself was recovered but it had no contents.
  • Responding to questions about the theories of depressurization, Jouty said (via translator), “AT this point I don’t have even a beginning of a scenario. I refuse to construct any kind of scenario to include depressurization of the airplane.”
  • Jouty did not know if the auto-pilot was engaged.
  • He confirmed the descent rate was about 3,000 ft/min with some “fluctuations,” based on radar data.

We don’t believe there is going to be any news of consequence to the investigation until the CVR audio is analyzed and information released; and/or until the flight data recorder is found and analyzed. Mapping wreckage and recovery of remains will continue.

We’ll monitor events but otherwise plan to stand down until developments warrant.


Germanwings 4U9525 lost over French Alps; chiefs of state at site.

Germanwings Crash Site

Figure 1. First image of the German Wings crash site. Via Twitter. Click on image to enlarge.

Note: we continue to add latest news to this article, updates are from now on in blue.

March 23, 2015; An A320 from Germanwings, a subsidiary of Lufthansa, has crashed today after contact was lost with the aircraft at 10.47 UTC over French Alps. The aircraft, with 144 passengers and six crew members, was on scheduled flight 4U9525 from Barcelona, Spain to Düsseldorf, Germany. The crash site has been identified north of Dijne-le-Bain in Alpes-de-Provence, French authorities has reported there are no survivors.

The aircraft, an A320, was serial number 147 from 1990, one of the older in the fleet of Germanwings.

Nothing is communicated about a possible reason for the crash, which happened after a steep descent from cruise altitude just after the aircraft reached the French coast east of Marseilles, Figure 2.

4U9525 flight path alt and speed

Figure 2. Flightradar24 playback of flight-, vertical path and ground-speed for 4U9525. Source: Flightradar24.

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Challenges working against A330ceo production goal

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March 23, 2015, c. Leeham Co. Airbus faces a production gap for the A330ceo and has twice announced reductions in the rate: first, from 10/mo to 9/mo in 4Q2015 and then again to 6/mo in 1Q2016.

Despite confidence expressed by John Leahy, chief operating officer-customers, that rate six will be maintained going into production of the successor A330neo, we think the production gap is great enough that another rate cut might be necessary.


  • Filling the production gap depends in part on converting options and letters of intent into firm orders and obtaining a significant number of firm orders between now and when the A330neo enters service in 2018.
  • We see a need for more than 100 orders between now and 2018.
  • The A330 Regional has yet to land a single order, but an Airbus official says don’t count it out.

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Leahy gets lifetime achievement award; CSeries could be delayed again

March 23, 2015: John Leahy, Aviation Week Lifetime Achievement Award: John Leahy, the chief operating officer-commercial for Airbus, received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Aviation Week. It’s a well-deserved award.

John Leahy. Airbus photo.

As the AvWeek write up details, Leahy has been instrumental in bringing Airbus to the market position it is today. We’ve known Leahy nearly the entire time he’s been at Airbus. He’s one of those love-him or hate-him kind of guys (or, in my case, like-him). Whether loved or hated, his industry accomplishments deserve respect and admiration. Joe Sutter, who is still around in his 90s as a consultant to Boeing, would be Boeing’s counter-part for the impact of his influence on the industry. We certainly can’t think of a Boeing salesman or any other contemporary in the front office who would match Leahy’s tenure and influence. In his day, Bill Allen, the long-time CEO, certainly would qualify.

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Pontifications: Alaska Air vs Sea-Tac Airport

Hamilton (5)

By Scott Hamilton

Alaska Air vs Sea-Tac Airport: As if Alaska Airlines doesn’t have enough to do fending off Delta Air Lines, the Port of Seattle, owner of the Sea-Tac International Airport, wants to build a new International Arrival Facility (IAF) for more than $600m.

There certainly is a need. The current IAF is in the South Satellite Terminal. It’s old and it’s small. With Delta making Seattle its West Coast hub, and additional service added by a number of airlines (including, from Delta’s view, that dastardly Emirates Airline), it’s clear a new IAF is needed.

But therein lies the rub. The IAF, by definition, will be used by international flights–not by domestic flights. Yet under the Port’s financing proposal, all carriers at Sea-Tac will have to pay for the thing. Alaska, which operates more than 50% of the flights at Sea-Tac, has no international routes from Seattle save Canada. Alaska officials are understandably unhappy with the proposed funding source. Not only would Alaska be paying for a facility it won’t use, it would be subsidizing Delta’s operations.

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Challenges working against 777 Classic production goal

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March 22, 2015, c. Leeham Co.: The aerospace analyst team at Wells Fargo last Thursday predicted a production rate cut for the Boeing 777 Classic despite continued statements by Boeing it will maintain production at the current 100/yr.

“We remain skeptical that Boeing will be able to sustain 777 production at 8.3/mo (100/yr) through 2020,” Wells Fargo’s Sam Pearlstein wrote.

Pearlstein predicts a rate cut in 2017 to 7/mo. We believe rates will eventually fall to 5/mo by the time the production airplanes for the 777-9 begins in 2018 for 2020 entry-into-service. (Boeing hopes to advance EIS to 4Q2019, according to our Market Intelligence).

Wells Fargo cites several reasons for its conclusion about the 777 Classic. We have some additional information gleaned from Market Intelligence that cast some unexpected challenges for Boeing to achieve its goal of selling 40-60 Classics per year.


  • A few 2016 delivery slots haven’t been placed by lessors.
  • Given two-year lead time for Buyer Furnished Equipment, timing is becoming critical for some deliveries.
  • BFE issues are focused on seat manufacturers’ shortfall.
  • Freighter sales needed to fill early slots.

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