Odds and Ends: the cost of a 737-800; Planes take off despite ground mishap; ‘We know about this’

Boeing 737-800: Wells Fargo’s aerospace analyst team issued a note today that confirms its previous calculations that American Airlines is paying $40m-$41m for its 737-800s.

Update, August 1: We received this note from Wells Fargo: What was confirmed was AA’s SELLING price to AerCap and ILFC, NOT what AA is paying.

American Airlines: AirInsight has this analysis of the current American Airlines situation.

Speaking of American: Flight Global has this story about how an American 767-300ER and a Ryanair 737-800 brushed each other on the ground all pilots were unaware and both airplanes took off.

One more American: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has this series of 49 photos and airline liveries, past and present, starting with American.

And then there is Alaska Airlines: A passenger snapped this photo on an Alaska Airlines flight. Via NYCAviation’s Tweet.

32 Comments on “Odds and Ends: the cost of a 737-800; Planes take off despite ground mishap; ‘We know about this’

  1. “We know about this”. That’s not very good PR. This flap should have been repaired or replaced before sending the airplane back in the air. Not that it was unsafe. It was just stupid.

    • The note may not be good PR, but there is nothing wrong with the temporary repair. That notching of the flap corner is an approved temporary repair for damage in this area. There is no problem dispatching the airplane in this condition.

      • I think we all agree that it was not unsafe. However the temporary repair was obviously carried out a while ago, because it is already blackened, like the area around it.

        Because of the location in view of the passengers it was urgent to repair the flap permanently or to replace it altogether. This temporary repair would have been acceptable, with no writing, in order to bring the airplane back to its home base where it would have been repaired permanently, or replaced, during it overnight stay. But it looks like they were waiting for the next “C” Check.

    • Normand,

      Temporary repairs (or, more properly called “time-limited repairs”) have approved legal limits on their applicability. This capability from the SRM, combined with other capability in the MEL and CDL, permit an operator to dispatch a less-than-perfect airplane. These are critical capability for an airline to survive. No airline makes a policy of fixing an item like this at the first opportunity – it would mean holding way too many parts in inventory. The closest you could come to a policy on not dispatching anything other than a clean airplane is ANA; ANA will not dispatch the first flight of the day with anything on MEL. However, even ANA would fly a 737 with a notched flap for an extended period of time. To do so is certainly not “stupid” as you have indicated.

      • We are not only talking about safety here. It is a question of common sense also. Out of respect for the passengers, evereything should be done not only to keep the airplane safe, but to also make it LOOK safe. The latter has nothing to do with regulations. It’s all about perception.

        • It’s the first I’ve heard anyone was frightenend by this. This repair is very common with several photos of similar looking 737 flaps in a.net’s photo archive.

          • Its not the repair that was frightening, it’s the writing!

          • I agree; the writing was poor judgement. I may have misunderstood your point… I thought you were saying AS should not have kept flying the airplane with this repair, due to the fact pax could see it. That I can’t agree with.

  2. Should the pilot really be asking the passengers whether their plane touched another one? “only one person saw it so we’ll take off..”

    On that basis, the Alaska message is reasonable: at least they know what was going on

  3. With the information we have I would say there is an obvious lack of professionalism on the part of the Ryanair crew (flight attendant and captain). It could also have something to do with the “go go go” LCC mentality.

    • another case of woman driving 😉 .. sorry couldn’t help but saying it, evil , I know. That said, the captain admitted she knew it would be close, even got out of her seat to check but decided to continue even after the cabin crew called to warn her!

  4. Once upon a time, I (as an airline dispatcher) released a 737-200 that had one of the engine thrust reverser actuators removed. It was all perfectly safe and legal, as flying without it was completely permissible as per the aircraft’s configuration deviation list (CDL), which is both Boeing- and FAA-approved. The missing item was quite noticeable from the cabin, and at every one of the aircraft’s many stops, various passengers throughout the day noticed it and brought it to a crewmember’s attention. Maybe we should have had our MX folks write something similar on the engine cowling to allay anyone’s concerns in advance. That’s not to say passengers should never be shy about voicing their observations (a previous passenger on Aloha 243 noticed the crack that would later fracture and turn that 737 into a convertible), but that maybe airlines should consider labeling missing items that are within view so that passengers can be assured that it’s a known condition and not an oversight.

    • In the case of the AS incident the writing only aggravated the situation because it attracted the attention. Had the repair been intended for a short duration, the writing would have been unnecessary because it was there for the maintenance personnel, not the passengers.

      In regards to the reverser actuator it is a different story. It was much more obvious, but it was like that for a day only. They probably replaced the actuator during the overnight stay and that was the end of it.

      Situations like this are unavoidable. But the exposure to potentially frighten passengers should not be prolonged unnecessarily.

      • The previously-mentioned thrust reverser actuator fairing deferral (as per the CDL) was carried for more than just a single day–it was more like 2 weeks. With all due respect, the only “urgency” to have the item in the photo repaired resides within your own perception(s), and I’d likewise respectfully submit to you that those perceptions don’t coincide with the reality of operating an airline.

        I’ll presume that you’re in the turbo-widget business, and as such, any opinion that I (as an outsider) have regarding the detailed inner workings of the turbo-widget business may well be my rightful opinion, but that doesn’t necessarily make my opinion an -informed- opinion. To quote Clint Eastwood from one of his “Dirt Harry” movies, “A man has to know his limitations..”

        Rest easy. There are plenty of professional, FAA-certificated personnel all involved with the process–pilots, dispatchers, and maintenance folks–and our system (outside perceptions aside) works well.

        • The regulations are standardized across the world. But the operational standards, over and above the regulations, still vary from one operator to the other. For example some airlines would not tolerate a dirty flap like the one we see in the picture. And would prefer to make a permanent repair or replacement if the part could be seen by passengers.

          Many of them, if not most, don’t care anymore since the 1978 deregulation because they can no longer afford to go the extra length to preserve the image. I miss the days when aviation was special and highly regarded from the inside as well as from the outside. There was enormous pride, or envy, depending on which side you were.

          But for many people, flying today is just like taking an air bus. But the skies are safer than ever, and by a wide margin. And you can’t argue with a safety record like that.

  5. The text was probably added after passengers asked about this deferred item a few times.

    The price AA is a reflection of the situation Boeing has positioned itself in july 2011. IMO these prices, the statement Boeing made weeks before in Paris and the amount of options AA placed for the NEO tell the story.

  6. CM :
    It’s the first I’ve heard anyone was frightenend by this.

    Obviously there were many people frightened because AS had to make an apology. Personally if I had been on board I would not have been afraid one bit because it looks like a perfectly executed SRM repair. I must have seen hundreds of those repairs in my career. Some looked a lot worst than this one, believe me.

    Take the China Airlines 747 that blew up in the sky ten years ago. The inflight disintegration was caused by a botched repair that was carried out following a tail strike. It must be one of the most awful repair I have ever seen in my life. They took pictures of it every year for monitoring purposes and you could see huge quantity of nicotine coming out of the strike patch. They did nothing futher for years but take pictures of the repair. The passengers never noticed anything until the explosive decompression took place. The damage was underneath the tail and passengers don’t have access to this area. But they can see the flaps coming down on landing…

    “We don’t want to know about this” is what many AS passengers would have liked to write on that airplane’s windows if a felt pen had been handed to them. 😉

  7. I thought it was amusing. Here you have something that doesn’t look quite right and a helpful note, basically saying, “(Don’t worry) We know about this. (There is no problem).”

    But as is wont by many in the world today, it is preferred to make a mountain out of a molehill.

    • I agree. I also think this (perfectly acceptable) repair must have caused repeated questions and someone decided to leave a slightly silly note to let passengers know it was okay. I don’t see anything wrong with it and I don’t see the need for an apology.

      The only other option might have been to leave a post-it in the cockpit to ask the crew to inform passengers before take-off, I suppose.

      • I don’t know if the “note” was intended for querying passengers or other maintenance personnel. But if it was meant to reassure passengers it would also mean that some passengers were worried, if not alarmed. In which case the sensible thing to do would be to replace the flap or make a permanent repair. It is not a technical issue. It is a basic public relations issue.

        Many of us on this blog are quite knowledgeable about these things and we take them for granted. But it is certainly not the case for the average passenger.

    • I got a good laugh out of it too.

      I was on a recent Alaska flight out of ATL that was delayed for an hour and a half due to a maintenance issue (discovered after we had pushed back from the gate by half a plane length). The Pilot and Flight Attendants kept us all notified of exactly what was happening (with humorous running commentary) so that no one was concerned to see a mechanic lying on the floor of the cockpit wrenching the First Officer’s seat apart.

      I am a status holder with AS, and have spent a lot of time in their care over the years. I can recall a certain Alaska/Horizon FA that used to sing the safety briefings. I’ve run across many Alaska gate agents and ticketing personnel with great senses of humor in dealing with the inevitable issues that crop up in the airline biz. My point being that, if this was not a safety of flight issue, and a was an acceptable temporary repair, “We know about this” seems right up their alley.

      AS is a great airline; well run, highly profitable, and tops in on-time performance. They are a different type of animal than most of the majors. Seeing a note like this wouldn’t concern me at all.

  8. OPNLGuy,

    Based on your condescending repIy to Normand Hamel, I would say it is a good thing you were only a dispatcher and not in customer relations.

    • Sorry if you interpreted it that way, as that certainly wasn’t my intent. My point, perhaps inelegantly made, was that the operational realities of actually running an airline don’t necessarily sync with the perceptions of those who are not actually involved with running an airline. As I said, there’s a difference between one having a personal opinion (as an outsider) and an informed opinion (as an insider), and if my merely making such an observation is somehow deemed as being condescending, well, then that’s unfortunate.

  9. I once crossed the Atlantic in a CO B757-200 that couldn’t fully retract the right hand flaps. Apparently CO didn’t care too much about it. I as engineer was only concerned that the aircraft needed to refuel, a common occurance for west-bound flights of the naughty B757. (the flight was HAM-EWR …~3300nm). I had a connection. And a date in Los Angeles.

    Apart from that, passengers should put more thrust in professionals. The truly dirty and dangerous things cannot be recognized by passengers anyways.

    • Did you check to see if the LEFT hand flaps were in the same position ?

      IF ( big IF ), then If the flap was less than a few degrees from closed, the drag effects MIGHT have been minimal as to assymetry or extra drag, etc. and POSSIBLY a minor enhancement on lift …

  10. Schorsch :
    Passengers should put more thrust in professionals. The truly dirty and dangerous things cannot be recognized by passengers anyways

    Aloha Airlines Flight 243 is a textbook example that spectacularly demonstrates just the opposite: a woman passenger had noted and reported a skin crack aft of the forward entry door while boarding the airplane.

  11. Schorsch :
    I once crossed the Atlantic in a CO B757-200 that couldn’t fully retract the right hand flaps.


    It appears you did not get the full (or correct) story from the crew of what happened on your flight, as there are several problems with what you have written. Here are the major issues with your story:

    1. Flap/Slat skew and asymmetry protection will not permit the asymmetric configuration you are describing. In other words, it is not realistically feasible that you flew on an airplane with the left flaps retracted but not the right.

    2. Assuming the flap asymmetry protections failed, the airplane would not be controllable in the asymmetric configuration you are describing.

    3. Assuming somehow the airplane remained controllable in the asymmetric configuration you described, flap placard speeds and aerodynamic performance of the dirty wing would have prevented the airplane from ever reaching cruise sped or altitude with the flaps in any configuration other than retracted.

    4. Assuming the protection failure described above actually happened, and assuming the airplane somehow remained controllable in the asymmetric configuration, and assuming the airplane somehow achieved the cruise speeds and altitude needed for a TATL crossing, no sane crew would continue flight for a couple of addition reasons…

    a.) It would be highly illegal to continue a flight in an asymmetric configuration, and would almost certainly result in penalties from the FAA against the crew.

    b.) It would be highly dangerous to continue a flight in an asymmetric configuration because no performance data, including the most basic information needed for an overwater flight – fuel burn – exists for flying in such a configuration.

    Believe me, if any flight had ever occurred in the manner you have described, we would all be able to read about it in the NTSB report which would have certainly followed. It would be regarded as a very serious incident, and would most likely have resulted in an accident.


    • The DC-10 that crashed in Chicago in 1979 is an example of what a flap or slat asymmetry condition can do.

      The AA DC-10 encountered this condition when the left engine separated from the wing on take-off. The left wing leading edge slat was pushed back in by the aerodynamic force when the hydraulic power was lost following the engine separation.

      The airplane never reached cruising speed. The throttles were actually retarded to lower the thrust asymmetry. The low speed, in conjunction with the slat asymmetry, stalled the left wing and rolled the airplane 112 degrees. The pilots were unable to bring it back because it was not flying fast enough. But the situation would have been quickly aggravated by a higher speed.

      The window was very thin, just like when flying at high altitude. A too low speed stalled the left wing; but a too high speed would have rolled it beyond recovery as well. Both conditions caused by the slat retraction on one side, which created the asymmetry.

      The solution would have been to quickly advance the throttles and retract the right slat. But the information for the asymmetry condition was not available to the pilots.

  12. Normand why the drama? Are you a nervous person? Most people here would rather smile at this issue, I think it was hilarious as well. This is what is wrong with the modern world, people are too worried about most things. Relax, have a coke and enjoy life!

    Girlie men as Arnold would have put it 🙂

    • I notice that this is your first comment on this thread. But I am afraid it does not bring anything constructive to the discussion. Your comment is also irrelevant and incomprehensible in view of what I wrote in the previous posts:

      #1- “Not that it was unsafe. It was just stupid.”
      #4- “I think we all agree that it was not unsafe.”
      #6- “We are not talking only about safety here. It is a question of common sense also.”
      #8- “It’s not the repair that was frightening, it’s the writing!”
      #14- “Situations like this are unavoidable. But the exposure to potentially frighten passengers should not be prolonged unnecessarily.”
      #16- “But the skies are safer than ever, and you can’t argue with a safety record like that.”
      #18- “Personally, if I had been on board I would not have been afraid one bit because it looks like a perfectly executed SRM repair.”
      #21- “It is not a technical issue. It is a basic public relations issue. Many of us on this blog are quite knowledgeable about these things and we take them for granted. But it is certainly not the case for the average passenger.”
      #26- Here I do bring some drama in order to contradict a false statement. I did not have to force the door. It had been opened wide for me.
      #27- Here I give a concrete example to support a theoretical demonstration. It is indeed very dramatic. But it is the only example I know of that illustrates what a flap or slat asymmetry condition can do to an aircraft.

      I suspect that the two examples I gave in #26 and #27 were convincing enough to bring out your own fear, which you then projected on me afterwards.

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