Pontifications: “I’m glad you’re not going far.”

Hamilton KING5_2

By Scott Hamilton

Nov. 23, 2015, (c) Leeham Co. An Airbus A321 is blown out of the sky over Egypt.

Two Air France jumbo jets are diverted due to bomb threats.

ISIS stages multiple, simultaneous attacks in Paris. Additional attacks are thwarted. Police raids in Belgium take place.

ISIS is declared a clear and present danger in Europe and the US.

The worries on a global basis are obvious. Being far more parochial, given the focus of LNC, what is the impact and potential impact on commercial aviation?

Airlines are rerouting flights to avoid ISIS war zones and security of passengers and baggage is stepped up.

The last time the global airline industry, Airbus, Boeing and the related parties had major repercussions from terrorists was 9/11. So far, there doesn’t appear to be much of an avoidance factor by passengers. But as I write this, I am scheduled for a quick Seattle-California trip. My wife said, “I’m glad you’re not going very far.” I’ve already been thinking about how I will travel to the Farnborough Air Show next June: the convenient non-stop British Airways flight from Seattle to London? Or perhaps via a routing that is intuitively far less likely to be a terrorist target? Not Delta Air Lines through Amsterdam. Not Lufthansa through Frankfurt. How about Icelandair through Reykjavik?

My wife and I are hardly a scientific polling sampling for global travelers. But our thoughts are very different than they were not that long ago.

After 9/11, passengers stayed self-grounded for months and years. Terrorists are very open about their desire to blow up airplanes. ISIS took credit for the bombing of the Metrojet A321 over Egypt. The prevailing theory is it was the work of a suicide bomber. I can’t speak about airport security overseas, but it’s been published here that the Transportation Security Administration failed 95% of the time to detect materials in security tests.

After 9/11, airplane orders fell off dramatically. Orders are down today, but for reasons having to do with normal market cycles rather than any geopolitical factor.

After 9/11, Airbus and Boeing were urged to cut production in the aftermath of drastic drops in passenger traffic. Today there are worries about over-production due to market forces, not (as yet) geopolitical events.

Should Airbus reverse its decision to take A320 production rates to 60/mo by 2019? Should Boeing halt considerations of taking 737 rates beyond 52/mo?

Probably not yet. But the “worry-level” is increasing every day.


55 Comments on “Pontifications: “I’m glad you’re not going far.”

  1. I believe air travel is still statistically BY FAR the safest form of travel? Are you not far more likely to be killed on your journey to/from the airport?

    When that ceases to be the case, I might think about not taking a plane.

  2. Move away from the USA. More people are shot dead every week in the US than were killed in Paris last weekend.

    • You dont get that impression visiting. In general the US is fairly safe, there are hotspots in major cities for gun crimes though.

      • It’s not all crime, a lot of people shoot their relatives because they are trying to get into their houses having lost their keys. The point is that Americans have just got used to this incredible carnage. If they regard this as normal, then they will soon get used to losing a few plane’s every year.

        • Guns were used in 1,3% of all deaths of Americans and about two thirds of those were suicides in which the US ranked 50th worldwide. I worry far more about traveling by car than I do about dying by gunfire.
          But hey it’s always fun to slam the US!

          • 3rd highest in suicide per gun
            6.7 per 100k
            15th highest in homicide by gun
            3.5 per 100k

            homicide by any means:
            3.6 per 100k i.e. in the US you will be murdered by gun.
            compare to ~.9 per 100k for Europe

          • I see that you’re not including Russia or Ukraine in your definition of Europe otherwise the rate would be more like 3. How xenophobic of you.

          • EU European.
            I don’t see either Ukraine or the Russian Federation there.
            Distinctly different history and society.

            Question is open on how underrepresented the US numbers are.
            GOP/NRA sponsored legislation seems to have made it difficult to collect the necessary data.

          • “GOP/NRA sponsored legislation seems to have made it difficult to collect the necessary data.”

            Ha Ha! Good one. I didn’t expect anything less.

          • There is no law limiting the collection of US crime statistics including statistics for crimes involving firearms. This info is publicly available. I perused the first 10 articles of the google search you linked and none of them talk about any legislative limitations on crime statistics involving firearms, which is what you were claiming when you “wondered” if the US murder rates and murder rates involving firearms were under reported.

            Yes, one article talks about the NRA blocking legislation to do research on the causes of gun violence, and another talks about the NRA blocking legislation to create databases on gun ownership, but that is way different than blocking the collection of basic crime related data involving firearms.

            Yes it is a well known fact that the NRA lobbies against creating additional firearms databases and gun violence research. What should be well known, but apparently not in your case, is the difference between those and the crime rate statistics that are compiled and disseminated by every police department in the USA.

          • You’re right Robert, this is not the right place to discuss this but there are certain regular posters that all too often find a way to subtly include their anti-American views in their posts. For the most part I treat those comments like they deserve, with silence. For some reason, today was different for me.

            If your response was directed to me then I’ll point out that your link is to the exact same article that Uwe posted so my response remains the same.

  3. I don’t think the perceived risk is the problem, it is more the impact this has on security procedures and the length of time taken and the hassle associated with it all. Flying will become more and more of a chore and as such any sane person will find other ways to conduct business or to take their holidays.

    We all know that air travel is ‘safe’ and is immeasureably safer than even 10 years ago. It is a bit like what is happening in Brussels today, there they shut down the whole city due to a perceived threat but can’t isolate and eliminate that threat. What do we do in the situation? Remain in a state of suspended animation until….. With the aircraft threat there has to be a sufficient deterrent to reduce the threat but it will not disappear, we are not in the circumstances in the 70s where a trip from Athens airport could take you anywhere dependent on the terrorist group responsible for the hijacking.

    I fully agree with the sentiment about American perceived threats of foreign countries. Monthly they get a mass killing in schools and other civic buildings. Hardly the same threat of getting an aircraft to/ from Europe

  4. ISIS is trying to scare the western influence out of the Arab countries. Starting with the weakened ones.

    If they start intervening Saudi Arabia, Emirates, Qatar and Jordan too, things will change. I don’t know how ISIS / Al Qaida respect traditional Shiite (Iran /Iraq) Sunni (the rest) tribal lines. Imagine attacks on Dubai World Central.

    Its a mess where Iran , Russia and the West are cooperating again. The Russian since last week are wiping everything out that produces/ moves or is related to oil in ISIS country. No precision targeting at all.
    ISIS already states the aircraft bombing was not really intended for killing Russians in an attempt to cool them down..


  5. Sorry, I disagree with the post.
    The A321 was not destroyed by suicide attack but by a “conventional” bomb placed in the cargo bay, most likely by local airport staff. Factual mistake.

    Other than that, I think spreading panic is exactly the wrong thing to do. Getting shot by non-terrorists or getting killed in a traffic accident is still far more likely.
    As soon as we start to change our way of living due to being scared the terrorist have achieved there first victory.

    One example: terrorist say they will attack public transport in your city Tuesday morning with a bomb. Using publ. transport that morning would sound extremely hazardous. Actually, it is not.
    Considering that in Hamburg there are about 500 and more scheduled train departures between 7 and 9 in the morning, each running with 6-9 cars, your chance of sitting in the same car with the suicide bomber is actually 1 in 3000 to 1 in 5000. A chance below 0.1% cannot be considered extremely hazardous.

    • “As soon as we start to change our way of living due to being scared the terrorist have achieved there first victory. ”

      The terrorists won when a bottle of water became a WMD as far as most airport security is concerned.

    • If you had a bowl with 10,000 pieces of candy and 10 of them might be poisoned, would you let your kids eat them?

      OTOH, my wife and I are scheduled to go to London and Paris next spring. We are still going. These scum aren’t going to change my plans.

    • There have been reports that it was a suicide bomb on a passenger.

      A Turkish jet was diverted over the weekend due to bomb threat.

      The point is not to spread panic; the point is to raise the question whether we are headed toward another war on airliners, with the resulting impact on aviation we saw after 9/11.

      • All passengers have been checked, definitely no suicide bomber.
        There have been quite a lot of wrong reports and rumors.

  6. “ISIS took credit for the bombing of the Metrojet A321 over Egypt. The prevailing theory is it was the work of a suicide bomber.”

    It’s the first time I hear that. The prevailing theory initially was that the plane had been shot down by a missile. Then as the evidences emerged it was determined that the airplane had blown up from the inside. It was eventually confirmed that a bomb had been placed inside the cargo. Scott, perhaps you know something about this that we ignore, but the prevailing theory is definitely not a suicide bomber.

  7. Regardless of precisely how the A321 was brought down over Egypt, there is an undeniable sensitivity of aviation, to the prospect of terrorism. Attacks can happen within the aircraft (bomb in cargo or in the cabin), or be the result of a missile (such as over Ukraine).

    If we look at the past twenty years of history, it is not at all inconceivable to view the many major events as arising from a conflict not so much about religion but about political ideologies and economic imbalances. From this perspective, the terrorist mindset may include attacking the air travel destinations, so as to dampen air travel demand.

    People are concerned about climate change, too. It is conceivable that a fair number of air travelers are backing away from flying, or at least restricting their trips to a more moderate level, just to lower their personal carbon footprint. These terrorist events might stimulate some to accelerate a trend toward less personal/business air travel, which in turn could reduce production trends by Boeing/Airbus.

  8. @Scott Hamilton

    “The point is to raise the question whether we are headed toward another war on airliners, with the resulting impact on aviation we saw after 9/11.”

    If you are talking specifically about the Metrojet tragedy I would say no. First it happened to an obscure company that belongs to a very controversial country in the West. And it also took place in a country renowned for terrorist acts. But if you are talking about the world at large I would say yes and no. Yes there is an immediate impact on air travel as people are more worried everywhere, and not just in and out of France. But that might not last very long if everything goes back to normal relatively quickly. I say this because the Paris events are not an aviation tragedy like 9/11 was. Friday the 13th was an attack on a unique culture which represents the epitome of civilisation. But if an Air France A380 was blown out of the skies it could then have a much greater impact on air travel, perhaps even beyond what we have seen in the aftermath of the New York and Washington events. Of course ISIS wants to create chaos, not only in France but the world over. The problem for them is that the Paris events had the opposite effect of what they expected. For the world rallied around France. And because of that the world might now be a more cohesive assembly of nations more willing than ever to eradicate this very serious threat to civilization. France is also reacting in a very similar way the United States did immediately after 9/11. Hopefully this will have a similar deterrent effect.

  9. I suspect the statistic “that the Transportation Security Administration failed 95% of the time to detect materials in security tests” is highly misleading.

    The testers involved have detailed information about TSA’s methods and are coming up with innovative ways to defeat existing security. If we knew that nothing was ever done about the flaws they find then we really should be worried.

    If you were an expert in TSA’s existing methods, and your job in life was to find new ways to circumvent their security, how successful do you think you could be ?

    If on the other had the testers were simply imitating careless members of the general public we really would have something to be very concerned about.

    • Only last week, one of those members of the general public that knows nothing of the TSA’s methods, managed to take a loaded gun onto his flight.

      This was at Alanta (ATL), not some backwater with three flights a week.

      There’s little evidence the TSA are learning anything.

  10. Scott,

    Fear is legitimate and not reasonnable. For your next visit to Farnborough you know that you should focus more on the taxi you choose than on your inbound flight.
    Yet I understand your wife and you and thank you to share it with us. i had the same discussion with my 15 years old daugther in the morning of November 14th. She was a bit worried to go in a maul here in Toulouse in the morning of November 14th; And all my cartesian and statistical way of thinking was not helping me a lot. The most efficient answer I provide her was: “we have to stand and continue living the way we are used to, because if we do not, those terrorists win.

  11. My daughter was in Paris at the time of the attacks, fortunately in bed asleep as she was tired from the trip.
    While it changed her groups schedule a bit they didn’t avoid any stops or change plans.
    I feel the same way. Keep your eyes open and don’t do anything stupid. That is all that you can do to protect yourself either at home or traveling.

    The TSA is another issue, they spend too much time looking at things and not enough time looking at people

  12. It seems security at SSH was woefully lacking but the same could be said about numerous other airports that aren’t not necessarily like SSH in the so called third world.

    Regular flyers reading this will have thought many times about the simplicity of abusing airport security & like myself observed many security weaknesses on their global travels.

    Despite what we may prefer to imagine the very nature of airports today make managing high security impossible. The recent Metrojet downing by an in air bomb was one of host of options available to ISIS The alternatives together with the bomb paraphernalia are as wide as there imagination & resources allow.

    Regarding concerns over routings, I would select a hub to hub carrier that has a high degree of local control over airport entry & exit procedures, if that involves a national carrier, then so be it.

    Shooting myself in the foot, a few years ago I flew from London to Sana & onward to Aden & was totally bowled over with Yemeni security. But would I do that trip now even if I could………

  13. Terrorism is based on maximizing fear by gaining as much attention as possible. ISIS & Youtube succeed. That said long time ago (then) girlfriend didn’t want to come to the US because everybody has guns there is the gun murder rate is >10-20 times as high as in Western Europe. Apparently that was not just a feeling.

    • Gun murder rate? Really? As if someone murdered using a gun is more dead than someone murdered using a knife or some other weapon.

      If you want to honestly evaluate your safety with respect to someone intentionally taking your life while in the US, than you should look at murder rates. Here is a small selection for comparison.

      Murders/100,000 people/year
      Global Average: 6.2
      USA: 3.8
      Finland: 1.6
      Ireland: 1.2
      UK: 1.0
      Norway: 2.2
      Portugal: 1.2
      Spain: 0.8
      Belgium: 1.6
      France: 1.0
      Austria: 0.9
      Netherlands: 0.9
      Germany: 0.8

      So, your implication that the US is 10 to 20 times less safe from murder than western Europe seems to be yet another one of your BS exaggerations.

      As Geo said above in one comment, “it’s always fun to slam the US!”

      • Just a small disclosure I take no fun in slamming the US. And I know I’m deviating from everything aviation related.

        Keesje struck a cord when he mentioned the girlfriend being fearfull of going to the US. I once had the same experience with a Dutch girlfriend. The perception is that going to the US significantly increases your chances of being shot and killed (including by police). To sort of back up the claim from keesje: gun homicide rate in the Netherlands 0.2 and US 3.55 per 100k according to wikipedia.

        While at the same time I have sat next to quite some nervous US travelers om flights to AMS asking me how safe Europe was and want the absolute don’ts were.

        I would think that going into the unknown increases the fear of getting hurt to unrational levels, therefore terror attacks have proven so darn effective in reducing flying passengers. Be it global (9/11) or more local, Tunisia, Egypt.

      • The figures that you have carefully selected are horrendous enough. Let’s put it another way, homicide using guns run at about a metojet crash every week. On top of that more than 20000 people are killed by accident or suicide.It seems that you can become accustomed to almost anything.

      • Hi mike, geo , Scott

        I do not believe that anyone is saying the States is bad and Europe good. It is about perception on both sides is skewed. What happens at home is generally accepted as the norm and is unremarkable as such the perceived risks are accepted and dismissed.

        When we get news from abroad it is invariably of something quite awful and possibly alien to our comprehension.

        Further humans are pathologically incapable of managing probabilistic information. When we look at data it makes no sense. For example I cycle every day in London and everyone says ‘isn’t that dangerous?’ I respond that statistically I have more chance of dying from illnesses of idleness (the truth) than being mown down by a car.

        Foreign countries are scary, that is their charm.

  14. I am driving nearly daily on the Autobahn without any speed limit. I am not scared.

    Why should I be scared of suicid bombers?

  15. To change plans based on these incidents just encourages the terrorists to continue as they feel they are winning. Never give them what they want.

  16. The most frightening aspect of arriving & departing the US including Hawaii (Alaska escapes) is the stereotype Neanderthals employed by US immigration.

    Lacking any semblance of customer focus, charm. humour, sensitivity they are an object lesson on how not to run an immigration system that should meet the demands of airport security first and secondly customer care.

    Frightening indeed, Darwin & millions of travellers to the US would rightly badge them as the missing link.

    • Strangely enough I have always found them to be quite friendly. They have to be owing to their deeply irritating job. The experience of standing in a corridor in the shithole that is LAX for an hour with screaming kids and collapsing old people waiting to have our irises scanned has been enough to prevent me ever visiting as a tourist. Just to show I’m not biased, I imagine foreigners must get the impression of staggering incompetence upon arrival at London airports. We are veering away from the subject, but I believe that this sort of aggravation has a greater long-term effect. People just get used to danger.

  17. Scott,

    My wife expressed a similar sentiment to me before a transcon trip I took to California last week. I reassured her that it was highly unlikely that anything bad would happen on my flight. We’ll just have to see if this type of attack on airliners increases in the future. Unless it does, I’m not worried at all.

  18. As I have said before:
    The astronomical production rates foreseen by Airbus and Boeing will never be realized. In fact, you can look forward to bulk cancellations.

    Geopolitcs, terrorism, the outbreak of war of one sort or another, and economic collapse will see to it.

    Today, Turkey shoots down a Russian fighter bomber. Big winner? Assad.

    Secondary winner? Perpetual war.

    Why did Turkey do it? Arrogance, and alliance with ISIS and rebel fighters bringing oil across the border into Turkey.

    Sovereignty of Turkish Airspace?

    Is not Syria a sovereign nation? Give that some thought. Then contemplate the ‘what if’s’. What happens when Syria simply acts (with Russian assistance) in the same manner as Turkey?

    Then ask yourself: ‘Is the Assad regime a threat to me, my country, or it’s allies?’

    Consider the sensibility of the USA supplying Al Quida, who perpetrated 9-11, and Al Nusra, and ISIS, both mass murdering terror groups. Who is really pulling the strings on that operation?

    Answer: The House of Saud, and the Emirates.

    We let them do it and support them because of America’s fecklessness in and inability to stop Iran from developing the bomb, and delivery systems to send it anywhere they wish.

    It’s madness. That’s what it is, and commercial aviation will suffer, as it always does with this sort of thing.

    • “As I have said before:
      The astronomical production rates foreseen by Airbus and Boeing will never be realized. In fact, you can look forward to bulk cancellations.”

      You probably said it about the GFC. You were wrong then as well.

      • The business cycle will not be denied this time around.
        Neither will the commercial aircraft cycle.
        And certainly not political incompetence and the resultant wars.

  19. Regarding – Rate of gun deaths in the U.S……
    If you subtract out the suicides (you control that risk),
    The gang wars (you could be collateral damage, but low risk),
    And the big city ghetto violence in Chicago, DC, etc, where gun control is the very tightest in our nation……
    Well, that moves us/US to be one of the very safest countries in the western world…..
    But, since this ALSO is more of an EMOTIONAL issue than a statistical/logical issue….. guns and flying certainly do have that in common.

    • So if we just ignore all gun deaths, America is a really safe place? Riiight.

      • These comment show just how emotive these matters are. It reminds me of the stat in 9/11 where legislation passed by GW to reduce pollution controls was estimated to increase deaths per annum by far more than the deaths in the twin towers. Although this was a known side effect of additional pollution for some reason the annual cull is seen as acceptable.

        It seems that hidden killers are totally acceptable because the news focuses only on the immediate and photogenic and one off events. Policy formulation and controls must be based on the proportionate risk to the general public.

        I am guessing that aircraft kill far more through pollution than any other cause. LHR cleverly requires all aircraft to fly over the city centre down the river depositing pollution on vast swathes of west London. This should be more of a policy issue than the odd plane blasted out of the sky.

  20. I think in this thread we should be more concerned about the possibility of someone firing a bomb onboard an aircraft than someone using a firearm against a neighbour, a cup or a drug dealer.

    • “achieve total surrender then …”

      All the recent thumbfisted “bringing democracy” efforts already died on that. Primaryly by beheading/dismantling the opposition before a formal surrender is achieved.

      Without formal surrender any of these opponents did not go under but vanished into the “walls”. today the “walls” are crowded to no end.

      Note that the successful examples all were exceptionally well prepared and executed. ( Needing the former opponents as future allies was a further boon )

    • Obviously David Lewis is an idiot. The German post ww2 model is precisely what the US tried to do in Iraq. The disbanding of the party dominated Iraq army was a dreadful mistake which led to a military defeat and the ongoing mess

      • The German post ww2 model is precisely what the US tried to do in Iraq.

        They never got a surrender.
        Their pontential exile government was a band of criminal bandits and grafters.
        The local support was several magnitudes overexpected.
        The operation was planned and executed by corrupt dimwits ( VizeKing Bremer haha.)
        Troops and administration behaved like Iraq was a slave colony. life of locals had no value.

        • Yes, a full spectrum cock up.I did check to see if I’d been a bit harsh with my comments, Mr lewis’s book was published in 2013 -so no.

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