Pontifications: 2020 Retrospective–the worst ever seen

By Scott Hamilton

Dec. 21, 2020, © Leeham News: This is my last Pontification of 2020. I’ll be off between the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

It’s only fitting to look back at what is the worst year in commercial aviation—ever.

I’ve just completed my 41st year in this industry. I’ve seen two Gulf Wars, SARS, 9/11, the Great Recession and several economic cycles.

Lockheed and McDonnell Douglas exited the commercial airliner business.

I’ve seen three groundings: the McDonnell Douglas DC-10, Boeing 787 and 737 MAX. I’ve been on site of two significant crashes: the American Airlines DC-10 in Chicago and Delta Air Lines’ 727 in Dallas. I flew over a third, a Delta L-1011 in Dallas the day after it happened.

I worked for the first new airline certified by the Civil Aeronautics Board in 40 years, the first Midway. I also went through one bankruptcy and one merger, each part of the deregulation shake-out.

As a reporter, I covered some of the business giants, including Bob Crandall, Herb Kelleher, John Leahy and others.

It’s been a great four decades.

But nothing compares to the global industry disaster of 2020.

Carnage across the globe

Airlines dropped like flies as the coronavirus pandemic took hold in March. Other airlines survived only because of massive state aid packages. Lessors were bombarded with lease deferral requests, sometimes repeated from the same lessee.

Airbus, Boeing and Embraer suspended production for a short time while decontaminating plants. Then each reduced production rates to unprofitable levels, although Airbus reached a cash-neutral status in the third quarter.

Boeing, already reeling from the MAX grounding, saw the 787 sort of grounded as well. Defects required grounding of eight in-service aircraft. By mid-December, some 50+ new=production 787s were parked, undergoing inspections for production flaws.

Bombardier completed its final exit from commercial aviation. Not only were the Q400, C Series and CRJ programs sold, so were its plants in Belfast and Morocco.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enter the market with a new generation regional jetliner. MHI could have become the second primary provider of RJs. Aviation doesn’t like a monopoly. MHI handed this over to Embraer without a fight.

As goes the airlines, so goes the manufacturers. As goes the OEMs, so goes the supply chains.

The production and financial disasters trickle down to the small shops that can’t hang on. The Tier 1 suppliers, like Raytheon Technologies, Spirit Aerosystems, etc., struggle as well.

The 2020 Farnborough Air Show and the 2021 Paris Air Show were canceled. Virtually every in-person conference and event was canceled after March this year and well into next year. So far, the IATA AGM is scheduled to be a live event at the end of June in Boston. We’ll see.

Recovery remains up in the air

Although there are positive developments as vaccines begin entering the UK, USA and elsewhere, distribution so far is spotty. COVID diagnosis and deaths are skyrocketing in the US and Europe.

Opinions widely split how quickly recovery to 2019 passenger traffic levels will be. Initially, most forecasts pointed to 2024-25. Some since advanced this to 2023-2024.

Some believe business travel will permanently be less than 2019 as Zoom and other virtual events gained widespread use. Yet, others (me included) believe business travel will return—face-to-face, in-person contact still is better than any Zoom meeting. Relationships matter. Sterile computer screens don’t cut it.

It used to be a cliché, “it can’t get any worse.” But it can’t.

Here’s fervently hoping things get better in 2021.

98 Comments on “Pontifications: 2020 Retrospective–the worst ever seen

  1. Yep, I will be travelling on business in 2021 given efficacy of vaccine. Thanks as always Scott.

  2. “It used to be a cliché, “it can’t get any worse.” But it can’t.”

    Well, it seems that it can. The UK is basically cut off from the rest of Europe this morning — as regards air traffic, sea traffic and rail…both passenger and cargo. And Sydney is cut off from the rest of Australia.

    2020 is the year that just keeps on giving!

    • First, not for a second forgetting there are people at the heart of this and is made a bad situation worse0

      I find the response to the UK strain quite a contrast from the previous wisdom that you can’t quarantine your way out of an (is this an outbreak or pandemic situation?)

      Boom, quarantine.

      What also comes to mind is ring vaccination and will the strategy shift?

      • I don’t think “quarantine” is the correct term.
        I think this is more “containment” of a very active cluster in the UK, while genome sequencing is urgently conducted in Europe and elsewhere (such as Australia) to determine to what extent the new variant is present in those countries. We know this morning that there is a handful of *known* cases of the new variant in NL, Italy and Australia, but we need to find out how truly widespread it is. Until such time, the isolation of the UK is justified and commendable from an epidemiological point of view — no matter what hardship it inflicts.
        Still surprising that the USA has taken no steps to cut off UK traffic: Canada has…along with Australia, India and Saudi Arabia, for example.

        Anyway, this is a major headache for Ryanair (with a huge base at London Stansted), Easyjet and, of course, British Airways…and it comes just at a time when they were hoping on increased holiday turnover. Bear in mind that the first two of these airlines have received zero state aid.

        • The new variant was detected month’s ago in the UK and before that in Brazil and South Africa.

          • It was detected in September in the UK, but it wasn’t publicized at the time as being more infectious. But regardless of where it was first detected, it currently is at the center of a major outbreak in the UK. If it transpires that it is not present to a great extent in other countries, then the current containment efforts can be regarded as prudent.

          • IMU these are not the same variants.
            succession or merge? no idea.

          • Just some clarification the ‘UK’ variant is NOT the same as the variant in South Africa. B.1.1.7 ‘UK’ has some commonalities to the SA version namely N501Y which it is thought is related to the increase in transmissibility.

            It’s being called the ‘UK’ variant as it was detected in the UK before being detected anywhere else largely because the UK, and the Danish do a lot more sequencing of the virus particles that are being detected as part of their health surveillance programmes (Relatively new in the UK, not sure about Denmark, but it appears far ahead of most other countries who just don’t do as much sequencing).

            A possible cause of the virus variant may be in-host evolution of the virus in an immunocompromised individual.

            It’s possible that this variant originated elsewhere geographically, and as seen from the South African example which evolved completely independently to the ‘UK’ variant, we may well see other similar variants evolve in different locations.


            The UK is eagerly awaiting the AZD1222 Oxford University / AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine as it can be distributed in much the same way as a normal flu vaccine i.e. normal refrigeration. The logistics are far simpler than the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It’s also cheaper, and thus it is going to be of significance in vaccinating third world countries.

            I think at time of writing the UK is only expecting doses of Moderna in spring 2021.

            The UK Govt. has sourced a number of different vaccines:

            100 million doses of University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine
            40 million doses of BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine
            7 million doses of Moderna vaccine
            60 million doses of Novavax vaccine
            60 million doses of Valneva vaccine
            60 million doses of GSK/Sanofi Pasteur vaccine
            30 million doses of Janssen vaccine

            I am a bit puzzled by the EU leadership, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine appears to have been authorised a day or two ago by the EU, but the EU leadership seem to want all EU countries to begin vaccination on the same day (27th) to show unity, and solidarity.

            Personally I think if a country is ready to vaccinate, they should get on with it, a delay will only cost lives, even one life is too many for the sake of any political ideology.

          • @ JakDak
            “I am a bit puzzled by the EU leadership, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine appears to have been authorised a day or two ago by the EU, but the EU leadership seem to want all EU countries to begin vaccination on the same day (27th) to show unity, and solidarity.”

            I completely agree — this is just out-of-touch “lets-all-cuddle-each-other” rhetoric from Plastic Ursula and her EC cronies. As far as I know, individual EU states are just going to follow their own planning. France and Germany are starting on Dec. 27, The Netherlands on Jan 4.

            As regards the AZ/Oxford vaccine: the whole world is eagerly awaiting it…then we’ll be rid of that low-temperature-circus that the Pfizer vaccine requires. Plus: where the AZ/Oxford vaccine is concerned, we do actually know that it is effective at preventing transmission, because that was monitored during the Phase 3 trials (unlike the Pfizer/Moderna trials). So the sooner the better!

          • Weird stuff. We lost a small shipment of Vaccine sent to a small community.

            Its the Pfizer so it had to be kept cold.

            Nope, we all have to share equally and we loose the doses.

            Dumb, dumb dumb. Moderna is coming, you can save the same number of lives by keeping at the large centers.

            I don’t say it with any delight, but there is a price paid for who you elect.

            And what worked here? Cases way down, masks, social distancing , closing bars and restaurants.

          • @JakOak Re:
            “Even one life is too many for the sake of any political ideology.” I suppose we need to dispense with actuarial science, cost-benefit analysis and a long track record of the above being used in legal proceedings. The formal framework has existed to price human life in economic terms for a very long time, without any moralizing or hand-wringing seen from those who now insist that millions now faced with unemployment, loss of abode or ability to feed themselves and their families are all worth the prolongation of just “one life.”

        • @ Bryce

          It would seem that the Brits/EU are not relying on vaccination to solve the problem posed by this new mutation

          As per the BBC report you linked to, this new mutation may be a signal the virus is headed for ‘vaccine ‘escape’ and evolving to a flu like perennial

          In any case containment and travel has to be operated as so far successful – ish in Asia, old fashioned careful administration

          And travel to be re started in the same very careful was as is being done in Asia, and as will, doubtlessly, be showcased by the WEF forum to be held in Singapore in May

          The WEF is being held, not only for business, but to show they are willing and can – always an important element in human affairs : taking the time to do something is paramount, forgotten in the mad rush to invent a miracle vaccine

          As always attention should be paid to the causes of the virus rather than exclusively to treating the symptoms

          • @ Gerrard
            Regarding possible vaccine escape of this new variant: BioNTech’s Ugur Sahin told the German DPA yesterday that tests are being done on the new variant to determine the degree of vaccine efficacy against it. The results are expected in two weeks. Presumably the tests are being done on monkeys, as otherwise the data couldn’t be available so quickly. It will be good to have some hard data on such an important development, as we’re currently only getting vague opinions and hopes.

            Interestingly, Dr. Harald Enzmann of the EMA reiterated yesterday:
            “It is still unclear whether those vaccinated may still be able to transmit the virus. Until there is more information with regards to transmission, he recommends that those who have successfully completed their vaccination to “please wear masks and keep your distance.”

            At this rate, I wouldn’t hold my breath while hoping for a resumption of air travel.

          • @ Gerrard
            Regarding the WEF in Singapore: although I hope that it goes ahead, and have very great faith in the ability and efficiency of the Singaporeans, I suspect that the new UK variant may force cancellation of the event. It’s already bad enough that the new variant is much more infectious, and that it may have a greater effect on young people (tentatively announced yesterday, from data analysis in Kent) but, if it additionally turns out that the new variant represents a (partial) vaccine escape, then I’d say that Asia will close its doors hermetically. Such action would be entirely justified…it’s what the whole world should have done last February.

          • @Bryce

            Vaccine escape promises to be the new new normal, in which everything is the same except for the ‘miracle’ of the vaccine, and everyone feels a lot worse

            Same with WEF, that was predicated on the old new normal; with a new strain appearing and perhaps another later to appear, Singapore will not take the risk

            Curious that originally WEF did not double down on their Covax CommonPass Nexus in order to showcase their homegrown solutions – perhaps now they will have to, why not everyone else seems to be live testing

            But as for Asia, is not that VIP international airtravel travel procedure we discussed, un reliant on vaccines, still adequate for purpose, and scaleable ?

    • @Bryce

      Distribution of vaccines in the US has encountered some un expected problems

      « « Officials in more than a dozen states have complained they’re receiving fewer doses than promised, and Pfizer claims the federal government hasn’t issued shipping instructions for millions of doses currently sitting in warehouses. If left unaddressed for too long, the lack of transparency, combined with unbalanced sources of data and methodologies, threaten to cement health care inequalities in communities throughout the U.S. » »

      This appears to be a combination of straightforward logisitcs failure but combined with problem with the algorithms invented and applied to prioritise distribution, based on multiple imperfect databases, or simply with built in inefficiencies of assumptions or methodology

      « Problems have already begun to emerge. Yesterday, ProPublica reported that Stanford Medicine residents who work in close contact with COVID-19 patients were left out of the initial wave for the Pfizer vaccine. An algorithm chose who would be the first 5,000 in line; the residents were told they were at a disadvantage because they lacked an assigned “location” to plug into the calculation and because they’re young. » »


      It appears that the algorithms are private and confidential, even Tiberius the CDC algo, then states use their own, of many differing varieties, each impossible to decipher, hence impervious to informed pressure for improvement

      Are you aware of such problems/processes in the EU : it might be that similar strains of algos are to be employed in EU distribution and prioritising, ditto for eventual poor country distribution, if all these systems are based on a number of confidential algorithms as per the US similar problems will arise and will be solution resistant

      • @ Gerrard
        I was aware of various distribution problems in the USA…they have been highly publicized, with General Perla offering apologies for various screw-ups and Pfizer saying it doesn’t understand the lack of demand.
        There are more that you haven’t alluded to, such as batches being stored at excessively low temperatures and subsequently rejected.
        I’m not aware of any such issues in the UK, although JakDak could probably provide you with more info on that. I had, however, heard that the Brits were looking forward to the rollout of the Moderna vaccine, because it doesn’t require such low temperatures.

        We haven’t started actual shots in the EU yet: Germany will be starting on the 27th. In The Netherlands it appears that, instead of being “called” for vaccination, people will instead be “authorized” for vaccination: once such authorization has been obtained, one can make an online appointment for a first shot, and this then triggers a date for the second shot (depending on the vaccine received in the first shot). This gives those who are hesitant the freedom to start their own personal vaccination (or not) at any stage after authorization.

        • @Bryce

          I did have some knowledge of the purely logistical problems encountered in the US, although you provide useful detail, including General Perna’s rather exceptional buck stops here mea culpa, refreshing contrast with….

          The algorithm problem however is not strictly speaking logistical, although it has the ability to present itself as such – essentially it is of a different order of administration

          How to define priorities, and how to organise a data base : in both cases this seems to have failed in the sense no administrative consensus useful for effective distribution may so be achieved, indeed must constantly give rise to dispute and error

          There are different data bases in use, it appears that some of these are faulty or inadequate, and different proprietary algorithms must anyway give different results : so that the CDC algo used for distribution to the states may not agree with the states’ algos, and none of them objectively assessed

          The CDC has issued priority guidelines only, the states are free to model their own

          A critical view of one such algo, 7 years in the making : PREEMPT


          Given that algorithm functionality is unknown, criticism or error or modification would appear impossible, in this to resemble the vaccine in that only mass live testing will reveal any degrees of success or failure

          Once more back to hope and faith

          It might be that lack of demand is the result not only of cold storage etc problems, but also due to faulty prioritisation programs

          The use of the word authorisation for the vaccine rings a little ominously, although it does leave the people to chose whether or not to take the vaccine and which and how – at least I assume – are there proposals to list all ‘authorised vaccines’ – will cards be given ? Will these have any use other than as a private record, i.e. it is not proposed to use these for workplace access etc etc

          Are there any proposals for international travel cards/passports or ‘authorisations’ ?

          • @ Gerrard
            Regarding your second last paragraph: as presently foreseen, the sole purpose of the database is to track who took which vaccine and when…officially for administrative purposes, such as tracking side effects and efficacy. After they have been vaccinated, people can opt out of the register, if they wish. Not at all clear, at present, if register entries will be used to issue vaccination passes, etc. Also not clear if people will be able to choose which vaccine they receive.
            If it transpires that the new UK variant is a vaccine escape, then I think we can forget any system of vaccination passes, as the situation will become more complicated. And there’ll be more such variants in the future…there’s already something similar in South Africa.
            Regarding the WEF: no matter what systems and checks they have in place, I don’t think any zero-virus country is going to risk letting the UK variant in if it turns out to be nasty.

          • @Bryce

            One assumes that there will various vaccines available in most EU countries, as per Jakdak’s list for the UK – is there any way of ranking them, or would this be counter productive

            Yet some differentiation apart from brand is necessary, and to impose lack of choice when choice exists by definition & the all gvmts have encouraged indeed funded competing products would appear as an un necessary layer of a logically impossible complexity, a free semi free market is just as difficult, on the other hand if the state pays for everything they then have to prioritise or rank

            As in -Some vaccines considered superior for the aged, some best for idpol ?, some cheaper, some pay as you go expensive….

            Your point about the WEF – agreed

            As for more strains adding a dimension of complexity to a vaccination card travel pass system, which is already straining under the weight of it’s known unknowns and lack of administrative take up

            Plus the fact of vaccine blocs – pols in the US speak with disdain of the Russia and the China vaccines – will they be obliged to do a deal and accept their validity ? At the moment one might say this looks unlikely

            In Africa the bug is not much of a problem – for an African therefore to be obliged to get vaccined to go to the EUUS could be seen as an unforeseen reversal of the old normal

            Hard to see algos coping with another level of complexity when they can not cope with the current


            Back to square one – old fashioned t&t

          • @ Gerrard
            In reply to your query: there certainly is a way of ranking the vaccines based on biological criteria (apart from the obvious criteria relating to production and distribution). However, the last time I posted here on that subject, it precipitated a vehement reaction from you-know-who. Nevertheless, here’s an explanatory link for those who don’t have tunnel vision:

            Personally, I know exactly which vaccine would be my first, second and third choice, if such a choice were available to me. The Dutch system could potentially allow such a choice as soon as multiple vaccines are available, though I doubt it. I also know which vaccines would be my last choice.

            We’ll just have to see if countries with admission barriers will accept any CoViD vaccine, or just a list of specific ones. Complicated!

          • @Bryce

            I’m confused – if the effectiveness of the various currentplanned vaccines remains unknown, this is being/will be live tested only, how does one rank, or usefully rank, the vaccines ?

            The link you provided was a very clear description of the various types being developed, with their pros and cons, but had no way of ranking effectiveness

            Nor will the UK nor any gvmt one supposes when it starts receiving all the types of vaccines it has ordered

            Or does no one bother about any disparity, let alone any potential large scale disparity? Just re export to a poor country ? Perhaps I’m thinking too much like an idpol

            Upon what criteria do you base your own selection – or is this more of an informed prediction ? Or simply to avoid predictable bad reactions/effects such as on display from the Pfizer thingy (market cap down 15% from year’s high, AZ down 25%)

            We all know what our last choice would be ! That was obvious from the start

            Surely most Asian countries will be ranking Western vaccines, and/or impose their own at point of entry : the West has failed at every other measure, but as you say if they wanted to make a point about who’s in control they could choose which western vaccines they would accept, much as China is currently playing with Boeing

            As for the chosen few, remember this : “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.”

            PS In other news : It’s Official !

            « « Airbus (OTCPK:EADSY +0.3%) is set to beat Boeing (BA -0.4%) as the world’s largest planemaker for the second year in a row, although its final delivery likely will have fallen 35% from 2019 due to the pandemic.

            Barring a widespread new travel upheaval, industry sources expect Airbus to deliver 550-560 planes in 2020 after reaching more than 520 this week, with nine days of the year still to go.

            Total Airbus deliveries are expected to fall 35% this year, but the company has an insurmountable lead over Boeing, which delivered 118 planes YTD to the end of November, with the 737 MAX grounded during that period; Airbus delivered 477 jets for the year through November. » »

          • @ Gerrard
            In reply to your query about ranking vaccines, one can, for example, look at aspects such as what they actually present to the immune system. On the WHO website (see link), you can read that Live Attenuated Virus vaccines are considered superior, because they present the immune system with a complete, live virus, thereby allowing the system to produce a response based on the full genetic package of the virus. On the other hand, all other vaccine types (with the exception of Killed Virus types) only present the immune system with protein spike information. There is already research showing that common cold T-cells react to SARS-CoV-2, despite the radically different spike proteins involved. Why? Because, apart from the spike proteins, the immune response is targeting other parts of the virus that more closely resemble the corresponding parts of coronaviruses that cause the common cold. This is because the body’s immune response to common colds is based on previous exposure to the full virus — not just its spike proteins.
            Apart from that, one can look at aspects such as possible adverse reactions, or the longevity of protection (need for follow-up shots). The following WHO link gives very detailed info on vaccine types, though it doesn’t contain info on mRNA vaccines, which are new.


            Of course, none of this information suits you-know-who; in the past, it precipitated a hotheaded (but vacuous) counter-reaction.

          • @Bryce

            Thanks for new rank vaccine WHO link, much appreciated : so easy to get lost in all the noise and fuss as reality information often is– doubts about mrna have been well aired and much ignored

            Do not worry about the priests of the present panick – there are many who can bang a drum only for the latest snakeoil : but such are useful in that their patter gives them away yet one can learn about what the corporations think to do to you

      • Just to clarify with regard to the US vaccine delivery, this was a bureaucratic snafu between Warp Speed and Pfizer, that had little significance.

        The Tiberius system has two modules, planning and allocation. Since no allocations had been made before last Monday, states had been using the planning module exclusively. But they had always been told the allocation might not match the planning.

        Since last Monday, there have been 3 allocations:

        Week 1: Pfizer (3M doses planned. allocated, and shipped)

        Week 2: Pfizer (4M to 5M doses planned, 3M allocated, shipping this week)

        Week 1: Moderna (6M doses planned, allocated, shipping this week and next).

        Also as of the weekend, only 10% of the vaccine shipped last week had been administered. So there is no actual shortage of vaccine.

        The reason for the allocation shortfall was that Pfizer had recent production that had not been verified by Warp Speed as of Thursday, when the allocation was made. It can’t be allocated until quality is confirmed. Thus Pfizer said “we have the vaccine”, which was true, and Warp Speed said “we can’t allocate it”, which was also true.

        However General Perna stepped up and took full responsibility and blame, promising to do better in future. Which was the right thing to do.

        Warp Speed has said they don’t have great visibility into Pfizer production. So they were blindsided earlier in December when Pfizer reduced their short-term commitment by 50% due to quality issues. Hopefully they will learn to work better together over time.

        • “However General Perna stepped up and took full responsibility and blame, promising to do better in future. Which was the right thing to do.”

          Factually all he did was obscure what the problem was. Its not the simple presentation you put forth, though its in your wheel house for authoritarian view.

          If he was going to atone he could fall on his sword as has been the honorable practice for thousands of years.

          Scott may suspend me, but that is why I admired the Captain of the Titanic. Not lip service, he went down with the ship as he should have.

          He could not change the loss of life, but he could and did admit his guilt by going down with the ship.

          Talk is less than cheap, actions are what counts.

          • TW, I gave the facts. If you have facts that oppose this, you are welcome to post them here.

            Perna took the hit for the failure, which was proper as he is in charge of the system. It was the truthful and honorable thing to do. But nowhere even remotely close to a firing or resignation event. Vaccinations are continuing without interruption.

            The states were upset because they are trying to plan their responses, and twice in the last month have been told they would receive less than planned. Their complaint was understandable, but not that significant in terms of actual impact. They are receiving vaccine faster than they can administer it.

            The pace at which this is all unfolding is a major factor. I’m sure Pfizer did not expect they would lose half of their production capacity due to quality issues. Nor did Warp Speed expect that Pfizer production would be so close to the wire (literally just-in-time). But these are problems that can and will be resolved going forward.

      • I think the USA has the correct priority in vaccinating front line medical staff first. If your medical staff have to isolate due to exposure to the virus (possibly by close family), or they are ill due to the virus, you have fewer staff able to care for patients (no brainer).

        In the UK currently front line health and social care workers are the second priority behind residents in a care home for older adults and their carers.

        I do wonder about the level of cognitive dissonance where political figures in the USA who seem to have downplayed COVID-19 to put it mildly, are first in line to get the vaccine. (Tell people for months that COVID-19 doesn’t exist or is just like the flu, tell them it’s their right not to wear masks, hold super spreader events, get COVID-19, and then have experimental treatment worth hundreds of thousands of Dollars that very few Americans can afford or even have access to, and then … be first in line to be vaccinated against a virus that you’ve convinced your followers doesn’t exist or is nothing to worry about).

        The UK Govt. response to:
        Q. “Can I pay for a COVID-19 vaccine privately or at a pharmacy?”
        A. “The COVID-19 vaccination is only available through the NHS to eligible groups and it is a free vaccination.”
        to me seems to be the correct one.

        Protect the most vulnerable, and use scientific method to determine the best vaccination strategy to control the outbreak. The UK has bought more vaccine than it needs (excess will be given to countries that need it), everyone in the UK who wants it will get it (according to priority), but hopefully we won’t be vaccinating the privileged at the expense of the most vulnerable.

        A celebrity with a private jet is probably less of a risk of spreading the virus than a supermarket checkout worker on minimum wage who is in close contact with hundreds of people every day.

        I’m sure there will still be a vaccine tourism market, I just wonder which countries will do it openly, and just how big that market will be.

        I hope to see rapid rises in the numbers these charts represent very soon:

        Air travel will recover, it will take years but it absolutely will recover.

        A final thought on vaccines, those who think they won’t really be affected by COVID-19 are unlikely to take it (those under 30 years old perhaps).

        Ultimately those older than the ‘not generally at risk group’ are going to be vaccinated at some point. Why ? because the world will largely return to normal, but COVID-19 (variants) will still be around being kept in circulation by younger, asymptomatic (non vaccinated) people. Would you like to be surrounded by asymptomatic carriers of COVID, and not be protected (to some degree) by a vaccination ?

        I think vaccine passports will be a waste of time once most countries have offered vaccination to the majority of their population, it will be down to personal choice. If you want to fly, you’ll make your own risk determination (choice of airline, destination etc.).

        • In the US, part of the reason for high-profile political figures to get the vaccine is to address hesitancy within their support groups. You could argue the unfairness of it, but if seeing Pence get the vaccine will motivate millions of older Republicans to get vaccinated, it’s well worth it.

          Also in the US, there was a dichotomy among conservatives between the vaccine approach and the precaution approach. The vaccine approach was always supported and fully funded. The precaution approach was where the huge failure occurred. We really needed both but the messaging of the latter was botched.

          I know less about the politics of the UK, but it appears something similar happened there. The messaging wasn’t strong enough on precautions. As with the US, that changed somewhat after the leader had a serious case of COVID. But not really enough in either country.

          Part of the struggle now, will be maintaining the precaution messaging at the same time as the vaccine messaging. Many people still view it as either-or, but it will be another 6 months to a year before vaccination levels will be high enough to consider reducing precautions.

          In the US at least, the 15% who say never to the vaccine, are in every age group. So not sure if the under-thirties will be over-represented. I think they will go along if they see it as a path to returning social freedoms. That’s far more important to younger people than older.

          • @ JakDak
            “…those who think they won’t really be affected by COVID-19 are unlikely to take it (those under 30 years old perhaps)”

            The demographic breakdown of mortality and morbidity in the EU suggests that:
            – Under 40 may be a more accurate cutoff;
            – People 40-60 also have relatively little to worry about, as long as they’re not obese and/or have multiple underlying issues.
            What may act as a greater catalyst to encourage vaccination is, for example, a vaccination pass requirement to travel.
            Those who harp on about needing a certain percentage of vaccinees in order to achieve herd immunity forget that we currently have zero hard data on the ability of the Pfizer/Moderna vaccines to prevent transmission, so the whole concept of herd immunity may actually be unachievable; noteworthy in that regard is that the AZ/Oxford vaccine completely failed to prevent transmission in Rhesus Macaques.

          • Rob,

            I totally get that it’s a good idea for recognisable individuals with large followings to take the vaccine publicly to help offset the effects of the anti-vax narrative, I just don’t care for hypocrisy of the highest order.

            In the army … “A leader eats last”.

            To be fair in the UK the messaging from the start has always been; regular thorough hand washing, covering your face, and making space/keeping your distance (‘hands, face, space’), even the worlds leading experts are currently saying that in light of the B.1.1.7 variant of SARS-CoV-2, the thing that has to be done to break the chain of infection, is still ‘hands, face, space’.

            We had a long shutdown (while also spending a very large amount of money to keep the economy going, good furlough schemes now extended to April next year). The lockdown worked, but of course we had to try to find a way to live with the virus more long term, and we relaxed things, and we’re back to a partial shutdown at the moment. (I would say Tier 4 shutdown for the entire UK after Christmas unless numbers fall significantly in the next few days).

            I agree the messaging has not been as forceful as it should have been, part of the reason may have been that the Govt. were keen to get the population to feel they had a choice, and allow them to make sensible decisions based on guidance. There are numerous reasons that we’ve not been able to get infection rates/deaths down much lower (a far bigger discussion).

            The vast majority of the population does mostly follow the guidance/rules, but unfortunately with a virus outbreak you need to get near to 100% of the people following the rules, 95% isn’t enough.

            Gerrard, I don’t have figures for projected vaccine uptake as yet, it’s still early days. I would say that the vast majority of the population over 30 years old will take the vaccine as soon as it’s offered to them, the under 30s I suspect will delay for a while but as they see that as someone said to me ‘when people don’t grow 3 heads as a result of taking the vaccine’ more will take it. The desire to travel is going to be a positive factor in persuading younger people to take the vaccine.

            The problem is that the longer we have SARS-CoV-2 in the population the more mutations we’ll have, we need to be vaccinating as quickly as possible to try to mitigate this. At the moment, it looks likely that the Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, NovaVax will protect against the B.1.1.7 variant, but they may not against a different mutation.

            It’s in the entire worlds interest to vaccinate as many people as possible as soon as possible (conspiracy theorist heaven) otherwise we will probably be in a Flu like endless cycle of vaccinating every year to keep up with mutations.

            In some ways we’ve been lucky, the virus could have been so different, imagine a virus that had milder symptoms, a longer infectious window with a much higher mortality. The world wasn’t prepared, at least we’re a little more prepared now.

            In March the UK’s capacity to do PCR testing was woeful, a lot less than Germany’s, the UK Govt. has worked hard to deal with that, they now have capacity to test over 680,000 samples a day, and still working to increase that. The UK is testing (nearly twice the rate of Germany) the most per million of the population of any country over 10 million people with the USA a close second.

            The UK (and the Danes) are also sequencing newly collected samples of the SARS-CoV-2 virus at a decent rate as part of their health surveillance so that they can detect mutations as early as possible. This is an area a lot of countries still need to work on.

            Track, and trace in the UK still needs a lot of work, but on the whole we’re in a much better position than we were in March.

          • @Bryce

            You speak of herd immunity, as does Jakdak – the need to vaccinate a high enough % of the population before the virus achieves ‘vaccine escape’

            There are some who say that already it is too late

            However do you have any idea if any calculations are/can be made of ETA Herd I ? via – % of uptake, polled intentions, versus max speed/spread of vaccination, versus rate of mutations observed (are these accelerating ? or decelerating by the way)

            Not knowing if any of the vaccines in development prevent transmission nor why nor… is no help

            Can there be ways to predict tipping point or to assess achievement of herd community ? or does the west merely struggle on and on until that is the only exhausted conclusion, so that the ‘war on viruses’ ends like their other wars, endless stalemate, money all gone

            Presumably, correct me if I am wrong, in less infected Asian countries, they are still hopeful that a general vaccination campaign would be effective – but surely this changes nothing in reality, as at least the West will, probably, remain infective, therefore the risk of new outbreaks of new strains, remains, therefore quarantine isolation etc (the NZ paradigm)

            As they (seek to) protect themselves by isolating from the world so do they make themselves more vulnerable to the effects of infection, so….

          • @Jadak

            I take your point about vaccine uptake in UK, and the young – I had read of degrees of reticence, even if not up to French standards (60% vax resistance)

            However does it follow that airtravel becomes viable, as before, even for the young ?

            If the vaccines do not prevent asymptomatic transmission, and if every other country they wished to visit is in the same mess or on the other hand, as per Asia, not taking any chances with taking tourists from infected countries, where to go ?

            Lacking any administrative initiatives (in the West) for anything but a vaccine based health passport or mindset that may grasp the necessity to build/invent strict protocols and standards which may enable airtravel

            How accurate is PCR testing – not enough for safe airtravel, perhaps, nothing close to 100%

            To give a slightly darker interpretation of the US parade of topdogs taking the vaccine prime time– please remember these are the same who preach idpol vaccine prioritisation of the african americans, and other groups, those precisely who refuse massively to be guinea pigs once again – the ruling class has the perfect alibi for feeding first in order to show the poor that there is nothing to fear, if they continue to refuse, and continue to die, well….. ‘we tried’ ‘we showed ‘m it was safe’

            Agreed with your remarks that this virus is not near as bad as it might have been : virus tends to settle down and adapt by killing less in favour of infecting more, however he may yet spin off variants to go the other way, they are as yet much unstudied and very unknown – and given a new virus emerges every five years or so, the next may turn out to adopt a different infect/killing strategy

            After all, we are at war

          • @ Gerrard
            I only refer to herd immunity because it is (still) an often-heard term; but I don’t have any illusion that it can actually be achieved in the current situation. We are, after all, dealing with a coronavirus here — and its four cousins that cause the common cold have never allowed hard immunity to establish, and have never been suppressed by any form of vaccine. But herd immunity is being used as a “rallying call” to get people vaccinated, by holding up a higher goal that is to be achieved; in reality, anyone capable of even basic statistical analysis can conclude pretty quickly that it is an illusion. We already have re-infections, much evidence of a short-lived immune response, and virologists warning that vaccines will probably only play a minor role in preventing infection — so how can any of that point in the direction of herd immunity?

            It appears that vaccination is predominantly (or even exclusively) aimed at preventing serious disease in the vulnerable; and yet, we have extremely little data on the effectiveness of the vaccine in a large portion of the vulnerable (very elderly and weak care home residents). So it seems to be a question of: “We have vaccines, so we might as well use them, as it would seem to be better than doing nothing. Fingers crossed!”

          • Gerrard,

            I hope I didn’t really give the impression I’m thinking of Herd Immunity, I don’t think that is what we’ll get to even with vaccines in the sense that we usually do.

            I don’t know of any plans to vaccinate anyone below the age of 16 (other than those with underlying health conditions). The UK Govt. priority list here:

            indicates the 9 groups of people they currently think will “represent around 99% of preventable mortality from COVID-19”

            So if you were to talk of vaccine assisted herd immunity as you could for say Measles, we’re not going to get to anything like that. I’d draw a line through herd immunity.

            Regarding virus sequencing, I hadn’t realised just how much work was being done by the UK (or how much the rest of the world needs to increase their sequencing/surveillance):
            “The Covid-19 Genomics Consortium (Cog-UK) has tracked the genetic history of more than 150,000 samples of Sars-Cov-2 virus.

            That equates to about half the world’s genetic sequencing of coronavirus.”

            from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-55413666

            As far as air travel goes, once the 99% of preventable mortality has been achieved, things largely go back to normal, so the young who are not vaccinated begin to travel again, and the virus is still with us, hopefully we’ll have slowed down the rate of mutation, but we’re going to have to be vigilant, that’s why sequencing/surveillance is going to be very important in future.

          • @Jakdak

            My mistake on herd immunity

            Thanks for link of priorities UK – they seem to have a much more rational order of priorities than the US, including a much superior (more rational less political) understanding of minority groups vulnerabilities

            I do not understand what you say about airtravel coming back up no worries :

            « « As far as air travel goes, once the 99% of preventable mortality has been achieved, things largely go back to normaI””

            Do you mean to say-

            Once (almost) everyone in (almost) every country has been thoroughly vaccinated (and) it is decided that an acceptable few enough are still dying (as in around about normal flu levels, perhaps a bit more ?) then every country loses any purpose to restrain or prevent ‘back to normal ‘ airtravel

            If this is a correct statement, good, if not well…

            This situation would take a few years 3/4/5 to be realised, or do you think it may be arrived at before?

            As per Bryce, if I understand him correctly, this is the only reasonable predictable outcome, in the West at least : Asian countries may have a different approach, and as for the AusNZ they seem to be out on a limb they have made for themselves with no easy way back

            @Bryce do I get this right?

          • With regard to children and the ability to reach herd immunity, at least in the US, it’s very possible.

            Trials are underway now for ages down to 12 years old. That would leave about 15% of the population remaining. If the age remains at 16, that’s about 20% of the population remaining.

            Also children don’t seem to be a major infection vector for COVID, in all the research done thus far.

            Lastly with regard to the discussion above of virus-based vaccines vs mRNA, it’s too soon to be certain, but based on the high efficacies and the demonstrated antibody and T-cell responses in mRNA, there’s not reason to believe mRNA vaccines are necessarily less effective.

            It will be interesting to see that play out as various types become available. The T-cell responses and high efficacies also bode well for longevity and reduction of transmission.

          • Gerrard,

            I do think UK have it wrong to vaccinate front line medical staff only in group 2, especially as initial packs of vaccine are 970 doses, vaccinating staff at larger hospitals would be logistically easier than care homes. To me the two go together, care homes (with staff), and all front line medical staff.

            “If this is a correct statement, good” yes essentially this.

            If a country has brought the threat posed by COVID down to Flu levels, economic realities will take over, furlough schemes will end etc.

            Any country that achieves this mammoth task quickly, and efficiently will have significant advantage over countries that don’t do this as quickly. World wide travel may take some time to recover, but travel between countries that are aggressively vaccinating will be much quicker.

            Unfortunately for developing countries, they’re at a disadvantage to the developed countries yet again, the gap widens even further.

            AZD1222 Oxford University / AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine looks likely to be authorised for use in the UK before the end of the month. Roughly 4 million doses ready to go at present.

            Also interesting thought from Tony Blair (former UK PM) … use all vaccine doses available to do 1st vaccination, do not hold back some doses for the 3 week secondary dose, come back to second doses after you’ve exhausted all initial stocks on dose 1. So gain 60 to 70% protection in a larger number of people, and then build them up to over 90% afterward with the 2nd dose.

          • Jakdak, with regard to Blair’s idea, that has been suggested in the US as well, but there is a window of 15 to 30 days when the second dose is most effective. That number is not fixed, it can drift by weeks with somewhat reduced efficacy, but probably not by the several months it might take to make a first pass of the population.

          • @ Gerrard
            In Europe, I don’t hear anyone complaining about the mortality figures…it’s the morbidity (hospitalization) figures that are at the basis of all measures that are being taken — particularly w.r.t. ICU care. Once vaccinations — or infection-induced immune responses — result in morbidity reducing to an acceptable and manageable level (e.g. comparable to flu, or pregnancy, or heart conditions), then I’d imagine that society will start to rapidly re-normalize.

            The situation in the USA is sort-of similar, but is significantly complicated by the obesity problem there, which skews average mortality toward the 50+ age group. So it’s hard to say at what level society there will be comfortable with normalization.

            Asia has the disadvantage of having very little infection-induced immune response in the general public, since the cases there have been very low. That puts their populations in a more vulnerable position. I’d imagine that they won’t feel comfortable about normalization until a high degree of vaccination has been achieved.

            And the “fishbowl countries” with zero virus cases are ultra-vulnerable, and probably won’t normalize until 100% vaccination has been achieved.

            Let’s not forget: all the people who are currently getting infected but not getting seriously ill / dying, are building up an infection-based immune response of some sort — increased IgG and/or T-cell titer. That’s a hell of a lot of people each day. So there is a silver lining to the dark clouds.

          • @JakDak

            Glad I understood you correctly re vaccine escape and the direct comparison to eventual outcome as the same kind of perennial infectious patterns and tolerance as of flu (although with higher mortality rates,?)

            This may interest you and Bryce


            Politics at least is back to normal

            And this – to re up in the meanwhile international airtravel, once the nasty ‘London’ strain has died down, no pun intended

            “Since November, China has placed more entry requirements on passengers from the UK. Within 48 hours prior to boarding the only six approved flights between the two countries, passengers must obtain a stamped Certified Health Declaration Form from the Chinese embassy and consulates in the UK and present their negative results of nucleic acid and IgM anti-body tests issued by verified clinics.””

            China insists on these – they seem to be considerably more accurate than PCR or the very inaccurate ‘rapid tests’



            Do other countries use these tests for the purposes of international travel- I assume the US does not, but does the EU?

          • @ Gerrard
            Thanks for the info on China, but even greater thanks for drawing attention to the horrendous inaccuracy of PCR tests. With false negatives of 20-67 % (determined months ago by Johns Hopkins University), it would probably be more accurate to read tea leaves in order to track infections!
            No sign of any alternative yet in the EU. Even worse, borders with the UK re-opened today to (certain groups of) people who could show a negative PCR test result. I wonder whether administrators really are ignorant as to the unreliability of PCR tests, or do they know but are just sticking their heads in the sand?
            It’s not nice for the Brits, but London really is the new Wuhan at the moment…and it isn’t being taken seriously by the world at large.

          • @ Gerrard
            No difference between PCR and nucleic acid tests, but it’s good that the Chinese are additiinally looking for a negative IgM test. More countries should be using combi-testing of this nature.

          • @Bryce

            EU not too worried about high death figures ? Well I can see how that might be possible

            As per previous discussions, if (parts of) Asia and especially Aus/NZ continue to preach attempt to practice eradication, then they are only rendering their peoples more vulnerable, in the medium term, not only as per resistance to covid but for ordinary flu and colds and perhaps others

            Or else they can live in quarantine/isolation if they prefer – even 100% vaccination with new variants popping up is un guaranteed, one thing about this and the next bug is guaranteed, it gets everywhere very efficiently

            USA obesity is a massive problem, devolving on many of the same ind ag stupities which give rise to zoonotic crossover, and also weaken the human immune systems, align them with the same dependencies and weaknesses of the animals they eat

          • The presumption that those opposed to vaccination hold that opinion due to the lack of effective messaging is both uninformed and condescending. It is remarkable how many people think that refusing a rushed-through, unproven vaccine is a sign of intellectual deficiency. It is also remarkable that someone expresses hope that the vaccine uptake will increase once people realize they can receive their social freedoms back upon inoculation–the truly shocking part.of the argument being the assumption that the freedoms should be taken away from the unvaccinated, and complete obliviousness to that fact that doing so is a form of indirect coersion the likes.of which must not have place in a free society.

        • @Jakdak

          Thank you for your UK report

          It appears as though vaccine distribution in the UK is relatively straightfoward – what is overall take up polled to be ?

          In the US, not : idpol concerns have entered stage left and right

          That is to say to level the playing field redress past wrongs allow catch up

          The US also, in their algos, seek to prioritise according to a ranking of the goals of vaccination, to save lives, to stop spread and infection, hence perhaps, probably, to save more lives, or both equally, to rank vulnerability according to both age and essential or not work done, and so on the lists are long

          These debates may not be dismissed out of hand, but are exceptionally prone to undue politicisation, and the algos are nothing if not opaque, so the assumptions and intentions built into them can only be adduced by extrapolations from observations community to community, group to group and so on, degrees of success correspondingly hard to assess

          Assumptions about this virus have so far been off the mark, and intentions painfully in effective (in the west)

          It looks like covid is heading in a flu like direction of becoming perennial – so vaccines, and the rest of the panoply, will become permanent – of course it may also create mutations in the other direction as well, develope more lethal strains

          As for passports – as per current war of words, there will probably be vaccine ‘blocs’ – is it certain that these will reach some sort of agreement or serve to develope quarrels already under way

          Most of Africa will not be vaccinated until later, even so any campaigns will almost certainly concern a minority of the population : the rich wishing to travel out will vax, as will certain health/transport workers – those countries wishing to encourage inbound tourists will make the effort, perhaps, although telling poor people they must take a vaccine so rich foreigners can relax in safety will not be any easy sell

          Since the first outbreak of a related virus in I think 1997 there have been seven or eight such prior to this one – it would be reasonable to suppose that another crossover zoonotic is on the way, then another etc

          Are you aware of any efforts proposals to treat the causality or the circumstances of production of such ?

          Or is this going to become another of those endless wars, against terror, against drugs, against.. a zest for combat seems to be developing in certain areas of the military health complex

          « EVEN AFTER THE COVID 19 pandemic, the fruits of the pivot will leave us better equipped for our long and intensifying war against harmful viruses. »

        • @ JakDak
          Completely agree that it’s correct to offer the vaccine to medical personnel first…the same approach has been decided here in NL.
          Apart from the reason that you gave, there’s the additional reason that, at present, there simply is not enough data on the efficacy of the various vaccines on the very elderly. Yes, there were some elderly participants in the clinical trials, but not enough, and also not representative enough of typical care home occupants.

          Once the AZ/Oxford vaccine becomes available, I think you may indeed start to get the concept of vaccine shopping: it’s so cheap and easy to produce that it should be relatively easy to flood the market with it in the medium term. Singapore is already a “go-to destination” for affluent medical care shoppers, so perhaps it will start some sort of offering as regards vaccines.

          • Why did the US VP and his wife get vaccinated?

            Because he could (as did his wife who is not remotely critial to anything as far as the country ops go)

            We have two Heirs (Biden and Harris) as well as the Spare (Polossi)

            Nothing more than privilege getting in line.

          • @ TW
            Here’s a better one.
            Why did Ms. Birx meet her family for a Thanksgiving get-together in Delaware, after telling the rest of the US population not to celebrate Thanksgiving in groups? Just look at the contrived reasons that she gave…as if those exact same reasons didn’t apply to millions of other Americans. Either completely out of touch, or arrogant to the point of inducing nausea.

            Similar things happened in the UK (Dominic Cummings) and Ireland (golf meeting of top legislature/judiciary members during lockdown).

      • There’s more went on than you say, Gundolf.

        States had asked the federal government to not ship a whole week’s supply on the same day, hence shipments were delayed.

        Lack of communication all around I suppose, Trump smearers are eager to bash. I commend the general for saying it happened on his watch.

        (Speaking of Jack Welch of GE, when ethics problems were revealed in a Wall Street financial outfit owned by GE he said that while he had no knowledge of such it did happen on his watch. (He did not offer to do what many in this forum would want – resign..)

  3. And in addressing the behind the paywall, the condemnation of what was going on with the FAA and Boeing.

    Where were these people back in the 737 rudder era? Its not new, though arguably regulatory capture is worse.

    And add in coaching FAA to pass the MCAS test.

    Now some are going to argue (with no merit much like the recent election) that this is just politics.

    Funny that the FAA was formed by the same bodies that are politicking now.

    Have to ponder the hypocrisy of it. Or the changes to the FAA/Boeing relationship were not corrupted by more and more shift to all Boeing being the AHJ (the definition of self certifications)

    Like the rules of the road, Capitalism needs its limits, otherwise you simply have carnage. Its maybe not unfettered but its pretty close.

    In looking back on 2020, its really not new, its the end result of a long string of undermining.

    We have reached its logical conclusion, as bad as the reality of the logic is, much like MCAS 1.0, its doing exactly what you can predict it would (if you did not have an agenda to implement regardless)

    And, if you can predict it, its science and fact not opinion.

    • It’s unfettered. The act that it’s not is for show. Hopefully, the space programs will pick up some of the slack. Economically, the experts concede 10% of the country’s populace is in Depression conditions. Maybe with many others, there could be quite a growing demand for travel especially after mass vaccinations.

    • The FAA legislation was needed and is a good thing overall. But it will serve to strengthen the industry, including Boeing and the airlines. Not tear them down as some here advocate and hope.

      That’s a huge philosophical difference, and is why the language and tone of the Congressional legislation does not match the language and tone of the Congressional reports.

      The truth is that the listed complaints are a very small percentage of the number of regulatory actions taken each year by the FAA. The vast majority of those are not an issue of any kind. But the complaints receive all the attention, and are amplified as needed to suit the political purpose.

      Like Dickson says, you can always improve and do better, and should always make that effort. The legislation is a realistic step in that direction. I’m sure it will be welcomed by all parties.

    • @ TW
      As long as people, organizations and/or corporations have commercial and/or political interests, there will be an insidious effort to circumvent any law or regulatory body that stands in the way. This has been the case since ancient times…it won’t change because of some new windowdressing at the FDA/Boeing.
      We can expect business as usual at the Old Boys Club.

      • Bryce:

        No disagreement what so ever.

        There are some who think constructive criticism should be suppressed though. That too is part of humanity, that move to authoritarianism and then outright dictatorship.

        Its always couched in language that blames the messenger and not the perpetrators who actually have worked their utmost to destroy the industry for their own gain.

        Unfortunately that is the way of the world, kill the messenger. We can not have it known that the King is really naked.

        • TW, the arguments are factual, and you are welcome to similarly refute them with factual arguments.

          You mention constructive criticism, but in the next paragraph you accuse people of doing their utmost to destroy the industry for their own gain, as well as authoritarianism and dictatorship. Where is the construction, fairness, or even truth in that? It’s pure vilification, as I have pointed out many times.

          That represents the view of people who want to tear things down, because everything is corrupt if they don’t agree with it. But that view is quite far removed from reality.

          The notion that you are the abused messenger here, for advancing those views, is a stretch. There are many examples in these pages of you abusing others, and you have been sanctioned for it before. It’s a form of reversal, accuse others of what you do, because they must be doing it too, right? It’s then simultaneously a justification and a defense, for the next time you do it yourself. Does that not remind you of a certain president?

          You might note that I’ve argued against the ad hominin method many times here. To the extent that I’ve been in violation, or guilty of it myself, I’ve been equally wrong. It can be upsetting to constantly be attacked from all sides here, and sometimes it gets the better of me.

          But nevertheless, it’s a poor method of discourse that leads nowhere in the end. We have an excellent example in the White House, of how not to behave. We just have to not follow it.

    • “Funny that the FAA was formed by the same bodies that are politicking now.”

      Nothing is static. Entities change over time.
      NASA moved from highly functional to ossified.
      political parties move from innovative left to “conservative at any price” right.
      With success all get infested with self serving persons that in the end have full spectrum dominance. The original task frustrated.

  4. I would not have wanted to be on site for any of those that Scott was.

    My brother responded to the (DC-8?) military charter crash in Anchorage. He was Ski Patrol with the med training and his medical bag. Gruesome is the only word.

  5. Scott:

    I think you meant FIXES here?

    “FAA pilots during recertification simulator training to test FIXED to the now-infamous MCAS system.”

  6. Hi Scott,

    What an awful year 2020 has been, especially to airlines, air travel and aircraft industry, as you have laid out! The virus has shown that in spite of our advanced science and technology, an invisible microbe can still play havoc with the world, and life is fragile indeed. Hope 2021 will be better in many ways!

    Keep up the good work.

    Wish you and Bjorn a Merry Christmas, and Safe and Happy Holidays!

  7. “Yet, others (me included) believe business travel will return—face-to-face, in-person contact still is better than any Zoom meeting”. While it’s true that in-person contact is better than Zoom for some key client interactions (such as closing a sale or contract with a new customer), not all business travel is such meetings. Some, for example internal company or project team meetings, can be done almost as effectively on Zoom/Teams as in person. Corporate finance people will see the corporate travel budget as ripe for plundering, which also has the benefit of burnishing their environmental credentials.

    • Oddly my wife has been doing Zoon on music lessons and its gone well. I would have thought not. May be the teacher is got the ability to make it work.

      It would have been interesting to see how engineering conformance calls went. Having quit its not something I get to find out (and sure not going to go back out of curiosity !

      Its going to be different world if we can get back to normal, be interesting to see how different.

      I have one personnel trip that is over due, guessing this fall at the vaccine roll out rate and no nasty change in the C-19.

    • There will be phases of biz travel 2021, first the top dogs meet and then lots of zoom and Teams meeting for everybody involved that will create confusion, then a boost of business travel trying to fix everything gone wrong due misunderstandings in the virtual meetings. Some meetings are just for top managers to complain and tell everybody it is not thier fault and blame someone else (suppliers, customers not happy and not paying in time…) those one way meetings work as well on-line..

    • @ Iain
      Don’t make the mistake of assuming that business is the only — or even the main — reason for business trips 😏

      • Bryce:

        My wife was “concerned” when we first got married and I was being sent on tech missions.

        My response was, have you ever known me to not be working? You know I hate bars.

        Now my manager came up with ways to fudge his expenses so he could buy beer (well lets just say he was not partially sophisticated>) Not that I am against good beer, but he got cheap beer. Ungh. Not even good with Pizza

        But then I was at the pointy end of the work face not a manager.

        I went out, got the job done regardless of how many hours a day it took and back home. I liked being home!

        I loved submitting my expenses as it always made the top dogs look bad. Surely you ate more than that?

        Nope, SAMs Delli was more than fine, right on the way to my Motel 6 which had a decent bed and a good shower and that is all I needed.

        And I seldom had anything to drink. Of course if you work hard enough you don’t need that to put you to sleep.

      • Perks.
        Perks that bear major personal risk are no longer perks.

        All the people that have a thing for moving others in and out of viable existences get really shy when it is personal in your face risk.

        • @ Uwe

          Some compromises are going to be made, and learning to live with risk, even a new risk, is inevitable, even if not to be accomplished over night

          Zero risk, as in of ‘transmission’ is un attainable, unless everyone goes full hazmat full time, even then

          The cause of the virus is known, it is more productive to come up with a solution to this, or paths to a solution

          Why did certain countries and certain lifestyles prove much more vulnerable than others, why did the same fail to properly manage, if measured by death rates these countries are doing worse and worse

          Travel is inherent in the human, as is face to face, as is close contact – these patterns will not be swept aside immediately

          Look beyond the mask

  8. „ the global industry disaster of 2020.“

    There‘s hardly a better way to put it.

    • AK Airlines struck while the bargaining was good and has 120 MAX in backlog.

  9. Figures show 2020 is unprecedented for Aviation. Even more so for Boeing.

    Big government is saving the day. Ough.

    On the FAA topic, who is writing a report on the roles of Senators and Congress in the building up of the quality drama at Boeing over the last 10 years?

    Streamlining, supporting local jobs, FAA re- authorizations, shoulder to shoulder for US industry, fighting bureaucracy, keeping the #1 exporter competitive..

    Is there a vaccin for spontaneous amnesia?

      • Keejse:

        There is but they keep it in a locked vault.

        Sadly the bills in congress do not go far enough.

        As Bryce noted, they will whittle away again.

        You can look at Maconda and how they have whittled down what should be standard ops (and should have).

        Another Corporate cost cutting measure that was predicable in its failure.

    • Bryce, this specific variant has apparently been traced directly to a contacts of people who travelled from South Africa to the UK in the last few weeks. But another 501Y variant appears to have been identified in Wales. The Welsh variant is NOT the same as the UK one.

      It’s significant to note that part of the reason you’re seeing the ‘UK’ variant, is specifically due to the genomic surveillance in the UK that is sadly lacking in other countries. South Africa seems to be punching above it’s weight (well done KRISP UKKZN SA). Denmark are also standing out with sizeable contributions.

      It bears repeating
      “The Covid-19 Genomics Consortium (Cog-UK) has tracked the genetic history of more than 150,000 samples of Sars-Cov-2 virus.
      That equates to about half the world’s genetic sequencing of coronavirus.” and they are increasing their capacity, this needs to be replicated world wide.

      More info for those interested at:

      As far as the new Wuhan, we will see similar, and different mutations of the virus across Europe, they’re probably already there, just due to the lack of sequencing we haven’t seen them yet.

      BTW too early at the moment to say that the SA variant spreads more quickly than the UK variant.

      • It’s great that the UK is doing all that genome sequencing!
        But there’s little point in measuring a genome sequence if you don’t subsequently act in a timely fashion with the data.
        Discovering a genome sequence in September, but not acting until one becomes suspicious of stubbornly high case numbers in Kent in December, is an example of only thinking about the stable door after the horse has bolted.

        • Bryce,

          The problem is that you can identify a new variant, but then you don’t know what effect it is having for quite some time. It took time for the variant to start to replace the other variants out there. This of course was only spotted because of sequencing/surveillance, and once the numbers started to show a trajectory the advisors informed the PM. He seems to have acted within days of getting the information. Unusually when he was criticised for not having acted last week, the scientists backed him up.

          The thing is that variants may be emerging in many countries, but with little sequencing, they don’t actually know why their figures are rising.

          It’s possible that the ‘UK’ variant actually arose outside the UK, but due to the amount of sequencing the UK has been able to identify that this variant is becoming the dominant one in the UK.

          We’ll have to wait for the scientists to work out what this new variant really means, is it more transmissible, is it more deadly, is it less deadly ? All we really know for sure at the moment is that it is becoming the dominant variant, and that may mean that it is more transmissible.

          Denmark are doing an even greater number of sequences relative to their population/cases than the UK, but others sadly lacking. An example the UK did over 3,500 in the same time frame that the USA did 40, Germany around the same as the USA. This will change, it has to.

          My feeling is (from a scientific perspective) that UK should have extended Tier 4 earlier, i.e. cancel Christmas, but what Govt. wants to be remembered as the one that stole Christmas as justified as it may be. They have extended Tier 4 from the 26th Dec, I think they realised that if they’d cancelled Christmas people would have ignored them anyway so you’d have huge political pain for absolutely no benefit at all.

          They’ve gone for the ‘you have a choice’ message again, the virus is serious take care to protect those around you, stay local, try to ensure granny is still around for next Christmas, and the ‘Hands, face, space’ mantra. Let’s see if it works.

          For all the rules you try to impose, it’s the people who either follow them or not. In a sense the Govt. can’t win, try to trust the public to use common sense, and they complain the Govt. doesn’t tell them what to do; give them rules to follow, and they argue civil rights, and immediately try to find ways around the rules.

          • @JakDak
            I agree with all your comments.
            However, as a purely academic point, I’d add that it’s not every day that a variant crops up with 23 mutations, of which 6 on the protein spike. It should have been flagged and the info shared with the WHO, but that didn’t happen. On the other hand, even if it had happened, the dusty “civil servants” at the WHO would probably have just put the info in a drawer and not acted upon it.
            One way or another, when there’s an inadequate response to new variants, it makes little difference that they were discovered at all. The same happened a few weeks ago with the Danish variant that jumped from mink to humans. The same is happening today with the SA variant: flights from SA to the EU are welcome again, as long as passengers can produce a negative PCR test result.
            All half-baked tactics, no coherent strategy.

          • JakDak, the virus is constantly mutating, in all directions. The 23 variations in the present strain did not occur all at once, they accumulated over time.

            If the mutation is less transmissible, it dies out. If more transmissible, it competes and may become dominant. This is determined by the Rt value. For the present UK strain, the value is estimated to have increased from 1.2 to 1.6.

            The Rt value is also a function of precautions. So if an increase occurs from mutation, it can be offset by precautions. Dr Fauci has said that we cannot stop the mutations, whether or not we document them, we can only slow them by limiting infection, which also involves precautions. He has warned against overreacting to new strains, and instead focusing on preventive actions we all can take.

            So it always comes down to precautions in the end. In my state, the Rt value is about 0.9, and that’s after a struggle by government to get the message across. It should be much lower. We may already have a more transmissible strain.

            This points up the wisdom of places like New Zealand and Taiwan, who acted early to enforce precautions, and kept their Rt value extremely low. They not only have a relatively open economy, they are not contributing to the mutation of the virus, as the rest of us are.

            They have a natural advantage as island nations, but in the US and UK, leaders initially played down the virus, which allowed it to be established. Now the best that can be hoped for is to limit the transmission as best we can, until vaccination is possible.

            So as you said, it boils down to people cooperating with the guidance. Virus fatigue is a factor, even in Sweden where voluntary cooperation was initially high, there has been a falloff. Another advantage for New Zealand and Taiwan, they see the rest of the world as what could happen to them if they let their guard down.

          • @Bryce

            I’ll invite you to respond to the idea that we are contributing to the mutation of the virus, as if this ‘our’ fault

            If I have understood correctly, coronavirus-es always mutate – it began with a mutation across to humans- this is it’s nature, thus plays itself out, settles down, grows milder in mortality and morbidity as it figures out how best to live with us, then moves in permanently

            So that increasing numbers of mutations, in the end are a welcome and inevitable endgame

            We may smooth our way with vaccines: ‘good behaviour’ is a function of manners, class and wealth, and impossible for the poor except when obliged by extremely well organised government control

            Otherwise: imagine a world transformed into a giant new zealand going in hard against this and every next virus we will continue to breed

            It may have been ‘our’ fault to encourage and lay down the conditions of the initial crossover by the practice of such a ruthless form of ind ag, but that is another post

          • @ JakDak
            Both you and I alluded to this earlier, but the material is probably a bit too challenging for some readers.
            As regards the B.1.17 (UK) variant, it’s currently suspected that all mutations occurred in a single immuno-compromised patient who received antibody treatment. The prolonged presence of the virus in a single host, in which it was challenged by extended exposure to non-sterilizing antibodies, allowed it to develop such a broad panolpy of mutations…an impressive feat for a sojourn of just a few weeks in one patient.


            As you’re aware, despite a far-ranging lockdown in Kent and surroundings, the case numbers are not decreasing to any given extent. It is suspected that infection by this new variant can occur via a much smaller/shorter innoculum than previous variants, making it transmissible by even brief, casual contact e.g. while buying groceries at the supermarket. Revised data on “traditional” variants have shown that socially-distanced, indoor exposure with a duration of just 1 minute can be sufficient to allow transmission…which means that, for the new variant, just 20 seconds might suffice. Try combating that with “precautions”.

          • @ Gerrard
            I don’t know if I’d say that “we” are contributing to the mutation of the virus: I’d prefer to be more specific by saying that the immune response of infected organisms is contributing to mutations. We’ve all seen in the UK what can happen when the virus is confronted by non-sterilizing antibodies in a single patient — the “challenged” virus responds with a broader palate of mutations. This process will become even more prevalent as vaccinations progress (so-called vaccine challenging), particularly since the vaccines don’t appear to produce any (or much) sterilizing immunity.

            Mindful of the fact that countries that had previously been successful in keeping infection numbers very low — such as Japan, South Korea and Thailand — are now experiencing outbreaks, and also mindful of the devastation caused when the virus enters relatively “virgin” territory (just look at the explosion of cases in the Czech Republic and Germany, neither of which experienced any first wave, and also the current straining of the hospital systems in Seoul and Tokyo) the situation becomes steadily more precarious for the “zero-virus” countries. If the virus somehow gets a grip there, the results will be nasty. Meanwhile, as you pointed out earlier, these countries are suffering from the effects of not being able to import migrant workers (the outbreak in Thailand was caused by illegal migrants from Myanmar), and even their own citizens aren’t being admitted (39,000 Australian citizens are marooned abroad, unable to return home because of entry restrictions).

            On the subject of viruses sneaking across borders: last week saw the first known instance of CoViD infection in a completely wild animal — a mink in Utah. So it’s no longer confined to domestic animals. Since we know that the virus can jump from mink to humans (Denmark), such phenomena are going to lead to extra headaches as regards infection control.

            As a final remark: if we were to truly “follow the science” on this one, we’d stop trying to defy natural selection and just allow the virus to run its course. I’m sure you concur.

          • Again just to clarify, the virus mutates at a steady rate of several variations a month. In most people the infection doesn’t last long enough for significant progress within that individual. Thus the mutations overall in the population tend to be random.

            When you have people with extended illnesses, usually due to a compromised immune system, with illness lasting many months, there is greater possibility of a single strain to evolve cohesively and directionally. This can be enhanced if the person also receives convalescent blood plasma, which has a varied selection of antibodies that tend to heavily select for the new mutations.

            One of the learnings from this, is that people with extended illness can permit advanced mutation, which then will require greater isolation for those people, to prevent the jump of that strain to the greater population.

            Thus we come full circle back to precautions, as we always do. This is quite simple. The virus depends on us as hosts, as well as our ability to transmit to other hosts. The vaccine denies the former, the precautions deny the latter. So we need both to combat the virus.

            In New Zealand, in the absence off the former, they have been able to achieve the latter to a very high degree. Now that vaccines are available, they will immunize to achieve the former. At that time they will no longer be “virgin” territory for the virus, and they will have successfully addressed both issues.

          • @Bryce

            Thanks for your explanations –

            I quite agree about immune response encouraging the virus to mutate, only I’d put it the other way round, the virus is testing human immune response, and adapting : adapting even, as you say, to the vaccine

            It’s useful to keep in the mind that the virus is the active agent, the human is playing catch up, we bit off more than we could chew with provocative expansion ind ag into batland

            Isolation, as per NZ and the preventative measures in Asia, for a certain time does indeed give the fakehope that the virus will not find a way back in – but inevitably it will

            Your point about the many mutations occurring in one patient, as the virus responds to the ‘challenge’ posed by the vaccine is the point, and thanks for this information – clever adaptation involves exploiting the animals’ attempt at defence – indeed why corner him, he might bite

            As concerns travel restrictions to impede import it looks like these may not work over time, at least with any country wishing to resume economic and social life based on travel and trade

            If it so decides the virus will revert to wild animals, as you remark, find a ‘reservoir’ : she does not ‘depend’ on humans as hosts, indeed he was quite happy with bats until humans killed the bats off in such numbers that they decided to go with the human, for awhile at least – but anytime can crossover back, maybe mink, maybe pigs, cats, dogs…..

            If anyone has learned anything it’s that no one knows much about what this virus can and will do, so far we have learned little more than she’s way ahead

            I had this idea of crossover back to wild, albeit in purely ironic and uniformed fashion, with regard to NZ and their sheep, or those fish that they had to import (infected) Ukranains and Russians fishermen or is that fisherpeople to catch – there’s not much point in being an island fortress when you need immigrant workers to provide you with food, when you survive on the breeding of animals who, much like you, are prone to this as to any other virus

            These NZ survivalist fantasies are encouraged by their ‘island at the end of the earth’ fabulations – but a organism like a virus, which can live in oil deep in the earth, is not going to be nixed by Mayflower Maiden manners ‘social distancing’ and ‘not coughing in public’, polite behaviour which the vast majority of the world’s population can not afford to buy

          • New Zealand is sitting in the catbird seat, despite all the protestations here to the contrary. Any country in the world would gladly accept their conditions right now if they could, based on lives and cost alone.

            The extent to which some alternate theories are pushed in defiance of all reality, is extraordinary. I thought there was a clear winner in the White House, but there is some competition here as well.

            The virus has no ill will or strategy or plan, and is not in control. It merely survives by mass reproduction. If we provide the conditions for that to happen, it will survive in us. If we don’t, it won’t.

            New Zealand has proven this beyond any doubt, and disproven the alternate theories. Which is perhaps what draws the criticism. But it’s clear as a bell to any objective mind.

          • @ Gerrard
            Merry Christmas!
            If you have a vaccine whose predominant (or only) effect is to reduce the severity of illness, with little (or no) sterilizing immunity to prevent infection, then you actually create a perfect situation for the virus to “get creative” as regards mutations. For example, in the experiment in May in which the AZ/Oxford vaccine produced zero protection from infection in macaques, vaccinated macaques simply act as more efficient incubators to produce vaccine-challenged mutations. In other words: the vaccine produces a pathological advantage, but it concurrently produces an epidemiological disadvantage.

            Seeing as the new variant is highly non-responsive to mitigation measures in southeast England (it is, after all, much more infectious), it probably completely nixes the outcome of the DoD experiment performed a few months ago to examine infection risks on planes. It has a mutation on its protein spike receptors that allows it to bind much more easily to human (and rodent!) cells, allowing it to “get in” via a much smaller innoculum. This potentially further worsens the outlook for aviation until 100% vaccination has been achieved.

          • @Bryce

            Thanks, Bonnes Fêtes to you too

            It is weird how some would seek to deprive nature of agency, as if the world was a passive playground waiting for human whim : the virus is a case in point, no matter how incapable the human, how ignorant and misguided his agency, and how evidently capable and successful the bug

            Thanks for your explanation, it is what I understood – the bug is concerned to mutate into the best possible survival pattern, as infectious but as un lethal as can do, while perhaps keeping an escape hatch open in various ‘reservoir’ species

            Prevention or mitigation measures, fools’ attempt to imitate low density simple style jungle or peasant style of life, which normally strengthen immune systems while containing viral spread, already impossible effectively to maintain in those very few wealthy places able even to pretend to try, are rendered totally useless by this new variant

            Will 100% vaccination ever be achieved ? Or anything close ? Even -it is a useful goal ?

            If every country, including the Antipodes, has roughly equalised high enough % of infected population then surely no special measures are required for airtravel, or anything else – this will take a few years or more, while the virus mutates milder, meanwhile I guess they’ll impose masks and takeaway

            If the Antipodes insist on doing isolation etc for a number of years more, then their weakness to exposure to even regular colds and flues will increase, let alone to this bug, so that then to ‘catch up’ with the world becomes very arduous and a lot of them get sick all at the same time, as if they were Americans, but slightly less fat

            Until then very carefully administered t&t controlled environment Apple Execs in China and those other programs as linked will have to do

          • @Bryce

            In other news – airtravel sharply up over Xmas holidays in US – down only 40% on last year as opposed to the normal 70% down


            Met with a lot of disapproval by the SchoolMarms, for the deplorables are not behaving as they were told

            Also multiple disappointments with the Pzr distribution : they promised 20M vax by end of year, they deliver 1.1M so far

            Oops, another logistical triumph for the US

            Plus: Terror in The Golden State as the Savage Virus roams out of control preys one and all, despite all that the State authorities can think or not think in fact by way of lockdown closing every school shop park business beach mountain they can close, plus travel allowed only inside your house

            When the US authorities are as incompetent as this, a popular backlash is inevitable

            « “The public health officials have lost credibility with a huge section of the populace. They’re just tuning them out now,” Cunningham said. “The goalposts are moving all the time. … People are fed up with it and they don’t think it makes any sense, and they’re not wrong.” » »


            + US still using PCR tests for incoming international travellers


          • About vaccine delivery, the US has distributed about half the expected 20 million total doses to states thus far. Will probably meet the goal by end of year.

            With regard to vaccinations by the states, the reporting lags a bit and does not yet include Moderna vaccinations. But is at about 1.25 million for Pfizer alone.

            That pace is less than expected but many programs are still ramping up. Some locations have only had the vaccine for 5 days. Care homes are an issue because they require permission forms. But as that gets worked out, the rate will increase.

            So the administered rate may miss the mark by year end, but it’s really only a lag. there is no question those people will be vaccinated. Given the total period is only two weeks from approval to year-end, including shipping, thawing, and dilution, this represents substantial progress.

      • @JakDak, Bryce

        Thank you for the Good information – more and more variants are being discovered and are to be discovered, it seems

        Accurate testing is possible

        This would go a long way to confirm vaccine escape predictions and so in a long and winding way lead everyone back to a new version of the old normal annual snuffles and shakes and a tolerable death toll

        My only regret is that once again the virus is doing the hard work and leading the way: almost all gvmts health experts pharma and so on have not come up with much in way of prevention/protection viables, and have shown levels of incompetence greed and desire for military style ‘lockdowns’ and so on, instead, which they are incapable of operating to any effective degree of efficiency (in the west) – read any account of medieval lockdowns and be amazed at how stupid we prefer to be

        (I’m not touting lockdown as a solution, but if you are going to do one it’s advisable to get it right, if not you invent the worst all worlds)

        Stupid Number One has been the US, but UK not all that far behind – although their work on genome sequencing has been as you insist extremely useful and relatively on the solo

        However this apparent change of course towards a perennial will dis en courage the ‘authorities’ from doing any thing serious about ind ag the cause of all these crossovers – because they’ll think that next virus to emerge will follow the pattern of this one, and ‘in the end that was’nt so bad , was it’ type language will ease one and all into the next pandemic

        PS Just read about the Berlin airlift into the UK of much needed ‘essentials’ in order to break the Channel blockade

        • @JakDak & Bryce

          PS Just read about the Berlin Airlift of essentials into England required by The Channel Blockade

          There is saying about history, something like First time round as Tragedy, the next time as Farce

  10. @ Gerrard
    Merci beaucoup 🙂
    I had already read about the large numbers of US airline passengers in the run-up to Christmas. Hardly surprising — just look at the bad example that Deborah Birx (White House Coronavirus response coordinator) gave at Thanksgiving: after officially pleading with people to stay at home and not celebrate in groups, she then proceeded to treat herself to a big Thanksgiving get-together with parents, children and grandchildren at her second home in Delaware. A shining example of “follow the science” when on camera, and then “screw the science” when off stage 😉

    Incidentally, virologists here in NL are doing genomic surveying to determine if our present upsurge is due to the new UK variant. Everything was going fine here until a sudden, unexpected upsurge started 3 weeks ago — and it’s not reacting markedly to stringent lockdown measures. If this is indeed the new variant, then it has a very impressive ability to transmit! If it takes hold in the USA, then things will take a dramatic turn for the worse (if it gets into China, Taiwan, NZ or Aus, there’ll be fireworks!)

    But no worry: just hum and look the other way! Put faith in unreliable PCR tests to keep the new variant out of the USA, and then be amazed when things get nasty.

    • @Bryce

      US pols and commentors do seem to have achieved 100% effective hypocrisy, a highly infectious disease

      Gov Newsom in Ca is another shining example

      Typical Mayflower, the rules are for the governed not for the governors

      The ‘rules’ justified by appeals to the ’science’ are just as hypocritical, selective fact finding to push people into pre planned programs which are then operated with maximum in efficiency, merely serve to pass the buck and to blame the people for not obeying the unworkable rules

      Eaxctly- if this new strain should wend it’s way to Aus/NZ it will play havoc in a population already weakened by non exposure lockdown and ‘preventative measures’

      • New Zealand will deal with this strain just like the others. It can’t do much if it can’t get going in the population. The Rt value is 1.6 as opposed to 1.2. At the start of the pandemic it was between 2.5 and 4.0, depending on location. So it can be handled as before.

        • @Rob

          “Hope” is the thing with feathers – That perches in the soul – And sings the tune without the words – And never stops – at all -”

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