Bjorn’s Corner: New aircraft technologies. Part 51. Wrap up

By Bjorn Fehrm

March 22, 2024, ©. Leeham News: Last week we did the first part of the Wrap-up of our 50 article series about the New Aircraft Technologies that can be used when replacing our present single-aisle airliners.

Now, we summarize the last 25 articles in the series, which covered how to develop, produce, and support a new airliner.

Figure 1. The Program Plan for a new airliner. Source: Leeham Co.

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“If something requires us to cease production, we will do that:” FAA

By the Leeham News Team

March 13, 2024, © Leeham News: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is considering whether to suspend the Production Certificate of Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA) if it’s not satisfied changes to its safety culture are sufficient, LNA has learned.

FAA Administrator Michael Whitaker. Credit: FAA

It’s the “nuclear option” LNA has written about on previous occasions following the Jan. 5 in-flight accident/explosive decompression of a Boeing 737-9 MAX operated by Alaska Airlines. Already under heightened scrutiny by the FAA, Boeing took yet another in a series of safety blows when a special panel of experts appointed by the FAA to independently review Boeing’s safety culture issued a scathing report on Feb. 26.

The FAA levied fines—and suspended some of them—for previous safety violations 36 times, according to a tracking website. And despite pledges and actions taken to improve safety following the 2018-2019 MAX crisis, Boeing still has fallen short.

Now, with an intensive FAA audit of the 737 production line, the FAA yet again found lapses. The FAA on Feb. 29 gave Boeing 90 days to come up with an actionable plan and shape up. It did not say what would happen if Boeing either fails to produce an acceptable plan or fails to implement it satisfactorily.

And, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chair complained Boeing is withholding information in the investigation into the Alaska Airlines MAX 9 accident.

The ultimate option is to suspend the Production Certificate that authorizes Boeing to build commercially-based airliners. Such a move would have huge political and economic implications, however.

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Bjorn’ s Corner: New aircraft technologies. Part 47. MSG-3 Maintenance

By Bjorn Fehrm

February 2, 2024, ©. Leeham News: We are discussing the different phases of a new airliner program. After covering the Design and Production, we now look at the Operational phase of a new airliner family.

For the operational phase, the airplane must pass scrutiny for Continued Airworthiness. The biggest item in a regulator’s Instructions for Continued Airworthiness is the required Maintenance program to keep an airliner airworthy. We started last week with how maintenance went from ad-hoc to a Hard Timed maintenance program in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Figure 1. The maintenance manual for the Boeing 747. Source: Boeing.

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Bjorn’ s Corner: New aircraft technologies. Part 44. Operation and Continued Airworthiness

By Bjorn Fehrm

January 5, 2024, ©. Leeham News: We are discussing the different phases of a new airliner program. After covering the Design and Production, we now look at the Operational phase of a new airliner family.

For the customer, the design and production are exciting and interesting, but it’s the information and services around the operational phase (Fleet Support in Figure 1) of the airliner that are most important to the airline customer.

Figure 1. The development plan for a new airliner. Source: Leeham Co.

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The Exception to the Green Propulsion Rule

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By Bjorn Fehrm

November 30, 2023, © Leeham News: The interest in Green alternative propulsion for airliners started in earnest at Farnborough Air Show 2014, where Airbus flew the E-Fan battery-electric aircraft. What followed was a dense stream of alternative propulsion airliner projects.

They all have in common that nothing much has come out of them. We have a Pipistrel two-seat trainer that can fly for 50 minutes on batteries, but not much else. More elaborate projects have wide slips in their plans, and nine years later, we lack real prototypes for all projects.

We have functional models flying for nine-seat hybrids and 19/30-seat hydrogen fuel cell aircraft that swap one engine for a Green alternative. Of the latter, there is one project that stands out from the rest. It has shown real progress over the last years and has realistic plans for a 55-seat hydrogen airliner that can be operational in three to four years.

We will analyze why the Universal Hydrogen ATR fuel cell project is the exception to the “Green Propulsion Rule,” that nothing comes out of all plans, and why it could be the first Green Propulsion airliner, ending a 10-year draught.

Figure 1. The Universal Hydrogen Dash 8-300 functional demonstrator. Source: Universal Hydrogen.

  • A Green Propulsion project means the airliner does not use hydrocarbon-burning (Kerosene or SAF) gas turbines.
  • The project that breaks the rule that nothing seems to reach practical use this side of 2030 is the Universal Hydrogen ATR project.

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Growing Opposition to ALPA’s Attack on Regionals

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Kathryn B. Creedy


May 15, 2023, © Leeham News: Using the same tired arguments, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) on May 5 urged the Department of Transportation to reject SkyWest’s year-old proposal to create a Part 135 public charter under Part 380 of the Department’s regulations to serve Essential Air Service (EAS) markets.

Credit: Republic Airways

ALPA, in a letter co-signed by nine other unions, claimed SkyWest Charter is a backhanded attempt to bypass the 1,500-hour pilot experience rule. The airline says its proposal is to continue serving most of its EAS points under the same regulations governing other EAS carriers. Further, it attacked the public charter rule objecting to JSX operations, a catalyst for engaging the business aviation against the union.

ALPA may be skating on thin ice, not realizing the 1,500-hour rule is increasingly irrelevant given statements on Capitol Hill favoring pilot training reform and the popularity of the EAS program among legislators.

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