Airlines must change tactics to attract maintenance workers

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Introduction

April 18, 2019, © Leeham News: Airlines need to create a pleasing work environment even in the industrial atmosphere of “wrench turners” if they are going to attract millennials to become maintenance workers.

Boeing forecasts a need of more than 600,000 mechanics over the next 20 years.

Some airlines, like Delta, faces an aging workforce, which will produce a surge of retirements.

JetBlue, with a young workforce, faces the challenge of attracting young workers who find better paying jobs in other industries.

Even KLM found it has to change the work environment to attract young employees.

Here’s how their stepping up to these challenges.

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Union asks Congress to intervene in Boeing inspection issue

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By Bryan Corliss

April 15, 2019, © Leeham News: As Boeing faces federal investigations, shareholder lawsuits, Congressional hearings – and possibly subpoenas – linked to the 737 MAX crashes, another issue flying low on the radar could further complicate the company’s relationship with the Federal Aviation Administration and the elected officials who oversee it.

The issue revolves around the company’s plan to end quality control inspections for several thousand tasks performed by Boeing mechanics in the factory.

That plan – first reported by The Seattle Times in January – involves the use of more “smart tools” to perform work more precisely so that inspections will no longer be required for thousands of tasks. Instead of doing quality checks 100% of the time, as Boeing inspectors have been doing for generations, inspectors will sample 1-in-100 tasks, or maybe less, Boeing executives told the newspaper.

Now, the union for inspectors whose work is going away is asking its influential supporters in Congress to intervene with the FAA. It wants a chance to show the agency data it says proves that the new process will lead to more downstream rework on the assembly line, more injured workers and more production delays.

Summary
  • Borrowing from the auto business
  • Union says bad decisions put deliveries at risk
  • Boeing says new system brings down defects
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Airlines show dramatic reductions in cancelations, squawks

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Introduction

April 11, 2019, © Leeham News: Airlines are showing dramatic reductions in canceled flights and aircraft maintenance squawks through its Skywise live diagnostics programs, the most recent of which was rolled out in the US with ultra-low-cost carrier Allegiant Air in January.

Skywise Health Monitoring is the latest program in the Skywise suite of services offered by Airbus to carriers around the world. Skywise Health Monitoring (SHM) joins Skywise Reliability Services (SRS) and Skywise Predictive Maintenance (SPM).

Airbus announced Allegiant’s participation yesterday at the Aviation Week MRO Americas conference in Atlanta (GA).

Summary

  • Allegiant cites examples pinpointing one problem misreported, identifying a looming part failure before it happened.
  • Delta Air Lines dramatically reduced maintenance cancellations.
  • $850,000 in savings in one example.
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How will MAX recertification affect future airplanes?

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Introduction

April 8, 2019, © Leeham News: The certification process and cooperation between Boeing and the US Federal Aviation Administration is under a microscope, subject to international scrutiny, a Congressional hearing, an inspector’s general investigation and another one by the Department of Justice with a Grand Jury.

What is this going to mean for future aircraft programs? And to the MAX?

Summary
  • Boeing 777X certification pace becomes an unknown. Analysts believe substantially longer time possible.
  • What of the certification of the MAX 7 and 10?
  • MAX’s future after grounding.
  • Grounding may extend into June.

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Green aircraft builder may need infusion of greenbacks

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By Bryan Corliss

April 4, 2019, © Leeham News: While one Western Washington electric aircraft company is charging forward with battery-powered flight, another may be encountering headwinds.

Zunum, which has announced plans to put a hybrid-electric-powered aircraft into the air before the year’s end, may need a cash infusion if it’s to stick to that time line.

Unlike MagniX – which announced March 26 a deal with Vancouver’s Harbour Air to start putting electric motors into the airline’s existing fleet of seaplanes – Bothell-based Zunum is pursuing a clean-sheet aircraft design.

Summary
  • Electric plane builder Zunum plans to fly hybrid test aircraft this year.
  • The company says it plans to announce a manufacturing site — or maybe an airframing partner — in 2020.
  • Reports say the company needs more investor cash to avoid schedule slips.
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Returning the MAX to service

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Introduction

April 1, 2019, © Leeham News: Returning the Boeing 737 MAX to services following its grounding should reasonably be a straight-forward affair, if past groundings were examples.

But, to mix a metaphor, there are plenty of unchartered waters with this grounding that stand ready to complicate matters.

Bloomberg reported Saturday that Europe’s FAA equivalent, EASA, skipped last week’s Boeing meeting of 200 pilots and regulators.

Summary:
  • US FAA is no longer the leader or gold standard.
  • EASA, Transport Canada want their own reviews.
  • China, the first to ground the MAX, also suspended plane-by-plane certification.

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MCAS upgrade requires half-hour of pilot training

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Introduction

March 28, 2019, © Leeham News: Boeing 737 MAX pilots learning about the revised software upgrade to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) will need a half hour of computer-based training (CBT), the company told the media yesterday in a briefing.

Pilots of the 737 NG who have not yet made the transition to the MAX also have to be trained on the MCAS now. Boeing did not specify if this will take longer than those already trained on the MAX.

Summary
  • No estimate to MAX return to service.
  • Waiting for investigations of the crashes.
  • More information for pilots.

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Canada’s Harbour Air to fit electric engines on its plane

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Introduction

By Bryan Corliss

March 26, 2019, © Leeham News: A Seattle-area engine manufacturer today will announce a significant step toward actually getting an electric-powered passenger aircraft off the ground.

The company, MagniX, is set to announce a partnership with Canada’s Harbour Air to retrofit its fleet of 33 piston-powered de Havilland Beavers, Otters and Twin Otters with 750 hp electric engines.

Harbour Air will equip its fleet of 33 aircraft, including the de Havilland Twin Otter, with electric engines. Source: harbour Air.

The first electric-powered flight – in a six-passenger Beaver – will take place before the end of 2019, according to MagniX CEO Roei Ganzarski. MagniX and the Vancouver-based airline plan to pursue a supplemental type certificate for the planes, with a goal of 2021 for EIS.

Modifications will take place at a plant in Vancouver, a spokeswoman said.

Summary
  • Overcoming skepticism.
  • Tested engine, proven airframe.
  • Short-haul routes.

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Congestion costs billions, but airlines show little concern

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Introduction

 March 21, 2019, © Leeham News: There are many estimates for how much flight delays and disruptions cost airlines and passengers. But everyone agrees the total number is big—possibly more than $1bn for each major US airline each year.

In 2017, delays cost airlines and passengers $26.6bn, according to the FAA/Nextor estimate. That total includes direct cost to airlines and travelers, lost demand and indirect costs. Congestion at the three major airports serving New York City directly cost air carriers an estimated $834m a year, according to a 2009 report.

Chicago O’Hare Airport at 7pm, Sunday, March 17, 2019. Source: FlightRadar24.

Yet despite the high cost, flight on-time statistics are basically where they were 20 years ago. Moreover, there are no discernible positive trends in the data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Of course, airlines take steps to decrease or limit flight delays, and, of course, some things, such as severe weather, are out of anyone’s control.

At the same time, airlines have shown little interest in pushing for low-cost solutions to decreasing system-wide congestion. There is no clear or easy explanations for carrier’s lack of motivation. However, interviews with current and former airline executives, researchers and others highlighted a few key factors.

Summary
  • Reducing air traffic congestion is a huge, hairy beast of a problem.
  • That complexity makes it difficult to see system-based approaches.
  • Airlines are concerned that competitors could benefit more from reduced congestion.

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Cutting A220 costs is an ‘ongoing exercise’ for Airbus

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Introduction

March 14, 2019, © Leeham News: Airbus’ effort to slash supply costs for A220 production is “an ongoing exercise at this point,” Joe Marcheschi, Airbus’ head of procurement in North America, told LNA in an interview last month.

The A220-300 for JetBlue will be assembled at the Airbus plant in Mobile (AL). Airbus rendering.

“There are no specific, let’s say, achievements yet,” he said. “We are working closely with our supply chain.”

It takes time to squeeze cost out of the supply chain, he said. “We only took over July 1. That’s when we got full knowledge of the existing contracts.”

In January, Philippe Balducchi, head of the Airbus-led venture overseeing production, told journalists that the aerospace giant aims to realize “significant double-digit” percentage cost reduction. He indicated that most of the savings likely would come from the supply chain, according to news reports.

“Look, the airplane is absolutely fantastic—it just costs a lot of money,” Marcheschi said. “Now, we have to find a way to reduce the cost.”

Summary
  • Airbus is working to slash supply chain costs on A220 program, but no announcements yet.
  • The European plane maker wants to offer commercial MRO services in North America.

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