Nominated for Aerospace Journalist of the Year-2009 Awards

We were notified that we have been nominated for a Journalist of the Year Award for a 2008 piece we did for Aviation and the Environment magazine. The piece, Suddenly it’s very crowded out there, is about the proliferation of regional airliners.

The awards dinner will be Sunday before the Paris Air Show begins. There are 14 categories (our nomination was in Regional Aircraft). The full nomination list may be found here.

Among those nominated are journalists we know well: Jon Ostrower for his Flightblogger (three nominations); Geoff Thomas at Air Transport World; Aimee Turner, then of Flight International (now of Aviation Week); Jason Holland of Aviation and the Environment; Niall O’Keeffe of Airline Business/Flight International (two nominations); Mark Kirby of Airline Business; Guy Norris of Aviation Week (two nominations); and many others we don’t know.

Airbus sees recovery in 2010

Airbus officials see a recovery in the global economy and passenger traffic next year, they said this week at the Airbus Innovation Days in Hamburg.
We were among about 90 journalists to attend the event, formerly known as the Technical Briefing and held in Toulouse.

There was little new technically to talk about-after all, what else is there to say about the A380, A350 and A400M programs that isn’t well known? (Just a few things, which we’ll get to later.) So the news really came from non-technical items.

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New Boeing economic impact analysis issued

The Washington Research Council today (April 14) issued an eight page analysis entitled, “What if Boeing Left Washington?” The PDF file may be found here.

The WRC is a local, Seattle-based conservative think tank that focuses on economic issues in the state. The report was issued through its Washington Alliance for a Competitive Economy affiliate (WashACE).

Among the findings:

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Split tanker buy: Murtha

He didn’t get much notice last year when he said it, but US Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), a key member in the House and generally one sympathetic to Boeing, is urging a split buy between Boeing and Northrop Grumman for the KC-X.

George Talbot of The Mobile Press-Register has this story. Aviation Week has this report.

Update, 10:20 AM PST: With SPEEA, the Boeing engineer’s union, recommending rejection of the company’s best and final offer, SPEEA put out a statement that included this paragraph; we wonder what Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback and Kansas Rep. Todd Tiahrt think about this–they are among the most vociferous boosters of Boeing’s KC-767 offering for the USAF KC-X:

Work at Wichita includes Italian and Japanese 767 tankers, E-4B (747 Airborne Operations Center) and E-737 Australian Wedgetail (Airborne Early Warning and Control Aircraft). The Italian tankers and Wedgetail are years behind schedule. While union members worked with management to secure the contract for the next aerial refueling tanker, the company refuses to commit to bringing the work to Wichita if Boeing secures the $35 billion contract with the Air Force.

A320 Enhancement

Fortunately we can laugh about this one.


Capital market meltdown

What is the difference between a pidgeon and an investment banker?

A pidgeon can still leave a deposit on a BMW.

“I can see Russia from my house.”

Air Force Magazine has an interesting article about beefing up the USA’s air defense.

IAM Vote Saturday

The IAM vote on the Boeing contract offer is Nov. 1, with results expected by around 8 PM PDT. We’ll be on scene and anticipate updating throughout the vote count from about 6:30.

We think there is a chance the contract could be rejected, based on our advance discussions and reading. We think this would be a mistake.

Week 7: IAM-Boeing strike

October 24:

Day One of the resumed negotiations between the IAM and Boeing has come and gone with no news of progress or stalemate. Boeing stock closed up 8% yesterday, presumably on hopes of a settlement, but we learned of nothing yesterday that would support that stock movement. The stock is up slightly this morning in a down market. Yesterday we did a four minute interview with KUOW, the Seattle public radio station. You can link into the KUOW site here for a listen.

October 22: Not looking good.

Dominic Gates of The Seattle Times has a new report that is quite discouraging as new talks are to begin tomorrow. Despite cautiously optimistic positioning by Boeing CEO Jim McNerney during the earnings call this morning, the national head of the IAM union paints a far dimmer picture in this report.

October 20, Breaking News:

The Federal mediator has called Boeing and the IAM back into negotiations beginning Thursday (the 23rd).

Aerospace writer John Gillie of The Tacoma News-Tribune has this short item on the development.

We spoke with the IAM; a spokesperson says that the IAM didn’t ask for the resumption of talks but she did not know if Boeing did. (We have a call into Boeing.) The IAM spokesperson, while calling the move “positive,” was very cautious. Noting that nothing will get settled unless talks are held, she nonetheless had no information if Boeing was willing to make any concessions on the outsourcing issue, which is the key stumbling block.

At this stage, any characterization that this is a breakthrough or the beginning of the end would be falsely optimistic and a gross distortion of the situation. Rather, the questions and uncertainties prevail at this time.

Dominic Gates of The Seattle Times has this report. The Seattle P-I has this story.

Expect Boeing CEO James McNerney to be quizzed on the earnings call Wednesday about this.

Update: October 21. We talked to Boeing today; Boeing did not ask for talks to resume, saying that the Mediator made the decision to resume the talks. Like the IAM, Boeing was very cautious and did not want to raise expectations. Like the IAM, Boeing viewed the resumption in a positive light, noting that obviously no settlement will be reached without talking, but there is no reason at this stage to view this as anything more than part of the process.

October 19:

It’s time to lighten the mood as the IAM-Boeing strike enters its seventh week. This is a great send-up of Boeing and the IAM in their contract negotiations.


The video below is dated, going back to 1997-98, but as long as we are tongue-in-check today, let’s look at this one, too.


Update, October 20:

For some reason, the direct links above don’t connect; a Comment below with the direct URLs do work.

One question that comes up is why are Boeing and the IAM fighting over 2,000 jobs, with outsourcing delivery of parts by vendors directly to the assembly line? For Boeing, the issue is flexibility and efficiency. Boeing says it doesn’t make sense to have vendors deliver parts to a central receiving dock, only to have the IAM then deliver the parts to the assembly line with no value-added to the process, which is–in Boeing’s view–slowed by the interim step.

From the IAM’s viewpoint, it says:

“Why is it important to not allow vendors into the factory? Once we give up jurisdiction on a package of work and allow the vendor inside the factory to perform that work, then we no longer have rights to perform this work, cannot bargain to reclaim the work and cannot make it a strike issue. This is why we cannot go after the work New Breed is currently performing on the 787 line. That is why it is so important to fix the language in LOU #37 and stop Boeing from expanding the scope of work vendors perform inside the factory.

“This is not just about these 2,000 or so jobs. If Boeing replaces these jobs inside the factory, the chances are even greater that they will chip away until they have replaced all our jobs with vendors. Vendors will want to install the interiors they deliver. The landing gear suppliers will want to do their own installation. Vendors will want to hang the engines. Where would it stop? We have had facilities subcontractors inside the Boeing gates for their entire career. This is wrong, and the time to stop vendors from expanding their scope inside the Boeing gates is now. This is not just about parts handlers, but all our jobs. It is union busting – plain and simple.”

The boldfacing is the IAM’s.

We don’t see an issue with delivering the parts to the assembly line, and then letting the IAM install them. We do think going to a central receiving point and redelivering is a wasted step.

Remarkable luck, piloting

We were one of many to receive an email about a near crash of a Lockheed P-3 Orion stationed at Whidbey Naval Air Station, north of Seattle. The text describes the in-flight incident; the photos illustrate the text.

There was a remarkable bit of piloting and luck on this one.

Text of email:

Tuesday, 22 Jul 2008, a P-3 Orion from VP-1 was flying an approach to NAS Whidbey Island with the #1 engine in a simulated failure mode. At 160 KIAS, the #2 engine started to surge, so they had to chop power to it. As all this was happening, they were still decelerating, so by the time they added power to #3 and #4, they were at 122 knots, and in the dry terms of investigators, “departed controlled flight.” The P-3 did FIVE rotations in a flat spin, dropping 5500 feet, finally recovering between 50 and 200 feet AGL (above ground level), pulling a whopping 7 positive G’s on the airframe after sustaining 2.4 negative G’s in the spin. The rolling pullout burst 45 rivets on one wing, physically RIPPED the main spar, and bent the entire airframe… the crew could see INSIDE the fuel tanks of the wing.

The P-3C that almost went into Puget Sound waters was from NAS Whidbey. It was a CPW-10 aircraft being operated by VP-1. Squadrons don’t own aircraft any more. The P-3 fleet has so deteriorated because of under-funding and over-use that there are less than 100 still flyable*. The P-3s belong to the wing and are “lent to the squadrons on an as-needed” basis.

The mission was a NATOPS pilot check, with a CPW-10 pilot (LT) aboard, a VP-1 LT and LTJG, plus VP-1 aircrewmen that included two flight engineers. The bird was landed back at NASW. Max damage was sustained by the aircraft, including almost tearing off a wing. Aircraft BuNo 161331.

At Whidbey, P-3C 161331 was doing a Functional Check Flight. They could see the inside of the fuel tanks when they landed. SDRS recorded the flaps being raised and the landing gear being cycled down and then back up. Aircraft released all the fuel in tank #3 when it appears that the seam between planks 3 and 4 split. Tank #4 also lost its fuel load when plank #1 separated from rest of the aircraft wing.