Thursday, March 22, 2012

Emirates Says ‘Whole Load of Airlines’ Will Fail in Fuel Squeeze

By Tamara Walid - Mar 22, 2012 5:25 AM GMT+0630

Emirates, the biggest airline by international traffic, said more carriers will go bust this year as fuel costs and sluggish economies undermine profitability.

“We can reel off a whole load of airlines that are teetering on the brink or are really gone,” Tim Clark, the Dubai-based carrier’s president, said in an interview. “Roll this forward to Christmas, another eight or nine months, and we’re going to see this industry in serious trouble.”

Airline profits will plunge 62 percent in 2012 to $3 billion, equal to a 0.5 percent margin on sales, as oil prices rise, the International Air Transport Association said this week. Emirates’s fuel bill accounts for 45 percent of costs and may jump by an “incredibly challenging” $1.7 billion in the year ending March 31, according to Clark, who says he’s sticking with a no-hedging strategy rather than risking a losing bet.

“You think you’re going to win, but in the long term you always lose,” Clark said yesterday at the Gulf carrier’s head office near Dubai International Airport. “When we enter into derivatives, betting whatever it may be with counterparties who actually control the price of fuel in the first place, you have to ask yourself, ‘Is that smart?’”

AMR Corp. (AMR1)’s American Airlines is restructuring after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and India’s Kingfisher Airlines Ltd. (KAIR) may lose its license as it struggles with cash shortages and losses. That’s after Barcelona-based Spanair SA collapsed Jan. 27, followed that week by Hungarian national carrier Malev Zrt. (MALEV)

Bailouts, Bankruptcy

Clark said some private airlines will need to be bailed out by governments in the countries where they’re based, though that will raise aid issues with the European Union and other parties.

In the U.S., more filings for Chapter 11 protection are likely, while smaller carriers operating in the Indian Ocean region and in Africa face “difficulties,” the executive said.

“This is what the fuel prices are doing,” he said. “It’s about time somebody sitting there, controlling the fuel prices, began to look a little bit more seriously at the devastation it’s causing, not only to airlines but to the global economy.”

The industry couldn’t survive a further 10 or 15 percent increase in fuel prices, especially with the European Union’s carbon emissions trading system about to add to costs, he said.

At Emirates the fuel bill, while not over budget, has “zapped the bottom line,” and that will be evident in annual results scheduled to be published next month, Clark said.

A380 ‘Mess’

Earnings at Emirates are also being hurt by the continued grounding of Airbus SAS A380 superjumbos, of which it’s the No. 1 operator, after the discovery of wing cracks. Six of the jets, which generate $50,000 an hour 15 hours a day, are out of action for repairs, idling 830 cabin crew and 160 pilots, and the carrier is having to compensate people set on an A380 trip.

“That’s had a poleaxing affect in the last nearly three months,” Clark said, estimating the revenue loss so far at $90 million. “Those airplanes are always full, they’re always popular. We’ve had multiple cancellations. We’ve had people telling us ‘Well you sold me the A380’, so we had to throw in 5,000 or 10,000 miles or give money back. It’s a mess.”

Emirates operates 21 A380s, with 69 more on order as it seeks to establish Dubai as a global hub in competition with Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways Ltd. and European carriers including Air France-KLM Group (AF) and British Airways.

The company is due to get five more A380s by September, and Clark said he’ll meet Airbus next week to determine whether that could change and what the solution to the wing cracks will be.

U.K. Addition

Clark said Emirates passed on an opportunity to invest in Air Berlin Plc (AB1), Europe’s third-biggest discount carrier, which sold stock to Etihad. “We decided it wasn’t for us,” he said.

Though Qatar Air is also buying 35 percent of cargo specialist Cargolux Airlines International SA, the CEO said he’s not interested in purchases in Europe or elsewhere, having ended a decade-long management accord with SriLankan Airlines in 2008 after the Asian country’s government sought more control.

“We have enough to do without getting involved in the running of other businesses, even though they are related,” he said. “We had our fair share of that in Sri Lanka for 10 years.”

As part of a strategy of tapping demand in secondary cities such as Dusseldorf and Hamburg in Germany, Emirates will select a new French destination from Lyon, Nice, Marseille and Toulouse, operating five to seven flights a week, Clark said.

In the U.K., where Emirates serves London Heathrow, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne and Glasgow, there’s the possibility of it adding a further destination which “could be north of the border or further west,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tamara Walid in Abu Dhabi at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chad Thomas at

Thursday, January 19, 2012

More cracks found in Airbus A380 wings

PARIS | Thu Jan 19, 2012 8:27am EST

(Reuters) - Airbus (EAD.PA) said on Thursday it had discovered more cracks in the wings of two A380 superjumbo aircraft but insisted the world's largest jetliner remained safe to fly.

The announcement comes two weeks after tiny cracks were first reported in the wings of the 525-seat, double-decker aircraft, which entered service just over four years ago.

"Airbus confirms that some additional cracks have been found on a limited number of non-critical brackets ... inside the wings of some A380s," the planemaker said in a statement.

"Airbus emphasizes that these cracks do not affect the safe operation of the aircraft."

The European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) confirmed it would issue a bulletin Friday mandating precautionary checks.

The latest cracking problem was discovered in two aircraft during a routine two-year inspection, an Airbus spokeswoman said. She declined to name the operators of the aircraft.

EADS subsidiary Airbus has so far delivered 68 superjumbos, starting with Singapore Airlines (SIAL.SI) which took the first aircraft in December 2007, followed by Dubai's Emirates and Qantas Airways (QAN.AX) of Australia.

Other operators include Air France (AIRF.PA), Germany's Lufthansa (LHAG.DE), Korean Air (003490.KS) and China Southern (600029.SS).

The latest problems were discovered in the same type of part as the earlier set of cracks, an L-shaped bracket which connects the wing's exterior to the internal "rib" structure.

A380 wings are manufactured in Broughton, north Wales, and shipped to Airbus headquarters in Toulouse, France, for final assembly.

Industry journal Air Transport Intelligence said the brackets, known as rib feet, had been stressed during the manufacturing process and that this was being fixed.

The A380 -- developed at an estimated cost of 12 billion euros and built in Britain, France, Germany and Spain -- has enough room on its wings to park 70 cars and a wingspan of 79.8m (261ft 10in).

(Reporting by Tim Hepher, Cyril Altmeyer, Harry Suhartono, Dave Cutler; Editing by James Regan and Christian Plumb)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Singapore superjumbo forced to return to Hong Kong

AFP News – Mon, Jun 6, 2011

A Singapore Airlines (SIA) A380 was forced to return to Hong Kong shortly after taking off because of a landing gear problem, the carrier said Monday.

There were 400 passengers onboard the Singapore-bound plane when the incident happened Sunday, SIA said in a statement.

The plane landed at Hong Kong International Airport at 4:45 pm (0845 GMT) and alternative arrangements were made for passengers to be transferred to other flights, it said.

No one was injured.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Faulty readings ahead of 2009 Air France crash

PARIS (AP) — Confronted with faulty instrument readings and alarms going off in the cockpit, the pilots of an Air France jetliner struggled to tame the aircraft as it went into an aerodynamic stall, rolled, and finally plunged 38,000 feet into the Atlantic Ocean in just 3½ minutes.

But the passengers on that doomed Rio de Janeiro-to-Paris flight were probably asleep or nodding off and didn't realize what was going on as the aircraft fell nose-up toward the sea, the director of the French accident investigating bureau said after releasing preliminary black-box data on the June 1, 2009, disaster.

All 228 people aboard the Airbus A330 died.

The brief, highly technical report by the BEA contains only selective remarks from the cockpit recorder, offers no analysis and assigns no blame. It also does not answer the key question: What caused the crash?

But several experts familiar with the report said the co-pilot at the controls, at 32 the youngest of the three-man cockpit crew, Cedric Bonin, may have responded incorrectly to the emergency by pointing the nose upward, perhaps because he was confused by the incorrect readings.

The plane's external speed sensors, called Pitot tubes, have long been considered a likely culprit in the disaster, with experts suggesting they may have been iced over. And the BEA investigators found that two sets of instruments on the plane gave different speed readings, with the discrepancies lasting less than a minute.

Since the accident, Air France has replaced the speed monitors on all its Airbus A330 and A340 aircraft.

An official at Airbus said the aircraft's nose should have been pointed slightly downward to enable the plane to regain lift after it had gone into an aerodynamic stall.

"This is part of the general pilot training for any aircraft," said the official. He was not authorized to speak on that subject and asked not to be identified by name.

Other aviation experts concurred. In an aerodynamic stall, a plane most often loses lift because it is traveling too slowly, and begins to fall out of the sky. Pointing the nose downward enables the aircraft to pick up speed, gain lift and pull out of the stall.

Pulling the nose up is "an inappropriate way to respond" to an aerodynamic stall, said Paul Hayes, director of air safety for aviation consulting firm Ascend Worldwide Ltd. "He either misidentified what was happening or became confused."

He cautioned that Friday's report was brief and that it was still unclear how the series of events started.

The flight data recorder and cockpit recorder were dredged from the ocean in early May, along with some bodies.

They showed, in addition to inconsistent speed readings, two co-pilots working methodically to right the plane manually after autopilot stopped. Captain Marc Dubois returned from a routine rest to the cockpit amid what moments later became an irretrievably catastrophic situation.

After the plane went into a stall, warnings sounded, the autopilot and autothrust shut off as designed, and the co-pilot not at the controls "tried several times to call the captain back," the BEA report said. The captain returned one minute and 10 seconds later, when the plane had climbed to 38,000 feet.

"During the following seconds, all of the recorded speeds became invalid and the stall warning stopped," the report said, but added that the plane never came out of its aerodynamic stall.

"The airplane was subject to roll oscillations that sometimes reached 40 degrees," the report said. The engines never stopped operating and "always responded to crew commands," the BEA said.

"The pilots never panicked," BEA director Jean-Paul Troadec said on RTL radio, adding that they maintained professionalism throughout.

The passengers, he suggested, probably fell to their deaths without knowing they were doomed.

Dinner had been served and "you can imagine that most passengers were already asleep or nodding off," Troadec said. He said the cabin crew never contacted the cockpit to see what might be wrong.

"It seems they didn't feel more movements and turbulence than you generally feel in storms, so we think that till impact they did not realize the situation," said Jean-Baptiste Audousset, president of a victims' solidarity association, "which for the family is what they want to hear, they did not suffer."

He was among a group of representatives of families who met with BEA officials to be briefed on their findings.

At least one expert disagreed with the theory of a soft descent.

Data from the flight recorders shows the plane was falling almost 11,000 feet per minute (124 mph, or 200 kilometers per hour), its nose slightly tilted upward.

"Eleven-thousand feet a minute is a huge rate of descent," said Ronan Hubert, who runs the Aircraft Crashes Record Office in Geneva. "I would say some of the people on board would have lost consciousness."

The crew had feared turbulence, and more than eight minutes before the crash the co-pilot at the controls advised the cabin crew "you should watch out" for turbulence ahead. He said the plane could not climb out of the cloud layer where the turbulence was happening because it was not cold enough.

Turbulence caused the pilots to make a slight change of course, but was not excessive as the plane tried to pass through the clouds.

Four minutes later, the plane's autopilot and autothrust shut off, the stall alarm sounded twice and the co-pilot at the controls took over manual control. A second co-pilot, David Robert, 37, was also in the cockpit.

Pilots on long-haul flights often take turns resting to remain alert. After Dubois returned to the cockpit, he did not take back the controls.

Just over two minutes before the crash, Bonin is heard to say, "I don't have any more indications." Robert says: "We have no valid indications."

Just over two minutes before the crash, Bonin is heard to say, "I don't have any more indications." Robert says: "We have no valid indications."

Michael Barr, who teaches aviation safety at the University of Southern California, said the atmosphere in the darkened cockpit would have been chaotic: lights flashing, loud alarms, frequent messages.

He compared the pilots to emergency-room doctors struggling with a sudden influx of seriously injured patients: They were bombarded with problems that they had to quickly prioritize.

On top of that, they were completely dependent on the information the plane's computers gave them.

"You have to rely on your instruments," Barr said. "That's why when the instruments aren't telling you the truth, you have a hard time deciding what to do. Which ones are right and which ones are wrong?"

Air France said in a statement that, based on the report, it appears "the initial problem was the failure of the speed probes which led to the disconnection of the autopilot" and loss of pilot protection systems.

The airline defended the captain, saying he "quickly interrupted his rest period to regain the cockpit."

Independent aviation analyst Chris Yates said the report appears "to raise more questions than it answers."

"It would seem to me, reading between the lines, that the cockpit crew weren't confident of the information that was being presented to them on the data displays," Yates said. "Maybe — and it's only a maybe — they took some action that led to the stall warning, and the plane stalling and then being unable to correct it."

A new, but not final, report with some analysis is to be issued in July.


Cecile Brisson and Frank Jordans and APTN in Paris, Joan Lowy in Washington and David Koenig in Dallas contributed to this report.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Boeing unveils latest 747

WASHINGTON (AFP) - – US aerospace giant Boeing unveiled its 747-8 Intercontinental, a longer and more fuel efficient update of its emblematic jumbo jet, which it hopes will compete with Airbus A-380.

"Look at this marvelous flying machine, it's our future," Pat Shanahan, Boeing's vice president and general manager of commercial airplanes division, said at the unveiling ceremony at the company's plant in Everett, Washington near Seattle.

Jim Albaugh, president of the commercial aviation division, added: "We think our customers will value the low operating costs and passengers will enjoy the comfort of the striking new interior."

Boeing took all by surprise in unveiling a new color scheme -- red and orange -- a departure from its standard blue, in honor of the cultures of Asian clients for whom the colors symbolize prosperity and good fortune.

An estimated 10,000 people attended the unveiling, which was broadcast on the company's website.

The 747-8 keeps its predecessor's humped shape, but is longer to allow for more seats and cargo space.

The new model, Boeing's largest, can carry 467 passengers and is designed for long haul routes. The Airbus A-380 has 525 passenger seats.

Its cost per seat is six percent lower than that of the A-380, according to Boeing.

Boeing has orders for 33 -- including from Lufthansa and Korean Air -- of its 747-8 Intercontinental, which is the passenger version. It has 74 orders for the freight version.

Lufthansa, which has ordered 20, will be the first to receive the new model, according to Boeing, likely in early 2012.

"We are looking forward to welcoming this new aircraft to our fleet next year as it adds to our ongoing fleet modernization and environmental efforts," said Nico Buchholz, executive vice president, Lufthansa Group Fleet Management.

The 747-8 uses some technological innovations from Boeing's troubled 787 Dreamliner, whose completion is three years late because of technical problems. The Dreamliner should be delivered late this year.

The 747-8's interior was inspired by that of 787, with a rounded staircase to the upper deck, higher ceilings and elongated windows.

The Dreamliner was heralded as a new generation of highly fuel-efficient mid-sized aircraft, but Boeing has encountered difficulties in bringing the plane to market due to its use of composite materials as well as integrating production at various sites.

In December, Boeing said it had installed updated power system software and conducted rigorous reviews to confirm flight readiness after it had to halt tests due to an electrical fire that forced an emergency landing.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

'Burn marks' on Singapore Airlines A380 wiring

AFP - Thursday, February 3

SINGAPORE (AFP) - – Singapore Airlines (SIA) said Thursday it found burn marks on electrical wiring in an Airbus A380 superjumbo after smoke entered a lavatory during a flight earlier this week.

The flight crew activated an extinguisher after smelling smoke coming from one of the aircraft's toilets while the plane was approaching Changi Airport from Hong Kong, said S. Supramaniam, an airline spokesman.

"When the plane landed, our ground crew inspected the aircraft and they discovered some burn marks on some electrical wirings underneath the lavatory, on the cargo hold," he told AFP.

"Airbus and SIA are investigating the matter. We have also inspected all the other A380s and nothing was found."

Supramaniam said there was no fire and the plane landed safely without incident.

SIA became the first airline in the world to commercially fly the double-decker A380 in October 2007. It has 11 A380s in its fleet.

In November last year, an explosion ripped through one engine of an A380 operated by Qantas shortly after takeoff from Singapore with 466 people aboard, forcing it to turn back and make an emergency landing

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Boeing halts test flights of delay-plagued 787 Dreamliner

AFP - Thursday, November 11

SEATTLE, Washington (AFP) - – US aerospace giant Boeing on Wednesday halted test flights on its new 787 Dreamliner, dealing a fresh setback to a program already running about three years behind schedule.

Boeing announced the decision after a fire aboard a test plane on Tuesday forced an emergency landing.

At a news conference in Seattle in the western US state of Washington, Boeing spokeswoman Loretta Gunter said the fire was the most serious incident since test flights began in December 2009.

"I don't know how long the suspension will last," Gunter said, adding that the focus would be on ground testing until the incident was understood and that it was unclear if the fire would further delay the program.

The 787 Dreamliner, launched in April 2004, has suffered a series of setbacks, many of them from challenges in the international production of parts for the mid-size plane.

Boeing says the high-tech 787, made essentially from composite materials, will deliver a 20 percent reduction in fuel consumption compared with planes of similar size flying today.

The first 787 was initially promised to Japanese launch customer All Nippon Airways (ANA) in the first half of 2008. Delivery has now been put back to around February 2011.

Smoke filled the ZA002, one of Boeing's six test 787s, on Tuesday, forcing an emergency landing in Laredo, Texas.

"There was a fire on board the airplane, which created the smoke in the cabin area," Gunter said, stressing that the investigation was of "an incident, not an accident.

"We don't know where it started. We need to analyze all the data," the Boeing spokeswoman said, adding that the fire was not in the main cabin and had been extinguished before the plane landed.

Shares in Chicago-based Boeing plunged 3.15 percent to close at 67.07 dollars in New York.

"The most likely outcome is a modest delay to the flight test with a potential multi-week slip in first delivery, which is well within the range of investor expectations," Barclays Capital analysts said in a client note.

The troubled plane was painted in ANA livery and like three other 787 test planes was equipped with a Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engine. The remaining two have General Electric GEnx engines.

"Right now we don't see any connection with the engine," Gunter said.

The British firm has been in the spotlight after a spate of mid-air mishaps.

In early November, a Qantas Airbus A380 superjumbo was forced to make an emergency landing after a Rolls-Royce Trent 900 blew out.

In a separate incident, a Qantas Boeing 747 had to turn back to Singapore after another model of Rolls-Royce engine failed in mid-air.

In August, Boeing pushed back the 787 delivery schedule from a target of the early weeks of 2011 due to a delay in the availability of a Rolls-Royce engine.

Gunter said a Rolls-Royce engine had exploded during ground tests in September.

It was the second time Boeing has halted 787 test flights, suspending them for "a couple of days" in June, she said, without explaining the reason. US media reported problems with the plane's tail stabilizers.

Boeing has 55 customers from six continents that have placed orders for 847 Dreamliners to date, valued at 147 billion dollars, the most successful launch of a new commercial airplane in its history.

But it has faced cancellations and compensation claims for some delays.

Last week Aviation Week, citing industry sources, reported Boeing has warned Korean Air, Air India and Japan Airlines of delays of up to 10 months.