Week in Review
Flying used to be reserved for the very rich. But after deregulation ticket prices fell. Allowing most anyone to afford flying. Flying isn’t cheap, though. Especially with high fuel costs. Which has created a bunch of low-cost airlines to keep the price of flying as low as possible. Something people like when buying their tickets. Even if they end up complaining about the flight (see Spirit Airlines: nation’s highest complaint rate and highest profit margin by Hugo Martin posted 4/20/2014 on the Los Angeles Times).
It may be no surprise that the U.S.-based airline that has drawn the most complaints per passenger over the last five years is Spirit Airlines.
After all, the Florida-based carrier is known for super-tight seating and dozens of fees, including charges for soft drinks and carry-on bags.
But the executives at the ultra-low-cost carrier are probably not sweating the study results because another report released last week said that Spirit also had the highest profit margin of any U.S. carrier in 2013.
Most people want to get where they’re going and really don’t mind the getting there. If they’re paying, at least. If the company is picking up the tab, sure, business class all the way. But most others are traveling somewhere. And when they get ‘there’ they want to have as much money left over after getting ‘there’ to make their time ‘there’ as good as possible. So they will put up with being cramped. Go thirsty. And pack light. They may not enjoy this. But that’s okay. As long as they can enjoy their time when they get wherever they’re going.
And this is why Spirit Airlines is so profitable. For as bad as people may find the flying portion of their travels they like having more money in their pockets when they get there. So people willingly fill those cramped seats. Because this airline is offering them exactly what they want. How do we know this? Because they are filling those cramped seats enough to make Spirit Airlines very profitable. Which they couldn’t do if people weren’t filling those cramped seats. So passengers may be saying they don’t like flying Spirit Airlines but their dollars say otherwise.
Tags: complaints, cramped seats, flying, low-cost airlines, profitable, Spirit Airlines
Week in Review
The Boeing 747 ruled the long-haul routes for decades. Because of its range. And its size. With it being able to carry so many passengers the cost per passenger fell. Allowing it to offer ticket prices at prices people could afford while still making airlines a decent profit. Airbus took on the Boeing 747. And produced the mammoth A380. A double-decker aircraft that can carry around 555 in three classes. But this plane is big. With a wingspan greater than the 747. Not to mention special boarding requirements to load and unload its two decks. But this extra large size couldn’t board at any run-of-the-mill 747 gate. It needed a wider parking place. Double-decker boarding gates. As well as wider taxiways (see Korean Air A380 Hits 2 Light Poles At LA Airport by Tami Abdollah, AP, posted 4/17/2014 on Time).
A Korean Air A380 superjumbo jet hit two light poles while taxiing to its gate at a remote end of Los Angeles International Airport with hundreds of passengers aboard.
Airline spokeswoman Penny Pfaelzer says the flight arrived from Seoul Wednesday afternoon with 384 people aboard. She says an airport operations vehicle guided the jet onto a taxiway that wasn’t wide enough…
The A380 is the world’s largest commercial airliner, carrying passengers in a double-deck configuration. It has a wingspan of nearly 262 feet.
The search for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 is important. Because Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 was a Boeing 777. One of the most popular long-range, wide-body aircraft flying today. So if there is a mechanical defect every airline flying that plane would want to know.
Because of the cost of fuel airlines prefer 2-engine jets over 4-engine jets. Which is why they like the 777 so much. The 777-300ER can take 386 passengers in three classes 9,128 miles. On only 2 engines. Whereas the Airbus A380 can take 555 passengers in three classes 9,755 miles. But on 4 engines. Burning close to twice the fuel a 777 burns. So the A380 can out fly the 777. But at much higher fuel costs. And with greater restrictions. As the 777 can fit most any gate and taxiway at any airport. Unlike the A380. So is that extra passenger capacity worth it? It is. As long as you can fill the seats. In this case, though, the A380 flew the approximately 6,000 miles from South Korea to Los Angeles with only 384 people aboard. Something the Boeing 777-300ER could have done on half the engines. And about half the fuel cost.
This is why the Boeing 777 is one of the most popular long-range, wide-body aircraft flying today. Because it allows airlines to offer tickets at prices the people can afford while allowing the airlines a handsome profit. And it has an incredible safety record. Unless Malaysian Flight 370 changes that. Which is why it is so important to find that plane and determine what happen. As there are so many of these flying today.
Tags: 747, 777-300ER, A380, Airbus, Airbus A380, aircraft, airlines, Boeing 747, Boeing 777, fuel, fuel cost, long-range, passengers, range, wide-body aircraft
Week in Review
The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has devastated families of those who were on board. But some people are absolutely giddy about the missing airplane. And can’t wait for the wreckage to be found. Lawyers. So they can start suing and making a lot of money off of the suffering of others (see Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Aviation lawyers flock to China by Peter Ford posted 3/27/2014 on The Christian Science Monitor).
Nineteen days after Malaysia Airlines flight 370 disappeared, search teams have still found no shred of physical evidence to clarify what happened to it or to the 239 people aboard.
But as planes and ships hunt the waters of the Indian Ocean for possible wreckage, lawyers are already scouting for clients at the Lido Hotel in Beijing, where passengers’ relatives are staying.
Holding out the prospect of multimillion dollar compensation deals, aviation disaster lawyers from US and Chinese firms are hovering in the hotel’s coffee shop and corridors in the hope that the biggest mystery in modern aviation history will end with a major payout for victims’ families, and for them…
Mr. Wang, who headed for Beijing as soon as he heard that the plane had disappeared, says he has offered his firm’s services to the relatives of more than 100 passengers on a “no win, no fee” contingency basis, and that about 10 have signed up with Ribbeck…
Equally complex is the question of where any suit against Malaysia Airlines may be heard (though a complaint against Boeing, an American company, would most likely be heard in the United States). While a Malaysian or Chinese court might seem the obvious place, lawyers for potential plaintiffs would be anxious to have any complaint judged in the United States, because “you are looking at a much larger award” there, says Ms. Feng.
This is why they make lawyer jokes. Call them ambulance chasers. These are the only people—apart from terrorists— who smile at the loss of life. Because whenever there is a tragedy it means a big paycheck for a law firm. Those on the left will call doctors greedy and that they shouldn’t profit on the suffering of others. Many blaming them for all our health care woes. Those greedy doctors. Who the government should force to work for less. As Obamacare will. But it should be noted that doctors actually save lives while getting rich. Lawyers don’t. They just take the biggest cut of any legal settlement. Helping themselves far more than they help their clients. But those on the left have no problem with lawyers getting rich on the suffering of others. Why? Because lawyers support Democrats. And donate money to their campaigns. Which is why the Democrats will never reform tort law. Because lawyers and Democrats make a lot of money with these lawsuits. And they have no intentions of ever changing that.
Tags: Democrats, doctors, Flight 370, lawsuit, lawyers, Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, suffering of others
Week in Review
Some say it’s pointless for the United States to cut back on its carbon emissions. For whatever we do it won’t change what China and India are doing. And what are they doing? They’re building coal-fired power plants like there is no tomorrow. So it is kind of pointless what we do. For when it comes to global warming it won’t make a difference what one nation on the globe is doing. As the massive amounts of carbon emissions produced by China and India will enter the atmosphere surrounding the globe. Which will affect the United States. Even if we shrink our carbon footprint to nothing.
In a similar manner it is kind of pointless for an airport to try and minimize its carbon footprint (see Oslo Airport achieves environmental certification by Joacim Vestvik-Lunde posted 3/28/2014 on Sustainable Aviation Newswire).
On Monday, 24 March 2014, Oslo Airport received a certificate showing that it is certified according to the internationally recognised ISO 14001 standard by DNV GL (Det Norske Veritas Germanischer Lloyd)…
Developed by ISO (the International Organization for Standardization), ISO 14001 is an international standard for environmental management based on two concepts: continuous improvement and regulatory compliance…
OSL has been focused on protecting the external environment ever since the airport was on the drawing boards. OSL is working systematically to reduce the environmental impact of its operations and also uses new technology and innovation to improve its performance. These measures include converting stored winter snow into cooling energy in the summer, the recovery of energy from wastewater and a pilot project to study the use of hydrogen as an energy source for vehicles at the airport. OSL has been certified since 2010 at the highest level of Airport Carbon Accreditation, a voluntary scheme to systematically reduce greenhouse gas emissions together with the players at the airport.
If there was any place that should get a pass on their carbon footprint it should be an airport. Because whatever they do will not offset the carbon emissions of the airplanes landing and taking off from that airport. And they emit a lot of carbon. So much that the Europeans wanted to extend their emissions trading scheme (ETS) to include airlines. Making them pay for the amount of carbon they emit when flying in EU airspace. Something the Chinese are very opposed to. As are other non-EU members. So much so that they delayed the inclusion of air travel into the ETS.
The biggest carbon emitters at any airport are the planes. Nothing even comes close. So why spend the money for a costly certification when it won’t make any difference? For the only way to make a real cut in carbon emissions at an airport is to get rid of the planes. Of course, if they did that then we wouldn’t need any ISO 14001 compliant airports, would we? But if we did this it wouldn’t stop China and India from building their coal-fired power plants. Proving how futile any efforts in combating manmade global warming are. It’s just money that could have been spent on feeding the hungry. Housing the homeless. Treating the sick. Or a myriad of other social spending that actually helps some people.
Tags: airplanes, airport, Carbon, carbon emissions, carbon footprint, China, coal-fired power plants, environment, ETS, India, ISO 14001, Oslo Airport, planes
Week in Review
There are a lot of airplanes in the air at any given time. And, remarkably, over 99% of those planes reach their destinations safely. So when one doesn’t it’s big news. Such as Malaysian Airlines Flight 370. A plane that has been missing since March 8, 2014. Ten days as of this writing. And still no one knows what happened. There’s been a lot of speculation. From pilot suicide to fire to electrical failure to catastrophic mechanical failure to a high jacking to piracy. Some have even suggested that it may have been a trial run by terrorists to test a new terror plot. To see the problems they may encounter. And to see what the response would be. If it wasn’t it might as well had been. As all the speculators have given a wealth of information that terrorists might have gained had it been a trial run.
So what do we know? Concretely? The plane and the people aboard are missing. Which is the only absolute we know. Now what plausible assumptions can we make? The plane crashed and we haven’t found it yet. Or the plane was stolen. For some future use. If it crashed it is imperative to find it should there be an unknown issue with the Boeing 777. An incredibly safe airliner to date. And very popular with the airlines for their long-haul routes. So if there is an unknown issue we need to know because there are so many of these flying.
Perhaps the more disturbing assumption is that it was stolen. Because it is an intercontinental jetliner. North Korea has missiles that can reach the United States. Saddam Hussein had scud missiles that could reach Israel. Iran has a nuclear program. But may not have long-range missile technology. A 777 provides long-range capability. And if it was stolen it would be hard to blame any state for what may happen if that plane was used for some nefarious purpose. As there would be no flight plan filed tracing it back to a departing airport. Which is even a greater incentive to find it. As a lot of people are talking about this possibility one would assume that great attention is being placed on runways long enough for a refueled 777 to take off from. Which would be longer than one needed to land a 777 low on fuel. And one could also assume that airborne radar is being used to try and catch anyone trying to fly at night below radar coverage. Giving ample warning to scramble fighter jets to intercept the threat. And shooting it down if necessary. So even if it turns out that the airplane was stolen it would be very difficult to use that airplane for nefarious purposes. But not impossible.
There would be a lot less speculation had that transponder remained turned on. For if we can ‘see’ the airplane we know where it is. A rather simple device that tells air traffic control everything they need to know about an airplane. Which is important considering how many airplanes are in the sky at any one time. Just to get an idea of how many you can watch a visualization of all air traffic over European airspace (see Watch an Entire Day of Air Traffic in One Astonishing Visualization by Kyle VanHemert posted 3/14/2014 on Wired). So perhaps ‘hardening’ the transponder is the first thing we should be doing. Something that can probably be done for little cost. Say adding a rechargeable battery to the transponder that is only accessible from outside the aircraft. So it is inaccessible during flight. If the transponder is switched off and it transfers to battery it could broadcast the high jacking code. While providing the plane’s location. If the plane has a catastrophic breakup in flight the transponder could be in a hardened shell that keeps broadcasting during and after this event on battery power. It may add some weight. And some cost. But if it can provide an aircraft’s location after an event it may prevent some of the uncertainty in future events like there is with Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.
Tags: 777, airplane, Boeing 777, crash, Flight 370, long-range, Malaysia, Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, plane, radar, stolen, terror, transponder
Week in Review
Too many people still feel that government knows better than market forces. As if the lessons of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, the People’s Republic of China, North Korea, Cuba, the Obama administration, etc., have never been learned. A managed economy produces inferior results compared to one left to free market capitalism. Even in achieving the goal of an activist, interventionist government (see Airlines embrace winglets as fashionable fuel savers by Gregory Karp, Chicago Tribune, posted 3/10/2014 on The Seattle Times).
Boeing calls the odd-looking, upturned wingtips on aircraft “blended winglets.” Airbus calls them “sharklets.” And Southwest Airlines, in ads, simply calls them “little doohickeys.”
Whatever the name, these wingtip extensions have become prevalent in aviation, saving airlines billions of dollars in fuel costs…
While winglets could cost $1 million or more per aircraft to install and add several hundred pounds to a plane, they pay for themselves in a few years through fuel savings — about 4 percent savings for the blended winglet and an additional 2 percent savings for the split scimitar…
United expects the new and older wingtip designs on its 737, 757 and 767 fleets to annually save it 65 million gallons of fuel, $200 million worth, and the equivalent of 645,000 metric tons of carbon-dioxide emissions.
That’s not government doing this. This is the free market. A design comes along that offers to save airlines money by reducing fuel consumption and the airlines spend money to add it to their fleets. Thus reducing 645,000 metric tons of carbon-dioxide emissions. And they do this voluntarily. This is how free market capitalism works.
Fuel is the greatest cost of airlines. So there is an incentive for airlines to spend money to reduce fuel consumption. This one-time investment will reduce fuel consumption in the years to follow. Making it a very good investment. Because it is they spend their own money to make this investment. Unlike solar and wind power. These are very poor investments. For the only way anyone builds solar arrays and wind farms is with taxpayer subsidies. Because the return on investment is so poor they will not spend their own money to build these things.
Good things happen with free market capitalism. While bad things happen (the Solyndra bankruptcy, for example) when the government interferes with free market capitalism. Which is why the government should not interfere in the market place. As blended winglets demonstrate. Which have reduced far more carbon-dioxide emissions than Solyndra ever did.
Tags: blended winglets, capitalism, carbon-dioxide emissions, free market, free-market capitalism, fuel consumption, fuel costs, fuel savings, managed economy, market forces, saving, winglets
Week in Review
The most dangerous parts of flight are the landing and taking off parts. Why? Because planes are big and heavy. And they travel fast. And whenever anything big and heavy travels fast near the ground bad things can happen. Because that’s a lot of kinetic energy that can do a lot of damage when it comes to a sudden and unexpected stop. But up in the air away from the ground planes easily earn their title as the safest way to travel. For up in the lonely expanses of the sky they can travel in excess of 500 miles per hour without a care in the world. Because the odds of them striking anything are virtually zero. This is where big and heavy things that travel fast belong. Not on the ground. Like high-speed rail. For even low-speed rail can be dangerous (see New York train derailment: Safety officials recover ‘black box’ by Tina Susman posted 12/1/2013 on the Los Angeles Times).
Investigators have recovered the “event recorder” from a Metro-North train that derailed in New York City early Sunday, a major step toward determining what caused the crash that killed four people and left scores injured…
Earl F. Weener of the National Transportation Safety Board said at a news briefing that the agency expected to have investigators on the scene in the Spuyten Duyvil area of the Bronx for a week to 10 days.
“Our mission is to understand not just what happened but why it happened, with the intent of preventing it from happening again,” Weener said. He said investigators had not yet talked to the train’s operator. Some local media have said the operator has claimed that he tried to slow down at the sharp curve where the derailment occurred but that the brakes failed.
The speed limit at the curve is 30 mph, compared to about 70 mph on straight sections of track.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the area is “dangerous by design,” because of the curve, but he said the bend in the track alone could not be blamed for the crash.
“That curve has been here for many, many years,” he told reporters at the scene, as darkness fell over the wreckage. “Trains take the curve every day … so it’s not the fact that there’s a curve here. We’ve always had this configuring. We didn’t have accidents. So there has to be another factor.”
High-speed rail is costly. Because it needs dedicated track. Overhead electric wires. No grade crossings. Fencing around the track. Or installed on an elevated viaduct. To prevent any cars, people or animals from wandering onto the track. They need banked track for high-speed curves. And, of course, they can’t have any sharp curves. Because curves cause a train to slow down. If they don’t they can derail. Which may be the reason why this commuter train derailed. It may have entered a curved section of track at a speed too great for its design. Which shows the danger of fast trains on sharp turns.
There haven’t been many high-speed rail accidents. But there have been a few. All resulting in loss of life. Because big and heavy things that travel fast along the ground have a lot of kinetic energy. And if something goes wrong at these high speeds (collision with another train or derailment) by the time that kinetic energy dissipates it will cause a lot of damage to the train, to its surroundings and to the people inside.
The high speed of today’s high-speed trains is about 200 mph. Not even half of what modern jetliners can travel at. Yet they cost far more. Most if not all passenger rail needs government subsidies. Air travel doesn’t. Making high-speed rail a very poor economic model. But they are capital and labor intensive. Which is why governments build them. So they can spend lots of money. And create a lot of union jobs. Which tends to help them win elections.
Tags: curve, derailment, high speeds, high-speed rail, kinetic energy, planes, sharp curves, track
Week in Review
The federal government is doing everything it can to stimulate electric car sales. Because they’re so green. But despite huge government subsidies for both manufacturers and buyers people just aren’t buying them. In large part because of their limited range. Keeping away potential buyers. And filling electric car owners with range anxiety. That dread that fills them when they start worrying whether they have enough battery charge to get home. And getting stranded a long way from home. Of course, this range anxiety could be worse (see 18-rotor electric helicopter makes maiden flight by Tim Hornyak posted 11/25/2013 on CNET).
The VC200, however, has a proper cockpit for two, and is described as a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) manned aircraft that doesn’t quite fit into any traditional category of flying machine.
It has 18 zero-emission, battery-powered electric motors for propulsion instead of the traditional combustion engines of helicopters. A frame and branching supports for rotors are made of carbon fiber help keep the weight down.
E-volo says the Volocopter VC200 can offer passengers a quiet, smooth, green ride. The vehicle is also easy to fly by joystick, and will have low operating and maintenance costs.
The VC200 flew to a height of some 70 feet during its test flights, which were recorded in the video below, which is pretty noisy but that may be due to the camera position.
It can fly for about 20 minutes with current battery technology, but E-volo hopes that will improve to allow for flights of an hour or more.
Really? An electric helicopter? It’s bad enough having your electric car coast to a stop on the road after your battery dies. But to fall out of the sky?
Before a commercial jetliner flies it calculates how much fuel they need to get them to their destination. To get them to an alternate destination in case something prevents them from getting to their primary destination. And a reserve amount of fuel. For the unexpected. They are very careful about this because a plane cannot coast to a stop on a road. If they run out of fuel they tend to fall out of the sky. So the FAA is pretty strict on fuel requirements. Can you imagine them certifying an electric helicopter that can carry only one battery charge? That has to power the craft regardless of the weight of the air craft?
On the one hand pushing the bounds of technology is a good thing. We can develop better batteries to use in our mobile devices and tablet computers. But electric cars and electric flight? The very design requires solving a paradox. To get greater range we need more/bigger batteries. But more/bigger batteries means greater weight. And greater weight means reduced range. That is, the very thing that increases range also reduces range. The current technology just isn’t good enough to give us electric cars or electric flight at this time. And any tax dollars that go to subsidize it is tax money poorly spent.
Tags: batteries, battery, battery charge, electric car, electric helicopter, helicopter, range, range anxiety, weight
Week in Review
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner has had some problems with its lithium-ion batteries. And now there is an icing problem with its engines. Which is a bug to fix in their radical new design that eliminated the bleed-air system from its engines. Reducing weight and increasing the efficiencies of the engines. Which translates into lower fuel/operating costs. Making the Boeing 787 Dreamliner a winning economic model. And why airlines are waiting anxiously to add it to their fleets. Now contrast this to a losing economic model. The electric/hybrid car (see Fisker sells its assets to Hong Kong tycoon, files for bankruptcy by Jerry Hirsch posted 11/22/2013 on the Los Angeles Times).
An investor group headed by Hong Kong tycoon Richard Li purchased the federal loan made to Karma plug-in hybrid sports car maker Fisker Automotive and acquired the assets of the nearly defunct automaker.
Fisker has voluntarily filed petitions to liquidate under the U.S. Bankruptcy code, and Li’s Hybrid Technology has committed up to $8 million in financing to fund the sale and Chapter 11 process.
The federal government, which had lent money to the Anaheim auto company under a Department of Energy clean vehicles program, will lose about $139 million on the deal.
“Because of these actions, along with the sale announced today, the Energy Department has protected nearly three-quarters of our original commitment to Fisker,” said Bill Gibbons, a department spokesman.
The all-electric car suffers from range anxiety. The dread a person feels as they are far from home and their battery looks like it won’t have enough charge to get them home. Hybrids are expensive. But carrying around that extra internal combustion engine in addition the electric system makes the car heavier. And reduces its battery range. Meaning that if you drive more than, say, a 45-mile round-trip you’ll be using that internal combustion engine most of the time. Which will burn more fuel than in a gasoline-only powered car. Because they don’t have the extra weight of the electric system to drag around.
This is why there isn’t a long list of orders for these electric/hybrid cars like there is for the Dreamliner. For the Dreamliner is what most airlines are looking for in a jetliner for solid economic reasons. While the electric/hybrid car is more of a novelty. Few people are buying them. And because of this they need government subsidies to remain in business. Whereas Boeing’s strong sales are one of the few things driving the nation’s GDP into positive territory.
Tags: Bankruptcy, battery, Boeing, Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Dreamliner, engines, Fisker, hybrid, internal combustion engine, liquidate, range, subsidies
Week in Review
It is very difficult to get people to complain about high taxes these days. They’ll just keep voting in Big Government candidates who just keep raising taxes to pay for more and more government. When it comes to the huge tax burden on Americans you hear nothing but crickets from the American left and center. But impose a transaction fee on using an ATM and holy hell breaks out. And don’t get me started on airline fees (see Where Did Airline Fees Come From, and How Did They Get So Bad? by Derek Thompson posted 11/5/2013 on The Atlantic).
In the 1960s, the airlines were regulated and practically nobody could afford to fly. But in the last few decades, the real cost of flying has fallen by 50 percent, even after you include the most annoying charges. Intense competition and the quiet power of comparison shopping online have devastated profits, and the airlines have turned to fees to rescue their business.
People will complain about airline fees despite the cost of flying falling by 50% in the last few decades. Taxes have only gone up and yet no one bitches about that. But airline fees? That’s just highway robbery.
There is a reason why so many airlines go through the revolving door of bankruptcy. Between fuel costs, union labor and customers squeezing every dime they can out of the price of a ticket it is very difficult NOT to operate at a loss. More people than ever are flying. Because flying has never been cheaper. Or safer. But people can’t appreciate that. All they see are the fees above the cost of their ticket.
If only these people would turn their anger over ATM fees and airline fees onto those high taxes. Maybe we could make government work on the thin margins we force airlines to operate on. So we can keep more of our money. Which is why we’re probably bitching about ATM fees and airline fees in the first place. As we have so little money left after all the taxes we pay that we can’t afford ATM fees and airline fees.
Tags: airline fees, ATM fees, high taxes
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