The Air Bulletin - May 9, 1997 issue - Free aviation newsletter

From:         barf!
Date:         12 May 1997 17:43:39 -0400
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Vol. 1 No. 6, May 9, 1997

In this issue:
Mechanical failure probable cause of TWA 800 accident
Airbus committed to A3XX
American Airlines pilots approve labour pact...
...Allowing airline to go ahead with Boeing order
Qatar Airways relaunched
Luggage to be matched with passenger in the US
Cyprus pilot lands at wrong airport to avoid overtime
Short notes


FBI director Louis Freeh said Sunday May 4 that TWA 800's mid-air
explosion was probably caused by a mechanical failure. Speaking on
NBC's Meet The Press, he added the evidence collected so far would
lead the Federal Bureau of Investigation towards concluding a
"catastrophic mechanical failure" brought down the Paris-bound TWA
Boeing 747 shortly after it took off from New York July 17, 1996,
killing all 230 passengers and crews on board. However, he cautioned
that neither the FBI nor the National Transportation Safety Board, the
main authority when it comes to airline accidents in the US, had
reached a formal conclusion yet.

It is important to note this conclusion was not reached from evidence
collected by investigators, but rather from a lack of evidence
pointing to other possibilities. The head of the FBI's New York
bureau, James Kallstrom, said in two separate interviews that two
other theories the FBI was investigating, a bomb or a hit from a
missile, appeared less likely. He explained the FBI has "looked at
every hole, every rip, and [the FBI sees] no evidence of high
explosive. [The FBI has] no evidence of a piece of shrapnel from a
missile or a warhead going through the plane."

Investigators recovered more than 95% of the jet from the ocean bed
and used the debris to build a mock up of the plane, including 92 feet
(28 metres) of the aircraft's centre fuselage, where the explosion
occurred. Mr. Kallstrom said investigators would go over all parts of
the aircraft again, to try and "explain every hole in the plane". He
hoped it would allow the FBI and the NTSB to reach a definitive
conclusion on what happened to the plane within 60 to 90 days.


Speaking at a briefing for aviation specialists, Airbus officials said
the launch of the super jumbo Airbus A3XX was "inevitable" and would
happen within 2 years. The group's A3XX marketing director, Robert
Lange, said the development of the super jumbo would form the key
plank of the European manufacturer's ambitions to topple Boeing from
market dominance.

The USD 8 billion project enjoys support from 19 airlines providing
design and cost-control input to the European consortium. The first
aircraft should enter service in 2003 in a three class 550 seat
versions, but later all economy 1000 seat stretch versions are already
planned for the Japanese domestic market. The aircraft will be suited
to traffic growth in Asia, according to Airbus officials, pointing to
the focus group in which almost all major Asian carriers are

Airbus intends to deliver the first A3XXs in 2003. Although wider than
the 747, the aircraft is not
much bigger, enabling it to land at all airports capable of accepting

Boeing executives in January claimed that making an aircraft to carry
more than 600 passengers was "financial suicide" but Airbus senior
vice president John Leahy said worsening airport congestion around the
world and a forecast tripling in global passenger traffic by 2020
would necessitate the building of aircraft larger than the Boeing 747,
currently the world's largest passenger plane.


American Airlines pilots ratified a new five year labour contract,
following months of negotiations between the airline and the pilots
union after the previous contract expired in August 1994. The Allied
Pilots Association submitted an agreement it reached with airline
officials more than a month ago [The Air Bulletin - Vol. 1 No. 2] with
the recommendation that its members approve the deal. According to
American Airlines, 69.3 percent of the 9300 pilots did just that. The
ratification by the pilots avert the threat of a second strike after a
brief strike in February marked the failure of negotiations.

Under the new five-year contract, pilots will get a 9 percent wage
increase and stock options. The deal also includes a compromise on the
most hotly contested issue regarding which pilots will fly
new jets American plans to buy for its regional jet carrier, American
Eagle. American had wanted American Eagle pilots, who are paid less
than APA members, to fly the smaller, regional jets so the company can
remain competitive with low-cost carriers. The APA pilots were
concerned that the American Eagle pilots would eventually take over
their current routes. The new contract new contract guarantees that
furloughed APA pilots will be able to fly the new jets that the
carrier is buying for American Eagle.

The airline said the brief February strike as well as its
after-effects and further threats of strikes  resulted in diminished
passenger bookings, costing the airline USD 70 millions in loss
revenue in its first quarter.


American Airlines restructured its USD 6 billion deal with aircraft
manufacturer Boeing, after purchases of at least 14 planes had been
delayed due to the lack of a labour pact between the airline and its
pilot union.

American confirmed orders for 75 Boeing 737s, 12 Boeing 757s,  four
extended-range Boeing
767-300s and an undetermined number of Boeing 777 aircraft. The main
difference with the original deal lies in the delivery schedule, which
has been moved back several weeks. The first delivery, an extended
range B767-300, is now scheduled for Spring 1998, and the last one for
March 2004, with a B737.

The number of B777 American will order is not known yet as the airline
has still to choose between two types of the aircraft.

In order to compensate for a lack of capacity due to the delayed B737
delivery schedule, American Airlines will huskit more older B727s than
it had planned, in order to make them compliant with stricter noise
regulations to come into force on January 1, 2000.


Three year old Qatar Airways was relaunched earlier this week to
change its corporate identity from a budget traveller airline to
appeal to first and business class passengers, generating more
revenues. "We are repositioning ourselves to take advantage of the
market in Qatar and the lower Gulf to offer a product that will appeal
to wealthy Qataris, Gulf nationals and first world corporate
travellers, in addition to expanding our India and Philippines
service," said general manager Michael Hewitt at the annual Arabian
Travel Market exhibition in Dubai. He added the process would be
completed in about 20 weeks. Currently, the airline attracts mainly
labourers from the Indian subcontinent coming to the United Arab
Emirates to find employment.

The relaunch would involve a total refurbishment of the airline's
eight aircraft and would be paid for with a 70 million riyal (USD 19
million) interest-free government loan granted two weeks ago,
according to Mr. Hewitt. The plan also calls for the expansion of the
current 30 city network with the introduction of daily flights to
London Heathrow and the doubling of capacity to India as well as the
addition of in-flight video entertainment and alcohol on board from
June. Alcohol consumption is banned by Islam and restricted in most
Gulf states.

The airline is 70 percent owned by the Qatar ruling family, with the
foreign minister as its chairman. Qatar Airways has taken its two
Boeing 747s out of scheduled service and plans to lease them as
charters, leaving four Boeing 727s and two leased Airbus A300-600s on
scheduled flights.


US airlines started a nationwide domestic trial Tuesday May 6 to match
passengers with luggage as a way to intercept terrorists who might try
to get a bomb on a plane in an unaccompanied bag. This process
involves making sure that all passengers with checked baggages are
on-board an aircraft before it leaves the gate. In case a passenger is
not on-board the aircraft, his luggage must be unloaded from the
aircraft before it is allowed to take off.

The trial follows recommendations by a special White House commission
on air travel security formed after the mid-air explosion of TWA 800,
first thought to be due to a criminal act. The trial will run for
about 2 weeks, according to the Air Transport Association, a body
representing most major US airlines.

ATA vice-president for policy and planning John Meenan said this new
procedure could cause delays in case a passenger was not on board a
plane for which he checked a bag. In the past, the plane would leave
with the bag and without the passenger. "But in the trial, if they
find you are not there, they must find your bag in the belly of the
plane," Mr. Meenan said. "The delay can be very significant." He also
explained that a delay could have a cascading effect, as a plane being
searched for an absent passenger's luggage may prevent another
aircraft from taking its place at the gate and causing passengers to
miss connections, not to speak of the plane arriving too late at its
destination for passengers to make their connections.

He said if one plane was held up for an hour at a busy airport, that
would prevent another aircraft from landing and taking its place at
the gate, as well as cause passengers to miss connections. However,
airlines can suspend the trial if delays run longer than 20 minutes,
according to FAA spokeswoman Rebecca Trexler.

Bag matching is already a normal procedure on international flights
leaving the US and on flights in Europe.


A Cyprus Airlines pilot on a scheduled flight with 153 passengers on
board landed at the wrong Cyprus airport on Monday May 6 in order to
avoid working overtime for less than 10 minutes. The flight, delayed
for 2 hours in Zurich for technical reasons, was due to land on the
Mediterranean island's Larnaca airport, but the pilot elected to land
at Paphos instead, barely 150 km (90 miles) away from the aircraft's
scheduled destination, following work-to-rule measures called for by
the airline's pilot union to protest moves to transfer some Cyprus
Airlines activities to its charter subsidiary, Eurocypria.

According to the airline, it would have taken the plane 5 to 6 minutes
more to land to its intended destination. Instead, buses and taxis
were used to bring the passengers to their final destination while the
pilot checked in into a luxury hotel at the company's expense.

"This was foolish, irresponsible and arrogant behaviour which in the
final analysis undermines the
company itself and undermines the Cypriot economy," Finance Minister
Christodoulos Christodoulou told reporters. He warned the union such
incidents could affect the airline's application for a new loan
guarantee by the government. "It will not be handled favourably if
this will continue to be the behaviour of those guiding employees in
Cyprus Airways," Mr. Christodoulou warned.

This is not the first ridiculous incident to occur at the Cypriot
airline. Las week, caterers delayed a flight for more than 45 minutes
when they went on strike to protest a management decision forbidding
them to watch television while working. They started an hour long
strike when their TV set was removed.


TWA joins British Airways [The Air Bulletin - Vol. 1 No. 5] in
protesting the resumption of Air Algérie flights at the Paris Charles
de Gaulle airport. The US airline has decided not to use a gate it was
allocated because it would involve parking one of its planes next to
an Air Algérie aircraft. Instead, the TWA aircraft parks further out
and passengers are bused to and from the aircraft.

EuroControl has introduced new radio frequencies to cope with
increased congestion in the VHF communication band allocated to air
traffic control communications. The new frequencies, affecting high
altitude traffic over the skies of France, the UK, the Benelux
countries and Germany were established by reducing the channel
separation from 25 kHz to 8.33 kHz.

Hong Kong based Cathay Pacific Airways received The American Academy
of Hospitality Sciences Five Star Diamond Award, which recognizes "an
outstanding commitment to in-flight quality, service and safety, a
high level of industry professionalism, culinary excellence and
impeccable attention to detail".

USAirways has decided to cut unprofitable routes, including
terminating jet service to 9 US cities, close some facilities and
ground up to 22 aircraft in a drive to return to profits.

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