Re: Fuel dumping

From:         ehahn@fairlite.mitre.org (Ed Hahn)
Organization: The MITRE Corporation, McLean, Va.
Date:         06 Jul 94 00:52:21 
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In article <airliners.1994.1405@ohare.Chicago.COM> gclst1+@pitt.edu (Grant C Lynde) writes:

   When is fuel dumping used?  I understand that it may be necessary when a
   plane has to make an emergency landing.  But is it ever used on a regular
   basis?  And if so, wouldn't this become an environmental problem?  

-------
WRT fuel dumping, really the only time it is done is in abnormal
situations, the majority of which are either:

1) A/C must return to the departure airport (or another closeby) after
an equipment failure, and is heavier than Max Landing Weight, 

or:

2) A/C must make an emergency landing, and wants to minimize the
intensity of a potential fire by getting rid of as much fuel as
possible.  Note that at least one accident, however, has been caused
by the crew dumping TOO much fuel.

It's an environmental, economic, and potential safety degradation
whenever fuel must be dumped, so no one does it unless they are forced
to.
-------
   Next question is this, and it applies more to the business side of
   airlines.  Allegedly, one of the biggest problems facing the airline
   industryy in the US is over-capicity.  But airlines, such as US Air, are
   asking for labor concessions to speed up turnaround time with the
   intention of increasing the number of flights between cities such as
   Pittsburgh and Philadelpia.  So, if there is already overcapicity, and
   this is causing much difficulty within the airline industry, why are they
   taking steps to increase the number of seats flying at any given moment?  
-------
They are two sides of the same coin.  The reasoning goes something
like this: 

1) We have too many airplanes.  It costs us big bucks for each
additional aircraft we operate.  Therefore, let's reduce our aircraft
overcapacity as much as possible.

2) We can't operate the airplanes we have left as efficiently as
we'd like.  Let's get these aircraft operating as efficiently as
possible.  Since we have only limited control over non-labor costs
(fuel prices, maintenance check requirements), let's try and get a)
the direct labor costs down, by cutting a deal with the pilots, flight
attendants, and mechanics (unions), b) reducing the amount of time our
airplanes are sitting on the ground not generating revenue, and c) by
reducing overhead as much as possible, by cutting management staff,
cutting back on facilities expenditures, and making the overhead
operations run as efficiently as possible .

3) Furthermore, if we can identify a new source of revenue (such as
cabin telephones, expanding services on a route which is profitable
and does not currently have enough service, and by trying to guess
whether you can generate greater total yield on some routes with a
lower ticket price for that route (i.e. sales and price cuts)),
perhaps we can get the revenue increase to take care of the shortfall
in our operation.

Arguably, the difference between success and failure is how the
management decides to implement the changes. Unfortunately, because
the market is extremely elastic, it's hard to predict exactly what the
final outcome will be.  (eg. people just won't fly for pleasure if
overall ticket prices are too high, and passengers in general don't
care which airline they fly, but instead look for the cheapest fare.)
Because of this, there is the temptation to be very agressive with
cost control and revenue enhancement, which may end up doing more harm
than good.  

The above analysis is not intended to show the reasoning at any
particular airline, but is just to show my take on the general issues
facing airline management today.  Any errors or fallacies in the above
analysis are mine alone.

ed

////////   Ed Hahn | ehahn@mitre.org | (703) 883-5988   \\\\\\\\
The above comment reflects the opinions of the author, and does not
constitute endorsement or implied warranty by the MITRE Corporation.
Really, I wouldn't kid you about a thing like this.