Re: Shuttle aircraft

From:         kls@ohare.Chicago.COM (Karl Swartz)
Organization: Chicago Software Works, Menlo Park, California
Date:         09 Nov 94 00:51:23 
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>Never having had the pleasure of flying that route, I don't know what
>airplane is being used.

Both the USAir (ex-Trump, ex-Eastern) and Delta (ex-Pan Am) Shuttles
exclusively use Boeing 727s.  Delta's are all -200 Advanced models,
while USAir uses mostly original -200s, with several of the Advanced
-200s and a few -100s thrown in.

The key point here is that these operations are what some would call
a "true" shuttle, that is, you're guaranteed a seat even if they have
to roll out another aircraft.  This is in contrast to United's LA-SF
Shuttle service, started a few years ago (not their new Shuttle by
United Southwest wanna-be), which was nothing different from the usual
fixed-capacity operation other than exceptionaly high frequencies.

The guaranteed seat shuttle means you have to have an extra aircraft,
crewed, fueled, and ready to go, at each station.  The cost of doing
this is prohibitive if it means a lot of capital (several expensive
aircraft) is sitting around idle.  727s are now old enough to be fully
depreciated, and the higher pilot and engine count increase operating
costs enough to make them unattractive for shorter flights when 737s
and DC-9s/MD-80s are in ready supply.  Thus the 727s are attractive
for operations, such as the shuttles, in which their utilization may
not be very high.  (Until recently, United similarly used some of
their oldest 727-200s in intra-European routes, where they'd fly one
LHR-XXX or CDG-XXX and back trip a day, for various values of XXX.)

As one might expect given the circumstances, shuttles have a long
history of depending on fully-depreciated aircraft.  From inception
in 1961, the Eastern Shuttle depended on Constellations, which were
well past their prime.  Later, Eastern's Electras lasted into 1977
in Shuttle service.  Electras also figure prominently in the very
first shuttle, the Ponte Aerea between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
This operation used an all-Electra fleet from 1975 until 1992, when
the government mandated a switch to stage-3 jets.

Once the 727s are gone, it will be interesting to see what the next
type will be to take over this unglorious role.

Karl Swartz	|INet
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		|Snail	2144 Sand Hill Rd., Menlo Park CA 94025, USA
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