Re: aerial re-fuelling

From: (Steve James)
Organization: Pipeline
Date:         09 Jul 96 13:09:46 
References:   1
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>A question to those who know much more than I about the airline industry:
>Why is it that aerial re-fuelling, which has gained wide acceptance as a
>military technology has not gained the same acceptance in the civiian
>sector.  It seems a reasonable way to fly longer routes with less
>expensive aircraft, and perhaps a lucrative field for a "tanking" service
>as well.

For several reasons, some of which follow:

1.  Passenger safety.  Too many pax are anxious enough when we do something
like fly parallel approaches separated by several hundred feet;  they would
absolutely die if we refueled behind a tanker.  Plus, imagine trying to get
the FAA to approve something like this!  Then you have crew currency,
weather, etc. to deal with.

2.  Not that cost effective.  Even ignoring the safety/regulatory aspects
of it all, refueling a carrier really would not be that cost effective.
There would have to be coordination between tanker/receiver aircraft, they
each would have to orbit in a designated airspace for their rendezvous,
thereby costing the receiver approximately 15 minutes of enroute time (and
that's if both aircraft got airborne on time!), you would still have to pay
the tanker aircraft lease, fuel, crew, etc. even though they did not
generate any revenue dollars.  Just that last fact alone would kill any
profitability the receiver might have had.

3.  Why do it in the first place?  Several aircraft are efficient enough to
make virtually any feasible revenue flight currently.  To refuel just to
stretch the legs of what, a 737 (?), simply isn't smart.  The cheaper
aircraft are simply not designed for passenger comfort to transport people
that far.  Flying a 737 BWI-LAX is about as far as most people are going to
want to go on such a plane.  Refueling it so it could reach Hawaii would be
impractical when you could just put a widebody on the run and fill it to
the gill with pax and cargo.   In fact the freight it would carry alone
would probably make money for the carrier, and the pax would be gravy.
(Expensive gravy, to be sure....)

Steve James