Re: Fracturing the Pacific

Date:         19 Aug 97 04:14:03 
From:         m@bang.org
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kls@ohare.Chicago.COM (Karl Swartz) wrote:
> In article <airliners.1997.1820@ohare.Chicago.COM>, M Carling wrote:
>
> >To fly from the US east coast to Asia, having the range to fly the great
> >circle route will not suffice for twins because these routes are non ETOPS
> >legal--there are no satisfactory landing sites within 180 minutes of a
> >very large area over the Arctic.
>
> You've said that before, and I've never really strongly questioned
> it.  I finally took some time to look at the matter carefully.  Since
> you focused on the Arctic, I picked three fairly northerly routes to
> examine -- ORD-NRT, ORD-HKG, and JFK-NRT.

I wrote "US east coast". I don't believe I ever questioned the ETOPS
capability of ORD-Asia routes. Anyway, none of the routes you chose above as
examples could fracture the Pacific market because they already operate with
B747s. JFK-HKG (which you cover below) is probably the single route which
could most effectively fracture the market, as it has a lot of traffic which
must currently make a stop (often at NRT). JFK-CAN, BOS-HKG, IAD-HKG are also
routes which probably have enough traffic to make nonstop service
commercially viable, and which would serve to fracture the market.

Assuming all the alternates you list are available year-round (I'm
particularly doubtful about UHMM and BRW), then all of these routes can be
flown ETOPS. The critical one is BRW without which all these routes must be
flown well away from the great circle route. See
http://www.chicago.com/cgi-bin/gc?PATH=JFK-HKG,BOS-HKG,JFK-CAN,IAD-HKG&RANGE=
180min@(FAI,CDB,UHMM,UHSS,UHPP,NRT)

I've never been to Barrow, but I have been north of Fairbanks, and I suspect
that keeping the runway clear at Barrow would be quite an undertaking.

> Without considering strong winds in the far north, it looks to me as
> if ORD-NRT, ORD-HKG, and JFK-NRT, flown with great circle routes, are
> all doable with 180 minutes ETOPS with at least as many alternates as
> are available when flying the North Atlantic under 120 minute rules.

Agreed, but these routes are not really relevant to the issue of the extent
to which twins may fracture the Pacific market, as these are the routes we're
interested in fracturing.

> Deeper routes pose a greater challenge.  Barrow, Alaska (BRW) is well-
> positioned, but the longest runway is only 6,500' long.  Weather is
> likely a problem, though the presence of ILS helps.  Assuming BRW is a
> suitable alternate, JFK-HKG is well within 180 minute rules using FAI,
> BRW, UHMM, and SEL as alternates.

The greatest challenge at BRW is likely to be keeping the runway clear of
snow. We can be confident that there will be a significant number of days
each year when BRW will not be available due to weather. Will any airline
schedule such a service if they don't have the range to divert around BRW on
such days? If (as is likely) not then the route must be operated with
equipment having the range to fly farther south on a longer course against
typically greater headwinds (westbound).

Also, in the unlikely event of a B777 or A330 diversion to BRW, the aircraft
might have to depart empty due to the short runway. Then smaller aircraft
would need to be brought in to collect the pax. I don't think BRW has hotel
rooms for 300 stranded pax. There might be some old Army barracks available.
Sleeping outside would be unadvisable.

> Dropping BRW requires a more significant diversion, but might not
> be untenable.

Agreed. JFK-HKG without BRW as an alternate might or might not be untenable.
My guess is that it would only be profitable using a low-density aircraft,
and only putting full-fare pax on the nonstop. JFK-HKG could probably even
support an aircraft configured with only First and Business classes. I
believe a B777-200IGW so configured (about 30 BA-style sleeper cabins plus
about 170 C seats with 50inch pitch) would have the range, even without BRW.
Of course, so configuring an aircraft makes fleet planning a mess. A
24/84/114 configuration would probably have the range, and could be more
easily integrated into a fleet.

> Only when you start looking at routes from the Eastern US deep into
> Asia, such as JFK-SIN, does it start looking like twins are not viable
> due to ETOPS restrictions.

JFK-SIN (like JFK-BKK) has a great circle route going round the other way,
north of Scandanavia and Siberia. However, the route would probably be flown
eastbound in each direction to take advantage of prevailing winds. To be
ETOPS legal would require large deviations from the great circle routes,
which might be advantageous if flown eastbound in both directions. Please
note that this paragraph is highly speculative.

M Carling
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