A Word About Photos

Where possible, any images used are sourced from public domains unless otherwise stated & credited. If you find a photo or image that you believe you own & breaches copyright, please let us know & it will be removed immediately.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Spectacular Boeing 747 Crash "Photo"

Wanna see photographic evidence of a Boeing 747 crashing onto a freeway? This seven minute work of art will show you how you can make your own.

Thanks for the Money, Keep Your Airline

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce refused to do business with him; his predecessor & original Qantas mentor had become his nemesis. Within the boardrooms & hallways, there was talk that their former boss might just be coming back - not just as CEO again but somehow as owner of the airline! It's amazing how a 1.5% stake can get millionaire executives so paranoid & the media salivating for a good story.

But last week, the so-called "private investors consortium", which included former CEO Geoff Dixon, former Qantas senior executive Peter Gregg, advertising tycoon John Singleton, & possibly also retailing king Gerry Harvey, cashed in their syndicate shareholding of nearly 25 million shares for a reported $37.8 million. The net profit on their six-month or so investment was a cool $18 million.
"Thanks for the money. You can keep your airline now."
So Mr Joyce can breathe a little easier, while some of the richest men in Australia can just keep laughing all the way to the bank.
"Seriously, who'd want this job anyway?"

Friday, 25 January 2013

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Improvements

In the world of domestic airfares, whenever there's a fight to the bottom, someone always gets hurt. Usually it's the customer. Cheap seats, offset by hidden fees & poor service.

In Australia, new-comer Tiger Airways has been battered & bruised itself. Firstly from the belligerent competition from Jetstar, which in true Gandalf style, drew a market share line in the sand & said "You shall not pass!" And then secondly, a string of bad days in the office forced the Australian regulator to take them out of the skies completely & make them sit in the naughty corner till they could get their act together.

Photo: Wikipedia.org
But since then, whilst Qantas has dominated most of the headlines (they don't need the regulator to ground them, they can do it themselves), Tiger has been slowly creeping back.

In fact, in the latest statistics comparing Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar & Tiger, Tiger achieved the highest rate of on-time departures, highest rate of on-time arrivals & the lowest rate of flight cancellations. Jetstar came last. (1)

To add insult to Qantas group injury, Virgin Australia bought up a controlling 60% share of the airline in October last year, pumping cash & much-needed inspiration & reputation into the airline.

But whilst the numbers are going up & the fleet size increasing, that other factor in the airline business - customers - are not all yet feeling the love. And the bane of much of their problems appears to be their offshore call centre. We all know what they're like. So to their credit, Tiger today announced it was doing something about that too, posting this message on their facebook page:

"We want to apologise to our customers, we are extremely disappointed with the current levels of service you are experiencing when trying to call our call centre. We are moving to a new call centre provider on 1st February to ensure you receive the standards of service that you deserve and thank you for your patience in the meantime."

Is this where dream holiday plans end up?
Photo: news.com.au
Whilst many took the apology as an opportunity to voice past grievances, many also took it for what it was - an admission of a problem, an apology, & a solution. Such things are rare in the corporate world. I wonder to what extend Tiger's new masters had been involved in this.

My only dissapointment is that they have to use a foreign call centre provider at all. Obviously its considerably cheaper to contract out rather than hire the staff yourself in-situ & pay all the associated local labour costs. I hate it, but I get it. I'm not racist; foreign workers are no less valuable as human beings, so on a global level, the airline is creating jobs & giving people their own sense of dignity. But if you want to really enhance the customer's experience, here's the tip: most people expect to talk to people from their own country, in their own country, when travelling in their own country. Provide that, Tiger, & you'll be Australia's favourite airline.

(1) http://www.bitre.gov.au/statistics/aviation/otp_annual.aspx

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Why I Love Airbus So Much

In the dog-eat-dog world of high-end global industry, a defective product from one manufacturer will often hand big bragging rights to a competitor. Enter the Boeing 787.

In press comments this week by Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier however, the European plane maker said:

"It's not our place to give Boeing lessons, we've had our own problems in the past. I honestly wish all the best to my colleagues at Boeing to put this aircraft back in flight. I don't bet on the difficulties of a competitor in order to build Airbus' success." (1)

I love this humility. He calls his rivals "my colleagues". He's not out to score points or rub Boeing into the ground.

Bregier is relatively new to the top job at Airbus. But this is not just his sentiment. This is the Airbus culture. Maybe even the entirely European culture. 

Photo: Planebuzz.com
When Boeing rolled out the first 787 for the worlds' cameras, prematurely but deliberately on 8 July 2007 (07/08/07 in American date speak), both Boeing & Airbus knew it was only held together with the airplane manufacturing equivalent of sticky tape. Nonetheless, then Airbus CEO Louis Gallois sent this message to Boeing CEO James McNerney:

“On behalf of the global Airbus team, I would like to offer you and your Boeing colleagues our congratulations on the rollout of your first 787 aircraft. Today is a great day in aviation history. For, whenever such a milestone is reached in our industry, it always is a reflection of hard work by dedicated people inspired by the wonder of flight. Even if tomorrow Airbus will get back to the business of competing vigorously, today is Boeing’s day – a day to celebrate the 787.” (2)

How many companies do you see "celebrate" their opponents product launch? Do you think Boeing has ever returned the sentiment? No. 

And note that all this was happening at a time when Boeing was dragging Airbus through World Trade Organisation litigation. Nonetheless, Airbus chose to bless those who cursed them. I know a higher authority than the WTO that would smile on that. 

Dear Dreamliner, Please Don't Be Another Comet

1950. The dawn of a new era in commercial passenger travel. The dawn of the "Jet age". 

Photo: Extremetech.com
While the world was flying around in DC-6's, Lockheed Constellations & no shortage of DC-3's, a new plane was being developed that would revolutionise passenger air travel for ever. Futuristic, state of the art, the very latest in cutting-edge technology on so many levels. The very first jet powered airliner. A real "game changer". The future was here. Enter, the De Havilland Comet.

Unfortunately, there were some things about this new technology that they didn't yet know; some problems never envisaged, with consequences never foreseen. It never showed up in testing. They never knew that square windows on a pressurised aircraft would, over not too much time, cause the plane to rip itself apart in mid flight. The results were catastrophic.

Fast forward 55 years & Boeing is using all the same words, particularly that last one; "Game Changer". An airliner that would not just be an evolution, but a revolution in commercial airliners.

Photo: npr.org
Originally it was named the 7E7 for its revolutionary, fuel-saving use of Lithium Ion battery powered electronics, as opposed to current generation hydraulics & engine-powered systems. Yet I don't need to tell any airliner enthusiast of the recent spat of fires & emergency landings that this fangdangle new technology has caused. Problems that didn't show up in testing. Sound familiar?

Fortunately, pilots the world over have seen enough airliner carnage to know that at the first sign of any trouble, to get the plane on the ground as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, Comet pilots in the 1950's didn't have this luxury. And whilst I would never wish the Comet's fate on the 787, I hope & pray that Boeing & the regulators continue to put passenger safety over commercial interests, as they say they have, & get this problem definitively fixed.

It's also interesting to note that whilst Boeing learnt every lesson from the Comet in the 1950's to ensure the B707 didn't repeat them, Airbus is paying very close attention to the 787's woes as it builds its first A350. 

For more info on Lithium Ion batteries & their problems, I found this article useful: http://www.npr.org/2013/01/18/169729162/powerful-but-fragile-the-challenge-of-lithium-batteries

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Dreamliner Nightmares

Photo: Reuters via abc.net.au
Not a good look. Another day, another Dreamliner on the ground. Now all of ANA's & JAL's B787's are grounded, whilst United appears to be in denial.


Lowering the F-35 Bar

Question: What do you do when the plane you want doesn't meet the specifications you set? Do you:
Photo: Wikipedia

  1. Choose a new plane?
  2. Make the existing plane better?
  3. Change the specifications to match the plane you have?
Being the peaceful-loving guy I am, I try to stay out of military matters. But the recent announcement that the US Dept of Defence intends to "lower the performance requirements" for the F-35 just seems somewhat incredulous.

See the story here, courtesy of Australian Aviation Magazine: http://australianaviation.com.au/2013/01/f-35-performance-specs-lowered/

Sighting faults, failures & extensive delays, the report casts a big shadow over the seemingly impressive recent announcement of the delivery of 30 F-35's during the 2012 calendar year. It seems it's not the quantity that counts, but quality, & on that front, the F-35 still has a long way to go.

At least matching the specs to the plane, not the other way around, should at least make it easier to convince Congress, & all the foreign Governments, including Australia, that have signed up for it, that the plane is performing "as specified" & ensure ongoing funding. What was that Eisenhower said about the industrial-military complex?

Sounds like a con job to me.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Qantas Comes Up With The Goods

In a move that may shock some of my readers, I've actually got a good news story regarding Qantas!

In the wake of the airline recently severing it's ties with the national tourism body Tourism Australia over its ongoing spat with TA boss & former Qantas CEO Geoff Dixon, the airline promised it would continue to work closely with state government tourism agencies & continue to work hard to bring tourists to Australia.

Well, it seems the Flying Kangaroo has actually made good on its promise. This week it was announced to the world that the Ellen DeGeneres circus would be coming to Australia with her own audience & crew of over 400 people, & that Qantas had been a key player in the negotiations to make it happen.

Whether or not you care for the show itself, the deal is worth millions to the NSW & Victorian state economies, whilst Australia as a whole will be promoted to over 60 countries where the show is aired.

See the Qantas press release here: http://www.qantas.com.au/travel/airlines/media-releases/jan-2013/5478/global/en

See a video of the announcement on the show (& all the crazy audience members screaming) here: http://video.heraldsun.com.au/2324513470/Ellen-DeGeneres-is-coming-to-Australia

So well done Qantas for pulling it off. I'm quite happy to give credit where credit is due. Let's hope all goes to plan.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Just Pay for the Sandwich & Shut Up!

There are some places where you know in advance that the food & drinks are going to be ridiculously overpriced, & you're just going to have to grin & bear it. I learnt that the hard way buying the kids lunch at Warner Bros Movie World years ago. You just hand over multiples of $50 notes & don't ask questions. Airports are also a common places for this phenomenon to occur, & airlines that charge for their in-flight meals are no different. Sure, you might not have to pay $10 for a chicken sandwich at the local take away shop, but I think you'd agree the lease on a Boeing 737 is a little higher than those on take away shops too.

Photo: CRAP
This week a passenger on a Virgin Australia flight from Darwin to Perth objected to paying $10 for a celebrity chef-created  "gourmet chicken & salad sandwich", complete with "roast chicken, coleslaw, lettuce & tomato on mixed-grain bread". (It actually sounds quite nice!). After shouting at flight attendants & reportedly pushing one down the aisle, the passenger was handcuffed & removed from the rest of the passengers while the captain turned the plane around & flew an hour back to Darwin to hand him over to federal police.

Darwin to Perth is a 4 hour flight, so obviously passengers might get a bit hungry. But I think these are one of those times when if you haven't brought your own snacks, you've just got to pay up & smile. And by the sounds of that sandwich, it might have even been worth it!

Check out the Virgin Australia inflight menu here: http://www.virginaustralia.com/cs/groups/internetcontent/@wc/documents/webcontent/~edisp/the-menu-january-2013.pdf

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Virgin Aust safer than Qantas - Rainman was Wrong

According to something called the Jet Airliner Crash Data Evaluation Centre (JACDEC), Rainman was wrong. Qantas is not the worlds safest airline. I think we all knew that anyway.

This week however, JACDEC has released its annual survey results of the safest airlines in the world. Qantas doesn't even make the top 10.

Here's the list:
Photo: worldairlinenews.com
  1. Finnair
  2. Air New Zealand
  3. Cathay Pacific
  4. Emirates
  5. Etihad
  6. Eva Air
  7. TAP Portugal
  8. Hainan Airlines
  9. Virgin Australia
  10. British Airways
We don't know exactly where Qantas does come, as the full results wont be out until next month in the German aviation magazine Areointernational.

Apparently, the calculations are "based on our annual safety calculations which include all hull loss accidents and serious incidents in the last 30 years of operations in relation to the revenue passsenger kilometers (RPK) performed in the same time. We also took into account the international safety benchmarks such as the IOSA Audit and the USOAP country factor. Furthermore we included a time weightening factor which increases the effect of recent accidents and weakening the impact of accidents in the past. All calculation data ends after a period of 30 years."

All that basically means that Qantas's golden run in the 80's & 90's counts less than the QF1 Bangkok runway overrun in 1999, QF30's mini mid-air explosion in 2008 & the spectacular QF32 engine explosion in 2010.
Photo: ATSB
That's not to say that all those incidents were Qantas's fault, or that it hasn't learned from them.

Photo: ATSB
The Bangkok incident occurred at a time when, due to soaring fuel prices, Qantas pilots were effectively banned from using reverse thrust on landing. Unfortunately, stopping a B747 after landing long in a tropical thunderstorm at night proved impossible without it. Since then, I've personally observed Qantas heavies showing no hesitation to use it, even in perfect conditions on SYD 34L, one of the longest commercial runways in the world.

And the much celebrated QF32 incident involved a defective part in a brand new Rolls Royce engine on a brand new Airbus A380. Rolls Royce accepted responsibility for the incident & has compensated Qantas accordingly. Meanwhile Captain Richard de Crespigny & his highly skilled flight crew on the day have been justifiably near-immortalised as heros, for safely nursing 469 souls & the crippled pride of the Qantas fleet back to Singapore.

Unfortunately, all that doesn't mean much to JACDEC.

Photo: ATSB
Three Strikes & Qantas is out of the top 10
So for now, hats off to Finnair, & more locally, Air New Zealand & Virgin Australia. Qantas will just have to cop this on the chin as it continues to belligerently stumble on.

For more info on JACDEC, click here: http://www.jacdec.de/

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Plane Spotting!

My wife & I spent a hot summer's morning watching the comings & goings at Sydney Airport. Our photography skills are amateurish, but here are some of the highlights.
You can copy or repaste these photos only on the condition that you go to our facebook page, like us, & say hi!
6:30 am. Scorching summer sunrise over Port Botany & runway 34

A bit of horsing around next to runway 34L

Terrorists. Definitely terrorists.

The good thing about a national carrier like Air Pacific is that if it's not in Fiji, you always no where it's going.

"Like a Virgin...taxi-ing for the very first time...."

Retro paint job on this Thai B747

The kid in the candy shop

Regional Express ("REX") Saab 340B with the old, decommissioned tower in the background

All dressed up for the annual Tamworth Country Music Festival

Tiger prowling!

Rare in Australia, the A321

In the absence of the delayed B787, Qantas has refurbished & repainted some of its old B767s

Love this shot of the Virgin B737-800

A bit grubby...

Hawker 850XP registration "BMW"

Brothers in Arms