Category Archives: Boeing

Plane Perspectives: Ethiopian Flight ET302 and the Boeing 737 MAX

Air crashes are always surprises, but the news, from the Prime Minister of Ethiopia’s twitter account, that Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 flying from Addis Ababa to Nairobi on the morning of  Sunday, March 10 had gone down, was particularly shocking.

The 157 victims of the crash who held nationalities of 30 countries comprised 149 passengers and 8 crew members. Aside from Ethiopia, Kenya was the most affected nation with 32 of the deceased, while eighteen were from Canada, nine from Ethiopia, eight each from China, US and Italy, and seven each from France and the UK. Some of the victims had dual nationalities and that particular early morning flight was popular with diplomats and delegates who shuttled between meetings in the capitals of Ethiopia and Kenya.

Ethiopian Airlines ET 302 became the second fatal crash of a new Boeing 737 Max in the space of a few months, following that of Lion Air Flight 610 which crashed in Indonesia in October 2018.

Investigations have started into the cause of the crash is  with representatives from Boeing, and US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and General Electric (the engine manufacturer who also lost two employees in the crash who worked in their healthcare division) joining up to assist Ethiopian investigators.

In both crash cases, the planes were new, just a few months old, and took off for relatively short flights during which the pilots lost control of the aircraft.

The Boeing 737 is the most successful commercial aircraft in history with over 10,000 built and over 1,000 are in the air at any given minute. But the new MAX series introduced was different in terms of its design, large engines and navigation systems.  At the time of the accident, the 737 MAX-series has 74 aircraft operating in the USA and 389 worldwide, with the largest fleet users being Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and Air Canada.

Boeing had committed to implement a software upgrade in the coming weeks to the MAX that was directed by the US FAA, but after the crash, Ethiopian Airlines announced the grounding of the rest of their 737 MAX fleet. Other airlines and aviation agencies in China, Indonesia and Cayman Airways, Comair (South Africa), GOL (Indonesia), Mongolia, Royal Air Maroc (Morocco) Singapore and Australia also announced the grounding or banning the use of the aircraft temporarily. The latest has been the United Kingdom.

Boeing’s shares dipped when the shares opened on Monday after the crash.

See also:

  • Here’s a rare picture of the ill-fated plane at Boeing Field, USA, prior to delivery to Ethiopian – via Airliner’s Net.
  • Airlines around the world have grounded 40% of the 737 MAX fleet but not US airlines
  • Long before the crash, some frequent flyer avoided flying on the profit-maximizing MAX aircraft over its squeezed cabins, tiny bathrooms and thin seats e.g. American Airlines has 172 seats in the cabin, including 16 first class seats and 30 extra-legroom seats — compared to the 160 seats that it has on 737-800s with the same cabin size.
  • Perspectives from another impactful plane crash a decade ago – that of KQ 507.

EDIT On Wednesday, March 13, President Donald Trump announced the grounding of all 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 models. He had informed aviation authorities and Boeing that this was in the best interests of the safety of all passengers as Boeing works on a solution.

He also extended condolences to the friends and families of victims of the Ethiopia and Indonesia crashes.

Investigations into the crash are ongoing.

 

April 4 Ethiopian Airlines statement

April 4 Boeing Statement

FAA disown Ethiopian

Lawyers sniff out victims’ families

Disagreements about possible compensation

And overall liability for the crash.

Hero pilot says the 737 MAX was flawed: As one of the few pilots who have lived to tell about being in the left seat of an airliner when things went horribly wrong, with seconds to react, I know a thing or two about overcoming an unimagined crisis. I am also one of the few who have flown a Boeing 737 MAX Level D full motion simulator, replicating both accident flights multiple times. I know firsthand the challenges the pilots on the doomed accident flights faced, and how wrong it is to blame them for not being able to compensate for such a pernicious and deadly design

Continues

Emirates Airlines, 30th Year of Profit

In its recently released annual reports, Emirates Group had revenue of US$ 27.2 billion, and it’s 30th straight year of profits at $1.1 billion and will pay $545 million as a dividend to the Dubai Investment Corporation.

Emirates Airlines revenue increased 9% to US$ 25.2 billion, while its profit increased to $762 million and this was attributed to strong performance in cargo which offset fuel price increases of 15% during the year. Fuel now accounts for 28% of their operating costs, while staff expenses are 15%. The Emirates Group has 80 subsidiaries and 103,000 employees, a number which declined by 2% in the year. The report notes that there was a 2.2% reduction in flight handled at Dubai’s two airports due to termination of flights between Dubai and Qatar, from the, still ongoing, dispute with Qatar.

Emirates carried 58.5 million passengers and received 17 new aircraft, in the year taking its fleet to 268. It is the world’s largest operator of the Boeing 777 and A380 planes and announced new orders for 36 A380’s and 40 B787-10’s. Emirates revenue was from six regions topped by Europe with $7.3 billion revenue, followed by East Asia/Australasia $6.9 billion, the Americas $3.7 billion, and revenue from African routes was $2.6 billion (an increase 8%).  In Africa, they fly to 27 destinations and the report notes that their results in Africa were achieved in spite of political instability and currency volatility including massive devaluation in some countries. Revenue from the Gulf & Middle East was $2.3 billion, and West Asia/ Indian Ocean was $2.1 billion. During the year Emirates signed partnerships with Fly Dubai and Cargo Lux and extend one with Qantas.

Emirates SkyCargo revenue was US$ 3.4 billion (14% of the airline’s revenue) from its freighter fleet of 13 777’s, while Emirates’ hotel’s revenue was US$ 203 million, Emirates also tested the use of blockchain to streamline cargo delivery, digitize their supply chain and eliminate paper usage.

Dnata, a separate entity in the Emirates Group, had its best year yet with $3.6 billion of revenue and $359 million profit. Dnata serves 300 airlines in 35 countries and its international business which included handling 3. 8 million tons of cargo and serving 55 million meals during the year, now accounts for 68% of its revenue. Dnata acquired AirLogistics in the US, signed deals to do ground handling in New York,  and maintenance in Singapore and had other expansions in Europe while creating two new travel reservation systems.

Kenya Airways launches Nairobi New York direct flights for $869

Kenya Airways (KQ) has started selling tickets for non-stop flights between Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta and New York’s John F. Kennedy airport that will start on October 28, ahead of the 2018 US winter season.

Posted by Kenya Airways on 10 Januari 2018

The ultra-long flights from JKIA to JFK (15-hour KQ002 23:25 – 06:25 next day) and return leg (14-hour KQ003 12:25 – 10:55 next day) will be operated using two Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners, and an extended crew of 4 pilots and 13 flight attendants on each leg.

KQ welcomes its first Dreamliner in April 2014

KQ Chairman, Michael Joseph said this was a significant event after long planning and extensive interaction with US authorities (11 different agencies in the US are involved) while CEO Sebastian Mikosz said that they were targeting two main groups of flyers – corporate (48 US companies and international organizations that have their regional hubs in Nairobi) and premium leisure tourists (the USA is a top tourist source for Kenya that had 95,000 visitors between January and October in 2017, which was a 20% increase over the last two years).

Kenya Airways is  investing heavy with daily flights to New York (85,000 seats each way per year) that they estimate will have significant uptake, similar to the airline’s current routes to Europe (~85% loads) due to the attractiveness of non-stop flights between Nairobi and New York and they expect that the USA flights will constitute up to 10% of the airline’s revenue after 2019. The KQ Boeing Dreamliners seat 234 passengers – 30 in business class (tickets start at $2,499) and 204 in economy class (tickets start at $869).

In future, the airline will take back two other B-787 from Oman Air when the leases expire in 2019 and they also plan to sign a joint venture code-share with Delta Airlines in 2019 to expand the sale of tickets in the USA beyond New York.

Another Ethiopian Airlines Dreamliner First

Last week, Ethiopian Airlines welcomed a new Dreamliner model, the Boeing 787-900 at their base in Addis Ababa. Group CEO Ethiopian Airlines, Mr. Tewolde GebreMariam, said “Our investment in latest technology aircraft such as the 787 and (Airbus) A350, which makes us among the very few airlines in the world to simultaneously operate these two most cutting edge airplanes, is part and parcel of our Vision 2025”

The strategic plan consolidates seven business units including maintenance & repairs, cargo, training, hotels and ground services at the airline which has registered 25% annual growth over the last seven years.

Ethiopian currently has 92 aircraft with 60 on order, and operate from three hubs in Africa (Addis, Lome, Lilongwe) flying to 100 destinations on 5 continents. The fleet includes 20 Boeing 787-800 which have 271 seats, and the new  Boeing 787-9, which is 20 feet longer than the 787-8, will carry 315 passengers and has more cargo space.

Ethiopian was the first airline outside Japan to operate the Boeing 787 in 2012 and also the first African airline to operate the Airbus A350 in 2016. There has been discussion about the diverse fleet at the airline with some expectation that ultimately their long-haul fleet of the future will comprise Boeing 787’s and Airbus A350’s.

Kenya Direct Flights to USA? KQ Outlook

Updated January 10, 2018

On Thursday, Kenya government officials, led by the Cabinet Secretary for Transport announced that Kenya has been granted Category 1 Status by Federal Aviation Administration(FAA) of the USA. This followed extensive renovation work at the JKIA airport in Nairobi and other aviation improvements. The elevation by one US aviation authority is a welcome step, but it is part of a process towards getting to direct flights, and there will still be more security checks, permissions, and deals to be done with airlines and airports before this comes to fruition.

The last direct flight attempt in June 2009 was halted by the US Department of Homeland Security. The Kenyan Transport minister had even traveled to the US to be on an inaugural flight only for it to be canceled at the last-minute. Delta had planned four flights a week to Nairobi, with a stop in Dakar, Senegal.

The announcement could be a boost for Kenya Airways (KQ), but the initial focus which they have maintained over the years when asked about the US,  is to pursue a code-share partnership, perhaps with Delta Airlines. Under the ongoing KQ restructuring project Operation Pride at the airline, code-shares which involve selling their tickets on partner airlines gets them revenue without having to deploy aircraft.

But once partner flights start, national prestige will force KQ to step in and do the flights themselves. They have the equipment, Boeing 787’s ‘Dreamliners’ that are perfect for direct US flights. The first Dreamliner for Kenya Airways, April 2014, flew from the Boeing factory on the West coast of the US on a non-stop a 16-hour flight to Nairobi, and expectations are to have much shorter flights from the eastern coast of the US, likely to be Washington DC or New York. After all, rival Ethiopian Airlines flies to five North American destinations, and there are ample numbers of Kenyans and US tourists and cargo in both directions to justify KQ flights. Perhaps once KQ gets back the Boeing 777-300’s leased out to Turkish Air.

The last direct flights to the US were on defunct Pan Am, which TV anchor Jeff Koinange who briefly worked as a flight steward on Pan Am and he describes the flights in his autobiography “Through My African Eyes”. That flight appears to have been New York-Dakar-Monrovia-Lagos-Nairobi with a Boeing 747.

Pan Am flights to Africa were rather interesting, as this excerpt from “Life Is an Excellent Adventure: An Irreverent Personal Odyssey”, by  Jerry Funk, shows.

EDIT: In its application documents, Kenya Airways estimated that approximately 60,000 passengers will be transported within the first year of non-stop service.

Sept 8 EDIT: On September 5, 2017, The US of Department of Transportation awarded Kenya Airways PLC with a foreign air carrier permit to engage in: Scheduled and charter foreign air transportation of persons, property, and mail from any point or points behind Kenya, via any point or points in Kenya and any intermediate points, to any points or points in the United States and beyond. and The holder shall also be authorized to engage in other charter trips in foreign air transportation, subject to the terms, conditions, and limitations of the Department’s regulations governing charters. 

EDIT: Jan 10, 2018: A Daily Nation newspaper story reported that Kenya Airways will start daily direct flights to New York in October. Ticket sales will start on January 11. Flights will be on KQ’ Boeing 787 Dreamliner, leaving Nairobi at 10:30 p.m. to land at JFK at 6:30 a.m. and depart New York at 1:30 p.m. to arrive in Nairobi at 10:30 a.m. the following day.