Saturday, August 30, 2014

Become One with the Animals of the Galapagos

Creatures of nature, in all their glory. All photos by Jessica Smith

Playing with sea lions, roaming with turtles, squawking
with boobies. Tune into the vibe of the Galapagos and become one with
the animals. A reader story.

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS – In crystal blue waters, I frolick with sea lions.
It's a dance with twisting and turning currents, and the sea lions
out-wit me every time. Their eyes open so wide the whites are almost
comical through the lens of my goggles. Holding my breath, I try my best
to dazzle with aquatic abilities but inevitably fall short.

Brightly colored fish stick close together until a mammalian friend
ventures too close, resulting in the instantaneous scattering of one
hundred little bodies.

This is the Galápagos. An archipelago so unique, so diverse in its
flora and fauna, it is the living cornerstone of Darwin's theory of
evolution. A place so uniquely diversified that no single island,
animal, or plant goes without its own special set of characteristics.

It's accessible to visitors in a number of ways, but cruising in
small ships maximizes one's exposure to each island. Forward-thinking
when it comes to environmental impact, outfits like Ecoventura remain far ahead of the pack. I'm on a yacht with only 20 passengers and excursions are intimate.

Every day, the islands hold a new set of experiences. There's
snorkeling with turtles off the beaches of Española, their massive
shells harboring centuries of stories. Wise eyes connect with mine below
the waves as bodies float on top of the water.

Sharks take shelter on the sea floor as water fills their gills.
Silently disappearing, their absence fills me with an instant shot of
adrenalin. Like ghosts, large rays glide along the bottom, shadows out
of the darkness.

A birding paradise, species are abundant, each more mysterious and
mesmerizing than the next. Unafraid, I can get close and enjoy the
delicate lines, like fingerprints, on feathered plumage. Stoic mocking
birds, boobies, and albatross with beautiful faces are highlighted by
deep black eyes. Frigate birds, black as night, wear red breast "hearts"
on their sleeves. Brightly colored finches bop along the trail like
little soldiers.

In the rainforest of Santa Cruz, I spy giant tortoises. They have
fascinating faces, wise and eerily attentive, with rough cracks and
calluses on their feet like roadmaps depicting their slow journey
through life. Almost pushed to extinction by the islands' early
explorers, the Darwin Research Center has been crucial to the breeding
and repopulation of these gentle creatures.

Very few of the islands are inhabited by humans. Floreana Island
remains the most mysterious. Riddled with unexplained deaths,
disappearances, and even murder, its turbulent past originated from its
reputation as a new Eden. As the word spread, other outsiders sought
residence — including the Baroness Eloise Wehrborn de Wagner-Bosquet,
who anointed herself Queen of Floreana. Disappearing with her lover in
1934, their mystery surrounded the shores of the island for decades.
Stone ruins dotting the beach serve as a reminder of the past.

Few places hold onto magic as strongly as the Galápagos does. The
islands leave a mark on the heart; past, present, and future are
ingrained all at once in my mind.

 | FATHOM Travel Blog and Travel Guides

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Big Picture: Boeing 787-9 performs extreme maneuvers at Farnborough

Boeing's original Dreamliner
may be old news by now, but a longer variant -- the 787-9 -- is about
to enter passenger service with Air New Zealand. That extended aircraft
is also on display for would-be airline customers this week at the
Farnborough Airshow,
just south of London. With a very light load on board, Boeing's able to
show off its latest plane with some extreme maneuvers, including steep
takeoffs and high-bank turns just feet off the ground. The moves may
make you uneasy, but they're designed to demonstrate the aircraft's
flexibility -- you won't experience any of these intense angles on a

flight, but you can get a feel for what the new 787 can do in the video after the break.

[Photo credit: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images]
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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Cheap Airplane Seats Shouldn't Recline at All

Cheap Airplane Seats Shouldn't Recline at All
Yesterday, we shared the amusing case of the cross-country trip that was diverted when two
passengers got in a battle over a reclining seat. But the real villain here isn't our travel-addled selves. It's that we still let airplane seats recline at all.

Yes, the story of two middle-aged adults grounding a plane because they couldn't agree to settle their dispute like reasonable humans is funny—ha ha! It sounds like the setup to a romantic comedy I would probably happily watch on an airplane. But here's something that's not funny at all: There's just not enough room for seats to recline any more.

The bottom line is that the days of affordable comfort in the skies—especially on domestic flights—are over. As airlines struggle to turn profits in the face of rising fuel costs, economy seats in planes keep getting smaller and smaller, with less and less legroom. Though many airlines persist in giving us the illusion that we're flying in comfort with amenities like seats that barely recline and flimsy "pillows" filled with straw, most of us can't really pay the premium that comfort actually costs.

Todays airplane rows are so tightly packed together that the act of reclining not only makes it impossible for the person behind you to enjoy basic liberties like using their laptop, reading a book, and eating food, it's also painful for anyone within barking distance of six feet tall. If you're reclining into someone just a tiny bit above average human height, chances are you're going to cause them extreme discomfort so that you might get a few inches of comfort.

You might argue that a few inches of comfort is what you deserve as a paying customer of an airline. You might be old enough to fondly remember a time when you could casually lounge into coach class, push your seat back with abandon, and fall into a deep slumber until 10 minutes before landing. That the world had this once might lead you to believe that you deserve this forever.

Not so! You deserve what you can pay for, and at the dirt cheap economy prices we've demanded, all we can afford is to be shoe-horned into a junky seat and shuttled from point A to point B while being served by a cranky lifer. Many budget airlines like Spirit have already seen the light, physically removing the reclining mechanisms from seats. And there's evidence to suggest that many airline passengers agree they'd be better off without reclining seats. The obvious exception to all of this is business and first, which still offers enough leg room that reclining is fine and good.

The rest of us, though, need to give it up already. We can avoid future battles in the skies and everyone will be a little happier, and ultimately a little more comfortable.

But give us the full can of soda, please. That's non-negotiable.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Updating the A380: the prospect of a neo version and what’s involved

Recent headlines and this column report that Airbus is considering
re-engining the popular A330 with GE Aviation GEnx or Rolls-Royce Trent
1000-TEN power plants. A New Engine Option and other changes would
improve the A330’s economy by an estimated 10% percent after offsets for
increased drag and weight.

But the A330 isn’t the only Airbus airplane being considered for new
engines made popular by the A320neo family. Tim Clark, president and
chief operating officer of Emirates Airlines, urged Airbus to improve
efficiency of the giant A380 with engine technology found in newer
generation aircraft.

How feasible is an A380neo? What are the technological issues? Would
there be enough of an economic gain? And is there a market for an

The A380 of today

The A380 has been hailed as a highly efficient airliner since it went
into service 2008, assuming the giant plane can be filled. But only six
years later, the first voices have been raised that this will not
continue to be the case should the continuous improvements that have
been flowing into the airframe not pick up speed.

The launch of the Boeing 777X also brought focus on the state of the
A380 come the latter part of this decade when the 777-9X enters flight
testing in advance of its planned 2020 entry-into-service. Tim Clark
expressed  that “it is time that the A380 gets an injection of the new
technology which is now becoming available for the A320/737 in the form
of GTF/LEAP and GE9X for the 777X. “

Before we look into what can be done short-to–mid-term to inject
improved efficiency, let’s establish the baseline as it exists today.
The A380 is considered by some the most efficient way of flying
passengers between two long haul points if there is enough of demand.
The competition today is the Boeing 777-300ER and 747-8i.  (Qantas
Airways is dropping some A380 flights that have 50% load factors,
demonstrating the aircraft is inefficient if the demand is

Let’s assume we want to transport passengers between San Francisco
and Hong Kong, one of the longer flights which are made non-stop in both
directions. Going West, it takes a Cathay 777-300ER 15 hours and going
East, 12 hours, the difference being due to prevailing headwinds going
West. For our check, we will use the more demanding of these legs, which
then works out as the equivalent of flying 7,200nm. To compare the
three different aircraft in a fair way, we need to load them to the same
payload, in our case passengers with luggage. We will not consider
cargo in this initial analysis. The leg chosen is not one which allows
much weight for cargo, but cargo certainly belongs to a complete
analysis of an airplane and we will point out where it will affect any

When comparing the standard three-class seating numbers between the
OEMs, it is clear these are not made to the same standards of comfort.
Airbus has admitted that the A380 is too lightly loaded at 525
passengers. The 777-300ER at nine abreast and 365 seats is equipped with
a comfortable 18’’ economy class at 32’’ pitch but the business class
is modeled with a non-standard 48’’ pitch. The 747-8i at 467 seats is
not laid out to any comfort standards comparable to the other two. To
ensure an apples-to-apples comparison we have equipped all aircraft with
the same three-class cabin with a standard seating consisting of first
class at 81’’ pitch, business class at 60’’ pitch and economy class with
32’’ pitch. Seat widths are 37’’, 22’’ and 18’ respectively and the
ratios of the different premium seatings vs. economy are kept the same.
Here the aircraft are listed with the in-service year and with their
respective payload capabilities:

Click on all illustrations to enlarge.

A380 v 777 v 747-8 specs
Table 1

Today’s costs

Fuel constitutes about 50% of long-haul costs; therefore we will
focus on this main cost parameter for this comparison between the
aircraft. In the table below we have now added the trip fuel burn over
our chosen 15 hour flight. Since we compare aircraft of vastly different
sizes, our normal cost per aircraft mile comparison makes little sense.
We have kept the fuel cost per available seat mile and complemented
with the format that Lufthansa uses: litre consumed per passenger and
100km flown. (These figures represent nominal aircraft with our
standardized cabin. The figures therefore cannot be compared with the
Lufthansa published litre fuel/100km, which is for aircraft with their
specific seating):

A380 v 777 v 747-8 economics
Table 2

As can be seen, all aircraft are in the same fuel cost range with the
A380 having 5% worse fuel costs per seat than the 777-300ER but 3%
better than the 747-8i. The differences in direct operating costs are
augmented by the 300ER’s lower engine maintenance costs and the revenue
side has a superior cargo capability.  Why, then, does Emirates tout the
A380 as its premier aircraft? Because for an airline, an aircraft is
judged in part by the difference between Revenue per Available Seat Mile
(RASM) and Cost per Available Seat Mile (CASM). Emirates has passenger
load factors which are considerably higher for the A380 than other
aircraft. This more than compensates for any difference in fuel burn,
cargo capacity (cargo pays less well than passengers) and engine
maintenance cost. This is valid as long as the fuel consumed per seat
mile does not differ more than today.

If we look forward to the turn of the decade and introduce the 777-9X
into the table, it is clear why Tim Clark is now saying the A380 will
have to be updated come 2020. The new 777-9X will consume 20% less fuel
per seat then the -300ER, according to Boeing, and then the cost
equation will change.

A380 v 777 v 747-8 v 777x economics
Table 3

The 777-9X has a 13% better fuel consumption per seat then today’s
A380. Add to that its 27 empty LD3 positions once the baggage LD3s have
been loaded and the business case for a A380 is getting challenged.  It
shall be noted that we now have the economy section for the 777X at 10
abreast, which is below our 18’’ seat-width rule. Should we have kept
this rule, the per seat fuel difference would have been -8%. Given the
small comfort improvements that -9X brings for 10 abreast economy—an
increase of about one-half inch per seat, Boeing calculates—and the
likelihood that most airlines will fly it at 10 abreast, we therefore
show the upcoming threat to the A380 as a 10 abreast variant (already
nearly three quarters of the airlines today go 10 abreast for the

Updating the A380

As can be seen, the enhanced A380 should be available in a new
version before or around 2020. There are principally three ways Airbus
can prepare the A380 for the next decade:

  1. Rely on incremental improvements to engines and aerodynamics and make the cabin denser;
  2. Update to engines available before 2020, improve aerodynamics and make the cabin denser; or
  3. Update to engines available after 2020, improve aerodynamics and have more freedom with cabin density.
Of these improvements, we will discuss the aerodynamic improvements
and denser cabins first since these are common factors for all three

The A380 is a construction of a somewhat different shape compared to a
classical “wings with tube” airliner. This is a result of wanting to
transport up to 800 people in a vehicle which is constrained to a
maximum dimension of 80 meters by 80 meters for airport operations, the
famous 80 meter box. This forced Airbus to build the A380 with a two
stories fuselage and with a wing with an unusually low aspect ratio. At
7.8, it is well below the present state of the art, which is more like
9.0 (777-300ER) or 9.5 (787, A350). The drag due to weight (induced
drag) is therefore higher than normal. This is compensated by good
values for the normally dominant drag component, the drag due to size
(wetted area and form drag). In fact, the figures for drag show the
reverse trend compared to normal airliners with drag due to weight
dominating with 50% at average cruise weight and the drag due to size
down at 40%. Thus the A380 compensates a restricted wing with good
packaging of the passenger compartment. Its short two-story passenger
compartment and elaborate main landing gear restricts its cargo
capability however, something is shares with the 747-8i.

Aerodynamic improvement to reduce induced drag is therefore a primary
goal for any A380 update. It will take the form of wingtip treatments
to increase the effective span. As the wing is already at maximum
possible span and was not designed for folding wing-tips, the remaining
option is large winglets that spread in the vertical domain. These can
take the form of single blade (Sharklets) or multi-blade (Scimitar or
perhaps “Sharkfins” in Airbus parlance) devices that alleviate induced
drag as a function of their physical size. We have assumed winglets of
4m size in our analysis, which enhance the efficiency by 3.5% over the
present wing fences on long-haul flights.

To get more revenue generating passengers on board, Airbus is
studying 11 abreast seating on certain parts of the A380 main deck. This
will increase the coach capacity by about 30-40 seats without
compromising the 18’’ seat width standard, according to the company. We
will include such a denser cabin when we compare future A380 variants to
today’s aircraft.

New engines

We will now examine the perhaps most important component of an
efficiency improvement program for the A380, the engines (see table
below for a list of all candidates):

A380neo Engine Specs
Table 4

First the incremental improvement of the existing Trent T900 and
EA7200. The T900 has historically trailed the EA7200 by about 1% in
specific fuel consumption. The present T900EP is said to close that gap
and Rolls Royce have another improvement package in the works which will
add another 0.8%, T900EP2. The size of these improvements are typical,
about 1% every three years; thus we would expect to see a total of 2%
improvement from now to 2020.

A second alternative is to take an existing engine from a later
generation. Suitable engines in thrust and weight would be 787 engines,
the GE GEnx-1 and Rolls Royce T1000. These deliver an improvement of
4%-5% over the present A380 engines in the variants that are being
developed for the 787-10. With these engines being certified in 2015,
theoretically an A380neo can see an EIS in 2016, sooner than a new
engine could be engineered onto the A380. A more likely A380neo target
EIS would be 2018, the wish date of Emirates for an upgrade (the airline
starts to take delivery of the new batch of 50 then). The 787 engines
are some 250kg lighter then the lightest A380 engine (T1000) and as they
have less fan diameter their nacelles will be slightly smaller and

A third alternative would be a totally new development based on e.g.
RR RB3039 or a PW GTF. Such engines offer an additional 6%-7% efficiency
improvement over a 787 engine derivative. Their drawback would be
higher weight and drag due to their larger fans and their 60:1 pressure
ratios. Another drawback is that they will not be available until after
2021. Additionally there is the question whether there is a business
case for an entirely new engine serving only the A380, a niche aircraft
for which the 20 year market demand before or after a neo is a matter of
diverse opinions.

The different engine alternatives are shown in the table where we
have also included the A330 engines as the thrust requirement for an
A330neo is similar to the A380 and there is a certain probability that
development of an engine variant and nacelle would be shared between the
two programs (Table 4).

There is a lack of an entry from PW in the table, mainly because it
has not publicly presented the outline of an alternative. For a 2021
time frame, PW could well be in the running. The question would then be
with what programs could they share the development costs as a re-engine
of the A380 would potentially only represent a small number of engines
for PW. It can also be seen in the table that GEnx-1 somewhat trails the
T1000-TEN in efficiency, mainly because Rolls Royce have decided to do
three updates of the T1000 and GE have only announced to be doing two.
It would be no big problem for GE to inject some LEAP technology into
the GEnx-1 for an A380/330 neo project and close that gap.

Much has been written about the work involved in converting 787
engines to bleed variants. In fact these are bleed engines. These
engines put out compressor bleed air to deice the nacelle inlet and they
use compressor bleed ports to correct compressor handling problems at
low RPM. In essence bleed variants are rescheduled variants of the
existing engines, not a big redesign as many speculate.

Which way to go

If we put the three alternatives on the A380 and list them side by
side with the present and future Boeing competitor we will get the
following table:

A380neo v A380ceo v Boeing
Table 5

There are a number of conclusions that can be drawn:


Airbus can almost achieve Emirates wish for a 10% improvement in
efficiency per seat until 2018 with a combination of 11 abreast economy
cabin on the main floor, improved aerodynamics and incrementally
improved engines. This variant would beat the 777-300ER in per seat
efficiency as long as a 300ER runs at nine abreast. If we change this to
10 abreast, the 300ER passes the A380-PIP with 3%. It shall once again
be pointed out that we only look at passenger capability here.
Under-floor cargo is the 777’s strong point and it will improve the 777s
earnings in a real situation. The A380-PIP would not match a 777-9X in
per seat efficiency but it would be within 4%, both using denser cabins
than today. Once again higher cargo capability will improve a 777X
business case, especially if seasonal fluctuations reduce the A380 load
factors over, for example, winter months.


With an additional upgrade to 787 engines we gain another 5% in trip
fuel burn and therefore also seat fuel burn as all improved variants
share the denser cabin. This variant is fractionally more efficient than
a 777-9X and would be attractive for routes where one can fill an A380
also after 2020. There is no projected aircraft that can reach the per
seat economics of a well loaded A380neo16, and this is what Emirates
route planners have found.


If the engine upgrade of the A380 would wait for Rolls Royce or PW
engines of the 777X generation (GE might be restricted by its 777X
engagement, see A350 engine sharing problematic below), it would gain
another 5% in fuel economy over the A380neo16 variant. While this is
attractive it has more complicated project and business model
implications. The A380 is not a high volume program and it is not
projected to be for the 20 years remaining after a neo. It would thus at
best create a market for an engine program of some 2,000 engines, or
roughly 400-500 airplanes, plus spares. Should this be divided between
two manufacturers like today, we talk about 1,000+ engines per engine
program. Given the uncertainty of A380 sales numbers this is not a
viable business case for a new engine development; costs would have to
be shared with some other platform.


Sharing with an A330neo is ideal as the A330 and A380 have the same
thrust requirements. It is doubtful an A330neo can wait until 2021,
however, due to market pressure—EIS is being discussed for 2018. This
leaves the A350 as a partner program for an A380neo21. Here, the thrust
and therefore engine size requirements do not fit well. A new engine for
A350 should ideally cover 80-105klbf as an A350-1100 is a likely
development. Detuning an engine designed for 100klbf by 25% results in a
substantial loss of efficiency, both in terms of specific fuel
consumption and size/weight. The A350 is also constrained as to which
models GE and PW can be allowed to bid for; only Rolls Royce would have
access to all variants due to their A350-1000 exclusivity. In summary an
A380neo21 is less straight forward then an A380neo16 with higher
investments and risks for the engine manufacturers.

Finally, we note that none of these analyses consider the prospect of
a stretched A380, the -900. Airbus does not seem in a hurry to define
such a development. We therefore focused on updates to the existing -800

The best Return on Investment for the engine makers is a common
engine on the A330neo and the A380neo, and the timeline desired by
Airbus for the A330neo all but dictates a choice of the GEnx or Trent
1000 TEN, with the resulting application to the A380neo.

Our data, and analyses by customers who have evaluated the 777-9 vs
the A380 (and 747-8i), indicate a 10-abreast 777-9X has better seat mile
costs then the much larger, current A380 and the 747-8i. Thus, if
Airbus is going to maintain an economic advantage with its four engined
airplane vs the twin-engine 777-9, an A380neo is a must.

By Leeham Co EU

 | Leeham News and Comment

The Super Twin Battle: A350-1000 versus 777-9X

With the forthcoming launch of the 777-9 at the Dubai Air Show next
month, the battle between the A350-1000 and 777-9 will be officially on,
with two very different aircraft competing for the same market.  While
there is discussion of another stretch to the A350 program to provide
comparable capacity to the larger 777-9, we can compare today’s aircraft
and examine their relative economics based on manufacturer projections
and Piano models based on preliminary specifications.

The A350-1000

The A350-1000 is the largest of 3 models in the A350 family, with 350
seats in a typical three class configuration, with an 8,400 nautical
mile range.  The A350 features carbon fiber composite structure and
wings, and at 53% composites will have slightly more of the aircraft
made of this material than the Boeing 787-9, which is 50% composites. 
It features new technology Trent XWB engines from Rolls Royce with
state-of-the art fuel efficiency, advanced aerodynamics, and state of
the art systems.

The 777-9X

The 777-9 is a stretched version of the current 777-300ER with a new
engine and new wing, along with other enhancements, to create an updated
version of the 777, which delivered its 1,000th example earlier this
year.  The 777-9X will feature an aluminum alloy fuselage with a carbon
fiber composite wing, and new technology GE9X engines that are derived
from the GE90 and GEnx families.  The wingspan for the 777-9 will be
longer than any Boeing aircraft, and will include folding wingtips to
enable the aircraft to utilize current gate positions at airports, as
otherwise the new model would require gates typically used for A380
operations (which are currently quite limited at congested airports.)

Comparing the Aircraft

The following table compares the two aircraft on several key statistics, based on preliminary data prior to the 777-9X launch:

The A350 cabin width is larger than the 787 and smaller than the
777X.  The result is that a typical configuration in economy would be 9
abreast at 17 inch seat width for the 787, 9 abreast at 18 inch seat
width for the A350, and 10 abreast using 17 inch seat width for the
777.  While the 777 is currently offered in 9 and 10 abreast seating,
recent orders have trended to 10 abreast seating as airline seek to
maximize seat-mile costs.


Both manufacturers are claiming class leading economics for their
airplanes, but in reality, they are very, very close.  The 777-9 holds a
16% advantage in capacity, which directly impacts seat-mile costs, but
the A350-1000 will have lower trip costs than its larger competitor. 
Our estimates for a 6,000NM trip, based on preliminary specifications
from airframe manufacturers, our own economic modeling, and data gleaned
from airlines, are as follows:

very comparable seat-mile costs, the A350-1000 and 777-9X will be
competitive, and it will come down to how many seats an airline believes
it can fill.  For those that can fill 400 seats, the 777-9 looks like a
good alternative, for those that prefer a lower risk, the 350 seat
A350-1000 is the right airplane.
The key question, as the OEMs continue to one up each other, is
whether an A350-1100 stretch will be built. The A350-1100 would be an
all new technology aircraft competing with a highly modified but
derivative model, and should have both lower aircraft mile costs and
lower seat mile costs than the 777-9.  A stretched A350 would also help
to bridge the large gap in size between A350-1000 and A380-800.

We believe the A350-1100 will become a competitive necessity for
Airbus.  With the A350-1000 due for EIS in 2017, and the 777-9X due in
late 2019 or 2020, there is still time for Airbus to bring out an
additional model in time to check the size advantage for Boeing.  As
airlines are looking to larger twins to replace 747-400 with aircraft of
similar capacity, the time is right for these “super-twins” in the


Monday, August 25, 2014

FAA Approved Aircraft Interior Design, Aircraft Interior Conversion and Aircraft Seating Solutions - Aerospace Technology

Aero Design Service

Aero Design Services is a specialist when it comes to aircraft
interiors and cabin seating. Providing innovative design services for a
range of commercial and executive aircraft, including Boeing, Airbus and
Douglas, interior aircraft conversions and configurations cover cabins
and galleys plus a range of seating solutions.

Aircraft interior design and modifications

in 1989, Aero Design Services offer professional engineering assistance
and FAA approval for aircraft interior modifications. Aero Design
Services specializes in design and FAA DER approval of interiors for
projects ranging from executive aircraft components to entire interior
installations on commercial transport aircraft.

Aircraft interior design and conversion services

part of our complete interior design service we perform preliminary or
detail design of interior equipment and installation including interior
layouts, stress analysis or static test substantiations.

FAA-approved aircraft interior design services

engineers perform design specifications that assure the desired product
is provided by outside contractors and coordination with equipment
manufacturers through experience within a wide network of quality
industry contacts.

We provide assistance to your stylists,
designers or shop personnel to prepare and provide FAA approval of the
certification package and STC approval if required.

Modification data or advice for compliance with numerous FAA legislative actions is designed to enhance cabin safety

Aircraft galley reconfigurations

We have worked with many different aircraft models, a few examples of work that we have undertaken follow:

  • Numerous
    727-200, 737-200, -300, -400, -500, -700, -600, -800, 747-300, 400
    galley and lavatory removals to accommodate either seats or different
    galley types requiring floor and overhead structure rework as well as
    cabin layout
  • Numerous MD80 rework to install new galley arrangement in the aft end and fwd galley changes with cabin layout
  • Galley
    modifications to accept ATLAS meal carts, ovens and stowage boxes. The
    galley rework required stress analysis, interface loads calculations,
    and systems and electrical changes.

Aircraft cabin reconfigurations

We have carried out the following aircraft cabin reconfigurations:

  • Boeing
    747-200, -300, -400 major cabin reconfigurations that required
    installation and/or removal of galleys, closets and lavatories
    (including support structure, systems and electrical changes).
    Provisions for additional seating that included seat tracks, floor panel
    modifications, overhead bins, sidewalls, oxygen system changes, etc.
  • DC10
    major cabin reconfiguration including lavatory installation and removal
    in different locations and galley structural modifications with new
    cabin layout
  • New "soft" class divider design for 737-800 new production aircraft
  • Numerous
    other aircraft interior configurations include A300, A310, A319, A318,
    A320, 727, 737, 747, 757, 767, 777, DC9, MD80, F28

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Rise of InstaMeets in Travel Marketing

Hamilton Island

There are social media sleepovers, Twitter trips for tweeters,
and conferences for travel bloggers, so perhaps it’s only natural that
crafty marketing pros would come up with a way to lure the Instagram
elite to their properties, too.
Introducing the InstaMeet, where travel marketers invite some of the
world’s most followed Instagrammers on junkets to snap, filter, and post
their way across a destination under a unified hashtag.

Hamilton Island, a dollop of sand and bush in Australia’s Great
Barrier Reef, was one of the first to use this method of evoking
community on a grand scale when it launched the Ultimate InstaMeet
in October 2012. The event paired Australian models and reality
television stars with Instagram contest winners from the U.S., and
generated nearly 650 photos, 850,000 “likes,” 17,500 comments and 4,280
shares on Instagram.

The trendy Queensland (a regular feature in our top travel brands on social media roundups) retreat followed up in May 2013 with Return2Paradise,
a second InstaMeet that brought Aussie Olympians, fashion designers,
comedians, actresses, chefs and photographers together with Instagram
competition winners from the United Kingdom and China.

Return2Paradise generated more than 700 photos, 73 of which were
featured on Instagram’s “popular” photos page, visible to each of the
social sharing site’s 150 million active users. Hamilton Island says it
experienced A$2 million in room revenue growth during the campaign
period, in addition to a 9 percent increase in room bookings when
compared with the same time period in 2012. Its Instagram account,
meanwhile, grew from 269 followers before the first campaign to more
than 18,000 after the second.

Other Australian destinations, including the Great Ocean Road,
followed suit with their own InstaMeets as the concept spread
internationally from Java, Indonesia, to Sacramento, California.
Instagram now even has its own guidelines for organizing InstaMeets, and encourages small-scale gatherings around the globe through its Worldwide InstaMeets (the most recent occurred on May 17-18).
Though it’s destinations that have had some of the largest InstaMeets
to date, they aren’t the only ones using shared images to market their
brands. Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts re-appropriated the term for its
Summer of Ice Cream Love campaign last July with live InstaMeets at 19 properties, while low-cost airline Bmibaby facilitated a series of InstaMeet exchanges across Europe to create destination guides for its website.

The world’s most lavish InstaMeet occurred two months ago in Dubai.
High-profile luxury hotel Burj Al Arab and Beautiful Destinations, an
Instagram account with more than two million followers, jointly sponsored the event,
housing ten widely followed Instagram users in 1,830-square-foot
(170-square-meter) Burj Al Arab suites replete with private butlers.
Organizers sent the Insta-celebrities on helicopter tours over the city,
took them to the beach, got them treatments at the spa, and charged
them with documenting the experience using #WorldsUltimateInstameet.

What’s the Real Reach?

Maggie Rauch of travel market research company PhoCusWright believes
InstaMeets like the ones in Hamilton Island and Dubai are essentially
just updated versions of an older marketing model: the press trip.
“You’re taking that idea and you’re making the output from it much more
immediate and more experiential,” she notes. “You have a mix of travel
journalists and celebrities who have nothing to do with travel, so it
gives these brands the opportunity to work with a different mix of
advocates than your old school press trip.”
Rauch says that brands know they can’t just push their own content
out there; they need to get actual users talking with friends. Whether
this type of social sharing translates into actual bookings, however, is
a matter up for debate.
Social media is thought to be particularly important when it comes to
the shopping stage, where consumers trust user-generated content more
than brand-generated fluff. But Rauch says most travel brands are still
struggling to understand its exact influence. “I would agree that the
biggest networks are certainly influential,” she says, “but measuring
that has been extremely difficult.”
A PhoCusWright survey of traveler technology, released last year,
found that 87 percent of U.S. travelers are active on social media. Of
those, fewer than 20 percent were on Instagram, and just 31 percent said
they used social media as a tool to research travel deals.

 – Skift

Three-Class Planes Are an Unnecessary Luxury in Air Travel Today

American Airlines

Three-class cabins on international jets, once a hallmark of passenger pampering, are dwindling at the world’s largest carrier.

Waning customer interest in the costliest tickets prompted American Airlines
to drop first class as it adds seats to its 47 long-haul Boeing Co.
777-200s. The aircraft will get new lie- flat business seats — plusher
than coach, but lacking first- class flourishes such as pajamas,
slippers and an amuse bouche.

“We’re responding to what demand is,” Casey Norton, an American
spokesman, said yesterday. “We’ve looked at what the demand level is for
business and also what we need in the main cabin as well. That’s where
we think we’ve hit the sweet spot.”

The changes will leave American with international three- class
service — first, business and economy — only on the 777-300ER, the
carrier’s biggest aircraft. Fort Worth, Texas- based American has 14 of
those planes flying on some of its most-lucrative overseas routes, such
as Miami-Sao Paulo, while using the 777-200 for city pairs including

Upgrading business cabins is a bet on making money by selling more of
those premium seats than costlier first-class fares. A refundable,
round-trip first-class ticket for a Chicago-Beijing trip departing
tomorrow costs as much as $37,948, according to American’s website.
That’s almost double the price of a comparable business-class seat, and
four times as much as a non-refundable business ticket.

Refitting Begins

While plans for upgrades to American’s international fleet first were
announced in May 2012 — when the airline was in bankruptcy and before
the 2013 merger with US Airways Group — the first of the 777-200s is
only now being refitted.

Scaling back three-cabin service pushes American closer to other
global airlines that have abandoned or limited first-class seating. With
lie-flat beds now standard in business cabins, carriers such as
Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines Inc. have opted to make that level their most-exclusive offering.

United Airlines, the world’s second-biggest carrier, still has
three-class jets on some routes. American has three cabins on one
domestic plane type: The Airbus A321T configured for cross-country
flights between New York’s Kennedy airport and Los Angeles, and between
Kennedy and San Francisco.

American initially will boost seating on 22 of the 777-200s to 260
from 247, completing that work in 2015’s third quarter. In the middle of
next year, American will start taking all the planes to 289 seats. That
program will conclude in late 2016, Norton said.

The pitch, or distance between one point on a seat to the same point
on the next row, won’t change in the retrofits, Norton said.

Once all the work is done, the 777-200 will have 37 business-class
seats that take up more room than the current version. Each will have
aisle access and will convert to a 6- foot, 4 1/2-inch (1.9-meter)
life-flat bed. Main-cabin seats will increase to 252 from 194. The
larger 777-300ER has eight first-class seats, 52 in business and 250 in
the main cabin, according to the SeatGuru travel website.

“That’s why we have different fleet types,” said Jenna Arnold, an
American spokeswoman. “The -300s are in markets where customers want,
and will pay for, first-class cabins.”

With assistance from Benedikt Kammel in Berlin.
 – Skift

Iceland raises aviation volcano alert to Red

This May 2010 file image taken from video shows a column of ash rising from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokul volcano. AP
REYKJAVIK, Iceland—Iceland has raised its aviation alert for the
restless Bardarbunga volcano to red, indicating that some type of an
eruption is imminent or in progress.

Thousands of small earthquakes have rattled the volcano deep
beneath Iceland’s Vatnajokull glacier in the last week, with activity
picking up Saturday after a lull the day before.

The eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokul volcano in 2010
produced an ash cloud that caused international aviation chaos, with
more than 100,000 flights cancelled.

 Inquirer News

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Malaysia Airlines' downward spiral

Malaysia plans to nationalize its troubled flag carrier.

© Reuters

SINGAPORE/BANGKOK/JAKARTA -- Struggling to fill seats after
two shocking aviation disasters, Malaysia Airlines will go fully under
the wing of the state, which had few options for keeping the flag
carrier solvent.

     Khazanah Nasional, the Malaysian sovereign
wealth fund that owns nearly 70% of the carrier, said Aug. 8 that it
will seek to buy out minority shareholders and delist the company. The
fund also said it was finalizing a restructuring plan for the airline.

Khazanah will pay 0.27 ringgit (8 cents) a share for the portion it
does not already own, according to the statement. Most of the minority
shareholders are funds with close ties to the government and will likely
agree to the buyout, which is expected to cost around 1.38 billion
ringgit. The airline's stock closed Aug. 7 at 0.24 ringgit.

"This is the first step needed to return our national carrier to
profitability," Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Aug. 8.

Customer flight

Airlines suffered net losses in each of the last three fiscal years
through December 2013. But its anemic earnings date back to the 1997
Asian financial crisis, from which it never really recovered. The
carrier had hoped to end this year in the black. Then one of its planes
vanished in March en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Last month,
another was shot down in eastern Ukraine.

     The carrier's
passenger demand has gone from bad to worse. Load factor, a measure of
seats filled, was already down 7.5 percentage points in June compared
with a year earlier. And travelers are shunning Malaysia Airlines in
even greater numbers since the downing of MH17, according to a travel
agent in Singapore.

     Khazanah had said in June that it would have a restructuring plan ready in six to 12 months.

Khazanah's plan for turning the company around will likely entail new
management and fresh capital. But more important will be delving into
the main cause of the chronic losses: bloated labor costs.

Nikkei staff writers Wataru Yoshida, Mayuko Tani, Tomomi Kikuchi, Tamaki Kyozuka and Wataru Suzuki contributed to this story

- Nikkei Asian Review

Photos of Soi 38: An introduction to Bangkok Street Food - Bren on The Road

While Bangkok certainly has some of the most delectable street food
treats in the world, the scene itself can actually be quite
intimidating. Several popular spots are hidden far from the comforts of
the tourist centres, many stall owners don’t understand English, and
Bangkok itself can sometimes be quite a difficult city to navigate.

there is one popular spot in town that serves as the perfect
introduction to street food in Bangkok. Soi 38 in Sukhumvit is cheap,
authentic, clean, easy to find, and serves some of the highest quality
street food the city has to offer. If you’re a first timer in Bangkok,
this is the ideal place to dip your toes into the food culture before
you go wandering down alleys seeking out more adventurous eats.

How to get there

Soi 38 is in the Thong Lo area, so if you’re staying around Ekkamai,
Phrom Phong or Thong Lo you can probably just walk there.

you’re staying elsewhere in the Sukhumvit area, simply get on the BTS
Skytrain and head to Thong Lo station. The other subway networks
interlink with the Skytrain also, so if you have access to the BRT, MRT
or Airport link you should be able to get there easily enough.

In all other cases, simply get in a taxi and ask for Sukhumvit Soi 38. Every driver in town will know exactly where it is.

you get to Thong Lo station, head to Exit 4 (I think). You’ll know
which exit is correct anyway, because you’ll be able to see this from

What to expect

I was staying just around the
corner from here on my last visit to Bangkok, so after eating here
several nights in a row I think I managed to try something from every
single stall. I had no bad experiences, and considering there’s around
20 different stalls here that’s a good hit rate. There are tables and
seats outside each stall, so it’s also a great place to go with some
friends and enjoy a meal and a few beers.

I didn’t have my camera
handy every single visit unfortunately, but listed below are just a few
of the delights you can expect to find here.

No words, just photos.


showing my ignorance here, but I don’t know the Thai names of any of
these dishes. You’ll just have to tolerate the English names I’ve made
up for them..)

A few appetisers to start…

Green mango salad – 60THB ($1.85)

Spicy papaya salad – 60 baht ($1.85)

Spicy Thai papaya salad
Grilled pork salad – 60 baht ($1.85)

Grilled pork salad
Boiled seafood salad – 100 baht ($2.50)

seafood salad
Crab and papaya salad – 60 baht ($1.85)

Crab & Papaya salad
Cuttlefish salad – 80 baht ($2.50) 

(This one’s my favourite!)

cuttlefish salad
Fresh fruit shakes – 30 baht (90 cents)

Fresh fruit shake
Fresh coconut juice – 45 baht ($1.40)

Onto the main course(s)…

Roast duck on rice – 60 baht ($1.85)

Chicken rice – 50 baht ($1.50)

Fried chicken rice – 50 baht ($1.50)

Grilled skewers (chicken/pork/squid/sausages) – 15 baht each (45 cents)

bbq squid

grilled chicken

Chicken satay – 10 baht each (30 cents)

Stewed pork and egg on rice – 60 baht ($1.85)

Grilled river prawns (they’re enormous!) – 150 baht per half dozen ($4.80)

And then it’s noodle time

the moment I was old enough to eat I’ve been a total noodle freak, so
if you’re like me, you’re going to love Bangkok. Collected below are
some of my favourites from Soi 38. All of them are 50-60 baht (1.60 – $1.85) and the servings are quite small, so you can usually fit in around 3 or 4 at least. Ready set go…

Flat rice noodles with pork insides

Chicken drumstick and mushroom dry noodles

Green noodles with pork and wontons (this one is seriously awesome).

Pork fried rice noodles in gravy sauce

Roast duck and prawn wonton dry noodles

BBQ pork and prawn wonton dry noodles

Shrimp pad thai

BBQ pork and wonton noodle soup

Crab meat and prawn wonton dry noodles

Beef glass noodle soup

Shredded chicken rice noodle soup

Curry noodle soup with chicken

Beef and fish ball with thin rice noodle soup

Beef and fish balls with thin rice noodles


And then of course, the ever famous mango sticky rice for dessert. No matter how much you’ve eaten, you’ll always have room for one of these:

Mango sticky rice
I didn’t have time to photograph all the stalls and map out the
individual shops where you can find each dish (to be honest I was just
too lazy), but just by walking around looking at the menus on display
I’m sure you’ll be able to find whatever you’re looking for. There are
no “hidden” stalls or anything like that. Otherwise, just save this post
on your phone and show the photos to someone, I’m sure they’ll be happy
to point you in the right direction!

Have fun, and happy noodling.

- Bren on The Road

Mesmerizing Time-Lapse Video Is a Window Into North Korea

Mesmerizing Time-Lapse Video Is a Window Into North Korea

Friday, August 22, 2014

Scientists Identify the Gene Responsible for Jetlag

Harald Groven  / Flickr

No amount of pampering, pillow-fluffing, or photon-showering on airplanes has yet saved corporate jet-setters and global adventurists from the pain of jet lag. But new research published in eLife
has sniffed out a potentially potent solution: a drug that would tamper
with the master sleep cycle gene to help haggard fliers quickly adjust
to time differences.

Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have
identified a gene called Lhx1, which manages the area of our brain that
acts like a master clock; it regulates our cyclic circadian rhythms and
controls brain receptors that respond to light, keeping us feeling
generally on schedule each day. Normally, the brain cells controlled by
Lhx1 act in synchrony, which makes them somewhat resistant to changes in
light. That inflexibility is why a sudden change in the day-night
schedule can lead to jet lag.

Researchers found that light-dark cycle cells were less in sync for
animals with reduced levels of Lhx1, which led to testing Lhx1’s role in
jet lag for mice. (The mice didn’t travel anywhere; the researchers
just created an eight-hour shift in the animals’ day-night cycle.) They
observed that the mice with less Lhx1 adjusted sooner; their neurons
were less in sync, which allowed a faster shift to the new schedule.

Finding a drug that cuts back on Lhx1 or a hormone it regulates to
treat jet lag could be a big win for drug makers, which have been homing
in on treatments for all manner of sleep disorders. While some studies suggest that problems with circadian rhythms can lead to obesity, mental illness and other illnesses, some doctors aren’t comfortable with drugs to treat jet lag and “shift-work disorders.” Previous attempts at stay-awake pills weren’t proven more effective than, say, caffeine. And yet they were possibly more addictive and potentially fatal.

This story originally appeared on Quartz, a Skift content partner.

 – Skift

Thursday, August 21, 2014

TripAdvisor Finds Cramped Seats, Crying Kids Among Flyers' Big Complaints


Uncomfortable seats and limited legroom are the main complaints
among air travellers in Southeast Asia, according to a survey by TripAdvisor.

The world’s largest travel website announced the results of its
inaugural air travel survey of more than 1,200 Southeast Asian
respondents, a well-travelled lot, with 96% planning international
flights this year.

Some 61% of respondents were concerned about uncomfortable seats and
limited legroom, while 50% complained about unpredictable flight
delays/cancellations and costly airline fees and ticket prices, followed
by long security lines (45%) and loud or crying children on flights

For long-haul flights of over four hours, 80% of travellers were
willing to pay an additional fee for extra legroom. As for those
frustrated by loud and crying children, 48% would pay to sit in a
child-free section.

Andrew Wong, regional director of TripAdvisor Flights Asia-Pacific,
said the interest in international flights continued to rise despite
some persistent frustrations, but the company was also seeing positive
signs about booking and flight routes.

Travellers were asked about improvements over the past five years,
with easier booking the top choice. Although costly airline fees and
ticket prices were common complaints, flyers also noted that more
affordable flights have become available.

The survey found the top five biggest improvements were easier
booking (63%), more affordable flights (49%), more flight routes/options
(45%), more streamlined check-in processes (38%) and better in-flight
entertainment options (25%).

The top three uses of mobile devices by travellers are to research
flight prices (57%), check in for flights (56%) and check flight status

Passengers are less eager to go online, with 65% rarely or never purchasing their carrier’s in-flight WiFi service.

AirAsia and Singapore Airlines were travellers’ favourite airlines, while Singapore’s Changi airport was named the favourite airport for Southeast Asian travellers, with 64% saying it was the best in the region. ___

 – Skift

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

British Airways adding cat videos to its roster of in-flight entertainment

In the newspaper trade, August is traditionally known as silly season, for its lack of serious news. The latest company to indulge in some silly-season silliness is British Airways, which has learned that looking at pictures of kittens causes people's heart-rates to slow. That's why the company is adding a Paws and Relax channel to its catalog of in-flight entertainment from September. Rather than a continuously looping video of a room full of newborn kittens and puppies, however, the channel will just show the cartoon Simon's Cat, documentary The Secret Life of Cats and Animal Planet's America's Cutest Dog. We're fine with this news so long as BA doesn't use it as an excuse to withdraw the complimentary whiskey -- because no matter how cute the clip of the kitten playing with the string is, it's not enough to offset crippling in-flight sobriety.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

5 tried and tested travel accessories from my latest trip

For those who haven’t seen my ‘tried and tested’ posts on A
Luxury Travel Blog before, this is an ongoing series where I give a
brief overview of products I have trialled on my travels. On my trip to
the ILTM international luxury travel conference in Shanghai this year, I
road-tested a few new products, details of which can be found below.

Travel wallet from TUMI

TUMI is world
renowned for its quality luggage but also boasts other items in its
range such as toiletry bags, passport cases and travel wallets. This
large Ticon zip-around leather travel wallet (measuring 10.25 cm x 20.5
cm x 4.25 cm) is the perfect solution for carrying passports, money and
other essentials. For the security conscious, features include Tumi ID
Lock™ - a proprietary technology designed to protect personal data
encoded on most IDs, credit cards and passports. Any pocket lined with
the signature red TICON-patterned lining offers this advanced
technology. The ideal travel companion, the wallet comes with no less
than five interior compartments, an ID Lock zip pocket, open pockets and
16 card slots.

TUMI Ticon travel wallet
Bag and tripod from Manfrotto

Finding a bag that’s not too big but carries my essential photography
kit (camera body and lens, spare lens and battery, filters, data cards
and one or two other bits and pieces) is not so easy but I found the
medium-sized Advanced Tri Backpack from Manfrotto
to be just right for my needs. It comfortably fits with standard
carry-on luggage requirements (though cheque the specific details with
your particular airline), meaning that you don’t have to be put any of
your treasured equipment in the hold and risk it being mis-handled or –
worse still – lost.  A lot of thought has clearly been put into this bag
– you can easily swing it around from a backpack position to access the
items you need, without having to take it off your back.

Manfrotto tripod and bag
There are straps so that you can externally carry a compact tripod.
Again, finding a tripod that’s rigid enough (avoid the many cheaper
makes – they invariably don’t give the same rigidity which is essential
for long exposure photography) yet still portable can be a challenge,
but Manfrotto’s compact lightweight tripod for travel photography
(MKBFRA4-BH) is the ideal companion for this bag and is not too weighty
for someone who’s regularly on the move. It measures just 40 cm long
once in the closed position so won’t take up too much space either.

Bag from Toghal

This really sturdy cotton tote bag from Toghal
was great for carrying the various brochures and flyers I gathered from
the ILTM conference that I attended. Strong and thick, it can take a
substantial amount of weight without causing any apparent strain on the
seams. You could equally use it for shopping at a market perhaps or,
with its interpretation of Mbuti designs from the Congo, it wouldn’t
look out of place in Africa either. The design has been screen printed
so the bag can go in the washing machine at a low temperature.

Toghal bag
Luxury candles from The Sitota Collection

Like to have something to soothe and relax you when you get to your destination? Inspired by a love of travel The Sitota Collection
has an excellent range of luxury candles. Go for the the Petit
Excursion Candle Quartet – small and compact, these make the perfect
travel companion and yet still have a burn time of 18+ hours.  It also
gives you the opportunity to try them all out before buying one of the
larger ones with a burn time of 55+ hours. Our recommendation: the
Aigyptos scented candle with notes of amber, sandalwood, musk and
vanilla, smoothed out and balanced by jasmine, lavender and orange.
Infused with essential oils including copaiba, balsam, orange and

Sitota Collection
SHAG shoe bag

Got a stinky pair of trainers that you’d prefer to keep away from
your main clothes?  Or perhaps you’d just like to carry a pair of flat
shoes with you when you’re out in high heels if you know you’re going to
have a long walk home afterwards? The slightly unfortunately named SHAG
(that’s ‘shoe-bag’, in case you’re wondering) is the ideal solution,
keeping your clothes and belongings neatly separated from whatever your
shoes having been coming into contact all day. It comes with a
convenient carry handle and is made from a water-resistant polyester so
can be wiped clean easily if you’ve been traipsing through mud.

- A Luxury Travel Blog

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Boeing 747 On Deathwatch: How Boeing’s New 777X Will Kill Its Jumbo Jet Predecessor, Once The Queen Of The Skies

Ask any passenger at any airport in the world: “Can you recognize a
Boeing 747?” Chances are, even casual flyers will say, “Yes.” With its
unmistakable hump and graceful lines, the Jumbo Jet -- so famous it
earned its own nickname -- has been a familiar sight around the globe
since it first flew in 1969. was, for decades, the biggest airplane in the world. It was the
star of blockbuster movies, such as “Air Force One” and entries in the
“Airport” series. It was the Queen of the Skies, as enthusiasts called
it, the flagship of dozens of airlines, on every continent except

All that is about to change.

The Jumbo Jet is no match for a world of high oil prices and new,
fuel-efficient airplanes that transport almost as many people, but with a
much smaller fuel bill. Ironically, the nail in the coffin may come
from the Boeing Co. (NYSE:BA) itself, the outfit that 40 years ago bet
the farm, and won hugely, on the success of the 747 -- and now is about
to send it into commercial oblivion with its newest product, the 777X.


Chicago-based Boeing (NYSE:BA) has not officially launched the new,
stretched version of its 777, but it appears it will do so very soon:
Its board may already have given the go-ahead to the company’s sales
team to begin offering the new machine to airlines.

“We don’t comment on board meetings, but we are taking the next
steps” toward giving the 777X its debut, Boeing representative Doug
Alder said. “We made a lot of great progress in our development work,
and we began to discuss the additional technical, pricing and schedule
details with our customers, and are targeting entry into service at the
end of the decade.”

The 777-9X variant would fly 405 passengers as far as 8,100 nautical
miles or 15,000 kilometers, according to several reports, which, Boeing
representative Karen Crabtree said, “are in the ballpark” of what the
new plane would do. The 747’s latest version, the 747-8I
(Intercontinental), typically flies about 470 people over the same
maximum distance, but with a key difference: It has four engines, not
two. And that hurts seat-mile cost, the all-important metric that
measures how much fuel it takes to fly one passenger one mile.

So airlines are increasingly choosing the 777, both the current 300ER
model seating about 350 people, and the future, slightly larger 9X
version. With the Platts jet-fuel price having risen about 211 percent
since 2000, according to the International Air Transport Association, the trade organization representing the world’s airlines, the twin-engined 777 is cleaning up. Boeing reported it has logged more than 1,400 orders since its debut in 1995, almost as many as the 747 has in its whole career.

That leaves the 747-8 in the lurch. Boeing has sold only 101 of the
planes since it was announced in 2005. And most of these orders were for
freighters -- only about one-quarter of them were for the 8I passenger
version: The flagship unit of Germany’s Deutsche Lufthansa AG (FRA:LHA)
is the sole airline to fly it today.

Boeing has a mere 59 unfilled orders for the jet. At the recently
reduced production rate of 1.75 planes per month, the end of the line
for the Queen of the Skies will come in less than three years, assuming
no new orders come in.


Boeing isn’t really killing the 747, to be sure. In fact, it makes
quite clear that it’s here to stay and it’s still being improved. “We
are not shifting away any focus on the 747-8,” Boeing representative
Joanna Pickup said. The idea is to sell it as a bigger, different
machine from the 777X. “They serve different markets. Boeing’s product
strategy is to provide customers maximum flexibility for the capacity
they want.”

Boeing forecasts about 800 orders over the next 20 years for
so-called very large aircraft, which means the 747-8 and the only other
game in town, the even bigger but not much more successful A380 from the
Airbus unit of Europe’s EADS NV (EPA:EAD): Airbus
has booked 262 orders for the A380 since its inception. The Boeing
forecast of 800 orders for VLA seems like a lot, but it’s only 6 percent
of the total expected size of the commercial airplane market.

“Market forecasts say [Boeing] never valued too much the very large
aircraft sector,” said Gregory Alegi, who at Luiss University in Rome is
an adjunct professor of history of the Americas in the political
science department and teaches aviation management in the business
school. “Given the forecasts, they have decided long ago to just update
the old 747. It’s a niche market that they want to be in, but one they
don’t want to invest in.”

Alegi added, “It’s lucrative niche for sure, thanks to prices” that Boeing notes surpass $350 million per aircraft, but a niche nonetheless.

'Mad Men'-Era Glamour

For the Queen of the Skies, it’s been a great run. The 747 entered
commercial service with Pan American in 1970, and Boeing says that
Jumbos have flown 3.5 billion people since then, the equivalent of
one-half of the world’s population.

For decades, the 747 monopolized the world’s long-range, high-traffic
air routes, as well as the imaginations of enthusiasts everywhere.


“It has a magical aura,” said Guillaume de Syon, a history professor
at Albright College in Reading, Pa., who specializes in aviation. He got
the aviation bug, he recalled, when a Swissair pilot in his native
Switzerland gave him a tour of a Jumbo cockpit.

“Swissair bought two 747s, and just went to New York. One was the
prestigious United Nations route from Geneva, the other the cash cow
from Zurich,” de Syon said. “You could set your clock by when it took
off from Geneva with its distinctive rumble. It was a social practice,”
one that highlighted the mystique of the giant airplane.

“The bump in the fuselage made it an icon. It was the first wide-body
passenger aircraft, which gave this notion of space” and allowed
airlines to sell it much like a luxury ship, with posh lounges on the
upper deck. “You can see them in museums and it feels very old, very
‘Mad Men,’” de Syon said.

The paradox of the 747 is that, while evoking the bygone era of
passengers in suits and fedoras who smoked on airplanes, it also made
air travel affordable for the masses. Airlines needed to fill its 400
seats, more than double the jets of the 1960s that it superseded, and
often offered sharply discounted ticket prices to do so.

Big, Safe, Forgiving -- And Pretty  

“It democratized long-range travel,” said Carlo Galiotto, who flew
747s for Alitalia as both first officer and captain. “Until the 1980s,
our traffic was made up of immigrants who came back to visit Italy, or
very well-off people. But the 747 made travel possible for people who
just wanted to, say, spend four days in New York.”

The Jumbo was also a pilot’s dream, recalled Galiotto, who flew the
now-retired 200 series, the last one to feature a bewildering deluge of
classic round dials on the flight deck instead of the computer screens
in today’s 747s.


“It was like a forgiving father. You could make mistakes. It was so
well-built, so massive and with redundant systems, that it would shrug
off pilot errors. And if you lost an engine, it didn’t care a bit,”
Galiotto said. “Losing an engine on any other plane would have been an
emergency. On that one, it was just an anomaly.”

Galiotto added: “Passengers felt safer, too. Despite its great
inertia, it felt more stable. It had ample space for cabin personnel,
too. Life on board was less neurotic for everybody.”

David Powell, who flew both 747s and 777s for United Continental
Holdings' (NYSE:UAL) United Air Lines and is now dean of the Western
Michigan University College of Aviation in Kalamazoo, took a diplomatic
stance on whether he prefers one or the other. “I’ve got friends on the
777 -- it’s a wonderful airplane,” he said. But the 747’s extra engines
make it safer. “If I am flying across the Pacific on a 747 and lose an
engine, I’ve got three more. On the 777, that never happened, but they
came close.”

Powell said of the 747: “It really was the queen of the fleet. Four
engines, a beautiful airplane. The upper deck was unique, and for a
pilot it was nice being up there.” He conceded, “But it’s all about the

A Rare Bird

Back in the day when most flag-carrier airlines were owned by
governments and aviation was a matter of national prestige, pilots
weren’t the only ones in love with the Queen. To airline-company
managers, the 747 was a must-have.

"The airlines had to get them, even if it made no sense
economically,” said de Syon, Albright College’s aviation expert. “Small
airlines from small countries flew 747s into [New York’s] JFK -- it was
an incredible assembly."

Indeed, during the Jumbo Jet’s heyday in the 1970s and 1980s, it was
possible to see more than 30 regularly scheduled 747s at New York’s
biggest airport. They came from every continent, from Australia’s Qantas
Airways to Aer Lingus in Ireland. Now, only about five airlines fly
Jumbos to the city.


Still, there’s at least one very prestigious job the humpbacked giant
may continue doing for many years: transporting the President of the
United States. Since 1990, the U.S. Air Force has used two highly
modified 747s as Air Force One, as the planes are called when the
commander-in-chief is on board. In Air Force service, they are known as
VC-25A, and despite being flown much less than commercial Jumbos, the
planes are getting old, and the Pentagon is looking for replacements.

Boeing’s Pickup would not comment on whether the 747-8 is in the
running, saying simply, “We are working with the customer to understand
the requirements.” But it’s hard to imagine the American president being
carried around the world in anything other than the most prestigious
American airplane. The Europeans may propose their A380, but it’s a safe
bet that the winner would be Boeing’s product.

And for that reason, if nothing else, the last icon of the golden age
of American supremacy in the skies may not ever go away completely.