Back in June 2008, I attended an airports conference in New Orleans. It was my first trip back to the Big Easy since Hurricane Katrina. I had some time to kill at the gate, so I took some random shots. Mexico’s Aladia was a low-cost charter carrier that went out of business in October 2008. Below is an Aladia Boeing 757.
At the beginning of my career, I wrote for a newsletter that covered economic development among other things. I wrote regularly about the efforts of states, counties, regions and cities to bring new companies, which, in turn, bring in more jobs.
On some of those stories, airlines were included in presentations to show how well a new business could get to the places they needed to be as part of the business. But it was inevitable that they’d want a piece of the action, either to expand existing flights or add new ones.
So I say all this to comment about an article in the Memphis Commercial Appeal about the efforts of that city’s airport to keep the service they have and expand to more cities. You may remember that Memphis was one of three hubs for Northwest Airlines (No Town, Snow Town (Minneapolis) and Motown (Detroit)).
But after the Minneapolis-based carrier merged with Delta Air Lines, it was no surprise when the carrier started balancing its combined route network, which included cutting one-third of its service out of Memphis. The airport has also seen average fares rise to the point where locals are complaining – vociferously.
So the airport authority decided to hire DC-based INTERVistas, a firm that specializes in travel and tourism, to help it bring in new service and lower air fares. In a report presented last month, the firm recommended creating a $1 million fund to offer incentives to airlines for new domestic and international service including free landing fees and terminal rent, along with cooperative advertising aid.
The Commercial Appeal article included quotes from airline consultant Mike Boyd of The Boyd Group that really hit a note with me. He noted that while the incentives might speed up efforts by Southwest Airlines to expand or maybe JetBlue to start service out of Memphis, it wasn’t likely the city would get enough service to replace what Delta has cut.
According to the Commercial Appeal, the new incentives were called “the right response at the right time,” by airport president and CEO Larry Cox and “bold” by Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau president Kevin Kane. But what else would they say? Their backs are up against the wall with locals getting angry about the service cuts, as outlined in this article.
I don’t entirely disagree with these new incentives. I think targeted correctly, Memphis could see some new service — but it will never be at the levels it had when it was a Northwest hub. My recommendation is that they let go of the past and look at what other dehubbed airports — like Pittsburgh, Raleigh-Durham and San Jose — have done to survive when their major carriers — US Airways and American Airlines, respectively — have made cuts.
Regular readers of this blog know I am a HUGE fan of social media, especially Twitter, where I do my aviation geek posts as @AvQueenBenet. You also know that my day job is handling media relations for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) — a job I found via social media.
Our headquarters are directly across the street from Frederick Municipal Airport, where I happen to be taking my flight lessons. Last Monday as I was coming into work, I saw the MetLife blimp parked at the airport. It had flown to cover the Preakness horse race in Baltimore. I got out, snapped a few pictures and thought that was that. I kept seeing the blimp, so finally on Thursday, I thought I’d send a tweet to @MetLifeBlimp.
I was amazed when I got such a quick response.
Pilot Charlie Smith was kind enough to pick me up and off we went. First, I was amazed at how big the blimp was. I was also surprised that it’s just a big bag of air, as Charlie aptly described it. I got to talk with Charlie about how he became a blimp pilot, the traveling life of the crew of 13, and everything it takes to get the blimp from point A to point B. As far as him getting in the door, Smith said he was in the right place at the right time. “Not too many people dream of doing this, but we all fall in love with it.”
I know what he means. I actually felt an electric thrill when I got into the blimp’s cockpit. Forgive me as I go into uber avgeek mode. Amazingly enough, the cockpit looked amazingly like the one I’m using in my flight lessons on the Cessna 172 Skyhawk SP. Smith agreed, noting that the blimp’s cockpit only had three instruments that were unique to the aircraft. And the blimp doesn’t have ailerons, which are hinged flight control surfaces on the trailing edge of the wing on an aircraft and are used to control the aircraft in roll. As a current student, it seems weird to me that such a key part of flight is not there!
Smith noted that the @MetLifeBlimp social media team is pretty quick about responding to tweets. He said the blimp has responded to tweets to fly over schools or other places if they can fit it in the schedule. I really appreciate the folks at MetLife for allowing me to have this grand adventure! And if the blimp shows up in your city, send them a tweet — they may just fly by!
I’m still feeling nostalgic for Memorial Day, so today’s photo is one I took at last year’s EAA AirVenture show in Oshkosh, Wis. Despite my military upbringing, I never felt the love for military aviation like I do commercial aviation — until I saw all the warbirds at Oshkosh. Below is Miss Geraldine, a gorgeous and pristine North American P-51D Mustang. Enjoy!
She was left to her own “devices.” A French woman born in Cameroon caused a US Airways flight from Paris to Charlotte to divert to Bangor, Maine after claiming to be carrying a surgically implanted device, reports Reuters. The woman was questioned by Customs and Border Protection and taken into custody by the FBI.
Maybe Breathalyzers might help. India’s civil aviation minister reports that 14 pilots and 31 crew members were caught reporting for duty under the influence of alcohol between January and March, reports the Times of India. Most of the offenders worked at Jet Airways, it added.
It looks like things flared up in Philly. A US Airways Express flight from Elmira, N.Y., to Philadelphia experienced a close call when allegedly a flare was shot up around 50 feet of the Dash 8 turboprop, reports USA Today. The flight landed safely.
A change might be due. Officials at Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport say they are looking at making changes as their security checkpoint after a Piedmont Airlines pilot managed to bring a loaded gun onto a flight, reports the Daily Progress. The pilot was charge with attempting to carry a weapon or explosive on an aircraft.
FORE!! Staff at Florida’s Hallandale Beach golf course found a big surprise on the greens — an aircraft door, reports the Daily Mail. The door had fallen off a Canadair CL60 jet that had just taken off from Opa Locka Executive Airport.
Watch what you say! A female flight attendant on Brazil’s Trip Airlines had a male passenger tossed off a flight after he was heard making disparaging remarks about the crew’s woman pilot, reports MSNBC.
Hot DOG! Detroit-based American Coney Island restaurant decided to celebrate its 95th anniversary in a unique way. It teamed with a local radio station to rent a helicopter to dump almost 1,000 hot dogs and have 25 contestants stuff as many of them on their persons as possible, reports ABC News. The winner received $1,000 and a year’s supply of hot dogs.
We’ll end the week with a video from our good friends at the New York Aviation website. In this video, a passenger records how the engine cover on a TAM Airbus A320 traveling from Natal to Sao Paulo breaks off and hurls itself into the side of the plane.
Back in November 2007, I took a trip to Chicago O’Hare to take an up-close-and-personal tour of the O’Hare Modernization Project, which included the construction of the Runway 9L/27R. s part of that, I got to go into areas usually not open to the public. In the shot below, we were over near the old cargo area, which was going to be moved to accommodate the new runway. Enjoy!
I covered the regional aviation industry from 1993 to 2001. During that time, I watched as regional carriers grew up and became almost mirror images of their larger airline partners.
I had a front row seat to the rise of the 50-seat regional jet. The big players were Canada’s Bombardier, with its CRJ and Brazil’s Embraer ERJ-145. The major airlines wanted them for several reasons. One, they were constrained by pilot scope clauses that didn’t allow regional pilots to fly larger jets. Two, they saw the jets as a way bring service to cities that weren’t quite big enough for larger jet or even do some point-to-point hub bypass service.
During the RJ frenzy heyday, regional carriers couldn’t sign contracts fast enough. Cincinnati-based Comair led the pack, becoming the U.S. launch customer for the CRJ, while Continental Express was the same for the ERJ-145. Mesa Air Group (my former employer) became the first regional to operate both types in its fleet.
But now, regionals can’t get rid of them fast enough as fuel costs made them more expensive to operate and major airlines began cutting traditional RJ routes. You can read my May 1 interview in Aviation International News with my former boss, Jonathan Ornstein, on how this affected Mesa.
So where are all those RJs going? An April 30 story in AIN sister publication Business Jet Traveler reports that the current RJ glut “presents a rare opportunity to acquire a relatively new large-cabin jet at near-turboprop prices.” I wrote a blog post in Aviation Week’s Business Aviation Now on Sept. 11, 2009 on Dubai-based Project Phoenix, a company that turns CRJ-200s into VIP business jets.
According to BJT, by the end of 2011, nearly 400 RJs were grounded in the U.S., many of them less than 10 years old, including BAE 146/Avros; Bombardier CRJ100s, 200s and 900s; Dornier/Fairchild 328Jets; Fokker 100s; and Embraer ERJ-135/145s. And, the publication notes, the Chapter 11 filing of American Airlines could see hundreds more ERJs in the American Eagle fleet be put into storage.
If you’re looking for a pretty nice aircraft that is a little slower but tougher than the average business jet at a bargain basement price, a converted CRJ might be for you. For a mere $10 million, according to BJT, you can have one with “all the bells and whistles,” with a range of 3000nm carrying eight passengers and bags. A similarly sized super mid-sized jet, like the Bombardier Challenger 605 (a loose cousin of the CRJ) could cost more than double.
The bigger question is what will happen to all those smaller regional jets? Is there enough of a market for them to be a strong alternative to a new business jet? Is there a market for these aircraft in other parts of the world, including China, Africa and South America? Only time will tell.
One of my last duties before leaving Delta Air Lines was working on the events surrounding the retirement of The Spirit of Delta, a Boeing 767 bough by the airline’s employees, retirees, family and friends in 1982. I left before the plane was brought to its final home at the Delta Heritage Museum at the carrier’s headquarters campus in 2006. So I was so excited to see it in the museum during a visit to Atlanta in April 2011. Enjoy!
Back at the beginning of my journalism career in the late 1980s, I wrote for the Employment and Training Reporter, a newsletter that covered federal job training programs. Under that broad umbrella fell welfare reform, education and economic development.
My favorite thing to write about was economic development, because back then, the country was recovering from the Reagan recession and states were throwing around money like drunken sailors to lure new companies to bring in jobs and taxes. Two of the biggest battles I got to watch was the fight for German luxury automaker BMW’s first U.S. plant (it went to South Carolina) and two United Airlines maintenance bases (Oakland and Indianapolis won, but eventually lost as both plants were closed). Looking at a more recent example, we recently learned that bankrupt aircraft manufacturer Hawker Beechcraft turned down $500 million in incentives from Louisiana to leave Wichita, Kan., reports the Wichita Business Journal.
States, counties and cities worked hand in hand to offer everything from tax breaks to infrastructure changes to subsidies to bring in companies and jobs. Some states were so desperate they made deals they knew they could never see a return on their investment.
So it was with great interest that I read this story in the Denver Post — Frontier Airlines wants tax incentives to bring jobs to Colorado — with great interest. The airline was created in 1994 by executives of the original Frontier, which was bought by Texas Air in 1986 and folded into Continental Airlines. The idea was to fill the gap left when Continental Airlines decided to shut down its Denver hub.
The carrier filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April 2008, and was bought by Indianapolis-based Republic Airways Holdings in August 2009. After that purchase, the company moved some of Frontier’s operations to Indianapolis.
Now Frontier executives are asking the city and state to come up with incentives in order for them to stay put. The company wants to bring back approximately 430 call center, mechanical, dispatcher and headquarters jobs to the state. In exchange, it wants breaks on state and local taxes on jet fuel, parts and software, according to the Post, adding that they wanted “appropriate” incentives to bring in the jobs.
My hometown airport is Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. You can click on my BWI tag to see my past posts on why I I love my airport. Every time I depart from the airport, I take a nice pile of pictures. In the shot below, I saw Southwest Airlines’ Shamu Boeing 737; in the background is a McDonnell Douglas DC-10. Enjoy!