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Spirit Airlines Adds Kansas City

By Vinay Bhaskara / Published April 23, 2014

Ultra-low cost carrier (ULCC) Spirit Airlines is adding Kansas City to its route network, with service to five destinations beginning August 7th. On that date, Spirit will launch nonstop service from Kansas City to Chicago O’Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Las Vegas, and Houston Bush. Each route will be served daily with flight schedules as follow:

Route Depart Arrive Flight # Stops Frequency
Kansas City — Chicago 3:28 PM 4:58 PM 660 0 Daily
Chicago — Kansas City 1:13 PM 2:48 PM 659 0 Daily
Kansas City — Dallas/Fort Worth 5:35 PM 7:02 PM 913 0 Daily
Dallas/Fort Worth — Kansas City 7:42 PM 9:10 PM 442 0 Daily
Kansas City — Detroit 12:05 PM 3:02 PM 816* 0 Daily
Detroit — Kansas City 3:50 PM 4:50pm 913 0 Daily
Kansas City — Las Vegas 9:55 PM 10:55pm 501 0 Daily
Las Vegas — Kansas City 1:00 AM 5:45 AM 520* 0 Daily
Kansas City — Houston 6:45 AM 8:38 AM 725 0 Daily
Houston — Kansas City 9:25 AM 11:18 AM 816 0 Daily
* Effective August 8th

Kansas City becomes Spirit’s 56th destination, and represents just another step in Spirit’s network strategy of taking legacy and hybrid carriers head on in major markets. Kansas City also sees service from fellow ULCC Frontier, who offers service to Denver and seasonal flights to three Mexican destinations under the wing of Apple Vacations.

“We look forward to help customers traveling to or from the Kansas City area to save money with our ultra-low fares and optional services for a total price that is tough to beat” said Mark Kopczak, Spirit’s Vice President, Network Planning. “With our unique product, value-conscious travelers get to enjoy keeping more money in their pocket to spend on the good times when they get their destination.”

A Spirit Airlines A319 parked at FLL. Photo by Chris Sloan / Airchive

A Spirit Airlines A319 parked at FLL. Photo by Chris Sloan / Airchive

“Spirit Airlines’ decision to add Kansas City to its rapidly expanding network is a testament to the strength of this region,” said Mark VanLoh, Director of Aviation for the Kansas City Aviation Department. “Spirit has selected five key destinations from Kansas City that will benefit both leisure and business customers alike.”

Kansas City is as much Southwest Airlines country as it is that of any other carrier. Kansas City was one of the earlier cities in Southwest’s system, and today Southwest has 67 daily departures to 22 destinations from Kansas City. But given Southwest’s rising costs, many of its routes appear ripe for the picking by Spirit’s extremely low fares. Indeed, Southwest serves four of the five destinations that Spirit has selected to launch from Kansas City. And every single destination sees nonstop competition, from Southwest and/or one or more other carriers (Delta to Detroit).

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Delta Posts First Quarter 2014 Profit, Analysis

By Vinay Bhaskara and Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published April 23, 2014

Delta 737-900Delta Air Lines posted a first quarter 2014 net profit of $213 million, or $0.25 per diluted share, up from a $7 million profit from the same time the year prior. On a pre-tax basis, Delta recorded a $335 million net profit, and the carrier said its numbers would have been even better—about $55 million higher pre-tax—had the Atlanta-based carrier not cancelled over 17,000 flights in January and February thanks to exceptionally bad winter weather.

Overall, operating revenues were up 4.8 percent year over year (YOY) to $8.92 billion, with passenger revenue up 4.9% and other operating revenues up 8.5% to more than offset an 8.8% decline in cargo revenue. Consolidated (which represents mainline and regional operations combined) passenger revenue per available seat miles rose 3.2% YOY to 14.24 cents on a 1.7% increase in capacity measured by available seat miles (ASM), and a 1.5 percentage point jump in load factor to 82.7%. Yields rose only 1.2% YOY to 17.21, but the strong PRASM performance was helped by a 3.5% increase in demand as measured by revenue passenger miles (RPMs). Corporate contract revenues grew 6% YOY in the quarter.

Turning to region-specific performance, domestic and Latin American operations led the revenue charge. Domestic mainline revenue grew 9.4% YOY to $3.73 billion, though regional revenue did dip 0.5% YOY to $1.45 billion. Domestic PRASM was up an excellent 7.4% on 1.8% YOY ASM growth, while even regional operations saw PRASM growth of 3.8% on a 4.1% decline in ASMs.  Latin American operations recorded a revenue jump of 18.1% during the winter quarter that represents the strongest financial quarter for Southern Hemisphere operations. Latin PRASM did fall 0.1% on massive 18.3% capacity growth.

Meanwhile, the carrier’s transoceanic segments both recorded losses. Atlantic revenues declined 1.0% YOY, with PRASM growing 0.5% YOY on a 1.5% decrease in capacity. The carrier also noted a $31 million loss from its 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic, with which it operates a joint-venture. The airline’s Pacific operations saw revenue decline 5.3% YOY, pulling in $827 million, reflecting a 5.0% decline in PRASM on a 0.3% decline in capacity.

Domestic mainline revenues are likely to continue their improvement YOY as the US economy improves. Regional operations could come under some revenue pressure as the opposing pressures of continued retirement of 50 seat jets and increased large regional jet operations out of Los Angeles and (especially) Seattle. That being said, the first set of capacity increases in Los Angeles and Seattle during Q1 were handled well, and the two hubs actually led Delta in terms of unit revenue growth, with Seattle actually posting double digit PRASM growth. Latin American revenues should get a boost from demand for the World Cup in June and July as well.

Delta A330-300. Photo courtesy jplphoto

Delta A330-300. Photo courtesy jplphoto

Over the Atlantic, there are no easy answers. Europe’s economy continues to stagnate, but at the very least, Delta is being extremely active in managing its capacity to the region. Asia is the big question. Certainly currency effects (the weakening of currencies across Asia and the devaluation of the yen [11% or $54 million]) played a role in the unit revenue declines, but as we move forward into 2013, unit revenue pressure on Delta’s Pacific operation will only be exacerbated by the launch of Delta’s Seattle trans-Pacific operation. Expect to continue to see 5% YOY declines in PRASM in the coming months thanks to this effect. On the flip side, Chinese operations continue to provide a boost, with year over year PRASM increase in Q1 despite a 15% increase in capacity.

Operating expenses were up 0.2 YOY, for the carrier. Decreases in spending on fuel (down 2.8% YOY), and maintenance (down 8.8% YOY), were offset by increases in salaries (up 3.0% YOY) and depreciation (up 9.2% YOY). In total expenses rose only $18 million YOY to $8.29 billion. The carrier’s strong results also spurred $99 million in profit sharing to its 78,870 employees. Consolidated costs per ASM (CASM) decreased to 15.39 cents, down 1.4% from 2013’s 15.61 cents. CASM excluding fuel rose just 0.3% YOY.

Delta’s Trainer refinery continued to generate losses, producing a $41 million loss for the first quarter. The airline noted that this was a result of the lower fuel prices overall, as well as reduced production capacity as modifications were made to the plant that took parts of it offline. However, when evaluating Trainer, it is important to note that Trainer’s existence saves Delta more than $300 million annually on fuel by reducing the crack spread. Stomaching $100-150 million annual losses on Trainer is not necessarily a bad tradeoff. Analysts continue to hammer Delta on the fact that the entire industry benefits from the crack spread reduction while Delta is the only one to bear the costs. But that is taking too simplistic a view. First and foremost, operating performance on Trainer should continue to improve as US oil production expands thanks to the growth of shale. More importantly, Trainer serves a dual purpose as a longer run hedge against a sudden, 2008-style rise in oil prices, which is exceedingly important given Delta’s aging fleet.

Turning to the balance sheet, Delta ended the quarter with $3.66 billion in cash, cash equivalents, and short term investments, down 3.8% YOY from the end of Q1 2013. Free cash flow for the quarter was $390 million, sure to lead the industry. Delta’s operating cash flow was nearly $951 million against net capital expenditures of $570 million. The core thrust of Delta’s fleet and debt repayment strategy over the past few years has been to drive up free cash flow by limiting capital expenditures. And that strategy appears to be working. Delta also ended the quarter with $9.1 billion in adjusted net debt, down from $17.0 billion at the end of 2009.

Delta’s operating profit for the quarter was $620 million, yielding an operating margin of 7.0%!  To put that figure into perspective, most US airlines, especially Delta’s network peers, are likely to generate operating margins in the range of 7.0% for the full year – and Q1 is the weakest quarter of the year, especially when Easter falls in Q2.

Looking forward in 2014, Delta expects operating margins of 14-16%  in the second quarter, which are almost unheard of for non ultra-low cost carriers in the US. Over full year 2014, Delta aims for a 10-12% operating margin, $5 billion in operating cash flow and $3 billion in free cash flow. The case flow metrics will be boosted by the delivery of 19 Boeing 737-900ERs, which will be cash flow positive on day 1 according to CEO Richard Anderson. He also noted on the earnings call that the carrier will take delivery of 42 717-200s, which have 12-20 years of useful life left, and cost less than $10 million per copy.

On the earnings call, CEO Richard Anderson stated, “We’re determined to be a consistently high-performing S&P 500 company that deserves the trust of long term investors…. Our performance is the Delta standard for the industry” Based on Delta’s Q1 financial results, it appears that the company is rapidly approaching that status.

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Azul Orders Widebody Jets, to Fly to US in 2015

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published April 23, 2014

Rendering courtesy Airbus

Rendering courtesy Airbus

Brazilian carrier Azul Airlines announced that it plans to start service to the US with Airbus A330s in 2015. The announcement, made on Wednesday, also shared that the carrier has placed an order for five Airbus A350-900 aircraft.

The long haul routes will be a first for the otherwise domestic low-cost carrier. The airline expects to begin receiving its first of six A330-200 aircraft, which it will lease from the IFLC, in early 2015. The carrier expects to begin receiving the A350-900s in 2017.

Which cities the carrier plans to serve remain unknown so far, though New York JFK and Fort Lauderdale are rumored. The airline only said that “the U.S. flights will be served from Blue’s brand new $ 1.5 billion terminal at São Paulo / Campinas airport,” where the carrier maintains a hub already.

Regardless of where, the carrier will be venturing into a competition against native TAM as well as reinvigorated US domestic carriers such as American Airlines. Both have boosted flights to and from the US, particularly as the Word Cup begins in June.

Azul is the brainchild of CEO David Neeleman. If that name sounds familiar, it should. Neeleman was the one-time president of Morris Air, and co-founder of WestJet. But his biggest act was as co-founder of American low cost heavyweight JetBlue. Neeleman left JetBlue in 2007, launching Azul (which is Portuguese for ‘Blue’) in late 2008.

Its on board cabin product and service is, unsurprisingly, not much different from JetBlue with free snacks and LiveTV. It has grown to 16% of the Brazilian market, proving a viable challenger to the larger TAM and Gol airlines. Both have already sought to expand to more international destinations as the once booming Brazilian domestic market has plateaued.

Azul currently maintains a fleet size of 136 airplanes. It primarily operates the Brazilian made Embraer E190/195 jets, though it maintains a sizable fleet of ATR-72s. The fleet presently serves 104 destinations across the nation.


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Hawaiian Posts First Quarter 2014 Loss

By Vinay Bhaskara / Published April 23, 2014

HA A330Hawaiian Airlines announced that it lost $5.1 million in the first quarter of 2014, or $0.10 per diluted share, on Tuesday afternoon. The loss was blamed on the weak winter travel season, while executives countered by pointing to good cost control and strong domestic route performance that enabled the carrier to avoid a repeat of Q1 2013′s $11.9 million loss. Exchange rates, particularly in Asia, also continued to plague international performance. The carrier recorded an adjusted net loss of $0.9 million ($0.02 / diluted share) taking into account “economic fuel expense”

Despite the loss, operating revenues were up 6.9% year over year (YOY) from Q1 2013, to $524 million. Passenger revenues grew 6.4% YOY, while other operating revenues grew 11.3%, thanks in part to the new co-branded credit card relationship with Barclays (upgrading from Bank of Hawaii). Passenger revenue per available seat mile (PRASM) rose 4.4% YOY to 11.60 cents on a 1.9% increase in capacity as measured by available seat miles (ASMs). Yields rose 5.7% to 14.50 cents on a 0.7% increase in revenue passenger miles, which also yielded a 0.9 percentage point decline in passenger load factor.

The increase in capacity came despite the slowdown of economic growth and sagging leisure travel demand in Asia (China excluded), which represents an increasing share of Hawaiian’s overall capacity. During the quarter, Hawaiian Airlines launched new thrice weekly services between its Honolulu hub and Beijing, and added a fourth weekly flight to Brisbane, which accounted for the majority of the capacity increase. While the launch of Ohana by Hawaiian into Lana’i and Moloka’i represents a significant number of seats, its extremely short stage length reduces its impact on overall ASM growth.

A rendering of an ATR 42-500 in Ohana's livery - Image Credit: Hawaiian Airlines

A rendering of an ATR 42-500 in Ohana’s livery – Image Credit: Hawaiian Airlines

Turning to region specific results, North America generated $219.95 million in operating revenues with PRASM up 11.3% YOY despite a 1.6 percentage point decrease in load factor (and industry capacity to Hawaii declining by 0.5% YOY). Inter-island routes generated $117.01 million in operating revenues with PRASM growth of 8.5% YOY against a 0.7% decline in load factor. Hawaiian Airlines’ inter-island operations are also due for a boost thanks to the shutdown of Mesa’s go! operation at the beginning of April, which had competed with Hawaiian on key interisland routes since 2006. Ohana by Hawaiian currently represents less than 5% of total neighbor island capacity, but still serves as an important network portfolio booster. International routes (to Asia and the South Pacific) generated $131.04 million in revenues during the quarter, though PRASM decreased sharply by 7.1%.

Hawaiian blamed the Asia-Pacific PRASM decrease on “a number of new routes still in their infancy.” And while there is some merit to the “infancy” categorization, the majority of Hawaiian’s Asia-Pacific route network has been in service for more than a year, and to continue to claim a lack of maturity on some of these routes seems rather disingenuous. Currency effects certainly played a role in PRASM decline (totaling $9 million net of hedges), as did increased competition from foreign carriers such as Jetstar Airways, China Eastern, and others. But these factors are in many ways independent of a route’s “maturity,” so the continued underperformance of the international network remains troubling. That said, it is heartening to see that Hawaiian Airlines is finally willing to pull the trigger and axe underperforming international routes. During the first quarter, it announced the cancellation of thrice weekly services to Taipei and Fukuoka, both of which suffer from severe competition.

Photo courtesy jplphoto

Photo courtesy jplphoto

Looking forward, Asian economies are in a weakening phase as emerging market economies around the world struggle with structural problems. Japan was thought to be a bright spot amidst a sea of relatively poor macroeconomic fundamentals in Asia, but the recently implemented sales tax increase is likely to reduce consumer demand for leisure air travel. And the likely Abenomics solution to the increased sales tax, further monetary stimulus, will only serve to put Hawaiian Airlines under further currency pressure.Throughout the rest of this year, Hawaiian Airlines had hedged 59%, 54%, and 41% of its projected foreign denominated Japanese Yen sales at a weighted average forward contract price of roughly ¥100 per US dollar, which means that if the value of the yen dips below ¥100 per dollar, Hawaiian will still be able to convert a certain percentage of its Yen to Dollars at an average price of ¥100 / dollar. Abenomics may have been great for kickstarting economic activity and staving off deflation in Japan. Not so much for Hawaiian Airlines’ Japanese network.

Operating expenses increased 2.4% YOY to $514 .82 million. Decreases in per-gallon fuel costs, which were down 4.3% YOY to $3.10, combined with efficiencies gained from its growing Airbus A330 fleet enabled a decrease in fuel costs of 1.9% YOY to $171.14 million. Wages and benefits, maintenance, and depreciation all rose against 2013, however, at 4.6%, 5.5%, and 19.3% respectively. Operating cost per available seat mile (CASM) rose less than 0.6% YOY to 12.75 cents, though excluding fuel rose 2.8% YOY to 8.51 cents. According to Hawaiian, 2.6 percentage points worth of that 2.8% YOY increase in CASM ex. fuel, or $9 million was due to several projects in one-off items.

Hawaiian ended the quarter with $479 million in unrestricted cash, cash equivalents, and short term investments (versus $438 million at the end of Q1 2013), as well as a $69.5 million revolving credit facility for additional liquidity. Hawaiian has outstanding debt and capital lease obligations of $940 million. During the quarter, capital expenditure totaled $170 million in payments for upcoming aircraft and engine deliveries, while an additional $3 million was contributed to a post-retirement plan for employees.

Despite suffering a net loss, Hawaiian managed an anemic operating profit of $10.04 million versus an operating loss of $11.93 million during the same time last year. This translates to an operating margin of 1.9%, which is decent, though certainly not industry leading.

Hawaiian Airlines issued guidance for its operating statistics for the second quarter and full year, projecting CASM ex. fuel to be up 4 – 7% in Q2 and 2 – 5% for the full year. Capacity growth for Q2 is projected to be 0.5 – 2.5%, while full year capacity growth is projected at 1 – 4%. Q2 PRASM is projected to be up 3 to 6%, while Operating RASM is projected to be up 4.5% – 7.5% thanks to superior ancillary revenue generation amongst other factors.

Looking forward, Hawaiian’s muddled results are a good facsimile for what will likely be a choppy earnings season for US carriers, though for slightly different reasons (Hawaiian was not affected by the polar vortex). In a more general sense, it is interesting to consider the question of Hawaiian’s growth strategy. On the one hand, you have CEO Mark Dunkerley’s optimistic vision, which he outlined specifically with regards to China on this quarter’s analyst call:

The market is of such massive potential, it almost defies our ability to calculate it. It is a market which if you take by comparison the number, there are roughly today I believe something in the order of 18 daily flights from Japan to Honolulu. That is on a obviously wealthy country with about 150 million in habitants. There are already about 150 million all China’s over 1 billion citizens who have roughly the same level of wealth as the Japanese average. So that alone without even sort of stretching gets you from a place where today there are 9 flights a week to an environment where you could foresee 20 or more flights a day into sort of Hawaii. So, the real issue is that it is a developing market in the sense that foreign travel, patterns of travel, the distribution system in China are not as well-worn and solid as they are in other markets. But as that process come at jolts, there is essentially almost no limit to the amount of demand that China could spur for travel to Hawaii.

- Credit:

This type of limitless growth potential is what Hawaiian Airlines is betting on. And it’s a compelling growth vision, one that has sucked in more than one outside observer (mostly in the fringe investment community). But there are a few problems with that scenario. The first is that dynamism is a double-edged sword. Asia’s air travel market is fast growing, but that also makes it fast-evolving. Asia-Pacific has become a laboratory of sorts where myriad business models are all making money (as opposed to the extreme stratification in the US), and lower cost long haul travel is being attempted full scale. Even if low-cost long haul does not pan out, Asian carriers have and will continue to have lower CASM than Hawaiian Airlines. So all of this growing demand is offset to some degree by the ability of the competition to more profitably capture a larger share of the market. Moreover, comments by Hawaiian Air executives on the earnings call about the lower than expected market stimulation of their new service in Taipei (25% versus a projected 50%), along with the failure of their Fukuoka route (albeit under pressure from direct Delta competition)  make me question if Hawaiian Airlines has largely tapped the Asian market that can be tapped for the foreseeable future, at least within the range of the A330-200. This is perhaps, the single most important question for Hawaiian Airlines to address in the coming months.

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Shandong Airlines Orders 50 Boeing 737s, Aims at Doubling Fleet Size

By Vinay Bhaskara / Published April 22, 2014

A Shandong Airlines  737-800 - Image Credit: Kentaro IEMOTO

A Shandong Airlines 737-800 – Image Credit: Kentaro IEMOTO

Jinan-based Shandong Airlines has placed an order for 50 Boeing 737 aircraft including 16 Boeing 737-800s and 34 Boeing 737 MAXs according to an update filed with the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. The aircraft are scheduled for delivery between 2016 and 2020, and the order is worth $4.65 billion at list prices. The 737 MAXs in the order will be equipped with CFM International LEAP-1B engines

The deal will be financed through cash flow, bank loans, and other sources, and is aimed at increasing Shandong Airlines’ capacity to meet future demand. Shandong Airlines plans to more than double its fleet size to more than 140 aircraft by 2020. According to Airchive’s research, Shandong Airlines currently has 74 aircraft in its fleet, including 62 Boeing 737-800s, three Boeing 737-700s, two Boeing 737-300s, five Bombardier CRJ-100s, and two Bombardier CRJ-700s.

Shandong Airlines carried 14.0 million passengers in 2013, earning revenues of $1.87 billion and a net profit of $108.4 million according to the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of Shandong Provincial Government. Air China owns 22.8% of Shandong Airlines while Shandong Aviation Group, a conglomerate based in Jinan, holds a 42.0% stake.

The carrier currently serves more than 60 domestic destinations and 3 international ones from its hubs at Jinan, Yantai, Qingdao, Xiamen, and Beijing as shown below

Shandong Airlines is well positioned to take advantage of growing consumer affluence in Shandong Province, which is China’s ninth wealthiest (out of 31) province based on per-capita GDP.

Boeing announced that it had won orders for 200 MAX aircraft from China back in October of 2013, and it is unclear whether this Shandong Airlines order is part of that larger order. Airbus on the other hand, has stated that it has 100 commitments for the A320neo from Chinese customers.


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Cleveland Hopkins Terminal to Undergo a $20 Million Renovation

By Jack Harty / Published April 21, 2014


This is an artist’s rendering of the design plans, which have yet to be finalized.
Image Courtesy of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is planning to receive a $20 million renovation to improve its terminal facade, ticketing lobby, and baggage area, according to The Plain Dealer. The news comes a few weeks after United announced that it would move all of its operations out of concourse D.

The project will upgrade the terminal’s exterior both on the departures and arrivals level. Leo A Daly and Van Auken Akins Architects has been chosen as the architecture/engineering firm designing this project.

Some of the renovations will include modernizing the existing exterior facade and renovating the ticket lobby. Additional changes will include new signs, electronic media systems, interior design, and energy efficient glass.


An exterior view of Cleveland Hopkins from the parking garage
Photo by Jack Harty

The airport plans to start construction next spring in phases, to be completed in 2017. The final design will not be released until sometime this fall.

The airport’s director, Ricky Smith, says “the goal of this project is to transform the face of the airport and the ticketing lobby to a more modern look and feel, while introducing more customer-friendly features for airport visitors.” Additionally, Smith says “we really encourage the community to come to this informational session because their input is critical to the final design.”

Thanks to unspent general airport revenue bonds, the renovation will not be an additional cost to the airport or the airlines. According to The Plain Dealer, “this renovation has gotten initial approval from Cleveland’s Design Review Board and the City Planning Commission.”

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Stowaway Survives Hawaiian 767 Wheel Well Adventure

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published April 21, 2014

Photo courtesy jplphoto

Photo courtesy jplphoto

A 16 year old male reportedly survived a flight from San Jose to Maui in the wheel well of a Boeing 767. He was unharmed.

According to reports, the male hopped a fence at San Jose International and boarded Hawaiian Airlines flight 45 Sunday morning–via the wheel well. Five hours and fifteen minutes later, the 767 landed in Maui, where the stowaway sprung out of the well and began wandering around the ramp.

Authorities quickly apprehended the man, and took him to a nearby hospital. Besides being unconscious for the majority of the flight, including up to an hour after landing, he was otherwise found to be unharmed.

Which, if true, is pretty phenomenal. The odds are not stacked in favor of those who attempt such feats. The first matter of business is, of course, boarding the airplane. Which means evading security. Which apparently is not all that tight at San Jose.

The second is take-off and climb out. Those wheels start to cycle up into the belly of the plane only a few hundred feet after departure. And for many stowaways, this marks the end of their journey. Why? The wheel wells barely have enough space to fit the wheels, never mind the wheels plus a human. Failure to contort into the perfect spot will lead to being crushed in fairly short order.

767 wheel well main-1-3 767 wheel well main-1
767 Main wheel well, above. Nose gear well, below & right. Photo by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Airchive

767 wheel well nose-1For those that make it past the second hurdle, the third and fourth often proves too much to handle. Unlike the cabin and cargo holds, wheel wells are not heated or pressurized. That means the stowaway has little to protect them from the extreme cold of up to -50F, nor the lack of oxygen at 38,000 feet. Consequently many attempts end in either asphyxiation/hypoxia and/or freezing to death.

Even if one slays the aforementioned obstacles, there’s still the matter of landing. While the wheels remain safely tucked up into the airplane in flight, they have to eventually come down at some point – and they do so without warning. Thus many stowaways fall out, due either to being blacked out and thus unable to hold on, or because they were unprepared for the gear deployment.

Despite the exceptionally long odds, surviving such a journey is not impossible. Out of the roughly 100 known people that have attempted to hitch a ride in the wheel wells of various airplanes since 1947, 25 or so have survived according to the FAA. The majority of those survivors have low flying planes on short flights to thank.

A few have survived longer flights, however. In 2000, Fidel Maruhi managed to live through the seven plus hour flight from Papeete to Los Angeles hiding aboard an Air France Boeing 747. In 2002 a man survived a flight from Cuba to Montreal, with a heated pipe inside the well to thank. The FAA additionally noted heat from the tires and hydraulics enabled prevented completely freezing to death. Still, both men were discovered inside the airplane in bad shape, suffering from severe frostbite and other injuries.

By all accounts, this young man should’ve ended up one of at least two things, both of which begin with the letter P: pancake, or popsicle (pancaked popsicle is also a likely option). The only folks who’ve survived similar journeys certainly weren’t walking around the ramp after arrival. Our weekend stowaway, however, managed to survive his five hour adventure apparently completely unharmed.

The odds of such an outcome are so mind-bogglingly staggering that it makes it exceptionally hard to believe. Admittedly it seems far more likely that he snuck into the heated, oxygen-filled cargo hold or avionics bay instead (both, it should be noted, are also extremely unlikely). So far, though, the wheel well appears to be the truth, as far fetched as it seems. In which case this guy’s next flight should be to Vegas, because he’s clearly got a whole lot of luck on his side.

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The Fascinating History Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport: 2000 to Present

By Ian Petchenik / Published April 21, 2014

The third in a series on the history of the famous Chicago hub, author Ian Petchmo goes behind the scenes to discover an airport rushed into the jet age and in a state of constant expansion. Can it take it? Miss parts one and two? Read part one here!  Read part two here!

At the turn of the twenty-first century, everyone agreed that something needed to be done about the delays at O’Hare. The airport held the ignominious distinction of delay capital of the U.S., managing a consistency in delayed operations matched by no other airport in the country. What no one agree on, however, was how to solve the problem.

The disagreement over how to address O’Hare’s tribulations came in many varieties: Republican vs. Democrat, city vs. state, urban vs. suburban and rural, and airlines vs. airports. At the heart of the disagreement was whether or not to build a third airport in the region. Plans for a third airport in the region were shelved in 1970 and 1990, but never fully discarded. In 1992, the FAA authorized funds for planning an airport in Peotone, Illinois, about 43 miles south of Chicago. Richard M. Daley, the mayor of Chicago at the time, opposed such an airport, as did American and United Airlines, the two dominant carriers at O’Hare. Daley worked to have the funding removed, and in 1993 funds for the planning study were pulled.

Proponents argued that a south suburban airport would alleviate congestion and boost the surrounding economy. The Peotone airport was also championed by the suburban communities surrounding O’Hare. The suburbs were opposed to expansion of the airport for a number of reasons, chiefly among them the potential loss of a land and increased noise. Those against the new airport pointed to the fact the construction of a new airport would do nothing to alleviate O’Hare’s structural problems and the location was quite far from the city.

The World Gateway Program, proposed to add terminal capacity at O’Hare. Source: City of Chicago

The World Gateway Program, proposed to add terminal capacity at O’Hare.
Source: City of Chicago

In 1998, Chicago announced the World Gateway Program, a project to add gate capacity and other improvements to the Terminal Core Area, but without any adjustments to the airfield’s runways. The WGP proposed renovations to Terminals 2, 3, and 5, and construction of new Terminals 4 and 6. Terminal 2 would be reconfigured for use by Star Alliance carriers, including the addition of Federal Inspection Services so the terminal could handle international arrivals. At Terminal 3, Concourse K would be expanded, while Concourse L would be removed. In place of Concourse L and the current heating and refrigeration building a new Terminal 4 would be constructed and connected to Terminal 3. Terminal 4 would also house FIS facilities, enabling international arrival handling. Terminal 5 would be reconfigured to better integrate with a newly built Terminal 6, which would host O’Hare’s non-hub domestic carriers. Additionally, a number of related projects such as an expanded Airport Transit System, reconfigured ground access, and increased parking were slated.

By 2000, Mayor Daley was publicly ambivalent about the third airport and was arguing that congestion at O’Hare could be mitigated without the construction of any new runways. Daley’s confidence was not shared by all concerned. The Commercial Club of Chicago released a regional planning document calling for expansion at O’Hare and a third airport in the south suburbs. An affiliated organization, the Civic Committee, commissioned a separate study specifically addressing aviation in Chicago. It, too, saw a need for both expansion and a new airport. Daley had backed himself into a corner: it was clear that expansion at O’Hare was needed, but if he called for it now, it would open the door for proponents of the third airport arguing for more regional capacity.

The gridlock at O’Hare, both on the runway and off, was gaining national attention. Reporters for the Chicago Tribune won a Pulitzer Prize for their November 2000 article on the political infighting over Chicago’s airports. Senators Tom Harkin and Charles Grassley introduced a bill with the purpose of making construction at a large hub airport, such as O’Hare, harder to block. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation even held a hearing on O’Hare expansion. Senator John McCain lamented, “We can’t get O’Hare expanded, and we can’t build another airport. And those are the only two options.”

A detailed drawing of the proposed Western Terminal, which will include an underground people mover to access the Terminal Core Area. Source: City of Chicago

A detailed drawing of the proposed Western Terminal, which will include an underground people mover to access the Terminal Core Area.
Source: City of Chicago

In June of 2001, Mayor Daley unveiled the O’Hare Modernization Plan. After the attention paid to the World Gateway Program and pressure from those in favor a third airport, it was thought that Daley’s new plan would include an additional runway at O’Hare. Daley, however, released a much more ambitious plan which foresaw the wholesale reconfiguration of O’Hare from a system of intersecting runways to a primarily east-west configuration. The plan called for the construction of four new runways, the lengthening of two, the closure of two, and myriad other airfield improvements. Additionally, the OMP incorporates and expands on the World Gateway Program. The renovations to Terminal 2 and 3 and the addition of Terminals 4 and 6 were included, as well as plans for a new Terminal 7 complex on the west side of the airfield. The west terminal would be served by a new Western Access Road and underground people mover to allow passenger access to the Terminal Core Area.

As late as September 2001, Illinois Governor George Ryan was publicly opposed to any expansion at O’Hare, but in October he made a surprise turn and announced his own plan that largely supported Mayor Daley’s proposal, but also called for the construction of a third airport in Peotone and the preservation of Meigs Field on Chicago’s lakefront. A few months later, Daley and Ryan reached a compromise agreement which would expand O’Hare, create a new airport in Peotone, and keep Meigs Field open—at least for a few more years. Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, who supported the plan, began advancing legislation that would help pay for the airfield improvements. Senator Peter Fitzgerald, the other senator from Illinois, opposed the legislation, forcing Ryan and Daley to take their request for funding to the state level.

The ultimate stage of the O’Hare Modernization Plan, including the World Gateway Program and Western Terminal. Source: City of Chicago

The ultimate stage of the O’Hare Modernization Plan, including the World Gateway Program and Western Terminal.
Source: City of Chicago

After four years of study, the FAA announced approval of the World Gateway Program in June of 2002, but only a few months later the World Gateway Project ground to a halt. The airlines, who were in a precarious financial position, argued that they were in no shape to help pay for an extensive upgrade of the airport’s facilities. The plans for all terminal construction were placed on indefinite hold. The funding for the runway upgrades, however, continued to move through the state legislature, which approved the project in 2003. Chicago then submitted a final version of the O’Hare Modernization Plan to the FAA and received final approved to begin construction in September 2005. In May of 2003, Chicago and the airlines agreed on a funding structure for Phase 1 of the OMP, which included the lengthening of Runway 10L-28R and the construction of 9L-27R, 10C-28C, and a north field air traffic control tower.

Just because the airlines had agreed to the plan didn’t mean the surrounding suburbs were content. The plan to expand O’Hare once again hinged on land acquisition, and the Village of Bensenville on the airport’s western border stood to lose over 500 homes and businesses, almost 15 percent of the village. Chicago would also need to move two more cemeteries—St. Johannes and Resthaven—in order to complete the expansion project. Lawsuits over the expansion of O’Hare were nothing new and Bensenville wasted no time seeking to stop the expansion in the courts. Bensenville’s legal objection to O’Hare’s expansion ended in 2009 when the village agreed to a deal, allowing the acquisition of almost all the land needed for the runway expansion.

St. John’s United Church of Christ, which owned the St. Johannes cemetery, also filed suit against the city seeking to stop its relocation. The church lost both state and federal lawsuit to block the move, and in 2011, Chicago began the process of moving the burial site. Chicago also modified plans for the south airfield such that relocation of the Resthaven Cemetery became unnecessary.

While the city dealt with the objections of Bensenville and St. John’s to the south airfield, construction began on the north side of the airport in 2005 shortly after the FAA’s approval of the OMP. The OMP began with construction of the north air traffic control tower and Runway 9L-27R, a 7,500 foot runway that would initially serve to help the airport land more aircraft during poor weather. In 2006, construction began on the extension of 10L-28R from 10,000 to 13,000 feet. Runway 9L-27R and the north ATC tower opened in November 2008. In 2010, demolition commenced on the Bensenville properties, allowing for the relocation of a major railway and road. In December of that year, work was completed on the 10C-28C West portion of OMP’s Phase 1. This included the western portion of the runway as well as the taxiway and ramp infrastructure for FedEx’s new cargo facility. The old facility sat directly where the runway would go. Construction was finished on 10C-28C in October 2013, providing O’Hare with its first 200-foot-wide runway.

The global economic downturn almost brought the O’Hare Modernization Program to halt in January 2011, when United and American sued to stop the project. By 2010, the airlines were arguing that the OMP was no longer necessary given the falling demand for air travel. Chicago maintained the OMP would help the city prepare for the eventual rebound in demand. The U.S. Department of Transportation mediated discussions between the city and the airlines and an agreement was reached in March 2011 that allowed for continued work on the OMP.

Construction phases and timeline of the O’Hare Modernization Plan. Source: City of Chicago

Construction phases and timeline of the O’Hare Modernization Plan.
Source: City of Chicago

The agreement broke Phase 2 of the project into two parts, Phase 2A and 2B. Phase 2A comprised the construction Runway 10R-28L and the south ATC tower. It also included a number of smaller airfield projects and the extension of the ATS system to a new economy parking structure. Phase 2B included the extension of 9R-27L and the construction of 9C-27C. Phase 2A is slated for completion at the end of 2015. Phase 2B completion targets are still to be determined.

Whatever the eventual decision regarding the Master Plan for O’Hare, the decade and a half since the introduction of the World Gateway Program has seen a massive number of improvements to the airfield. At the end of the O’Hare Modernization Program the airport will have been transformed from three pairs of intersecting runways to six east-west runways and two northeast-southwest runways. Many questions remain about the future of O’Hare, chiefly the future for the World Gateway Program. While the WGP was included in the airports Master Plan of 2004, little progress has been made on the terminal improvements and construction envisioned in the plan. Passenger numbers at O’Hare have fallen from their historic highs, so it remains to be seen when or if future terminals will be built.

O’Hare as it looked in 2003 before any airfield improvements, left, while on the right, the field after the completion of Phase 1 and most of 2A of the O’Hare Modernization Plan. Source: City of Chicago

O’Hare as it looked in 2003 before any airfield improvements, left, while on the right, the field after the completion of Phase 1 and most of 2A of the O’Hare Modernization Plan.
Source: City of Chicago

When Ralph Burke first proposed his design for Orchard Place Airport nearly 75 years ago he could not have envisioned the transformation of the airport and airline industry that took place in the intervening years. From a few 5,500 foot runways to multiple runways twice that long and a terminal complex that continues to grow, O’Hare generally grows one direction: out. Whether or not this round of expansion will be enough to keep O’Hare competitive in the twenty-first century remains to be seen.

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A Video Tribute to Calder Sloan

By Chris Sloan / Published April 21, 2014

Dear Family & Friends,

Our wonderful 2CMedia family produced the most awesome video tribute to Calder. Under the leadership of our first employee (and family member) Adam Cronan, they went above and beyond in producing something that goes far beyond the typical slideshow. We showed it at his Memorial Service and there were many smiles and tears. If you can take 10 minutes, Carla, Caleb, and I would love for you to watch the piece. Calder is soaring through the heavens now.

Calder Tribute (10min) iPhone from Nikki Coloma on Vimeo.

We were told Calder was going to change the world and his legacy indeed is doing that. People around the world are checking their pools, hugging their kids, and being very generous in supporting us and donating to his legacy fund. Calder’s story is the world’s story. Just Google “Calder Sloan” and you will be amazed at the stories written about him from The New York Daily News, ABC News, even the London UK newspapers. Folks have been asking what they can do for us. Donating to his fund would mean the world to him and us.

With love and gratitude….

Chris, Carla, Calder, and Caleb


Via PayPal

Via Check:
Lehrman Community Day School
memo: Calder J Sloan Legacy Fund

Lehrman Community Day School
727 77th St
Miami Beach, Fl 33141
Attn: Jodi Bruce, Head of School

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US Airways to Trim New European Seasonal Flights From Charlotte

By Jack Harty / Published April 20, 2014

As first reported by the Charlotte Observer, US Airways/American Airlines plans to trim new seasonal flights between Charlotte and Europe before they even start. Last October, the carrier announced that it would launch a major trans-Atlantic expansion from Charlotte.

Starting May 23, 2014, US Airways will launch year-round daily flights between Charlotte and Barcelona utilizing a Airbus A330-200. The carrier was also going to launch seasonal flights to Manchester (UK) and Lisbon between May 23 and September 28 utilizing a Boeing 757-200. Additionally, it was also going to operate daily seasonal flights to Brussels between June 5 and September 1 utilizing a Boeing 767-200.

Due to weaker-than-expected bookings, the airline plans to reduce the number of flights it was expecting to fly, according to what an airline spokesperson told the Charlotte Observer. Flights to Brussels and Lisbon will operate four days a week instead of daily. Additionally, all of the seasonal flights will end approximately a month earlier than the original end dates.

The expansion was positive news for the Charlotte hub, and it represented a 34.9% increase in summer trans-Atlantic capacity year over year. Although the schedule is being reduced, passengers flying US Airways will still be able to reach ten European destinations from Charlotte.

As American and US Airways begin to integrate, the carrier is ensuring that it maximizes its fleet and profitability. As soon as this summer, we could see American and US Airways begin to cross fleet.

Jack Harty reported to this story. You can contact the reporter at

Vinay Bhaskara contributed to this report.

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TGIF: Thank-Goodness It’s Flyday Week-End Wrap Up – April 18th Edition

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published April 18, 2014

Thank-goodness it’s Flyday…err Friday, everyone! In this week’s edition the 737 hits 8,000, epic Twitter fails, American Eagle becomes Envoy, and more…

Photo courtesy Boeing

Photo courtesy Boeing

8000:  Boeing delivered its 8,000th 737 this week. United was the lucky winner, taking home a brandy-new 737-900ER. The plane has a small sticker on the starboard side to mark the milestone. The event was celebrated in an employee only event in Renton.

The airplane has been produced at a blistering clip since it hit the 5,000th airplane in 2006. Just for scale, the 4,000th delivery took place in 2001. The 2,000th? February 1991.

Swapped: The Wall St Journal reports that Jet Airways has ordered 17 737 MAX jets, swapping them with an existing order for standard 737-800 airplanes. It is the second MAX order from an Indian carrier, following a healthy order for 42 from SpiceJet.

AMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP ENVOY LOGOAmerican Eagle, AKA Envoy, AKA American Eagle: American Eagle officially changed its name to Envoy Air Inc on Tuesday. Well, sort of.

If you recall from a previous article we ran on the Envoy name change, American Eagle existed both as a subsidiary regional airline under the umbrella of American, and as a brand name that multiple regional carriers operated on behalf of American. Thus American Eagle the brand is operated by American Eagle the airline as well as Republic, SkyWest, and Expressjet among others. Confused? Thought so.

The name change to Envoy is meant to clear some of that confusion up, and thus only extends to the American owned regional subsidiary. Which means the airplanes will continue operating for American Eagle the brand, but as Envoy instead of American Eagle the airline. They’ll now have a cute little  sticker affixed to the fuselage declaring their new corporate affiliation. Envoy will remain a part of American Airlines Group, though it is facing downsizing as a result of sour labor negotiations.

Emirates Airline A380 Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / AirchiveDinged: A380s faced a handful of incidents this week. First, a Korean Air jet struck two light poles at Los Angeles LAX on Wednesday. The thirty foot poles were bent over, damaging the wing slightly. Meanwhile, an Emirates A380 rolled up a little too close to the gate in Toronto. An engine was damaged when the airplane hit the jetbridge, and replacement parts had to be brought in.

Hawaiian Airlines to Beijing: Hawaiian launched thrice weekly flights between its Honolulu hub and Beijing. In addition, the carrier also began a codeshare agreement with Air China. That extends the carriers reach to Air China connecting flights from Beijing to Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Shenyang. Air China, meanwhile, adds connecting Hawaiian traffic to several of the islands.

American AirlinesOh, Twitter: It has been a notably spectacular week for airlines and Twitter.

The week started with a Dutch girl threatening American Airlines with an apparently faux bomb threat. She claimed she was from Al Qaida and had big plans for June 1st. American responded, stating they had her IP address and that details were sent to the FBI and security, then went silent.

She freaked out, claiming it was all a joke.  The joke sort of wound up on her, as she was later arrested for it. Unfortunately the incident apparently spurred a ton of copy-cat incidents from equally idiotic teens.

Thing escalated quickly when, on Monday, US Airways inadvertently posted an extremely inappropriate image—and we can’t stress the phrase extremely inappropriate enough—on their feed, where it remained for an entire hour. The post ground every other conversation on Twitter to a halt as it went viral, prompting slack-jawed stares followed by an endless stream of RTs and snappy one-liners. It quickly spread beyond the Twittersphere, like wildfire, to the interwebz as a whole. I remain convinced that some academic who studies workplace productivity on a national scale will indeed discover a measurable decrease.

We won’t be posting the image here, and we imagine by now that if you’ve heard about this you’ve already either seen it or made the far more wise decision of averting thine eyes.

Needless to say, after such an epic mistake, one that was instantly (and pretty rightfully) labeled the worst mistake ever made on Twitter by a major brand, we thought head(s) would roll.

AA 777-200 JDLBut they didn’t. US Airways owned up to the mistake pretty much instantly. After an investigation, it explained that the image was first posted on by someone else to its account. The offending photograph was flagged for removal, but instead was accidentally attached to a customer response and well, the rest is already is already well known. The company announced later in the week that since it was an honest, albeit terrible, mistake, no one would be fired.

And I’m glad. Honest mistakes happen, and giving grace is often far more powerful than trotting out the ax.

Inquiry: Oddly enough, inquiries for US Airways 777 models are up 2,000% nationwide, we’re told.

Finally, we turn your attention to a video from LOT Polish, which recently painted one of its Embraer 170 aircraft to a retro livery to celebrate its 85th anniversary. The airplane looks pretty sweet.

Enjoy the video, it’s pretty sweet.

In case you missed it, Airchive had a lot of great coverage right here. This week’s stories:

Italian Court Rules Against Emirates’ Milan – New York Route

Canadian North and First Air Propose a ‘Merger of Equals’

A New Pan American Start-Up

Airline 4.0: Another Start-Up

The Fascinating History Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport: 1960-2000

JetBlue to Launch New Flights from Pittsburgh

Analysis of Delta’s Widebody Replacement Options for 767-300ER and 747-400

Introducing the Airchive Podcast!

Aircraft Interiors Expo 2014 Wrap Up

Ryanair Gets a Little Friendlier

Broken Airplane? Call The Charter Experts!

Will the 757 Get MAX’d?

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Saying Goodbye to Our Little AvGeek, Mr. Awesome

By Chris Sloan / Published April 17, 2014

Dear friends and family in the aviation industry:

Caleb, Chris, and Calder in front of an airworthy Ford Trimotor.

Caleb, Chris, and Calder in front of an airworthy Ford Trimotor.

As many of you know Carla, Caleb, and I and our family lost our incredible, big hearted, and brilliant 7-year old son Calder “Mr. Awesome” Sloan on Sunday. He passed away due to a tragic and bizarre accident. Calder was an AvGeek from the beginning. He was named after the famous Braniff Boeing 727 “Flying Colors of the United States” used to commemorate the Bicentennial of the America in 1976. This aircraft was designed by the legendary artist Alexander “Sandy” Calder who also designed the mobiles that hang in New York JFK’s Terminal 4.

1976-braniff-calder-spirit-of-76-boeing-727-inflight_227He was one of us from the beginning. His first flight was on an American Airlines 737 from Miami to New Orleans. He referred to the engines as boosters. Today Calder is flying in the heavens with VFR for 1000’s of miles looking down on all of us. Please say hi to him when you look up to the skies or out the window on your next trip. His memory for those who know him is the ultimate IFE.

Caleb and Calder.

Caleb and Calder.

He was so worshiped by us and his little brother Caleb. For those of you who knew him, you know you will never forget what a generous, spirited, bigger then life person her was. We were told a number of times by his teachers he would change the world. He changed ours during his much too short time with us. We feel so blessed to call Calder Jacob Sloan our son. Carla and I have felt such solace at the outpouring of wishes that we have received from friends, family, and business associates. You all are lifting us up in these dark hours.

C8This Friday April 18th at 11:30AM we will be holding memorial services and if you can make it we would appreciate it if you came. Certainly we understand with short notice that this could be impossible. Following a procession, we will then be holding a brief graveside burial service at a beautiful lakeside spot. Calder loved the water. Fish would envy what a great swimmer he was. I am not kidding.

With much love and appreciation,

Chris, Carla, Calder, and Caleb

Calder Tribute (10min) iPhone from Nikki Coloma on Vimeo.

C6 C4 C3 C2


A tribute video to Calder Sloan and information on how you can donate to his legacy fund.

Calder’s “Mr. Awesome” Campaign ala Flat Stanley dreamt up by Jim Cahill is helping deliver on the promise of Calder changing the world. All of you contributing these pictures of his love and joy are making us feel a lot better and carrying on his legacy. Adventure. Laughter. Kindness. WPLG will be running a very special news story today from 4-6:30pm and look at this story and slideshow from you and some unique cameos. Please keep it going!

Going Viral: Mr. Awesome Has a Message for You

Temple Beth Shalom
4144 Chase Avenue
Miami Beach, Florida

In lieu of flowers, we are asking for donations to be made to Calder’s School, Lehrman. Your donations are tax deductible and will go toward establishing a legacy foundation in his honor. Calder absolutely adored going to school and loved his friends, math, soccer, reading, and Hebrew class…really everything about it except for waking up early. Caleb attends Lehrman and is receiving a great education. We love it that Caleb will be reminded of his beloved brother each day he goes to school. You can read more about his school at:


Please make checks out to:
Lehrman Community Day School
memo: Calder J Sloan Legacy Fund

Lehrman Community Day School
727 77th St
Miami Beach, Fl 33141
Attn: Jodi Bruce, Head of School

We now have a way to donate simply via Credit Card / PayPal

Additional Information

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Will the 757 Get MAX’d?

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published April 17, 2014

757MAXWill the 757 be making a MAX-style comeback? The answer, it appears, is no.

Rumors that the jet could make a glorious return to the skies were squelched by Boeing on Tuesday, who first reported the news to the Puget Sound Business Journal. The company has since also confirmed the news to Airchive.

“The answer is no,” said Boeing spokesperson Doug Alder-Jr in a flat rejection of the possibility.

Speculation began to mount back at the Singapore Airshow in February of this year, when comments made by Boeing’s sales director suggested there was a place in the market for a 757-style airplane. The issue again made waves when the website Motley Fool, which specializes in financials, posted a story suggesting the 757 MAX may already be in the works.

Even if the company was interested, and again, it says “we don’t see a 757 MAX at all”, it is a bit busy with several other projects at the moment. Alder noted this, stating that the company is presently focusing on “investing in our new products from the 737 MAX to the 787 to the 777X.”

Consequently Alder said that the company does not “see a new airplane emerging until well into the next decade.” So while the 757 may never again see the light of the day on Boeing production lines, the door is still open to something of similar capability and capacity down the road.

The 757 had a reputation for being an exceptionally capable airplane, able to operate efficiently out of hot and high airports, and run routes ranging from the US to South America to the US to Europe. While Boeing’s own 737 MAX 9 and Airbus’ A321neo can replace much of the 757s role, neither is a 100% replacement, particularly when it comes to performance.

As a result we’ve said before that a market exists for a 200-240 seat airplane with the capacity and range of the 757, but a build quality closer to a Dreamliner. Roll-out of such a jet, which would likely be clean sheet, could be expected around 2025, after the bulk of the development is long done on Boeing’s current projects.

Meanwhile, the 757 remains surprisingly popular despite its age. According to, roughly 850 of the jets are still in service out of the 1,049 delivered.

A Boeing house livery 757 adorns a product review brochure from 1994. Photo from Airchive Archives

A Boeing house livery 757 adorns a product review brochure from 1994. Photo from Airchive Archives

The airplane was designed to replace the company’s venerable 727 aircraft, and first flew on February 19, 1982. Former US carrier Eastern Air Lines launched the jet on January 1, 1983. The airplane went on serve dozens of airlines worldwide. It’s high capacity, for a narrowbody, and short runway performance capability made it a popular airplane in congested airports such as New York LaGuardia and Washington Reagan. It ended production in 2004, with the last airplane delivered in 2005.

RELATED: 757 Launch Brochure  /  Eastern Airlines 757 Launch  /   Boeing Renton Factory – Part One

Contact the author at

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A New Pan American Start-Up

By Jack Harty / Published April 17, 2014

Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

Here we go again: Pan American may see a return to the skies yet again, under Pan American Airways Global Holdings. This marks the latest attempt to jump start the old, iconic brand.

The new start-up plans to focus its operations “within the southern tier markets”, according to a press release. It adds that it is “committed to delivering a top flight level of service that was once enjoyed by many worldwide, and those expectations will be extended into the new 21st century business model, as we continue to proceed with our plans to launch early, to mid-summer of this year.”

Last year, Pan American Airways Global Holdings signed an exclusive agreement with Eaton–Texas Investments, Inc. to acquire its equity stake in the assets of the former Ryan International Airlines. On October 20, 2013, a final purchase agreement was formally ratified and approved by both members after final terms were adjusted and amended. Now, the airline needs to receive regulatory approval from the DOT and FAA.

Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

In October, the start-up announced that it would return to its former iconic roots of 200 Park Ave. in Manhattan New York. In a press release, “New York left the most desirable impression for obvious reasons in returning to its’ former status in Manhattan. With its current holdings, Pan American Global brings a vast array of products to service in this move including Pan American Global Airways, Grace Air, Pan Am Airways, Pan Am Charters, Clipper Cargo, an International Hotel currently completing its build out in Rome, Italy, a new inflight media venue, and other International venues soon to be announced in future releases.”

The company completed its formal selection of Boeing 737-800 aircraft last week, and the airline will begin to select flight crews within the next week. The airline plans to commence operations as soon as this summer, again, pending those pesky regulatory approvals.

Photo from a 1977 50th Anniversary Brochure. From the Airchive Archives

Photo from a 1977 50th Anniversary Brochure. From the Airchive Archives

Pan Am was, for a time, the largest name in aviation. It was one of the first to pioneer extensive international service, commanding an enormous fleet of flying boats that traversed destinations from Hong Kong to Rio in the 1930s. The carrier went on to be the premier player of the jet age, the embodiment of the jet-set years. Its founder, Juan Trippe, is a major personality behind the development of the Boeing 747. At its height in the 1960s and 70s the carrier commanded hubs in Frankfurt, New York, London, Miami, and Tokyo.

But the good times began to come to an end in the 1980s as the carrier faced financial struggles. The combination of increased fuel prices, debt, and competition forced the carrier to gradually sell off assets until its complete demise in January, 1991.

Eclipse Holdings, Inc. purchased some Pan American World Airways trademarks and assets at an auction by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court on in 1993. The scheduled airline rights were sold to Pan American Airways on December 20–29, 1993 by Eclipse Holdings.

The brand has seen a number of resurrection attempts over the years. The first reincarnation of the original Pan Am was from 1996 to 1998. It focused on low-cost long-distance flights between the United States and the Caribbean. This company was later spun off into a domestic carrier in Dominican Republic called Pan Am Dominica. It died in 2012.

Unrelated to the first iteration, the second attempt began in 1998. It was a small regional carrier based in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, specializing in utilizing second tier airports. It lasted until 2004, when its sister company Boston-Maine Airways began operating the “Pan Am Clipper Connection”. The 727-200 service lasted several years, until February 2008.

In November 2010 Pan American Airways, Incorporated was born. The carrier was based at Brownsville/South Padre Island International Airport in Brownsville, Texas, and flew to Mexico. It would not last long, as the company’s CEO Robert L. Hedrick was convicted of felony charges in 2012. As a result, the company lost its bid with the FAA to pursue passenger or cargo flights of any kind.

A Fond Farewell and a Happy Hello at JFK
JFK Furious over Pan Am Concorde Order in Declassified Phone Calls

Pan Am Timetables, Route Maps
Pan Am / Pan American Airways Sales Brochures and Memorabilia
Pan Am: Aviation History Through the Words of its People

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Broken Airplane? Call The Charter Experts!

By Jason Rabinowitz / Published April 16, 2014

A EuroAtlantic 767 on final approach to JFK, operating for Norwegian

A EuroAtlantic 767 on final approach to JFK, operating for Norwegian

Pretend for a moment that you are the CEO of a long haul airline with a fleet already stretched to the limits. One of your mechanics just informed you that your brand new Boeing 787 has an issue that will keep it on the ground for the next three days – a total disaster. If you cancel three days worth of flights, thousands of people will be stranded and your airline will be on the hook for a boat load of money in compensation.

What do you do?

In situations just like this, charter airlines like EuroAtlantice and Hi Fly come to the rescue.

Neither is exactly your typical airline – instead of running normal scheduled routes, they specialize in leasing out their aircraft out to other airlines on a case by case basis. Most this comes in the form of something called a “wet lease.” When an airline “wet leases” an aircraft, the airplane comes fully loaded with a crew, maintenance support, and insurance – everything an airline needs to resume operations as soon as possible.

EuroAtlantic operates three passenger Boeing 767s, a single Boeing 777-200ER, as well as a Boeing 737-800. Hi Fly focuses on medium to long term leasing, and currently has a fleet of twelve Airbus wide-body aircraft, ranging from the A310 all the way up to the A340-600. Over the last year, these aircraft have become extensively used by one particular airline in need.

A HiFly A340-300 on approach to JFK, operating for Norwegian.

A HiFly A340-300 on approach to JFK, operating for Norwegian.

In the summer of 2013, when Norwegian Air Shuttle started its highly anticipated long haul service, they were an airline without a fleet. The airline bet the farm on an all Boeing 787 fleet for long haul operations, but a grounding caused by battery fires delayed deliveries. Once deliveries finally started rolling in, Norwegian experienced problem after problem with its 787s, putting the airline in a tough spot.

Rather than push back the start of service and tarnish the airlines reputation, Norwegian looked to the charter airline Hi Fly for help. The airline initiated long haul services with a wet leased  Airbus A340-300, the very aircraft which Norwegian CEO Bjorn Kjos scalded at a press conference in early September of 2013. When prolonged and unpredictable issues with the airline’s 787 fleet struck several months later, Norwegian then turned to EuroAtlantic, operating flights with Boeing 767s and 777s.

Wet-leasing an aircraft can work in a pinch, but the costs add up quickly. As Norwegian continues to endure issues with its 787′s, the bills have been piling up. “[O]ur results this quarter are significantly affected by the additional costs associated with replacement aircraft for the Dreamliner,” said Norwegian CEO Bjørn Kjos in the airlines third quarter 2013 financial report. Although it is likely that Boeing will pick up a substantial part of the costs, it has still eroded Norwegians profit in a significant way.

The process for acquiring an aircraft on short notice is surprisingly simple. “When an airline needs an aircraft, they contact EuroAtlantic´s commercial department,” said Francesca Valle, external relations representative for EuroAtlantic. “If an aircraft is available, it can be dispatched [as soon as possible]. We travel all over the world, so [the aircraft] can come from any place worldwide,” added Valle.

A Hi Fly Airbus A340-500 wet leased to Nigerian airline Arik Air (Photo: Jason Rabinowitz)

A Hi Fly Airbus A340-500 wet leased to Nigerian airline Arik Air (Photo: Jason Rabinowitz)

While airlines like Norwegian turn to charter airlines during temporary issues, others rely on them on a full time basis. Nigerian airline Arik Air wet leased two Hi Fly Airbus A340-500s in 2009 to start long haul services and still continues the lease today. The airline has since weened itself off the lease agreement after acquiring two Airbus A330′s for use on the Lagos – London route, but the wet leased aircraft are still an integral part of its fleet.

In the United States, charter airlines have been a dying breed over the last decade. Just last week, charter airline World Airways ceased operations. Of the few American charter airlines remaining, Atlas air stands out as the frontrunner. With a passenger fleet of Boeing 747-400s and 767s, Atlas recently provided assistance to Canadian airline Westjet during post-storm recovery. Tulsa based Omni AIr International also provides quite a bit of military charter flights with its fleet of Boeing 767s and 777s.

In a time of rapid expansion in the airline industry, these charter airlines help to fill the gaps a growing airline might find itself with. While leasing an aircraft for extended periods is a pricey proposition, if the benefits outweigh the burden, charter airlines are just a phone call away.

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Aircraft Interiors Expo 2014 Wrap Up

By Jason Rabinowitz, Special to / Published April 14, 2014

Imagine a place where every single aspect of an airplane’s inside was on display and up for sale: From seats to fasteners, plastic mouldings to satellite arrays. Put it all in Hamburg, Germany, spread it out over seven halls, and call it Aircraft Interiors Expo 2014.

Industry firms large and small (and tiny) all brought their newest, latest, and greatest to this year’s show, hoping to capture the interest of airlines in this multi-billion dollar industry. Throughout the show, there were a few main recurring themes that have been the constant theme in the industry for a few years now. As Data Research Manager for, it was my job to find the most interesting trends.

More Seats In Economy, Less Space, Few But Important Innovations

Flying economy in the modern age has gotten to the point where 32″ pitch is a luxury, and 30″ pitch is the new norm. Slimline seats are the new cool, and airlines are gobbling these up faster than vendors can manufacture them. Reduced seat pitch, width, and cushioning are coming to an airplane near you, but it isn’t all bad.

This ACRO slimline seat may be pushing the limits of seat pitch, but it wasn't that bad!

This ACRO slimline seat may be pushing the limits of seat pitch, but it wasn’t that bad!

Seat manufacturer ACRO has managed to develop a seat with so much space carved out of it around the knees that a configuration of 29″ inches feels more like 32″ to the passenger. That may not sound like much, but it is the difference between being horribly uncomfortable and content for a short flight. The seats come with a positively tiny but super strong tray table which is barely wide enough to support an iPad. ACRO will start delivering these seats to Spirit Airlines for five retrofitted Airbus A319s and new A320 and A321 deliveries in 2015.

One of the largest seat manufactures, Recaro, showed us that even the smallest of changes to their seats can have a large impact. We’ve all seen the photo showing various “innovative” ways passengers set up their own entertainment devices in economy, but Recaro has come up with a simple, yet ingenious solution to the problem.

A Recaro BL3530 with optional tablet holder

A Recaro BL3530 with optional tablet holder

With the addition of a few plastic bits, the seat itself becomes the perfect tablet holder in an increasingly bring-your-own-entertainment-device world. This simple innovation allows passengers to free up their tray table and position their tablet at a comfortable eye level. The device held my 10” iPad with ease, but it did look like it would work for anything smaller.

The Thompson Cozy Suite is an innovative way to cram more passengers into economy, but comfortably.

The Thompson Cozy Suite is an innovative way to cram more passengers into economy, but comfortably.

One innovation for the economy space, sadly, may never actually see the inside of any aircraft cabin. The Thompson Aero Cozy Suite is a brilliant economy seating solution which actually staggers each row so that passengers are slightly set back from one another. The “suite” style seats create a feeling of added privacy and personal space, but actually use nearly the same space needed for traditional seats. Although the seats are a radical departure from the normal seat design, they were quite comfortable even with three people in the row. Unfortunately, after quite a bit of time on the market, no airline has ordered this innovative seat.

Front of The Plane

The layered Sogerma Equinox seat

The layered Sogerma Equinox seat

The economy cabin isn’t the only section of the aircraft that airlines are looking to cram more passengers into the same amount of space. One seat model from Airbus subsidiary Sogerma stood out as the most innovative, but also the most controversial solution. The seat pair is angled in toward each other, which is nothing new. What is new, however, is that the two seats transform into a layered lie-flat bed. In essence, the feet of one passenger end up resting on a platform on top of the adjacent passenger. This saves a bit of width per seat without compromising comfort, but it sure does look strange. I tried the seat and found it to be comfortable, so this will be one to keep an eye out for in the future.

The Thompson JetBlue Mint seat for the upcoming A321 transcon service.

The Thompson JetBlue Mint seat for the upcoming A321 transcon service.

Thompson Aero also had production samples of JetBlue’s upcoming Mint cabin seats on display, and I can tell you they are every bit as comfortable as they look. The seats feature a massage function, which actually comes in the form of expanding lumbar support instead of the traditional vibrate function, which was a nice surprise. Also surprising was the tethered remote with the JetBlue logo on it, featuring play, pause, and fast forward symbols. JetBlue currently does not feature video on demand, and hasn’t said whether it is coming to Mint, so this could be a sign that this feature is coming to its A321s with Mint configuration. If JetBlue does opt to go with AVOD, this may just boost its Routehappy Happiness score a bit.

Sogerma Celeste business class narrowbody seat

Sogerma Celeste business class narrowbody seat

In the rest of the business class space, seats seem to be getting larger and more complex, further widening the gap between business/first class and economy. Seats such as the Zodiac Aerospace Aura don’t even deserve to be called a seat, but rather a living room. I’m fairly certain some apartments in Manhattan are smaller than these luxurious devices. Thankfully, not everything being shown was an enormous first class seat or tiny economy seat. The Sogerma Celeste business class narrowbody and premium economy narrowbody seat was quite different from traditional seats. The seat design is unlike anything else I have seen, and it was surprisingly comfortable.

More, Better Connectivity

More so than any single other category, the in-flight connectivity sector was breaking news left and right, with Gogo stealing the show. Passengers have begun to expect their next flight to be WiFi enabled, and we are just now getting to the point where the industry is coming up with new and creative technologies to meet the demand.

The Gogo 2Ku antenna under a clear display radome

The Gogo 2Ku antenna under a clear display radome

On day one of the show, Gogo came out early with guns blazing, announcing their newest product called 2Ku. Gogo is looking to deliver even more bandwidth to each airplane by mounting two ThinKom antennas under one radome, promising speeds of up to 70Mbps to each aircraft, and 100Mbps once next generation satellites are launched. Traditional Ku antennas are quite bulky, but the 2Ku system uses the latest generation of thin antennas, slimming off several inches. That may not sound like much, but a thinner profile means reduced aerodynamic drag which means less fuel burn. 2Ku will launch in mid-2015 and Japan Airlines is slated to “be among the first” airlines trial the technology.

In addition to 2Ku, Gogo also announced that WiFi would finally be coming to the Great White North, as Air Canada signed a deal to outfit their entire North American fleet with Gogo’s air-to-ground service. The new service will be coming to the carrier’s Airbus A319, A320, A321, Embraer E190 and E175, as well as the CRJ700, with 29 aircraft online in 2014 and the rest by the end of 2015. Air Canada will also test 2Ku and Global Xpress for widebody aircraft in 2015.

In-Flight Entertainment

Finally, the in-flight entertainment (IFE) industry is starting to catch up to the level of technology passengers use every day with their iPads and phones. Most current IFE systems are clunky, unresponsive, and downright poorly designed. New systems from a wide array of companies, however, is about to bring IFE into the 21st century.

Panasonic is the 800 pound gorilla in the room – you can spot their eX2 system in a good percentage of aircraft worldwide. State of the art built-in systems from Lumexis, Thales, Zodiac, and Rockwell Collins are bringing responsive capacitive screens, multitasking, “second screen” support, and a multitude of new features to the sky. Soon enough, that annoying “reboot penguin” should be a thing of the past.

Lufthansa BoardConnect running on my personal iPad.

Lufthansa BoardConnect running on my personal iPad.

For airlines that don’t want a full blown IFE system, streaming systems are being unveiled left and right. More and more firms are bringing streaming content to the cabin, such as Lufthansa’s BoardConnect system, Gogo’s Vision product, Global Eagle’s WISE, in addition to little firms that are sticking wireless access points in galley carts and other odd places.


The general trend we are seeing in economy is smaller seats, more “efficient” seats, but the technology to distract from the discomfort is finally catching up to the 21st century. Faster and more reliable WiFi, in-flight entertainment coming to airlines that could never have afforded it in the part, and innovative new seating configurations are finally a reality. Meanwhile, at the front of the plane, the gap between economy and business/first class grows even larger.


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The Fascinating History Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport: 1960-2000

By Ian Petchenik / Published April 14, 2014

The second in a series on the history of the famous Chicago hub, author Ian Petchmo goes behind the scenes to discover an airport rushed into the jet age and in a state of constant expansion. Can it take it? Miss part one? Read it here!

If the 1940s and 50s were spent bringing passengers and airlines to O’Hare, the remainder of the twentieth century was spent making sure there was a place to put them. Almost immediately after the airport officially opened passenger traffic skyrocketed. The airlines’ transition to jet aircraft sped the shift of flights from Midway to O’Hare in the early 1960s. As Midway’s short runways could not safely handle the larger jets, O’Hare overtook Midway’s lead in traffic in 1961, and by 1967 Midway saw only 4,500 scheduled airline movements, 300,000 fewer than only a decade before.

At O’Hare, traffic was moving briskly—perhaps a bit too briskly. The airport’s 1962 Master Plan foresaw 533,000 movements by 1980, yet the field reached that level in 1966.

The renovated 1955 terminal reopened as the new International Terminal in 1963. Credit: City of Chicago

The renovated 1955 terminal reopened as the new International Terminal in 1963. Credit: City of Chicago

The first update to the original terminal complex came in 1963, when the original domestic terminal built in 1955 was renovated to become a new International Terminal. There were 490 people on direct flights between Europe and Chicago in 1953. Just ten years later, over 250,000 passengers used O’Hare to visit an expanded international network including Europe and Mexico. The addition of the dedicated International Terminal allowed Chicago to truly claim the name Chicago-O’Hare International Airport.

By the late 1960s Chicago was already looking for additional capacity. An additional airport in the Chicago area was being considered, but even if approved it was years away. To alleviate congestion, O’Hare added a new east-west runway, 9R-27L, on the south side of the terminal complex in 1967. In 1971, work was completed on 4R-22L on the southeastern portion of the airfield. This gave O’Hare three sets of parallel runways, one pair in each direction oriented east-west, northwest-southeast, and northeast-southwest.

Construction at O’Hare including the addition of 9R-27L and 4R-22L. Credit: City of Chicago

Construction at O’Hare including the addition of 9R-27L and 4R-22L.
Credit: City of Chicago

The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 had a profound impact on operations at O’Hare. Domestic deregulation led to United Airlines and American Airlines consolidating operations at the airport to form their hubs. O’Hare’s terminals were reconfigured to better serve the operations of the hubbing airlines as other airlines, such as TWA and Northwest Airlines, moved their hub operations elsewhere. As United and American’s presence at O’Hare became more pronounced, plans were made for a new terminal complex.

Chicago’s plan for the O’Hare Development Project in 1982. Credit: City of Chicago

Chicago’s plan for the O’Hare Development Project in 1982.
Credit: City of Chicago

In 1982, Chicago launched the O’Hare Development Program, a new master plan designed to provide the airport with new or rehabilitated terminals and service areas by 1990. The plan called for a new International Terminal on the southeast side of the airfield, a commuter terminal and general aviation terminal  located near the new International Terminal, construction of a new Terminal 1—replacing the existing International Terminal—to be used by United, expansion of Terminals 2 and 3, a new air cargo complex on the southwest side of the airfield, a new airport services area with flight kitchens and maintenance facilities, relocation of the existing inner- and outer-taxiway system around the terminal complex, and a people mover to bring passengers between terminals and the remote parking areas.

Detail of the terminal construction plans as part of the O’Hare Development Project. Credit: City of Chicago

Detail of the terminal construction plans as part of the O’Hare Development Project.
Credit: City of Chicago

In 1984, construction began on United’s famous Helmut Jahn-designed “Terminal for Tomorrow.” Yet at the time construction of a new International Terminal was still almost a decade away, so what to do with all of O’Hare’s international traffic? To make way for construction of the new Terminal 1, O’Hare constructed a makeshift terminal on the ground floor of the main parking garage, creating Terminal 4. Passengers were then bussed directly to their flights from the garage/terminal.

The O’Hare CTA Blue Line station. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The O’Hare CTA Blue Line station.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

That same year, Chicago completed its long-planned extension of the CTA Blue Line train to O’Hare from downtown. A direct rail connection to the airport had been planned since the early 1950s but had never been completed. Before the completion of the rail link, passengers who wanted to reach O’Hare via public transportation had to take an express bus from the Jefferson Park station. The train runs in the median space of the Kennedy Expressway and I-190 near the airport before heading into a short subway stretch. It terminates underneath the main parking garage.

United’s Terminal 1 at O’Hare Credit: Flickr User Raymond June

United’s Terminal 1 at O’Hare
Credit: Flickr User Raymond June

Construction of the new Terminal 1 lasted until 1987, when the first dozen of more than 40 new gates opened. Jahn described his design as drawing inspiration from the exhibition halls and railway stations of the turn of the twentieth century, with open floor space and lots of natural light. Concourse B was built next to the roadway, similar to the location of the other terminals, but Concourse C was constructed in the middle of the airfield, connected to Concourse B by an 850 foot tunnel.

The tunnel between Concourses B and C and the “Sky’s the Limit” light sculture. Credit: Flickr user dsearls

The tunnel between Concourses B and C and the “Sky’s the Limit” light sculture.
Credit: Flickr user dsearls

The tunnel, also designed by Jahn, has become one of O’Hare’s defining features. Jahn worked with artist Michael Hayden and composer William Kraft to design the complex light sculpture called “Sky’s the Limit,” which covers the ceiling of the tunnel and undulates to music. Construction of the new terminal wasn’t without its problems, however. The placement of the glass walls and ceilings had the nasty effect of blinding controllers in the O’Hare tower. The problem was solved temporarily by rubbing wax over the windows. Eventually, an acid coating was applied to the windows for a permanent solution.

Throughout the 1980s, extensive renovations were also completed in Terminals 2 and 3. As part of the construction of the new Terminal 1, Terminal 2’s Concourse D was demolished to make room for Concourse B. In 1984, Concourse L in Terminal 3 opened as home of the brand new “Delta Flight Center,” which housed O’Hare’s first computerized curbside baggage check-in. In 1987, American Airlines began renovations of its facilities, modernizing the terminal building constructed in the late 1950s.

The last piece of the O’Hare Development Program broke ground in 1990, when O’Hare began construction on the new International Terminal on the east side of the airport. Completed in 1993, Terminal 5 handles all international arrival traffic from 21 gates. The airport’s new Airport Transit System opened in mid-1993 as well, serving the main terminal complex, T5, and the remote parking areas.

O’Hare at the close of the 20th century. Credit: City of Chicago

O’Hare at the close of the 20th century.
Credit: City of Chicago

Before construction even started on the final phase of the O’Hare Development Program, some were already calling for the expansion of the airport to meet future demand. Delays at O’Hare were mounting and other major airports, such as Dallas and Atlanta, were planning major expansion projects. Chicago’s Mayor Richard M. Daley, son of the former mayor, supported a third airport near Lake Calumet on the city’s south side, but the plan was soon scrapped after resistance from the Illinois legislature. Further disagreement between the Republican-controlled state government and Democratic-controlled Chicago over who would control O’Hare, Midway, and any future airports in the region would lead to nearly a decade of political maneuvering at the state and federal level. As the twentieth century came to a close, O’Hare was at a crossroads: would it modernize and expand, or would it fall victim to delays and political infighting?

PHOTOS: Chicago O’Hare International Airport

EXTRA: Chicago O’Hare historical postcards from 1962

Contact the editor at

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TGIF: Thank-Goodness It’s Flyday Week-End Wrap Up – April 11th Edition

By Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren / Published April 11, 2014

Thank-goodness it’s Flyday…err Friday, everyone! In this week’s edition Virgin takes top honors, TSA confiscates artillery shells, India allows the A380, and more…

Renowned for its innovation in the passenger experience, Virgin America was the first U.S. carrier to bring LED mood lighting to its aircraft. In Economy, Virgin offers a Main Cabin Class with 32" pitch and Main Cabin Select Class with an expanded 38" pitch. Image courtesy: Virgin America

It’s always a party on Virgin American. Image courtesy: Virgin America

Top honors: Virgin America once again took the top honors in the annual airline quality and rating report put out by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Wichita State University. The report is based on US DOT data, tracking everything from on time performance to lost bags, complaints to denied boarding.

That Virgin came in first, for the second year in a row, is no real surprise. The mood-lit cabins, high quality food, and excellent in flight entertainment system have been exceptionally popular. Despite its reputation for a superior product the airline hadn’t turned a profit until 2013. The carrier also faces challenges going forward as rejuvenated legacy carriers begin to catch up with their on board product, particularly in the increasingly competitive trans-con markets that Virgin has hung its hat on.

Anyways, back to the report, JetBlue came in second, while Delta and Hawaiian came in third with a tie, respectively. Southwest, which previously had been number three as recently as 2007, fell into the middle of the pack, at eighth. United took the cake for worst mainline carrier, ranking last. Since the list also includes regionals, United avoided being dead last in the survey. That distinction went to the ever popular American Eagle.

Still, each carrier did better than in 2012, even if they dropped spots down the list.

UA 737 JDLNot exactly…: Related to the above report, US News took the opportunity to utilize the results to create a list of “American’s Meanest Airlines 2014.” First, that’s not exactly accurate, because while the report technically came out in 2014 it is obviously using stats that apply to 2013. Second, when you have to add a disclaimer to the story that the report does not actually call any airlines “mean”, then your title is probably misleading. Third, the word mean has connotations of intentionality, as though American Eagle was out to intentionally make your flight late, or purposely lost your bag and did it with a grin on its face and a song in its hearts. Do we really want to get that cynical? I say not yet.

Bye bye 737-400?: We thought it was worth a mention that the 737-400 may be seeing its last days with US Airways. The classic 737 has been in the US fleet for years, and gradually been transitioning out. According to CH-Aviation, the last flight is due in mid August. Neither US or parent company American Airlines Group have confirmed the information.

Kenya787-1Kenya Airways Receives First 787: Nairobi-based Kenya Airways received its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner last Friday. The aircraft is expected to run regional African routes before being deployed Nairobi to Paris in June. The carrier ordered nine of the jets. Each will feature thirty business class seats and 204 in economy. Kenya Airways will be the second African 787 carrier, following Ethiopian.



Jetairfly begins service to Miami: Miami International Airport welcomed the first Jetairfly service to Brussels, Belgium, on Monday. The carrier will serve the airport twice weekly with a two class Boeing 767-300. It is the carrier’s first US destination.

If the Jetairfly logo looks just Arkefly, Thompson Airways, or TUIfly Nordic it would be because they are all part of TUI Travel PLC. The travel and tourism group owns and manages seven airlines total, all of which have nearly the exact same livery.

SQ A380 JDL-1The Jumbo Cometh: Singapore Airlines will bring its A380 super jumbo to India in late May, the first carrier to do so. The flights will replace two 777 flights to Mumbai and New Delhi.

India had functionally banned the airplane from serving its cities for years. The nation was concerned that the competition from carriers such as Emirates and Singapore would siphon passengers, and their money, away from state-owned flag carrier Air India along with other domestic airlines.

No Indian carrier operates the enormous jet, though Kingfisher had an order for several before it suspended flights in October 2012. Its license was revoked in February 2013, though owners have continued to try to get the airline back in the air ever since.


Photo by Chris Sloan / Airchive

We’re back!! Congrats are in order to the Republic of the Philippines, which managed to earn back its category one rating from the FAA this week. The country lost it in 2008 and was downgraded to a category two of three. In short, it meant the nation and its carriers were not quite up to par safety wise. Reasons can include technical expertise, trained staff, records, or inspections, according to the FAA. While on the degraded status, the carrier was not allowed to add or alter existing service to the US.

The downgrade had primarily affected flag carrier Philippine Airlines, which currently serves Honolulu, Los Angeles, and San Francisco in the US, along with Toronto and Vancouver in Canada.

United 777-200 JDLRunning late: We knew after the record amount of winter weather that February 2014 stats for the industry wouldn’t be pretty. Now that the US DOT figures have come out, we know exactly how bad. Hawaiian and Alaska predictably had the best on time records, at first (90.1) and second (85.7) respectively. After that, things go downhill fast. American held a 73.9% on time record, Southwest was 70.8%, and United 70% on the nose. JetBlue came in third to last with 64.6%, while ExpressJet took the last spot on the list for 59%. Grand total average industry-wide? 70.7%.

Yet the numbers are still an overall improvement over January. The industry held a dismal average of 67.7% in January after getting hit hard repeatedly by winter weather.

KaBoom: Is what two World War I artillery shells thankfully never did whilst they traveled from London to Chicago. Luckily the two French 75mm shells were inert, and thus never had the chance to do any damage.

The TSA discovered the two items in the bags of two teens, who in turn discovered the shells at a former French WWI artillery range. How exactly that happened, and how exactly they got to Chicago with them without being noticed, is unclear. The shells were confiscated, and the teens continued onward to Seattle.

In case you missed it, Airchive had a lot of great coverage right here. This week’s stories:

PHOTOS: Air New Zealand’s First 787-9 Rolls Out

777 ‘Rolls Out’ Twenty Years Ago Today

PHOTOS: New American 777-200 Cabin Details

The Fascinating History Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport: 1920-1960

PHOTOS: Airbus Unveils First A350 Cabin

ONGOING: Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 Missing, Presumed Crashed

InFlight Review: Singapore Airlines Economy

Spirit to Miami? It Just Might Happen

PHOTOS: First ANA 787-9 Takes Flight

The 8,000th 737 Takes its First Flight

United to Close Down Cleveland’s Concourse D

American Airlines and US Airways Unveil New Mileage Awards/Charts

PHOTO: United’s First Boeing 787-9 Exits Factory

Southwest Flies First Flight With Split Scimitar Winglets

Analysis: Alaska Airlines Applies to Serve Seattle – Cancun

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