Next-Gen Regional Jets

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Regional Jets are a frequent flyers second worst nightmare (only behind the Beechcraft 1900). Needless to say passengers will do their absolute best to avoid them. Anyone who has even been on a commercial flight would probably choose a two hour flight on an A319 over a CRJ-700 any day. Currently there is really only one Regional Jet (RJ) that is not horrible for passengers. The E-jet series by Embraer is not bad and not really even worth avoiding. With it’s new more roomy cabin the E-Jets can be very nice for a passengers and some people even say they are like riding mini A320s and 737s. The issue here is that the E-Jet is the ONLY nice RJ and passengers need an alternative.

There is a new breed of RJ aircraft coming onto the scene and there are three main competitors. They are the:

Mitsubishi MRJ-70/90                                                                               Bombardier CS-100/300                                                                                                  Embraer E-Jets E2

Let’s examine each of these one by one and see which seems the best.

We’ll start with the Mitsubishi MRJ-70/90. The MRJ will be built by Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation and will be the first airliner built and produced in Japan since the 1960’s. The 70 version is planned to have a max seating capacity of 78 whereas the 90 version is planned to have a max seating capacity of 92. The 70 is planned to cost $34 million and the 90 is planned to cost $42 million. It is expected that the first MRJ will enter service in 2017 and Japan Airlines , Sky West and Trans States Holdings have some of the largest orders. Mitsubishi has received no orders for the MRJ-70 and has received 223 orders for the MRJ-90.

Next we’ll examine the Embraer. The E-jets as said above are the best Regional Jets in service today. The E-2 series are intended to take the E-jet to the next level in terms of technology and fuel economy. Prices range from 46 to 60 million depending on version and configuration and entry into service is expected in 2018. The E-2 currently has 325 orders.

 

Last but not least is the Bombardier CSeries. The CSeries is intended to compete with the smaller variants of the 737 and with large regional jets like the E-jets. The CSeries will cost between 60 and 75 million dollars depending on configuration and is expected to enter service in 2015. The CSeries has proven to be costly for Bombardier so it is imperative that they make sales. The aircraft family currently has 243 orders.

 

In conclusion the next generation of regional jets is expected to be beneficial to the environment and to passenger comfort. In my opinion the Embraer E-jet will be the most successful of these aircraft. It is the reliable work horse that the airlines love with more space and greater fuel efficiency.

 

What Stands in The Way of a Concorde Return?

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Some think that the Concorde can and will return due to the fact that in recent weeks a group has announced that they want to have it back in the air by 2019. They have millions of dollars of funds secured and have some of the biggest Concorde fans on earth ready to help. Sounds promising doesn’t it? Let’s dig a little deeper here and explain the many obstacles in front of a Concorde return.

 

Multiple Failed Attempts…

After the retirement of the Concorde 12 years ago multiple groups have tried to bring it back only to give up for mostly financial reasons. These guys seem pretty legit though so is there still a possibility?

 

Financial Resources:

The group that would like to bring back Concorde has LOTS of money to help them along, but how much is enough? The Concorde was an extremely expensive beast even when parts were easy to get and fuel was cheap. Currently fuel is at a good price in the U.S. but it’s still more expensive then it was when the aircraft flew. Other costs such as parts and labor have also gone up making Concorde more expensive to operate.

 

Lack of Manufacturer Support:

There is virtually no support for the two most important parts of the aircraft which are the airframe and the powerplants. The company that produced the airframe is now part of Airbus who is likely reluctant to start production of expensive and complex parts just so that one enthusiast group can fly one aircraft. The same principal applies for Rolls Royce/SNECMA which is the company that made the engines for the Concorde.

 

The Concorde Probably Won’t Play Nice in 2015 and probably not in 2019:

Due to things like noise restrictions Concorde may have trouble operating in 2019 which is when they want it back in service.

 

Certification Could be a Major Issue:

The Concorde could face major issues in terms of being certified in Europe and/or the U.S. due to its age and the fact that Airbus is unlikely to play nice with the group that wants to restore it. Without certification it would be difficult for the public to fly on the Concorde.

 

Above you saw some of the obstacles that could be standing in front of Concorde when it comes to returning to flying. Personally I don’t think that the Concorde will return to the skies but I would love to be proven wrong. After all the Concorde is the true Queen of the skies.

 

Let me know what YOU think in the comments section below.

Odd Airline Route 6/16/2015

For the first article in the Odd Airline Routes series I’ve decided to go with one that hardly anyone knows about.

In Alaska there is a small town called Adak. With an estimated population of 326 Adak is truly tiny. It lies 1200 miles southwest of Anchorage. At one point in time Adak island was home to a large military base and the airport is still there. The airport is still in use for the twice a week Alaska Airlines flights that service the the island.

Alaska Airlines uses a Boeing 737-400 Combi aircraft for the flights which is one of the things that makes this route odd and slightly impressive. Try to think of another town of under 500 people that gets twice a week 737 service. It’s pretty hard isn’t it?

The pilots of this flight also face many challenges including terrain extreme winds and old airport facilities. One of the airports two runways is considered to be in “poor” condition and the other is considered to be in “fair” condition.  The airport is index A for crash service and has no maintenance facilities.

The flights into Adak are incredibly important for the town though and will likely never stop. Although Adak is challenging and old it’s also beautiful. Anchorage to Adak is defiantly an odd airline route.

 

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An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737-400 similar to the one that flies into Adak.

Odd Airline Route

Nearly everyone has had to fly into a strange small or just odd airport. To put some of these small routes into the spotlight I’m starting a new series on theplanegeek.com called odd airline routes. You can expect a few of these posts a month. The first one will come out June 16th. Please leave feedback on this series in the comments section and let me know if you want more Odd Airline Route Articles.

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The New Eastern Airlines Prepares For it’s First Flight

Another brave airline is about to enter the US airline industry. Eastern Airlines is getting ready for it’s first flight. After an absence of 24 years the call sign “Eastern” will once again be heard on the Aviation Frequencies.  The first flight will be for the tour operator HavanaAir and is likely to take place on Sunday May 31st. Eastern Airlines will fly this route using their Boeing 737-800. The airline appears to have big plans for their future with orders for 20 MRJ aircraft and 10 Boeing 737-800 aircraft. Eastern Airlines has completed training for10 pilots and about 40 flight attendants and will continue to train more crew. Eastern Airlines appears to have a bright future ahead. Best of luck to the new Eastern Airlines!

ATC: a Brief Description of a Complex System

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If you see movies about aircraft emergencies a large part of them has to do with ATC and in most movies they get the system completely wrong. In this article I will give you a brief description of how the ATC system works. To do this we will come up with a flight to follow.

Our flight will be American Airlines flight 1024 with service from KDFW to KABQ. The first thing to note is that this flight will be given a callsign that it will use to identify itself throughout the flight. In the case of American Airlines they just have the callsign American. Here are some other airline callsigns:

Southwest Airlines: Southwest                                                                                      British Airways: Speedbird                                                                                               Express Jet: Acey

Airlines are allowed to choose their callsign as long as it works with FAA regulations. Anyway, lets get back to our flight. American Airlines 1024 will identify itself as “American 1024” to ATC for the duration of the flight. One of the first things the pilots will do when they get to the aircraft is check the weather and file their get clearance for their flight plan. To check the weather they will use what is called ATIS which stands for Automatic Terminal Information service. When they tune the ATIS frequency into their radio they will get a short automated weather briefing and will also get information on things that are going on at the airport that could directly effect the flight like taxiway closures.

After or sometimes before getting the weather from ATIS they will get cleared for their flight plan using the clearance and delivery frequency. This is where the flight will get cleared to go to their destination using their filed flight plan. This normally does not take but a minute or two but pilots can receive allot of information upon getting their clearance.

Let’s fast-foreword 30 minutes and assume our aircraft has pushed back from the gate and that the engines have been started. The pilots will contact ground. Ground is in charge of all taxiing and and other operations that occur on the ground. Ground will tell the pilots which runway to taxi to and which taxiways to use to get there. The pilots will use charts or maps of the airport to find their way around and get to the runway.

Once the aircraft has made it to the hold short point (which is the area where the taxi way turns into the runway) they will tune and contact the tower frequency. The tower controllers manage traffic near the airport. The area the tower controllers are in charge of depends on the airport and many other factors. Tower will clear American 1024 for takeoff and the flight will be on its way. After leaving the tower airspace American 1024 will be handed off to Dallas departure who will keep aircraft separated and will allow the aircraft to climb.

After getting away from the busy Dallas airspace American 1024 will contact the center frequency who will assign altitudes headings and keep the thousands of aircraft in the air separated. The aircraft will move through the various sectors of the center airspace throughout cruise and descent. As the aircraft gets lower it will contact Albuquerque Approach who will give the aircraft an assigned approach to the airport. About 5-10 miles away from the airport American 1024 will be handed off to the tower in Albuquerque who will clear the flight to land. After landing the aircraft will be handed off to ground who will give the aircraft a taxi route to a gate specified by the airline. The ATC system keeps thousands of people safe at a time and is incredibly effective and efficient.

 

The end of the 747 era

For years flying on a Boeing 747 was a wonderful experience that only some had. As the years went on the 747 became more and more popular and the 400 variant was a huge success for Boeing.             The 400 was one of the flagship long haul aircraft of the 1990s. Now though the 400 is being retired all over the world. Even though Boeing is now making the 747-8i the end of the 747 era is really almost over because most airlines have gone for the 777-300er instead of the more fuel thirsty 747. Four engines aircraft are simply outdated and require more fuel and maintenance to run which is one of the main reasons the 747 is going away.

The one of the other main reasons for 747 retirement is simply it’s public perception. People think of the 747 as an old aircraft which is not good for the airlines. This logic is true to a degree because the 747 was introduced into service in 1970 and just because it’s had many upgrades since then the airframe design still comes from the 1960s.

Although it’s a shame the 747 era is coming to a close it also makes sense. The largest problem is for Boeing because the 747-8 has not sold well at all and who knows if they will break even on it. That remains to be seen but we can pretty much be positive that the 747 era is almost over.

 

This sight will be missed

British Airways

Airline Review: Southwest Airlines

Throughout the almost 2 year history of ThePlaneGeek.com I have written multiple articles about the American   low-cost carrier Southwest airlines (SWA). Southwest who calls themselves the “LUV” airline is devoted to making the economy passenger experience better while keeping ticket prices low. This tends to make for a solid short to medium haul product that you are likely to enjoy. Enough with the background info, lets go flying!

 

I made it to the airport at roughly seven in the morning to catch Southwest Flight 543 from Albuquerque to Phoenix. After some bag checking, some airport security and some waiting I was more than ready to get in the air. Right on time an old Boeing 737-300 (similar to the one pictured below)  pulled up to our gate. After going through Southwest’s unusual but quick boarding process I found my seat and got comfortable. While waiting for other passengers to board the aircraft I looked up the registration on the aircraft and found that it was built in 1994. It seemed to be in great shape for being 21 years old!

Southwest Landing

 

 

We taxied to runway 8 and took off. One thing I noticed was that the 737-300 is a particularly loud aircraft compared to the newer                 737-700. The noise levels got much better at cruise but were still high compared to most new aircraft. I wasn’t able to use wi-fi on the flight because the old 737-300 aircraft have not been retrofitted with it and probably never will be. Aside from the noise and lack of wi-fi I had no complaints about the aircraft which was very clean and well kept. About 5 minutes after reaching cruise altitude our drink orders were taken. Southwest has complimentary soda, juice and water for all passengers. Upon receiving our drinks we were given peanuts and pretzels.

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These food offerings may seem small compared to most airlines but the airlines that serve full meals make you pay extra whereas food offerings on Southwest come with your ticket.

The rest of the flight was great and the seats that are in Southwest’s evolve interior are fairly comfortable. My only seat complaint is that the backs need to be taller because I am fairly average at 6 feet tall and the seat backs felt short.

After some time in Phoenix I had to make the return trip on southwest flight 939 which was again a very nice experience. That aircraft was a brand new 737-700. The only differences from the 300 in terms of passenger experience were wi-fi and sound levels. The Southwest wi-fi cost’s $8 per day per device and is adequate for web surfing and email checks but really nothing more because it is not super fast internet. Southwest also has a free flight tracker that you can pull up on your tablet that is an awesome tool.

Overall this is how I would break down the Southwest experience:

Food: 7/10                                                                                                                                 Seat Comfort: 8/10                                                                                                              Aircraft: 9/10                                                                                                                          Customer Service: 10/10                                                                                                   Overall:9/10

Southwest is definitely an airline I would/do fly on frequently and I had a very good experience both ways.

Some cool photos from the trip:

 

 

 

 

 

Aero soft Twin Otter

Aero Soft now has an amazing Twin Otter for FSX that I have been checking out. Right now it is available on just flight for $35.99. Sounds good right? Just wait it gets even better.

 

The Twin Otter is arguably the best aircraft ever made. It combines toughness and amazing STOL characteristics to create the ultimate aircraft. It can hold roughly 20 passengers which if you think about it is pretty good. The STOL characteristics are amazing. The aircraft can takeoff from a 2100 foot runway while carrying passengers. It’s done on the island St. Bartelemy many times a week.

 

Once I began flying the Twin Otter I realized that it is one of the most fun aircraft to fly in FSX. The shear amount of power is surprising. When lightly loaded it’s difficult to stay under 20 knots when taxiing on the ground. The aircraft does incredibly well in storms or in other rough conditions. The Twin Otter is modeled in FSX quite well and comes with multiple liveries. It also flies very nicely. The aircraft has a very basic but adequate auto-flight system which makes it usable on medium range flights.

 

If you are looking for a new FSX aircraft this would be a great one to get. It runs well on most computers and is a blast to fly. I think that it’s worth the $35.99 but if you can catch it on sale for $16 like I did it’s even better. The Twin Otter is simply amazing.

Boeing 717 Pass Around

If you look back at the order book you may notice that the Boeing 717 A.K.A. MD-95 actucally did quite well in the airline world. A few hundred were sold and they are fairly new aircraft still. That makes one wonder… where are all of those 717s?

 

It all started back in the mid 1990s when McDonnell-Douglas was marketing the aircraft as the MD-95. A disgrace of an airline called valu-jet ordered quite a few of them to replace their DC-9 fleet. The orders did not start to be delivered until after valu-jet had been dismantled and had turned into Air-Tran. At the same time some other Asian airlines also began to take delivery of the 717. This is when the 717 was one of the best narrow-body aircraft on the market.

 

Most of the 717 aircraft went to Air Tran where they loyally served for many many years. When Southwest absorbed Air Tran Southwest did not want to keep the 717 and therefore leased them out to Delta airlines which is where they still serve today.

 

The Boeing 717 has been passed around like no other aircraft. Luckily it all ended well and they now have a good life at Delta. The 717 is an awesome airplane.