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Tue, Dec 29, 2009

ANN 2009 In Review: The Year In Commercial Aviation

ANN's Annual Review Of The Year That Was: Commercial Aviation In 2009  

Final Compilations by ANN News Editor, Tom Patton

The commercial airline industry saw several milestones in 2009, including the first flight of the long-awaited Dreamliner. But the year was marred with tragedy as well, and the economy continued to cause airlines to scramble for ways to improve the bottom line.

One of the major ongoing stories of the year was the continuing development of alternative fuels, and the FAA made strides with NextGen, though perhaps not as large as they had hoped. Here, then, are some of the big stories we covered in the commercial airline industry in 2009.

January
  • New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters he has spoken with the pilot of US Airways Flight 1549, who assured the mayor he walked through the cabin of the ditched airliner to verify everyone was off the aircraft before he, too, abandoned the plane...

Photo Credit Gregory Lam

  • Confirming a rotten piece of news that, alas, many in the industry viewed as inevitable, on Friday Boeing announced employment at its Commercial Airplanes business unit is expected to decline by approximately 4,500 positions in 2009...
  • An understated announcement by the President brought news that the FAA was coming under new management, as of January 16th... until further notice...
  • The numbers are in... and in 2008, European planemaker Airbus delivered a new record number of 483 aircraft, 30 more than in 2007. This number is made up of 386 A320 Family aircraft, 85 A330/A340 and 12 A380s...
  • For the first time in 50 years, US airlines have flown for two years in a row -- 2007 and 2008 -- without any passenger deaths. Single years without fatalities have been rare, with only four occurring since 1958... making the two-year stretch even more impressive...
  • Things may soon go from bad to worse for manufacturers of commercial airliners. A recent study by an analyst with investment firm UBS shows more major carriers are likely to defer their scheduled deliveries this year, than was originally thought just three months ago...
  • In response to slowing orders for new engines, General Electric, the world's largest manufacturer of jet engines, has announced plans to trim its workforce by 1,000 jobs, about 2.6 percent of the company's worldwide employees...
  • Former Illinois congressman Ray LaHood was confirmed Thursday as US Secretary of Transportation, a move lauded by the Air Transport Association and Continental Airlines...
  • The airline pilot hiring total's are in for 2008... and AIR Inc. reports the numbers are less than half of what they were this time a year ago - 6,479 compared to 13,157 in 2007. There were a lot of factors driving 2008's low hiring numbers -- the softening economy, the credit crunch, the housing crisis, and the ever increasing fuel prices to name a few...
February
  • National Transportation Safety Board dispatched a Go Team to investigate the crash of a turboprop airliner Thursday night near Buffalo, NY. ...
  • The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team of investigators to Amsterdam's Schiphol International Airport, to assist in the investigation of a B737-800 (T-CJGE) Turkish Airlines flight 1951, inbound from Istanbul, that crashed short of the runway on approach at approximately 10:40 am local time...
  • Airline passengers could skip passing through metal detectors and instead be screened by whole-body, millimeter-wave imaging devices, the Transportation Security Administration announced Tuesday.
  • A third update from the National Transportation Safety Board on its investigation of US Airways Flight 1549 confirmed the remains of birds were found in both engines of the Airbus A320, which became famous in "The Miracle on the Hudson."...
  • In the wake of the crash of Continental Connection flight 3407 into a Buffalo, NY suburb, and in particular the speculation regarding the role icing may have played in the tragedy, the Federal Aviation Administration released a summary of numerous short-and long-term safety actions it has taken over the past 15 years to improve safety of aircraft that encounter icing conditions on the ground and in flight...
  • With nearly 1200 aircraft taken out of service in 2008 alone, only the aircraft boneyards will benefit... so says a study released by an aviation info-broker...
  • A second customer for Boeing's 787 Dreamliner cancelled the majority of its orders last week, leaving the American planemaker with a deficit of 13 orders so far in 2008...

March
  • The Federal Aviation Administration announced it had reached a settlement agreement with Southwest Airlines to resolve outstanding enforcement actions... taking the low-cost carrier to the woodshed on a number of safety-related matters, but for the moment sparing the airline from a still-larger penalty...
  • Telling workers "the worsening global economy continues to place additional pressure on the airline industry," Delta Air Lines leaders issued a memo to the over 70,000 people employed at the megacarrier, warning of further cuts to international capacity... and likely workforce reductions down the line...
  • Brazilian planemaker Embraer announced the company took in over $6.3 million in net revenues for fiscal year 2008, a 20.8 percent increase over FY2007 figures...

  • Three former America West (now US Airways) flight attendants prevailed against a defamation suit brought against them by First Officer Ed Gannon, sparked by the FAs report of the FOs failure to follow proper deicing procedures...
  • As part of its effort to slash 10,000 jobs companywide this year, Boeing handed out a new round of layoff notices... advising 900 employees they would no longer have jobs 60 days from now...
  • Pratt & Whitney said it expected to cut as many as 1,500 additional jobs by the end of 2009, as the enginemaker continues to scale back operations due to the slumping economy...
April
  • Southwest Airlines reported a first quarter 2009 net loss of $91 million... its third straight quarterly loss...
  • US airlines carried 51.5 million scheduled domestic and international passengers in January 2009, 10.9 percent less than they did in January 2008, the US Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics reported...
  • According to the NBAA, lawmakers in and outside Washington have continued to voice concerns with federal security officials about the TSA's proposed Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP)...
  • A reduction in the number of expected deliveries in 2009 plus an excess of used aircraft on the market have combined to make tough times for Bombardier, spurring last week's announcement of the planned elimination of 3,000 more jobs by the end of this year, in addition to 1,360 positions cut in February...
  • Finally... some good news for American planemaker Boeing. After watching 2009 get off to an inauspicious start, thanks to 32 cancellations against its troubled 787 Dreamliner program, this week Boeing saw its order book swing into positive territory for the first time in 2009...
  • When the US Transportation Security Administration announced the debut of full-body scanners at American airports, all the concern seemed to be over whether passengers would revolt at the idea of strangers looking at their bodies with X-ray vision...

 

  • Some analysts say we may see an upturn in airline travel by this summer. The Dallas Morning News reports American Airlines parent AMR Corp. will kick off the earnings season Wednesday with its first-quarter report... and an expected loss of close to $425 million for the time period...
May
  • Progress was  being made... and on something that actually resembles a schedule... albeit a much modified one... on the Boeing Dreamliner..
  • As the Senate hurriedly wrapped up business before the coming holiday, J. Randolph Babbitt was confirmed as the next Administrator of the FAA. Babbitt was, most recently, a partner at Oliver Wyman, an international aviation consulting firm. A former airline pilot, Babbitt has also been the president and CEO of ALPA...

  • The hearings conducted by the NTSB, Tuesday, are proving to be as nearly as painful as the accident itself -- to those left behind. The transcript of the cockpit voice recorder aboard Continental Connection Flight 3407, leaves little question that the pilots of the Bombardier Q400 violated anyone's definition of "sterile cockpit" while on approach to Buffalo Niagara International Airport the night of February 12th...
  • The House has passed H.R. 915, the FAA Reauthorization Act, in order to "To amend title 49, United States Code, to authorize appropriations for the Federal Aviation Administration for fiscal years 2009 through 2012...
  • Time are tough... from the malaise of the LSA and ultralight industry, all the way to the mighty Airbus A380 Jumbo-Jumbo Jet. Airbus is admitting that deliveries for 2009 are going to fall far short of what they had expected just a few months ago...
  • The long-awaited, long-suffering, much-delayed Boeing 787 program seems to be heading for the home stretch... at least far as its first flight is concerned...
  • The increasingly political issues surrounding a crash investigation continue unabated.... and in the case of the tragic Continental Connection 3407 accident, the political commenting and interference is reaching a fever pitch.
  • A report from the Department of Transportation's office of the Inspector General is raising the alarm over the potential vulnerabilities of the nations air traffic system to damage and interference by hackers...
  • The first A320 aircraft assembled outside Europe in the Airbus Final Assembly Line China (FALC) successfully completed its first flight today...
June
  • ANN monitored multiple reports involving an Airbus A330-200 which was reported missing at a point some 354 km out over the Atlantic....
  • The Obama Administration is picked Deborah Hersman to lead the National Transportation Safety Board... a move (like the choice of Babbitt for the FAA Admin) that is expected to gain great favor with organized labor ...

  • Boeing announced that the first flight of the 787 Dreamliner will be postponed due to a need to reinforce an area within the side of the fuselage of the aircraft...
  • North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan (D), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee's Aviation Subcommittee), called on the FAA  to "immediately" begin the process of changing a rule that can allow airlines to hire pilots without checking their training history beyond five years...
  • Following the many questions which appeared in the media on the issue of the pitot probes in its fleet, Air France made the following clarifications...
  • FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt announced an expedited review of flight and rest rules and called on U.S. airlines and unions to respond, by July 31, with specific commitments to strengthen safety at regional and major airlines by insisting that airlines obtain all available FAA pilot records, among other actions...
  • The NTSB  investigated  two incidents in which airspeed and altitude indications in the cockpits of Airbus A-330 aircraft may have malfunctioned...
  • Final assembly began on the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner destined for delivery to launch customer ANA (All Nippon Airways) of Japan...
  • Qantas Airlines cancelled orders for half of the Boeing 787 Dreamliners it had expected to buy, citing the global economic recession and plummeting demand for seats on its aircraft...
  • Gulfstream International Airlines, Inc. filed 'a detailed response' to the FAA's findings from a 2008 inspection and proposed civil penalty...
July
  • The NTSB released a preliminary finding in an incident involving a Northwest Airlines Airbus A330 on a flight in Japan last month in which the onboard computers switched off the aircraft's autopilot possibly due in part to inconsistent airspeed indications...
  • An Iranian airliner went down in a field near Tehran about 16 minutes after takeoff Wednesday, killing all on board...
  • A crowd gathered along the flightline at Wittman Field Tuesday afternoon for the arrival of one of the centerpieces of this year's show, the massive Airbus A380...

  • Bringing an end to weeks of speculation,  Boeing  announced  that it has agreed to acquire the business and operations conducted by Vought Aircraft Industries at its South Carolina facility, where Vought builds a key structure for Boeing's 787 Dreamliner airplane...
  • The French agency investigating the Air France 447, which crashed in the Atlantic Ocean June 1st, said the aircraft impacted the water intact, belly first, at a very high rate of speed...
  • The NTSB dispatched investigators to look at a Southwest Airlines jet that made an emergency landing in West Virginia yesterday after a hole opened in the body of the plane and the cabin lost pressure...
  • A Dallas/Fort Worth television station investigation continued to reveal that, potentially, hundreds of aircraft mechanics brought to the U.S. may not be qualified to do the work...
  • Boeing and members of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group, an airline-led industry working group, said they added several leading air carriers as members. Existing members welcome Alaska Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, TUIfly and Virgin Blue...
August
  • Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the only person convicted in the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, was released from prison on compassionate grounds following a diagnosis of terminal prostate cancer...
  • When an ExpressJet flight from Houston to Minneapolis-St. Paul, on a codeshare with Continental, was diverted due to thunderstorms to Rochester, MN, the weather quickly became the least of the 47 passenger's concerns...
  • Boeing  announced that the first flight of the 787 Dreamliner is expected by the end of 2009 and first delivery is expected to occur in the fourth quarter of 2010...
  • U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that his department had concluded the preliminary phase of its investigation into the Aug. 8 tarmac delay by Continental Airlines on a flight operated by ExpressJet Airlines....

  • Britain agreed to lend Airbus $563 million to develop its A350 long-haul passenger aircraft in a move to create jobs and boost the struggling aerospace sector. The British government said in a statement that it would loan Airbus the equivalent of 394 million Euros  ahead of the A350's launch in 2013...
  • The European Aviation Safety Agency planned to propose an Airworthiness Directive mandating that all Airbus A330/A340 aircraft currently fitted with Thales pitot probes must be fitted with at least two Goodrich probes, allowing a maximum of one Thales BA type probe to remain fitted on the aircraft...
  • Following recent successful development testing, a new Auto-Pilot/Flight-Director (AP/FD) TCAS mode for the Airbus A380 was approved and certified by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)...
September
  • FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt  announced a 'new' focus on improving the agency’s response to public safety complaints and whistleblower contributions...
  • FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt testified before the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Aviation, to explain the agency's "Call to Action" on airline safety and pilot training...
  • In a written statement , Aerospace Industries Association President Marion Blakey said the WTO made the correct ruling concerning government subsidies provided to Airbus as they relate to the Aerospace Industry...
  • The NTSB  determined that the incident last year involving an uncommanded pitch-up aboard an aircraft occurred as a result of the inadvertent partial inflation of the evacuation slide and subsequent binding of the elevator control cables...
  • BioJet Corporation (formerly JatrophaBioJet)and E85 LLC jointly announced  that they have executed a Bio-SPK forward contract for the sale by BioJet and the purchase by E85 of 4 million barrels of aviation bio jet fuel...

  • Reinforcing modifications got underway on the Dreamliner #1 fuselage, as well as the static test airframe, according to a blog written by Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes in Seattle...
  • Airbus managing director Fabrice Bregier said the aircraft manufacturer could be facing production cuts if airlines continue to falter...
  • When Jim Albaugh took over from Scott Carson as CEO of Boeing's commercial airplane division at the end of August, he inherited an airplane program that has been fraught with problems and delayed by more than two years, and industry analysts said restoring faith in the Dreamliner will be one of Albaugh's biggest challenges...
  • It would appear that Boeing has company in struggling to get a new airliner to market. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has reportedly pushed back the delivery of its new regional jet until at least 2014 as it makes design changes...
October
  • Boeing confirmed that it had chosen its North Charleston, S.C., facility as the location for a second final assembly site for the 787 Dreamliner program..
  • A Northwest flight from San Diego to Minneapolis overshot its destination by 150 miles evening, prompting the NTSB to investigate a number of possibilities, including whether the cockpit crew fell asleep during the flight...
  • The FAA revoked the licenses of two Northwest Airlines pilots who overflew their destination airport on October 21, 2009 while operating Flight 188 from San Diego to Minneapolis...

  • An A340-600 operated by Qatar Airways completed the world's first commercial passenger flight powered by a fuel made from natural gas, paving the way for a viable alternative to oil-based aviation fuel for airlines...
  • The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3371, the "Airline Safety and Pilot Training Improvement Act of 2009."..
  • Fees for checked baggage, seat selection, and even pillows do not seem to be preventing people from buying airline tickets, which means airlines are likely to hang on to those fees as a critical revenue stream, analysts say...
  • As Boeing mulled where to put the second production line for the 787 Dreamliner, the Governor of Washington State said she hoped it will be in Everett, but if not, it's not the end of Boeing in Washington...
November
  • Boeing completed the static test necessary to validate the side-of-body modification made to the 787 Dreamliner...
  • The U.S. DOT levied a total civil penalty of $100,000 against Continental Airlines and ExpressJet Airlines Tuesday for their roles in causing the passengers on board Continental Express flight 2816 to remain on the aircraft at Rochester International Airport for an unreasonable period of time on Aug. 8, 2009...
  • After a protracted process that ended in Boeing opting for an east-coast manufacturing facility for the Dreamliner, the company held a groundbreaking ceremony Friday to mark the start of construction for the second final assembly site for the 787 Dreamliner program at its Boeing Charleston facility...
  • Boeing reported that progress was made on it's 747-8 freighter...

  • The FAA proposed a rule requiring scheduled airlines to either retrofit their existing fleet with ice-detection equipment or make sure the ice protection system activates at the proper time...
  • The village of Bensenville near Chicago's O'Hare International Airport had been fighting a plan to extend runways at the major hub for decades, but Tuesday the village said it was dropping it's legal challenges, clearing a major hurdle in the $15 billion expansion plan...
  • The two pilots who flew 150 miles beyond their destination two weeks ago filed an appeal to the revocation of their pilot certificates...
  • TSA changed two rules about airport searches after an aide to Congressman Ron Paul recorded an incident on his iPhone...
December
  • Following a flight of just over three hours mostly to the west of Seattle, the B787 Dreamliner completed its first flight with a landing at Boeing Field (KBFI) ...

  • The NTSB released about 400 pages of documents representing the investigation into Northwest Flight 188, which overshot its destination of Minneapolis by about 150 miles...
  • United Airlines appears to be pulling out the stops with the announcement of a significant investment in the company's future. The company placed widebody aircraft orders for 50 aircraft of designs that have not yet flown. United has ordered 25 Airbus A350 XWB aircraft and 25 Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft and has future purchase rights for 50 of each aircraft...
  • In the latest scattershot series of lawsuits, FlightSafety International has been named in four cases connected with the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407...
  • Boeing completed the review and analysis of the static test that was conducted Nov. 30 , validating the side-of-body modification made to the 787 Dreamliner...
  • TSA has inadvertently posted some of itsmost secret airport screening procedures online in a way that makes them available to the public, including special rules for diplomats, CIA personnel, and law enforcement officers...
  • Boeing successfully completed the first engine runs for the 747-8 Freighter...
  • The first composite lay-up for the A350 XWB was manufactured in Nantes, France, and marks the 'coming to life' of Airbus's new long range aircraft....
  • The French accident investigation authority BEA said it will resume the search for the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Air France flight 447 in February...
 FMI: There You Have It -- ANN's 2009 Year In Commercial Aviation: What Did YOU Think Of It ALL?

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