ANN's Annual Review Of The Year That Was: Commercial Aviation
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.
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
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
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...
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...
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...
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
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
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
handed out a new round of layoff notices... advising
900 employees they would no longer have jobs 60 days from
reported a first quarter 2009 net loss of $91
million... its third straight quarterly loss...
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
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...
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
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
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...
ANN monitored multiple reports involving an Airbus A330-200
which was reported missing at a point some 354 km out over the
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
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...
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
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
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
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
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)...
FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt announced a 'new' focus on improving the
agency’s response to public safety complaints and
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
reported that progress was made on it's 747-8
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
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
TSA changed two rules about airport searches after
an aide to Congressman Ron Paul recorded an incident on his
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...