Article | April 1, 2020
Flying first class can be very luxurious. Flying in your own private jet is a whole other level of luxury though. But of these world leaders, their transport is a step up again. Many countries use their own private jets to move leaders around, but which are the best, most luxurious aircraft used by heads of state? Here’s our top five.
Article | May 12, 2021
Each year airlines begin new sustainability initiatives, experiment with biofuels, and offset their carbon emissions on selected flights; yet, sustainability should not only be a topic of discussion when an aircraft is in the air but also when it’s on the ground.
In just one year, a Boeing 777, 787, Airbus A330, and A350, burn an extra 265,000 litres of fuel due to the 1% increase in drag. As a result, a full year’s operations of such an aircraft costs US$77,600 more than during the previous year. A dirty aircraft exterior is full of microscopic patches of dust and mud that impact the airliner’s operational efficiency by creating turbulent airflow across the whole fuselage. While the problem of additional drag is not new, there are no solutions to combat it other than performing regular cleaning of the aircraft’s exterior.
Reducing drag – through cleaning – on aircraft fuselage, wings, engine cowlings, and stabilizer brings another challenge; how to remain sustainable while performing the exterior cleaning process? A popular, yet wasteful pressurized water cleaning technique requires more than 11,300 litres of water to clean one Airbus A380 aircraft and more than 9,500 litres to clean a Boeing 777. Traditionally, aircraft are cleaned four to five times per year, and with more than 48 thousand airframes in the world, the amount of water used each year is immense. As a result, the positives of clean fuselages are outweighed by the negatives of wasteful usage of expensive and environmentally important resources.
This raises a question: whether it is possible to be eco-friendly in the aviation industry when one solution brings even more challenges than benefits? While the answer may look complicated, the definite answer is yes. The use of robots in household applications has proven that robotification is an inevitable and much-needed process to achieve even more efficient operational performance.
One of the solutions to address the inefficient and time-consuming process of washing an aircraft fuselage is to employ an aircraft exterior cleaning robot. The market offerings like Nordic Dino, have been perfected and adapted to work with a wide range of aircraft fuselage types. Such robots are designed to minimize the use of water and detergent on every wash; saving more than 30% more water when compared to traditional washing methods. At the same time, built with sustainability in mind, the robots can be equipped with electric motors, further minimizing the environmental impact.
“Sustainability and eco-friendliness should not be viewed as challenges or impossible achievements in the aviation industry. By utilizing the right equipment, finding alternatives to polluting methods, and increasing efficiency at every step possible, companies could come one step closer to operational efficiency as well as sustainability targets. Our offering, Nordic Dino can reduce the use of water and detergent and can be powered by electricity, reducing carbon and nitrogen dioxide emissions. By the robotification of the cleaning process we present a solution to MROs and dedicated aircraft cleaning companies to become green.” – commented Jan Brunstedt, CEO of Aviator Robotics AB.
Article | April 13, 2021
There’s been a lot of talk lately about airlines around the world beginning to favor smaller aircraft. Not just amid the pandemic but for the foreseeable future as well. The debate was given fuel when Lufthansa’s CEO made comments about potential down-gauging of its fleet ahead. But have we really entered the era of smaller airplanes for good?
Many have argued that even when demand for air travel does return there will be less of it overall because of a precipitous and permanent drop in business travel. And beyond that, even where demand does exist, it will be for convenient, point-to-point service, not on A380s via big hubs – as smaller planes emerge that are capable of flying farther and people shy away from big, crowded airports and the hassle of connecting. All of which calls for smaller planes. I’ve argued recently that this seems a little hasty. Nevertheless, the jury is out, and as they say – only time will tell.
Have smaller planes taken over flying?
One thing we can look at is whether the notion that smaller planes rule the day holds true at major airlines right now. And pulling some Flightradar24 data we can see that this has been happening – mostly. The headline takeaway seems to be that bigger planes do still have their place, but for obvious reasons smaller wide-bodies have proven more desirable on many global routes during the past year.
Lufthansa dropped its Very Large Aircraft quickly
If we look at Lufthansa’s data, the trend is very clear right from the beginning of the pandemic. The A380 and the 747s (both -400 and -8I) took a definitive hit beginning in March 2020. That was it for the A380 and the 747-400 for good, it seems. The small rebound in A380 flights recorded in recent months were storage-related. And since the pandemic started, it’s clear that the smaller A330 has been clearly favored, taking up nearly double the percentage of flying it had at Lufthansa pre-pandemic.
What’s most interesting here is that the 747-8I did come back, in some weeks to pre-pandemic levels. That’s quite a big plane. It is probably hard to fill these days. But it is Lufthansa’s flagship now – it has a First Class cabin and it can carry quite a bit of cargo. As a result it kept flying for a while on the bigger US routes like LAX. However recent dips in demand, and the winter season, saw the smaller and more fuel-efficient A350 come in to replace it on many routes. As I write this the Lufthansa 747-8I is in flight on just two routes – Mexico City (MEX) and Buenos Aires (EZE) to Frankfurt (FRA).
If I were to take a guess, I’d say we continue to see the 747-8I for some time on these bigger routes and in busier seasons. It may turn out to be one of the last options for passengers to fly a 747 a few years from now. Eventually, though, the more efficient 777X will replace it. Though Lufthansa has said it’s looking to shift to smaller airplanes overall, the 777X seems a natural fit for its big hub to hub routes. I don’t think we’ll see a day when the A350 is the largest plane in Lufthansa’s fleet – at least as long as Germany remains Europe’s largest economy.
Delta favors smaller, but only by a little bit
If we look at Delta, which also has a wide range of wide-bodies in its fleet, the picture is a little more complicated. In part that’s because initially its 777s and A350s (both of which fit about 300 seats) took over quite a lot of flying while its smaller 767s (200 to 240 seats or so) were more or less parked.
Since then, however, the 777 fleet has been retired and the 767s (both -300 and -400 series) have been doing nearly 60% of Delta’s wide-body flying. And its smallest Airbus wide-body, the A330-200, has flown much less throughout the pandemic. The A330-300, A330-900neo and A350-900 have filled in the rest of the flying, but while they were doing a majority of the wide-body flying in the first months, they’re not back to flying roughly the same percentage of Delta’s wide-body flights as before the pandemic.
It’s interesting to note that a number of 767s have been retired during this time, and A330-300s have been used to fill the gaps where necessary despite having a higher seat count. If no 767s had been retired it’s likely the total percentage of flights run with the 767 would be even higher.
What’s the bottom line?
It seems that airlines have tended to park their biggest planes, but perhaps not as drastically as some might have expected. That may have had a lot to do with cargo capacity. But cargo capacity will continue to be a consideration post-pandemic as well, so it’s not as if these planes will prove useless once things get back to normal. And if we see the boom in travel demand that some are predicting is on the way, many of these larger aircraft may see they get plenty of use yet.
Will there be less very large aircraft in airline fleets overall? Yes, probably. The A380 is all but done for except at a handful of airlines. And will smaller, long-range planes like the 787 prove popular in the years ahead? No doubt. But the bigger, fuel efficient planes like the 777X and A350-1000 will almost certainly still have their place in the sky too.
Article | February 18, 2020
For U.S. airlines, the fourth earnings season is now complete. And as is customary these days, all players produced solid profits. Collectively, Delta, American, United, Southwest, Alaska, JetBlue, Hawaiian, Spirit, and Allegiant reached a double-digit operating margin, topping 10 percent on nearly $46 billion in revenues. For all of 2019, they earned 11 percent on $184 billion. The year before: 10 percent on $175 billion. No other country has an airline industry so stable and profitable. What were the highlights of the final quarter of the final year of the decade? Here’s a review: