The recent New to Sydney extra-long-haul test flight by an almost empty Qantas 767 garnered a lot of publicity. It was actually only an hour and a half longer than the regular SIA Singapore to New York flight with an Airbus A350.
No doubt lessons were learnt regarding how the monitored 40 passengers and crew found the experience. It would also have been a first step in trying get the pilot and cabin crew unions to agree to terms.
One thing that seems to have been overlooked amidst all the hullabaloo is that Qantas were talking about what they call “Operation Sunrise” (Non-stops from Australia’s East Coast to London and New York) starting–subject to them being considered financially profitable–starting in 2022. However, they now seem to be talking about them starting in 2023, if they do.C
Could this be because they are determined to keep Boeing in the running? Airbus with their A350 would surely be ready for a start in 2022.
One reason for Qantas’s hesitation may be the Rolls Royce engines on the A350, though these seem to have been performing well unlike many on 767. Qantas were not happy with that engine maker’s response to the disintegration of one of their engines that had it not been for the outstanding performance of the crew might well have resulted in the loss of an A380 superjumbo.
As we say in the piece in our book on QF32, Rolls Royce initially did not say much about the possible cause because BP had got into a lot of trouble through saying too much after the Gulf of Mexico oil rig disaster. Qantas retorted that it was not that BP said too much they said the wrong things.
Whatever the truth, it is is difficult to see how Qantas can come to a decision about the choice of aircraft as promised before the end of the year. What is certain, Boeing will be offering great prices.
Very illuminating Article by Scott Hamilton in Leeham News the replacement of McAllister by Deal mentioned that many of the problems over the 737MAX and other Boeing programs came about before McAllister’s time. However he has been accused of being MIA when it came to dealing with them.
I wonder whether Boeing people prefer to be MIA because they cannot talk sensibly having been warned by the company’s not to admit anything–even things that are patently obvious.
For example, at an early press conference given by Muilenburg he ungraciously left without comment to avoid answering questions that deserved an answer.
When one looks at the an air crash or the miraculous avoidance of one you can sometimes pick out a key factor or rather combination of factors that was the determinant. Of course, as usual, had many other factors been different it would not have happened.
For instance, in the case of the 737 MAX crashes it seems to be–as the NTSB and Sully Sullenberger (in a letter to to the New York Times Magazine) just pointed out–it was the confusing cascade of alarms and strange behavior of the aircraft with virtually no time to work out a solution that was the determinant.
Take the case of AF447, the Air France A330 that crashed into the South Atlantic after the captain (who had only had an hour’s sleep the night before) left two first officers in the cockpit when he went for his routine rest–seemingly not in his bunk next to the cockpit but in the cabin where his female companion was sitting.
The aircraft then flew into a storm. The computer could not make sense of the airspeed data because the pitot tubes had iced up. The autopilot disengaged with the systems passing into alternate law meaning the computer would not stop the pilots doing something stupid.
Manual control had passed to the most inexperienced of the first officers, who for some reason put the aircraft into a steep climb causing it to eventually stall and “drop like a brick”.
The captain did eventually return but only realized too late what was happening when the junior copilot said he had been “pulling back all the time”.
Our book Air Crashes and Miracle Landings details all the contributing factors, both technical and human. However, the determining factor seems to be that the pilot in command (the most junior) believed they could not be stalling because as he said on the CVR, “We are in TOGA (TakeOff Go-Around, aren’t we?”. However, TOGA only gets one out of a stall at low altitude not high up in thin air.
Had the engines situated low under the wings not been at a such a high TOGA setting, the nose of the aircraft would have dropped and in a dive with plenty of height they would have regained enough speed for the aircraft to begin flying again rather than mulching downwards.
Nowadays, all pilots will know how to recover from a high-altitude stall.
To sum up, in the case of AF447, TOGA made the pilot wrongly believe they could not be stalling despite 50 warnings, and TOGA stopped them recovering.
Out of curiosity I have been following QF9, Qantas’s 17+-hour flight from Perth to London. Because of the prevailing wind the return flight QF10 is only some 16 hours.
QF9 has gone very smoothly with hardly any disruptions or the need to land prematurely, though I noted one case where it seemed the 787 was going to land in Vienna, but eventually did not have to do so.
On one occasion, a disruptive passenger did necessitate a return to Perth two hours into the flight. On another occasion a bird strike as the flight from Melbourne came in to Perth resulted in the cancellation of the onward leg to London.
It seems that Qantas were surprised at how quickly that flight coupled with the shorter QF10 return became profitable. This has made them even more enthusiastic about their “Project Sunrise”–non-stop flights from Sydney to Europe and to the US East Coast (NYC)–adding three more hours onto the flight.
Before discussing Project Sunrise there are some observations I might make regarding QF9.
Many Economy Seats and “Ungodly” Arrival Time
Firstly I am surprised at the large number of (relatively uncomfortable) Economy Class seats. Qantas say they can charge a premium even for these seats, though at times reviewers have mentioned discounts. Others have mentioned upgrades.
Secondly, the flight arrives at the somewhat inconvenient time of 5:05, often landing even earlier. I wonder whether this time was chosen because it makes QF9 almost the first flight of the day with no risk of it being put in a holding pattern and having to declare a fuel emergency to get priority landing.
For Project Sunrise flights from Sydney and so on Qantas is considering a four class layout with First in addition to Business, Premium Economy and Economy as on QF9. Ideas such as having bunks in the cargo area under the cabin floors have been abandoned, it is said because of the extra weight. It must be difficult getting the degree of discomfort in economy right so as not to take passengers away from more profitable Economy Plus and Business classes. It seems the trick will be to have an exercise area to get people out of their seats from time to time without them opting to stay there.
Passengers on QF10 interviewed on their return to Perth have said they would like a bar/cafe area. The problem with that is that some passengers, especially from Economy, would hog the spaces. Rationing time there might cause ill-feeling and be difficult to police.
Choice of Aircraft
Qantas were very lucky with the Boeing 787. As a launch customer they were quoted very keen prices. Then when deliveries were delayed because of initial problems they were paid compensation for being unable to use them. Then when they finally received them (better later models) they benefited from the original discounts.
Boeing and Airbus are competing for supplying the aircraft for Project Sunrise, and at once time it seemed that Qantas (being pleased with Boeing) only invited Airbus to the party for ideas and to get a better deal from Boeing. Now with Boeing having to deal with the 737 MAX fiasco not to mention finding the General Electric engine they would use needing more work, it seems Airbus may be in the lead with their A350-1000 ULR as Boeing may not be able to meet deadlines–no longer will they be able to lever through authorizations and approvals with the FAA.
Qantas have said they should decide on an aircraft by the end of 2019 but Project Sunrise will depend on it being judged PROFITABLE.
787 DELIVERY FLIGHTS TO BE USED TO SEE HOW PASSENGERS AND CREW WOULD FIND LONG PROJECT SUNRISE FLIGHTS
Shortly, three new 787s being delivered to Qantas will be flown non-stop from London and the US East Coast to Sydney with merely 40 test passengers to simulate Project Sunrise flights and see how such long flights would affect both passengers and crew.
At a recent press conference Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said, “Qantas will run three separate research flights, using newly-built 787s before they go into regular service, to assess well-being and comfort. Between October and the end of the year, we’ll collect these aircraft from the Boeing factory in Seattle, position them in New York and London, and fly direct to Sydney.”
One aspect of great worry for Alan Joyce in deciding whether Project Sunrise is viable is coming to a satisfactory agreement with the pilots who are not only concerned about salaries but also about fatigue and what happens in the event of diversions.
Should Project Sunrise work out it could be great for Qantas. But there are still a number of ifs
Some people are accusing airlines and tour operators raising prices following the collapse of Thomas Cook of being “Vultures”. This is somewhat unfair and could mean…
Seats being priced at discount prices for the off-season being gobbled up when a company goes bust and none at all left for those who really need to travel.
This brings us back to people griping about how expensive travel and holidays are once the school holidays start, forgetting the fact that they are artificially low off-season, and some people can take advantage of that.
It is a matter of supply and demand, though some companies are adding flights or capacity which can reduce prices.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) found a theoretical problem with the center of gravity of A320neo aircraft with the new Space Flex cabins and issued an air worthiness directive. This has resulted in Lufthansa and British Airways leaving the last row of six seats empty with not even crew allowed to sit there. It is expected that a software fix will solve the problem–only possibly occurring in unlikely circumstances at takeoff.
For details see this article in ONE MILE AT A TIME.
However, surely a short-term fix would be to have exceptionally heavy passengers sit as far forward as possible commensurate with their class of travel and have some small people (including children?) at the rear. If this were applied to only a few individuals it would make a world of difference, for even one or two exceptionally heavy people sitting far forward would shift the center of gravity forward significantly. Of course, one would have be sure they were not sitting in toilet at the back at takeoff!
Surely worth considering as selling six more seats per flight worthwhile.
Placing just FEW exceptionally heavy (or small) passengers “strategically” to adjust centers of gravity very simply might also be worth considering in general and not just for the A320neo.