The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is preparing to close 149 contract ATC towers serving small and regional airports beginning April 7 as part of its plan to cut costs by more than $600 million under the federal government’s “sequester” mandate. Republican lawmakers accused the White House of blocking a measure that attempted to keep open the contract towers by funding them through the end of the fiscal year.
AIN Air Transport Perspective
Airbus and Boeing each secured major commitments for their respective narrowbodies last week, potentially helping to quiet some of the debate surrounding the extent of their production rate increases.
The European Commission is taking to task the vast majority of its 27 nation states for their lack of progress in forging the Single European Sky through a program to unify regional airspace.
Inefficiencies caused by Europe’s fragmented airspace generate extra costs of close to €5 billion each year, adding 42 kilometers (27 miles) to the distance of an average flight, and forcing aircraft to burn more fuel, generate more emissions, pay more in user charges and incur delays. The U.S. controls the same amount of airspace, with more traffic, at almost half the cost.
As India’s air traffic grows and skies get crowded, the country’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) and Ministry of Civil Aviation have finally reached an agreement on a long-standing demand for flexible use of airspace (FUA). The implementation will stand “subject to ensuring adequate safeguards in the system to prevent inadvertent leaks of military information and dissemination of any information on military aviation activities strictly on a ‘need to know’ basis,” noted a government statement. The military currently controls approximately 65 percent of India’s airspace.
The world’s airlines will achieve somewhat higher than expected profits this year, according to the latest projections from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The industry group now expects its members to post a combined net post-tax profit margin of 1.6 percent this year (up from the earlier projection of 1.3 percent) on net income of $10.6 billion (up from $8.4 billion).
Boeing executives expressed what they consider a “reasonable expectation” that the 787 Dreamliner would return to service in a matter of a few weeks at a briefing last Friday in Tokyo during which they detailed the company’s plan for certifying a solution to the “issues” surrounding the airplane’s lithium-ion batteries. However, Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner and 787 chief program engineer Mike Sinnett acknowledged that the timing will depend completely on the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s certification schedule and a smooth execution of the testing.
Embraer expects to see substantial sales activity over the next few months involving 70- and 76-seat E-Jets as U.S. major airlines respond to relaxed union limits on regional jets among their regional airline partners, according to the manufacturer’s CEO, Frederico Curado.
The European Commission proposed yet another package of measures to strengthen passenger rights last week, but not without a nod to airline concerns over the resulting costs. The commission designed the new rules to make passenger life easier when things go wrong, without putting airlines out of business by demanding too much care or compensation.
“[A passenger] will have a right to information about what is going on after half an hour [in the event of a flight delay],” said EC commissioner for transport Siim Kallas.
Both in terms of actual cost structures and customer perception, the line between low-cost carriers (LCCs) and so-called legacy airlines has blurred, according to a new report from accountancy group KPMG. The company’s 2013 Airline Disclosures Handbook, published on March 12, showed that the cost gap between LCCs and legacy operators dropped by more than 30 percent between 2006 and 2011, falling from 3.6 U.S. cents to 2.5 cents per available seat kilometer (ASK).
Air cargo traffic declined in the U.S. and internationally in 2012, but forecasts call for gradual improvement in the coming years.
In its latest 20-year aerospace forecast, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said U.S. air carriers flew 36.4 billion revenue ton miles (RTMs) last year, down 2.4 percent from the previous year. The European debt crisis and China’s slowing economic growth affected international cargo RTMs, which declined by 3.6 percent to 24.3 billion. Domestic cargo RTMs remained essentially flat, increasing by 0.1 percent to 12 billion.