Monday Insight – October 9, 2023

Israel/Hamas Example:
An Urgent Message For USA Airports

“To a trained terrorist, our airports have the security of a laundromat.”

Mike Boyd quoted  in the Wall Street Journal, July 1997

“There is the potential for multiple hijackings of flights at Boston/Logan.”

FAA Security Red Team Inspector Brian Sullivan in an urgent  report, May 2001.

These are just a couple of observations made by many people before 9/11 regarding the state of airport security, particularly from the FAA’s own security teams.

‘Course, the powers in charge, from an incompetent FAA Administrator, Jane Garvey, to a prestigious US senator, John Kerry, ignored the warnings from these FAA security professional. Persecuted some of them, actually, even after they were proved right.

Reaction Is Not Security. Where Homeland Security and TSA fails Security is a matter of anticipating threats, protecting citizens and the infrastructure they rely upon, and being able to quickly remediate the effects of an attack.

It is a logical fear the none of this is fully in place in our aviation system.

Let’s face it, things like shoes off in security lines, liquids restricted, coats into the scanner, etc., were all reactions to various security threats after events took place somewhere else. They were not due to professional, anticipative security planning and expertise.

Professional security forethought wasn’t involved. Ignore this at our peril: We are not engaged in active, aggressive security planning at our airports. We could be at a point like Israel found a few days ago.

Protect Our Way of Life. Instead of Just Looking For Oversize Bottles of Grecian Formula. Then there is the critical issue of remediation in the event of a security breach. Programs to reduce the infrastructural damage and public dangers after an event. But the chances that this is a part of the gong show of pointy-object detection at our airports is near zero. You can take it to the bank that there is no serious scenario planning whatsoever.

From events over the past 20 years, the directions seems to be to just run and evacuate. Not encouraging. The performance of Alexandro Mayorkas, the Secretary of Homeland Security, is alarming. His basic idea of “security systems” is allowing thousands of completely undocumented and unvetted people from all over the world to be transported by bad actors to our southern borders, where they are being freely allowed entry to the USA.

They are rewarded with money and cell phones, and then transported to points across the nation. We have political theater. One dangerous observation is an increase in “refugees” from China coming across the Mexico boarder – with reportedly many appearing to be fit and able young men, not poor refugees from Fujian or Zhengzhou. Trained, maybe. Fifth column, maybe?

Back at our airports, there are no plans in place beyond getting away from where a perceived threat takes place. The fiasco in a baggage claim area a few years ago at the FLL is one example (Google if you must.) No plan, no concept of crowd safety. People just ran. Some willy-nilly onto the active AOA according to reports. See, it didn’t take place in a supposedly “sterile” area. So, a security remediation or facility exit plan was, well, not needed.

Take a gander at congressional hearings involving Mayorkas. The man is an embarrassment and appears completely and arrogantly incompetent – which most of the participants in these political shows are very comfortable with. Gee, hundreds of people from Haiti show up at a small Mexican town along the Texas border, and nobody dares ask who got them there. Nope, it’s not an invasion, folks. Nothing to see here. Homeland Security has it under control.

Just like Jane Garvey and AVSEC policies did on 9/11.

Now with the lightning-fast strikes against civil targets in Israel, maybe it’s time to take a hard look at AVSEC in America. Naturally, the official response is that the TSA is in control, and all is well.

Sorta like the systems in place the day before 9/11.

Common Sense Security – Think Like A Terrorist. A couple of observations. The current approach at airports tends to be focused mostly on passenger security, with low focus on the security of the infrastructure.

What about the security of HVAC systems? Are all people working on the taxiway rehab intensely screened before entering the work site? Is any real consideration given to the trucks and vehicles taking equipment onto not only the AOA but non-sterile areas as well?

If a security threat or emergency takes place in concourse B, what is the plan to safely move people? What is the plan for concourse C? How about the air cargo facilities? Catering operations? What is the real security-awareness training of staff working at the airport?

Now, the usual toadies in the national media will rush to tell us that the administration has it all in hand. One appalling “national network correspondent” got screaming angry when I told him that we had a lot more to do in regard to AVSEC. Nope. See he’d interviewed the top people at the TSA, and was armed with all the “facts.”

Just like the assumptions about Jane Garvey’s AVSEC before 9/11.

Here’s the point: Aviation security is not just about finding C-4 in a Samsonite. It’s about protecting our way of life, including the systems on which we depend.

The extent and suddenness of what just happened in Israel should not be ignored. Assuming that Homeland Security has it under anticipative control is foolish.

Awareness is imperative. Thinking like a terrorist is the correct approach.

That’s not in place at the TSA.


Monday Insight – October 2, 2023

Rural & Small Community Air Service
In Many Cases, The Aircraft No Longer Exist

It’s a common thread in the air service development field. Gaining more air service access – or any air service access – is the immediate goal for smaller communities. It’s postured as an almost do-or-die economic situation. No service at the local airport means no economic growth is the battle cry.

There are newly-formed task forces and cross-community coalitions to convince congress to jack up Essential Air Service funding to “lure” more airlines into town. SCASD grants are filed, albeit mostly at communities that are not really “small,” with high hopes of getting a flight to a pre-determined destination, almost always with a chart implying that the desired service will tend to lower airfares, which for all intents is something completely lost in the space of economic ignorance.

Just Flights. Not Access. The questions of specifically where the airline will come from, or what the service will actually access are often not in evidence. In these cases, the communities are misled into the belief that “air service” is like running water. You have flights or you don’t. Having them – going wherever – is the final objective.

To be sure, the civic energies are laudable, but the goals are too often crafted in void that is completely outside of the economics and consumer realities of air transportation. Most of these efforts are doomed to fail because they are crafted without a clear understanding of the future of air transportation as a consumer communication channel.

Now there is another factor that most small community ASD programs ignore: fleet trends.

One of the factors that sets Boyd Group International apart in assisting clients plan for the future is that we are involved in fleet trends and airline fleet strategies. Most ASD programs just assume that the right planes will be there, as long as they can make a great case for the airport at the next speed date conference.

Take A Gander. The Planes Are Gone. What they miss is that the fleets of airliners that could accomplish this – even if the traffic were there – no longer are in operation, and airline economics are going in the wrong direction to reverse this.

Sadly, that is becoming more and more akin to primitives creating cargo cults in the South Pacific after World War Two. They built stick airplanes hoping to attract back what they experienced in the heat of those years, with huge amounts of wartime commerce. But those airplanes no longer exist because the economic situation has changed.

It is almost precisely the same situation today in a lot of air service development programs. The sad fact is that the airplanes that these projects hope to attract no longer exist. Today the stick models are replaced with studies and analyses and heat maps and task forces and SCASD grants produced in largely futile efforts to lure back airplanes that aren’t there anymore.

The raw economics of crew costs, fuel costs, maintenance costs, airport costs, regulatory costs have already put turboprops and small jets into the smelter. The financial nut cannot be met with just 30 or 40 or 50 seats generating revenue.

Now, these skyrocketing operational costs are going to start to affect the economics of 76 seat jets.

Drop the blinders – this is raising the bar regarding the amount of revenue that needs to be generated on a per-flight basis at any airport. Simply stated, that means any air service with a frequency to keep folks using the local small community airport needs to have demand that increasingly the immediate region cannot sustain.

As was just covered in the latest Touch & Go newsletter, the emerging economics of passenger air service cannot be ignored any longer. At the moment, the capacity floor for major airline access is moving to 76 seats. In the next three years, as labor and fuel costs continue to rise, that floor will move toward 120 seats – an A319 will be gravitating to be the smallest piece of iron in the fleet. And there are no smaller airliners in the pipeline. Can you say “regionalization” folks?

Cutting to the bottom line, the hard fact is that small communities need to move aggressively to rethink the economic opportunities that exist for the local airport. Increasingly, it will mean looking beyond scheduled passenger service. Regionalization of air access is in progress as consumers find better alternatives at larger distant airports.

More consultant voodoo won’t change this any more than the efforts undertaken by the folks in rural New Guinea. At least the stick airplane models won’t choke the local land fill.

Air Service In 2027 is the focus of this week’s Touch & Go. It briefly illuminates where airline trends are going based on fundamental structural shifts in the airline industry.

If you’re not on the distribution list, hit the contact button and we’ll include you with the over 500 aviation thought leaders who get new perspectives at the end of every week.

Monday Insight – September 25, 2023

Bogus Counterfeit Airliner Parts:
What Is The FAA Plan?

At least four airlines have discovered that some engines have parts with forged airworthiness certificates installed on their airliners.

The details are now growing, but the real issue is how the supply chain was invaded successfully by a fly-by-night front company with a vapor address in the UK.

We are not talking about flush handles for the economy-cabin lavatories. It involves things like turbine blades, according to reports. Serious stuff.

The investigation of this scandal will not stop here, unless the DOT and FAA determine that they are materially responsible (which they are) for this massive and safety-related scandal.

The questions are natural to include whether there are other areas where the sanctity of airworthiness certification has been compromised. It is indeed an international scandal. But it illuminates a ghastly hole in regulation.

The natural conclusion will likely be that the airline industry is at fault. But that’s nonsense because for these carriers the airworthiness regulations and processes are the entire responsibility of the Federal Aviation Administration.

If bogus parts get through, there is a giant hole in the security system. Airlines depend on the FAA to assure this. To blame the airline is the equivalent of blaming a consumer for eating bad food that was mis-approved by the FDA.

The conclusion is that the aviation industry cannot rely on the FAA – and neither can the public.

This is yet another reason that the FAA needs to be run and completely rebuilt by aviation management professionals, not politically chosen candidates vetted by the likes of Senator Chuck Schumer and Mayor Pete.

Let’s see how things develop over the next few weeks.


Monday Insight – September 18, 2023

Fact: Traditional Airline Economics Are Now Hollowed Out
Stand By For Tectonic Changes
In In Air Transportation

Remember the airline business of year 2023? It’s gone.

American. United. Delta. Spirit.

They have all issued new and very downward investor guidance. Suddenly, the glowing implications and forecasts we saw accompanying the 1Q and 2Q airline financial reports are ancient history.

Collapsing; The Traditional Economic Foundations of Air Transportation. This is not just an issue of a couple of passing spikes in cost of jet-A. It is a shift in what drives the cost and the value of moving people and goods using flying machines.

It means that the veracity of air travel and the consumer base that uses it are changing. For airports and suppliers this is a critical factor that requires a complete shift in future planning.

Ignore this at your peril. What is going on today is the start of shifts that have made obsolete much of the thinking in regard to the airline business.

When fuel unexpectedly jumps 20% it’s one thing. But in the last three weeks, other concrete fundamental changes in the operating environment have come to light that represent a nasty economic cocktail that’s fixin’ to hit the airline industry. Airports and communities need to go into full metal jacket mode to envision and plan for these shifts.

The cost of the communication channel called “air transportation” has materially and structurally increased. That means the customer base and the value of air travel have changed as well. This will become obvious over the next six months.

The Nine New Forecast factors for 4Q 2023 & 1Q 2024:

Jet-A costs will not materially decline. Oil has hit $90 a barrel, and there are zero indications of any trends that will knock it down. The policies of the current administration have clearly torpedoed any chance of a return to USA energy independence. That means changes in air transportation economics. That means a lot of sharpened red pencils in the route planning department. Air travel will be viable in fewer market applications.

 Yield softness. Exacerbating this, airlines will have limited fare flexibility. The not-to-worry concept of “fewer passengers at higher yields” we heard earlier this year is out the door.

Labor costs are changing how airlines can fly. New and anticipated airline labor agreements will start to spike operating costs immediately; That will also affect route and market decisions. Big time. And there are more on the way.

The fantasy of re-attracting “air service” at many small communities is all too clear. For small and rural airports, the trends are not encouraging. The new raw economics of aviation point to more rapid reductions in this sector. Another jive consultant “market study” won’t deter a lot of the cuts coming at small airports. Communities need to re-think airport development beyond scheduled airline service.

Fleet shifts will change the players and structure of air transportation. Over two decades ago, the existence of independent regional airlines went into the same historical dustbin as brick-and-mortar travel agents. Gone. That transportation sector evaporated and a lot of the players with it.

For the remainder, which now are not airlines, but lease lift to major carriers, a lot of the economic ground is turning to quicksand. The limited number of 76-seat jets – the new capacity floor for branded airline service – will be under cost pressure as the (misnamed) “regional” lift providers also see the economic effects of higher labor and fuel, hemmed in by existing contracts with major airline customers.

Majors will need much less contract lift. Expanding on the point above, in 2024-2025, the small lift provider sector – which is still mis-labeled as “regional airlines” – will be in an economic vice between lowered need from major airline customers on one hand, and the declining economics of a substantial number of feed markets. In effect, the small lift provider segment of airline leasing will substantially atrophy. Consolidation, chapter 11 filings, complete shutdowns, etc.

 The air traffic control system will continue to flummox air travel. Nothing new, but there is no improvement to a situation that has festered into 40% or higher staffing shortages at ATC centers. It’s likely to get worse. This will again reshape how airlines will be strategizing the future.

 News Flash: Electric aircraft are not the future, at least as things stand today. The Advanced Air Mobility programs will begin to hit a number of brick walls in mid- to late- 2024, as the environmental and social damage of current battery supply chains increasingly become impossible to gloss over. Changes in battery technology and in the access of materials that go into batteries will be critical. Short of this, the AAM sector will be a colossal black hole.

Plan on as much as a 10% decline in ULCC leisure-destination impulse revenue by the start of 2024. Call it a recession, or call it what the wags in Washington care to label it, the economy is not going in the right direction. Consumers are seeing budgets decimated by higher food and living costs. Not conducive to a fun trip to the Florida sun.

Airports: Proactive/Futurist Planning Is Now Critical.

Every airport will be affected by some degree or another. However, it’s important that airports immediately do a forensic analysis of the fundamentals of that traffic.

With that, aggressive and pro-active liaison with the carrier(s) involved is necessary to keep them fully aware that the airport will do all possible to assure their success. And to get clear indications on the future direction of air access.

Call Us for Futurist Air Access Planning. Strategic planning – no scatter-gun studies – will be necessary. In that regard, do consider a Runway To The Future™ program from Boyd Group International.

It’s our tailored approach that takes into account all areas that affect traffic demand – airline strategies, fleet changes, consumer demand factors, shifts in regional air access competition, and more. It delivers a clear view of the future.

More Information – click here. Let’s talk and get ahead of what’s coming down in the next 18 months.

This is no longer business as usual.

Monday Insight – September 11, 2023

Remembering 9/11:

Terrorists Are Not The Main Threat.
It’s Incompetence On This Side That’s The Danger.

The date 9/11/2001 – the worst intelligence failure in history on the part of the US government.

Naturally,  it is important to everyone to mark and memorialize 9/11/2001. Except, it appears, the current occupant of the White House. He’ll be busy with other things and will essentially do a phoner instead of being on-site.

The Real Threat Is Having Incompetents In Charge. But the question is whether we are any more secure today. I am not talking about the human waste that inflicted the attack. Instead, the issue is whether we are any safer today from the disgusting people in our government, who before 9/11, in full light of the threats, were intent on telling us how wonderful our aviation security was back then.

What gets lost in the media stories is that they were advised and did nothing. It’s like being told by meteorologists that a hurricane is coming and intentionally ignoring it. That is precisely the scenario with 9/11.

Here’s the bottom line: it’s not just the safety and security systems that are paramount. It’s whether the people in charge are competent. They were not so before 9/11, and it’s more than an open question whether it’s the same today.

Let me say it again: it’s not the deranged terrorists that are the real threat. It’s having political nincompoops in charge of protecting us from them.

That was the case and the cause of 9/11. Nincompoops were In charge.

Unaccountable nincompoops, to be more precise. Today, just do a YouTube search of the congressional testimony of Secretary of Homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas, regarding security of our southern border, and it is not comforting. It is downright scary.

We Had Professional Warnings. The official narrative repeated by a compliant media is that we were unexpectedly attacked on 9/11. That is true only in regard to the senior security officials of the FAA, who irresponsibly ignored warnings. See, before the attacks, we had FAA Red Team investigators trying to warn the incompetents above them, right up to seat-warmer Jane Garvey – the FAA administrator. To no avail.

They reported lax security. The moral corruption they faced included outrages like being ordered not to inspect airports without providing notice of their planned arrival.

How about a clear, detailed warning that multiple airliners could be hijacked at Boston? Brian Sullivan, an FAA security inspector, advised his superiors of this in May 2001, months before that nasty Tuesday morning.

It was not just ignored, it was rejected. Frustrated, the findings were independently sent to the offices of Senator John Kerry. The bottom-line response: take it elsewhere.

The issue on the table: are the people in charge of AVSEC any better than the incompetents who were there 22 years ago? Again, any cursory performance review of the current guy in charge of Homeland Security would start some heavy concern.

No Accountability For Criminal Failure. Okay, it’s time for some Q&A which the media mannequins never have bothered with:

Question One: How many of the bureaucrats in charge of the inept aviation security on 9/11 were fired or even reprimanded?

Answer: None. As a matter of record, Bush actually lauded the FAA for its “fine work” – even before the final death count was known.

For the record, after 9/11 the majority of the human protoplasm overseeing AVSEC leading up to the attacks were actually promoted – either within the FAA, or its legislative demon spawn, the Transportation Security Administration.

Jane Garvey has apparently gone on to a career of being a professional mannequin, hired by consulting firms trying to show window-dressing about how connected they are. Disgusting. She was in charge of AVSEC on 9/11. She should have been asked to resign, just as the path taken regarding Admiral Kimmel after December 7.

Question Two: DOT Secretary Norman Mineta made great press in forming a number of “task forces” to investigate and provide input on aviation security needs. How many formal reports were issued?

Answer: Effectively none. The reasons implied was this was for “security reasons.” Sure. The job security of the clowns in charge of AVSEC and Mineta’s own responsibilities. The FAA was under his watch.

Question Three: In light of the truth that FAA Red Team security inspectors were interfered with, and their warnings of potential hijackings were ignored, how much of the “9/11 Commission Report” was dedicated to covering this corruption?

Answer: there was one footnote. The pre-9/11 input from Red Team members Brian Sullivan and Steve Elson was not addressed. Get this: they were the ones who were on-site. Who reported the facts. Who issued warnings. Yet, the political slime in charge of the 9/11 Commission did not include it.

Let’s be honest: the Commission was there to ensure that nobody got politically gored. It was a cover-up to assure that neither Democrats nor Republicans could be fingered as political perps.

Yes, the usual political hacks will declare that statement to be a “conspiracy theory.” They are partially right, but it was the commission itself that was in conspiracy to manage the truth. But it’s no theory.

Question Four: How much independent scrutiny has been applied to the entire issue of the failures leading up to 9/11, and the conclusions of the commission report?

Answer: Not much. In point of truth, the usual suspects in the media have circled the wagons around the 9/11 Commission report, instead of investigating it.

One recent example is the Wall Street Journal. It seems that Vivek Ramaswamy made the observation that he didn’t feel the public was fully informed about the issues surrounding 9/11, and he was not confident that the 9/11 Commission report was reliable.

Well, we just can’t have that kind of heresy, the editorial dragons at the WSJ apparently concluded. They came out with a scathing (albeit factless and vapid) attack on Ramaswamy. With all the arrogance of a third-rate evangelist shouting under some leaky gospel tent warning the attendees of being tossed into the Eternal Fire, the WSJ assured its readers that Ramaswamy was a complete fool, and that the 9/11 Commission report was an outstanding example of fact finding.

It had the condescending righteous tone – and the credibility – of an editorial one might find in the Beijing People’s Daily. Toadies.

Victims of 9/11 Go Beyond New York or Washington or Pennsylvania. On a wider note, while we respectively morn those lost on that day, we also must remember the thousands of our military who lost their lives, tossed into the maw of overseas “anti-terrorist” actions for which today we have nothing to show, except maybe billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment abandoned when Biden skipped and ran out of Afghanistan. (Yes, the deaths and injuries resulting from actions in Iraq and Afghanistan and other distant pestholes come  under the 9/11 ledger.)

If we had competent and professional security leadership before 9/11, every one of these human losses could have been avoided.

Bottom Line: Security Starts With Professional Competence. It’s not the amount of placebo baggage screening that’s done at airports. It’s whether there is competence and diligence among the people responsible to anticipate and prepare for future threats. One key example: when security events occur at airports from time to time, in most cases the drill is to just evacuate. No plan, no remediation, just run.

Coverage: Caveat Viewer. On the occasion of the anniversary of 9/11, we can plan on media coverage about how safe and secure we are compared to 9/11. They will point to having a new department of Homeland Security. How more screening is done of airline passengers and baggage. And they will point out that there’s not been a single hijacking in the past two decades.

‘Course the self-righteous network correspondents who will tell us how much security has improved are completely clueless regarding new vulnerabilities. Electrical grids. Internet communication. Pipelines. Choke-point interstate bridges. AI hacking.

What this points out is that Homeland Security and their occasional lapdogs doing the weekly news shows are in a defensive posture – defending themselves against any outside input. But we will now be entertained by an avalanche of sunshine stories replete with the walk and talk B-roll with Mayorkas, who can’t even protect our borders, let alone sophisticated communication channels our society is based upon.

And it will completely smokescreen what’s most important: having accountable and professional security people at the controls.

Just because we can’t carry more than 3 ounces of deodorant through airport check points does not mean we’re safer.


Monday Insight – September 4, 2023

American Tarmac Fine:
It’s More About DOT
Credibility Than An Airline

The news is out.

“American Airlines Fined $4.1 Million For Tarmac Delays.”

It’s a story that has been accepted as if it just arrived from Mount Sinai, apparently. Not to be questioned. Virtually no one in the media – including the aviation media – bothered.

Stale, Engineered Data. They had the responsibility to do so, but didn’t dare or didn’t know better.

This Buttigieg stunt is not from current data, and it doesn’t include incidents (if any) in the last two years. The airline has already shelled out $2 million for these events, and now, the DOT comes back with a political side show.

A lot of questions should be posed to Mayor Pete, whenever, of course, he is deemed by the media to have descended from the Mountain and is open for polite softball inquiries.

People’s Daily In Beijing Would Hire These Media Types In A Heatbeat. What is shocking is that this has been an unquestioned major headline repeated confidently in every form of aviation media, from national networks to the gadfly Walter Mitty aviation websites.

Like good obedient followers, they just report what they’ve been fed.


Just Repeat. Don’t Question The Source. The numbers are shocking, according to the parrot stories. A total of 43 instances is what the DOT claims and is righteously repeated with ghastly shock in every channel.

This Is About DOT Credibility, Not A Specific Airline. Okay. American Airlines are big boys and girls and they can defend themselves as they see fit. There almost certainly have been failures there. But…

… not questioned or barely mentioned – from the Wall Street Journal down to the hobbyist websites – is the data itself as reported. Funny, these are events from 2018 to 2021. What about the last two years?

The message here is that recent data don’t fit Buttigieg’s agenda.

Read it again. These are not current data, but events “researched” by the DOT and just now reported. Most of the media hasn’t even commented on that key foundational flaw in this mess – delays from four or five years ago, now just “discovered.” And the latest being maybe two years ago.

It’s a great lead-in for Buttigieg to showcase how he’s protecting the public. Clumsy, but he was confident that the toadies in the media would not call him on it. And he was right.

I don’t know (or care) how the general gaggle in the aviation media swallow this, but any scintilla of journalistic professionalism would dictate that Buttigieg and his staff need to answer some questions on this.

What about American’s performance over the last two years? And other carriers, comparatively? The fact that Buttigieg only focused on old records, and focused on events at just one airline – which are not completely substantiated regarding issues of weather – destroys the entire credibility of the “report.”  And his, too.

It is cheap pandering. What’s more disgraceful is the silence and obedient reporting of the Word From Pete issued by just about every supposedly qualified media source.

Shame we don’t have real investigative reporting. Might think there are red flags here regarding political agendas – just now conjuring up operational events almost five years old.

Nah. It’s easier to parrot than to question.

Latest Aviation Unscripted Video

Beyond The Headlines – Three Important Events

Take 11 minutes to get unique perspectives on current aviation events that are shaping the industry – insights that go beyond traditional sources.

Aviation Unscripted is now also on YouTube. Make it a regular weekly routine to join videos that are entertaining, iconoclastic, sometimes irreverent, but always insightful and out-of-the-box aviation trend discussions.

This week:

Weighing all airline passengers Airports: Get ready. It’s coming. And it’s positive.

China-USA capacity to “double.” It’s a mirage. The real story is how US carriers have re-allocated resources in response to a near-evaporation of this market, adding new EU access across their networks.

The Red Way fiasco. Has anybody learned anything? How many more embarrassing schemes can communities get suckered into before air service realities sink in?

Click here and join us. While there, hit the subscribe button and we’ll keep you advised of coming videos.


Monday Insight – August 28, 2023

The Red Way Airline Collapse.
Lessons Learned?
Or $3 Million Wasted On Civic Hubris & Bad Data?

The sudden failure of the Red Way airline experiment at Lincoln, Nebraska has delivered a whole passel of new perspectives on the potential of rural and regional air access.

The question is whether anybody is paying attention.

Civic Hubris v Reality. It’s important to recognize that Lincoln did indeed take up the cudgel and attempt a new approach to air service access. But it’s also necessary to note that there were some massive shortfalls in planning and implementation. Shortfalls that were not hidden, but which were clearly ignored. Civic rah-rah apparently took the place of hard analyses.

It has nothing to do with the convoluted semi-charter approach to getting airplanes at the gate. It’s all about true passenger demand and consumer options. The Red Way traffic experience is a valuable learning experience for all communities involved in trying to increase air service access.

The question is whether these lessons were learned or are just being ignored. Let’s take a look at what the Red Way experiment has illuminated.

The Don’t Hear Thunder Dynamic. The entire experiment was a success only in attracting and transporting sailboat fuel, not much more. Yet at least one usual-contributor to the web-kibitzing genre has lamented this failure, because, it claimed, “Lincoln really needed these flights.” (?)

The Cheerleader-From-The-Titanic-Poop-Deck Experience. The giant traffic vapor hole facing Red Way was almost certainly as obvious as a blemish on prom night, after the first fortnight of dispatching empty airplanes to points with not enough day-of-week passengers to fill a VW microbus.

Yet, check out the wondrous media coverage, including the perfunctory implications that the project was akin to a gold rush, with “thousands of seats sold!” Too bad nobody in the local media bothered to take a pencil to the claim. Message to local Lincoln media: your job is to report and inform, instead of being advocates for something in which you have no expertise.

The Sudden Underdog Excuses. It’s interesting to take in the various statements being issued after the service cessation announcement. In light of all the prior sunshine pronouncements, the following post-mortem missive is incredibly illuminating – emphasis added:

“…we face insurmountable challenges as a small startup in our industry, and the compounding of costs and lack of resources have made it impossible for us to sustain operations. It is our hope that other carriers see the incredible potential, and with their economies of scale, are able to provide Lincoln with the service it is so worthy of.”

Yikes. Funny, none of these against-the-odds heroics seem to be found in any of the pre-operation hype. They now claim what they faced from the start were “insurmountable” odds, and “lack of resources” – despite reportedly burning through over $900K in the first month, and supposedly $3 million total.

Galactic levels of chutzpah.

And in the hard light of having gone through a pile of public funds, it’s clear they didn’t run this statement by their legal department, either.

One point is right on, however. Other carriers will indeed get the message on the market potential.

The Mirage of The “Home Team Advantage.” Clearly, the plan was predicated on giving the folks driving on I-80 to and from OMA what they really really wanted, which was seats from Lincoln.

Regardless of the non-competitive nature of the Red Way concept, this followed a traditional consultant Pied-Piper line peddled to a lot of small communities: local service alone will have ‘em coming in droves, even if it is inferior to other air access options. Snake oil.

Final Point: Again, innovative approaches to air access should be encouraged. But when they fail it does nobody any good to try to excuse away the hard realities learned. It’s the aviation version of claiming the dog ate your homework. This Red Way program failed because it assumed a lot of factors not in evidence. Period.

Those three million bucks have some value in understanding what can and cannot be accomplished – a lesson for the future.

And, maybe not.


Check Out This Week’s Aviation Unscripted

When communities get “commercial flights” confused with “air service access.”

Related to the Red Way fiasco, the latest Unscripted video takes just ten minutes to outline events like this one, and how airports can better address the future.

At Red Way, it was obvious that other than impulse destinations such as Orlando, the day-of-week model to business destinations is nonsense for small and midsize airports.

Then we look at Dayton, where Avelo tossed in the towel. The question here is why the airport would spend the energy and resources to recruit an airline to offer exactly what was already in place with Allegiant.

Places like Salem and Dubuque are getting side tracked, assuming that impulse flights to Florida and ‘Vegas are “air access” when they do nothing to connect the community to the globe, and in fact benefit a small sliver of the consumer market.

Point: recruiting impulse destinations from high quality airlines like Avelo is positive. But it isn’t designed to connect communities to the globe. That is where network carrier access comes in.

Finally, we take a quick look at the JetBlue/Spirit deal and how it is really pro-competitive for the USA consumer.

Click here, spend ten minutes with us, and while there hit the follow button.



Monday Insight – August 21, 2023

The FAA Administrator Fiasco:
The Senate Is Threatening Air Safety
(But It’s Wonderfully Bipartisan)

The beat goes on. The air transportation system proceeds without leadership or direction at the top of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Avoiding Bumper Cars In The Sky. At least two more near-collisions have been reported in the last ten days. One in San Diego and one in Boston.

Two that we know of.

The Future Is Coming Over The FAA Transom. In addition to a failing ATC system, the advanced air mobility programs (AAM) are moving at full tilt, with no serious concern regarding recent electric prototype failures and cancellations at Tecnam and NASA.

The FAA is hip-deep in the regulatory aspects of AAM and must take leadership to guide the programs in several areas. Not to mention increasing indications that there are major – major – environmental issues sprouting up with battery manufacture and post-use disposition that have been conveniently buried, and which the FAA should be digging up.

Then we have the growing use of drones, which represents the need for increased regulatory scrutiny.

This is A Team Game. Not A Solo. Okay, it’s no revelation that Biden and Buttigieg are lost in political space. But what about the glorious senators on that confirmation committee who would have us believe that they are doing their jobs?

They are not. To put it clearly, they are irresponsible.

They bear oversight, and we don’t have any official leadership at the top of the FAA, at a time when decisions need to be made. They are doing nothing but kibitzing on the sidelines.

It Is A Safety Position. Find An Aviation Safety Professional. Maybe it’s time powerful shamans in the Senate stop treating the FAA Administrator job as some sort of political scalp-trophy. Apparently, nothing was learned from the political human sacrifice that took place with the Phil Washington fiasco.

The backroom powers just took a guy with very marginal aviation experience, and apparently told him not to worry, that the nomination was a slam dunk. Then we had the mind-numbing and ethics-angering confirmation hearings where it became clear the appointee could express no ideas, or fire, or gut-interest in either the current problems at the FAA, not to mention the future need to take a bulldozer to the place.

But there’s a lot of responsibility for this mess attributable to the august senators involved in this hoedown. Not one of the Senators involved specifically asked Mr. Washington what he had in mind for fixing the FAA. Not that it would have made much difference, as it was clear he had given it no real thought.

But it does say volumes about the mindset of the Senators involved. Mr. Washington had no clue about what to do in the future – and neither did any of the elected officials alternatively grilling him or mindlessly lauding him (depending on side of the aisle.)

While Planes Are Dodging Each Other, More Seat Warming Is In The Offing. Another announcement this past week was that the current temporary Administrator will by statute step down in October, and probably another temp will be put in charge. Three months ago, there was speculation that Mike Whitaker, a former FAA director, was on tap.

Silence since. The mess continues.

The fact is that the Senate committee doing the confirmation hearings is guilty of the same failures as were displayed by Mr. Washington. Instead of properly doing their homework on the issues surrounding the FAA, they were mostly shooting from the political hip.

So, the truth is that these senators’ game-playing nonsense is also putting the nation’s air transportation system in jeopardy.

But it is wonderfully bipartisan.

Monday Insight – August 14, 2023

The Economic Smoke Signals
Are We Looking At The 1929 of Air Travel Demand?

When key economic dynamics falter, historically so does growth in air travel demand.

Is the hard-wired connection between these no longer valid? Is air travel now exempt from things like buying power, inflation and consumer confidence?

It’s More Than The Economy. Actually, there are four critical dynamics in play that could turn the current air travel demand sunshine into dank economic darkness. Not evenly all across the airport system, as each airport has different consumer strengths and weaknesses.

Just for starters:

Inflation has raised food prices 20% over the past two years. Overall, things are up over 17%.

Interest rates – on which sales of major items depend – are at a 22-year high. Venture capital is now above 8% and has in many cases dried up.

Regardless of the jive media stories, the vast majority of Americans think the nation is going the wrong way.

Consumer backlash – which can bring on inept DOT interference – due to real and perceived sloppy service. It’s getting to the point that airports may prefer NOT to have some service due to the consumer problems inflicted.

There are geo-political factors in play – ones that could be the next CCP-Covid event, albeit not a virus.

Add that to low confidence in the direction of the economy, and logic would tell us that wallets for leisure and business travel would be closing.

Is There Demand Momentum Overhang? But going into the summer, it has been gangbusters for airlines, at least if measured by seats occupied. New entrants Avelo and Breeze have registered very strong load factors. ULCCs such as Frontier reported almost 85%.

Seems there is a disconnect here. It could be due to a number of issues. The question is whether the industry is heading for a nasty 4th quarter. We are seeing some indications of capacity pull-downs and schedule adjustments, however.

Forget The Consensus. I would suggest taking a look at the most recent Aviation Unscripted™ video. It compares the happy national economic news reported by much of the media – or, more accurately, the factors ignored by it – with translations from the real world.

Then, it outlines the bellwether facts that every airport and community planner need to analyzed.

Invest eleven minutes for perspectives that run counter to ambient thinking.

Economic gravity can only be countered for so long. Click here to look at the future. Tongue in cheek, we get the official Bidenomics view, and provide real-world translations. Then, the video outlines the air service dynamics to watch.

Join us, and if you’ve got comments, have at it.


Monday Insight – August 7, 2023

Industry Arrivals & Departures

It’s New Nonstop Service In Mother Russia – Even On The Runway, Maybe.

There are reports that some Russian airlines are making relying on reverse thrust instead of brakes on landing. Seems the embargo due to the Ukrainian war is making brakes hard to maintain. No telling what this is doing to the thrust reverser parts bin.

More Evidence That Boeing Is Out of The China Narrowbody Market

The recent order for 500 737MAX airliners from Air India really isn’t necessarily all coming off the future production line. Something like 55 of these will be comprised of 737s built for Chinese carriers and sitting undelivered for the last three years. Reports are that there are another 85 of these orphans undelivered. Meanwhile, Chinese airlines have continued to order A320s.

Challenges In ULCC Land – Troubling Smoke Signals

Breeze reported that it took in $67 million in 1Q 2023 revenue, and had expenses of $115 million. Some changes in the operating model are likely in the cards.

This relates also to rumbles out of other carriers, including Southwest and JetBlue, that demand is softening. The open question is whether the unique day-of-week, mostly non-leisure traffic model at MX is more vulnerable than traditional leisure-focused scheduling.

Also, there have been ridiculous stories that consumers are dropping domestic flying and shifting to international. Get real. The two sectors have entirely different demand drivers.

More news from the ULCC front: Avelo has cut two Florida markets – one even before the launch. The experimental Red Way operation at Lincoln has dropped three markets already.

Let’s put aside the careful wordsmithing in much of the media – the fact is that the majority of Americans feel the economy is going in the wrong direction. That doesn’t encourage discretionary travel, probably including low-frequency non-leisure service as well.

Shock! American Is Dropping Champagne!

It’s always a wonder regarding how some of these gadfly hobbyist aviation websites get off and running on non-stories.

It’s all over the ‘net – AA is replacing the real stuff with sparking white wine! The story line is that customers will be re-thinking future travel plans away from American because of being denied at boarding 3.5 ounces of a type of hootch almost none of them ever drink at home – or anywhere else for that matter.

American’s Fleet Plans – Lots of ASD Messages

American is reportedly in discussions with both Boeing and Airbus regarding a later-in-the-decade need for 100 additional 737MAX and A320 series airliners. Apparently not on the table: anything in the <100 seat category. The message for small lift providers – a.k.a “regional airlines” is not comforting. The fleet trend in the last five years has been for the major airline customer to acquire these machines for use at their partners.  The E175 is the only game in town.

One Last Shot –
The Advanced Air Mobility Concept In Deep Trouble

Yes, the media stories are all sunshine. Air taxis and short haul small airliners are on the way, y’all. There will be new vertiports and new intra-urban air transportation galore.

The fact is that the AAM concept has huge potential. But there is one looming torpedo on the horizon.

It’s called batteries. More accurately, the supply chain, the environmental damage, the production processing, and the dependence on China, for starters. Then there is the fact that actual cost and actual market demand are unknown because the ultimate AAM operating costs will be dependent on a new generation of battery sources that do not exist today.

For the past two years, BGI has been alone, with videos on the Aviation Unscripted™ channel, in factually outlining how the airline industry will need to deal with these challenges. No interest whatsoever, and no answers whatsoever. AAM has gained cult status. The narrative will tolerate no questions.

One Last Discussion. Hit this link and invest eight minutes to get an idea of what needs to be done to assure AAM is not just another VLJ concept on steroids.

Then, it’s time to move on because AAM has taken on a status where anything contrary to the consensus narrative is not welcome.

I am on record: the AAM concept could be the next huge dynamic in air transportation. But it won’t unless the planners face reality.

Moving on.