Tuesday – January 3, 2023

Happy New Year!

The Southwest “Point-to-Point” Lore
Facts v Trendy Assumptions

In the media din surrounding the Southwest Black Holiday fiasco, the usual suspects on the margins of aviation knowledge have come out with all sorts of prognostications regarding the reasons for the meltdown.

One of the trendiest is the suggestion that Southwest’s point-to-point system was a contributor to the complexity of the operational collapse. The rationale given doesn’t make much sense, except to illuminate the lack of expertise of the authors.

One reason  is that Southwest isn’t really a point-to-point carrier.

Nope. Sorry to shatter dogma, but WN actually depends on connecting (“flow”) traffic as a major part of its revenue generation. Not a sideline, but a fundamental part of its system.

Let’s look at the traffic mix – local O&D and connect – at six of Southwest’s largest operations for the 12 months ended 3Q 2022:

Sorry to rain on the veneer analysts’ parade, but at these airports, the connect flows are a significant and very critical component of the Southwest revenue passenger mix.

Underscoring this is the column on the right. It indicates what the WN load factor would have been without the connect traffic. In short, Southwest is operating these airports as connect points.

In the real world, that’s called a hub operation.

Point: WN may or may not actually schedule in specific banks (we are splitting hairs here) but at these airports, they are in business to aggregate traffic across their system, i.e., connect passengers.

The reality is that Southwest really is a network carrier. True, it has a cohesive fleet of 737s – 700/800 and Max8s, instead of a wide range of capacity units. This limits the mission applications and markets it can pursue. (Although it is more lore that they’ve always operated “one airliner.” They may look alike but the 737-700 and the 737-8 (Max) have a lot not in common. Plus, in at least two time periods, they operated 727s.)

But in places like Tucson, the ability to flow passengers over Houston or Denver Midway is essential for Southwest. In fact, Southwest lists as many as ten flight options between Tucson and Atlanta – every one being a connect itinerary.

Actually, Delta Is More Point-to-Point Than Southwest. Here’s where the facts get in the way of trendy lore. Take a look at how Southwest ranks v other airlines in regard to percentage of passengers making connections.

We tossed in Alaska just for reference. The data are clear. The Southwest system is essentially as connect-focused as are American, Delta and United, and if international traffic flows were culled out, it’s likely all four are neck-and-neck in regard to percentages of flow traffic.

Not to be missed is that Delta actually has a larger percentage of point-to-point traffic than does Southwest.

The hard reality is that the Southwest system – large capacity airliners of 137 to 175 seats – needs strong aggregation of traffic flows.

So, do be circumspect when the media gurus and inhabitants of hobbyist aviation websites spout the lore about WN being “point-to-point.”

At some key airports – like LGA – the traffic is almost entirely point-to-point. But without the revenue flows generated at their hubs such as HOU, DEN, BNA, MDW, etc., they would not be in business.




Monday Insight – December 26, 2022

Looking At 2023: Overall, A Lot of Positives
But A Couple of Distant Events That Could Blow It All To Smithereens

Today, the Boyd Group International Aviation Trend Forecast for 2023 will be issued at Aviation Unscripted.

It’s an 18-minute video discussion of the emerging post-CCP-pandemic dynamics affecting and fundamentally affecting aviation and air transportation. Take a look, because it covers areas and issues not being discussed. The year 2023 has a lot of exciting dynamics that are emerging. And

Some of what is covered:

The New Main Planning Metric Is Time. We start by illuminating that time is now the #1 value factor in aviation planning. That means the air option that entails the least amount of total travel time is what the consumer will use. This is particularly important in programs addressing the value proposition of air access for small and rural communities.

Air Access Programs – Targeting Within Airline Industry Realities. Fact: there is no secret regarding the number and identity and strategy of airlines in the USA. Yet, ASD programs have in too many cases degenerated into the equivalent of desperate quack research to find “the cure” – the unfocused, and often unethical programs aimed only to “find more (unidentified) airlines” without any real objectives beyond having “more flights.”

This is as misguided as wanting “more roads” without any concern for where they may go or what economic need they may fill. Yet it’s a refrain heard way too often from civic leaders who are intentionally kept in the dark by their hired air service “advisors.”

As one example, it was recently reported that one small community in the last four years has spent close to a quarter million dollars on air service consulting fees, with bupkus – zip, nada, nothing, meiyou – for any new air service results.

There’s a message here we discuss in the video.

The Airline To Watch In 2023 – Missed Entirely. The BGI 2023 Trend Projections identify the airline that’s in the position to blow by the competition in the next 18 months. In an environment of tight pilot and airliner availability, one carrier has leapfrogged the rest of the US airline industry.

Small & Rural Communities – Zero Flights At The Local Airport Is Not The Same As No Air Access. We discuss the fact that airline fleet trends are culling out smaller jets, particularly those leased-in from mis-named “regional airlines.” This will put pressure on that segment of airliner leasing. The recent shifts in lease customers at Mesa and Air Wisconsin are one indication. The announcement by Delta that they will stop leasing 50-seat jets in the next six months is another.

We’re candidly discussing what this means regarding air access planning for small and mid-size airports.

International: Great Potential For Mid-Size Airports. The 2023 Trend Projections identify some of the airports that are in the crosshairs of gaining trans-Atlantic nonstops in the next 18-24 months. On the other side of the mix, the issues with trans-Pacific are more daunting. Like, near-dead.

New Air Communication Channels. It has been proven time and again that intra-regional point-to-point passenger air service does not work any longer. But since time is the new economic currency, there may be a range of applications where third tier operators may find where a C208 or similar could develop new logistics applications. Concept: just-in-time or speeding up current logistics where air could be cheaper. A concept.

Electric & eVTOL – Now It’s Time For Hard Facts. The 2023 Trend Projections note that while some of the proposed applications of these new electric aircraft are exciting, the time for hype and PR is over. There are hard questions that the purchasing airlines must now address. These include social and environmental issues that are not inconsequential and if not resolved, will torpedo the entire eVTOL concept. True.

Two Potential Torpedoes. There are two distant issues that have the potential to 86 all the strong expectations for 2023. Maybe not likely, but possible.

Click here to log on – invest the 18 minutes for insights not covered anywhere else in aviation. Get prepared for an exciting year ahead. And while you’re there, hit the subscribe button and join us for notifications of new video products in 2023!


Just FYI. We depend on Cirium for our data sourcing.

Accurate information is critical for planning the future.

Monday Insight – December 19, 2022

Boom Supersonic Engine Program.
The Real Story Is The Media Reaction.

The usual suspects in the all-knowing luddite corner of the media are jumping into their water dishes in a frenzy after the announcement that Boom Supersonic has formed a consortium to create a new engine for its planned Overture airliner.

Yikes! Don’t mess with consensus thinking. “Everybody knows” this is lunacy. As far as Boom goes, Rolls-Royce wasn’t interested. Nor was Pratt & Whitney or GE. The reasons for the lack of interest – like maybe the financial issues at Rolls for just one to consider – are not to be investigated.

So, that means it’s game-set-match for this upstart aircraft manufacturer.

Gee, Boom seems to disagree. But what’s at hand here is how a lot of the media – from the veneer gadfly hobbyist websites to writers at supposedly prestigious financial publications – tend to write first and learn later.

Boom is not a favorite among the status quo thinkers. It has openly denied the dogma that supersonic air travel is not economically possible. The consensus knows that this was proven conclusively by the failure of the Concorde, which first rolled out of the hangar when TV vacuum tubes were still being sold at drug stores.

Outrageously to the consensus thinkers, Boom has now lured two major US airlines into being dogma deniers, too.

The denial movement is expanding. According to the tone of some in the media cognoscenti, Boom has used its siren call to lure some sort of combination of companies to develop a new powerplant. This insulting heresy to the consensus is after established engine companies apparently had no interest in such a project.

As a typical response, we have the prestigious Financial Times, posting a tome outlining how business travelers won’t pay a premium just to save time across the Pond. ‘Course, the writer had no idea of what that premium would be, nor the intent of the Boom project to have economics commensurate with business class fares. Facts not needed.

Then, the Financial Times played the environmental card. It confidently stated that business travelers would stay away in droves from the Boom aircraft, as they morally would not cotton to flying on an aircraft that had many multiples of carbon emissions compared to traditional airliners.

That, naturally, was without any knowledge of the characteristics of the engines being developed. Facts not needed.

Caveat Reader. This is not about Boom. It’s about the ethical and moral cesspool that some of the media has descended into. We are seeing it with the stories about “shrinking airliner seat width” which are fake news, We’re seeing it with unverified stories that it’s just a pilot shortage that’s responsible for major airlines not wanting to lose money at some smaller communities.

Most of the Fourth Estate is professional, but dimbulb stories like this are way too common. They state it and we are expected to believe it.

We covered this in the latest Touch & Go newsletter. If you are not on our complimentary subscription list, hit the contact button and request.

The point is that it is important to be informed. But some of the traditional sources are no longer reliable.


Just in passing, we’d note that we rely on our colleagues at Cirium for aviation data.

With the structural changes taking place in aviation, accurate and current metrics are critical. Therefore, we recommend Cirium.


Monday Update – December 12, 2022

Media Discussions of The Chinese C919 Airliner:
Like Trying To Predict Last Week’s Football Game.

With the recent “revelations” of Boeing getting cut out of China – something we covered over a year ago – the new hot topic is discussing the future of China’s indigenous C919 airliner.

Never has such an obvious outcome been so thoroughly and uselessly discussed.

Anyone with a pulse, and just a sliver-understanding of airline economics, can see from the start that this contraption was market DOA when it rolled out of the factory several years ago. Years ago, right.

“Hey, this new airliner is fixin’ to challenge the Airbus/Boeing global duopoly,” is a theme heard in some media circles. Which means using a Ouija board to pick investments is far more reliable than the stuff coming from some of the glazed doughnuts holding forth on financial networks.

It’s Not A Chinese Airliner. It’s A CCP Political Project. All this C919 contraption represents is an embarrassment to China. A national embarrassment. The CCP-run COMAC is the Keystone Kops of airliner manufacturing. A powerful, innovative country like China could do a whole lot better, in the absence of the people currently running the place.

Most of the panel discussions we’re seeing on the networks dance around the issue.

There are a couple of obvious points that indicate the CNBC, FOX Business and others could spend their time on more productively.

First, this is not a new airliner. This iron sled was first rolled out of the factory seven years ago. This past week, it’s been reported that the first C919 has finally been delivered (foisted on?) China Eastern Airlines, which plans to monkey around with it for a few more months before trying to put it into passenger service.

Second, there is no reason for a major global airline to buy the thing. It represents zero operational advantages over existing products from Boeing, Airbus and Embraer. Any high school kid who hangs out on aviation geek websites would tell you that an airline will buy an entirely new platform only if it represents superior economics.

For example, the Bombardier CSeries, now the Airbus A220, certainly did just that, and it is rattling cages at not only Boeing but probably at current-producer Airbus, which is facing the market opportunity of stretching the -220 into something that needs to be carefully handled, lest it becomes a competitor to existing other lines. A nice conundrum to be in, while Boeing is stuck with the 737 platform and no planned successor.

But the COMAC C919 isn’t superior to anything in the sky. It is strictly me-too, at best. They may be able to toss a few units at Third World airlines, sort of like the experience with the Sukhoi SuperJet. With similar results.

Third, the expense of bringing on a new airliner type – especially one from the CCP-managed COMAC cabal – is astronomical, unless it offers whole new mission economics – which the C919 does not.

Fourth, the is the emerging reputation and monstrous ethics of the owner of COMAC, the unelected Chinese Communist Party, which brought us concentration camps and ethnic cleansing in Xinjiang, forced organ harvesting and the global pandemic. Among other societal programs. Hard to explain, maybe, at shareholder meetings. Even at Ryan Air.

Fifth, even if the C919 were an operational barn-burner, most airlines wouldn’t want to wait. COMAC is reported to announce that they’ll be delivering 25 C919s a year by 2030. That’s about what Airbus does in two weeks.

Hanging New Electronics On A Dog Airliner Is Meaningless. Finally, the last refuge of apologists for this embarrassment to the Chinese people is the US and western embargo of sensitive systems, for fear (certainty) of COMAC pirating them.

That’s nonsense in that the entire C919 platform is not competitive, anyway.

China Could Do A Lot Better. If a Chinese company were free to pursue such major projects on a market basis, instead of having chump CCP toadies making the calls, there really would be a competitor coming out of China. So, the component embargo is a non sequitur, so don’t fall for it.

The terminal flaw in the COMAC C919 is that it is an airliner developed for a political purpose, not a market need, regardless of where the components come from.

A Unique Branding Opportunity? Blend all this together into creating an appropriate market image for the C919, expressing the true culture of the CCP, and a Madison Avenue firm could have a field day.

Let’s name it. The C919 Thugliner, maybe. Instead of economy cabin, label it the concentration cabin, maybe. Instead of curtain dividers between cabin classes, use barbed wire. Lots of appropriate options to showcase the true style of the government-based builders of this thing.

Log On for Some Insight That Goes to The Core of The Matter. Over a year ago – when most folks thought “C919” was a late-night TV product to cure acne, we published an Aviation Unscripted video covering the how this machine was a complete market bow-wow.

Click here to invest a couple of minutes that will cut through the yogurt coming out of some current media stories.

And while you’re there, hit the Aviation Unscripted subscribe button, to get notifications when a new video is issued covering matters that other consultants don’t want to touch.

And if you’ve any thoughts on this, shoot us an email on the contact tab.

Monday Insight – December 5, 2022

Standby! 12 December Monday Update is in Progress

Wall Street Analysts Finally Noticed.

Boeing Is Persona Non-Grata In China.

Actually, Does The China/CCP Have More Political Clout In Washington Than Boeing?

Yes, we’ve covered this earlier in the weekly Touch & Go newsletter, and in a number of Aviation Unscripted videos, but this is an issue that really is raising some questions that nobody inside the Beltway wants to pursue. This may be a dynamic that cuts across more than just our aviation sector.

Finally, after enough red flags to decorate the Kremlin on May Day, some financial analysts have noticed that Boeing isn’t getting any traction in China.

737s All Dressed Up With Nowhere To Go. There are over 130 737Max airliners sitting in storage that were ordered by Chinese airlines but not delivered. And, chances are they never will see the skies of the Middle Kingdom. White tails with pretty paint jobs. Presumably, some or most of these are spec’d out for the intended operator, which makes selling them to another airline a challenge.

China’s is the only major nation that has not approved the Max for service. In the meantime, they have committed to hundreds of new Airbus A320 airliners, and A321s are about be added to the Airbus production line in Tianjin.

This is not news. It has been obvious for over a year, but conveniently ignored. There has been no push-back from the occupants of the White House. To have America’s number one exporter cut out of the China market does affect the US economy, yet the powers that be on both sides of the aisle have said almost nothing.

Yup. No outrage from inside the Beltway. Wonder why.

Let’s Ask The Question: Does China’s Un-elected Government Have DeFacto Friends In High Places? Nevertheless, don’t expect much pushback from inside the Beltway.

It looks like the deck may be stacked against Boeing and the people working there.

Keep in mind that there is a cheering section for the China CCP in a wide range of industries and political entities in the USA. Despite things like genocide in Xinjiang and forced organ harvesting from dissidents, or draconian shutdowns that have led to loss of life, not to mention complete responsibility for the global pandemic, a number of American business leaders have gone out of their way to laud the CCP. They have a dog in the fight – and it’s not ours.

High level congress people have indirect or family business involvement with Chinese companies. The parent company of one major network has huge investments in China. “Unbiased” reporting when hundreds of millions are at stake? Remember, every Chinese company wherever it is located is at least indirectly controlled by and benefits the thug criminal government in Beijing. No exceptions.

So, it may be too much to expect any outrage that may threaten the lucrative Chinese apple cart. Even the clown running the World Economic Forum last week lauded China as a model for the rest of the world. The fix is in, ya think? This lowers the stature of the WEF to somewhere below that of a midwestern bowling league.

Meanwhile, the fleets of 737Max airliners already in China are still parked, give or take some gadfly reports of a one-off 700 series Max making flights a few months ago.

Given the orders for Airbus machines, plus the now-certified C919 joke airliner being forced on Chinese carriers, the prognosis for Boeing in China is close to zero.

Bottom line: Boeing’s global market no longer includes China. That will have an effect on the economies of regions where the company is a major employer.

No change is on the horizon. It could threaten some lucrative rice bowl deals some politicians have with Chinese-related businesses, to the detriment of working Americans in places like Seattle and Wichita.

Monday Insight – November 28, 2022

Year 2023:  Air Service Planning: Reality Settles In 

Reality One: Airline Re-Fleeting – No, There Is No Pilot Rescue For Small Communities

Let’s start with this. It is most unfortunate that the Regional Airline Association is so much off-base. Their recent report on the small airport service “crisis” is based on narratives that are galaxies removed from the real world of the 21st century.

Their message is that small airports have lost service over the past few years entirely due to lack of pilots. Goodness, congress! Take action now! Otherwise, small communities will die on the economic vine! That sounds great. But it’s not consistent with the economic world the rest of us live in. It is in fact misleading.

RAA would have us to believe that all small communities need to have scheduled flights at the local airport, or the town’s future will eventually resemble Dresden after the bombers left. They would also have us believe that such service is economically possible. Both narratives are in the wrong direction and send small community planning there, too.

In most cases, it’s the shift in economics – the revenue v the cost – of operating small community service that’s torpedoed a lot of service at local airports.

This is not a “crisis” as the RAA describes it. It is reality.

Reality Two: The Consumer Has Better Options. Many Local Ones Are Economically Unsupportable.

In reality, it’s often the consumers that are the core reason. that local service dies. They are finding that the hour or even 90-minute drive to a larger airport is more total travel time-efficient than trying to use the two or three hub connect flights that the local airport can barely support. That ”true market study” or “catchment analysis” or whatever set of heatmap-infested reports can be concocted won’t change this.

The air transportation system and its economic underpinnings have moved on.

The result of what the RAA is putting out is a lot of false hope and encouraging a lot of wasted money at small communities being spent on quack studies to attract airline service that doesn’t exist or won’t work. Gee, the RAA says it. No need to check it out, right?

There’s recently been some pap that American is expanding use of 50-seat jets. Don’t buy it as a trend. They’re just applying the aircraft they are newly leasing in from Air Wisconsin, and which were previously flying as part of United.

The hard fact is that economics – and not pilot shortages –are driving 50-seaters into the desert.

Reality Three: Small Jets – What Goes To The Desert, Stays In The Desert. Room For More.

There is also the oft-repeated factoid that American has 150 of its small jet fleet parked. The implication is that when more pilots come into the picture, these airplanes will be back in the skies.

Not likely.

This isn’t going to be a capacity cavalry coming over the small community hill. As far as the data can be determined, only a couple of these are larger CRJ700 and CRJ900 units. All the rest are either 50-seaters, or 37-seat ERJs.  Chances of these coming back are right up there with Elvis being the first booking.

Reality Four: The Future Is Larger “Small” Airliners, And There Aren’t A Lot In The Pipeline.

The only new replacements for the exiting 50-seaters are Embraer E175s, and they represent whole different operating economics.

That means they can’t and won’t be one-for-one replacements. There are lots of E175s “on option” but very few actually on hard order at US operators at this time.

Most available CRJ700s are already in the sky. Same with CRJ900s. They are off the market. The E175 is the only scope-compatible small airliner in production. Plus, there are none under development.

Do the math. It doesn’t indicate that just adding more pilots will reverse the hard dynamics that are affecting local small community air service.

Reality Five: In 2023, It’s Okay To Shoot The Messenger If He’s Peddling Garbage.

Point: the economic bar for small community air service is going up. And importantly, there’re no longer any mysteries in regard to the viable air service options available to every airport in the nation. Or, in some cases, the clear lack of such options.

The need for hard, direct analysis of the true options, instead of jive programs that focus on vague objectives to “get more airlines” instead of specific community air access needs will be front and center.

Prediction: In 2023, fewer and fewer airports and communities will be available to be hornswoggled by massive consultant programs to find airline service that doesn’t exist.

Reality Six: Identifying The Need, Determining Potential For Success, And Then Targeting.

Air service development must concentrate on the specific air access needs of the region, and on a clear understanding of what the options are for attaining them.

The traditional scattershot programs won’t work anymore. Going to speed date meetings and spending a pleasant 20 minutes with Southwest is nice. But as far as gaining service at a small rural community, it’s a functional waste of everybody’s time.

It’s access that counts. Going after airlines for the sake of having an airline won’t do much except waste money. The need is to facilitate business. Communities that focus on real-world economic solutions – which in some cases means regionalized access – are dealing with the future.

Then there is the ULCC impulse option. It is not access, but simply a new spend option. For a lot of points, the traditional ULCC leisure model can work because it naturally attracts traffic from a wide geographic area. The challenge for the immediate future is the continued high levels of discretionary dollars in the face of 8% – 10% (or higher) inflation. Also, as noted in our last Monday Update, this sector may be shifting toward more core market flying, in direct competition with network carriers.

Reality Seven: Get Clear & Focused. Don’t Hunt Unless You Know What You’re Hunting

We’d suggest investing 12 minutes and take a look at our latest Aviation Unscripted video.

No holds barred, and straight talk. It has points that are completely missed in most traditional air service development programs. It will cross some lines that need to be crossed.

And while you’re there, hit the subscribe button and join us.

Click here or on the icon to join us.

Monday Insight – November 21, 2022

Three Preliminary Observations – Aviation 2023 

One: The Main Attraction – ULCCs Move Out of The Model. For Network Carriers, It’s DEFCON 1.

For the first time in 20 years, major airline fortress hubsites are vulnerable. Load factors are at or above 85%. Plus, material percentages of network carrier departures are operated with airliners between 50 and 76 seats.

That opens opportunities for ULCCs, which are facing near-certain declines in impulse/leisure demand due to the recession and inflation. They are looking for new sources of revenue, and the current state of at least five major airline connecting hubsites are vulnerable.

Mark it down. The industry is in for a major competitive restructuring in 2023. The current parallel universes between network and ULCC carriers are about to collide.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but we’re possibly looking at a major competitive Armageddon in 2023, with ULCCs going from impulse-driven traffic to poaching revenue from core network carrier routes. In short, the ULCCs are jumping the fence and going after traffic now carried by American, United, Delta and Southwest.

They have no choice. On the air side, Frontier and Spirit are aggressively shifting strategies, reducing Florida and implementing head-on competition right in the middle of network carrier hubsites. 

Message: the underpinning of ULCC traffic – leisure discretionary travel – is shrinking. Message: this is not a drill for major carriers and their hubsite dominance in 2023. ULCCs have airplanes that need to go somewhere 

Two: New Fleets – Raising The Bar For Air Service Retention, Let Alone Recruitment. On the route and market side, major airlines are shifting fleets. As 50-seaters are pulled down, the only new replacement (under current scope clauses) is the Embraer E175. The reality is that these require a lot more revenue, and also, they are not replacing ERJ and CRJ airliners one by one.

The fallout is not hard to predict. Rural and small community hub feed faces a much higher economic bar. And it’s not primarily due to lack of pilots. It’s lack of acceptable ROI.

Three: International Access – The EU, Yes. Asia No. Trans-Atlantic revival has a pulse, although the leisure sector – which is a lot less vulnerable than impulse trips to ‘Vegas – still has some questions.

Asia? Not happening. China – which in 2017 was about 8 million US O&D – is a trickle. Consumers in the Middle Kingdom are now restricted from leaving, and due to CCP policies, inbound tourism is dead. Business? Not happening, either, with Covid shutdowns and major focus now on human rights abuses.

With a very unstable government running China, including threats of military action aimed at Taiwan and the South China Sea, other points in Asia aren’t going to be at the top of the leisure or business travel bucket lists. Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific may be a bright spot, but not to the extent of making up for the rest of the trans-Pacific shortfall.

Four: Small Community Air Service Economic Realities Finally Hit Home. Let’s put it this way. The fact is that air transportation has evolving economics. These are driving changes in airline strategies and fleets. These in turn are literally causing regionalization of air access in regions.

In 2023, reality will emerge from the smoke and mirrors of scattershot ASD programs that assume an airline industry no longer in existence. With the economic evolution, the need for small communities to rethink their communication channels and start to re-plan the future impact potential of the local airport will move front and center.

Prediction: The study-it-for-months ASD approach, when the bottom line is obvious, will die out as more and more communities learn independently about the structure and strategies in the airline industry.

The new trend will be industrial development opportunities for rural airports. This will dovetail well with dynamics in places such as Illinois and California, which appear intent on driving businesses and investment away.







Monday Insight – November 21, 2022

Due to the Thanksgiving Holiday, the Monday Insight will be published next week, November 28.



eVTOL Programs –
Amid The Excitement, Some Key Challenges

American, Delta and United have all announced major investments in establishing future intra-urban airport eVTOL air taxi service within the next five years.

Beyond aircraft with <6 passenger capacity, United has also invested in programs for larger all-electric airliners intended to open near-regional markets.

In all cases, the main benefit and product of these new-concept air transportation programs is time. The driving force in communication progress in the past 40 years has been based on emerging systems that allow flows of information, data, people, and goods to be done faster. The eVTOL concept appears to be consistent with this goal.

For some applications of air service, electronic communication advances have eclipsed its speed value. The internet, web-based information systems, etc. have largely replaced a substantial portion of short-haul O&D air travel. Day trips are in many cases now time- and cost-inferior to electronic communication.

The eVTOL air taxi concept, however, is consistent with this time-trend. On paper, it can provide a channel that can save enormous amounts of time over existing modes of moving people through and across metro areas. And time is the value-proposition.

That much said, there is a lot that needs to be worked out before this concept sees the real-world light of day. Manufacturers of these various machines have a lot more to accomplish beyond just rolling out and flying prototypes.

If the projected and desired date of 2024-2025 for implementation is to be met, these companies need to be at full warp speed.

Let’s take a brief look – one that flashy press releases have not addressed.

Battery Supply. There is no way – none conceivable – that airline CEOs and their boards will tolerate having eVTOL operations dependent on battery production based on the current supply system. Today, much of the minerals in lithium batteries come from near-slave level mines, particularly cobalt. Whole new supply sources need to be in place before the first eVTOL commercial flight departs Manhattan for Newark. Before. Not after.

Battery Production. Today, the majority of battery cell production is in CCP-controlled China. That means these aircraft will be part of a system that supports one of the most ghastly and vile regimes in history. New production facilities need to be constructed for both moral as well as security considerations.

Battery Re-cycling & Disposal. These aircraft will consume a prodigious amount of run-out lithium-ion batteries. An estimate has been made of one set per aircraft per year. Point: what are the administrative and regulatory structures to assure proper disposal?

Emergency & Accident Remediation Systems. As it stands now, when a lithium-ion battery catches fire the only option is to attempt (over sometimes several hours) to drown it in water. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water. Think about this at an eVTOL site in New York midtown. The strain on the water system is one thing. Then think about this happening in mid-February where the (contaminated) run-off would create a freezing mess choking entire areas of the city. New and safe CFR systems need to be in place.

Actual Operational Costs Are Unknown. With all the unknowns – and knowns – regarding the above, as well as the enormous expense of new eVTOL facilities, the actual per-seat cost to deliver the transportation system now envisioned puts current fare projections in question. If we don’t know what the cost of batteries will be if coming from legitimate and socially acceptable sources, it raises that question.

Air Traffic Control. This is an issue. Today, New York City is already limiting helicopter operations, and there have been suggestions to ban all such flights over city. Look at the depictions put out by even NASA, showing lots of happy eVTOL aircraft flying over a metro area. Then paint into the picture fog and overcast conditions. If the volume of this new transportation mode is to be anything close to what is being envisioned, the ATC system needs to be able to avoid having flying bumper cars over downtown Los Angeles.

Airport Facilities. The introduction of eVTOL systems will require new and additional ramp facilities, passenger handling and electric-support systems. If there are to be dozens of these aircraft in and out of ORD every hour, handing the machines on the ground as well as passenger access and egress will be a new challenge.

Need For Comprehensive Environmental Impact Analyses. Finally, the eVTOL concept is new. It is not primarily replacing fossil-fuel transportation. The number of ground taxis taken out of service will be miniscule, particularly when the comparative costs of eVTOL are factored. It’s not mass transportation.

At the tailpipe, so to speak, these machines will be clean. However, the environmental impact of their total life cycle hasn’t been fully analyzed. The mining of minerals, the transportation of such minerals, the impact of making battery cells, the impact of building support facilities and the disposal of run-out batteries have not been completely vetted.

Summary: This is not to discount the potential economic value of eVTOL-category flying. But these are factors that the manufacturers and operators of these flying machines need to address if it is to be viable.

The excitement about a new transportation system is legitimate. So is the need to validate it.


Monday Insight – November 7, 2022

We’re Taking On The Media Stampede Regarding Airline Seat Size, and we’ll be reviewing the latest Aviation Unscripted video.

The Fourth Estate: Damn The Facts. Full Speed Ahead!  We’d suggest you click here to see the entire 10 minutes of facts and data that illuminate just how far accurate journalism has declined in the USA. The current reporting stampede on airline seat size is an example of me-too nonsense and inaccurate reporting. This post just skims the surface.

Here’s a fact that flies in the face of current trendy media stories about how the “FAA must stop airlines from continuing to shrink the size of airline seats.” The truth is that airlines aren’t doing it.

The truth is that US airlines have not made seats smaller, as most of the fact-less media stories either imply or outright state. Actually the average seat size has increased, putting the lie to repeated media stories that specifically state that seats are being shrunk in size, even quoting bogus inch numbers.

Seat pitch – the distance between rows of seats – has certainly changed from airline to airline. Yikes! In some cases down to 28 inches, which is really tight for the knees. But the media stories almost always include the dishonest drivel that the actual seat itself is smaller airlines and that airlines re continuing to shrink them. Those contentions are pure fake news. in light of the supposed high level of a lot of these sources, the term “lie” comes into play.

The actual width of the chair the passenger sits on has not shrunk. In fact, on average, it is actually grown in the past 20 years.

Fact: the seat width on Boeing single aisle airliners in 6-across economy cabins has not declined. In clear truth, the cabin dimensions of a new 737MAX are essentially identical to the first 707s that entered service in 1958. In that, the economy cabin seats have always been @17.5 inches. The construction of the seats has improved over the years, with new engineering and design. But they are not – repeat, not – shrunken and smaller, as the new media mantra implies.

Fact: As the Airbus A320 platform came into fleets over the past 30 years, this injected thousands of economy seats that were wider than those on Boeing’s models – at 18+ inches. Then came the entry of the Embraer E175s and E190s, also with seats wider than the Boeing narrowbody 737s and 727s. Now, we have the entry of the game-changing A220, with seats nearing 19 inches wide.

It doesn’t take a degree from Wharton to see the reality. The media stories about shrinking airline seats are completely bogus.On average, it’s going up, since airliners with wider seats are entering service and earlier models are not  – not – seeing seat size reduced. Tighter density is not the same as airline seat size, and most of the condescending drivel stories are stating.

It gets worse. Take a look at this dishonest and misleading chart put out by CNN. It was originally from a story in 2013, but they have linked it to current articles, implying it is accurate today. It was journalistic sewage in 2013 and remains so today.

Regardless of the size of humans, the data on the average airline seat width is completely and possibly intentionally inaccurate.

To start, at no time in the 1970s did the average economy seat average of 18.5 inches. In fact, with the rare exception of one airline occasionally trying 5-across seating on DC-8s, there were essentially no such seats in the economy cabin skies.

Nor are average seat widths today 16.5 inches. On some of the retiring CRJ and ERJ “regional jets” yes. But that is not the average for the industry. It’s possible some ethically-defective reporter was including first class seats in the mix in the numbers, but that would not account for the completely dishonest claim that airlines have now shrunk seats down to 16.5-inch width on average.

Makes a great 5-minute piece on the evening news or maybe a wallow piece on 60 Minutes, but that data is false.

Making Seats Narrower Won’t Deliver More Capacity. Six Across Is It. Then there is the claim that by making the seat less wide, they can squeeze more into the airplane. To be clear, new advances in materials and engineering, not to mention changes in FAA seat attachment requirements have made seats lighter – but not narrower and not necessarily less comfortable. Somehow, many of these media pieces imply that with shrunken seat width, greedy airlines can get more capacity. The fact is that 6-across is the maximum and cutting 2-3 inches off the width of the seat won’t do bupkus to allow for more than 6.

Okay, there is an issue with legroom. The argument can be made that at under 30-inch pitch, the economy cabin is the equivalent of a Roman slave galley with beverage service. But not with narrower seats. Just more rows.

The issue here is that these current configurations meet FAA emergency exit requirements. That raises the question of whether these standards need to be revised, based on factual data, not the opinions of some semi-comatose consumer gadflies.

The bottom line of this is that the media in general is passing on misinformation, innuendo and in some cases completely and intentionally inaccurate data.

This Can Affect Air Service Access. Aviation leaders need to be informed. Keep in mind, this type of bogus data could lead to the politically-driven inhabitants at the top of the FAA dictating new regulations that restrict capacity, which will in turn change operational economic for mid-size and small airports.

The only question is whether these cabins are safe.

Get the facts. Click here for the latest Aviation Unscripted video.

Ten minutes that can clear the air.

Monday Insight – October 31, 2022

The Effects of The Pilot Shortage: Part Real.
For Small Communities, A Lot Mirage.

It’s the staple headline in just about every story regarding loss of scheduled flights at a local small airport.

“Pilot shortage blamed for cancellation of air service.”

Or something like that. And it is in many cases completely misleading, because it is only one symptom of the raw, unescapable economics of an evolving air transportation system that are changing where connective network flights can be supported.

Addressing The Symptom. Ignoring The Causes. The inaccurate implication is that if we can train more pilots, these small local community airports (or, in the cases of not so small metro-peripheral communities, like Toledo or Youngstown) will see scheduled service come back with a vengeance.

There are intellectual witch doctors selling this line to many small communities, promising that with patience and a bunch more analyses, studies and speed-date meetings, all will be air service wonderful, by and by.

It won’t.

The issue of pilots is just one of the factors of entirely new and evolving air transportation economics affecting air service at the local airports in rural, small, and metro-peripheral communities.

It’s A Lot Deeper Than Staffing Cockpits. In clear fact, the “pilot shortage” for this sector of air travel is one result of much more fundamental factors, not the least of which are deteriorating economics of smaller airliners (a trend that’s been in motion since code-sharing started to eliminate independent regional airlines three decades ago.) This is also due to shifts in alternative competitive travel options for consumers.

The factors driving air service change are different at every community. But right at the starting gate, the truth is that the costs of air service in many instances are exceeding the revenues that can be generated in many route applications. That’s not a pilot shortage issue.

The travails of the decline in 50-seat jet economics, combined with much higher labor costs (including pilot compensation) are continuing to see the air service tide recede from marginal market flying. And marginal is more than just small communities. It’s also in play in a lot of hub feed markets at larger airports, too.

In a real sense, what we have is an “revenue viability shortage” that in turn is making applications of some resources, including pilots, a no-go item for markets where the traffic horsepower isn’t increasing along with costs of operation.

This is not a drill. This is not a situation that is reversable. Regionalization of air service access – connective air service access – is a continuing trend that is the result of airline industry realities.

The ULCC Placebo. One of the canards and misconceptions that must be stomped out is the belief that without scheduled flights at the local airport, the community will die economically.

That is, on its face, a complete falsehood. It’s even more intellectually disgusting when it’s accessorized with the nonsense that just getting a ULCC will be sufficient to rectify the situation.

ULCCs and network airlines are fundamentally different businesses. The main common factor is that both use airliners.

ULCC flights are great, but they represent a completely different product, one that’s galaxies away from connective air service access. Their product is in most cases offering low-fare access to vacation destinations, in the effort to divert and capture local discretionary spend.

In no cases, do these companies offer connectivity to the rest of the nation. That is not their business, and any entity that purports to represent that three weekly flights to Sanford is the equivalent of network carrier access, or that it will attract local business investment, is selling dangerous and dishonest snake-oil.

Economic Growth Is The Future. With Or Without Scheduled Flights. Today, demographics and business migration trends are pointing well for small communities in the USA. Changes in logistics and in communication channels are leveling the playing field for small communities to attract new business, and not having air service isn’t a deal killer to get that 50-job business to move in from Chicago.

Local airports are a key factor in this new reality – or can be, if they want to. Dust off that ALP and take a look through the lens of advantages compared to places in the nation where things are, well, descending into social fantasy land. Businesses and population want out.

Interested in moving to the future level of airport economic development? Send us an email.

Let your competition wallow on, focused on air service programs aimed at recovering the 1980s.

Instead, we’ll focus on the new economics of the 21st century.