Monday, March 30, 2009

If you want your baggage fly Northwest, not Delta

Posted by John McHale

If you don't want to lose your luggage fly Northwest not Delta... Wait a minute aren't they the same company? Yes, they are -- Delta bought Northwest last year -- but while they have many similarities, baggage tracking capability is not one of them, said Steve Gorman, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Delta Airlines.

Northwest ranks first in baggage handling while Delta is down near the bottom, Gorman said during his keynote address at the Avionics Maintenance Conference (AMC), run by the ARINC standards organization, in Minneapolis this morning.

Northwest has state-of-the art tracking software and scanners while Delta is just started adding modern baggage scanners recently, he continued. Gorman added that while all of Northwest will eventually be assimilated in Delta, its best practices and baggage expertise will be spread across Delta.

During his talk he spoke in depth about Delta's global reach and what Northwest brings to the company.

He said Delta's longest flight is from Atlanta to Bombay -- about 8,502 miles -- and its shortest is Detroit to Toledo -- 49 miles in 51 minutes gate to gate.

Sounds like less than 60 miles an hour... says it's only 57.82 miles from Detroit to Toledo -- about one hour and five minutes driving time.

If you fly the 51 minutes on Delta, you still have to add in another 60 minutes so you can check in and go through security. Then after getting luggage or catching a cab, maybe add another 30 minutes.

All said and done it's about two and half hours to fly 49 miles!

Is traffic that bad in Toledo that you need to fly from Detroit?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Optimism in tough times

In my last blog I discussed how the market for military avionics appears to be steady, but I was a bit surprised by the enthusiastic outlook for the global avionics market shown by attendees and exhibitors at last week's Avionics conference and exhibition that we put on in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

One exhibitor, Chip Downing of Wind River Systems, told me the avionics market is still quite strong, but the current economic climate might change especially on the commercial side, but not so much in the military market. He added that he still sees 2009 as a year of growth, but maybe not as strong as past years.

"The avionics market is up quite a bit," Doug Patterson of Aitech Defense Systems told me at the show. He said there is a strong trend in military and commercial applications to have more automation, taking the man out of the loop, which bodes well for avionics suppliers as they move toward next-generation avionics upgrades and the new air traffic management systems.

Officials from Seaweed Systems say they are seeing quite a lot of avionics business right now, and "haven't seen a downturn at all." Folks at Presagis echoed that, saying they see continued growth for themselves and their partners.

Esterline and Ruag Aerospace officials added that their military avionics business is steady and that they are developing long-term programs with key civil and commercial aerospace customers.

The keynote, Donald Ward, created some positive buzz of his own in discussing the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA's) efforts toward a next-generation air traffic management system -- or NextGEN. Ward, the FAA's Air Traffic Operations representative to Europe, said the FAA is looking to work more with industry and focus on business models that work.

The main thrust of his speech was urging the U.S. and Europe -- industry and government -- to work together to harmonize NextGEN and SESAR (Single European
Sky ATM Research) technologies. Ward said it is essential to have commonality between the two systems because the technology is too complicated to try to develop independently.

He added that it is also critical to involve the military each step of the way or "there will be major problems down the road."

Aside from Ward's keynote address the most popular session was the one we had on electronic flight bags and how they will be an instrumental tool in dealing with runway incursions.

Hope you got to see them.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Military market a bright spot for avionics suppliers

Reports are all over the Internet about how the tanking economy is killing jobs and revenue in the commercial aircraft market. News stories about Boeing and Airbus cutting back deliveries and major layoff announcements at Boeing and other companies are making headlines.

I even saw a story yesterday about how business jets manufacturers are taking a hit because such jets are seen as luxury items and bad press for companies taking federal bail outs.

Yet, as I travel to different trade shows and conferences for our sister publication Military & Aerospace Electronics, I find just the opposite outlook. Military avionics suppliers tell me they've never been so busy.

Many I talk to are cautiously optimistic based on their projected backlogs for 2009 and solid funding in the last budget of the Bush Administration. Come January 2010 will things be as positive? Will President Obama make deep cuts in his first defense budget, even canceling large programs such as Future Combat Systems? Or will he just cut back on procurement?

One industry source says he believes that it is republican administrations that cut programs, while democrats just cut back. That they are loathe to eliminate large programs as it could mean eliminating thousands of jobs.

Recent news reports are echoing that statement. They hint that Obama might not order any new F-22s, but that he will not kill the program all together.

In leiu of new programs and orders, Defense Department officials may spend funding on retrofits and upgrades of current systems.

Many avionics and other electronics suppliers to the defense community are forecasting growth based on that possibility.

Yes, the Army killed the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter program, but the Apache upgrade is moving along and additional upgrades are planned for the Kiowa helicopter and the Black Hawk helicopter. Rockwell Collins also announced the first delivery of the Block I Modernization for the U.S. Navy's E-6B Mercury aircraft.

A dangerous world keeps defense suppliers busy and opportunities abound. That said it's not an easy market to break into and newcomers looking to offset losses in the commercial sector will have a hard time gaining a foothold in defense.