As the years slip by time speeds up, we must all be aware of that, even if we haven’t seen it. One of the things this allows you to do as you get more ‘senior’ is look back on the way the fate and opportunity’s cards fell for you, how you played them. What you can’t see of course is how the deck is stacked or where sleight of hand bent your fortune. On our way across our blue planet’s Atlantic Ocean a tale was recounted to me, one perhaps all to familiar to many of the way new entrants are being ‘assisted’ into our ranks. I refer of course to professional aviation and I reflect on my good fortune as I write of this tawdry situation.
Flight training for a professional licence has always been expensive, scrape together the £100k (US $162k) and you are well on your way, the extras, like many things in life and if you are being honest with your calculator, can double that figure as you ride from tyro into the right had seat of a Boeing or an Airbus of any size. How then should we regard those training organizations who ‘facilitate’ the transition from their light twins into the airline system?
According to ICAO Asia will be short of 9000 pilots per year in the next decade.There is enough capacity to train 5000 per year but the industry will need 14000, hence the shortfall. In total ICAO predicts that Asia will need 229,676 pilots over the next 20 years-a significant increase from the total of 50,344 in 2010.
Just weeks after announcing profits, Virgin Atlantic staff finds themselves staring down the shotgun barrel with capacity cuts that mean almost 10% of its workforce could soon be out of a job. So much for profitability!
This article displays a foresight missing from a number of commentators. How does it go? The truth will out eventually despite bluster and misinformation.
Look for a moment at the A400 fiasco. The RAF wants and needs the C17, more now than ever before with a seriously compromised airlift capability. The early C130 series aircraft are on their last legs, we don’t have enough ‘Js’ to replace them. Talking to those who have operated and administered the C130 and the C17 provides a measure of both aircraft against the in theatre requirements. Apparently the C17 in greater numbers and the ‘Js’ would do the lot! A matter of opinion perhaps but my source was well qualified to comment. Despite Boeing offering very significant inducements to help them keep the C17 line open the A400 was chosen and for the usual reason – politics. The threat of job losses in the UK Airbus wing manufacturing (in the news) being one of them and the political implications for the government in power.
Telegraph Thomas Enders, Airbus president, said the Chinese are “very eager and very ambitious” and likely to catch up with Western levels of productivity at Airbus sites in China within two to three years.
“Right now the UK is the supplier of wings for the Airbus family but that doesn’t mean the Chinese can’t build a good wing,” he told the Telegraph. “If we underestimate our Chinese friends, there will be a problem. Europe is not the only play in town.
Who’s interest would it be in to have large portions of its aircraft manufactured in China? Who would be forced to follow? Where would the job losses be reflected? In the end, who would have the money to fly aboard the products?
One enormous circle of politics and prosperity that needs balance and no breaks to keep it functional. Who do we trust with the circle, politicians of course. I will be voting for change then praying for competence just like I always do. Another forlorn hope?
Getting the truth out of Boeing is a real struggle. This issue that the company is trying to represent as something minor that can be patched internally was the wing starting to delaminate at something less than 120% of the maximum design load….. More
Interestingly, EADS during their weight reduction program for the A380 asked Broughton UK to reduce the weight of the A380′s wing.
They responded by saying that, “You produced a specification and we deigned a wing. It is as strong as it needs to be with no extra weight included within it. No, we will not take weight out as this would compromise strength.”
Not verbatim and a simplification of course, but very much in the spirit…. and you get the drift?
Willie has what is looking like an increasingly firm hand on the tiller.
The numbers are bad but the reasons for them are increasingly external to BA as the best efforts of focused cost cutting and adjustments to industrial adjustments pale against recent external forces. Little was made during the interview (a neat sidestep) of looming industrial issues, demands being made by the company at the negotiation stage with some departments are (whilst being long overdue) deep and comprehensive. The hope is among all parties is that the middle ground can be found without the damaging turmoil of industrial action.
I am trying not to be too cynica, there is little doubt that pursuing a quality product in a market like this is a risky strategy but our cost structure simply will not allow another model to work. We either do what we do best better and hammer the costs – or we fade slowly into history.
This isn’t the company talking, I don’t doubt that the timing is convenient and no benefit of the position will be lost, but the boot is certainly on the right foot if we are facing restructuring; that will mean a painful close to 2009. Not much doubt about that IMHO.
To hear the papers, periodicals and the industry observers talking you would think the airline industry was a basket case fit for the trash can. The questions I ask down the route about our state of health tell me that loads and yields are reasonably good for the time of year. Friends in other carriers report similar but do so in hushed tones and have everything crossed as they speak. There is a sense of foreboding as if we expect the roof to fall in at any time – our Unions are tight lipped and pale after attending meetings with ‘the management’. If we believe our instincts and the mood music emanating from the Head Shed , big changes are on the way…. again. The same is true elsewhere with pilot layoffs and other slimming sessions being the order of the day. Apparently Virgin have lost around 17 pilots from the bottom of their list, the figure would have been greater but for some T & C sacrifices by the workforce.
Deals – we saw loads developing before the Markets started resembling black holes for money. BA/Iberia/AA, BMI/Lufthansa and a number of other flowering romances. How rapidly the scales tip with changing fortunes. Now as the pressure comes on carriers prepare for rocky times ahead; the focus swings toward liquidity, the oxygen essential for survival. In many cases that calls for a change of plan.
Evolving tactics and restructuring within an airline takes time. It normally comes after the executive have looked at the financial weather map and had solid reports in about the coming storm. It is ‘batten the hatches down’ time.
Singapore Airlines is being proactive, it is grounding aircraft from April and casting around for volunteers to take unpaid leave. A week or two years-whichever takes your fancy and the implication might be – it better take your fancy I’m thinking.
Lufthansa is also experiencing the same difficulties we all are, the markets included. How on earth can you plan for the unknown? Some areas of the flying game seem to be holding fairly firm, predictably the comfortable end of the cabin is as soft as down and upgrades are now routine.
Airlines dislike upgrading because our customers, being very savvy realize that they need not book into the premium cabins, just into the one below so that they (hopefully) will be ‘bumped up’ by the pressure from behind in ‘economy’. That is where the volume now resides… just after we renovated and poured millions into the premium cabins. Such is life.
But what price very new, very shiny jets now? I bet a few of the more adventurous are back-pedaling frantically.
Dramatic as the header sounds the signs are there in every walk of business life. Northern Rock, and further city based bad news to come if you read the business section of most broadsheets. At the lucrative end of the business airlines provide a service and to expect these shock waves not to disrupt the already rocky structure of airlines survival plans would be unrealistic.
Cathay Pacific has decided to be proactive with its fleet planning, others must have plans in plain vanila folders for something similar. Fleet structures as they exist at the moment were looking rocky, now they look completely inadequate for the demands that any emergent new world order might carve in this airline business. The 747-400 is a dead jet flying, others are not far behind with the A340 a major contender for the heap.
I expect major pro-active changes if they are possible. Why ‘possible’ – change in this game generally needs large amounts of money to implement with the savings coming later. As we have seen, the money supply is ‘soft’ – the banks are reeling under the blows that the markets are handing out. Many carriers are between a rock and a very hard place and sometimes the only way out is liquidation. If they have no quality credit line or cash reserves…..
Gloomy times? yes, being at the upper end of a major carriers seniority list is about the best place to be, unless that happens to be Alitalia. Being near the bottom third of ANY would have me shifting uncomfortably in my seat. Major change is around the corner in my neck of the woods.
What does this mean for guys coming up from the ground floor as pilots? Well, your actions are going to be dictated by your circumstances but with failed airlines releasing a tranche of qualified pilots onto the market, job hunting is going to be fruitless unless hiring policy favors your license/experience/age balance. If you want to fly you need to widen your horizons and take the pain early. Flexibility is the key, both yours and the promise of whatever job you can find. The airline world is by no means the only form of flying out there, nor the most challenging or rewarding.
Down route social gatherings are fun, not always but more often than not. Here in Singapore last night we had a particularly lively conversation around a circular, noisy Food Court table. With upcoming industrial action pending, the Terminal 5 issue and other home goals, the response to Open Skies was a hot topic and the debate flashed across the sizzling prawns between the differing points of view. The majority was firm however…
This industry of ours has been changing rapidly over the last few years; sure, I know it’s been changing since time began, but the process took a kick start acceleration from 9/11 onwards that just has not stopped. I won’t trot out the influences, we all know them, but wars, disease, financial turmoil and new and innovative market arrivals have all brought out the best and the worst in the serried ranks of our wide community.