Airbus needs a good clean run at its manufacturing effort to deliver on the promises that it has made to its customers. A undelivered promise is worth zip; the one that matters is the one that comes on cost, and performing exactly as it said in on the aluminum.
EADS/Airbus has a very short time window to sort out its woes, there is a limit to the tolerance of the airlines and the other humans in the manufacturing machine. None of us know what will happen if confidence collapses across the board. Boeing does have a fair idea though….
Airbus is at risk of missing 2007 aircraft deliveries if strikes at production facilities mainly in Germany and France continue.
So far, the strike actions in response to threatened job cuts haven’t caused the aircraft maker to back off its 440- to 450-unit output target, but Hans Peter Ring, the EADS and Airbus CFO, warns that continuation of the labor turmoil could cause some deliveries to slip into next year.
“We are on the critical path and close to being on the very critical path,” he told analysts in commenting on EADS first-quarter financial results.
More trouble on the horizon as workers see the writing on the wall.
EADS also hopes to draw up soon a short list of the most promising buyers and partners for the sites Airbus is looking to unload, mainly Filton, U.K., Nordenham, Germany, and Meaulte, France. Ring says there’s been much interest, and narrowing the field could happen before the end of July, although it’s more likely to occur after the European summer vacation break that lasts most of August.
Back in Africa again, probably the same next month as I missed a bid submission.
Abuja is a new city, the Nigerians decided that they needed their capital to be parked in the centre of the country. Cash wasn’t a problem so here it is.
Flying down the dark continent is an experience that I would rate somewhere near hemmeroid attention. Painful but necessary to reach a position where the pain stops and the discomfort starts. Not that there is anything that wrong with Africa – it’s just that we do it in the dark on the way out and it seems to go on forever. Africa is a big place. The ride home is much more pleasing as it happens during the daylight hours – so much more to see.
Abuja, it is certainly a better place to be than Lagos – which is different. That’s as far as you can go with a family show folks but the standing joke involves rubber tubes, god, questions and enemas.
Abuja is friendly, when you arrive in the early hours everyone says, “Welcome back to Abuja Captain, how nice to see you again!” Friends I never knew I had; pleasingly friendly and welcoming. Almost like home really.
The ride to our hotel takes place as the new capital begins to wake up.
Statistics? Around 133 million souls inhabit the country which is vast, humid and seething with tribal divisions and corruption if you are to believe the CIA’s World Factbook. Not as sinister as the creators identity might imply, more a guide for US government’s need for detailed preparation and research. I doubt invasion is on the cards here; still, you never know – I guess it qualifies. I don’t think they have got that one too far wrong but it seems unfair to single out Nigeria. I suppose that is the point, they don’t.
There are those that like to package airline flying into a box that is labeled ‘Boring exact science, predictable and ordinary.’
Flying across this continent in anything hardly deserves that offhand description. Africa has her surprises and her challenges, even at FL370. The weather throws up interesting problems occasionally, not so much en-route, more at he other end where thunderstorms, heavy rain and occasionally fog add their unique contribution to the proceedings.
Air traffic control is generally procedural with most of the cool stuff really well hidden in the ATC Centres. ; Communications used to be virtually impossible and conducted solely through HF. Little has changed recently other than there is a touch more VHF coverage now than there used to be and the quality of HF comms seems to have improved…. a little with the passage of time. Little faith is placed by anyone on the integrity of the system, it doesn’t seem to have a lot – integration that is though clearly the system works most of the time. This is not to decry the professionalism of those that work within Africa’s ATC structures, chronic under-investment, short term thinking, corruption and government efforts to leech cash out of the revenue stream (international over-flight traffic) has dogged the best effort of our colleagues on the ground.
Faith is a wonderful thing which is why we have 129.5 and ICAO procedures that apply to flight in remote regions. We can monitor the ATC environment which, as we all know, contains things that move at a mile every eight seconds, are crammed with people and weight hundreds of tons. Even our smaller colleagues, probably showing no TCAS returns and operating at all sorts of levels without flight plans could spoil a promising young mans future prospects and alter his breathing patterns for good.
Yes, they are increasingly rare but guns travel just the same as people and the profit margins are higher. Never seen one of course.
Air Traffic over Africa is predominantly North-South. That is until Ramadan, approximately September 24 to October 23 (2006). The favoured Ummah of Almighty Allah’s Beloved Nabee (Sallallahu Alayhi Wasallam) submit themselves to their Glorious Creator and Sustainer. The Haj changes the traffic structure across Africa a tad during Ramadan. Lots of aircraft fly across the continent focusing their attention on Jeddah, the spiritual home of Islam. In doing so they create a challenge for the regular flights in that it needs (like all traffic) to be monitored.
After about four hours of metronomic radio activity passing position reports on 129.5, and routine ATC communications on the primary box, Abuja marches down the map with the top of descent point before it on the ‘pink string.’
Nigeria’s Air Traffic Control System is good and her infrastructure, perfectly adequate. Normally that is – let’s say, for the majority of the time. With poverty being rife and enterprise being sharpened to a fine point, airfield facilities of every sort have been fair game across time here in Nigeria elsewhere in Africa. Things tend to go missing in the night, stuff like runway lights, ILS ariel systems, NDB components and of course, miles and miles of coper cored cable. Were the authorities so inclined they could buy back a fair amount of this ‘swag’ from the local markets but here are ‘better sources’ available that carry commission.
Cruel I know, but you should try carrying out an approach in the tropics at night when it is sheeting with rain, where the ILS doesn’t have an ident for some reason, the VASIS/PAPIS look a shade dim, and only seventy percent of the runway lighting is available for ‘technical reasons’. Time to earn the money. Things are getting better, you can tell that I’m an optimist at heart, can’t you?
We keep a watch on these things, we have to to remain forewarned. After every transit through African stations where this phenomena is known to be a problem we log the serviceability sate of every facility and feed the info back to home base.
Yes, Africa can be a challenge but here is no place on earth like it. Spend too much time here and she grabs you, there is so much beauty painted onto such a colorful and violent canvas. To know it well is to both love and hate it in almost equal measure.
“Africa is a cruel country; it takes your heart and grinds it into powdered stone – and no one minds.” Elspeth Huxley
It’s not that we don’t want the EU to succeed when it takes on major, high stakes technology based projects… is it? ESA has been a notable success and certainly made the US think when NASA had its hiccup with Challenger.
Goodness knows, we plough so much money into that giant quango, and like the UK Health Service, the UN and just about every other massive bureaucracy, the EU seems to swallow massive wads of our cash at an absurd rate to little effect.
But didn’t you smile when the concept of a European owned and administrated GPS system was first floated? Our cousins across the water (who made their own earlier) must have been laughing into their ‘Bud’ having seen it all before. Did it seem like another opportunity to divert the gravy train to… heavens knows where? Yes, it did rather, didn’t it?
Time rolls on – hold onto your hat; the Gallileo project has now moved house and all concerned in this stellar project can relax and jack up their tenders yet again.
We are saved! – the ‘Government’ is taking the reigns.
Avweb source Reuters
It looks like Europe’s space-based navigation system will be government operated after the consortium of companies that were to build and run it effectively quit the project on Thursday. The consortium, led by Airbus parent EADS, had until May 10 to come up with a plan to get the Galileo project back on track and working toward deployment. But, according to Reuters, the consortium was plagued by infighting and nervous of the $3 billion cost so it let the deadline pass.
Shortly thereafter, European Union Transport Commission head Michele Cercone said the government would take over the project. Cercone said the consortium wanted the EU to assume the debt and take all the risk out of deploying the system so it made more sense to assume the project without them. The EU hopes to have the system partially operational by early 2011 and fully operational by 2012.
How does it go? ‘Do it once, do it right.’ Or did perhaps the men from the Euro-Ministry know that this would be the direction eventually taken? Perhaps the European political consensus would not have permitted this project to start unless private equity was involved from the beginning. Was the delusion that the risk was being transfered to the private sector and not the public purse was needed to see the nascent, high prestige project leave the launch pad?
Sir Stanley Hooker was a remarkable man and an even more remarkable engineer. His achievements stand out as exceptional right across his career. From the Merlin to the RB211 his rapier sharp intellect served us all very well. Where are the Stanley Hookers of today? He lived next door to a good friend of mine and when I waxed lyrical about this book some years ago, I could hardly believe the coincidence.
The reviews below come from Amazon and are worth highlighting.
The remarkable story of a remarkable man
If you have not yet heard of Sir Stanley Hooker, this will come as a treat. As a young (and brilliant) mathematician he joined Rolls Royce near the outbreak of WW2 – to find that the Merlin engine which powered the all-important Hurricane and Spitfire was down on power due to a supercharger design flaw that only he had spotted due to his mathematical abilities. In finding that extra power he will have earned the gratitude of a generation of pilots and by extension the gratitude of the nation whose existence depended on their ability to out-fly the invaders.
There is more… Throughout the war he continuously extended the development of the aircraft enigine superchargers that he had mastered, and became one of the first to appreciate and support Whittle in the development of the Jet Engine. Hooker was one of the key figures in the success of Rolls Royce jet engines, and went on to develop the Key ingredient in the Harrier Jump-jet, it’s dedicated power plant.
And more, much more….
“Not much of an Engineer” has its dramatic personal twists, and Hooker is ruthless with what he saw as his own personal failings. In addition to his mathematical and engineering skills, he writes both fluently and with feeling.
Beg, borrow, or buy it, and read it. Highly recommended.
An Inspirational Engineer
I think I have read this book five times, each time I find something new in it. Hooker shows, time and again, that very often, a simple approach to a seemingly intractable problem can produce extraordinary results. The book, which is “unputdownable”, should be required reading for all undergraduate engineering students.
Find the book here and help people out at the same time. Help out?
I don’t mean to be insulting here but I don’t know what to make of this headline.
Ten million € seems a derisory figure given the problems they are experiencing and the scale of the Airbus operation. They are offering hulls at a price that must defy description to keep the orders coming in the face of the heat they are taking from their employees and customers; that must feed into a bottom line somewhere.
Emirates has ordered four more A380′s and to do so at the moment with so many question marks still over the aircraft and manufacturer does beg the question, “What sort of price did they get?” Either way, good luck to them – all they need now are a few more pilots…
ATW- Geoffrey Thomas on Emirates
He also reiterated that the four A380s ordered last week were not part of the compensation package for delayed deliveries. “This is a new order for aircraft we need and we were able to take some delivery slots that opened up,” he said. EK is confident that Airbus has sorted out its A380 problems and he said that once it is in service, airlines will clamor to get onboard: “The seat-mile costs are stellar.”
Were I a manager in an airline’s Flight Operations department surveying the world from my Ivory tower I might be stroking my chin as I survey the pilot supply chain landscape. It is changing.
The laws of supply and demand are cruel and unbreakable, my brief is to keep a heel on costs and deliver bums to highly technical and fast moving seats – and talented, competent bums at that. How on earth am I going to do that without losing control of cost by using money, or cranking up the numbers that I need by providing a luxurious work schedule? Whichever way you cut it, I have a problem on my hands and the size of that problem depends where I am in the ‘glamor’ stakes in the pilots desirability league. This league is defines by money, jets, route networks and general working conditions, we each chose the order of priority that we assign, they are merely the major categories. Into that pot must be sprinkled career aspirations, advancement to command time and other opportunities.
A fair days work for a fair days pay has always been a reasonable mans guiding principle in his analysis of what he takes home to the wife and kids. That same man is being assailed by stories from the City where a spotty youth with a quick brain, good contacts and a sharp suit can make what I get paid in a year as a bonus to his salary.
Green eyed monster? Not really, I wouldn’t want his job nor he mine necessarily, but that is a reality and it forces us all to mull over what we think is a reasonable days pay for what we do. I am reasonably happy with my lot but I want to stay happy – and the equation is not just about money, it never has been. It is about about lifestyle, the battle to retain of terms and conditions of service that I enjoy, and the retrieval of those that have been lost over the last few years. That battle is the cloud that spoils the morning for our manager in his Ivory tower.
I am hoping (as if you never guessed) that the pilot shortage is going to bring about a shift in thinking where it comes to the treatment of aviators around the world.
We have talked about demand, now let’s look at supply. Given the magnitude of the shortages and available lead time to make them good – in the East particularly; something clearly needs to done. It takes a quite a time to produce a pilot, around eighteen months to two years. At the end of that process he pops out of the system, now available to be trained by the airline into his specific (normally short haul) aircraft type. That’s another two to three months effort – add holiday and administration delays, and two and a half years isn’t unrealistic. With the rates of expansion of the airline system in these pressed areas, is there that much time available to create a pool of sufficient size?
Enter a new initiative, the Multi crew Pilot License (MPL). Much has been written about the MPL and you will be relieved to know that I am not going top describe it at length here. Stripped to its core it is the first attempt for many years to redefine the structure of approved pilot training. The Australians have created a course on behalf of the Chinese and are trialling it as we speak. It involves the drastic reduction of the number of hours students spend actually aloft and replaces that with a considerable amount of targeted simulator and other training.
The central theory of the course is that flying hours in light aircraft do not really mean very much and are not a measure of a pilots quality and value. Relevance is everything and training wholly focused on the business of operating a jet transport is far more valuable.
Asia needs it.
Australia is developing it.
Europe and the US are interested but the FAA is sceptical.
All Aviaition Authorities are awaiting the results of the monitored performance of the initial batch of candidates in airline service.
What do I think of the MPL? (well, it is my Blog) Not a bad idea – anything that reduces training down to the essentials will obviously shorten training time and there are many other examples around of accelerated training. What is most important though, is a completely trained and confident pilot who clearly understands his, the aircrafts and the systems limitations. The development of workload capacity and a solid understanding of the system within which the pilot works is absolutely essential. These are the building blocks of situational awareness.
The ‘monkey in the fridge’ might be confidence. Without it we are all lost and I am at present unable to see on what that confidence will be based. That essential tool is gradually constructed across the passage of a pilots training as mountains are climbed and minor defeats turned into victories. Where will this come from in a bare bones training scheme?
The Military train in a broadly similar way and have created pilots who have on completion of their operational training, have had to face offensive operations as ‘first tourists.’ They are prepared, in part, by a form of military indoctrination that delivers an aggressive, confident, and skilled aviator to the front line.
After all, if he has very little experience, what else can you give him?
Are we going to do the same? will we tell these candidates that they have been ‘specially selected’ and are ‘the best in the world – trained to a razors edge?’ Because they aint’; they will have been built to cost and speed! That is what the FAA and others are worried about, and why they are so keen to see the results before they contemplate authorizing something similar in their own juristriction.
In the text below and all texts on this site, he must also be read as her in the interest of reading ease.
What are employers doing? That there is a shortage right now is a given, it still isn’t acute enough at the top end of the food chain to be really frightening the majors, they feel insulated from it. Insulated perhaps, immune? – definitely not.
A great place to go for a type rating is a major carrier and lots are doing it… then realizing after eighteen months that demography in the list above them is going to suppress their career ambitions.
That’s when the world outside starts to look good and their 777/744 type rating and 1300 or so hours on type has value when you add it to previous experience.
This is happening in Europe and the majors are not happy about it. It is not a widespread practice yet but the pattern is being repeated in the hotspots. The very people carrying gray hair and command experience being attracted from the military and elsewhere may soon focus minds towards a form of bonding not previously seen at this level. Previously we did not see this happening at this level in the industry; why leave having just landed the dream job?
Working us harder. Over the last five years we have seen a progressive increase in the number of hours that we are flying. I look back to 1999 and see that whilst I was on the 747-400 I average around 550 hours per annum across a seven year period. After three years flying short haul on the 737 I returned to long haul flying during 2003. Across the last four years my annual average has ramped up to around 750 with rolling totals occasionally reaching the regulatory 900 hour limit. Only leave (holiday) or compulsory breaks reduces this figure and drops the average. I (we) see this as a major increase in productivity across quite a short period of time, I guess you might too.
I understand applications are being made across the industry to increase the flying hour limit northwards in the name of competition and cost reductions – the pilot shortage will be another pressure that may sway the regulators both in the UK and elsewhere. Figures of a new limit of 1200 hours a year have been mentioned. ‘Do more with those you have, they are expensive and increasingly rare.’
Changing the way we work.
Work allocation has always been a hot potato, any element of control that an employee has over his working life enables him to introduce inefficiencies. Take away that control and the employer can create efficient work patterns and trips integrations into a pilots working life that reduces these ‘inefficiencies.’
For us the problem is really one of semantics, where the airline means ‘inefficiencies,’ pilots mean ‘breaks to aid recovery from fatigue and retain some semblance of family life.’ For those who have not done it, let me assure you that the process of flying 900 hours in a rolling twelve month period is pretty exhausting. In long haul flying continual time zone transit, extended periods of exposure to dry air environments and physical inactivity can wreak havoc with both health and general wellbeing. The effects of working at that rate for years on end are unknown. And that is about the best I can say about it really, I have heard a lot worse.
Does this all sound a bit like a moan? Well, yes I suppose it is, no-one likes to work to the point where the pleasure is eroded from an honest days work and pilots are no exception. Across the world we have seen an expensive asset being driven harder and harder to reduce costs and improve business efficiencies. We have yet to see a point worldwide where realistic limits are being uniformly adhered to by all operators. This is an excellent way to earn a living, we want to keep it that way and reach the point where we can enjoy the fruits of our working life without dropping dead when we retire. Remember, these pressures are set to increase as the shortages really bite – everywhere. Airlines will do all they can to fill aircraft with customers and achieve schedule….
It will be interesting to see what the airlines response will be to these pressures. We have already seen from links that the Indian governments response to pilot movement within the industry has been to regulate, effectively cementing people in place after they have qualified. Government bonding? Yes, they are stating to see this as a real option. China will do something similar though she has always been a rule unto herself.
Anyone looking to start a flying career at the moment has an unprecedented opportunity to take their place on the flight deck, should that be their chosen vocation. That pilot hiring (and furloughing) is a cyclic business is a given – merely a phenomena until you get caught between its teeth on the downswing. We are lucky in the UK, for us furlough is rare – the US is a different story.
Wherever you are around the globe at the moment, its turning rapidly into a happy time. You may still be scrabbling at the bottom rung of the ladder spending out for type ratings or cutting crappy deals with intermediaries where ‘salary sacrifice’ is endured in exchange for training and a defined pathway to the front end of some relatively heavy metal. Wherever you are, good luck to you and here are a few reflections that might give you encouragement or solace when the going gets tough.
The Big Picture. Alteon, formerly known as FlightSafety Boeing Training International, has been a wholly owned Boeing subsidiary since October 2002. Its 20 locations worldwide provide pilot training courses for carriers operating airplanes larger than 100 seats.
According to Alteon, the Worlds airlines are going to need to hire 376,000 pilots between 2005 – 2024 – that is 17,000 per year. Here is the rider, this figure is just to accommodate new hull deliveries. Now their figures might be a little inaccurate but by how much – 10% either way? There is reason for optimism everywhere but the need is greatest in India,China and the Far East where 82,000 pilots will be required over the forecast period. Perhaps this is just a little hot air from a company with a vested interest? No, the figures are supported by a number of different sources.
That is the good news and there is reason to believe that there is more to come though not of those gargantuan proportions. The big picture contains good news for pilots but real headaches for the operators; Boeing being a farsighted manufacturer has its eye to this supply problem and is involved in researching and in some cases supplying the solutions. But form ‘our’ perspective, what does all this mean for us?
Yes, pilot supply and demand is cyclic, spend five minutes talking to any professional pilot to discover this. If you have been flying for the last fifteen years you have lived with it.
What’s happening at the moment though is different, some say that what we are seeing will evolve into a change of frequency, not the eradication of the phenomena. Put simply, the airlines in the past have seldom managed to anticipate their pilot requirements and lay provision for their needs by training their own people. They simply trained the odd batch where they had the funds available and it was blindingly obvious that they would need an intake of aviators.
Open recruiting has been the standard for many years, when a requirement emerged, applicants were taken from a reliable ‘pool’ that stood in hope at the chief pilots door. Don’t blame the airlines, this game has rapid swings in demand that are just not predictable unless you have a demography amongst your pilot force that has written a warning all over a wall – like a ‘retirement bulge’ for instance.
That is over, at least in the medium term until the population has grown to match the demand. Unless regulation steps in to flatten demand for air transport, demand for our services is not going to weaken any time soon – we are sailing rapidly into very happy times for those who want to earn their living in the air. This is being felt at the moment by well qualified people who are looking for a job or considering a move. It is a bit of a candy store out there if you like the sunshine and a foreign beach. There are downsides, but more of those later.
Looking at the first rung on the UK ladder.
What is the employers perspective, how does this affect the user of our services?
It rather depends on you position in the industry, let’s start at the bottom in the UK and see what the evidence states.
I dropped by a well respected flying training organisation on the way home from a trip a couple of months back. I was considering renewing my Instructors qualification and this would be a good place to get an idea on costs etc. I rolled up at the Ops desk and chatted to the manager running the desk about this and that before I started popping questions about the QFI thing. Apparently business was brisk, loads of people wanting to learn to fly or advance to further training. We moved on and the MOMENT I started talking about an Instructor renewal, he immediately bounced back without catching breath and offered me a job.
No questions, no in depth questioning, an interview or, “Weeell, we might need someone, perhaps you might do your renewal and then hey – perhaps we might be able to use you…” No, a straight forward immediate job offer and, “We can talk about the pay” admitting the state of their desperation. I got the distinct impression that almost anyone with the rating and a pulse would get the job.
I laughed and told him I was already fixed thanks – holding firm eye contact I managed to loosen his grip from my jacket and departed before he clamped my car and started threatening my family. Only joking, but you get the drift? Before I carried on home I learnt that their story was becoming increasingly familiar across the country. Those schools that have lost instructors as they departed ‘upward’ to the airlines and elsewhere are finding it difficult to replace them. Suction?
… A bit further up to the regionals. In the UK flight magazine is where you look for work as a pilot – the back pages. The alternate source being their website, Flight Global – Jobs for flight crew. A couple of years ago his publications was devoid of flying jobs, now their pages are filling steadily with openings, and good ones at that. Airlines, Regional carriers, network jet operators and private companies are advertising. They all tell the same story, expansion or replacement of losses to the next level up – the major carriers.
And further still. Being at the top end of the food chain can be a comfortable feeling when it comes to pilot supply, you call, they come a running. I know I have been saying this for a while but it is continuing commentary; some airlines are now getting at tad hoarse. They have had to progressively raise their voices as the pitter patter of eager (qualified and experienced) feet have been slowing to a trickle.