3 Links I Love: Norwegian Saved, SAS Livery, MAX Piloting

Links I Love, Norwegian, SAS, United

This week’s featured link:

Norwegian’s bondholders accept debt relief planch-aviation
Norwegian has once again found a way to burn enough furniture to make its way through the lean winter… it hopes. The bond repayment delay plan was accepted. In exchange for deferring the bond due date, the creditors now get Gatwick slots as collateral and a higher repayment amount. It’s a good deal for them, because without this one, Norwegian could have gone bust and they’d be left with nothing. For Norwegian, well, it’s just fewer unencumbered assets left to help fix things next time it runs into a cash crunch.

Image of the Week: SAS has a new livery, and the jury is out until I can see it in person. But at first blush, I love the silver engine cowlings. I miss the red, but it still looks sharp.

Two for the road:

Expedia and United Agree to Multiyear Contract Avoiding Messy DivorceSkift
Is it wrong that I’m sad United and Expedia settled their dispute? I was really curious to see how this would have played out. But, oh well. Expedia users, rejoice.

What Really Brought Down the Boeing 737 Max?The New York Times Magazine
William Langewiesche is back with a very long look at the piloting issues that contributed to the two 737 Max accidents. I find the detailed review of the Lion Air accident to be fascinating and incredibly damning of the airline. Get a hot cup of tea, sit down, and make sure you have enough time to get through it.

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16 comments on “3 Links I Love: Norwegian Saved, SAS Livery, MAX Piloting

  1. I devoured the New York Times article yesterday and thought his research and insights were spot on. While I am only a general aviation pilot, the more commercial airline pilots I spoke to made the same comment – “They didn’t fly the airplane.” They were passengers in their own aircraft.

    I had also forgotten the history of the Chinese market and in retrospect, it’s pretty incredible how they turned around the safety culture there. While the MCAS no doubt contributed to the crashes, I do agree that there’s blame all around.

    1. Chris – Certainly. The original narrative about the pilots not doing their jobs was true. The problem is that the MCAS shouldn’t be designed to put poor pilots into the ground. I don’t have confidence that even a highly trained pilot in the US would be able to survive if MCAS turned on right after the flaps go up on takeoff. There are so many variables so close to the ground, that it’s far from a given. So to me, there are really three issues going on here.

      1) Maintenance, at least on Lion Air, using shoddy parts, not fixing problems, etc 2) Weak piloting skills 3) Boeing’s MCAS mess

      As always, it’s multiple factors that lead to a crash. Take away any one of those and you live… except maybe the second since even with strong piloting skills the others may take you down.

      1. Exactly. It’s never a single factor that brings an aircraft down. It’s always a series of small things. But to your point, Boeing should have known better than to design a system with a single point of failure. Plenty of liability to go around.

      2. That’s exactly right. MCAS created new failure paths that went through the competency of the pilots. And that’s unacceptable.

  2. Re: SAS new livery. Yawn. You miss red engine cowling. I miss the best ever, with three color stripe surrounding fuselage that can seen from ground. But, either you are too young, or I am too old. Either way, paint job doesn’t relate to profit..

    1. Alan – Oh I remember the old stripes on the bottom. My first Transatlantic flight was on that fantastic livery on a DC-10 from LAX. Then growing up, I could often count on seeing the inbound aircraft fly over my house, so distinguishable by those stripes.

  3. I read the New York Times piece, ironically, while riding on a 737-900 back to Chicago from LA. I’m not an expert but the first thought I had after both accidents was, “this isn’t happening in the U.S., Western Europe or the developed countries of Asia.”

    Boeing probably goofed with the MCAS system. But fly the airplane and understand the aerodynamics of how the plane works and you don’t have two fatalities.

    An outstanding piece and well worth the time if you are a regular passenger on airlines.

  4. According to their 2018 YE results release Expedia makes $22 revenue per room night sold across their brands ($7.7b on 352m nights). Heresay from another leisure travel booking site has it that 80% of searches are for air.

    I’d love to know how much Expedia pays United for the air content that it uses to access that $22/night hotel attachment revenue stream.

    1. Also, Expedia announced this agreement. United didn’t. One party’s more excited than the other.

  5. “An old truth in aviation is that no pilot crashes an airplane who has not previously dinged an airplane somehow. *Scratches and scrapes count*. They are signs of a mind-set, and Lion Air had plenty of them, generally caused by* rushed pushbacks* from the gates in the company’s hurry to slap airplanes into the air.”

    Brett, just read Langeweische’s long and excellent article. The quote I cite relates to previous emails I’ve sent about WN’s numerous ground accidents. I hope they can get a handle on this issue.

  6. I got nervous for a second when I saw a new SAS livery. It was one of my favorite ones. Especially on a Mad Dog, thought it looked great. But this I’m ok with, I miss the red but they could have done worse. Still not a fan of United (miss the tulip) or American’s liveries.

  7. SAS livery. Get real it is quite literally completely and totally indistinguishable from everyone elses.

    Just like women who think they are being clever and original by tattooing their kids names on themselves.

    -Just like twenty million others who had the exact same idea.

    I don’t know what’s worse. The ubiquity of that attitude? Or those like Brett who seem to applaud it and buy into the bullshit of originality narrative.

  8. Langewiesche makes a leap I can’t support when he argues that the MCAS accident was a “trim runaway” that should have been no more difficult than any other, including several he has personally experienced in other aircraft. It’s a compound emergency at a critical phase for which failure to quickly address and understand each problem makes resolving the next one more difficult. MCAS isn’t just the last in a long chain of systems failures, it’s also the one that sneaks in insidiously. It activates the trim in short bursts, just like the normal system does during every takeoff, making it seem normal. There’s no aural or visual warning that the trim has engaged for abnormally long (as other aircraft often have), only the loud click clack of the trim wheel which is probably not heard over the louder stick shaker. The anti-stall system has been increasing the back pressure to the yoke all flight, so the plane already feels like it wants to dive, and all of a sudden it does. By the time the pilots recover and think to look at the trim wheel, the intermittent nature of MCAS has caused it to stop trimming, and things look normal. This doesn’t look or act like a trim runaway. It doesn’t really look like anything familiar.

    There’s a sharp aircrew that survives those accidents. Click click (autopilot/autothrottle disconnect) and look outside to fly the airplane, realize FO instruments are operable and transfer controls, decline to run checklists until you’ve climbed a little and stabilized, and then full attention is available when the MCAS does activate. I’d like to think that level of skill is well achievable by most pilots, but in reality I suspect far more pilots, including western pilots, would have failed those scenarios than we want to admit.

    There are major issues with airmanship worldwide that stem from not enough experience to go around, and terrible safety cultures in some places. Langewiesche is absolutely right to call them out. But these accidents are far more challenging than he thinks, and not by themselves an indictment of the safety culture from which the pilots came.

    It’s also worth noting that the fatal accident rate for general aviation in the United States is about 1 per 200,000 flight hours. For a big airline like Delta that equates to about 1 fatality for every 14 hours of GA training time for their pilot group as a whole. 1500 hours time per pilot starts looking like 1% attrition to fatalities. The kind of experience people want in their airline pilots doesn’t come cheap, in either dollar or human terms.

  9. Thank you for the “Max” article. Retired now, but much of my career was spent flying around much of the world. The only times the pucker factor was high, was when flying within China (late 80’s, mid 90’s). I have several friends who retired as senior captains of major USA airlines, all of which were naval aviators, and therefore competent stick and rudder men. They subscribed to the “if it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going” mantra”. I’m confident Boeing will adjust to the new reality of the weakest part of the flight envelope is those who occupy the pointy end of the aircraft.

    Sent from GRR

  10. If all the pilots had to do was “fly the airplane” how come 6 months later a’int nobody “flying the airplane? Maybe it wasn’t just as simple “flying the airplane” I can understand to a certain extent defending your manufacturer and your vocation but have some respect.

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