Around the World

Miles flown for stories
2014: 137,829
2013: 330,818

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Winglets… The Ultimate AvGeek Guide

Passing Mt Rainier onboard a Southwest Airlines 737 - Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter.com

What better photo than a winglet & Pacific Northwest icon Mt. Rainier?

During the recent Aviation Geek Fest, a reader of AirlineReporter suggested that I do a bit of a roundup of all the different “winglets” that are out in the aviation world (I wish I remembered you name).  With so many different kinds of wingtip devices out in the marketplace, there needs to be a handy guide as to what they all are and what aircraft they belong to.  But first maybe a little bit of background on what a winglet actually does.

In the late 1970′s, NASA engineer Richard T. Whitcomb took some research from the 1950′s and further developed what we know as the winglet.  NASA wanted to see what would happen if they were to create a wingtip device that, with the correct angle and shape, could help reduce drag and increase lift, and also help break up the wingtip vortices.

Getting these benefits from the wing helps make flying easier and increases fuel efficiency – something that back in the 70′s wasn’t as crucial as it is now.  How much fuel can you save by adding a winglet?  On average, a 737 can save around 4% when compared to a non-winglet version.  A winglet is really designed to save money when flying long distances at high altitudes, so long flights are where the most savings are realized.

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What Makes a Heavy, Heavy?

American's A321 in flight. Image; Eric.

American’s new Airbus A321 in flight – Photo: Eric Dunetz

A while back, I viewed a tweet about an Air Traffic Control (ATC) conversation in New York, where JFK ATC got a little bit confused about an aircraft type.  American Airlines (AA) Flight 32 was incorrectly called a “heavy” aircraft, likely because for so long that flight was operated by a Boeing 767-200.  Ever since AA debuted their new Airbus A321 on the LAX-JFK route, this flight no longer needs to use the “heavy” designation, but that didn’t stop the ATC staff from using old habits.  It made me question, at what point does an aircraft become “heavy”?

When aircraft are approaching or departing an airport, they must use special designations to help avoid the wake turbulence from other aircraft.  Larger aircraft, like a 767 or an A340, need more space behind them to prevent the wake vortices generated by the larger wing span from impacting other aircraft.  The bigger the aircraft, the longer the distance.

The dangers are real, as all over the world a number of incidents have occurred that can be attributed to a wake vortex.  From the crash of an XB-70 in the 60′s to some involving more modern aircraft in the last 10 years (including an A380 in Sydney).

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2013 – Boeing vs. Airbus…. Who Won?

A Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 and Lufthansa Boeing 747-400.

A Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 and Lufthansa Boeing 747-400 – Photo: David Parker Brown

2013 is now well in our rear view mirrors as we speed along the runway of another year and it is time to look back.  We have covered what we did during 2013 on AirlineReporter but what about looking at what our two favorite aircraft manufacturers did?  2013 were big years for both Boeing & Airbus on many levels, so let’s take a look at more detail of exactly what happened in the order & delivery world:

Orders:

In 2013, the big air shows in Paris & Dubai flooded the order books of both manufacturers.  Airbus and Boeing both had record-breaking years with 1,619 & 1,531 gross orders, respectively.  The winner in this situation is obviously Airbus by a good margin; the types of orders look consistent too:

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Christmas in Poland? Nah, I’ll Fly Qatar to Singapore

One of Qatar's two Oneworld 777s taken through the window of a QR A320 photo by Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter.com

One of Qatar’s two 0neworld 777s viewed from the window of a QR A320 – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

A few days before departing for Warsaw, I had a stark realization – I actually had no reason to be in Poland other than a milage run. Polish Christmas is not what we are familiar with here in North America. Indeed, the idea of potentially-radioactive Belorussian carp as my main feast for such a joyous occasion caused me some dismay. I admit, there are plenty of amazing things to do in Poland (including two great military and aviation museums) – just not on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Both days, the entire country – including the trains – more or less grinds to a halt.

Now, I could have spent a couple of days in a hotel in downtown Warsaw, and maybe gone shopping before my return home. But practicality is not, and never will be, how I solve problems. My original goal was to fly on Biman’s DC-10 from Kuala Lumpur back to Dacca, but I couldn’t make the times work.  After a call with my usual travel agent (who has come to understand that I have a flare for the weird), I discovered that I could, within the window of my original British Airways fare to and from Poland go on a day trip to Singapore! I also had another goal – could I do it for a similar cost to a week of peak rate hotel time at a luxury hotel in Warsaw? Thanks to Polish currency (3 Zloty =1 USD) I could, and what an itinerary I booked!

We at AirlineReporter have always been fans of Qatar Airways; it was high time I found out what the fuss was about, starting with their Airbus narrow-body fleet. To say the least, I was excited. I had heard nothing but great things about Qatar’s business class from our other staff members. I am, probably, the harshest and most pedantic critic on the AirlineReporter staff. If you are already bored of the article, I can summarize my experience with QR in one word. AMAZING! If you are interested in why, please do continue.

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Why Can’t Airlines Just Add Extra Room?

Why can't we make this JetBlue Airbus A320 a bit wider? Photo: David Parker Brown.

Why can’t we make this JetBlue Airbus A320 a bit wider? Photo: David Parker Brown | AirlineReporter.com

I recently saw a comment on an older AirlineReporter.com post; it referenced a bad experience with a seat being too small.  The person posed the following: “If planes were just one foot wider, seats could be as wide as first class.  Would that kill Boeing or Airbus?”

I have seen this question come up quite a bit.  Sure, for some of you, the answer to this might be pretty obvious.  However, I don’t think that the majority of passengers really understand why this seemingly-simple change of adding more room to a plane is not simple at all.  And in the end, it is not what passengers really want anyhow.

Continue reading Why Can’t Airlines Just Add Extra Room?