Did two French aviators cross the Atlantic oceans days before Charles Lindbergh completed his historical 1927 New York-Paris flight? The question is asked by Bernard Decre, a well-regarded amateur historian. In the last five years, he has been working full-time on the ill-fated attempt by Charles Nungesser and Francois Coli who vanished hours after they took off from Le Bourget on May 8, headed for New York. The assumption for years has been that they plunged into the sea during the early part of the crossing, but there is no definitive information to back this up.
Air shows do more than trumpet commercial transport orders or dazzle visitors with noisy flight displays. They also provide a great opportunity to introduce new ideas and, even better, concepts that could lead to technology breakthroughs. Last week at the Paris air show, Switzerland's Ecole Polytechnique, based in Lausanne, unveiled an all-new concept of modular aircraft—a three-engine flying wing able to carry three Airbus A320-size “capsules.”
Do you remember Michael O'Leary's ironic remark about the envisioned one-pilot flight crew? Ryanair's chief executive last year claimed direct operating costs could be significantly reduced by eliminating the first officer on commercial flights
Budget constraints are affecting all of Europe, resulting in severe procurement cuts, minimal research and development spending, and an absence of new programs necessary to lay the groundwork for the future. Moreover, leading European countries, which maintain a sizable defense industry, are still striving to reach a consensus on unified operational requirements. Many still dwell in the past, according a higher priority to sovereignty despite the European Union's mission to establish a 27-nation common destiny.
In the 1930s, large segments of France's economy—including the aviation industry—were acquired by a newly elected left-wing government. The final part of the nationalization program became reality shortly after World War II ended, when engine manufacturers Gnome & Rhone and Renault were consolidated to form state-owned Snecma.
Boeing's 737 twinjet, aviation's most successful commercial transport, is breaking new production records: 38 aircraft are now produced each month at the manufacturer's Renton, Wash., facilities and soon, 42. Recently, the 7,500th 737 was delivered and, in the wake of the MAX next-generation model's promising start, the show is certain to go on for decades to come.
Manfred Bischoff, who heads Daimler's supervisory board, first told me about 25 years ago that the French government should abandon its stake in Aerospatiale Matra, the predecessor of EADS aerospace/defense group's French arm. Bischoff was then chief financial officer of DaimlerChrysler Aerospace and, like most of his German colleagues, firmly believed the time was right to give the private sector some long-overdue freedom and suppress cumbersome political interference. Although he was convincing, he could not persuade his French counterparts to act accordingly.
Last year, the airline industry broke all previous records in relation to flight safety. Flying has never been safer, statistics show, so it would only be natural for all parties involved to congratulate themselves. But no one should rest on their laurels. As Tony Tyler, the International Air Transport Association's (IATA) director general, says: “Every accident is one too many and each fatality is a human tragedy.” We should all be proud of the fact that we are looking at the best safety performance since commercial flying was invented in 1914.
Over the years, France was—and remains, to some extent— an aerospace-proud nation. In the last several decades, it was often the vanguard for innovations. This forward-thinking momentum began more than 100 years ago when the great minds of the day gave a warm welcome to the Wright brothers after the two inventors failed to garner the support they needed in the U.S. In France, they were accorded respect, accolades and help in their efforts to make controlled flight a reality, including during their celebrated stay in Rheims, in 1909.
Hop!, Air France's new regional subsidiary scheduled to be established in the next few weeks, is the French legacy carrier's latest attempt to slash direct operating costs on its domestic/short-haul route system, lower fares and thwart discount competitors from acquiring a significantly bigger market share. The initiative confirms the emergence of an increasingly more aggressive strategy but one that is still not aggressive enough. Moreover, Air France is still paying the high price for adapting too late and too slowly to the deregulation of Europe's airline industry.
During the past several years, Europe's airline analysts, company executives and trade group representatives have discussed the so-called new economic model that should shape the industry's future. General consensus is that low-cost carriers, in the long term, will not kill their legacy competitors' attempts to survive, and both entities should eventually co-exist, albeit with market shares that will be less robust than either are used to. However, beyond conferences and lofty statements no concrete action toward this new economic norm has occurred.
Planning a new regional airport near Nantes, Brittany, at first sight a low-priority issue, has evolved into a political controversy encompassing a wide range of problems that extend far beyond the airline industry. The government of French left-wing Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, which has ratified the plan (as did that of his right-wing predecessor) is running into serious trouble with no compromise in sight.
One day in the distant future, air traffic will certainly stop growing. The current annual growth rate of 5% per year cannot be sustained forever. If it were, the world's population would eventually spend more time in the air than on the ground.
The Versailles court of appeals late last month rendered its long-awaited verdict after reviewing the July 25, 2000, crash of an Air France Concorde near Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG). The court overturned the convictions of two Continental Airlines maintenance technicians and a former top executive of DGAC, the French civil aviation authority. But it upheld settlements with several victims' families and Continental's obligation to pay €1 million ($1.3 million) in compensation to Air France.
With the recent commissioning of the amphibious assault ship LHA 6 USS America in its new San Diego home, the U.S. Navy may be getting ready to soon deploy a perfect kind of ship to roam the waters of the Asia-Pacific....More