Flight excursion to Najac

I discovered Najac literally by flying over on the way to Villefranche des Rouergues (LFCV) during a flight lesson with my instructor back on July 17th, 2014. That day, when I came back home, I immediately told Luca: “we have to go on an excursion to Najac“.

We did.

Back in April 2015 we made a weekend excursion doing a night stop over in Najac and visiting other nice villages (mainly) around the Tarn river. Luca wrote two nice posts about them with plenty of bright pictures: Najac and Route verte (including Castelnau-de-Montmiral, Puycelci, Bruniquel and Saint Antonin Noble Val).

Time passed, and I got my private pilot licence last November (1) and for the first flight with passengers (Luca and Andrea) we decided to go again to Najac.

On the way to Najac we would fly by Cordes-sur-Ciel and on the way back we would partially follow that route verte by St. Antonin de Nobleval, Bruniquel, Puycelci… basically the same trip but up above in the air.

The flight would be short, as estimated when preparing the navigation. It would take about 57 minutes of flight time plus around 10% to take into account the wind, some more minutes for the integration back in Lasbordes… about 1 hour and 10 minutes (2).

Navigation log prepared for the trip Toulouse Lasbordes – Najac.

Navigation log prepared for the trip Toulouse Lasbordes – Najac.

Find below a view of the chart to have an idea of the circuit:

Chart view of Toulouse Lasbordes – Najac.

Chart view of Toulouse Lasbordes – Najac.

Let me share some pictures of the villages and a video taken by Luca:

Family picture at Lasbordes.

Family picture at Lasbordes.

Puycelci.

Puycelci.

Cordes-sur-Ciel.

Cordes-sur-Ciel.

(1) As described here “My path to the private pilot licence (PPL)“.

(2) In the end it took 1.37 engine hours (or 1h22′), a bit more than estimated… due to  departing Southbound and not having found Cordes-sur-Ciel straight away plust some time spent in circling villages.

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The Age of Aerospace (documentary)

The age of aerospaceIn the past days, the first episodes of the documentary “The Age of Aerospace” were released. The documentary consists of a series of 5 episodes each one lasting about 45 minutes and divided in a few chapters. The series, produced by The Documentary Group, covers much of the history of aerospace with a special focus on The Boeing Company, which celebrates 100 years in this 2016.

The series is progressively released in Science Channel, Discovery Channel and American Heroes Channel. It can also be watched via streaming at the website created for the documentary, here.

So far, I have watched the first four episodes, find some notes and comments below:

1 – What Can’t We Do?

The episode covers the initial years of flight: the creation of Boeing, the hiring of Wong Tsu (its first aeronautical engineer, fresh from MIT), the air mail expansion, the creation of United Aircraft and Transport Corporation (including Boeing, Hamilton, Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky, United Air Lines… among others), its split after the Air Mail scandal and the investigation led by senator Black, the early retirement of William Boeing, the Boeing 247, the Clipper, the B-17 Flying Fortress.

2 – Miracle Planes.

This episode covers how WWII gave new life to Boeing. From having been wiped out in the commercial aviation by Douglas and having lost to Douglas the contest for a new bomber with the B-17, due to a crash of the prototype, to a new emergence due to Roosevelt’s call for mass production of defense assets: including the success of the Flying Fortress with over 12,000 units produced in 10 years (“some days you would see 8 to 12 coming out”). Black Thursday with the lost of dozens of B-17s and the finding of the need for fighter coverage; the North American P-51 Mustang (Göring: “When I saw Mustangs over Berlin, I knew the war was lost.”). The Big Week in early 1944 and D-Day. The need for a longer range bomber for the pacific, the B-29 Superfortress.

3 – Shrinking the Earth.

This episode covers the jet age, from the operation LUSTY (LUftwaffe Secret TechnologY), the revamp of the swept wing technology originated by Adolf Busemann, the Boeing B-47, the taking over as president of Boeing by Bill Allen, to its inclusion in commercial aviation: the Comet, the prototype Dash-80 (including Tex Johnson‘s unexpected promotional double barrel roll flight), the Boeing 707 (Pan Am’s Juan Trippe: “Tomorrow you will see in the press that I have invented the jet age“), and 747 (Boeing’s Joe Sutter to Trippe: “You are sitting on a 747 in this conference room“).

4 – In the Vastness of Space.

This episode covers the  Space race. From the first warnings of Soviet Union breaking of frontiers to the launch of the Apollo program, the accident of the Apollo 1, its investigation and the need for more supply chain oversight and systems integration, the successes of the Apollo 8 (orbit around the moon), the Apollo 11 (landing in the moon), the Space Shuttle, International Space Station…

5 – The Dreamliner.

(Yet to be released in streaming)

I will conclude this review post recommending the documentary and leaving its 3-minute trailer:

 

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Flight excursion to Auch

A couple of weeks ago I asked my flight instructor about destinations for a short flight excursion (from our base aerodrome in Toulouse – Lasbordes), a nearby aerodrome with a nice bar or restaurant with some spots worth to see on the way. At first thought he recommended: Auch, Cahors and Gaillac.

I had booked an airplane in the aeroclub for last Saturday some weeks ago and we were lucky again in having good weather for the day, mostly clear and sunny in the beginning. So, at 11:30am we drove to the aerodrome. Destination: Auch.

A friend, Rapha, had also recommended Auch and he was going to join us for the trip, but other activities prevented him for being early at the aerodrome. After receiving the keys of the plane a bit late, at 12:53 I was starting the engine.

Fox-Golf-Sierra-Bravo-Juliet, DR-400 au parking ACAT, 3 personnes abord, avec l’info Bravo, pour un vol destination Auch, sorti en début de vent arrière piste 15, pour rouler au point de arrête.

The flight would be rather quick. That was good as we were late in departing and the guy at the restaurant had told us to arrive before 13:30… when preparing the navigation I had estimated the return flight in about 62 minutes, plus some plus 10% due to the wind, plus some 10 minutes per integration and taxing in each aeroport… that woud make it about 88 minutes or 44 minutes per leg. We knew we would not make it (12:53 + 00:44 ~ 13:37) but we decided to give it a try and see if we still were able to get some food. If not, at least we would have trained the crossing of Blagnac’s CTR plus landing in Auch, an aerodrome I had never landed in before.

Navigation log prepared for the trip Toulouse Lasbordes - Auch.

Navigation log prepared for the trip Toulouse Lasbordes – Auch.

Transits through Toulouse Blagnac's CTR.

Transits through Toulouse Blagnac’s CTR.

The flight to Auch went very smooth even if it took longer than estimated (55′ of engine running in total) (1). Radio communications with Toulouse information and Blagnac’s tower went well and we quickly got clearances to cross the CTR and the axis of Blagnac’s airport runways. That feels good. Seeing those Airbus’ and Boeings down there and even making some commercial flight wait a minute in the runway while you cross the axis. :-)

Once you fly over the airport the next highlight of the flight comes: over flying Airbus’ Toulouse facilities, seeing from above the delivery centre, flight line, A330 FAL, A350 FAL, flight test aircraft, Beluga’s, etc., you name it. See a short video filmed by Luca below.

You quickly arrive to the Leroy Merlin in Colomiers (point WD) and then turn Westerly towards the Bouconne forest (WF) and further ahead you leave the CTR (at WH). Then you only need to keep exactly a West heading (270⁰) easily aided by Toulouse VOR for about 22 nm (12 minutes at our speed, ~ 115 kt) until you find yourself above Auch aerodrome.

Chart view of Toulouse Lasbordes - Auch.

Chart view of Toulouse Lasbordes – Auch.

We flew the vertical of the airport, integrated the circuit in the cross wind leg, right after another plane which had just taken off. Reduced speed, put the carburetor heating on, activated the electrical pump, deployed flaps in take off position, gave a message with the radio, reduced speed to 150 km / h, trimmed the aircraft and gently proceeded towards base leg, lost some altitude and found ourselves in a final leg with a runway of  1,900 metres to land, four times of what we needed.

Final approach to Auch (LFDH).

Final approach to Auch (LFDH).

We taxied to the parking, locked the planed and called the restaurant: “I had called you from Toulouse, we’ve just landed, we know we are late, are you still serving food?”

Jean Francois, a Belgian chef who resonates very much with the charm of the Gers, was cooking at the grill, welcoming guests at the restaurant, picking the phone, giving casual conversations to all customers in all four corners at any time from any place within the restaurant… running the show.

The menu… we had not ordered anything and saw the aperitif (kir), water (wine, if we had not refused it), bread, soup… coming to the table. The soup, “carbure” (as I later learned) is a traditional soup cooked with meat and vegetables from the previous meal; definitely the best dish of the restaurant. I then asked how did it work with the menu, the ordering… Jean Francois pointed at a corner: “it’s a buffet, you take the starters there, I take charge of the meat”. The starters included all kinds of salads, vegetables and sea food.

Once we had eaten half of the salad, an unannounced pâté came in. “Please, taste it”. Then came in the meat. A pork chop here, a steak there… then another one. A beef steak… With a tray already full of meat in front of us, I hinted “that is more than enough, we won’t be able to eat that much!”. “Don’t worry…”

We then took some desert (from another buffet in another corner) and to our regret we had to leave quickly back to Lasbordes to try to give back the plane on time for the next pilot.

The all-included menu cost 19 euros per person. Check out the restaurant (“Aerodrome d’Auch Lamothe”) and book your table here (phone call).

I booked a plane at the aeroclub for 3h30′, but in order to enjoy the trip in a more relaxed way, I recommend to arrive there before 13h and to book a plane for no less than 4 hours (if departing from Lasbordes), to ensure you have time to enjoy the lunch with time enough and so that the departures do not feel like a rush.

(1) The actual engine running times of both flights were:

  • LFCL – LFDH: 0.93 FH, 55′ (taking off from runway 15, southbound then towards EN)
  • LFDH – LFCL: 0.84 FH, 50′ (taking off from runway 18, then holding at WH some minutes waiting for the clearance)

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Boeing 787 orders, cancellations, deliveries & backlog through 2015

Quick post with the updated figures and graphic of orders, cancellations, deliveries and backlog of the 787 programme at the end of 2015.

There were no major operational hick-ups in 2015, but commercially it saw 28 cancellations for 99 gross orders, thus, 71 net orders. This, together with the increased ramp up which enabled 135 deliveries, make that the book to bill of the programme stood at 0.53, far from a desired >1. Therefore, the backlog at year-end continued to decrease down to 779 aircraft (1).

An image is worth a thousands words:

 

787 orders, cancellations, deliveries and backlog through 2015.

787 orders, cancellations, deliveries and backlog through 2015.

(1) That level is lower than 2007 year-end backlog. The highest at previous year-ends was 916 in 2013.

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El Bait Shop, the best bar in America (Des Moines, Iowa)

Today’s Iowa caucuses made me remember some anecdotes of a trip we made five years ago which took us through Iowa. I already wrote a post about the visit we made to the Iowa Aviation Museum, but I had not yet written about El Bait Shop, arguably the best bar in America.

After driving all the way from Chicago, we stopped for the night of Thursday 28th April 2011 in Des Moines, Iowa. While changing clothes in our room at the Rodeway Inn motel, by the interstate 80, I went through some flyers and recommendations for tourists. One caught my attention: “the best bar in America” (1).

Some minutes later we left for Des Moines downtown and after some driving and walking around we looked for the bar, which wasn’t easy to find. Once inside the first thing that catches your attention is the amount of beer taps, 180!

El Bait Shop 180 beer taps.

Some of El Bait Shop’s 180 beer taps.

The bar itself is comfortable, with a very good service, quite cheap and with nice music. After receiving some tips from one of the waiters we decided to pick a couple of “beer flights” to taste some 12 different beers (accompanied with some food) (2). See below the flights.

Beer "flights".

Beer “flights”.

El Bait Shop offers many more beer options than the 180 that are in the taps. They change the beers on the menu on a monthly basis, continuously incorporating new brands. You can check the menu today, and you can see below the menu in April 2011.

I want to call the attention on the fact that most of the beers on offer, almost all, are brewed in America, by small breweries producing all kinds of varieties. When you read in the menu “German Hefeweizen” you do not see Paulaner… you see brands from Oregon, Texas or California. When you see “Belgian Ales & Belgian Style Ales” only 3 out of 22 on offer come from Belgium.

The experience was great. A nice surprise in the middle of a road trip. That’s serendipity.

(1) When reading the tip I also thought that the claim might be overrated. Not so after visiting the bar. I invite you to Google “best beer bar in America” or something similar, I bet you’ll find El Bait Shop among any top bar list.

(2) No need to mention that the beer flight I took was “Flyin’ High”.

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Twin-aisle aircraft deliveries 20-year forecast (update 2015)

In a previous post I shared a graphic with the “Commercial wide-body airplanes’ deliveries per year, 1969-2015” (see below). I then commented:

“Looking backwards it’s clear that 2015 was a peak in wide-bodies deliveries. Looking forward it may have been a short-term peak, but looking further ahead it is not so clear.”

Commercial wide-body airplanes' deliveries per year, 1969-2015.

Commercial wide-body airplanes’ deliveries per year, 1969-2015.

Last November, I published a post, “Airbus vs. Boeing, comparison of market forecasts (2015)“, with the following table that compares Airbus’ Global Market Forecast and Boeing’s Current Market Outlook:

Comparison of Airbus GMF and Boeing CMO 2015-2034.

Comparison of Airbus GMF and Boeing CMO 2015-2034.

If we focus on the twin-aisle segment, we see that both companies are very closely forecasting between 7,500 and 7,600 passenger aircraft deliveries (with less than 90 aircraft of difference, a 1.2% deviation). The forecast for the freighters is not shown in the table but it is also very similar for the segment, between 718 (Airbus’ view) and 800 (Boeing’s) freighter aircraft. In combination, each company foresees between  8,290 (Boeing view) and 8,297 (Airbus’) airplanes’ deliveries in the segment. Remarkably similar and definitely converged from years ago.

In the very large aircraft segment both forecasts do not converge. But since the figures of deliveries are an order of magnitude lower, I will focus on what they define as “twin-aisle” segment.

Let’s put forward again the question: was 2015 a peak year in terms of twin-aisle deliveries?

Quick math: if we take those ~8,300 aircraft to be delivered in the next 20 years, we arrive at an average of 415 aircraft per year. That figure excludes the very large aircraft. In 2015, there were 367 deliveries of twin-aisles (excluding A380 and 747):

  • A330: 103
  • A350XWB: 14
  • 767: 16
  • 777: 98
  • 787: 135
  • IL-96: 1

Thus, in 2015 we would have been far from the peak. If we simply linearized those 8,300 deliveries from 2015 levels up to 2034, we would get the following profile:

Twin-aisle deliveries historic and 20-year forecast.

Twin-aisle deliveries historic and 20-year forecast.

The reader may correctly think that market forecast figures are not engraved in stone and are rather optimistic. Fair enough.

Both forecast have been rather accurate in the past forecasting traffic growth. Not necessarily in forecasting the number of aircraft in each specific segment. See the post, “Aircraft market forecasts accuracy (update 2014)“,  in which I analyzed Boeing CMO forecast of 1999 with the actual fleet at the end of 2013. See the result below:

Comparison of aircraft fleet at year-end 2013: 1999 forecast vs. actual (sources: Boeing CMO 1999 and 2014).

Comparison of aircraft fleet at year-end 2013: 1999 forecast vs. actual (sources: Boeing CMO 1999 and 2014).

Thus, in 2013 there were 27% less twin-aisle aircraft than what had been predicted in 1999.

If 2015 market forecasts were off the mark in the same proportion (27%), that would mean that instead of 8,300 airplane deliveries in the next 20 years we would see about 6,050… meaning ~300 airplanes per year in the 20-year span.

In that case, we might have seen the peak.

Let’s take a look at current backlogs at the end of 2015:

  • Airbus: 1,112 a/c
    • A330 family: 350 a/c
    • A350: 762 a/c
  • Boeing: 1,383 a/c
    • 767: 80 a/c
    • 777 family: 524 a/c
    • 787: 779 a/c

Thus, at the end of 2015 the combined backlog (firm) stood at ~2,500 airplanes. That is a 30% of the 8,300 forecast, and a 41% of the 6,050 aircraft (i.e. forecast reduced in 27%).

The sceptic reader could still have doubts of the quality of the backlog (i.e., some customers may go through troubled waters and cancel orders).

Last year, I published a post, “Boeing 787 orders, cancellations, deliveries & backlog through 2014“, in which I showed the orders and cancellations of the 787 programme since its launch. See the summary graphic below:

787 orders, cancellations, deliveries and backlog through 2014.

787 orders, cancellations, deliveries and backlog through 2014.

The 787 programme experienced serious delays and industrial issues from 2009 to 2013 in the midst of the worst financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Through 2014, the programme had suffered 247 cancellations out of 1,318 gross orders, that is almost 19% of cancellations.

I believe that 19% can be considered an upper ceiling of how much of the current 2015 twin-aisle backlog (~2,500 a/c) could be considered as dubious. Thus, at least about 2,000 firm orders could be seen as rather secured.

Let’s see at the question (was 2015 a peak year?) from a different perspective: in the immediate coming years, what are the announced production rates?

Thus, according to the announced production rates and targets, in 2016 we should see about 380 twin-aisle combined deliveries, higher than the 367 we saw in 2015.

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Commercial wide-body airplanes’ deliveries per year, 1969-2015

The first wide body commercial airplane, the first twin-aisle ever, the Boeing 747 first flew in February 9th 1969 and it was first delivered to a customer (Pan Am) in December 1969. In the following years new wide bodies arrived to the market: the Douglas DC-10 (in 1971), the Lockheed TriStar (1972), the Airbus A300 (1974)…

In the last weeks, both Airbus and Boeing have released the figures of aircraft deliveries for the complete 2015. With them I updated a graphic I had made back in 2013 with the commercial wide-body airplanes’ deliveries per year. Take a look at it.

Commercial wide-body airplanes' deliveries per year, 1969-2015.

Commercial wide-body airplanes’ deliveries per year, 1969-2015.

Some reflections:

For the first time ever, over 400 twin-aisle aircraft were delivered in a year. The feat is remarkable.

The average number of deliveries for the previous 20-year period (1995-2014) was 215 airplanes per year. Up to now, in the previous 46 years of twin-aisle market, in only 3 years more than 300 airplanes were delivered in a single year (the previous 3: 2012, 2013 and 2014) and only 12 times more than 200 airplanes had been delivered (including the previous 3 with more than 300).

The combined steep production ramp-up during last 4 years has enabled to reach a production rate of almost the double of what was produced just 5 years ago. In particular, the combined compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of the rate of deliveries for the last 5 years has been 16.1%, for the last 10 years 10.4%. These rates are the triple and double than the yearly growth of traffic (measured in RPKs).

With the figures up to the end of 2015, almost 8,000 wide-body airplanes had been delivered. Thus, by now, end of January 2016, we have certainly reached the figure (1). We however don’t know whether the 8,000th twin aisle was a Boeing or an Airbus (2).

The share of deliveries in 2015: 65% Boeing and 35% Airbus. Boeing has slightly increased its share of deliveries in the last 4-5 years, in particular with the ramp-up of the 787.

There were 135 787s delivered in 2015. That is another remarkable feat: the largest amount of twin-aisle deliveries of a single model in a single year ever.

Only 6 times ever (combination of model-year) have there been twin-aisle deliveries of over a hundred airplanes: the A330 in the last 4 years (with a peak of 108 airplanes in 2013 -then a record- and 2014) and the 787 the last two years. Only other 10 times there were deliveries of more than 80 airplanes of a single model in a year: the A330 (2010-2011), the 747 in 1970 and the 777 (7 times, including the last 4 years consecutively, out of which the last 3 on the verge of 100 deliveries – 98, 99, 98).

Two days ago Boeing released its 2015 earnings, and with it news of 777 production cut came up. Some time before similar news had come of 747 production rate decrease. With these news, quickly came comments of whether aerospace cycle may have peaked (see here). Looking backwards it’s clear that 2015 was a peak in wide-bodies deliveries. Looking forward it may have been a short-term peak, but looking further ahead it is not so clear. I will leave for another post the outlook of past deliveries mixed with what Airbus and Boeing market forecasts say (GMF and CMO, respectively).

(1) With the sources I used,  at the end of 2015 there were a combined 7,988 wide-bodies delivered. However, I found different figures for the deliveries of the Ilyushin IL-86 (between 95 and 106). In any case, both figures would leave the total tally below 8,000 (making 2016 “the year of the 8,000th delivery”); I took for the analysis most conservative figure.

(2) Working at the moment for the Airbus A330neo programme, I will assume the 8,000th delivery was an A330, rather than a Boeing.

(3) I have indicated in the post that we have just passed the mark of 8,000 wide-bodies delivered since 1969, and, on the other hand, the different studies state that there are about 4,900 twin-aisle in operation. The gap of ~3,100 airplanes corresponds to those retired, parked, scrapped, crashed, displayed in museums…

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