Category Archives: Aerospace & Defence

Flight excursion to Camargue, Provence, Avignon and Millau

This weekend, with Luca and our children, we took one of the aeroclub’s DR-400 to make a flight excursion from Toulouse (France) to Avignon, in Provence.

The main purpose of the trip was to fly over the flourishing lavender fields in Provence. Other highlights of the flight would be flying over the French Côte dAméthyste, flying over the Camargue region with the wetlands of the Rhône delta, watching the Mont-Ventoux from up close, seeing the Pont d’Avignon (from the plane this time, no dancing), flying over the Hérault Gorges, the Viaduct of Millau, the Viaduct of the Viaur and we attempted as well to see the Pont du Garde, but we missed it (next time!).

I will be short in words in this post, thus I will first show here below all the beautiful pictures of the flight in chronological order and at the very bottom I will include a few paragraphs with the technical information of the flight in case anyone is interested in planning a similar trip.

Family picture before departing from Toulouse Lasbordes
Le Grau du Roi, Port Camargue. Montpellier.
La Camargue.
Saintes Maries de la Mer.
Mont Ventoux.
Mont Ventoux.
Final at runway 35 of Avignon.
Before the return flight.
Avignon. Pont d’Avignon.
Viaduc de Millau.
Viaduc du Viaur.
Chuck Yeager and Georges Guynemer started as airplane mechanics…
Routes followed.

We made two flights. The first one from Toulouse Lasbordes (LFCL) to Avignon Caumont (LFMV) lasted 2h25′ including the excursion to the regional park of Luberon to see the lavender fields (a detour of about 30′). The return trip took us 1h59′. Both trips could take somewhat less time if the routes were a bit more direct. We started both flights with the main and supplementary tanks full (in theory up to 110 + 50 litres, thus 160l) and before the second flight we did a refill of nearly 77 litres; that would be the block fuel for the first trip (thus 31.7l per hour just a bit below the 33 indicated in the manual at maximum take off weight (1,000kg for the DR-44)).

For both flights I filed a flight plan (calling the BRIA of Bordeaux) even if not required in France (when not flying to the islands or abroad), but that eases a lot the flying through many different CTRs, class D flight spaces, getting flight information service, traffic information, etc.

In these times of low commercial traffic we requested to overfly the coast at a rather high altitude (3,500ft instead of the mandatory maximum of 1,000ft from Montpellier to Marseille in normal times) which was granted without hesitation by the traffic controllers. That alleviated a bit the buffeting of the plane on the often windy French Mediterranean coast.

Avignon Caumont airport turned out to be a rather windy one being in the Rhone Delta. Most airports in the whereabouts had windy forecasts. We landed with winds announced by the controller of 15-20kt and on the departure the day after we had 22-32kt, though more or less aligned with the runway, 35 both times. The runway is however long (1,880m) and wide (45m). Had we had to abort the landing we had planned alternative diversion airports nearby, but most probably we would have gone away from the Delta region, all the way to Millau (thus the filling up the tank with more than double the amount of fuel we needed). The landing fees and 24-hour parking altogether cost 29.6 euros. The fuel station operated with the Carte Total.

We stayed over at the Best Western hotel by the airport at Avignon, at walking distance from the terminal (the reservation could be cancelled without charge up to 14:00 of the day we arrived, thus 2 hours later than our estimated landing time, in case we had to divert to somewhere else). We booked a family room with four beds and sofa bed with breakfast for 135 euros which could be paid in cheques vacances. The hotel has a swimming pool which was needed for the kids to relax in the afternoon. At walking distance there was as well a Courtepaille restaurant.

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Aeropuerto de Zaragoza: 2º del país en transporte de mercancías, por delante de Barcelona

El año pasado escribí un artículo en el blog donde hablaba del extraordinario crecimiento del aeropuerto de Zaragoza en transporte de carga desde 2003 (fecha coincidente con la apertura del centro logístico de Inditex).

AENA ha sacado hoy una nota de prensa con los primeros resultados consolidados de 2019 y para los principales aeropuertos españoles. Pues bien, ha ocurrido lo que se preveía: desde 2019 Zaragoza se ha convertido en el segundo aeropuerto de España en transporte de mercancía, por delante del aeropuerto de Barcelona y por detrás de Madrid-Barajas.

“Los cuatro aeropuertos que registraron mayor tráfico de mercancías fueron Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas, con 558.566 toneladas (+7,4%); Zaragoza, con 182.659 toneladas (+9,5); Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat, con 177.271 toneladas (2,5%) […]”

Esos cuatro aeropuertos representan el 92% del volumen nacional de carga. Madrid y Zaragoza crecieron por encima de la media nacional (5,6%) respecto a las cifras de 2018, Barcelona lo hizo por debajo (2,5%) lo que, junto con el crecimiento de Zaragoza, explica el que haya caído al tercer puesto.

Dejo debajo la misma gráfica que realicé el año pasado actualizada con los datos de 2019. En dicha gráfica no se muestran las cifras de Madrid-Barajas porque al ser el volumen el triple que el de Zaragoza, si se incluyese no se apreciaría bien el crecimiento de este último.


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Aviation safety evolution (2019 update)

Yesterday, the Aviation Safety Network released the 2019 airliner accident statistics showing a total of 20 fatal airliner accidents, resulting in 283 fatalities.

Aviation Safety Network is a private initiative from the Flight Safety Foundation which curates an extensive database with aviation incidents, hijackings and accidents, from 1946 to nowadays.

The tweet with which they made the announcement is below:

Which includes the graphic below.


If we take a quick look at the figures (which report commercial aviation flights (passenger and cargo)):

  • Number of accidents: 20, up from 15 in 2020, though still the 7th safest year in history (in number of accidents).
  • Fatalities: 283, down from 556 in 2018, the 3rd safest year in history (in number of fatalities).
  • There were 5 accidents with over 10 fatalities (details here).

The graphic above from the Aviation Safety Network provides the view of the evolution of accidents. However, in their database they provide some more figures with which I produced the graphics below.

Evolution of accidents per million flights

The database provides figures of the evolution of the number of world air departures since 1970, together with the evolution of accidents (above). The database includes a ratio: fatal accidents per million flights, which I have plotted below together with the evolution of flight departures. You can see that the ratio has decreased 12 fold since 1970, from 6.35 to 0.51 last year.



Global air traffic vs fatalities

The database provides no ratio with the figures of fatalities, but they can be related to the amount of passengers carried. In aviation there is the concept of revenue passenger kilometre (RPK) transported, which is compiled year by year and can be found in publications from ICAOIATA or aircraft manufacturers. I have plotted below both the evolution of traffic growth and fatalities since 1970, together with a 5-year moving average for the fatalities.


Within the evolution of traffic there are two variables that have grown over the years: the number of passengers carried per flight departure and the distance covered. Therefore, together with the decrease in the evolution of fatalities (taking the 5 year average) I have plotted below the evolution of the ratio of fatalities per trillion RPK. You can see that the ratio has decreased 81 fold since 1970, from 3,218 to 40 last year (5-year average).



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A380 transport convoy (Itinéraire à Grand Gabarit)

One of the most recognizable features of the Airbus industrial system, with factories in different countries, mainly in Germany, Spain, United Kingdom and France, where the main components and the aircraft are assembled, is the transportation of those components by the iconic A300-600ST Beluga aircraft.

Arriving TLS

Image credit to Brian Bukowski.

However, as most of the A380 components are too big to be carried onboard of the Beluga, a special transportation system was required to be put in place. It included transportation of the bigger components from the plants in Hamburg, Broughton, Saint-Nazaire and Cadiz by ship to the port of Paulliac, close to Bordeaux. From there, they travel by barge up the river Garonne to Langon. Then they are mounted on special purpose trucks to travel the road from Langon to the final assembly plant near Toulouse.


Ever since I came to work to Toulouse nine years ago, I had wanted to go and see one night the A380 transport convoy on the road. I kept postponing it, until last month. Airbus announced in early 2019 that the A380 programme would come to a close with the last aircraft to be delivered somewhere in 2021. Therefore, not many such transports were left to be seen.

Fortunately there is a public website with all the information required to prepare the visit: Itinéraire à Grand Gabarit. It includes: maps of the route that is followed, a yearly calendar with the days in which the transport will take place, a detailed schedule with the time slot in which the transport will pass by the different villages along the route and support documentation.





With that information I set out to see the convoy last December on the night between the 18th and 19th. Firstly, I went to see the convoy at their stop at L’Isle Jourdan.


I then followed part of the route with the convoy, seeing how the team removed sign posts along the way and marked some points as reference for the truck drivers.



Then I drove to Lévignac, a village where the pass is rather tight and slow. At Lévignac I found a group of about a dozen enthusiasts dressed in yellow vests who come to see every single convoy since years ago out of pure pleasure of watching such a magnificent sight.


The convoy arrives at Lévignac at 2:23am and normally takes 12 minutes to pass by (see the detailed schedule above), but this time there were many cars parked in the streets which needed to be displaced: either by the tow truck or pushed by hand. Careful measurements were taken by the operators to ensure the convoy would pass.


With all the checks properly done and cars removed, we enjoyed the slow pass of the 6 trucks:


I got to see the convoy of MSN (manufacturer serial number) 270, an Emirates aircraft. There will be just two more aircraft to be built after that one, MSNs 271 and 272, with their respective convoys, which dates remain to be announced in the above-mentioned website at the time of writing this post. If you have the chance, do not miss it!

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Aeropuerto de Zaragoza y el transporte de mercancía, 2003 – 2018

Hace unos días leí una noticia del diario Expansión titulada Así es el desconocido negocio de la carga aérea en España. La noticia describe los principales aeropuertos de la red de AENA en términos de transporte de mercancía, encabezados por Madrid, seguido de Barcelona, Zaragoza y Vitoria.

El artículo ofrece algunos gráficos, comparando el volumen de la carga transportada desde esos aeropuertos, el crecimiento del volumen total transportado en la red de aeropuertos (+54% entre 2004 y 2018) o una comparación con los grandes aeropuertos europeos en términos de transporte de mercancía.

También se ofrece la pista del porqué el aeropuerto de Zaragoza es un hub de carga, y es debido a que, entre otras empresas, Zara tiene allí su centro logístico, desde el cual se transportan el 40% de las prendas por vía aérea.

En esta entrada quería compartir la gráfica de debajo que he realizado a partir de los datos publicados por AENA durante los últimos 15 años. En ella se muestra la evolución del volumen de carga en los principales aeropuertos de España (excluyendo Madrid), y entre ellos destaca el crecimiento de Zaragoza.


Algunos comentarios:

  • El centro logístico de Inditex se abre en 2003.
  • En ese año 2003, Zaragoza termina como noveno aeropuerto de España en transporte de mercancía.
  • Seis años más tarde, en 2009, ya es el tercer aeropuerto, solo por detrás de Madrid y Barcelona.
  • En 2009 el volumen transportado en Zaragoza supone un 41% del volumen transportado desde Barcelona. Nueve años más tarde, en 2018, ese porcentaje pasa a ser el 96%, a pesar del fuerte crecimiento de Barcelona en los últimos 5 años.
  • Si el ritmo de crecimiento de 2018 de ambos aeropuertos se mantiene en 2019, este año Zaragoza pasará a ser el segundo aeropuerto de la red.
  • Un último dato: la tasa de crecimiento anual (TCAC o también CAGRCompound annual growth rate, en inglés) del aeropuerto de Zaragoza en estos 15 años ha sido del 22.2%. Los siguientes aeropuertos con mayor crecimiento en ese tiempo han sido Sevilla (7.7%), Barcelona (6.5%) y Madrid (3.6%).

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Boeing 737 vs Airbus A320 family deliveries, 1967 – 2018

In the previous post I shared a graphic with the Boeing 737 deliveries per year per model since 1967 till 2018. In this post, I want to share a few graphics comparing the evolution of deliveries of the Boeing 737 family with the Airbus A320 family of aircraft.


In the graphic you can see the tremendous growth in the past years. From the valley in 1995 (with 145 combined deliveries) till 2018 (with 1,206 combined deliveries) there has been a remarkable compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9.6%. The greatest sellers: the 737-800 with 4,959 aircraft delivered through end of 2018 and the A320 with 4,700.

The first time that the combined deliveries surpassed the 200 airplanes was in 1989 (204 aircraft). In 1998, the combined figure surpassed the 400 (450 aircraft). In 2012 they reached more than 800 (870). In 2016, more than 1,000 combined deliveries (1,035), reaching 1,206 in 2018.


The A320 family surpassed the 737 family in yearly deliveries for the first time in the year 2002, when 236 aircraft of the family were delivered (85 A319, 116 A320 and 35 A321) compared to 223 737s. Since then Airbus has taken the lead in the relative market share between both families, with the exception of 2015 (49.8% – 50.2% for Boeing; with 4 aircraft making the difference – 491 vs 495).


The 737 was introduced in 1967, the A320 in 1988, 21 years later. The 737 led the market for another 14 years, increasing the gap in aircraft deliveries. Since then Airbus has been narrowing it: at the end of 2018 the gap was of 1,839 aircraft with 10,444 cumulative 737s delivered compared to 8,605 A320s.



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737 deliveries per year, 1967-2018

Two weeks ago, both Airbus and Boeing have released the figures of aircraft deliveries for the complete 2018: 800 and 806 airplanes, respectively, in what is a new industry record. This is just a quick post to share the graphic below with the evolution of 737 family deliveries per model since 1967 (year of its introduction) till 2018.

737 deliveries per year, 1967-2018

Through December 2018, up to 10,444 Boeing 737s have been delivered, making it the most successful commercial jet aircraft throughout history. In the graphic you can see the different generations: -100/-200 till the mid-80s, the -300/-400/-500 till the end of the 90s, the Next Gen in the 2000s and 2010s, until the introduction of the MAX a couple of years ago. With the steep ramp up in the recent years, it reached 580 deliveries in 2018.

However, it is worth noting that since 2002 Airbus A320 have delivered more aircraft in every single year with the exception of 2015. The 626 A320 deliveries in 2018 have meant a new industry record for commercial jet aircraft.


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Boeing 787 orders, cancellations, deliveries & backlog through 2018

Quick post with the updated figures and graphic of orders, cancellations, deliveries and backlog of the 787 programme at the end of 2018.

For the fifth consecutive year above a hundred 787 airplanes have been delivered in 2018, 145 deliveries, a new industry record for a commercial wide-body aircraft. At that pace, the backlog is being consumed quickly, especially since in the last years the wide-body market has been rather sluggish.

In the last 5 years, 487 gross orders for 787s were placed, offset by 114 cancellations (about 20%) for a total of 373 net orders, 109 of them in 2018, its best selling year since 2013. Book-to-bill ratio was 0.75 in 2018, less than a desired > 1, but better than in the previous years.

Since 2011, there have been 781 cumulative deliveries (or in-service aircraft), that is 56% of the standing 1,403 net orders. Reversely, there is a backlog (1) of 622 aircraft to be delivered, 44% of the orders received so far, or about 4.3 years of production at this rate.

787 orders and cancellations 2018

(1) Since Q1 2018 Boeing has adopted a new revenue Recognition Accounting Standard (ASC 606) which imposes additional criteria for the backlog accounting beyond the existence of a firm contract to deliver. For the purpose of this post, I have kept the previous criteria, knowing that the difference between 787 “unfilled orders” (622) and “backlog” (604) are 18 aircraft.

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El tráfico aéreo en Cataluña desde el 1 de Octubre (actualización 2018)

En enero de 2018 escribí una entrada en el blog para ver si a partir de los datos compilados por AENA (Aeropuertos Españoles y Navegación Aérea) se podía detectar algún impacto en el tráfico aéreo en Cataluña entre el 1-O y el 27-O y los meses siguientes. Tras analizar las diferentes curvas que incluí en aquel artículo, no se podía concluir un impacto:

sacar una conclusión clara de que hasta diciembre el 1-O o el 27-O hayan tenido un impacto en el tráfico aéreo de los aeropuertos en Cataluña se hace más difícil que leer los posos del café.

AENA acaba de publicar hoy las estadísticas de tráfico aéreo (medido en pasajeros, operaciones y toneladas de mercancía transportada) de diciembre de 2018 y con ellas las del conjunto del año 2018.

Durante 2018 fui mirando dichas estadísticas regularmente y compilándolas en un archivo para poder sacar ahora de nuevo esta entrada y ver si durante 2018 ha habido algún efecto en el tráfico aéreo debido a las tensiones que se viven en Cataluña.


pax mad - bcn - palma_2018

El volumen de pasajeros en el aeropuerto de Barcelona creció en todos los meses del año 2018 con respecto a los mismos meses de 2017. En la gráfica se observa que el crecimiento fue menor que el que obtuvo el aeropuerto de Madrid, pero mayor que el que obtuvo el de Palma de Mallorca.

En todo caso, en el global anual, Barcelona creció un 6.1%, por un 8.4% de Madrid, 4.0% de Mallorca y un crecimiento nacional (la consolidación de los 48 aeropuertos de la red) de 5.8%. Por tanto creció más que el volumen total nacional.


ops mad - bcn - palma_2018

En número de operaciones el aeropuerto de Barcelona creció en todos los meses del año 2018 con respecto a los mismos meses de 2017 (aunque en noviembre ese crecimiento fuese mínimo). En la gráfica se observa que el crecimiento fue menor que el que obtuvo el aeropuerto de Madrid, y aunque no se observa bien, fue también menor en porcentaje que el crecimiento que obtuvo el de Palma de Mallorca.

En todo caso, en el global anual, los tres aeropuertos tuvieron un crecimiento en volumen de operaciones menor que el crecimiento total nacional (5.8%): Barcelona creció un 3.7%, por un 5.7% de Madrid y 5.5% de Mallorca. Por tanto creció menos que el global nacional.


mer mad - bcn - zgz_2018

En volumen de mercancía transportada el aeropuerto de Barcelona creció en todos los meses del año 2018 con respecto al mismo mes de 2017, aunque ese crecimiento sea un tanto irregular según los meses del año (irregularidad que ya se dio en 2017).

En la gráfica se observa un crecimiento menor que el que obtuvo el aeropuerto de Madrid, pero éste es en términos absolutos: 47 millones de toneladas adicionales en Madrid en 2018 con respecto a 2017, por 17 millones más en Barcelona. Sin embargo, en términos relativos, el volumen creció en Barcelona un 10.8% por un 9.9% en Madrid (idéntico porcentaje que el crecimiento total nacional).

En todo caso, ambos aeropuertos crecieron menos que el tercer aeropuerto en carga, Zaragoza, que creció un 17.3%, superando en varios meses el volumen transportado en Barcelona (abril y de agosto a noviembre), aunque no el global anual.

A continuación dejo una tabla resumen con la evolución mes a mes comparada entre Madrid y Barcelona.

tablas comparativas_2018

Como conclusión final: el tráfico en Barcelona ha seguido creciendo en 2018, aunque el crecimiento haya sido menor que el que obtuvo en años anteriores (el crecimiento nacional también se ha desacelerado tanto en pasajeros como operaciones y mercancía). Ha crecido menos que el aeropuerto de Madrid en pasajeros y operaciones, pero más en mercancía. Y creció más que el crecimiento total nacional en pasajeros y mercancías, pero menos en operaciones.

Por tanto, de nuevo la conclusión tras el estudio de los datos y gráficas es que no se observa un impacto en el tráfico aéreo por ninguno de los hechos ocurridos en el último trimestre de 2017, ni por la posterior implantación del 155, ni la inestabilidad política.

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Cumulative wide-body airplanes’ deliveries per model, 1969-2018

Last week, both Airbus and Boeing have released the figures of aircraft deliveries for the complete 2018: 800 and 806 airplanes, respectively, in what is a new industry record. In a previous post I showed the evolution commercial wide-body airplanes’ deliveries per year since 1969 (year of the introduction of the 747) till 2018. In this article, I wanted to show this other graphic with the evolution of the cumulative wide-body airplanes’ deliveries per model since 1969 until 2018.

cumulative wide-body airplanes' deliveries per model per year, 1969-2018

For the first time since 1969, the Boeing 747 is not the most built wide-body airplane in history, as in 2018 it was surpassed by the Boeing 777. At the end of the year cumulative deliveries stood at 1,548 and 1,582, respectively.

Diving into Boeing Commercial Airplanes site, we can see when that happened:

  • On March 20th, with the delivery of a 777-300ER (MSN 64989; LN 1548) to United Airlines (registration N2645U), the 777 programme matched the 1,543 cumulative deliveries that the 747 had achieved until then.
  • On March 22nd, with the delivery of another 777-300ER (MSN 64085; LN 1538) this time to Qatar Airways (registration A7-BEQ), the 777 programme surpassed the 747 programme deliveries, and established a new record with 1,544 cumulative deliveries. Since then, it has taken the lead until year end (1,582) and for the foreseeable near future.

boeing 777 surpasses 747 in cumulative deliveries

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