Just three weeks into 2024, and already it’s been a very rough start for commercial aviation, specifically in the United States.
Airline Executive Headlines
In the first few weeks of the year, US airline CEOs have been all over the news and I doubt we’ve seen the last of them.
Hayes Out At JetBlue
As covered on this site (and many others), after eight years running JetBlue Airways, CEO Robin Hayes is stepping down. During his tenure he attempted two major acquisitions (both failed one in a bid and one in court); Virgin America and Spirit Airlines. He also created the Northeast Alliance with American Airlines (later struck down in court as well) in an attempt to partner with a network carrier rather than fight it. Finally, he took JetBlue across the Atlantic and expanded from Boston and New York flights to London Heathrow and Gatwick but then added Paris, fought for and won Amsterdam, and added seasonal flights to Dublin and Edinburgh.
He cited consultation with his physician as the reason for his departure and targeted the transition period at one month.
First Female CEO Of A US Airline
Hayes’ replacement, Joanna Geraghty, was a 20-year employee at JetBlue and COO. She embarks on perhaps one of the most difficult jobs not only in the airline business but in corporate management as well. Her current list of tasks include:
- Improve operationally
- Improve the business financially
- Appeal the Spirit decision
- Avoid appeal, but risk a suit for not complying with Spirit deal terms
- Avoid bankruptcy
- Consider other growth targets (Hawaiian has said that it’s open to other suitors)
- Grow the carrier without a source for new equipment or crew to fly them
In the next year she will not only define herself but the future of JetBlue and perhaps reshape the industry. No pressure.
Scott Kirby Dragged For Videos
Old videos this week resurfaced of United CEO, Scott Kirby, attending public functions (usually company parties) in drag. These appear to be events where his appearance in women’s clothing wasn’t to make a personal nor a professional statement but rather to have fun. Still, the videos which have been around for many years are making the rounds and the headlines.
While there haven’t been any casualties for the year for commercial aviation, there have been many, many close calls.
Japan Airlines 516 and Japanese Coast Guard Runway Collision
To start the year off, Japan Airlines 516 was involved in a runway incursion as it landed at Tokyo’s Haneda airport. It collided with a Japanese Coast Guard aircraft entering the runway. A total of (5) crew members aboard the Coast Guard’s Dash-8 perished (pilot survived), however, all 379 aboard the JAL Airbus A350-900 evacuated and everyone survived.
While tragic for the Coast Guard crew and terrifying for the passengers, the event was the first true test of the A350 and its safety. The aircraft was later consumed by flames and was a total hull loss.
Alaska Airlines Door
A lifetime worth of stories have been published about the plugged door on an Alaska Airlines 737 MAX 9 and for good reason, it’s terrifying. As of writing, 40 of 170 737 MAX 9 aircraft have passed inspection but the type hasn’t yet been approved for a return to the skies. United mechanics indicated that they had found some evidence of missing bolts upon inspection. Others have asked why 737-900 ERs with a similar feature haven’t been grounded. It was incredibly fortunate that no one was seated next to the door, nor any others were injured on this flight.
ERJ Slides Off Runway
It’s winter and the weather has been very bad especially in the upper midwest and northeastern states. On Thursday, January 19th, 2024 an ERJ veered off the runway in Rochester. All 50 passengers and three crew members were safe. These things happen during icy conditions but travelers are wise to pay attention to such issues.
Southern Airways Express Plane Lands Across From Aldi, Wendy’s
In the most lighthearted of aircraft stories in this young year, a Southern Airways Express single-engine prop plane from Washington Dulles to Lancaster, Pennsylvania called a mayday early into its flight. In fact, after speaking over others on the radio several times, the pilot announced the aircraft was already on the ground. It’s worth a listen:
— Thenewarea51 (@thenewarea51) January 19, 2024
Atlas Airways 747 Shoots Fire From Engine Over Miami
Cargo Airline, Atlas, filled concerned citizens in Miami with terror as it blazed across the night sky shooting fire from the number two engine. Reportedly, a softball size hole was discovered in the engine upon safe landing back in Miami. Boeing is catching a lot of heat as the plane’s manufacturer on the heels of the 737 MAX 9 quality concerns. However, most readers of this site will recognize that:
- Engine fires, while unpleasant, are far more common than the 737 MAX 9 incident
- The engine manufacturer would be responsible if it were a structural, quality issue
- The maintenance department at Atlas is responsible for checking and maintaining the equipment
- It’s possible (perhaps probably) none of the above and rather something that came into the engine which isn’t the fault of any of the above
I’ll carry this on further when I explore what could happens in a busy year of airline merger & acquisition action in another post. But for now, there have been four significant aircraft events in three weeks, one incredibly substantial. Airline executives have been all over the headlines already and most likely will continue to be as at least Geraghty faces immense challenges in the coming months.
What do you think? Does it feel like this year has been particularly busy in the commercial aviation space?