Southwest Airlines Co. is a major U.S. airline and the world's largest low-cost carrier, headquartered in Dallas, Texas. The airline was established in 1967 and adopted its current name in 1971. The airline has nearly 46,000 employees as of December 2014 and operates more than 3,400 flights per day. As of June 5, 2011, it carries the most domestic passengers of any U.S. airline. As of November 2014, Southwest Airlines has scheduled service to 93 destinations in 41 states, Puerto Rico and abroad.Southwest Airlines has used only Boeing 737s, except for a few years in the 1970s and 1980s, when it leased a few Boeing 727s. As of August 2012 Southwest is the largest operator of the 737 worldwide with over 550 in service, each averaging six flights per day. Wikipedia.
On Friday, United Airlines will launch a new initiative that uses biofuel to help power flights running between Los Angeles and San Francisco, with eventual plans to expand to all flights operating out of LAX. It’s the first time an American airline will begin using renewable fuel for regular commercial operations, and the occasion is part of a bigger movement when it comes to clean transportation in the U.S. The renewable fuel used to power United’s planes will be coming from a Los Angeles refinery operated by AltAir Fuels, which is using the facility to produce both renewable jet fuel and diesel fuel using a technology developed by Honeywell UOP, a major supplier and technology licenser in the petroleum industry. Back in 2013, AltAir and United announced their partnership, in which United will purchase up to 15 million gallons of biofuel over a three-year period. Friday’s launch will be the first application of that agreement. The flights will use a mixture of 30 percent biofuel and 70 percent traditional fuel, and United says that the biofuel will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 60 percent compared with regular fuel. In general, the idea behind renewable fuels is to use a biological source — for example, plant or animal matter — rather than a geological one, like oil. The Honeywell UOP technology that’s being applied at the AltAir refinery can utilize a range of difference sources, from used cooking oil to algae. The technology has been in the works since 2007, when the company was awarded a grant from DARPA to develop green jet fuel, according to Veronica May, vice president and general manager of renewable energy and chemicals at Honeywell UOP. Currently, its technology allows for the production of diesel fuel that can be used in any proportion with existing diesel engines — up to 100 percent. Its jet fuel can replace up to 50 percent of petroleum fuel in existing aircraft. Altogether, both fuels can offer up to about an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared with traditional fuel, the company says. “This is a long-term investment toward the future of sustainability for our company and for our communities,” said Angela Foster-Rice, United’s managing director of environmental affairs and sustainability, adding that “it’s also very business-smart and helps our community with clean energy jobs as well.” The announcement comes at a time when interest in using biofuel to cut down on carbon emissions in the transportation sector is climbing — but also when it has been beset with controversy. The Environmental Protection Agency already requires refiners to mix a certain amount of renewable fuel, mainly corn-based ethanol, into their gasoline — and just last November, the agency chose to increase those standards in a move that inspired has considerable criticism from the petroleum industry, which has been sparring with the nation’s ethanol producers for the past several years. So when it comes to biofuels for motor vehicles, the issue remains fraught with controversy. Renewable jet fuel, on the other hand, constitutes a relatively untapped opportunity. But while United may be first U.S.-based airline to launch regular biofuel-powered commercial flights, it will likely not be the last. Both Southwest Airlines and FedEx have reportedly contracted with a company called Red Rock Biofuels to start buying renewable jet fuel. And marine transportation may be just starting to jump on board as well. At the end of January, the U.S. Navy formally launched its “Great Green Fleet,” a deployment of warships also powered by renewable fuel supplied by AltAir. AltAir is reportedly contracted to supply 77 million gallons of the fuel overall by September of this year. When it comes to both marine and aircraft transportation, there’s been a great deal of discussion recently about how to slash emissions, both through renewable fuels and through other forms of technology, said Dan Rutherford, marine and aviation program director at the International Council on Clean Transportation. Aircraft currently contribute to a little over 1 percent of all the world’s carbon emissions and climbing, and Rutherford said shipping accounts for a slightly higher proportion — about 3 percent. Aviation, in particular, has received considerable attention recently because of the expected rapid growth in its global emissions over the next several years if action is not taken. And planes are especially difficult to decarbonize because they are so difficult to power by alternative means. A few manufacturers have experimented with electric aircraft, but the technology is in no condition to be used for commercial means any time soon. In an attempt to start addressing the problem, just last month the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) proposed the world’s first carbon dioxide emissions standards for aircraft. And back in 2011, according to Rutherford, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) passed a set of fuel efficiency standards for new ships, which went into effect last year. However, while each move was an important step forward, both the marine and aviation standards applied only to new crafts, meaning existing planes and ships have not been required to upgrade. ICAO was roundly criticized by environmentalists over this issue when it released its proposal in February, and Rutherford noted that there is also “a big discussion within IMO about whether there should be efficiency standards for existing ships.” But the use of biofuels is one possibility for existing machines to cut down on their emissions without having to upgrade their engines or other aspects of their design or engineering. “Drop-in” fuels are renewable fuels that are designed to work safely with existing engines, although as in the case of the United flights, they sometimes require mixing with traditional fuels. Of course, Honeywell UOP’s technology isn’t the only one out there — and AltAir’s refinery isn’t the only plant, either. United, for instance, also recently made a $30 million investment in Fulcrum Bioenergy, which has developed a way to convert household garbage into fuel. That partnership comes with the opportunity for the airline to purchase at least 90 million gallons of renewable jet fuel per year, and also to co-develop biorefineries in at least five locations around the U.S., according to Foster-Rice. So the interest in expanding biofuels throughout the transportation sector is slowly starting to pick up. However, it’s unclear for the time being whether other airlines — or other marine fleets, for that matter — will follow suit with similar investments any time soon. And according to Rutherford, there are still many questions to be answered about the relative role of biofuels versus other technologies when it comes to cutting carbon emissions, particularly in aviation. How much airlines will be willing to pay for renewable fuel is one important point to consider in the future, he noted, as well as questions about the sustainability and efficiency of the fuels, themselves. “People are always analyzing how good these fuels can be and how they can get better,” he said. But May, of Honeywell UOP, is optimistic about continued interest in the industry. The EPA’s recent action to increase standards on biofuels and gasoline has sparked an interest from refiners in green diesel, she said, adding that other parties have also expressed an interest in the green jet fuel, although United remains the only U.S. airline to make a commercial commitment to the use of biofuels in aircraft. “We’ve made really significant strides over the last 10 years in developing new technologies, and we intend to continue to be in the industry for the foreseeable future innovating new technologies,” she said. 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News Article | December 10, 2015
American company Boeing rolled out its new 737 MAX 8 airplane, aptly named the "Spirit of Renton," to its employees. The new single-aisle aircraft, which is the latest in the 737 line, debuted in a teal paint scheme. Compared to its predecessors in the Next-Generation 737 planes, the MAX 8 has 20 percent reduced fuel usage and the lowest rate of operating expenses. During the unveiling of the 737 MAX 8, 737 MAX - Boeing Commercial Airplanes' general manager and vice president Keith Leverkuhn highlighted the team's extensive series of milestones with the on time rollout of the new aircraft. "With the rollout of the new 737 MAX - the first new airplane of Boeing's second century - our team is upholding an incredible legacy while taking the 737 to the next level of performance," said Leverkuhn. The 737 MAX 8 test flights are scheduled in early 2016. The 737 MAX 8 is registered as 1A001. It is the first of four other MAX aircrafts that will be used in the Federal Aviation Administration's certification program. Upon certification, the first batch of planes will be delivered to Southwest Airlines later in 2017. Its three other brothers, including the 1A002 and 1A003 MAX test aircraft, are waiting in the assembly line. Boeing stressed that the new 737 MAX 8 is just the first of many single-aisle aircrafts the company is producing soon, namely the 737 MAX 7, MAX 8, MAX 9 and MAX 200. To date, the 737 MAX group boasts of nearly 3,000 orders for the line from 60 clients around the globe. "We're going to be spending some time with the plane, getting it ready for its first flight in early 2016," added Leverkuhn. Boeing's MAX program performance is way better compared to that of 787. The 787 line was delayed by many years and burdened with battery issues and a fleet grounding that lasted three months upon entering service. Regardless of 787's shortcomings, the 737 MAX line is technically the more advanced version. This makes the airframe 50 years old once the MAX enters service.
News Article | August 24, 2016
When most major airlines began charging flyers for checked bags in 2008, travelers grumbled. Southwest Airlines—one of the most successfully run airlines in history—even resisted and seized a new marketing slogan "bags fly free."
News of any terrible air accident, such as the recent crash of a Russian plane in Egypt that killed 224 people, instantly raises questions about aircraft safety and the threat of terrorism. But until the facts are known, it is unwise to speculate on what might actually have caused a specific crash. What we do know is that there are several causes that are more likely to occur than any other. As aircraft have become more reliable, the proportion of crashes caused by pilot error has increased and now stands at around 50%. Aircraft are complex machines that require a lot of management. Because pilots actively engage with the aircraft at every stage of a flight, there are numerous opportunities for this to go wrong, from failing to programme the vital flight-management computer (FMC) correctly to miscalculating the required fuel uplift. While such errors are regrettable, it is important to remember that the pilot is the last line of defence when things go catastrophically wrong. In January 2009 an Airbus A320 hit a flock of geese over New York City. With no power, the captain, Chesley Sullenberger, had to weigh up a number of options and act quickly. Using his extensive flying experience and knowledge of the plane's handling qualities he elected to ditch the aircraft in the Hudson River. The 150 passengers were not saved by computers or any other automated system. They were saved by the two pilots – the very components that techno-enthusiasts claim can be replaced by computers and ground controllers. Equipment failures still account for around 20% of aircraft losses, despite improvements in design and manufacturing quality. While engines are significantly more reliable today than they were half a century ago, they still occasionally suffer catastrophic failures. In 1989, a disintegrating fan blade caused the number one (left-hand) engine of a Belfast-bound British Midland Boeing 737-400 to lose power. Hard-to-read instrumentation contributed to the pilots' misreading of which engine was losing power. Confused, the pilots shut off the number two (right-hand) engine. With no power, the aircraft crashed short of East Midlands Airport's Runway 27, killing 47 and injuring many, including the captain and first officer. More recently, a Qantas A380 carrying 459 passengers and crew suffered an uncontained engine failure over Batam Island, Indonesia. Thanks to the skill of the pilots, the stricken aircraft landed safely. Sometimes, new technologies introduce new types of failure. In the 1950s, for example, the introduction of high-flying, pressurised jet aircraft introduced an entirely new hazard – metal fatigue brought on by the hull's pressurisation cycle. Several high-profile disasters caused by this problem led to the withdrawal of the de Havilland Comet aircraft model, pending design changes. Bad weather accounts for around 10% of aircraft losses. Despite a plethora of electronic aids like gyroscopic compasses, satellite navigation and weather data uplinks, aircraft still founder in storms, snow and fog. In December 2005, Southwest Airlines Flight 1248, flying from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to Chicago Midway International Airport, attempted to land in a snowstorm. It skidded off the runway and crashed into a line of cars, killing a toddler. One of the most notorious bad-weather incidents occurred in February 1958 when a British European Airways twin-engined passenger aircraft crashed while attempting to take off from Munich-Riem Airport. Many of the 23 killed on the aircraft played for Manchester United Football Club. Investigators established that the aircraft had been slowed to such a degree by slush (known to pilots as "runway contamination"), that it failed to achieve take-off speed. Surprisingly, perhaps, lightning is not the threat that many passengers believe (or fear) it to be. About 10% of aircraft losses are caused by sabotage. As with lightning strikes, the risk posed by sabotage is much less than many people seem to believe. Nevertheless, there have been numerous spectacular and shocking attacks by saboteurs. The September 1970 hijacking of three passenger jet aircraft to Dawsons Field in Jordan was a watershed moment in aviation history that prompted a review of security. Hijacked by devotees of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the three aircraft were blown up in full view of the world's press. Despite improvements, malcontents still penetrate the security veil, as with the 2001 "shoe-bomber", Richard Reid. Fortunately, Reid's attempt to bring down an aircraft mid-flight proved unsuccessful. The remaining losses are attributed to other types of human error, like mistakes made by air traffic controllers, dispatchers, loaders, fuellers or maintenance engineers. Sometimes required to work long shifts, maintenance engineers can make potentially catastrophic mistakes. In 1990, a windscreen blowout on a British Airways flight nearly cost the life of the aircraft's captain. According to the Air Accidents Investigation Branch, almost all of the windscreen's 90 securing bolts "were of smaller than specified diameter". Rather than attributing the mis-match between bolts and countersunk holes to his selection of the wrong-sized bolts, the maintenance engineer responsible for fitting the new windscreen blamed oversized countersinks. The engineer had not been sleeping well and did the windscreen replacement work during the period when his body clock wanted him to sleep, a time when reasoning and judgement easily falter.
News Article | January 12, 2016
The disorder known as trisomy 21 is untreatable. Or is it? Some families think an antidepressant could help.When Southwest Airlines pilot Paul Watson lands in a new city, he often strikes out to visit the labs of local scientists studying Down syndrome. He likes to stay current because his 14-year-old son, Nathan, has the condition.