Flight Blog

September 25, 2014

 

The number of people using the Springfield airport has been up since the first of year, but as the year progresses it’s becoming increasingly clear that the growth is not limited to Springfield. Other airports, approximately our size, are also seeing double digit growth.

 

It's worth mentioning because all of us have a tendency to view things from a local perspective. Even in today’s wired age it’s sometimes easy to forget that what happens in Southwest Missouri is tied to happenings across the nation, and the globe. Such is the case with airport passenger numbers.

 

Let’s take a look at total passenger growth at airports in the region, for the period January – August of this year:
 

  • (XNA) Northwest Arkansas: + %10.73
     
  • (FSM) Ft. Smith: + 6.77%
     
  • (LIT) Little Rock: - 5%
     
  • (TUL) Tulsa: + 4.6%
     
  • (SGF) Springfield-Branson: + 11.9%

Note that the airports with the largest growth are XNA and SGF. Besides similar growth numbers, both of these airports have something in common: from year to year they are roughly the same size in terms of passenger numbers and total number of commercial flights.

 

Now let’s look at passenger numbers for five airports that are much like ours in terms of population served, personal income, and per capita personal income. Here they are, along with their percentage change in passenger numbers for the period January-June, 2014:

 

AIRPORT CODE CITY

TOTAL PASSENGERS

Jan - June 2014

SOURCE
       
AVL Ashville, NC +12.5% Link
       
SGF Springfield, MO +12.1% Link
       
CRP Corpus Christi, TX +11.6% Link
       
SHV Shreveport, LA +9% Link
       
EUG Eugene, OR +2.89% Link
       
ROA Roanoke, VA -1% Link

 

 

So what’s the point? The point is that many airports our size are seeing significant growth this year; it’s not just happening in Springfield. There are several reasons for this, but I think there’s one that really stands out: between 2008 and 2011 the airlines made huge cuts at these airports (we saw a 22% cut in the number of available seats in 2011). The airlines cut back so much that passenger demand soon outpaced the number of available seats. So now the airlines are bringing seats back to these markets in order to meet demand.

Posted in: Airlines, How the Airport Works | 0 Comment(s) ››

September 15, 2014

 

Statistics tell us that flying is one of the safest ways to travel. At the Springfield airport we do our part to make sure it stays that way — for the tenth year in a row we’ve received a discrepancy free safety inspection from the Federal Aviation Administration.

 

On Monday the FAA recognized our success by awarding us the “Airport Safety Enhancement Award.” The award goes to airports which receive discrepancy free safety inspections three years in a row. Getting one discrepancy free inspection is a great accomplishment for any airport. Doing it ten years in a row is a rare achievement. Airfield maintenance worker, Troy Morehouse, sums it up best. “It’s like winning the Academy Award for best picture.”

 

The annual FAA safety inspection is a demanding review of everything at the airport that affects aircraft safety. If an airport can’t hack it, airlines can’t, and won't, fly there.

 

FAA inspectors review a long list. It includes runway pavement condition, airfield marking and lighting, the readiness of the airport fire department, snow and ice removal, security … it’s a very long list.

 

“It’s so vast. It has to do with fencing, with the height of grass, with wildlife ...” says Morehouse.

 

ANIMAL CONTROL

 

Wildlife was a hot topic with the public five years ago after a flock of Canada geese brought down a US Airways flight after take-off from New York City (the plane landed in the Hudson River with no loss of life). But airports have talked about wildlife for years — as in, "how do we control it?"

 

The airport must show FAA inspectors that it knows what wildlife is on the airport, and that it has a plan to deal with it.

 

“Runway inspections are one way we track wildlife,” says Morehouse. You look for any remains of an animal hit by an aircraft. We collect it and record where it was found on the runway.” Even small birds get attention. “Smaller birds can be very dense. So when a plane hits them it’s almost the equivalent of getting hit by a baseball.”
 

Troy Morehouse retrieves a dead bird from a runway then logs the location on an airport map.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some wildlife control methods are obvious — like shooting off pyrotechnics to scare off birds. Other methods are more subtle. Suppose, for example, that a certain breed of hawk suddenly shows up in numbers. Airport staff might try to figure out what the hawks are eating — are there more rabbits in the area than before? To control the hawk population you might have to do something about the rabbits.

 

AIRCRAFT CONTROL

 

When an aircraft is on the ground it depends on airport lights, signs and paint to figure out where to go. The Springfield airport has about 1400 lights along the edges of the runways and taxiways. Add to that several hundred signs, along with miles and miles of painted lines. If you could put all the paint in a six inch line it would be 40 miles long. And all of it — lights, signs, paint — has to be nearly perfect.

 

“Each of those lights has its own transformer, so there are hundreds of transformers,” says Morehouse. “And miles and miles of cable connect all those lights.” It all has to work.

 

After so many years of acing the inspection is there anyway to make things even better? Morehouse says there is ...

 

"We all try to better ourselves every day and improve on what we've done. That may sound kind of crazy — we've done so well the past 10 years — I mean what is there left to improve on? There's always something to improve on."

 


 

Only a few of the airport's hundred+ employees are seen here. Please know that everyone pitches in to make the airport's safety culture possible. This Thursday, September 18, the Airport Board, along with airport administration, will honor them all. The meeting begins at 8:00 am in Board Room, which is located in the main terminal building. Feel free to join us.

 

 

Here we see airport team member Jonathan Woodside doing maintenance on a snowblower. The FAA inspects nearly every piece of equipment on the airfield.

Dozens of aircraft navigate the ground everyday at our airport. The fact that they do
so safely is a testament to the hard work and dedication of airport staff.

 
   
The FAA inspects all aspects of aircraft fueling. Team member Tim Boram is busy
fueling a privately owned aircraft.
Miles and miles of painting to go ... Josh Shank and Tony Leckrone makes sure every
inch meets FAA specs.
   

Thou "grass height shall be kept at 2-4 inches." Airport team member Tony Leckrone makes sure it's so!

Aircraft rescue firefighter Eric Sanders does a daily fire truck inspection.  

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in: How the Airport Works | 0 Comment(s) ››

September 8, 2014

 

We’ve got an interesting air fare war going on in Springfield . We haven’t seen this sort of thing since before the recession.

 

Here’s what’s going on — bear with me ... this gets complicated!

 

Right now both United and American are matching round trip fares between Springfield and Atlanta for $404.

 

That may not sound like a big deal but here’s the thing: neither of those two airlines fly non-stop from Springfield to Atlanta. They’ll have to fly you from Springfield through Chicago, or Dallas, to get to Atlanta. Delta, on the other hand, does fly non-stop between Springfield and Atlanta.

 

So here’s the deal: United and American are taking dead aim at Delta’s passengers flying non-stop between Springfield and Atlanta.

 

Not to be out done Delta is taking aim at United and American non-stop flights between Springfield and Chicago: Delta is offering round trip fare from Springfield to Chicago for $430. Since Delta doesn’t have non-stop flights from Springfield to Chicago, you’ll have to fly through Atlanta.

 

Now $430 may not strike you as being a bargain fare. But here’s the deal: United often charges over a thousand bucks for the Springfield to Chicago round trip …

 

So yes — we’ve got a fare war on our hands!

 

www.aa.com

 

www.delta.com

 

www.united.com

 

Fair warning: If you go looking for these fares you’ll discover that they’re not available on all flights, and for all dates. Many of the deals will be found for travel in the 4th quarter. So keep on looking and good luck!

Posted in: Airlines, Fares | 0 Comment(s) ››

August 29, 2014

 

The post Labor Day season begins with an event of some note at our airport: a legacy airline will bring big jet service back to Springfield: barring a schedule change Delta will bring a Boeing 717 here Tuesday evening about 7:45.

 

The event is noteworthy because it likely marks the beginning of the end of regional jet service in Springfield.

 

Regional jets (RJs for short) are those little jets that everyone loves to hate. In our market they generally have 50 seats. They’re cramped. They’re stuffy.

 

Airlines started using RJs in the late 1990s and their use grew into the new century. At their peak they flew over 50% of the nation’s air travelers. Now, airlines are getting rid of RJs as fast as they can …

 

Why the change? In a word: economics. Back in the 1990s RJs were cheaper to fly than bigger jets. Today, it’s the other way around. By some estimates most RJs will be grounded within the next five years.

 

That’s the Big Picture overview of RJs. Now, let’s bring it down to the local level …

 

We expect most RJs to leave this market within the next five years (for all the reasons mentioned above). Having said that, it’s possible that RJs’ will exit this market sooner due to strong demand. The number of people using the Springfield airport is up 12 percent over last year. We believe this strong demand is the main reason Delta is bringing the 717 to the market now.

 

The airline currently has five daily Atlanta flights on 50-seat regional jets. On Tuesday a 717 will serve one of those flights. That means four flights a day on 50-seat planes, and one on a 717, which has 110 seats. The addition of a 717 adds more seats per day to Atlanta. That’s important because the 50-seaters are frequently sold-out. More seats per day means fewer customers turned away.

 

All-in-all, the return of bigger jets is to be applauded … but there is a downside.

 

As more regional jets go away we will likely see a decrease in the numbers of daily flights — with bigger jets it takes fewer flights to move the same number of people …

 

Example: today we have seven flights to Dallas on 50-seat RJs (that’s a total of 350 seats). Having that many flights per day gives travelers a lot of flexibility when it comes to trip planning. Let’s suppose the airline replaces those seven flights with big jets that have 150 seats a piece (that’s a total of 450 seats). That’s right — the airline would need just three flights a day to move the same number of people.

 

Bottom line: there’s an upside and a downside to bigger jets: more comfort vs. number of flights. That’s the tradeoff we’ll face in the next few years.

 

Posted in: Airlines, Delta, How the Airport Works | 0 Comment(s) ››

August 21, 2014

The upward passenger trend continues at our airport …

 

In July total passenger numbers were up 10.8%. That’s compared to the same month last year. Year to date our numbers are up 11.9%.

 

These are the best growth numbers we’ve had since before the Great Recession. They reflect not only an improving Southwest Missouri economy, but an improving national economy as well. Airports across the country are benefiting — let’s take a look at five airports roughly comparable to ours …

 

Statistically speaking, there are five airport markets similar to us in terms of population served, personal income, and per capita personal income. Here they are, along with their percentage change in passenger numbers for the period January-June, 2014:

 

AIRPORT CODE CITY

TOTAL PASSENGERS

Jan - June 2014

SOURCE
       
AVL Ashville, NC +12.5% Link
       
SGF Springfield, MO +12.1% Link
       
CRP Corpus Christi, TX +11.6% Link
       
SHV Shreveport, LA +9% Link
       
EUG Eugene, OR +2.89% Link
       
ROA Roanoke, VA -1% Link

 

These increases come after several years of declining, or flat passenger numbers. And as you can see growth is not confined to Springfield — it’s part of a national growth trend this year. The health of the national economy has a lot to do with it, as does the improved financial health of the airlines. But perhaps most importantly, at least in our market, the airlines have noted our pent up demand — we’ve been telling the airlines for several years that more people would fly from Springfield if only there were more seats.

 

Until now, the “give us more seats” argument has been a tough sell. That’s because the airlines have focused relentlessly on cutting the number of seats in the air (fewer seats in the air means less cost). But now the airlines see our pent up demand and they’re responding accordingly.

 

So far this year the number of airline flights in Springfield is up 3.8. And the number of seats in the market is up 6.4 percent. These increases come after years of negative numbers at airports across the country.  And Delta is bringing bigger planes to our airport …

 

Delta currently has five daily Atlanta flights on 50-seat regional jets. Boeing 717s will serve one of those flights beginning September 2.  That means four flights a day on 50-seat planes, and one on a 717, which has 110 seats. Let’s do some basic airline math …

 

We’ll work off just the Monday-Friday flight schedule …

 

The 717 aircraft brings 60 more seats a day to the market. Multiply that by the number of weekdays left in the year (87) and you get at least an additional 5,220 seats coming to our market. Let’s put it another way …

 

In November Delta will have at least 18% more seats flying between Springfield and Atlanta (when compared to the same month last year). That’s a HUGE increase — and one that promises to keep our growth numbers way up through the end of the year.

 

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