31 August 2008

John McCain chooses Alaska Governor Sarah Palin

A few weeks ago I mentioned to a friend who follows US politics that he should read up about Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as a likely vice presidential running mate for the 2008 Republican presidential candidate, Senator John McCain. I wasn't caught by surprise when she was selected late last week. This lady has a fascinating personal story that is now getting extensive media coverage.

At least one blog had been supporting her for months.

The aviation angles? Her husband Todd has a private pilot licence, owns a Super Cub manufactured in 1958 and registered N8149D, and they have a daughter called Piper. As was the case with Democratic vice presidential candidate Senator Joseph Biden, the first clue as to who McCain might have picked came from those who follow business jet movements. John McCain, of course, was a US Navy pilot.

The United Arab Emirates concludes new air services arrangements with Jordan and Nigeria

The United Arab Emirates has concluded new air services arrangements with Jordan (announced on 3 July 2008) and Nigeria (announced on 30 July 2008)(see previous post).

The End of Aviation?

The New Republic has a thought-provoking article, "The End Of Aviation", dated 27 August 2008 by Bradford Plumer.

I have greater faith in technological solutions to civil aviation's current fossil-fuel challenge but it is clear that the aerospace and airline industries must adapt and do so quickly.

17 August 2008

Iran and the Philippines conclude first air services agreement

On 7 August 2008 Fars News Agency reported that Iran and the Philippines have concluded their first air services agreement. This was also reported in Manila Times story on the same day.

16 August 2008

New Zealand Minister of Tourism comments on Thai Airways' Auckland service

On 13 August 2008 the Bangkok Post reported comments by the New Zealand Minister of Tourism, Hon Damien O'Connor, on the possibility that Thai Airways International may reroute its current non-stop Bangkok-Auckland flights via Australia (see previous post).

14 August 2008

Official Australian tourism forecasts

Australia's official tourism forecasts are published twice yearly, the latest being produced in August 2008.

It is interesting to compare these with the latest New Zealand forecasts (see previous post). The Australian forecasts are predicting 0.0% inbound growth in 2008 before rising 3.3% in 2009. Outbound growth from Australia is expected to be strong - 9.9% in 2008 and 8.0% in 2009.

Tourism Australia also publishes good information on Australia's aviation markets, including market share and historical seat capacity data.

10 August 2008

Airline seat capacity reducing from East Asia to New Zealand but trans-Tasman competition increasing

Thai Airways was reported in the Wall Street Journal to be considering routing its non-stop Bangkok-Auckland operations via Australia.

On 26 July 2008 the Star reported that Malaysia Airlines plans to use smaller aircraft on its services to Australia and New Zealand. It is temporarily reducing capacity to Auckland by one flight per week for a month.

On 7 August 2008 the China Post reported that EVA Airways would be suspending its operations to Auckland from 1 September 2008 and Tourism New Zealand would be closing its Taipei office.

By way of background, in 2006 Garuda ceased services from Denpasar to Auckland, and Air New Zealand ceased operations to Singapore when it extended its Hong Kong services to London and commenced services to Shanghai.

On a more positive note for seat capacity to New Zealand, on 18 July 2008 Air New Zealand commenced non-stop operations to Beijing, and Pacific Blue has announced that it will be commencing trans-Tasman services on both the Melbourne-Auckland (from 22 September 2008) and Sydney-Auckland (from 14 October 2008) routes. Emirates is reported in the NZ Herald on 8 August 2008 to be planning to introduce the A380 on services to Auckland from 1 February 2009 and increase the size of aircraft it operates to Christchurch. Royal Brunei has started operating daily to Auckland via Brisbane.

It would be hard to find many examples around the world where so many airlines are competing as on the main trans-Tasman routes.

Eric Beinhocker on complexity economics

I have recently finished the book The Origin of Wealth - Evolution, Complexity and the Radical Remaking of Economics by Eric D. Beinhocker from McKinsey & Company. For those interested in some provocative, non-conventional - some might say leading edge - thinking about economics, it is well worth a read.

I was intrigued to find that the key ideas in the book are neatly summarised in a presentation UPDATED (.pdf) given by the author in April 2007 that is on the UK Cabinet Office web site.

New air services arrangements signed by Kenya and Congo

On 1 August 2008 it was reported from Brazzaville that Congo and Kenya had signed a new air services agreement.

The great QANTAS safety record myth

Three recent QANTAS aviation safety "incidents", including a very serious one near Manila on 25 July 2008 when a large part from the fuselage of a B747-400 was lost but fortunately no one was injured, have yet again seen misreporting in the non-aviation news media about the safety record of the airline. For example, Bloomberg fell for this myth in a 25 July 2008 story - "Qantas, which has never had a fatal plane accident in its 87-year history, ..."

As a historian this bugs me and I was intrigued to find that someone has put an article on Wikipedia with the facts, listing the airline's fatal accidents.

An Australian Transport Safety Bureau media release dated 30 July 2008 provides an update on the B747 depressurisation incident.

QANTAS has yet to lose a jet aircraft hull and I hope it never does.

A US legal perspective on the EU plan to include international aviation in its ETS

On 7 February 2008 New York-based attorney Stephen Stegich presented a 21-page paper on the European Union emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) and aviation.

Although there have been developments since it was presented (see previous post), the paper provides good background on the issues involved and touches on the legal differences between the EU and others who question the legality of what the EU is planning to do.

Trial New Zealand resident departures chart

I have now completed a second Google Motion Chart. It is on New Zealand Resident Departures for the current top 30 markets and covers the period 1983-2004.

To see the animation click on Gadget1 - see top left - and then press the play button. Roll your mouse pointer over individual bubbles to see the market names. Click on them to produce a label. With the trace box (right centre) selected, click on a bubble and press play (bottom left) for a year-by-year view of changes (click on the bubble again to deselect). Multiple bubbles can be selected.

I used data on great circle distances from Auckland airport (AKL)(from Great Circle Mapper) for the X axis, real GDP per capita on a PPP basis (from Gapminder) for the Y axis and New Zealand resident departure numbers (from Statistics NZ Table 3.01) for the bubbles. Note that the market concerned is where New Zealand residents have declared that they will be spending the most time on their trip - their country of main destination. (See previous post.)

08 August 2008

Beijing Olympics 2008

The 2008 Summer Olympic in China are underway so it is time to have a few links to follow the sporting action. But first some great Olympics-related interactive graphics are available from the New York Times, such as a bubble chart on the medals awarded at every modern summer Olympics (click on the bubbles).

Now for some links:
With more and more people turning to the web for their news and entertainment I am expecting great things from creative web designers.

As for the aviation connection, on 18 July 2008 Air New Zealand started operating non-stop services from Auckland to Beijing.

New Zealand air services agreements available on the web

The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has arranged for the New Zealand Treaty Series to be available on the web from NZLII.

This includes most of New Zealand's air services agreements (ASAs).

I will endeavour to compile a list of links to the ASAs and an unofficial annotation of their status.

A couple of important notes of caution though.

First, the texts are not consolidated so there may be subsequent amendments.

Second, to fully understand an air services arrangement one must almost always also read the related Memorandum of Understanding and these are generally not available on the web. They may contain quantitative restrictions on what international airlines can do and are sometimes confidential. In the case of New Zealand these less-than-treaty-status documents are held by the Ministry of Transport.

New Zealand Transport Strategy 2008 released

On 5 August 2008 the New Zealand Minister of Transport, Hon. Annette King, released the New Zealand Transport Strategy 2008 UPDATED (NZTS). It is well worth a read.

References directly relevant to international air services negotiations can be found on pages 9, 41, 55 and 75.

Also released at the same time is a related new Transport Monitoring Indicator Framework. This is very much a work in progress. When compared to Australian official transport statistics New Zealand's have been much less comprehensive. This new development should help improve the situation while being more focused on the long-term targets that the New Zealand government wishes to achieve.

Official New Zealand tourism forecasts

On 31 July 2008 New Zealand's official tourism forecasts for 2008-2014 were released. The forecasts are produced by an Auckland-based economics consultancy Covec. (See previous post.)

For 2008 international visitor arrivals to New Zealand are forecast to grow by just 1.2% while growth in outbound overseas travel by New Zealand residents is expected to be even weaker at only 0.6%. The former is expected to rebound to 2.4% in 2009 while the latter is expected to fall further to 0.1%.

These forecasts have a good track record of accuracy. With the gyrations in the price of oil that record will really be put to the test this year.

The econometrics techniques that go into the forecasts are very through. I am part of the Delphi panel each year. My contribution is less theoretically based!

03 August 2008

Countdown to startup of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a 27 kilometer-long particle accelerator straddling the border of Switzerland and France just outside Geneva, is nearly set to begin its first particle beam tests. The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) is preparing for its first small tests in early August, leading to a planned full-track test in September, and the first planned particle collisions before the end of the year. The final step before starting is the chilling of the entire collider to -271.25 C.

On 30 June 2008 The Guardian published a number of articles about the LHC and what it is hoped to discover. (See previous post.)

On 2 July 2008 Scientific American carried an article about what five physics Nobel prize winners thought about the LHC.

On 31 July 2008 The Economist ran an article, noting the LHC's US$10 billion cost.

On 1 August 2008 The Boston Globe had a story with a magnificent set of 27 photographs from CERN of the equipment that makes up the LHC.

By way of comparison, the London Underground's Circle line is 22.5 kilometers long.

Aviation emissions data from ICAO

ICAO's Group on International Aviation and Climate Change (GIACC) held its second meeting on 14-16 July 2008 (the first meeting was held on 25-27 February 2008).

The ICAO Secretariat prepared an interesting 11-page information paper on aviation data for the meeting and made an associated presentation.

Adding 9% to aviation GHG emissions for flight delays and indirect routings?

An issue of some significance when considering aviation’s global contribution to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is to what extent there is scope to reduce this through better air traffic management, shorter air routes, airport design, etc. Considerable progress has been made in this area in recent years, particularly in Australasia.

A number of the carbon calculators in use a few month ago when I looked worked on the basis of adding 9% to the great circle distance between two airports to allow for non-direct routes and delays/circling. The one from Back Aviation Solutions, which uses the OAG data base of global airline schedules, was among those that used this approach.

The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is commonly cited as providing official backing for using 9% (see page 34, paragraph 4 of the DEFRA methodology paper [the link is now to an UPDATED paper]).

In the absence of anything better, the New Zealand Ministry for the Environment has used this +9% factor in an official New Zealand Government calculator (see http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/climate/guidance-greenhouse-gas-reporting-apr08/html/page3.html Section 3.3.4).

Intuitively this 9% number seemed too high, at least in the New Zealand context. For example, Airways New Zealand has been making progress in reducing domestic delay, and the introduction of flexi-tracking by both Australia and New Zealand has had a significant impact on reducing fuel consumption by allowing long-haul flights in our region to take advantage of favourable jet stream winds. Of course, accurate fuel consumption should be calculated on a time rather than a distance basis.

I have followed the references through to find the origin of the +9% factor.

DEFRA cites IPCC (1999) Aviation and the Global Atmosphere, J. E. Penner, D. H. Lister, D. J. Griggs, D. J. Dokken and M. McFarland (Eds). Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (see section at http://www.grida.no/Climate/ipcc/aviation/121.htm#8223 ). This makes it clear that the +9% only relates to aircraft operations within Europe and is based on an old 1992 report from Eurocontrol “Penalties to Air Traffic Associated with the ATS Route Network in the Continental ECAC States Area” Document no. 921016.

As I understand it, in 1992 Europe was just beginning to emerge out of the cold war and major blocks of air space were reserved for military use. One would have expected more up-to-date data to be available and sure enough Eurocontrol does seem to collect and publish it. Eurocontrol has a Performance Review Commission that produces an Annual Report, the most recent being for 2006. This includes reporting on “flight efficiency” which, for example, points to the additional distance for long-haul flights to and from Europe being significantly less than for intra-European flights (see http://www.eurocontrol.int/prc/gallery/content/public/Docs/PRR_2006.pdf and in particular Figure 62 on page 52).

Given the importance to New Zealand (and indeed the rest of the SW Pacific) of long-haul flights, this issue is of significant interest.

One wonders why this more recent information was not being used in carbon calculators and why a figure based on European experience is being applied globally. Work clearly needs to done to provide a more accurate figure for such calculations.

Intuitively I would have expected that the factor for flights across the Pacific and Indian Oceans to be much lower (possibly even negative?).

On 1 April 2008 Flight International reported that ICAO has been looking at standards for carbon calculators (see previous post). The answer that ICAO came up with is to take the great circle distance then add 50km for flights of less than 550km, add 100km for flights between 550km and 5500km, and add 125km for flights above 5500km.

Data visualisation research paper

I have found a July 2007 research paper on Data Visualisation from the Australian Bureau of Statistics particularly interesting. The key part of the paper is in the section on “Applications of Data Visualisation” (click fourth from bottom on the left-hand list).

It analyses existing data visualisation tools and techniques, covering dashboards, sparklines, search clouds, mindmap searching and treemaps, as well as Gapminder and Nationmaster. Also covered are stories created through user input and improving static two-dimensional graphs.

Trial New Zealand visitor arrivals motion chart

I have just completed my first Google Motion Chart. It is on New Zealand Visitor Arrivals for the current top 50 markets and covers the period 1983-2004.

To see the animation click on Gadget1 - see top left - and then press the play button. As with Gapminder World animations, roll your mouse pointer over individual bubbles to see the market names. Click on them to produce a label. With the trace box (right centre) selected, click on a bubble and press play (bottom left) for a year-by-year view of changes (click on the bubble again to deselect). Multiple bubbles can be selected.

I used data on great circle distances from Auckland airport (AKL)(from Great Circle Mapper) for the X axis, real GDP per capita on a PPP basis (from Gapminder) for the Y axis and New Zealand visitor arrival numbers (from Statistics NZ Table 2.01) for the bubbles.