AA’s inaugural A321T service. Image: Edward Russell.

This week Australia’s mantle for offering the best transcontinental airline product in the world – which Australian’s unjustifiably love to pick apart as woefully inadequate – was challenged for the first time in perhaps two decades as American Airlines launched its new premium A321T service from New York JFK to Los Angeles.

Compared with the past decade of woefully inadequate product offer onboard American carriers, the product reinvention is a welcome return to the days of glamorous transcon air travel. There will be a 30 per cent increase in the number of first class seats AA offers as business class and economy decline by 13 per cent and 27 per cent respectively. Continued capacity rationalisation carries through to the strategic relaunch with AA’s total New York-Los Angeles capacity decreasing in favour of frequency growth from ten to thirteen services daily.

It will be awhile before Australia’s two airline groups act more rationally in their transcontinental capacity allocation. Eventually the paradigm of stagnating growth due to a functional shift in mining operations and poor economic reality of overcapacity from domestic widebody operations will overrule passenger preference. Install Qantas on Virgin Australia’s (apparently in development) next generation products on a new narrow body and I’d bet money passengers wouldn’t notice.

Wet welcome

A Jetstream 41 of Colombian carrier Easyfly got a very friendly welcome on its inaugural flight from Medellín to Matecaña International Airport, with the usual water canon salute breaking down the aft starboard cabin door. Perhaps the firefighters thought the aircraft could do with a rinse and polish?

 

 

Galactic view

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo flew the highest – 71,000 feet – and fastest – Mach 1.4 – test mission yet in yesterday’s third supersonic test flight providing some more incredible images. The mission tested the spaceship’s Reaction Control System (RCS), used to manoeuvre the vehicle in space, and the newly installed tail boom reflective thermal protection coating. And if you don’t have $250,000 to splash on a space flight, a model might be the next best thing.

Parking room only

With continued delays in securing a Hong Kong operating licence and regulatory safety issues in Japan A320s for Jetstar’s respective subsidiaries are backing up in Toulouse. There are now believed to be between seven and eleven aircraft in longterm storage at Toulouse as Jetstar works on arranging sale and lease-back arrangements to ease the financial burden on the Qantas Group.

Kamikaze

This little gem came to my attention through the fab Straight & Level editorial. The Fleet Air Arm Museum is searching for the meaning of the kamikaze insignia on this rare (there’s only 12 examples left) Japanese Yokosuka Ohka 2 from WW2. The markings are located on the Okha’s left side and the hatch cover.

Nicknamed Baka (Japanese for “fool”) by US sailors during the war, the Okha 2 was designed for manned steep dive suicide missions. Carried on the underside of a Mitsubishi G4M bomber the Okha would be released and a pilot would guide the aircraft into a dive. When set on a sure collision course, three solid fuel rockets would ignite allowing the aircraft to reach speeds of up to 500 knots (925km/h) before it crashed into the target ship.

If you are able to help out deciphering the insignia please contact the museum’s curator of aircraft, Dave Morris.

“It is chilling to look through the cockpit window of this piloted rocket and through the ringed sight” – Jon Jefferies, Spokesperson, The Fleet Air Arm Museum.

And, just in case you missed last week’s Weekly rollerboard 5 January.