Allegiant Air Orders *New* Airbus A320s!

FlightGlobal reports that Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air has ordered new aircraft for the first time in its history.

The twelve Airbus A320s will enter service in 2017 and 2018. The article says

With the new order, Allegiant has 77 Airbus aircraft in service or committed for future delivery. The ultra low-cost carrier had previously purchased only used A320s.

And

The carrier plans to operate 33 Airbus aircraft by end-2016, comprising 16 A320s and 17 A319s. It will have a total in-service fleet of 85 aircraft in end-2016.

The airline’s MD-80s and 757s will be phased out eventually. Allegiant Air recently endured an FAA safety investigation due to recent incidents involving it MD80. The Wall Street Journal reports that the federal agency found only minor and non-systemic issues with the carrier, but that it required the airline to provide a mitigation plan by September 30. It appears that fleet renewal is part of that plan.

LOCAL ANGLE
Allegiant Air presently uses Airbus A319s and A320s and McDonnell Douglas MD80s on its Peoria services. But someday, the MD80s will be gone, and we’ll be boarding an exclusively Airbus fleet.

– David P. Jordan

“WhaleJet” Visits Chicago a Second Time (in Nine Years!)

Personally, I’m a fan of the Boeing 747, which for 37 years could boast its status as the world’s largest [in-service] passenger jet. But it was well worth the trip to Chicago Tuesday to see the plane that now wears the crown.

Airbus Industrie’s A-380 is nicknamed “WhaleJet” for good reason. Its double-deck fuselage measures 238 ft., 7 in. and its wingspan is 261 ft., 8 in. Boeing’s 747-8 is longer at 250 ft., 2 in., but has a shorter wingspan of 224 ft., 7 in. Its upper deck, unlike the A-380, does not run the length of the fuselage.

The big jet made its first flight from Toulouse, France on April 27, 2005 and entered commercial service with Singapore Airlines on October 15, 2007 between Singapore and Sydney (Australia).

Airbus has received orders for 319 A-380s. Dubai-based Emirates Airlines is responsible for 142 of these, 81 of which have been delivered. The A-380 can hold a maximum of 853 passengers in all-economy class seating, but Emirates prefers to offer other amenities in the space provided, such as a bar and seats in first class which turn into a flat bed.

CHICAGO VISITS
On March 20, 2007, Airbus Industries flew an A-380 into Chicago-O’Hare International Airport as part of a tour which included New York, Los Angeles and Washington, DC. I was there to see the plane, but as you can tell, I had limited success recording the arrival of the Lufthansa-operated aircraft.

Copy of A380-032007B - CopyCopy of A380-032007E - Copy

Sadly, it took nine years before a second visit by an A-380. A friend and I journeyed to O’Hare’s vicinity in hopes of catching the WhaleJet on Tuesday, July 19, 2016. The nonstop flight from Dubai, UAE consumed nearly 15 hours, and arrival took place at 3:02pm.

We didn’t stick around for the aircraft’s departure, which was delayed by very minor damage (scratches) sustained by the recently-upgraded jetway required to deplane (and board) passengers at Terminal 5. It was almost 10:00pm (and well after dark) when it lifted off the ground for its return trip to Dubai.

Emirates Airlines began serving Chicago in 2014. A Boeing 777-300 is being used for the daily service. If passenger loads justify it, regularly scheduled A-380 service should come sooner rather than later.

– David P. Jordan

Peoria Int’l Airport Flight Schedule & Analysis July 2016

A few days after hearing of new Charlotte service, it is time for my annual flight schedule and analysis of Peoria airline service.

I’ve changed the format a bit (no color-coding). Note how Allegiant Air schedules are different from day to day, even to the same destination. I also used military time.

PIA July 2016PIA Routes July 2016

ALLEGIANT AIR
This Las Vegas-based airline offers 15 weekly flights out of Peoria this month. It offers nonstop service to Las Vegas, Orlando-Sanford, Phoenix-Mesa, Punta Gorda (Ft. Myers) and St. Petersburg/Clear-water. There is just one departure on Wednesdays, two on Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays and three on Thursdays and Sundays.

Allegiant’s MD-80s are configured for 166 seats while Airbus A-319s and A-320s have 156 and 177 seats, respectively.

Service to Mexico and/or Caribbean points is likely at least a year away, and depends on funding for FIS personnel. But it will happen sooner or later.

AMERICAN EAGLE
Operated by Envoy Airlines, American Eagle maintains three daily departures each to American Airlines’ Chicago-O’Hare and Dallas/Ft. Worth. Last summer, Envoy offered four departures to Chicago-O’Hare, so either reduced traffic, and/or greater emphasis on the DFW hub may be factors.

With Charlotte service set to begin November 4, I’d be surprised if O’Hare flights ever return to four departures per day. Except for a 44-seat Embraer 140 used on a DFW-PIA turnaround, all other flights are operated with 50-seat Embraer 145s.

DELTA CONNECTION
A Remain-OverNight (RON) flight to/from Atlanta is operated by ExpressJet Airlines, all others to Atlanta, Detroit and Minneapolis/St. Paul are operated by SkyWest Airlines (ExpressJet’s parent). All flights are operated with 50-seat CRJ200s.

Delta [Connection] service out of Bloomington-Normal to Detroit ends July 29, so perhaps Peoria’s service will see a bump in passengers. Competition via American [Eagle] service to Charlotte might prompt fare reductions and larger equipment in the near future.

UNITED EXPRESS
Service to Chicago-O’Hare is provided by three different carriers (ExpressJet, SkyWest and TransStates). SkyWest operates the CRJ200 flight while other two handle the Embraer 145 flights. All aircraft have 50 seats.

When American Eagle begins Charlotte flights November 4, both it and Delta Connection carriers will each offer service from Peoria to three hubs. Chicago-O’Hare offers excellent connections throughout the United network but for competitive reasons, United Express may need to consider service to both Denver and Newark. Service to the latter (one daily roundtrip to start) would probably mean a reduction in Chicago-O’Hare service from four to three daily departures. Denver service would start with one daily roundtrip.

– David P. Jordan

Peoria-Charlotte Flights Begin Nov. 4! (UPDATED)

IMG_1216 - Copy
At a time when it seems like there is bad news all around us, there is actually some good news to report.

American Eagle will be starting two daily nonstop roundtrip flights between Peoria and American Airlines’ Charlotte, North Carolina hub on November 4. Dayton, Ohio-based PSA Airlines will be providing the service with 50-seat CRJ200 regional jets. The airport’s press release can be found here.

Flights will depart for Charlotte Douglas International Airport at 0740 and 1247 and arrive back here at 1222 and 2103 each day. This will give Peoria (and Central Illinois) access to three American Airlines hubs (Chicago-O’Hare and Dallas/Ft. Worth being the others).

PIA Routes November 2016

MY TAKE
Ever since American Airlines and US Airways announced their merger plans in February 2013, there has been speculation that Midwestern cities like Peoria were being considered for service to one or two US Airways hubs (Philadelphia being the other). For most, service wouldn’t start until after the merger was consummated (October 17, 2015).

One must speculate how Delta [Connection] will respond. The regional carrier offers three daily roundtrips between Peoria and Delta Air Lines’ Atlanta hub. Perhaps a fare war and larger aircraft in order to be competitive, etc?

Things could get pretty exciting here in the next few years (and how long will it take for the PJStar to report this?).

UPDATE (July 9): WMBD TV-31 is reporting this news on its website.

UPDATE X2 (July 9): The Charlotte Business Journal is reporting that Cedar Rapids, Iowa is being added on November 4 as well.

– David P. Jordan

PIA Terminal & Roadway Changes

During a project to reconstruct old terminal apron pavement at the Peoria Int’l Airport, American Eagle will begin using the recently-completed international terminal.

According to this press release, the change is effective Monday, July 11. It says in part

Construction beginning Monday, July 11 at the Gen. Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport will reduce portions of the airport entrance road to one lane, possibly through November.

Meanwhile, American Airlines passengers will use gates in the new terminal during the multi-million apron rehabilitation project.

Concrete from gate 5 east to Byerly Aviation — some of the oldest pavement at the airport — is being replaced in two phases, this summer and next. Each phase is approximately $4.5 million, with 90 percent of the funding coming from federal airline ticket user fees. The state of Illinois and Metropolitan Airport Authority of Peoria will each cover 5 percent.

Air carriers will rotate in and out of the international terminal over the next two summers until the ramp project is complete.

– David P. Jordan

PIA – A History: 1950 To 1956

Some months ago, I became bored with this series. I was busy with other things but guess I was also trying to cover too much information and detail. So I’m going to change things a bit. For one thing, I will summarize more. Readers can always request more detail in the comments.

The newly-renamed Greater Peoria Airport handled 22,903 pasengers in 1950. Traffic grew rapidly through 1955 when the facility served 68,058 passengers. Below is a summary of air service changes from the last post, PIA – A History: Airline Service in 1950, to March 1956.

AMERICAN AIRLINES
Although the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) recommended suspension of its PIA service and replacement by Ozark, American Airlines fought to retain its route authority. In the end, Ozark was allowed Chicago rights, and AA retained its existing services.

BYERLY AIRLINES
On April 21, 1953 Byerly Aviation began a Peoria-Chicago (Midway) air taxi service using a Beech Bonanza. An evening flight was added on December 1 that year. In September 1954, service was extended to Jacksonville, Illinois.

Ozark Air Lines’ Peoria-Chicago (Midway) flights, which began October 19, 1954, proved devastating to Byerly’s own service. I’ve not found an end date for the firm’s Chicago route, but I believe it occurred prior to March 1956 (the Official Airline Guide does not mention any Byerly service). The Peoria-Jacksonville route may have continued for awhile longer, as late as 1958.

OZARK AIR LINES 
On June 11, the airline began its St. Louis-Springfield-Peoria-Moline-Rockford route with two daily roundtrips. On the same date, it reduced Moline-Peoria-Bloomington-Champaign-Danville-Indianapolis route from two daily roundtrips to one. Clinton, Iowa was eventually added to the St. Louis-Rockford route, and a Milwaukee extension began on June 9, 1953.

In November 1952, Ozark requested Kansas City-Chicago route authority with multiple stops including Peoria. Its plans were opposed by the local business community for fear of losing Trunk Line service (American Airlines and TWA). In fact, the Civil Aeronautics Board studied replacing American Airlines’ PIA service with that of Ozark. The St. Louis-based local service carrier, however, had no intention of replacing American Airlines. PIA passenger growth proved sufficient for all carriers.

In the end, Ozark’s Certificate of Public Necessity & Convenience (PC&N) was renewed through September 1958 with the condition that it could add Chicago its network, but not in place of American Airlines or TWA service out of Peoria. Ozark began Kansas City-Jefferson City-Columbia-Quincy-Springfield-Peoria-Chicago (Midway) and Springfield-Peoria-Chicago (Midway) service on October 19, 1954 with a total of three daily roundtrips.

On August 9, 1955 Ozark began a St. Louis-Springfield-Peoria-Chicago (Midway) routing. Eventually Kansas City service was eliminated from Peoria routings. It seems that Peoria had been eliminated from Indianapolis routings sometime before 1956.

Ozark Air Lines obtained a permanent PC&N certificate effective February 4, 1956.

TRANS WORLD AIRLINES
In February 1951, TWA planned to drop an westbound Chicago-to-Kansas City flight that stopped in Peoria each evening. This flight was replaced by a morning one on April 29. On June 4, TWA re-scheduled its eastbound Los Angeles to Chicago C-54 cargo-only flight so it would stop at Peoria evenings instead of midday. The airline made the change due to requests from Peoria-area businesses. Strangely, though, an August 1951 article indicates this flight was stopping at PIA in early afternoon.

On July 1, 1952 TWA dropped two DC-3 flights but replaced one with a 40-seat Martin 404. Effective September 27, 1953, TWA scheduled Peoria stops on two eastbound Kansas City-to-Chicago flights and one westbound Chicago-to-Kansas City flight. Presumably, all three were flown with the 40-seat Martins. TWA dropped its Quincy stop in 1954.

Below is a schedule of passenger flights at the Greater Peoria Airport during March 1956, and a route map.

PIA Schedules March 1956PIA Air Routes March 1956

A NEW TERMINAL
Ozark Air Lines’ introduction of Peoria-Chicago (Midway) service caused passenger traffic to explode. The terminal and the aircraft parking apron became crowded. Doubling the terminal from its present 5,000 sq. ft. was considered, but in the end, the airport authority decided to build a new complex in the northwest quadrant of the airfield.

A sketch of the proposed new building, revealed in August 1955, showed a 37,500 sq. ft. building and a new five-story control tower atop.

RUNWAY EXTENSION, VISIT BY FOREIGN AIRCRAFT, ETC.
Before 1950, airport officials had plans to extend one or more runways to 7,000′ to accommodate jet aircraft. This was deemed necessary for retention of the 169th ANG wing since the F-51 Mustangs would eventually be replaced with jets (F84s or F86s, plus a Sabre Jet for VIPs).

In September 1951, it was recommended that the airport’s 5,000′ northwest-southeast runway (then 12-30, today 13-31) be lengthened to 9,000′ with 6,800′ being concrete surface and 1,000′ ground surface at each end. The airport’s East-West runway would be extended 1,000′ and the North-South strip would be extended as well.

Korean War action likely delayed funding for runway extensions. By 1954, plans for a NW-SE runway extension would give it 9,000′ in length, of which 8,000′ would be concrete. The cost of the project was estimated by a 169th officer to be $3,394,000, and would have to be paid for out of the United States Air Force budget.

No progress was made in 1955. In March 1956, however, extension by 3000′ of Runway 12-30 was included in USAF plans for facility improvement and expansion. Completion of work, by October 1, 1957 or January 31, 1958, depended on the availability of funds. A new parallel taxiway would be built as well.

Below is a diagram of the Greater Peoria Airport as it appeared in 1956.

PIA 1956 - Copy

I thought I’d mention some early development of international services out if PIA. In September 1952, Byerly Aviation was authorized to operate non-scheduled flights to Canada (Kenora, Ontario specifically) 2 to 12 times a year.

On November 13, 1955, three Trans-Canada Air Lines “Northstars” (DC-4s) landed at PIA with 150 construction contractors from Quebec. They cleared customs at Toronto. (Imagine how this crowded the terminal apron!)

The contractors were here to visit Caterpillar Tractor Co’s East Peoria and Joliet facilities. After finishing with the latter, the contractors were to fly out of Chicago Midway Airport (the DC-4s were flown there from Peoria).

Finally, I should mention one visit by a large aircraft. On August 23, 1954, a USAF Douglas C-124 “Globemaster II” landed here to pick up Little Giant Products street sweepers. At 130′ in length and a 174′ wingspan, the four-prop aircraft was the largest aircraft to land here to date.

– David P. Jordan

The Maryland & Pennsylvania RR

TSL236 Vol. 40 No. 1

Pardon another departure from Peoria-centric content, but THE SHORT LINE Issue #236 is now available, with content by moi. 😛

While on a trip to Newark, New Jersey late last October, I came across York Railway SW-9 #84 which still displays”Maryland & Pennsylvania” lettering on its hood. Parked in West York, Pennsylvania, it provided the basis for the 2 & 1/3-page article, complete with historic map. It is the first article in the magazine.

For more information on the “Ma & Pa,” I recommend George W. Hilton’s THE MA & PA, Second Edition, Revised (1999, previous editions from 1963 and 1980).

Ma and Pa - Hilton

– David P. Jordan