Some Thoughts about Military Flying and DC-10's
From Doug Frankwich, MEC Safety & Health Chair
From the Editor: ATA has been looking at the possibility of leasing several DC-10's. Nothing has of yet been finalized.
Here are some thoughts from airliner.net chat page that make good points.
(1) As said, the 767-300 is the aircraft that ATA probably should want. It gets reimbursed at a higher per-mile rate than a DC10 or MD11. It has the right number of seats and good range. It's the same type rating as the 757-200 and 757-300, so the pilots just need differences training. It's reliable. Etc. It's also unavailable to ATA at a decent price, although NAO just picked up one more and has another coming later this year.
(2) The 767's will be coming available as the 787's come on line at certain carriers. However, if fuel prices stay up, they'll also be in demand as freighters. A 767-200 burns slightly less fuel than a 727, has one fewer engine and one fewer cockpit member than a 727, has an enormous amount more capacity, and thus makes a very desirable freighter if it can be had at an appropriate price. The freighter conversion demand will keep used 767's in demand for a long time.
(3) Omni presently does a very nice military business with DC10's. Reliability is likely an issue for them, but they get it done. So anybody who says that it's an inappropriate aircraft for military (which is what ATA wants to use it for) is really off base. Is it optimal? No. But it's also an airframe that is widely available, widely-known, has lots of parts available for it and places around the world that know how to maintain it. Is it superior in all these regards to the L1011? Heck, yes. (Is it a superior aircraft to the L1011? No. But, like the Betamax, the superior design can nevertheless, through atrophy, be simply impractical.)
(4) If ATA can run a decent military charter business using non-optimal 757-300's and challenging-to-keep-flying L1011's, the DC10's will be an improvement.
(5) The comment about the military paying for fuel isn't quite right. It's not an ACMI lease, where the client actually does pay for the fuel directly. In fact, if you run a more fuel-efficient aircraft than the next guy, you save money under the military system. You get paid a uniform rate based upon the class of aircraft. MD11, DC10, L1011 are all reimbursed at the same per-seat-mile rate, although they each are calculated to have a different fixed number of seats. The 767-300 and 767-200 are in the same class of aircraft for the military, and are reimbursed at a higher per-seat-mile rate than the DC10 class. What the military does give you a hedge against is an increase in the price of fuel. They recalculate on a regular basis what the average price per gallon is, and redo their per-seat-mile rate based upon that change in fuel price. So if fuel goes up, you will get a higher per-seat-mile payment, but it's the same whether you are using the more-fuel-efficient or less-fuel-efficient aircraft. So, your basic cost inputs are capital (lease) cost, crew cost, maintenance cost, and fuel cost. A 767 will have lower crew, maint and fuel cost, but a higher capital cost. A DC10 will have higher crew (one more), maint (another engine) and fuel cost, but a lower capital cost. Bottom line is that these aircraft have no significant demand outside of certain charter and some limited freight applications after NW
removes them from service, so their capital cost may be way low, and that may help offset the higher other costs. Also, if you're looking at keeping them for 5 years or so, the low capital cost makes them desirable in that they don't cost you much money when they're sitting around waiting for business. The bad part, however, is that they have very limited demand in charter applications outside of military, so when the military doesn't need them they will likely be mostly sitting around.
So there you have it. Those are the factors that ATA faced, and rather than pass up the opportunity for additional military business, rather than face having to D-check two more L1011s in a year or so, rather than rely on a fleet of only 4 widebodies, they now will have a pool from which they can draw to reestablish themselves as a formidable military carrier. If they decide to go for it