DAL - Delta Air Lines, Inc.

NYSE - Nasdaq Real-time price. Currency in USD
55.69
+0.03 (+0.04%)
As of 1:14PM EST. Market open.
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Previous close55.67
Open55.74
Bid55.68 x 800
Ask55.69 x 800
Day's range55.41 - 55.98
52-week range45.08 - 63.44
Volume2,412,293
Avg. volume6,053,098
Market cap36.02B
Beta (3Y monthly)1.12
PE ratio (TTM)7.88
EPS (TTM)7.07
Earnings date13 Jan 2020 - 17 Jan 2020
Forward dividend & yield1.61 (2.82%)
Ex-dividend date2019-10-23
1y target est65.30
  • Gol Airline Seeks Closer Ties to American and United After Split With Delta
    Bloomberg

    Gol Airline Seeks Closer Ties to American and United After Split With Delta

    (Bloomberg) -- Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes SA, Brazil’s largest airline, is holding talks about expanding ties with American Airlines Group Inc. and United Airlines Holdings Inc. after parting ways with longtime U.S. partner Delta Air Lines Inc.The carriers are discussing whether to establish codeshare deals, which enable airlines to book passengers on each other’s flights, Gol Chief Financial Officer Richard Lark said Tuesday. That would be a step up from Gol’s existing interline agreements with American and United, which allow airlines to handle passengers on trips that involve multiple carriers.“We are in discussions with both United and American about converting those interlines into codeshares, and we may have both of those as codeshare partners,” Lark said in an interview at Bloomberg’s New York headquarters. An agreement could be reached with one or both of the U.S. airlines “over the next couple of months,” he said.Gol is eyeing deeper ties with American and United after Delta said in September that it would sell its stake in the Brazilian airline and buy 20% of Latam Airlines Group SA. An expanded relationship with Gol would be especially beneficial to American, which was left without a South American partner after its proposed partnership with Latam ran into legal trouble and prompted the Chilean company to join forces with Delta.United already has a partnership with Azul SA, the third-largest domestic airline in Brazil after Gol and Latam. United holds an 8% stake in Azul and is is also in talks to form a joint venture with Avianca Holdings SA and Copa Holdings SA.American said it didn’t have “anything to confirm at this time.” United declined to comment.Delta has not indicated when or how it intends to sell its Gol stock, Lark said. The U.S. carrier owns a 9% stake, according to Gol. The Sao Paulo-based company isn’t discussing deals in which American or United would take equity stakes in Gol, he said.“The company doesn’t have a need today for any financing from that source,” Lark said.Gol’s fleet is made up entirely of Boeing Co. 737 jets, and the airline has been hurt by the March grounding of the planemaker’s Max models following two deadly crashes. Gol expects the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to clear the aircraft to fly next month with Brazilian regulators following suit soon afterward, Lark said. Gol anticipates returning the planes to service in January, he said.That’s a more optimistic outlook than at American, United and the Max’s largest operator, Southwest Airlines Co., which have all removed the model from their flight schedules through early March. Even after the FAA lifts the flying ban, regulators would still need to sign off on updated training materials for pilots in January, Boeing said last week.Pickle ForkGol has also taken some older 737 NG models out of service after regulators ordered inspections of the so-called pickle fork, part of the structure that helps attach the wings.The company’s fleet has been more affected than average by the pickle-fork issue, in part because of conditions at Brazilian airports that include shorter runaways and a different type of asphalt, Lark said. Gol leased the aircraft from third parties and not from Boeing, which customizes planes for specific conditions.Those factors, combined with Gol’s operational model of intensive use of the planes, led to 11 jets being taken out of service, Lark said. About 9% of Gol’s fleet of 125 aircraft has been affected by the pickle-fork inspections, according to the company. Boeing said last week that less than 5% of NG planes subject to initial inspections had cracks.Looking ahead to 2020, Lark is bullish on both oil prices and the Brazilian real, both of which figure prominently into the company’s business outlook.‘Signs of Life’Gol sees a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude fetching a price in the high $60s next year, with Brent, a global benchmark, in the low $70s.Lark said he expects the Brazilian currency, which fell 7.8% against the dollar this year through Wednesday, to hold steady or appreciate over the next six to 12 months. By the end of next year, Lark said the real could potentially be in the range of 3.6 to the dollar. That would be a much stronger level than the median analyst estimate compiled by Bloomberg, which is about 4 reais to the dollar.Gol is already seeing an uptick in travel as Brazil’s economy continues to recover from a deep slump in 2015 and 2016.“The business customer has been the main driver over the last couple of years in terms of the consumption of air travel and absorbed a lot of the fare increases,” Lark said. But in September, Gol started “to see signs of life in the Brazilian consumer, the non-business traveler, the leisure traveler in a variety of sectors, including ours.”\--With assistance from Mary Schlangenstein and Justin Bachman.To contact the reporters on this story: Richard Richtmyer in New York at rrichtmyer@bloomberg.net;Jessica Summers in New York at jsummers24@bloomberg.net;Fabiola Moura in Sao Paulo at fdemoura@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Brendan Case at bcase4@bloomberg.net, Richard RichtmyerFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • No, Amtrak Isn’t About to Turn a Profit
    Bloomberg

    No, Amtrak Isn’t About to Turn a Profit

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Earlier this month, Amtrak announced a smallest-ever “adjusted operating loss” of $29.8 million in the 2019 fiscal year, which ended in September, and said it is on a “path to achieve operational breakeven in fiscal year 2020.” Along with the news that Amtrak ridership had hit an all-time high of 32.5 million, this garnered some nice headlines.There are some other, less-impressive numbers, though, that the government-owned passenger railroad disclosed this week with no fanfare. Amtrak’s net loss according to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles was $874.8 million, up from $817.2 million in FY 2018. Amtrak also reported receiving $234 million in support from the governments of states through which some of its trains run; without that money, losses would have been well over $1 billion.These results did not, as “anti-transit transit expert” Randal O’Toole suggested with tongue somewhat in cheek before they were even released, amount to “securities fraud.” Amtrak is not a publicly traded corporation, plus there’s no secret as to what accounts for the difference between net loss and operating loss: depreciation of assets and spending on new capital projects. Amtrak management is also up-front about an infrastructure investment backlog that it pegs at somewhere around $40 billion. The shrinking operating loss, says Amtrak, merely “represents ... cash funding needs and is a reasonable proxy for Federal Operating Support needed.”Amtrak also released operating loss (or profit!) estimates for every single route it runs. Here it is broken down by the railroad’s main service lines.(1)From the looks of it, the Northeast Corridor — especially the high(ish)-speed Acela, which had an operating profit of $334 million on $662 million in revenue in FY 2019 — is doing great, and the state-supported services such as the Pacific Surfliner in Southern California and the Hiawatha between Chicago and Milwaukee are doing OK, thanks in large part to that $234 million in state support. The overnight long-distance trains, on the other hand, appear to be kind of a disaster.Amtrak Chief Executive Officer Richard Anderson, previously the CEO of Delta Air Lines, has been addressing these long-distance woes with an unheard-of aggressiveness, and Devin Leonard has a highly entertaining and illuminating article in the new Bloomberg Businessweek about all the feathers that’s ruffling. But as I learned when I wrote a column about Amtrak’s financial situation in July (after a mostly wonderful but much-delayed trip across the country on the California Zephyr and Lakeshore Limited), there are those who believe Amtrak’s adjusted operating numbers give an entirely misleading picture of where its strengths and weaknesses lie.One issue, the Rail Passengers Association argued in a 37-page white paper issued last year, is that Amtrak’s method for allocating operating costs allows it “to continue its false narrative that the NEC is more ‘profitable’ than it is and that the long-distance trains cost more than they do.”  The World Bank’s 2017 “Toolkit for Improving Railway Sector Performance” recommends using long-run variable costs, aka avoidable costs, as the metric for guiding railway commercial decisions. In other words: How much would shutting down a money-losing service save you? Well, in May 2017 then-Amtrak-CEO Charles “Wick” Moorman responded to a proposal by President Donald Trump’s Office of Management and Budget to zero out federal funding for long-distance trains with an estimate that eliminating the service “would result in an additional cost of approximately $423 million in FY 2018 alone.” So it sure doesn’t seem like the long-distance operating loss of $543 million that Amtrak subsequently reported for FY 2018 really reflects avoidable costs.That said, a lot of that $423 million in shutdown costs would presumably be one-time expenses. In Asia and Europe, high-frequency, high-speed passenger trains between big cities are reliably more profitable than low-frequency, low-speed trains through rural areas. So while better accounting might reduce the operating-results disparity between the Northeast Corridor and the long-distance trains, that disparity surely wouldn’t go away.There’s another financial issue, though, that is harder to get one’s head around and probably more important to understanding the challenges facing U.S. passenger rail. Amtrak was created in 1971 out of the passenger operations of the country’s private railroads, which Congress simultaneously released from the obligation to carry people as well as freight. The plan was that Amtrak trains would travel on tracks owned and maintained by the freight railroads, and in most of the country they do. But a rash of railroad bankruptcies in the Northeast and Midwest in the 1970s, followed by the nationalization and reorganization of some of those railroads, gave Amtrak possession of 363 of the 457 miles of track its trains use between Boston and New York (the states of Connecticut and Massachusetts own most of the rest) and control of an even larger portion, with the main exception being the stretch between New York and New Haven that is managed by Metro North.Because it controls the tracks and the dispatching, Amtrak can run trains at much higher frequency and speed along the Northeast Corridor than it does anywhere else in the country, and compete effectively with airlines (cars are still the dominant mode of intercity travel in the region). Yet ownership leaves Amtrak on the hook for upkeep. And because much of the crucial infrastructure along the Northeast Corridor is more than a century old, and was already being neglected by its struggling owners long before Amtrak took over, there’s a big backlog of needed capital investments. For example:The 1910 swing-span drawbridge over the Hackensack River near Secaucus station in New Jersey is said to be the busiest rail bridge in the Western hemisphere, but workers sometimes have to smack it with a sledgehammer after it’s been opened to get the rails back in place. The price tag in Amtrak’s FY 2020 funding request for replacing it with a taller bridge that wouldn’t need to be opened for passing boats: $1.8 billion. The rail tunnels under the city of Baltimore south of the Amtrak station were built in 1873 (!) and have curves and a grade that necessitate slow train speeds. Estimated cost of a straighter, flatter replacement: $5 billion. The two tunnels under the Hudson River that Amtrak and commuter trains use to travel between New Jersey and New York City have been in use since 1910, were damaged by flooding from Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and may not be usable for much longer without major repairs. The latest estimate of the cost to fix them and dig a new tunnel to allow trains to keep rolling during the repairs and add capacity when they’re done is $11.3 billion.The Hudson tunnel project is of course something of a legend by this point. New Jersey’s then-Governor Chris Christie derailed it in 2010, saying it was going to cost his state too much. Now the Trump administration is holding it up, possibly out of presidential pique. The bill for the tunnel would be footed mostly by state and federal taxpayers. But it and the rest of the infrastructure spending backlog are part of the overall financial picture for the Northeast Corridor that Amtrak’s operating numbers ignore. “If you followed a GAAP or more GAAP-like approach, the Northeast Corridor would be showing a deficit of more than a billion a year,” asserts Andrew Selden, a retired Minneapolis lawyer and frequent Amtrak critic.Almost all of Amtrak’s other routes, as noted, run on tracks that freight railroads are responsible for maintaining. Amtrak has to pay for this privilege, but not much. A bigger issue is that although the freight railroads are supposed to give passenger trains priority, there’s been no practical way to force them to do so (federal courts partially thwarted a 2008 Congressional attempt to remedy this). Frequent delays are the result. Also, most freight tracks are built to a standard that limits passenger train speeds to no more than 80 miles an hour. It’s not an optimal situation! Still, if your goal was to minimize taxpayer spending on passenger railroads, you’d shut down the Northeast Corridor, not the routes that run on tracks owned by freight railroads.That doesn’t seem like the right goal at all, of course. Passenger trains bring with them positive externalities such as reduced road traffic and pollution, and more livable, pedestrian-oriented cities. Along the Northeast Corridor they’re crucial to the functioning of a regional economy that accounts for 25% of U.S. gross domestic product.(2) More, faster and in some cases entirely new train services along other densely populated corridors in California, Texas, Florida, the Great Lakes, the Southeast and elsewhere could be an economic and environmental boon. That will take a lot of investment. Some may come from private sources, and private train operators may be a better choice than Amtrak for many of the routes. But the evidence from around the world — the bullet-train services on the Japanese main island of Honshu seem to be the lone major exception — is that continued public infrastructure investment is required to make passenger rail work.(1) Amtrak's infrastructure access service line provides "access to Amtrak-owned or controlled infrastructure and facilities" for "rail operators and other public and private sector entities," while its ancillary services involve providing passenger transportation, maintenance and other services to commuter rail agencies and freight operators, as well as real estate activities.(2) I included Virginia's GDP in that accounting, because it seemed like the right thing to do.To contact the author of this story: Justin Fox at justinfox@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Gibney at jgibney5@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Justin Fox is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering business. He was the editorial director of Harvard Business Review and wrote for Time, Fortune and American Banker. He is the author of “The Myth of the Rational Market.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • 3 Airline Stocks to Buy on A4A's Rosy Thanksgiving Forecast
    Zacks

    3 Airline Stocks to Buy on A4A's Rosy Thanksgiving Forecast

    Airlines for America's bullish Thanksgiving travel period projection further highlights the strong demand for air travel.

  • Should We Be Delighted With Delta Air Lines, Inc.'s (NYSE:DAL) ROE Of 31%?
    Simply Wall St.

    Should We Be Delighted With Delta Air Lines, Inc.'s (NYSE:DAL) ROE Of 31%?

    While some investors are already well versed in financial metrics (hat tip), this article is for those who would like...

  • Delta (DAL) Up 8.4% Since Last Earnings Report: Can It Continue?
    Zacks

    Delta (DAL) Up 8.4% Since Last Earnings Report: Can It Continue?

    Delta (DAL) reported earnings 30 days ago. What's next for the stock? We take a look at earnings estimates for some clues.

  • Hong Kong protests: How they're hurting big companies
    Yahoo Finance

    Hong Kong protests: How they're hurting big companies

    The ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have ravaged the region and are threatening the safety and livelihood of residents — and businesses.

  • Airline Stock Roundup: Q3 Earnings Beat at SKYW & GOL, DAL's Traffic & More
    Zacks

    Airline Stock Roundup: Q3 Earnings Beat at SKYW & GOL, DAL's Traffic & More

    While fleet-modernization efforts aid SkyWest's (SKYW) third-quarter performance, solid demand for air travel in the corporate segment boosts Gol Linhas' (GOL) results.

  • Delta’s Traffic Outgrew Its Capacity in October
    Market Realist

    Delta’s Traffic Outgrew Its Capacity in October

    Delta Air Lines reported its October operating metrics on Monday. Delta's traffic outgrew its capacity, expanding by 5.2% year-over-year.

  • Aviation professionals are seeing effects of pilot shortage: BAML survey
    Yahoo Finance

    Aviation professionals are seeing effects of pilot shortage: BAML survey

    There is a shortage of pilots, according to a new Bank of America Merrill Lynch survey of aviation industry professionals.

  • Bloomberg

    Microsoft Wants to Teach Drones, Robots and Drills How to Think

    (Bloomberg) -- Microsoft Corp. and technology rivals spend a lot of time talking about machine learning. Now Microsoft is talking about something called machine teaching.No, the software maker doesn't plan to send robots into classrooms. In a world where factories and wind farms will increasingly run on autonomous systems, drones will criss-cross cities delivering packages and robots will operate in underground mines, Microsoft wants to make the software that helps mechanical and chemical engineers teach those devices how to behave, where to go and how to maintain safe conditions.Microsoft last year acquired a company called Bonsai that makes this kind of software, merged it with some work from its research arm — a group of Microsoft researchers wrote a paper on this idea back in 2017 — and  is now expanding a software preview so more potential customers can test it. As the company tries to sell more of its Azure cloud software to industrial companies, it aims to make these kinds of autonomous programs a profitable part of that portfolio. Many consumers will be most familiar with this kind of software as it exists in self-driving cars, but Microsoft plans to leave that part of the market to the Teslas of the world.Delta Air Lines Inc. is running a project to improve their baggage handling using the technology, Microsoft will announce Monday. Royal Dutch Shell Plc is trying out the software to control drilling equipment, while Schneider Electric SE is seeing how it works with electric heating and cooling controls for buildings, said Mark Hammond,  founder and chief executive officer of Bonsai, who is now a general manager at Microsoft. A Microsoft partner based near that company’s Redmond, Washington, headquarters wants to use it for tractors and Carnegie Mellon University deployed the software as part of a mine-exploration robot that recently won a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency challenge.  Microsoft has also suggested the software could work well for drones that check power lines and wind turbines and for disaster recovery operations where autonomous devices scout out the situations that may not be safe for human rescuers.“The industry is fixated on autonomous driving and that’s it, but if you look around you in the world, you can find literally hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of scenarios where automation can improve things,” said Gurdeep Pall, Microsoft vice president, business AI.  “A lot of these folks who build these systems are mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, etc. They are not AI people. We are bringing AI to these engineers in a way that they can operate.”In May, Microsoft began a limited preview of the software that extended to about 50 customers. On Monday at Microsoft’s Ignite conference in Orlando, CEO Satya Nadella will announce an expansion of that program to about 200 companies and likely more after that. The company won’t yet say when it will be broadly available.The software allows engineers to set up rules and criteria for how autonomous devices should operate, anything from where a robot arm should start, what it should do next and all the different possibilities. Then engineers use simulation software — either from Microsoft or its partners — to set up a series of lessons, a digital curriculum. “It’s not randomly exploring, it’s exploring in a way that’s guided by the teacher,” Hammond said. And once you have the curriculum, the system automates the process of teaching and learning, across hundreds or thousands of simulations at the same time. Microsoft partner Fresh Consulting is working with several customers to figure out how to program devices and vehicles with Microsoft’s tools. One such customer is  industrial equipment rental company United Rentals, and Fresh wants to use Microsoft’s product to better control compact track loaders, which need to work in uneven terrain and mud. The software can also be useful in construction and warehouse work. “These are dirty, dangerous and dull jobs, and there's not enough people, said CEO Jeff Dance. Microsoft is also partnering with MathWorks Inc., which makes simulation and modeling software used by companies like Toyota and Airbus, to allow its programs to work with Microsoft’s. Microsoft said its autonomous software approach blends the power of human experience with the ability to adapt to changing situations through a type of AI called reinforcement learning. For example, Shell is using the tools to teach its drills. Shell could program drills the old fashioned way, with a series of rules put in by the human experts, Hammond said. But that would require lots of time reprogramming each drill every time it’s used on different terrain. A reinforcement learning system — like those used to teach machines how to play video games better than humans — could learn how to do it alone. But for industrial tasks, reinforcement learning with human knowledge and guidance works better, Hammond said. Without it, systems may come to conclusions that don’t make sense in the real world. Software for factories, equipment and industrial applications is often very specific and made by companies in those industries rather than large, general purpose software makers like Microsoft. And many of those vendors are also working on systems for increasing autonomous control. Microsoft also wants to sell other products, from cloud services to HoloLens augmented reality goggles to construction and industrial firms. Meanwhile its cloud rival Amazon.com Inc. is trying to leverage expertise in logistics and warehouse automation to sell services to industrial companies, said Nick McQuire, an analyst at market research firm CCS Insight. Amazon and Google are also working on AI learning techniques with robots and on programs that promise to enable engineers without AI expertise to program complicated AI models. Rather than try to compete with industrial tech vendors, Microsoft wants to partner with them, Pall said.“It's a big market, but a very difficult one to target in terms of the complexity and the legacy systems, and a lot of those systems are highly mission critical,” McQuire said. “It's going to take some time, but Microsoft is starting to position a lot of its products for it.”Microsoft also made other announcements at the conference including:A new Office mobile app that combines Word, Excel and PowerPoint into one app instead of separate ones. Outlook for iOS will now be able to read a user’s emails out loud and share changes to their day. And now there’s a male voice available instead of Microsoft’s usual female Cortana voice assistant. In a bid to be more helpful, Cortana can now scan users’ email and send a single “briefing” document with all the things they’ve promised to do each day, as well as a summary of meetings and relevant documents.  Microsoft’s Azure cloud division is unveiling a new program for data analytics called Azure Synapse Analytics and new technologies for using Azure tools to manage Linux and Windows Servers located in a customers own data centers or multiple clouds.  To contact the author of this story: Dina Bass in Seattle at dbass2@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Pollack at apollack1@bloomberg.net, Robin AjelloFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Why Citigroup Says to Buy Delta Air Lines Stock
    Market Realist

    Why Citigroup Says to Buy Delta Air Lines Stock

    Delta Air Lines stock gained 1.7% on Friday after Citigroup analyst Stephen Trent suggested investors buy it. His target price implies a 16% upside.

  • An Intrinsic Calculation For Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE:DAL) Suggests It's 32% Undervalued
    Simply Wall St.

    An Intrinsic Calculation For Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE:DAL) Suggests It's 32% Undervalued

    In this article we are going to estimate the intrinsic value of Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE:DAL) by projecting its...

  • Airlines ETF Fly Higher Despite Mixed Earnings
    Zacks

    Airlines ETF Fly Higher Despite Mixed Earnings

    Airlines ETF is in solid shape despite mixed earnings, thanks to higher travel demand ahead of the holiday season.

  • Boeing CEO Owns 737 MAX Mistakes on Capitol Hill
    Market Realist

    Boeing CEO Owns 737 MAX Mistakes on Capitol Hill

    Boeing (BA) CEO Dennis Muilenberg is visiting Capitol Hill today to testify before the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

  • JetBlue Up, Alaska Air Down after JPM Rating Change
    Market Realist

    JetBlue Up, Alaska Air Down after JPM Rating Change

    Today, JPMorgan Chase analyst Jamie Baker upgraded JetBlue (JBLU) stock to "overweight" from "neutral." JPM also downgraded Alaska Air (ALK).

  • Bloomberg

    Boeing’s Max Crisis May Turn Pliant Congress From Friend to Foe

    (Bloomberg) -- Boeing Co. President Dennis Muilenburg faces lawmakers this week outraged over a pair of disasters that raise questions about the safety of the company’s marquee jet and could result in tightened oversight of the world’s biggest planemaker.Muilenburg will testify before House and Senate committees overseeing aviation starting Tuesday, one year from the date when a Lion Air 737 Max plunged into the Java Sea, killing all 189 people on board. It will be the first time Muilenburg takes questions from lawmakers since the crash and a subsequent one by an Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max that led to the worldwide grounding of the company’s top-selling and most profitable passenger jet.“The certification of the 737 Max raises serious questions, questions that go right to the heart of industry capture of government regulators,” said Senator Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican who chairs the Senate Commerce Committee’s aviation panel. “I expect the Commerce Committee to press the Boeing CEO vigorously on why those mistakes were made.”The hearings will test the strength of Boeing’s relationships in Washington, where the company is seen as an American success story. It’s also become a power player due to its lavish contributions to politicians of both parties and an army of lobbyists that advance its commercial and military business lines.Political contributions from Boeing-affiliated political action committees and individuals more than doubled over the last decade to $4.3 million in the 2018 election cycle, according to figures from the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political funds. Boeing has emerged as the transportation sector’s largest contributor in the 2020 election cycle by giving nearly $1.2 million, more than FedEx Corp., Delta Air Lines Inc. and General Motors Co.A change in the company’s reception on Capitol Hill could ultimately threaten a loss of cherished privileges as lawmakers re-examine regulatory oversight.For example, lawmakers have indicated they want to ask whether Boeing had too much sway in certifying the 737 Max through a longstanding program at the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration that deputizes company employees to issue safety approvals on the agency’s behalf. A report released Friday by Indonesian investigators highlighted the role of designees in approving the 737 Max design, including what investigators have flagged as a key vulnerability in the jet’s flight controls that malfunctioned during the fatal crashes.In both accidents, erroneous data from a single weather-vane like sensor caused a new flight control on the 737 Max to repeatedly push down the plane’s nose until pilots lost control. Design flaws in that system, known as the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, contributed to the crashes, as did lapses at the airline.In a statement Friday responding to the Indonesian investigators’ final report, Boeing said the 737 Max and its software have undergone an “unprecedented level of global regulatory oversight, testing and analysis,” and that the company has redesigned the MCAS system to prevent a repeat of what happened in the two crashes.“Safety is an enduring value for everyone at Boeing and the safety of the flying public, our customers and the crews aboard our airplanes is always our top priority,” Boeing said in the statement.Earlier this month, a panel of global aviation regulators found that the FAA had little awareness of MCAS, and ultimately delegated safety-critical elements of the system to Boeing under the designee program. The review also found evidence that Boeing exerted “undue pressures” on those employees. Boeing has said it is reviewing the panel’s recommendations and will work with the FAA to improve the aircraft certification process.After repeatedly pushing the FAA to expand the use of so-called designees, lawmakers have begun to reconsider the program, including Representative Peter DeFazio, the Oregon Democrat who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, before which Muilenburg will testify on Wednesday. Curtailing the ability of Boeing to use designees could delay the already lengthy certification process for major new aircraft.“My job is to fix the law.,” DeFazio said. “The law failed.”The New York Times reported Sunday that Congress handed over even more responsibility for certifying safety to airplane manufacturers in legislation passed weeks before the Lion Air jet crashed. The newspaper reported that Boeing and its allies pushed for the measure over the objections of the FAA.DeFazio’s committee opened an investigation into the 737 Max in March, days after the second plane crashed. The panel has since received hundreds of thousands of records from both Boeing and the FAA about the design, development, and certification of the plane, findings that will inform their questioning Wednesday. The committee’s top Republican, Missouri Representative Sam Graves, is also a pilot, giving him a deeper understanding of the plane’s technical features.The panel’s probe has found indications Boeing employees were subjected to significant pressure by company executives to maintain production schedules and achieve key goals for the jet, such as avoiding additional simulator training for pilots, DeFazio said in a recent interview.Among documents the panel has obtained are Boeing’s original promotional materials for the 737 Max, written while the plane was still being developed, that promised that pilots would not need to be re-trained to fly the jet, DeFazio said. In addition, DeFazio said Boeing’s contracts with Southwest Airlines included a provision where Boeing “essentially would pay a rebate of $1 million per plane if pilots had to have” additional training in the simulator, he said.The Lion Air crash report “sadly confirms many of the findings of my Committee’s investigation of the issues surrounding the 737 Max,” DeFazio said in a statement on Friday. “It’s clear that reforms will be needed to ensure that future safety-critical systems don’t create single points of failure that bring down new commercial aircraft designs.”The National Transportation Safety Board found that Boeing’s evaluation of MCAS underestimated the risks and difficulty for pilots in the event of a malfunction like what occurred in the two deadly crashes. Recently released instant messages between two Boeing pilots raised further questions were raised about whether Boeing was aware of MCAS-related safety issues as it was seeking certification from the FAA.In the messages, a senior Boeing pilot in 2016 told a colleague he’d unknowingly lied to regulators about how MCAS functioned after experiencing a rocky test of the system in a flight simulator. That same pilot later told FAA officials that MCAS was benign and reminded them to remove references to MCAS from flight crew materials.After the messages became public, Boeing said it was investigating the circumstances of the messages and that it would share those details with the authorities.The pilot’s attorney says his client wasn’t hiding anything and that based on everything Forkner knew at the time, “he absolutely thought this plane was safe.” He said his client was referring to a problem with the simulator he was using to test MCAS, not MCAS itself.Peter Goelz, a former NTSB managing director who’s now an aviation safety consultant, said the messages will all but guarantee Muilenburg will face tough questions in both chambers.“I think the Senate is going to be obligated to take a hard stand with him,” following the messages, Goelz said.Representative Rick Larsen, a Democrat from Washington State, said the documents raise questions about the FAA’s oversight of the company.The reports into the 737 Max have made clear that “the method by which the FAA certifies aircraft is itself in need of repair,” Larsen, whose district includes Boeing’s campus in Everett, Washington, said in a statement Friday.With some 23,000 current and former Boeing employees in his district near Seattle, Larsen could be expected to be more deferential to the company. But as chairman the House Transportation panel’s aviation subcommittee, Larsen said ensuring safety is critical to ensure the economic vitality of those constituents.“A successful aviation economy really does depend first and foremost on people feeling safe about flying,” he said. “And if they don’t feel safe, none of it else matters.”To contact the reporters on this story: Ryan Beene in Washington at rbeene@bloomberg.net;Courtney Rozen in Washington at crozen4@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Jon Morgan at jmorgan97@bloomberg.net, Elizabeth WassermanFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

  • How Did Airline Stocks Fare during Q3 Earnings Season?
    Market Realist

    How Did Airline Stocks Fare during Q3 Earnings Season?

    Airline stocks rose last week. Most of the companies reported better-than-expected third-quarter results. Notably, airline companies' earnings beat the estimates.

  • United CEO Oscar Munoz wants to 'change how you feel flying with us'
    Yahoo Finance

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  • Portrait of an Inessential Government Worker
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    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- The following is adapted from a new chapter for the paperback edition of “The Fifth Risk,” which will be published by Norton in November.I found Art Allen standing on the lawn just outside his front door, a few miles inland from some uninviting Connecticut beach. He was in his mid-60s, and a scientist — but a scientist with a man-of-action feel to him. He wore a Coast Guard Search and Rescue polo and a massive Fenix 3 GPS watch, and he had this snow-white Hemingway beard. Six canoes hung from hooks inside his garage, a scrum of mountain bikes leaned against the wall, and all looked as if they had a lot of miles on them. So did he.For nearly 40 years, Art Allen had been the lone oceanographer inside the U.S. Coast Guard’s Search and Rescue division. Among other subjects, he had mastered the art of finding things and people lost at sea. At any given moment, all sorts of objects are drifting in the ocean, a surprising number of them Americans. The Coast Guard plucks 10 people a day out of the ocean, on average. Another three die before they’re found. Which is to say that 13 Americans, every day, need to be hauled out of the water or off some crippled sailboat or sea kayak or paddleboard. “I’ve only thought about one problem in my life,” said Art, with an odd little laugh, which sounded half like a chuckle and half like an apology for speaking up. “Which is how to improve Coast Guard search and rescue.” I’d first learned of Art’s existence back in early 2019, during the 35-day government shutdown. About half the employees of the federal government had been deemed essential for the safety of life and property and been made to work without pay. The other half had been sent home. The line running between the two groups, the essential and the inessential, was oddly drawn. The airport people who make sure that the toiletries in your carry-on can’t be turned into a bomb were required to show up for work. The Federal Bureau of Investigation agents working undercover inside terrorist groups were told to go home. So were the Food and Drug Administration’s food safety inspectors; the people at the Environmental Protection Agency assigned to stop poison from leaking from power plants; and the hundreds of immigration court judges who would decide the fate of thousands of immigrants held in detention facilities. During the shutdown I’d stumbled upon a very long list of federal workers who had been nominated for an obscure public-service award called the Sammies. Virtually all the people on the list had been laid off without pay and more or less told by their society that their work was not all that important. I wondered what it felt like to be at once up for an award for one’s work, and required by law not to do it. The list was in alphabetical order. At the top was Arthur A. Allen.Art hadn’t set out in life to save people at sea; he hadn’t actually set out to do anything in particular except to be a scientist. “I think I was always going to be a scientist,” he said. “Science is driven by the love of the subject. I have an aunt who studies the genetics of mushrooms. I don’t know why she finds mushroom genetics beautiful and fascinating, but she does.” What Art had always found beautiful and fascinating was water. He’d grown up on the New York side of Lake Champlain, and even as a little kid his idea of fun was to dig tunnels to drain snow ponds. He went to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and designed his own major, aquatic science and engineering. From there, he went into a graduate program in physical oceanography at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. “Oceanographers come in two flavors,” he said, with the same odd little apology-chuckle. “To find out which one you are, they send you to sea for a couple of weeks. And you either become a theoretical oceanographer — because you throw up a lot. Or you become a field guy. And I was particularly gifted with a strong stomach.” He was also particularly gifted at finding things out. “That was one of my strengths,” he said, but without his odd little laugh. “I could get good data out of the sea.” The question at the start of Art’s career, back in 1984, was where to apply that strength. He’d seen an ad placed by the Coast Guard for a junior researcher, and while the idea of government work wasn’t as off-putting in the early 1980s as it would become in, say, 2019, Art didn’t really think of himself as a government guy. He certainly didn’t have any sense of being on some mission. “I thought I’d give it six months,” he said. Just then the Coast Guard was trying to figure out how to improve its ability to spot objects on the ocean surface from its planes and helicopters. It was a little shocking how hard it was to see even a small boat from 1,000 feet; if you flew over and didn’t see it, you might never look there again. To see better, there wasn’t much the Coast Guard wasn’t willing to try. Not long before Art arrived, for instance, it’d attempted to train pigeons, riding in cages attached to Coast Guard aircraft, to respond to any orange object in the ocean by pecking at an alarm. The pigeons seemed to have natural advantages over humans as spotters of objects lost at sea. Their vision was sharper, and they never got bored or distracted. The pigeons didn’t miss a thing, which turned out to be their downfall. “The problem was that there are orange things that aren’t survivors and things not wearing orange that are survivors,” said Art. “The pigeons drove the pilots crazy.”By the time Art arrived, the pigeons were gone, replaced by questions that Art did his best to answer. For example, the Coast Guard wanted to know the odds of a plane flying at 500 feet over some object actually spotting that object, so Art threw stuff in the water and made people fly over it and try to see it. The Coast Guard wanted him to find better ways to measure ocean currents and winds, so Art built and bought better gadgets to measure them. The Coast Guard needed a device that might better track what was happening to currents at the last known position of some boat or person. Art helped invent a new buoy to do the job.When a Coast Guard commander looking for a guy lost at sea, and presumed to be floating on a life raft made by the Elliot company, realized that he didn’t really know what an Elliot life raft looked like, or how fast it might travel in relation to the wind compared to life rafts better known to the Coast Guard, he called Art and asked him — and Art called a facility in Essex, Connecticut, that certified life rafts and had them send him a brochure for one. “I’m just looking at it as a pure scientist,” said Art. “They want to know how these objects drift in the ocean, so I figure out how they drift in the ocean.”In June 2002, off the southern shore of Long Island, a fishing boat was swamped in a storm and threw the four men on it into 60-degree waters. The men had been competing in a shark-fishing tournament when the storm came through. There were a couple of Mustang survival suits on the boat — not enough for all the men. Before they’d capsized, the men had sent a distress signal that was picked up by a Coast Guard station in New Jersey, but the signal was fuzzy and the Coast Guard had no idea where the men were or even, really, if they were in trouble. The real search didn’t get going until that night, when the boat failed to return to port. It lasted four days. A human can survive in cold water for maybe 36 hours, even inside a Mustang suit, but the Mustang suit company told the men’s families that anyone wearing the suit could last for eight days. The families implored the Coast Guard to keep looking long past the point the Coast Guard thought there was any point in doing so. Three of the men were never found. The body of the fourth was discovered a week later by a fishing boat 30 miles off the New Jersey coast.When it was over, the people who had failed to find the men called Art with a question: Who’s right, us or the Mustang company? Art looked into the hypothermia models used by the Coast Guard and found they had some problems, apart from the issues raised by the suit. The service made no allowance for the clothing a person might be wearing under the suit, for instance, or his body fat. It assumed the weather was constant throughout the search and that nights in the water were the same as days in the water. “This was another area of Coast Guard ignorance,” said Art. “Survivability.”Art sought out scientists who had studied hypothermia, and collected what was known on the subject. Even if they’d been wearing the Mustang suits, he concluded, the men almost certainly would have died within two days. These studies suggested to Art that the old Coast Guard models had been, if anything, optimistic about the ability of human beings floating in ocean water to survive. Never mind hypothermia. A person could go only three days without water and 62 hours without sleep before he lost the ability to keep himself alive. But what really struck Art Allen about the whole incident was that “no one really knew.” No one knew how a Mustang suit, or anything else you might be wearing, might affect your ability to survive. Not even the scientists who studied hypothermia.Art had started his career as a junior researcher, but a decade into it he was the lone oceanographer inside Coast Guard Search and Rescue. And he began to notice something: The people engaged in rescuing Americans at sea were turning to him for answers to questions he’d never been asked. The questions put to him weren’t questions to which he should obviously know the answer. “It occurred to me,” said Art, “that I was getting these questions. And I realize that if I don’t know the answers, no one does.”People were coming to him because they had nowhere else to go. “Rather than being the wide-eyed scientist in the background, suddenly I’m being asked for my opinions,” said Art. “It was like they thought, There’s this bearded oceanographer guy out there; maybe he knows.” Usually he didn’t know, but he had his talent for creating knowledge. The biggest thing that no one knew, he decided, was how various objects drifted at sea. The ocean never stopped moving. Every object was pulled and pushed along by currents and winds. And so if you wanted to know where an object might be that had been spotted, say, five hours ago 20 miles due east of Cape Hatteras, you needed to know the winds and the currents off Cape Hatteras in the intervening five hours.But that knowledge wasn’t enough: You also needed to know exactly what the object was and how it interacted with the forces of nature. Leeway was the technical term for the difference between the movement of an object and the current that pulled it along. “The Coast Guard has always been interested in physical oceanography — oil spills and icebergs,” said Art. “You got stuff that gets into the water and you want to predict where it’s going to go.” Even if they started in the same place, a disabled fishing trawler and a sea kayak might soon be many miles apart.Art Allen set out to find what was known on the subject. Shockingly little, it turned out. The history of search and rescue at sea is mostly the story of people neither being searched for nor being rescued. For most of human history, lost at sea meant gone for good.“It really only started during World War II,” said Art. “There was not much looking for people at sea until we started losing pilots in the Pacific.” Scouring the literature, he found that there was really only one good study of leeway. A Coast Guard commander named W.E. Chapline, who had been stationed in Hawaii in the late 1950s, had grown sufficiently weary of not finding people that he had made tests on the few objects on which people lost in the South Pacific tended to float: a surfboard, a sampan, a small fishing boat.“Estimating the Drift of Distressed Small Craft” was published in 1960, in the Coast Guard Alumni Association Bulletin. It was 2 1/2 pages long and wholly original and, like a lot of things wholly original, had its limitations, which the author hinted at. “It was difficult at times to obtain sufficient volunteers from among the local small boat owners,” he wrote, “due mainly to the discomfort involved while drifting, the relatively small size of the local Coast Guard Auxiliary, and generally small number of boats available in Hawaii.Otherwise, the short paper was inspiring, at least to Art. It had been done with care, by a man clearly aware that it might one day be the difference between life and death. It contained new insight — like the fact that a lot of boats don’t make their leeway directly downwind. “I’m reading this and I’m saying, ‘Right on, guy!’” recalled Art. There was no reason that Art Allen, Coast Guard oceanographer, could not study every object on which people might drift upon the sea, and reduce to a mathematical equation how each of those objects moved through the water. There was no reason these equations might not be plugged into every search-and-rescue plan. If you knew where some object had been, and when it had been there, you could predict more or less exactly where it was at the moment you needed to find it. If you knew the currents and the winds — which the Coast Guard usually did — all you needed was leeway.Without anyone particularly noticing, or caring, Art gathered every object ever studied — the ones in Chapline’s paper, some stuff the Japanese had tested, and objects that had been tossed into the ocean by the Coast Guard and observed. To these, he added 45 or so objects that he’d studied himself, usually after the Coast Guard had failed to find someone said to be adrift upon them. When he was finished, he had a list of 95 different objects: a Tulmar four-person life raft, a 12.5-meter Korean fishing vessel, a Japanese 13-person life raft, a sea kayak, a 100-gallon ice chest, a 65-foot sailboat, a windsurfing board, a Cuban refugee raft with a sail, a Cuban refugee raft without a sail, an airplane evacuation slide raft that Art had persuaded Delta Air Lines to lend him, and so on.Some items were redundant. Art’s list ultimately reduced itself to 63 classes of objects. For each, Art created equations to describe their drift. The idea was to build the equivalent of those charts you point to when you ask the airline to find your bags: The greater the range of choices, the more likely you will find a bag that resembles your own — and the people who are looking for it can identify it. The thing that was lost might not be exactly like the thing that had been studied, but the closer it was, the more quickly and surely the Coast Guard could design the search for it.In 1999, Art Allen published everything he knew in a 351-page treatise called “Review of Leeway.” “I only hope that this report is up to the highest standards that were set by W.E. Chapline in 1960,” he wrote in his dedication. Such was his respect for what Chapline had done that Art retyped Chapline’s paper and inserted it into the back of his own. “Review of Leeway” became required reading for anyone going through the National Search and Rescue School. It made Art Allen slightly famous, in his small world. Search and rescue people in other countries began to call and ask him to come and speak to them, or help them with some specific problem.Even after Art published his treatise, he wasn’t totally sure that it was having its intended effect. The search and rescue people could now, in theory, use Art’s equations in their searches. But they didn’t have a simple computer program that did the work for them, so it was unclear just how the stuff he had learned was being applied. The truth was that, 15 years into his career, Art still didn’t know exactly what happened in the heat of a rescue because he’d never been on the scene during a search. In May 2001, that changed, after a commander in a field office called and asked him if he’d like to see what they did. “That was the first time I got out of the office,” said Art. The invitation had come from the office in Portsmouth, Virginia. The idea was that Art would spend the first weekend in May with the SAR operator, the person who coordinated the search and rescues in that particular Coast Guard district. The forecast for the weekend was sunny, warm and unthreatening. When Art turned up late in the afternoon, it didn’t really seem like anything would happen. But not long after he sat down with the search and rescue guy, all hell broke loose. There were a bunch of calls for help, one right after another. One boat had run aground. Another boat had caught fire. Yet another boat had capsized and several people had gone overboard in the Chesapeake Bay. Across the water people were coming to grief. “What had happened was a dry cold front had come through and no one had seen it,” said Art. The search and rescue operator was dispatching helicopters and cutters as fast as he could, and saving one person after another. For help, he had only a crude computer tool and was having to make a lot of calculations by hand. Art was impressed, but after six hours of drama he could see the guy tiring. “And after all of this,” said Art, “someone calls in at the end of the day and says, ‘We have an overdue sailboat.’” The overdue sailboat’s last known position was a beach it had left that morning. Its intended destination had been the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. It was 20 feet long and equipped with life vests. On board were a man and two women in their 40s, and a 9-year-old girl.Just how weary the search and rescue guy had become revealed itself when he tried to use a satellite picture to zoom in on the Chesapeake Bay only to realize, after a very long beat, that he was actually staring at the mouth of the Yangtze River in China. Art watched this obviously overwhelmed young man plug crude information into his crude computer tool. He had a fair description of these people’s plans but his program didn’t allow him to input a voyage. Nor could he find good data on the winds over the water — he finally pulled something from an anemometer at a nearby state park. He didn’t even have a good reading of the tides in the bay. On top of all this, he had no drift equations for a swamped skiff, as Art hadn’t studied one. The equations the guy was using came from work on a drifting sailboat done by Chapline in 1960. “I could see he couldn’t adequately plan the search,” said Art. “The tool he’d been given could not help him do what he needed to do.”And so the Coast Guard went looking for something without any real idea of where it was. The helicopters and an 87-foot cutter searched through the night, and found nothing. Not until the following morning did the sailboat appear, upside down, a long way from where the Coast Guard had been searching. A fishing boat spotted it. Two adults were in the water beside the boat, alive. A 42-year-old woman and her 9-year-old daughter, both wearing life vests, were taken off the hull. They’d gone hypothermic. A few hours later, at a local hospital, both were pronounced dead. Art had stayed late into the night and seen all this unfold, in real time. “I watched this happen,” he said, rising from his dining room table. We’d been sitting there talking for maybe five hours before he’d thought to mention the incident. “These two were the same age as my wife and daughter,” said Art — and suddenly he was fighting back tears. He turned to a stack of papers on a bookshelf. He wasn’t a big keeper of memorabilia. He had some books given to him by a Norwegian search and rescue person grateful for the Norwegian lives he had helped to save. He had a coffee mug with a poem in Mandarin — a tribute to Art, written by the Taiwanese search and rescue people, to thank him for saving Taiwanese lives. The newspaper clipping he now produced was not part of some larger collection of clippings. It was a yellowing edition of the Virginian-Pilot, dated May 7, 2001. A front-page article told the story of Jennifer Curtis Byler, 42, and Sarah Byler, 9. “I was just … ” said Art, haltingly. “This was just a real kick in the teeth for me. For me, it was a real turning point.” Art’s brother, an electrical engineer, was fond of saying that “a good scientist asks the right question and a good engineer solves the right problem.” Art didn’t put it quite this way, but up until May 5, 2001, he’d been more scientist than engineer. On that day, he saw that the Coast Guard needed him to be both. It wasn’t enough to ask, or even to answer, the questions; he would need to solve the problems. Every day there were more and more data that might be used to find people lost at sea that either wasn’t available or was hard to use.Both the Navy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration made observations of winds, currents and water temperature. There were Art’s own studies of leeway, and his equations that described how different objects drifted at sea. What was needed was a computer tool, as simple to use as TurboTax, which instantly grabbed all the relevant data and turned it into a prediction. If Art had been more senior, or more persuasive, he would have created a PowerPoint presentation to sell his superiors on the idea. “I said, ‘I’m not particularly good at making verbal arguments. But I can build something.’”Four years later, the Coast Guard had a prototype. It would soon be the envy of the search and rescue world. SAROPS, it was called: Search and Rescue Optimal Planning System. Art hadn’t built it by himself, of course. No one built anything by himself. But he had taken the lead on most of it and made sure that key information was at the fingertips of search and rescue teams. The SAR operator could now enter a detailed description of the search — two officers, say, peering down from a C-130 flying at 1,000 feet — and SAROPS could calculate the probability of the officers having seen what they were looking for, so they could decide if it made sense to fly over the same patch of ocean again. The searchers could enter the height, weight and clothing of a person floating in the ocean and, along with the water temperature, figure out how long that person had to live — and so, in the bargain, find out when it was time to call off a search. They could enter the last known location of an object and, because Art had almost certainly studied its leeway, predict how it would move in relation to the winds and the currents.Often the Coast Guard was unsure exactly what it was looking for. Upright sailboat or an overturned one? A disabled trawler or five fishermen in the water? Now officers could plug multiple objects into their tool and visualize several searches at once. Art’s curious science had yielded information that people could act on. The Coast Guard rolled out its new search tool in early 2007. Art spent two days at each of the service’s nine districts teaching people how to use it — showing them what it was, and what it was not. It was not a simple deterministic device. It did not offer up one distinct answer but a map of probabilities that allowed rescue teams to allocate their search resources in the most likely places. The field people for their part couldn’t quite believe how much more quickly and accurately the new tool allowed them to figure out where in the ocean to look for whatever had gone missing. “The old way took forever to do — it almost took longer to do than the search itself,” said Paul Webb, who ran Coast Guard search and rescue operations in the Alaska district. “You used to launch the planes with a guess. Now you have a search location before the plane is in the air.” The United States had always been a leader in search and rescue; our country has made more of a priority than any other of saving its citizens at sea. If you were lost at sea there was never much of a question which country you wanted to have looking for you. Now the United States was in a class by itself. Even as Art ran around the country unveiling the new tool, stuff happened that astonished search and rescue people.For instance, less than an hour past midnight on March 16, 2007, an overweight 35-year-old man who’d had too much to drink tumbled off the balcony of his cabin on a Carnival Cruise ship and into the Atlantic Ocean. But here’s the thing: The man didn’t die. On land, fat will kill you. At sea, it can save your life — and not because it keeps you warm. “Everyone floats,” explained Art, “but the fatter you are the further your mouth is from the water line.” Someone on the ship, which was 30 miles off the Florida coast, had seen the man go into the dark water and told the captain. The captain had notified the Coast Guard and so the Coast Guard knew roughly where and when the man had splashed down. Still. Spotting a person without a life jacket in the ocean was, as Art put it, “like looking for a soccer ball in Connecticut.” But now the Coast Guard had a much better idea where to look. The searchers knew the currents and they knew how the man’s body would move in relation to them: his leeway. Interestingly, before Art came along, the assumption was that a person in the water had no leeway. A body was assumed to simply drift with the current. Art had proved that wasn’t true. People didn’t drift exactly with the current and the nature of their drift varied with their circumstances. By the time the man fell off the cruise ship, Art had studied five cases: a person with a life jacket, a person with no life jacket, a person in a scuba suit, a person in a survival suit and a dead person. The people running the rescue plugged in the equations Art had provided for a person with no life jacket. And in March 2007, the following item appeared on a blog under “Cruise and Ferry Passengers and Crew Overboard”:A 35-year-old man was rescued approximately eight hours after jumping or falling overboard from the ship when it was 30 miles east of Fort Lauderdale. A witness said that the man, who was intoxicated, ran through a window and then fell 60 feet into the ocean — it is not clear whether the window was open at the time. The ship was en route to Nassau and will arrive slightly behind schedule.They’d found the man 15 miles from his point of entry, floating in the ocean. Had he gone overboard at just about any previous moment in human history, he likely never would have been found. Now the pictures of him flopping down naked but alive on the deck of a Coast Guard cutter were on the front pages of Florida newspapers. With the exception of a great piece in the Baltimore Sun, which described this magical new Coast Guard search tool, the articles mostly told the story of the guy’s miraculous survival. They never even asked the question of exactly how he’d been found.The answer to that question, at least to the people now using SAROPS, was obvious: Art Allen.Of course, there was no scientific study to determine the value of Art Allen. “We never take someone and say, ‘Sorry, we’re throwing you back in the ocean and we’re using the old methods to see if we find you,’” said Art. But the response of the people in the field to the new tool was shockingly enthusiastic. “The survivors don’t know what saved them but they owe their lives to Art,” said Geoff Pagels, who runs Coast Guard search and rescue out of Portsmouth. “It’s monumental.”Despite all the lives saved, Art’s mind found it difficult to move on from the lives that had been lost. The night we were talking in his kitchen, he told me a story: Not long after he had the first working version of SAROPS, he re-created the search for the sailboat that had gone missing in the Chesapeake back in 2001. The new tool automatically pulled in better wind data, as well as the currents and tides, from the day the boat was lost. It knew when the dry cold front swept across the bay and so could estimate when, and where, the boat capsized, and tossed the 9-year-old girl and her mother into the chilly waters. It used Art’s equations for a drifting sailboat — drawing on data that Art had himself harvested. It took only a couple of minutes before up on the screen popped the most likely track the boat had taken. “It took you right to where they’d been,” said Art.In the fall of 2016, Art told the Coast Guard of his intention to retire in 18 months. When the time came for Art to go in the spring of 2018, the Coast Guard was unprepared. It hadn’t hired his replacement or even given him a junior scientist to train. Like the rest of the federal government, the Coast Guard was aging. At the end of 2018, around the time of the big government shutdown, 18 percent of the civilians employed by the U.S. government became eligible for retirement, and you had to wonder how many Art Allens were walking out the door and not being replaced. What was happening inside, say, the State Department, or the Bureau of Land Management, or the Food and Drug Administration? Art decided to delay his retirement for a year simply because there wasn’t anyone in search and rescue who knew what he knew. It’s curious how knowledge is at once so hard to create and so easily taken for granted. And in truth it was hard to say exactly what would be lost with Art’s retirement. When the people in the field called Art Allen with a question, it was usually after something had gone wrong. “When things aren’t going right, that’s when I get a call,” said Art. “If things are going right, they don’t need me.” But there were still times that things didn’t go right. Just before the government shutdown that had pronounced Art inessential, he’d received a call from the Miami district, which had been looking for a missing scuba diver off the Florida coast. Two male scuba divers, one in his 50s, the other in his 20s, had emerged from a dive to find their boat, and its driver, specks in the distance, and strong currents pulling them ever further apart. They were 18 miles from shore. The younger diver decided to swim toward the boat and get help. He never would have made it, but that didn’t matter, as he was rescued by the Coast Guard before he arrived. But in the meantime, the sun had set. The other diver was still out there, alone in the dark, presumably drifting as described by one of Art’s equations. Art got the call from the search and rescue people that night, after they’d searched the area that SAROPS told them to search and found nothing. A thought occurred to Art that hadn’t occurred to the rescue squad: The guy was trying to swim to shore. Eighteen miles away! The Coast Guard knew, from his fellow diver, that the guy had a scuba suit and orange pool noodles to help keep him afloat. He also had a compass. Art said, Broaden the search, and look closer to shore. “This wasn’t science,” Art said. “It was What would I do if I was in his position?”The Coast Guard found the diver. “This guy was a survivor,” said Art. “He used his compass. He flipped his mask up and used it to catch rainwater.” On the other hand the guy was still 9 miles from shore, and it was unclear if he was ever going to reach it. Many months after the Florida incident, and three months into his retirement, Art took me to see his old office in New London, Connecticut. He’d turned over the little access card that opened the front door, so an old friend had to come down and let us in. Art led me down a long hall with shiny white floors and no sign of human life and into a storage closet, where he’d kept his gear. He seemed sort of pleased, but also a little sad, that it was just as he’d left it: the current meters and anemometers and PVC pipes and mannequins still dressed in life vests. Even the orange pool noodles he’d used when studying the progress of ocean swimmers remained coiled where he’d left them, in the corner. We then climbed three flights of stairs to his old office, not much bigger than a cubicle and sealed with partition walls. At first glance it looked like what it was: an impersonal government office vacated months earlier by some anonymous public servant, waiting for its next occupant. Keys dangled from file cabinet keyholes; reference books filled the shelves. At second glance, it was still very much a specific person’s office. The fingers of a ghoulish gray rubber Halloween hand poked out of one of the file cabinets. (“It looks like a hypothermia victim,” said Art, by way of explanation.) Upon inspection the books, too, were singular. One was about a Mexican fisherman who had survived for 438 days alone on a raft at sea. The author had sent it to Art to thank him for verifying that the raft could have indeed drifted as the fisherman described (and everyone else doubted). I grabbed a pamphlet from a stack on a shelf. “The Leeway of Cuban Refugee Rafts and a Commercial Fishing Vessel,” by Art Allen. “There was an earlier study that said it drifted at 4 percent of the speed of the wind and I came up with 3.98 percent,” said Art, with his odd little laugh. “So what did I add?” Under that pamphlet were other pamphlets — all by Art. At the bottom was his 351-page treatise on the leeway of 95 more objects. On the cover was a note. “To my successor:” Art had scrawled in thick black ink. “You will find this report will provide a good background on the search objects in SARS. All the best, my friend. Art Allen.”“It’s really kind of sad, isn’t it?” he said.Art Allen had done what he’d done without asking for much for himself. Back in 1984, as a GS-11, he’d been paid less than $30,000 a year. After 35 years, he’d risen to a GS-14, and he’d been paid a bit more than $100,000. He hadn’t even expected the attention of others, outside his small circle of search and rescue people. It was nice that the Taiwanese coast guard wrote poems about him. But that sort of thing rarely happened here, in the United States. And he didn’t expect it to happen: Glory wasn’t part of the deal when you went to work for the federal government. Stability, on the other hand, was. He’d never expected to be chased from his job.There’d been a moment, a few years earlier, that captured the spirit of Art Allen’s relationship to the society he’d tried to save. He’d flown to Long Beach, California, to help the Coast Guard search and rescue people there upgrade their search and rescue tool. Purely by accident, he’d arrived on the day a ceremony was being held to honor the heroes of a recent rescue. A few months earlier, a Los Angeles man had fallen off the back of his brother’s fishing boat, without anyone noticing what had happened. He’d floated in the Pacific for seven hours. The Coast Guard had plucked him from the water in the middle of the night. On the day of Art Allen’s visit, the guy who’d been rescued had returned to the Coast Guard station to thank his rescuers. His visit had attracted the interest of local media. A bunch of TV cameras were there to witness the moment as the guy broke down and confessed that the experience of floating for hours in the darkness, and then by some miracle being saved, had left him a changed man. He’d quit smoking and lost 30 pounds and tried to help other people in distress.  Art stood off to one side, respectfully, and watched as the television cameras turned their attention from the man to the Coast Guard patrol that had saved him. “Against all odds, the crew detected yelling and a faint whistle in the darkness,” someone said into a microphone as the patrollers stepped forward, in turn, to receive their medals. Just then an older Coast Guard guy who had worked with Art Allen for many years leaned over and whispered to him, but to him alone: “Nice job.”  (Corrects type of aircraft in 37th paragraph of article published Oct. 15.)To contact the author of this story: Michael Lewis at mlewis1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: David Shipley at davidshipley@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Michael Lewis is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. His books include “Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt,” “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game,” “Liar’s Poker” and “The Fifth Risk.” He also has a podcast called “Against the Rules.” For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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