While there have been substantial improvements in key aircraft features such as passenger comfort, technology, and environmental protection, the narrow-bodied jets of the 1960s and 1970s still will be only marginally profitable in the 1980s because of one element: Fuel.
Fuel costs, more than any other single slice of the expense pie, have climbed for every airline, and the trend is one that will not just go away with time. At PSA, for example, fuel costs account for more than one-third of every dollar spent.
Throughout the industry, airlines are disposing of fuel=guzzing jets to ensure their survival in the new, highly competitive deregulated environment. PSA is no exception.
Older, less-sophisticated aircraft are more expensive to operate and maintain. Newer, high technology equipment, although significantly more expensive to acquire, have economic advantages that result in greater productivity and lower long-term costs.
PSA was the first airline in the United States to operate the new Super 80 jetliner, the first of the so-called "new generation" aircraft that will become available to the nation's airlines during this decade.
With 26 of the new jetliners expected to be in PSA's fleet by 1983. the Super 80 will assist PSA in providing the best possible service to its passengers, while keeping a step ahead of the competition.
What makes this jetliner so Super?
From stem to stern, the Super 80's technical sophistication is akin to nothing else currently available in the airline industry. The cockpit is equipped with advanced digital computer hardware the so substantially reduces the flight crew's workload that it's like having a second "crew" on board. There's even a computer that talks to the crew.
PSA's Super 80s are also equipped with Heads Up Display (HUD) units. Used during approaches and landings, HUD projects flight guidance information on a glass plate at eye level in front of the pilot.
HUD allows the pilot to look out the windshield during approach and landing without having to glance down at the instrument panel for flight information. When not in use, HUD is stowed out of the pilot's field of vision.
The Super 80's wings are longer and trimmer for minimal wind resistance and greater fuel efficiency, and its two Pratt & Whitney JT8D-200 series engines are a new version of those that have powered PSA's 727-200 fleet. These engines not only are quiet, they are much more fuel efficient.
Pratt & Whitney-powered JT8D-200 series engines not only are quieter but more fuel efficient.
PSA has maintained its position as the price leader in the airline industry because it has been able to control operational costs. The Super 80 will help PSA to continue that trend.
For example, the Super 80 will burn significantly fewer gallons of jet fuel per flight hour than the Boeing 727, which have been the backbone of PSA's fleet for the past 15 years. Even at today's prices, which are destined to rise, an all-Super 80 fleet would save PSA approximately $30 million a year in fuel costs alone.
The Super 80 saves money in other areas, too. The annual savings in maintenance costs for the aircraft are estimated to be approximately $1 million per aircraft.
In terms of total operating costs, each Super 80 should save PSA about $1.7 million per year over the Boeing 727. With these cost advantages, PSA will be able to pass much of the savings on to passengers in the form of continued low air fares.