On Wednesday September 24th 2014, Air France’s massive 10-days old strike by its pilots was already equaling in duration the longest in its history that took place in 1998. With the carrier losing anywhere near $20 million per day, forecast by management that 46% of the flights would be ensured was slightly lower than the 48% seen the day before on Tuesday. Only 52% of the pilots were expected to strike for the day against 65% on Monday and 57% on Tuesday, the day where 200-300 pilots demonstrated in front of parliament.
The story on the operation tells a even more catastrophic story especially in the long haul fleet that brings the highest revenue for the global carrier. Traffic appeared to have ground to a virtual halt with no more than 40 flights in the air at the middle of the day rush-hour time, when normally most of the long haul fleet has departed Paris Roissy CDG Airport. Of these 40 flights, only 14 would be assigned to the long haul fleet; the single A380 flying is scheduled for San Francisco, 2 flights are due for New York JFK (a 777-300ER and a A330-200), 2 flights to Tokyo (two 777-300ER to Narita and Haneda), Saigon would see a 777-200, Santiago a 777-300ER, Bogota a A340-300, Libreville would be served with a 777-300ER, Cayenne with a A340-300, Pointe Noire with a A330-200, Yaounde with a 777-200, Beirut A340-300, and Niamey with a A340-300.
Yet it is expected that Thursday will be even worse with 67% of pilots staying off the job that day.
The current strike was initiated by the powerful SNPL (National Airline Pilot Syndicate) union backed by the SPAF (Air France Pilot Syndicate) union out of fears that by expanding its Transavia low cost subsidiary operating bases throughout Europe, Air France intended to recruit lower paid pilots. Very timid response from management seem to indicate that it hopes the movement will exhaust itself. The calls for strike are set to expire on Friday September 26th for SPAF affiliated pilots, and on the 30th for SNPL members.
Two Rafale fighter jets of the French Air Force conducted the first French air strikes in Iraq against ISIS on September 19th 2014. The target was identified by the French Defense Ministry as a logistical depot located at Daech in Iraq’s north east. The two rafale from the 3/30 “Lorraine” Fighter Squadron were in fact operating from Al Dhafra Air Base in United Arab Emirates. There, the French Air Force maintains 4 additional Rafale fighter jets as well as supporting aircraft.
The strike package consisted of the 2 Rafale, one single seat C-model and one two-seat B-model each equipped with the Damocles laser designator/ targeting pod attached to the right of the aircraft’s centerline. The armament on each aircraft consisted of 4 GBU-12 Paveway II (500 lbs) Laser Guided Bomb, with a pair of bombs mated to a single dual bomb rack underneath each wing. Each aircraft was also fitted with a single MICA short/medium range air-to-air missile attached to the left wing’s tip.
According to the French Defense Ministry, the strikes took place on Friday morning between 9h40 and 9h58 with each aircraft releasing two GBU-12 bombs. Pictures of the two returning Rafale showed a single GBU-12 remaining on each of the aircraft’s wings.
The strike package consisted of a French Navy Breguet Atlantique 2 Combat Intelligence platform that conducted Battle Assessment Damage (see pictures), a French Air Force C-135-FR tanker along with unspecified US Air Force CSAR assets in support.
Total mission flight duration to and from the target zone was approximately 5 hours requiring 3 in-flight refuels. Both aircraft showed a “Heavy” fuel load configuration consisting of three externally attached 2,000-Litre (528 US Gallon), one centerline and two on wings.