Monday, February 27, 2017

Gulfstream G600 Flight Testing To Ramp Up with 2nd Ship

N720GD, the second flight-test Gulfstream G600, took to the skies for the first time on February 24, logging four hours, 26 minutes aloft. According to data from FlightAware, the new fly-by-wire twinjet flew 1,875 nm, reached its 51,000-foot ceiling and attained speeds up to 548 knots during its maiden flight.

Gulfstream G600 (c/n 73002) N720GD the second flight-test Gulfstream took to the air for the first time on Friday afternoon, logging four hours, 26 minutes aloft. According to data from FlightAware, the new fly-by-wire twinjet flew 1,875 nm (mostly in a racetrack pattern off the coast from the Georgia-Florida border), reached its 51,000-foot ceiling and attained speeds up to 548 knots during its maiden flight.

“The addition of a second flight-test aircraft just 10 weeks after the first demonstrates the rigor and discipline inherent in our development programs and continues a cadence of accomplishments that will steadily move the G600 toward certification and entry into service,” said Gulfstream Aerospace president Mark Burns. “Each milestone we clear validates the significant investments we’ve made in research and development, our ground-based labs and our flight-test capabilities.”

The first G600, registered as N600G, flew on December 17 and has already logged more than 150 flight hours and has flown 22 consecutive sorties without a single maintenance discrepancy, Gulfstream said. N600G is now conducting flutter testing and expanding the flight envelope; the second G600 will soon begin flight-loads testing.

Gulfstream also recently completed ultimate load testing of the G600 structural test article, a “key step” in the certification process. Gulfstream anticipates FAA certification and first customer deliveries of the G600 next year, which is one year behind its sibling G500.

(Chad Trautvetter - AINOnline News)

Embraer Phenom 300 Once Again the Best-selling Bizjet

The Embraer Phenom 300 is now the best-selling business jet for four years running. With 63 deliveries last year, the light jet just beat out the Bombardier Challenger 350 by one unit.
(Photo: Embraer Executive Jets)

According to the latest report from the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), the Embraer Phenom 300 once again earned the crown as the best-selling business jet, overall, with 63 deliveries logged last year. It beat the number-two seller—the super-midsize Bombardier Challenger 350—by just one shipment. This is the fourth consecutive year that Embraer's light jet has achieved this mark, accumulating 266 deliveries since 2013.

Meanwhile, Textron Aviation's Cessna Citation Latitude earned the title of the best-selling midsize jet, with 42 deliveries last year, according to figures released yesterday by GAMA. AIN was unable to determine the top seller in the large-cabin business jet category, as manufacturers Gulfstream, Dassault and Bombardier do not break out individual delivery numbers for specific models in this segment. Dassault delivered 49 jets in the midsize to large-cabin range last year; Gulfstream shipped 88 large-cabin jets; and Bombardier handed over 51 Global 5000/6000s.​​

“We are elated to once again see the Phenom 300 receive such an important recognition from the market. We are very grateful to our customers for the validation of both the aircraft’s original design as well as all their input,” said Embraer CEO Paulo Cesar Silva. In seven years of operation, the Phenom 300 fleet is approaching 400 aircraft, having attained more than half of the light jet market share since 2012. The 1,971-nm twinjet is in operation in 30 countries and has accumulated close to half a million flight hours.

(Chad Trautvetter - AINOnline News)

United announces four new cities, 22 non-stop routes

United Airlines announced a major expansion Monday, adding 16 non-stop routes to its network. The airline also unveiled the seasonal addition of six other routes and revealed plans to boost flights on 15 routes it's already flying.

The move is the latest step in a turn-around effort by the USA’s No. 3 airline. United’s new expansion also includes service to four smaller cities where it does not currently fly. Three of those are in the Midwest – Champaign, Ill.; Columbia, Mo.; and Rochester, Minn. – while the other is on the West Coast (Santa Rosa, Calif.).

Scroll down to see the details of the new routes detail in United's announcement from Monday (Feb. 27):

Chicago O’Hare

Charlottesville, Va.: Beings June 8; 1 daily round-trip flight on Bombardier CRJ-200 regional jets.

Champaign, Ill.: Begins June 8; 3 daily round-trip flights on Embraer ERJ-145 regional jets.

Columbia, Mo.: Begins Aug. 1; 2 daily round-trip flights on Bombardier CRJ-200 regional jets.

Reno: Begins June 8; 1 daily round trip flight on Airbus A319 jets.

Rochester, Minn.: Begins June 8; 3 daily round trip flights on Embraer ERJ-145 regional jets.

Spokane, Wash.: Begins June 8; 1 daily round trip flight on Airbus A320 jets.

Tucson: Begins June 8: 1 daily round trip flight on Embraer E175 jets. (converts winter-only service to year-round flying)


Columbia, Mo.: Begins Aug. 1; 1 daily round-trip flight on Embraer ERJ-145 regional jets.

Kona, Hawaii: Begins June 8; 1 daily round trip flight on Boeing 757 jets. (seasonal/summer schedule only)

San Luis Obispo, Calif.: Begins June 8; 1 daily round-trip flight on Embraer E175 jets.

Houston Bush Intercontinental

Springfield, Mo.: Begins June 8; 2 daily round-trip flights on Embraer ERJ-145 regional jets.

Newark Liberty International Airport

Sacramento: Begins June 8; 1 daily round-trip flight on Airbus A319 jets.

Salt Lake City: Begins June 8; 1 daily round trip flight on Boeing 737-800 jets. (converts winter-only service to year-round flying)

San Francisco

Cincinnati: Begins June 8; 1 daily round trip flight on Airbus A319 jets.

Detroit: Begins June 8; 1 daily round trip flight on Airbus A319 jets.

Hartford, Conn.: Begins June 8; 1 daily round trip flight on Airbus A319 jets.

Kalispell, Mont.: Begins July 1: 1 daily round trip flight on Bombardier CRJ-700 regional jets. (converts winter-only service to year-round flying)

Munich: Begins May 24; 1 daily round-trip flight on Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. (seasonal/summer schedule only)

New Orleans: Begins June 8; (converts winter-only service to year-round flying)

Santa Rosa, Calif.: Begins June 8; 3 daily round trip flights on Bombardier CRJ-200 regional jets.

Spokane, Wash.: Begins June 8; 2 daily round trip flights on Airbus A320 jets.

Tel Aviv: Begins May 5; 1 daily round-trip flight on Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. (Not a new route, though the aircraft is upgraded to United's new Boeing 777-300ER that feature its updated cabin and new business class.)

Washington Dulles

Fort Lauderdale: Begins June 8; 1 daily round trip flight on Boeing 737-800 jets. (seasonal/summer schedule only)


Additionally, United is moving to increase the number of flights on routes it already flies. Scroll down for a hub-by-hub summary of those increases, which will be phased in during the summer schedule:

United now flying longest route of any U.S. airline

Chicago O'Hare

Fort Lauderdale: 3 daily round-trip flights.

Fort Myers, Fla.: 2 daily round-trip flights.


Albuquerque: 5 daily round-trip flights.

Fort Lauderdale: 2 daily round-trip flights.

Orlando: 4 daily round-trip flights.

Tampa: 2 daily round-trip flights.

Houston Bush Intercontinental

Atlanta: 8 daily round-trip flights.

Charleston, S.C.: 3 daily round-trip flights.

Newark Liberty International

Atlanta: 8 daily round-trip flights.

Detroit: 7 daily round-trip flights.

Portland, Ore.: 2 daily round-trip flights.

Washington Dulles

Jacksonville, Fla.: 3 daily round-trip flights.

Portland, Maine: 4 daily round-trip flights.

Providence: 4 daily round-trip flights.

Roanoke, Va.: 3 daily round-trip flights.

(Ben Mutzabaugh - Today In The Sky / USA Today)

Raytheon gets $1 billion radar contract for Qatar

Raytheon received a $1 billion contract from the U.S. Air Force to provide an early warning radar system for the government of Qatar.

Early warning radar systems are devices used to provide long-range detection capabilities for armed forces, allowing them to respond to threats as early as possible. The systems can be integrated into a variety of platforms, such as the U.S. Navy's E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft.

Under the contract with the Air Force, the company will provide an early warning radar system to be integrated into Qatar's air and missile defense enterprise.

The U.S. Department of Defense says the work will be performed in Woborn, Mass., and expets it to be complete by the end of June 2021.

The contract is the result of a sole-source acquisition, and is comprised of 100 percent foreign military sales. The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center is listed as the contracting activity.

(Ryan Maass -UPI)

Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Boeing B-17G (c/n 8649 / 44-85740) N5017N "Aluminum Overcast"

Arrives at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) following a flight from Lake Havasu City Airport (HII/KHII) on February 27, 2017 for a weeks long visit.

She was delivered to the U.S. Army Air Corps on May 18, 1945 to late to see any action in the last months of  World War II (WWII). She wears the markings and colors of the 389th Bomb Group - 601st Squadron. Here registration commemorates B-17G 42-102515 which was shot down over Le Manior, France on August 13, 1944 during her 34th combat mission.

(Photos by Michael Carter)

First Citation M2 Fitted with Tamarack Active Winglets

The first installation of Tamarack Aerospace's active winglets on a Cessna Citation M2 recently took place at the Textron Aviation Service Center in Wichita, Tamarack Aerospace announced today. This expands the Sandpoint, Idaho-based company’s FAA and EASA STCs for the winglets to include all non-stretched derivatives of the CitationJet, including the CJ1 and CJ1+.

The company's active winglets have an integrated load alleviation system that eliminates the need for structural reinforcement. They also increase the aspect ratio of the M2’s wing from around nine to more than 12, which translates to a 10 percent to 12 percent reduction in fuel burn, a 400-pound max zero fuel weight increase, more than 600-pound hot-and-high performance boost and the removal of a yaw damper “INOP” limitation.

“We are very excited about the first installation of the active winglets on an M2. This is also the first install on an aircraft that is still in production,” said Tamarack COO Brian Cox. “Now that we have FAA certification and our parts manufacturing approval [PMA], we are working closely with Cessna to add active winglets directly onto the production line.”

(Chad Trautvetter - AINOnline News)

SWISS to increase capacity on North Atlantic routes

Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) will increase capacity on North Atlantic routes this summer by using larger aircraft. The Lufthansa subsidiary will also base its first Bombardier CS300—which it expects to receive in the 2Q—in Geneva.

From April 22, SWISS will increase Zurich-San Francisco services from 3X-weekly to daily using a Boeing 777-300ER. The carrier will also operate the 777-300ER on six of its 12X-weekly Zurich-Chicago O’Hare routes between June and October. As a result, the 777-300ER will be used on daily services over the summer from Zurich to five intercontinental destinations—Bangkok, Hong Kong, Singapore, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

SWISS—which took delivery of its fifth CS100 on Dec. 30, 2016—expects to receive a minimum of 12 CS100s and CS300s this year. It originally ordered 20 CS100s and 10 CS300s, plus 30 options. On June 5, 2016, the carrier announced it would convert five of 20 CS100 orders into CS300s.

As more CSeries aircraft enter into service, the Star Alliance carrier will operate CSeries aircraft from both Zurich and Geneva. The CS300 will operate to various European destinations and will transform SWISS’s Geneva-based fleet solely to an all-CSeries aircraft fleet.

In its summer 2017 schedule, SWISS will serve 102 (77 European and 25 intercontinental) destinations in 43 countries. The IATA summer timetable period runs from March 26 to Oct. 28 2017.

(Kurt Hofmann - ATWOnline News)

Atlas has acquired all 20 767s to be operated for Amazon

Atlas Air Worldwide Holdings has secured all 20 Boeing 767-300s it will wet lease to Amazon, according to president and CEO Bill Flynn.

Purchase, New York-based Atlas has also secured freighter conversion slots for all of the used aircraft. It is additionally acquiring one spare 767-300 to dedicate to Seattle-based Amazon.

Atlas last year inked the wet-lease contract with Amazon and started operating the first 767-300F for Amazon under the Prime Air brand in August 2016. Amazon has also signed a similar 767-300F wet-lease deal with Ohio-based Air Transport Services Group.

By the end of 2018, Atlas will have placed all 20 767-300Fs in service for Amazon, Flynn told analysts while discussing the air cargo company’s 2016 earnings. The aircraft are being converted by Israel Aerospace Industries and Boeing, he said.

Flynn noted there is a “good feedstock” of used aircraft available to convert to freighters.

(Aaron Karp - ATWOnline News)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Germany’s Condor expands US services

German leisure carrier Condor Airlines has outlined what it called the largest US expansion in its 60-year history.

The airline said it will add nonstop service from Frankfurt to San Diego (2X-weekly), Pittsburgh (2X-weekly) and New Orleans (2X-weekly). It will also add nonstop service from Munich to Seattle (2X-weekly) and Las Vegas (2X-weekly).

All routes will be operated using Boeing 767-300ERs.

Frankfurt-based Condor, part of UK-based Thomas Cook Group Airlines, currently serves the US cities of Anchorage, Alaska; Austin, Texas; Baltimore, Maryland; Fairbanks, Alaska; Las Vegas, Nevada; Minneapolis, Minneapolis; Portland, Oregon; and Seattle, Washington state.

Thomas Cook Group Airlines—which also includes UK-based Thomas Cook Airlines, Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium and Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia—has seen a surge in flights to and from North America. Passenger numbers from North America to Europe have more than doubled in the last three years, with nine routes introduced within this period. More than one million passengers used the airline’s services via the North Atlantic in 2016.

In the US, Condor partners with Seattle-based Alaska Airlines, New York-based JetBlue Airways and Minneapolis-Saint Paul-based Sun Country Airlines for connecting services.

The Condor network includes more than 75 destinations.

However, Condor has been hit by decreased demand, especially on flights to holiday destinations impacted by terrorist attacks in Europe in 2016.

According to the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, for 2016 Condor reported an operating loss of €16 million ($16.8 million) based on a turnover of €1.5 billion. The carrier reportedly transferred four of its 13 Boeing 757-300s to Thomas Cook Airlines.

On Feb. 9, the Thomas Cook Group presented 1Q results for the three months ended Dec. 31, 2016. Condor’s underlying EBIT fell £13 million ($16.2 million) to a loss of £7 million, as profitability was impacted by overcapacity in the short-haul market and weak demand.

Thomas Cook CEO Peter Fankhauser said, “Regarding 2017, Condor is performing in line with our expectations for the summer.”

The German airline market continues to be impacted by weak demand for Turkey and overcapacity to the Canaries. However, strong demand for Greece, together with capacity reductions on certain routes, is helping to mitigate the impact.

“Our plan of action to improve Condor’s profitability, which we announced in November, is on track and is expected to deliver positive benefits from the second half of the year,” he said.

A Condor spokesperson told ATW in Frankfurt the airline expects to return to profit in 2017.

(Kurt Hofmann - ATWOnline News)

AirBaltic to launch CS300 long-haul flights to Abu Dhabi

AirBaltic CS300

Latvian carrier airBaltic plans to launch 4X-weekly Riga-Abu Dhabi Bombardier CS300 service beginning Oct. 29, in cooperation with Etihad Airways, the Riga-based carrier announced Feb. 24.

AirBaltic CEO Martin Gauss said the CS300 will be able to “fly longer distances and reach airports that we were not able to serve with our fleet before.”

The CS300 launch customer took delivery of its first of the type Nov. 28, 2016, and launched its first flight from Riga to Amsterdam Dec. 14. The carrier received its second CS300 Dec. 3.

AirBaltic’s fleet also includes 12 Bombardier Q400s and 13 Boeing 737s.

(Kurt Hofmann - ATWOnline News)

Warren Buffett Southwest Airlines Takeover? Possible, Analysts Say

Is billionaire investor Warren Buffett eyeing a takeover of Southwest Airlines? Analysts including Morgan Stanley have begun to speculate as much.

Despite having previously disparaged airline stocks and the industry as a whole, Buffett and his Berkshire Hathaway investing group bought large amounts of stock in each of the four major airlines — Delta, United, American, and Southwest — in late 2016.

Buffet has not said outright that he wants to acquire an airline, but he did make comments in a Charlie Rose interview last month saying it would be easier to buy and move planes than it would be to install thousands of miles of train tracks. (Berkshire acquired Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad in 2010 for $26 billion.)

“While we have no knowledge of any potential transactions, U.S. airlines have structurally changed for the better following consolidation that has resulted in more pricing power, supply discipline, and a focus on margins over market share,” Morgan Stanley analyst Lalwani wrote, Bloomberg reported. “An interest in industries with structural improvement and the gradually growing stakes are fairly consistent with Berkshire’s approach to acquiring Burlington Northern Santa Fe.”

Berkshire is now one of the top two investors in all four major airlines, but analysts think Southwest may be a top target because of its domestic focus, free cash flow, and growth opportunities, according to Chicago Business Journal. Southwest also has management with greater tenure, the Journal said.

After struggling for many years following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, airlines have posted record profits in recent years as fuel prices have decreased and consolidation has produced cost savings, the Journal reported, making it a beneficial time for an acquisition that could be one of the biggest Berkshire has ever had.

The Burlington railroad deal was Berkshire’s largest acquisition to date, the Journal said, but Bloomberg pointed out that its next-largest buyout was Precision Castparts, an airplane parts manufacturer it acquired last year.

(Jen Krausz - Newsmax)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

UPS Tests Rooftop Drone Delivery System for Packages

The Workhorse Group HorseFly octocopter lifts off from a UPS delivery truck to fly a preset, autonomous route.
(Photo: UPS)

UPS said it successfully tested an octocopter drone that launches from the top of a package truck, delivers a package to a house and returns to the truck. The delivery giant is evaluating the use of drones to transport packages to dispersed addresses in rural areas.

UPS conducted the test on February 20 in Lithia, Florida, with Workhorse Group of Loveland, Ohio. Workhorse designs and produces battery-electric power trains and also manufactures medium-duty truck chassis at a plant in Union City, Indiana. It built the eight-rotor “HorseFly” drone and the electric UPS delivery truck used in the test.

The HorseFly docks on the roof of the delivery truck; a cage suspended beneath it drops into the truck through a hatch. The driver loads a package into the cage and using a touchscreen controller dispatches the drone on a preset autonomous route to an address. The octocopter can fly for 30 minutes on battery power and carry a package weighing up to 10 pounds. It recharges while docked on the roof.

Workhorse preset the route the drone flew for the test, but future plans call for integrating flight plans with UPS’s proprietary On-Road Integrated Optimization and Navigation routing software.

Atlanta-based UPS says it has been testing automation and robotics technologies, including drones, for years. In September, the package company demonstrated a mock medicine delivery from Beverly, Massachusetts, to Children’s Island, off the Massachusetts coast, using a CyPhy Works hexacopter. In partnership with relief organizations, UPS has used drones to deliver blood and vaccines in Rwanda. It has also evaluated drones to monitor inventory at warehouses in Kentucky and the Netherlands.

Unlike previous uses, the package-delivery flight in Florida demonstrated how drones might assist UPS drivers in fulfilling non-urgent residential deliveries. Rural delivery routes are the most costly to serve, and reducing one mile per driver per day over the course of a year could save the company up to $50 million, UPS said.

“This test is different than anything we’ve done with drones so far,” said Mark Wallace, UPS senior vice president of global engineering and sustainability. “It has implications for future deliveries, especially in rural locations where our package cars often have to travel miles to make a single delivery. This is a big step toward bolstering efficiency in our network and reducing our emissions at the same time.”
(Bill Carey - AINOnline News)

Norwegian to launch new transatlantic routes in June


Low-cost carrier (LCC) Norwegian has unveiled new routes from five cities in the UK and Ireland to US destinations, starting in June, as it continues its rapid expansion.

Norwegian, which will operate Boeing 737 MAX aircraft configured with single-class economy cabins on the routes, said it was launching 10 new routes with 38 weekly transatlantic flights, and that prices would start at €69 ($73) one way.

Norwegian’s Irish subsidiary, Norwegian Air International, won its long-awaited and controversial approval for a foreign air carrier permit from the US Department of Transportation in December—a move that was unpopular with domestic US airlines.

Norwegian, whose capacity in ASKs is expected to grow 30%, and which plans to take delivery of 32 new aircraft this year, said it would serve three US east coast destinations using smaller airports that offer good access to New York, Boston and other parts of New England, but which have significantly lower landing charges. The carrier said it would pass the savings on to its passengers.

Norwegian will offer double-daily transatlantic flights from Edinburgh, Scotland, starting June 15, flying from the Scottish capital to Stewart International Airport in Orange County, New York; Green Airport near Providence, Rhode Island; and Bradley International Airport serving Hartford, Connecticut.

The LCC will also offer the only direct transatlantic flights from Belfast from July 1, with services from Belfast International to Stewart International and Green airports.

The first ever transatlantic flights from Cork, Ireland, to Green Airport, and new routes from Dublin and Shannon, Ireland, to Stewart International and Green airports will also begin July 1, the LCC said. It already operates low-cost flights to eight US cities from London Gatwick Airport.

“Norwegian’s latest transatlantic offering is not only great news for the traveling public, but also for the local US, Irish and UK economies, as we will bring more tourists that will increase spending, supporting thousands of local jobs,” Norwegian CEO Bjorn Kjos said.

Norwegian is Europe’s third-largest LCC, carrying 30 million passengers annually to more than 140 global destinations.

(Helen Massy-Beresford - Aviation Week / ATWOnline News)

FedEx, USPS extend contract by four years

FedEx Express, the airline arm of Memphis-based FedEx Corp., and the United States Postal Service (USPS) have extended a contract by four years under which FedEx provides express air transport services for USPS.

The contract, initiated in 2013 and originally set to expire in 2020, will now be in effect through September 2024. Under the contract, FedEx Express provides airport-to-airport transportation for USPS’s “priority mail express” and “priority mail” products within the US.

According to FedEx, the modified contract is expected to generate $1.5 billion in annual revenue for FedEx.

FedEx Corp. president and COO David Bronczek said FedEx is able to provide “operational reliability and flexibility” to USPS.

(Aaron Karp - ATWOnline News)

Grupo Aeromexico posts $54 million net profit for 2016

Grupo Aeromexico reported a 2016 net profit of MXP1.1 billion ($53.8 million), down 3.9% from MXP1.2 billion net income in 2015.

The company said the year’s financial results reflected the negative impact of Mexican peso depreciation against the US dollar, combined with increased fuel prices.

Grupo Aeromexico’s full-year revenue increased 14.9% to MXP53.9 billion, while expenses grew 14.7% to MXP50.4 billion. The group’s operating profit for the year totaled MXP3.6 billion, up 17.8% from MXP3 billion in 2015; the operating margin for the year was 6.6%, up 0.1 point from 2015. Air cargo revenue increased 16.7% in 2016 to MXP3.4 billion.

Full-year system traffic was up 8.3% year-over-year (YOY) to 34.8 billion RPKs on a 7.4% rise in capacity to 43.4 billion ASKs, producing a load factor of 80.3%, up 0.6 point from 2015.

2016 RASK increased 7% to 1.244 pesos, matching a 7% rise in CASK for the year, to 1.173 pesos. Total CASK ex-fuel increased 10.2% in 2016 to 0.915 pesos. Yield was up 4.3% for the year, to 1.395 pesos.

The group’s fourth-quarter 2016 net profit was MXP 259 million, a 90.7% increase on MXP136 million in 4Q 2015. Operating revenue for the quarter was MXP15 billion, up 19.5% over MXP 12.6 billion in 4Q 2015. Operating expenses totaled MXP14 billion, up 20.7% YOY. Operating profit for the quarter totaled MXP1.1 million, up 6% YOY.

Grupo Aeromexico added four aircraft under operating lease agreements to its fleet during the 2016 fourth quarter, including one Boeing 787-9 and three Embraer E190s. The airline also took delivery of two 787-9s under Japanese operating lease with call options. One 777 and three E175s were retired during the quarter, bringing the Group’s total fleet (between Aeromexico and regional carrier Aeromexico Connect) to 133 aircraft, up eight aircraft from 2015.

(Mark Nensel - ATWOnline News)

ATR opens first Americas-based -600 series training center in Miami

Turboprop manufacturer ATR opened its first pilot training center in the Americas Feb. 21, with the debut of a new CAE-built full flight simulator (FFS) for ATR-600 series aircraft.

ATR’s Miami, Florida facility, which is located at Airbus’ existing training center adjacent to Miami International Airport, is ATR’s fifth training center worldwide and the first aimed specifically at pilots in Latin America and North America.

“The training center in Miami is a natural step in our aim of being as close as possible to our operators in the region, and [is] a strategic move to re-enter the US market,” ATR CEO Christian Scherer said.

“The other day I was [at] … our Singapore training facility and I walked by the simulator there and I see ‘in use by Bahamasair’—in Singapore. Now that doesn’t work,” Scherer told attendees at the FFS unveiling ceremony in Miami. “ATR is a global company. It has 200 operators flying 1,100-plus airplanes around the world in over 100 countries. We owe it to our customers to be present in every continent … now we’ve ticked the American continent, with the unveiling of this simulator… ATR is currently training about 3,500 pilots per year. With this facility, we can go up to something close to 4,000 pilots per year.”

ATR also has additional training facilities in Paris, Singapore, Johannesburg and at the company’s home base in Toulouse, France. ATR is co-owned by Airbus and Italian defense/aerospace company Leonardo (formerly Finmeccanica).

ATR’s fleet operating among Latin American and Caribbean carriers has doubled within the past decade, the company said, with the number of ATR-600s expected to exceed 100 aircraft by 2020. In 2016, 23 ATR-600s were ordered by Latin American customers (Argentina’s Avian Líneas Aéreas ordered 12 of the type; Brazil’s Azul ordered five; Mexico’s Aeromar ordered six).

The manufacturer delivered 80 aircraft in 2016 and 88 in 2015. Major 72-600 deliveries in 2016 included nine to Indonesia’s Lion Air, seven to Swedish regional carrier BRA, five to Air New Zealand, three to Binter Canarias, among others.

(Mark Nensel - ATWOnline News)

Lufthansa set to take second A350 XWB

Lufthansa will take delivery of the second of 25 Airbus A350 XWBs in Munich Feb. 24, which will be used on Munich-Boston Logan scheduled services beginning March 14.

The Star Alliance member took delivery of its first A350-900 on Dec. 21, 2016, and launched its first A350 scheduled services Feb. 10, from Munich to Delhi, India.

The first 10 A350s will be deployed on long-haul routes from Munich; a further six of the type will be delivered this year. The next delivery is scheduled for summer 2017. The A350 will gradually replace Lufthansa’s A340-600 fleet.

The 293-seat aircraft is configured for 48 seats in business, 21 in premium economy and 224 in economy class. The A350 is equipped with Lufthansa’s latest cabin products, including new seats, inflight entertainment and connectivity in all classes. A new self-service bar is located between the first business-class section and the second, smaller business-class cabin.

“So far it is not decided if these cabin products will also be installed in other new aircraft, like the Boeing 777X. This is too early to say,” Lufthansa spokesperson Bettina Rittberger told ATW.

Lufthansa said it will be the first airline to use a range of different settings for the A350-900’s onboard lighting, which are designed to sync with passengers’ day and night biorhythms. This new A350-900 LED technology can provide around 24 different lighting settings. Following the A350-900, Lufthansa will also be re-fitting its 19 Boeing 747-800s with the new lighting system.

“We also offer an adjusted entertainment product, including bigger IFE [inflight entertainment] screens,” Rittberger said. Besides that, an updated IFE system allows passengers to pre-select content from home as early as six weeks in advance. Passengers must download the Lufthansa companion app onto their own device, then they can synchronize their selections with their individual IFE screen.

(Kurt Hofmann - ATWOnline News)

Eurowings phases out final CRJ900, becomes all-Airbus operator

Rapidly expanding Lufthansa Group low-cost (LCC) subsidiary Eurowings has phased out its last Bombardier CRJ900, becoming an all-Airbus operator and closing its history as a regional carrier.

Eurowings operated its last 90-seat CRJ900 flight Feb. 15 from Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden to Hamburg, Germany. All 23 CRJ900s have all been replaced with Airbus A320s.

The LCC has operated all versions of the CRJ regional jets, including 23 -200s, two -700s and 23 -900s. Together, all its CRJs operated 560,400 flying hours without any accidents.

“Eurowings is growing faster than the [European aviation] market itself,” Eurowings MD Michael Knitter told ATW recently. “Not only with more aircraft, but also by exchanging our 90-seat Bombardier regional jets with 180-seat A320s.”

Lufthansa established Eurowings as a pan-European LCC platform, which should grow quickly to 100 aircraft as competition from LCCs such UK’s easyJet, Ireland’s Ryanair, and Spain’s Vueling increase to a 50% market share in Europe.

(Kurt Hofmann - ATWOnline News)

Allegiant Air to launch international service in 2018

Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air plans to launch international flights in 2018, provided it can update its reservations system to handle foreign bookings.

Allegiant operates an in-house reservations system, and is updating the software in order to handle international routes and foreign currency sales, Allegiant SVP-commercial Lukas Johnson said. “For foreign sales, we’ll have to either rewrite the code for our reservations system, or will explore using [global distribution systems] connectivity,” Johnson said at the Routes Americas conference.

Allegiant does not sell tickets through external distribution systems. It is one of only a few carriers that built its reservations system in-house. The airline is upgrading its current system, AIS, to one called G4Plus. The new system will handle foreign sales. The call center now is using a version of G4Plus, Allegiant director of marketing Jessica Wheeler said.

Allegiant has not identified the foreign markets it intends to serve, but Johnson noted the carrier will hew to its strategy of connecting small- and mid-size markets in the US with leisure destinations. Allegiant operates to many of its markets on a less-than-daily schedule, and this is not expected to change. The carrier will focus exclusively on the leisure and visiting friends and relatives (VFR) markets, he added.

Allegiant is continuing its transition to an all-Airbus A320-family fleet, Johnson said. The airline is retiring 12 MD-80s this year, with the goal of phasing out the entire fleet of more than 40 MD-80s within three years.

The airline also is retiring its Boeing 757 fleet by the end of this year, and will cease Hawaii flights, Johnson said. He added that the 18 Airbus A320-family aircraft Allegiant plans to receive this year will not be ETOPS-certified. “We would have to sacrifice some seats on A320ceos for ETOPS, which didn’t make sense for us,” he said.

Although Allegiant is sticking with its strategy of serving small- and mid-size markets, it has moved from being primarily a west coast airline to having 60% of its capacity east of the Mississippi River, Johnson said.

Allegiant recently began serving Cleveland Hopkins International Airport after ending operations at Akron-Canton Airport. It made the switch after noticing that most of its passengers in the region lived near Cleveland. “It made more sense for us to use Cleveland,” he said.

Allegiant’s recent launch of Newark, New Jersey, service is not a departure from its strategy, Johnson said. The carrier is selling New York City as a destination to which it takes leisure passengers, and not as a business-traveler destination, he said.

(Madhu Unnikrishnan - Aviation Daily / ATWOnline News)

India’s Zoom Air launches CRJ200 service

Zoom Air CRJ200

India’s new regional carrier Zoom Air, has launched Bombardier CRJ200 regional jet service with aircraft acquired from a third party.

The carrier, which is based in Gurgaon, Haryana, operates from the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi and will serve 16 destinations, connecting smaller cities and towns across the country.

Zoom Air was established in 2013 under the brand name Zexus Air and took delivery of its first CRJ200 in September 2016. The Indian regional carrier received an air operator’s certificate Feb. 3 and began operations Feb. 15 with Delhi-Kolkata-Durgapur services.

“The CRJ200 aircraft greatly complement our business model and will help our growth strategy, while providing excellent operational flexibility and passenger comfort,” Zoom Air CEO and director Koustav Dhar said, adding the aircraft will allow the new airline to access new routes and destinations that are currently under-served.

(Linda Blachly - ATWOnline News)

Air France pilots agree to long-haul LCC

Air France pilots have approved in principle the carrier’s plan to create a low-cost, long-haul airline, Boost, to drive growth.

This brings the carrier a step closer to implementing an important element of its turnaround plan.

Air France-KLM, which has a tense relationship with its unions, unveiled an ambitious new strategic plan in November. It aims to cut costs and drive growth amid a highly competitive operating environment for European airlines. The plan included Boost, which will have a different name by the time it begins operating.

The carrier plans to offer passengers on board the new low-cost carrier (LCC) a comparable experience to Air France flights, but to keep organizational costs lower to better compete with rivals, including Gulf carriers.

Air France management submitted the plan to pilots Feb. 9 after long negotiations. The main pilots’ union, Syndicat National des Pilotes de Ligne (SNPL), said Feb. 20 that 73.8% of pilots had taken part in the vote, with 58.1% voting in favor of the Boost plan. However, the SNPL cautioned the vote did not give carte blanche approval to a text the union said Air France management unilaterally proposed.

The union added it would need numerous guarantees from management, and that the project as it stands lacks guarantees on how activity would be balanced with KLM, which would be a cornerstone of making the LCC work. The SNPL board will study the text at its Feb. 22 meeting, and will likely need further talks with management to reach a compromise that could be put to a vote by its members.

“Air France management takes note of this result, which was marked by a strong participation and reflects a desire to move forward,” an Air France spokesman said of the Boost vote.

Air France has not yet decided which destinations the LCC will serve. It may use Airbus A350 aircraft on long-haul routes, while Airbus A320s will serve medium-haul destinations. The new airline’s total fleet should reach up to 28 aircraft. Medium-haul operations are scheduled to begin at the end of 2017, with long-haul routes starting in 2018.

(Helen Massy-Beresford - Aviation Week / ATWOnline News)

Gulfstream G650 (c/n 6239) N639GA tbr 9M-TMJ

This gorgeous G650 destined for the "Sultan of Johor" is captured under tow back to Gulfstream service center at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) following engine runs at the mid-field run-up pad on February 22, 2017.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Catalina Flying Boats Douglas C-47D (DC-3C) (c/n 34202/16943) N403JB

 Captured departing Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) to and returning from Catalina - Avalon Airport (AVX/KAVX) Catalina Island on February 22, 2017.

(Photos by Michael Carter)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Korean Air shows off new Boeing Dreamliner in South Carolina

(Korean Air Lines)

Korean Air Lines took delivery of its first Boeing 787 on Wednesday at Boeing’s South Carolina assembly line.

The aircraft, the first of 10 787-9s that Korean has on order, will seat 269 passengers in a three-class configuration.

Korean Air will debut the 787 this spring on domestic flights between Seoul and Jeju, a short high-frequency route that will allow the carrier’s crews to familiarize themselves with the new aircraft type. The airline will shift its 787s this summer to the high-profile international routes that the widebody is designed to fly.

Toronto will be the first of Korean’s international destinations to get the 787 in June.

Korean Air president Walter Cho said Los Angeles, Seattle and Barcelona will be among the airline’s next destinations to get service on the jet, though he said it was too early to offer a precise timetable.

Korean Air’s 787s will feature first, business and economy cabins. However, in a move that’s generated buzz on some aviation sites, Korean Air will use the same seats for its first and business class cabins.

Cho said the difference between the first- and business-class cabins will come from a higher, “very exclusive” level of service in the first-class cabin.

“Our customers know our service in first class is very special,” Cho added to reporters Wednesday.

When asked by Today in the Sky if Korean Air might add new routes to the United States in 2017 or 2018, Cho indicated that was unlikely.

“We’re not pursuing new routes, but we’ll expand frequencies to Seattle and Los Angeles,” he said.

He also said the airline’s Las Vegas service could be another of its existing U.S. routes to get a bump in capacity.

“It may not happen this year, but soon,” he said about plans to bulk up those routes.

(Ben Mutzabaugh - Today in the Sky / USA Today)

Gulfstream G650 (c/n 6231) N631GD tbr N999YY

Short final for Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on February 22, 2017 following a short test sortie.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Greenpoint secures completion contract for BBJ 787 pair

Boeing Business Jet completions specialist Greenpoint Technologies has secured a contract from an unnamed customer for the completion of a BBJ 787-8 and a 787-9.

The contract marks the first 787-9 completion project for the Kirkland, Washington-based company and its third 787-8. Greenpoint handed over the world’s first VVIP-configured -8 to its private owner in 2016.

(Greenpoint Technologies)

“Our clients know the complexity of these programmes and the challenges they present,” says Bret Neely, executive vice-president of the Zodiak Aerospace subsidiary. “Our on-time delivery performance and over 315,000h of 787 engineering design and development experience assure our clients we will perform,” he adds.

Greenpoint says its VVIP interiors are designed in-house, in partnership with its clients.

Boeing records 16 BBJ 787s jets to date – 14 -8s and a pair of -9s. Of these, three units are in service and six are undergoing completion, the airframer says.

(Kate Sarsfield - Flight International / Flight Global News)

AEI signs letter of intent for eight CRJ200 freighter conversions

US-based Aeronautical Engineers Inc. (AEI) has signed a Letter of Intent (LoI) to provide a minimum of eight CRJ200 freighter conversions for Canadian aviation group Avmax, which currently owns 65 CRJ200 aircraft.

The AEI CRJ200 SF will be able to carry eight containers. Avmax intends to make the CRJ200 SF freighters available for sale and/or wet/dry leasing options to operators around the world.

The LoI calls for the freighter conversions to commence in late 2017, with the modification for the conversions at Dothan, Alabama facility of aircraft engineering company Commercial Jet.

Robert Convey, AEI senior vice president of sales and marketing, said: “Avmax truly understands the CRJ200 and we are delighted they acknowledge the value in the AEI CRJ200 SF.

“The synergy of these two companies will definitely be a benefit to all current and future CRJ200 SF operators.”

As one of the world’s largest lessors of CRJ series aircraft, Avmax provides aircraft operators with services ranging from aircraft leasing and operations to component repairs and spares requirements.

Rick Pollock, Avmax business development manager for the Americas, said: “This agreement with AEI provides us with a valuable option for maintaining the residual value of our fleet of CRJ200 series aircraft and further helps us expand our product offering by re-purposing the CRJ200.”

In January this year, Aeronaves TSM signed up for two CRJ200 SF freighter conversions from AEI, with the first CRJ200 set to commence modification in the second quarter of 2017.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Israel Has the World's Safest Airline, and It's About to Get Even Safer

But while we're on the subject, why can't we do that?

(Illustration - Elbit Systems)

"What's the safest airline in the world? There's no question. It's El Al, Israel's national airline." -- CBS.

So states the television news magazine 60 Minutes, in an unequivocal endorsement of Israel's national airline.

There are many factors that make El Al the No. 1 airline to fly if you don't want to worry about terrorism -- stringent security measures for all passengers, sky marshals aboard every plane, steel doors securing the cockpit. All of these reduce the risk that terrorists will make mischief inside a plane.

And now, Israel is taking the lead in adding a new level of security to eliminate the risk of having terrorists try to take a plane down from outside.

The threat

In 2002, terrorists armed with Russian Strela-2 surface-to-air missiles, or SAMs, attempted to shoot down an Israeli passenger liner taking off from the airport at Mombasa, Kenya. They missed, but Israel isn't trusting to the bad aim of terrorists to keep its planes safe in the future. For years, Israeli defense contractor Elbit Systems has been developing a system of on-plane anti-missile defense that offers affordable protection to any civilian airliner.

The solution

Dubbed C-MUSIC, Elbit's system detects and warns a plane's aircrew of an incoming SAM, tracks the missile with a forward-looking infrared camera, and blasts it with a powerful laser to disable the missile -- causing it to detonate at a safe distance. Configured as a "pod" that can be attached to an airplane's fuselage, the entire system measures roughly 9 feet by 2 feet by 2 feet, and weighs about 350 pounds.

Israel has been testing C-MUSIC for several years now, and recently greenlighted the system for deployment. All 38 airplanes in El Al's air fleet with soon be equipped with C-MUSIC. Then, all planes operated by all Israeli airlines.

The cost

How much will this cost, and how much could C-MUSIC be worth to Elbit? According to published reports, the system will cost about $3 million per unit. At that price, outfitting all 100-odd civilian airplanes in Israel with C-MUSIC should generate enough revenue to make up 10% of Elbit's annual sales.

(Photo - Northrop Grumman)

Internationally, Elbit's biggest foreign customer is Brazil, which ordered C-MUSIC systems to install aboard its military KC-390 aerial refueling tankers. What would be truly terrific news for Elbit, though, would be signing a major U.S. commercial airline to purchase C-MUSIC. The roughly 1,000 planes in American Airlines fleet, for example, would be worth a year's sales to Elbit, while the 700-odd planes in the Delta or United Continental fleets would be nearly as lucrative.

The competition

Winning a U.S. airline customer may be tough for Elbit, though. For one thing, the airlines would be loath to incur the expense of C-MUSIC absent a compelling threat. For another, there's a U.S. defense contractor angling for the same market.

C-MUSIC's rival is the "Guardian" anti-missile system, manufactured by Northrop Grumman. Guardian resembles C-MUSIC in form, function, and price -- except for one detail. While Northrop says its system would cost $3 million per plane to install initially, the company believes that if ordered in scale, efficiencies of production could allow it to push Guardian's price down to $1 million per unit. At that price, American airlines could defray the cost of the system, and provide peace of mind to flyers, for the cost of perhaps $1 extra per ticket.

And the big question: When will Americans get to tune in to C-MUSIC?
That doesn't seem like a high price to pay for peace of mind -- not in an age when travelers routinely fork over $5 to the airlines for an on-board meal that used to be free. Yet to date, no U.S. airlines have expressed interest in equipping planes with either C-MUSIC or Guardian. If you want to fly safe from terrorist missiles, and can't book a flight on El Al, your best bet is to move to Germany, Oman, or Qatar -- and get yourself elected president, sultan, or emir, respectively.

Why? Because all three countries have reportedly ordered the militarized version of Northrop's Guardian system for their heads of state. As for the rest of us, we'll just have to take our chances.

(Rich Smith - The Motley Fool)

Boeing South Carolina Reports Smooth Transition to 787-10

The second 787-10 Dreamliner cycles through final assembly at Boeing's facility in North Charleston, S.C.
(Photo: Bill Carey)

The first three 787-10 Dreamliners that Boeing will use in its flight-test campaign and eventually deliver to airline customers are making their way through assembly and testing at the manufacturer’s North Charleston, S.C. facility. During a press tour of the facility on February 21, executives described a smooth transition from assembly of the 787-9 to the newest, longest version of the Dreamliner family.

“You would think any time you bring in a new derivative there would be chaos.” But the assembly process “didn’t skip a beat,” declared Jennifer Boland-Masterson, Boeing superintendent of mid-body operations. The transition from the 787-9 was “flawless,” she said.

Two days after its production workers decisively rejected joining the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, Boeing rolled out the first assembled 787-10 on February 17 during a ceremony featuring President Donald Trump. That aircraft has advanced to the flight line for ground testing before the start of flight testing this spring—a campaign that will be based at Boeing’s facilities in Washington state rather than in South Carolina. Executives would not disclose the number of flight-test hours Boeing plans.

The second 787-10—marked as the 548th Dreamliner overall—had moved into the second position of Boeing’s seven-position final assembly building. The third was beginning to take shape with assembly of the aft body. The South Carolina facility fabricates and assembles composite Section 47, the last passenger section of the airplane, and Section 48, which integrates the horizontal and vertical stabilizers and the aft pressure bulkhead, for all Dreamliners built in Everett, Wash., and North Charleston. It also joins and integrates mid-body fuselage sections from other suppliers. Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita, Kansas, provides 787 forward fuselage sections to both Everett and North Charleston.

Boeing’s Everett operation currently produces seven 787-8/9s per month; North Charleston produces five. Assembly of the 787-10 will take place exclusively in South Carolina.

At 224 feet in length, the 787-10 is 18 feet longer than the 787-9 thanks to the extension of Section 47 by eight feet and a 10-foot longer Section 43, the mid-forward fuselage supplied by Japan’s Kawasaki Heavy Industries. The two versions have 95 percent design commonality; the landing gear and environmental cooling systems of the 787-10 are slightly different, said Darrel Larson, director of aft-body operations. The manufacturer initially considered but ruled out adding a tail skid because of the lengthened aft section, he recalled.

There were “no changes to any of the partners, components or facilities” used for the 787-9, Larson said. “I would say we learned a lot from the 787-9, both through the supply chain as well as in production.” Design commonality “was not only expected, but required,” he added.

Deliveries of the 787-10 are scheduled to begin in 2018, with Singapore Airlines serving as launch customer. Boeing reports receiving 149 orders thus far.

(Bill Carey - AINOnline News)

Pakistan Orders Additional AW139 Helicopters from Leonardo

Leonardo has sold more than 970 of its AW139 helicopter.
(Photo: Leonardo)

The government of Pakistan this week ordered an unspecified number of additional AW139 helicopters from Italy’s Leonardo. The intermediate twin helicopters will be used for utility and transport operations, with deliveries expected to start in mid-2017.

The order announced on February 20 follows an initial August 2016 contract under which Pakistan bought another unspecified number of AW139s equipped for various search-and-rescue and medical evacuation missions. To date, Leonardo has sold more than 970 AW139s to some 240 customers in more than 70 countries and 830 of these aircraft are in service today.
Other government customers include Algeria, Bangladesh, Cyprus, Estonia, Italy, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Panama, Qatar, Spain, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates and the UK.

(Charles Alcock - AINOnline News)

Indonesia's PTDI Makes Mixed Progress with Airliner Programs

Indonesia's PTDI is preparing to fly its other new high-wing turboprop, the 19-seat N219 multi-purpose aircraft.
(Photo: PTDI)

Regio Aviasi Industri (RAI), the Indonesian company that is trying to launch a new 80- to 90-seat turboprop regional airliner, is still seeking funding. It has received seed money from Indonesian investors and a commitment from Bandung-based Indonesian Aerospace (Indonesian acronym PTDI) to act as a subcontractor for full-scale development and production. Meanwhile, state-owned PTDI is continuing with preliminary design of its own regional airliner, a 50-seater designated N245. PTDI is also preparing to fly its other new high-wing turboprop, the 19-seat N219 multi-purpose aircraft.

The R80 project is the brainchild of former PTDI chief and Indonesian president Dr. B.J. Habibie, now 80 years old, who still strongly believes in the southeast Asian regional potential for advanced turboprop airliners. Under his leadership, PTDI (then known by the Indonesian acronym IPTN) launched development in the 1980s of a smaller turboprop airliner designated N250, and flew two prototypes in 1995-96. The N250 project was shelved in 1998 during the Asian financial and Indonesian political-cum-social crisis that led to Habibie’s short presidency of the country. Habibie and his son are major investors in RAI. which revealed the project in 2014.

The N245 was unveiled last November and would be a development from the CN235 military medium airlifter that IPTN co-developed with CASA (now Airbus Defence & Space) in the 1980s. It would have a new aft structure that eliminates the rear loading ramp of the CN235. PTDI is now the sole producer of the CN235, while Airbus D&S concentrates in Seville on production of the larger C295. The Indonesian airframer has recently handed over single examples of the CN235-200 to the Senegalese air force and the Thai police air arm. It is also preparing three maritime patrol versions of the CN235 for the Indonesian air force (one, adding to one already delivered) and Indonesian Navy (two, adding to three already delivered).

Meanwhile, during a recent AIN visit to Bandung, PTDI officials said that the company’s much smaller N219 turboprop will make its first flight in April this year. Full-scale development of this rugged high-wing design was launched in 2013, and the prototype was rolled out in November 2015. But this prototype was later disassembled for further work, and is still being re-assembled. A second prototype is also taking shape.

PTDI strongly believes in the N219’s potential to drive development of remote areas within Indonesia’s huge archipelago. Company officials told AIN that they have received 200 letters of intent for the 19-passenger, 2.5 tonne-payload STOL aircraft from Indonesian carriers, government agencies and local governments. The N219’s twin P&W Canada PT6A engines permit longer overwater flights than aircraft such as the Cessna Caravan, that currently fly to and from remote areas in the country, they added. For ease of operation and maintenance, the all-metal N219 will be certified to FAR part 23 standard, rather than the more complicated FAR Part 25 to which the somewhat similar NC-212 is designed.

The NC-212 is a version of the CASA C-212 that is licence-produced by PTDI. For the past four years this aircraft has been produced only at Bandung, where PTDI has introduced an improved version of the ultimate -400 version designed in Spain. This improvement is designated NC-212i, and has a glass cockpit. PTDI is currently delivering two NC212i aircraft to the Philippines, and three to Vietnam.

(Chris Pocock - AINOnline News)  

Air India Set To Lease Dornier 228s for New Regional Routes

Air India is planning to add Dornier 228 twin turboprops to the fleet of its Alliance Air subsidiary to boost service to second- and third-tier cities under the government-backed Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS), which begins in March. Air India chairman and managing director Ashwani Lohani told AIN that the flagcarrier expects to lease 10 of the 19-seat aircraft from government-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL), which already produces military-configured versions under license from Switzerland Ruag Aviation.

India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation is now working on a requested civil type certification for the aircraft. “The certification from DGCA could well be facilitated and speeded given HAL and Air India are both government owned,” R.K Bali, managing director of India’s Business Aviation Operators Association (BAOA) told AIN. He said that HAL, which is in the process of creating a leasing division, will have to make provision for maintaining the aircraft to airline requirements. So far, it has produced 125 Dornier 228s in India.

According to BAOA, most flights under the RCS program will be of no more than 90 minutes' duration and on average carry 10 passengers.

(Neelam Mathews - AINOnline News)

Norwegian focuses on mid-size US cities for new Atlantic services

Low-cost carrier (LCC) Norwegian is planning to open up transatlantic services from several mid-sized US cities that do not have European flights, the airline’s CEO said Feb.20.

Speaking to ATW in London, Bjorn Kjos said that the airline’s planned Airbus A321neo long-range variants would give it the capability to serve medium-sized US airports. They would also allow the carrier to open up new routes from Scandinavia to India and “a large part of Asia.”

He did not think there would be passenger reluctance to fly long-haul on single-aisle aircraft: “We fly from Scandinavia to Dubai today and that’s not a problem,” he said, pointing out that a flight to India would be only about 90 minutes longer.

Norwegian obtained permission from the US Department of Transportation in December 2016 to operate US services with its Ireland-based Norwegian Air International subsidiary. Kjos confirmed rumors that its two new bases in the US would be located in Providence, Rhode Island, and Stewart International Airport, New York State.

Stewart is about 35 miles (60 km) north of Manhattan and about a 75-minute drive from New York City, he said. It is near a major outlet mall and there are plans to build a Legoland theme park in the area within the next three years.

Norwegian is expected to announce a series of new Europe–US routes this week. The fast-growing carrier is planning for a 30% increase in capacity this year, with more than 30 aircraft deliveries scheduled—mainly Boeing 737-800s—its first 737 MAXs and more 787s.

The challenge is to find enough 787 pilots, Kjos said.

However, recruitment in general “looks very good, especially in long-haul. I think the airlines in the Middle East have downsized or have postponed orders, so a lot of people are coming back [to Europe],” he added.

Growth of another major operator, Turkish Airlines, also slowed as a result of a drop in traffic demand.

But the biggest problem last year was the shock of Brexit, the UK’s vote to leave the European Union, Kjos said. The uncertainty generated by that decision is being seen in bookings and the subsequent drop in the value of sterling had also put a dampener on UK reservations, he said.

On the plus side, however, sterling’s weakness had made London—already a popular destination for US and Scandinavian tourists—even more attractive, especially for shopping trips.

Work was continuing on the planned link-up with Ireland-based LCC Ryanair, he added, with efforts concentrating on ensuring that the two airlines’ reservations systems were able to talk to each other. “We hope to have it set up well before the summer,” he said.

(Alan Dron - ATWOnline News)

Executive jet transatlantic operator seeks new business model

More competition for lucrative transatlantic first-class passengers is imminent with the appearance of a new operator—New York-based Bliss Jet—selling individual seats on high-end business jets.

Bliss Jet describes itself as an indirect air carrier; it will use Gulfstream G450 and G550 aircraft from US charter operators, including White Cloud Charter and Jet Access Aviation, to fly what will initially be a 2X-weekly service between New York La Guardia and London Stansted airports.

The term “indirect air carrier” was coined by the US Department of Transportation, Bliss Jet president and CEO David Rimmer said. Whereas most business jet charters are operated on a single-entity basis, which involves hiring the entire aircraft, Bliss Jet as an indirect air carrier will operate public charter flights whereby it charters the aircraft and can then sell individual seats on it.

The Bliss Jet model differs from the apparently similar “virtual airline” model popular in Scandinavia, in which one company acts as the seller and marketer of flights, with the actual flying being carried out by another company, Rimmer said.

“We have a much stronger say in the process. The role of the direct carrier—the company actually undertaking the flying—under our model is fairly limited to just flying the aircraft.”

Cabin crew will be supplied by the direct air carrier, “but they will be interviewed and briefed by us and we will have a tremendous amount of contact to get them up to the Bliss Jet standard.”

Traditionally, a business jet flight carries one “lead passenger,” with others on board dependent on him or her. “The difference we have at Bliss Jet is that we will have 10 lead passengers and it’s [a case of] refining how you pay appropriate attention to all 10.”

Rimmer aims to price a one-way flight at $11,995—equivalent, he said, to a first-class seat in the cabin of a legacy airline. That compares with the typical $100,000 cost of hiring the entire executive jet.

The G450 and G550 will be offered with a maximum of 10 seats per flight.

The new service will differentiate itself from former all-business class airlines such as Eos, MaxJet and Silverjet, which collapsed at the onset of the financial crisis, by offering a much more personalized service, Rimmer said. This would include the customer’s own choice of food, which would be ordered before the flight.

All the necessary regulatory approvals for the service are in place, Rimmer said, but a start date for the service has yet to be announced.

“We can start in March, but I expect it will be later. The temptation, when you have a great idea, is you want to get to market as soon as possible. We’re just trying to tweak the service aspects and fine-tune our sales organization.”

(Alan Dron - ATWOnline News)

SunExpress to expand capacity to Turkey, eyes more wet leases

SunExpress CEO Jens Bischof

SunExpress, a joint venture of Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines, plans to increase capacity throughout its network, despite a difficult operating environment.

“For 2017, we are focusing not only on stabilizing routes to Turkey, but also on adjusting our network if necessary,” SunExpress CEO Jens Bischof told ATW in Frankfurt.

Along with the rest of the European airline industry, Bischof said Antalya-based SunExpress experienced “challenging conditions” in the tourism sector as a result of a series of terrorist bombings and a failed coup attempt in Turkey last year, which depressed yields and slowed bookings as demand decreased.

“SunExpress remains an important bridge between Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines,” Bischof said.

Turkish Airlines CEO Bilal Eksi told ATW recently the Istanbul-based carrier remains committed to the SunExpress joint venture.

Bischof said its Turkish AOC “offers opportunities to tap into new markets like in Russia, the Levant region, Middle East or even Central Asia, to countries like Kazakhstan.”

SunExpress and its subsidiary SunExpress Germany operates a total of 72 aircraft—including 13 Boeing 737-800s for SunExpress Germany and six Airbus A330s for Lufthansa low-cost carrier (LCC) Eurowings—with nearly 4,000 employees.

For the summer 2017, SunExpress will increase capacity to Turkey from Germany, Switzerland and Austria by 26% to 450 weekly flights.

SunExpress wet leases 22 737-800s to Turkish Airlines LCC AnadoluJet, which operates 126 weekly domestic flights. Six Airbus A330-200s and two Boeing 737-800s are under contract for Eurowings.

Bischof said the carrier plans further growth for its A330 fleet from 2018 onward, “but this depends on Eurowings’ long-haul strategy.”

He did not rule out more wet-leases for Eurowings and AnadoluJet. “Our cost base per available seat kilometer is right there like [UK LCC] easyJet or [Irish LCC] Ryanair,” he said.

In 2014, SunExpress ordered 60 Boeing 737s. Of those, 38 still need to be delivered. Six aircraft will join the fleet in 2017, which are on a financial lease contract, reducing the average fleet age to less than 10 years. Deliveries are scheduled through 2021. The deal includes a mix of 737-800s and 737 MAX 8s.

The first 737 MAX 8 is expected for delivery in 2019, but Bischof said the carrier has not yet decided which routes the new aircraft will be flying.

To handle the seasonality of its fleet during the European winter months with less demand, SunExpress signed off five 737s from service at the end of 2016.

For summer 2017, the carrier will operate 780 weekly flights to 80 destinations, including 500 flights from Europe to Turkey. “In 2016, SunExpress announced a turnover of €1billion ($1.06 billion).” He expects the carrier to breakeven in 2017.

(Kurt Hofmann - ATWOnline News)

Passenger boardings for Chinese airlines up 12% for 2016

Chinese carriers transported 488 million passengers in 2016, up 12% from 432.4 million in 2015, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).

Chinese carriers opened 260 new international routes during the year. According to the CAAC, passenger boardings jumped 23% to 51.6 million on international routes, which outpaced domestic routes at 436.1 million passengers, up 11% year-over-year.

The average passenger load factor was 82.7%, up 0.6 point over 2015. Average daily aircraft utilization rates decreased 0.1 hour to 9.4 hours. Cargo traffic volume rose 6% to 6.7 million tonnes.

The CAAC said Chinese carriers expect to carry 536 million passengers this year and cargo traffic volume is expected to reach 6.97 million tonnes.

Separately, the regulator reported that China’s air transport industry—which includes airlines, airports, aviation supplies company and aviation fuel company—earned a collective profit of CNY60.1 billion ($8.7 billion) from January to November, up 10.5% year-over-year.

(Katie Cantle - ATWOnline News) 

European regional carriers facing tough times

Europe’s regional airlines face a narrow—and shrinking—window of opportunity in which to make a profit, an industry consultant said in London Feb. 20.

The continent’s regional airlines already face a delicate balancing act in finding and operating viable routes, Seabury Aviation & Aerospace managing director Jonathan Sullivan said.

“There’s a really narrow window of opportunity for these businesses to exist,” Sullivan said at the European Region's Airline Association’s (ERA) annual media briefing.

Too few passengers on a route made it unviable, but if a regional carrier nurtured it to the point where traffic is growing strongly, it risks attracting the attention of low-cost carriers (LCC) swooping in and pricing the regional out of the market.

The low fuel prices of the past two years led to that small gap in the market shrinking further, Sullivan said, as lower costs had made LCCs more willing to deploy new capacity on thinner, riskier routes.

Sullivan added that Europe’s regional airlines were growing at a slower rate than any other category of carrier and the fleet of regional jets worldwide was ageing, while the fleets of full-service carriers and LCCs were generally getting younger.

The increase in numbers of regional turboprops was only partly offsetting this trend and many passengers still had a prejudice against aircraft with propellers rather than turbofans, no matter the age of the turboprop.

The situation may be helped by an initiative that is planned in which the European Investment Bank (EIB) will provide funding of up to €1 billion (1.1 billion) for new regional airliner financing.

“Several of our members are in quite advanced negotiations with the EIB and we hope to see some orders with this financing in the first six months of this year,” ERA director general Simon McNamara said.

While this would potentially bring new, fuel-efficient aircraft into regional airlines’ fleets, McNamara said that ERA’s 53 member airlines remained frustrated at the European Union’s Emissions Trading System (ETS), which continued to apply to flights wholly within the EU’s 28 nations, a category into which the vast majority of ERA members’ services fell.

This imposed a considerable administrative burden on small airlines and contributed only to a small extent in the reduction of aviation emissions.

ERA and its members fully supported the adoption of a global ETS, but there was concern that disagreements between legislators and the industry could lead to two separate emissions schemes being imposed.

European regional airlines’ frustration on this score was intensified, he said, by the continuing lack of progress on the Single European Sky project, which is supposed to sweep away multiple air traffic control boundaries on the continent, replacing them with larger blocks of airspace.

“This has huge potential to reduce emissions,” McNamara said. A study by Eurocontrol, the European air traffic control organization, had shown that inefficient routings forced on airlines by the current system led to around 10% of the continent’s total fuel burn being unnecessary.

(Alan Dron - ATWOnline News)