Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Omni Airways Ltd Gulfstream G-V (c/n 641) C-GUGU

Captured arriving at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) at 12:26pm pst following a short flight from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX).

(Photos by Michael Carter)

U.S. Air Force orders KC-10 engine overhauls

The U.S. Air Force placed a $16.9 million order to Northrop Grumman to provide engine overhauls for the branch's KC-10 Extender aircraft.

The agreement with Northrop Grumman continues the Air Force's engine support projects for the tanker. Earlier in March, the branch awarded Kelly Aviation Center with a $1 billion KC-10 engine support deal.

The work will be performed in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is expected to be complete by the end of September 2017.

Northrop Grumman received all funding at the time of the contract award. The Air Force Life-cycle Management Center is the contracting activity.

The Air Force's KC-10 Extender is an Air Mobility Command tanker and cargo aircraft used to boost mobility for U.S. and allied aircraft. The plane is capable of refueling fighters and carrying fighter support personnel simultaneously while also transporting cargo during overseas deployments.

The tanker can carry up to 75 people and almost 170,000 pounds of equipment at a range of roughly 4,400 miles without refueling.

(Ryan Maass - UPI)

Gulfstream G650 (c/n 6262) N662GA

 Another new "Green" G650 arrived at Long Beach Airport,
following a flight from the factory at Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport (SAV/KSAV). "GLF18" touched down on Rwy 30 at 11:37am pst after its 4 hour 13 minute flight on Monday March 20, 2017.

(Photos by Michael Carter)

‘Monumental’ shift: Why 21 airlines are moving terminals in May at LAX

A move by Delta Air Lines into new terminals at Los Angeles International Airport this spring will set off what LAX officials are calling “a move of airlines never before seen at a major U.S. airport.”

Some 21 airlines will be relocated to accommodate Delta’s move from Terminals 5 and 6 to Terminals 2 and 3, with much of the work taking place from May 12-16, officials announced Tuesday.

Schedules could still change, but these airlines are expected to make these move as a result of the realignment:

• Air Canada (moving from Terminal 2 to Terminal 6)

• Allegiant (T3 to T5, T6 check-in)

• Avianca (T2 to Tom Bradley International Terminal, T3 check-in)

• Boutique Air (T3 to T6)

• Copa (TBIT, T6 check-in to TBIT, T3 check-in)

• Delta (T5/T6 to T2/T3)

• Frontier (T3 to T5, T6 check-in)

• Hainan (T2 to TBIT)

• Hawaiian (T2 to T5)

• InterJet (T2 to TBIT, T3 check-in)

• JetBlue (T3 to T5)

• Qatar (T2 to TBIT)

• Southwest (T2 to TBIT, T1 check-in)

• Spirit (T3 to T5)

• Sun Country (T2 to T5, T6 check-in)

• Thomas Cook (T2 to TBIT)

• Virgin America (T3 to T6)

• Virgin Australia (TBIT, T3 check-in to TBIT, T2 check-in)

• Volaris (T2 to TBIT, T2 check-in)

• WestJet (T2 to T3)

• XL France (T2 to T6)

“Delta’s move is one more element of LAX’s massive modernization effort which continues the transformation of the airport and will improve the guest experience,” said Sean Burton, president of Los Angeles World Airport’s Board of Airport Commissioners. “While moving 21 airlines over three nights is a monumental task, Delta and the LAWA team have been planning and preparing for months to ensure a smooth transition.”

Delta is planning up to $1.9 million in improvements over seven years to modernize and connect Terminals 2 and 3 to the Tom Bradley International Terminal. Delta’s flights will operate from as many as four terminals at times during the move.

The realignment actually began in January, when American Airlines exchanged four gates in Terminal 6 for four gates in Terminal 5 held by Delta.

Airport officials said it will be the largest relocation of airlines in the history of LAX, which is the second-busiest airport in the United States, and the fourth-busiest in the world.

(City News Service / The Daily Breeze)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-7H4 (36642/2878) N934WN

Rolls for takeoff on Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on November 12, 2016.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Kaiser Air Boeing 737-59D (25065/2028) N732KA "Victoria"

On March 15, 2017, I was very pleased to capture all three Boeing 737's operated by Oakland, California based Kaiser Air at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB). The carrier was operating special charter flights for the online search engine giant, Google. I hope you enjoy the following photos and each aircraft's history.

Michael Carter
Editor and Chief
Aero Pacific Flightlines

Taxies on Delta towards a Rwy 30 departure.
Rolls for takeoff on Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB), March 15, 2017.
(Photos by Michael Carter)

The aircraft began life almost 26 years ago being delivered to Scandinavian carrier Linjeflyg as SE-DNE on April 15, 1991. On January 1, 1993 the carrier was merged into Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) and the aircraft returned to leasing company BBAM.

On March 15, 1993 it was leased to British Midland as G-OBMX and operated with the British carrier until being transferred to bmi British Midland on February 1, 2001 and again returned to leasing company BBAM.

On March 24, 2001 the aircraft joined the Luxair fleet as LX-LGN and served with the carrier until once again going back to BBAM in early 2005.

April 7, 2005 saw the aircraft join the Czech Airlines (CSA) fleet as OK-WGD "Rakovnik" where it would serve until being leased to Aeroflot-Nord (an Aeroflot regional carrier) as VP-BKP on June 15, 2008. On December 1, 2009, Aeroflots association with the regional company ended and the carrier became known as Nordavia which still operated the aircraft as VP-BKP until it was withdrawn from service and stored on October 12, 2011.

The aircraft was acquired by Southern Aircraft Consultancy on February 28, 2014 and fitted with winglets in March 2014.

The aircraft was bought by current operator Kaiser Air on April 29, 2014.      

Kaiser Air Boeing 737-7BX (30740/776) N737KA "Lani"

Caught at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on March 15, 2017 operating a charter flight for Google.

This aircraft was delivered to GECAS and leased to Midway Airlines on February 21, 2001 as N365ML, ex Boeing N1786B and served with the carrier until its demise on July 17, 2002 when all 12 Boeing 737-700's were returned to GECAS (11) and BouAS (1). 

On January 28, 2003 it was leased to Australian carrier Virgin Blue as VH-VBT "Launie Lass" where it served until being leased to Kaiser Air on March 31, 2009 with whom it still serves.

(Photos by Michael Carter)

Kaiser Air Boeing 737-86N(WL) (28643/828) N733KA "Konani"

Short final to Rwy 30.

Captured arriving at then departing from Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on March 15, 2017 while operating a special charter flight for Google.

The aircraft was originally delivered to GECAS and leased to Pegasus Airlines as TC-APK on April 26, 2001, ex Boeing N1787B.

It was returned to GECAS on July 16, 2003 as N643SH and leased immediately to Shenzhen Airlines as B-5050 on July 23, 2003. It served with the Chinese carrier until being returned to GECAS on December 4, 2015 as N881TM and stored. 

On March 17, 2016 it was stored at Tucson (TUS/KTUS) where it was fitted with wiglets then leased to current operator Kaiser Air on June 16, 2016.

(Photos by Michael Carter)

jetBlue Airways Airbus A320-232 (c/n 2160) N568JB "I Love Blue York"

Taxies towards a Runway 30 departure at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on February 22, 2017.

(Photos by Michael Carter)

Monday, March 20, 2017

Reprieve Likely for U-2 Dragon Lady

The U-2 Dragon Lady seems likely to fly on for several more years.
(U.S. Air Force)

The U.S. Air Force is preparing to extend the service life of the U-2S Dragon Lady for several more years. Under previous budget plans, the evergreen spyplane was due to be retired in 2019-20, leaving only the unmanned RQ-4B Global Hawk to perform the high-altitude reconnaissance mission. Managers at the Lockheed Martin (LM) Skunk Works in Palmdale, California, are preparing upgrade proposals for the U-2’s sensors and communications fit.

Gen. “Hawk” Carlisle, who retired last week as commander of Air Combat Command, told AIN last November that “we’re trying to find the money” to retain the U-2. Now a senior Air Force official has told the Skunk Works that the 27-strong fleet will be retained until at least the mid-2020s. “There’s a lot more runway in this jet yet,” said Kyle Franklin, the new U-2 program manager for LM. “We could offer a quantum leap in capability,” he told AIN last week.

Two upgrades for the U-2 are already being developed. A Celestial Object Sighting System (COSS, or “star tracker”) has been designed by Draper Laboratories as an alternative means of navigation. The U-2 flies daily around the borders of North Korea, which has frequently jammed GPS signals. Raytheon has designed an active clectronically scanned array (AESA) for the U-2’s advanced synthetic aperture radar system (ASARS) that would be redesignated ASARS-2B. Both systems are nearing flight test. The aircraft’s alternative electro-optical imaging system, designated SYERS-2C, has recently been upgraded by UT Aerospace Systems to offer 10-band multispectral capability. The U-2’s legacy SIGINT system has been replaced with the Northrop Grumman Airborne Signals Intelligence Payload (ASIP).

Meanwhile, flight tests of the U-2 with an Open Mission System (OMS) have continued at Palmdale. Three different defensive systems, an electronic attack payload and several classified payloads have now been integrated. Communications systems that allow the U-2 to act as a gateway between fifth- and fourth-generation combat aircraft have also been tested.

In recent media briefings, officials from Northrop Grumman have contended that the Global Hawk can provide an equivalent capability to the U-2. The Air Force has part-funded integration of the Dragon Lady’s imaging systems on the unmanned jet. But the U-2 airframe offers superior performance. It flies much higher and faster, with a greater payload. All except four jets in the U-2 fleet were built in the 1980s, and have 80 percent structural life remaining. LM officials say that over the past decade, the U-2 has demonstrated an unequalled 95 to 97percent mission success rate. According to their analysis of 2015 USAF data, the U-2S collected twice the imagery of the Global Hawk with the same on-station total times.

Lockheed Martin has proposed replacing the U-2 with a semi-stealthy, long-endurance, high-altitude aircraft designated TR-X. To save on acquisition costs, it would re-use the U-2’s engine and sensors, the latter being housed in twin, wing-mounted pods with interchangeable options, similar to the U-2 today. The Skunk Works has indicated a price of $3.8 billion for 30 TR-X aircraft, but is also offering costed options for enhanced low observability, such as conformal antennas.

(Chris Pocock - AINOnline News)

Airlines Oppose Raising Fee Passengers Pay for TSA Service

U.S. airlines are heartened by President Donald Trump’s support of creating a new air traffic control organization, but find themselves at loggerheads with the administration over its proposal to increase the security fee they collect from passengers to help pay for services of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

When the government last increased the security fee, some $1.3 billion in collections was diverted to help offset the federal deficit, said Sharon Pinkerton, Airlines for America (A4A) senior vice president for legislative and regulatory policy. A4A, which represents most major U.S. airlines, opposes any further increase. “Our first concern is about raising a fee at the same time you’re diverting $1.3 billion annually away,” Pinkerton told reporters on March 20, during a teleconference to discuss the industry’s 2016 financials. “That seems backwards. The first thing that Congress and the administration have to do is return that money to TSA.”

In the inaugural budget document it released on March 16, the Trump administration proposed raising the Passenger Civil Aviation Security Services Fee instituted in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks “to recover 75 percent of the cost of TSA aviation security operations.” That suggests the $5.60 security fee per one-way trip (not to exceed $11.20 per round trip) must grow substantially. The TSA says it spent $6 billion on aviation security expenses in Fiscal Year 2016, offset by $2.2 billion in collections—37 percent of its costs.

Trump’s “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” contends that $80 million per year in spending could be recouped by eliminating or reducing “unauthorized and underperforming” TSA programs to focus on its screening role at airport security checkpoints. It proposes eliminating TSA grants that support law enforcement patrols by state and local jurisdictions and reducing the VIPR (Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response) program that deploys teams of armed federal officers to provide security at rail and bus stations, airports and other transportation hubs.

Last summer, when the industry faced a “meltdown” at airports because of overwhelmed TSA security lines, airlines, airports and the federal government collaborated to alleviate the problem, Pinkerton noted. A4A and member carriers spent nearly $50 million on hiring contractors to support TSA screeners, and airlines now participate in a daily telephone call with security authorities to evaluate airport staffing requirements. As of December 2016, 9.5 million people were enrolled in the TSA PreCheck and Customs and Border Protection Global Entry expedited screening programs—a steady increase over previous years but well short of the goal of 25 million, A4A says.

“I guess the question would be, given the way we’ve worked together in the past, what would the need be for increasing the TSA fee? And that simply has not been demonstrated to us—far from it,” Pinkerton said. “We think that the system we have in place now should be able to realize those efficiencies and ensure that passenger wait times are not excessive.”

In the case of the TSA security fee, Pinkerton argued, the Trump administration apparently has decided that it can raise money by taxing airline passengers. “We strongly disagree with that increase, especially given the revenue diversion,” she added.

At the same time, A4A is “thrilled” with the Trump administration’s support of a proposal to create a new organization to manage the nation’s air traffic control system, separate from the Federal Aviation Administration. Noting that the federal government faces a partial shutdown after April 28 if Congress fails to renew spending, Pinkerton said a separate ATC organization would be detached from politics and better able to accomplish the FAA’s long-running NextGen modernization program.

“Frankly NextGen progress has been painfully slow, and we think that given the amount of money that’s been spent—$7.5 billion in the last decade—we, and I should say, consumers, deserve more progress than we’ve been able to make so far,” she said.

(Bill Carey - AINOnline News)

Textron Aviation Fields Third Flight-test Longitude

Textron Aviation added the third Cessna Citation Longitude to its flight-test program on March 17. FAA certification of the new super-midsize jet is expected by the end of 2017.
(Photo: Textron Aviation)

The third Cessna Citation Longitude joined the flight-test fleet on Friday, making a one hour, 40 minute maiden flight from Wichita Colonel James Jabara Airport to nearby Beech Field, where the super-midsize business jet model will be manufactured. According to FlightAware, the twinjet—registered as N702GL—reached an altitude of 13,600 feet and speeds up to 256 knots during the flight.

Test pilots Corey Eckhart and UJ Pesonen, along with flight-test engineer Mike Bradfield, successfully tested various systems, according to Textron Aviation. The aircraft will be used for avionics and systems development, as well as collecting flight simulator data, it added.

The third aircraft joins the test program less than six months after the first Longitude flew. To date, the first two flight-test aircraft have completed 125 flights, logging more than 250 hours. Certification of the Citation Longitude is expected by year-end, Textron Aviation said.

Meanwhile, the company has started assembly line flow in the company’s east campus Plant IV manufacturing facility at Beech Field, with the first four production Longitudes currently on the line.

(Chad Trautvetter - AINOnline News)

Embraer's Legacy 450 Sets Speed Record

An Embraer Legacy 450 operated by Canadian fractional provider AirSprint recently set speed records on round-trip flights from California to Hawaii late last year, the company announced on Thursday. The Hawaii trip was not only a first for the aircraft, but also for the passengers.

The customer demonstration trip left Oakland International Airport on December 5 with two pilots, four passengers and 300 pounds of baggage for Maui Kahului Airport. According to Embraer, the flight lasted five hours, 14 minutes and covered 2,428 miles, the fly-by-wire twinjet's longest flight to date. The National Aeronautic Association (NAA) recorded the aircraft’s average speed at 449.91 mph (NAA uses statute miles).

The Legacy then left Hawaii the following day for San Francisco International Airport with three passengers and the same amount of baggage. This flight lasted four hours, 27 minutes and covered 2,379 miles. Thanks to average tailwinds of 24 knots, the NAA confirmed that the average speed was 525.89 mph.

(Samantha Cartaino - AINOnline News)

Boeing Business Jets Taps Greg Laxton as New Leader

Boeing Business Jets has named Greg Laxton as its new leader. Most recently, he served as sales director for Air China, Air China Cargo, Shandong Airlines and Shenzhen Airlines. Laxton’s predecessor, David Longridge, was named v-p of sales and marketing for commercial aviation services in early December.

Laxton attended California State University Northridge and earned a bachelor’s degree in earth science and geography. He also earned a master’s degree in aeronautical science from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Laxton then served as a fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force, where he logged more than 4,000 flight hours and retired as a lieutenant colonel.

He joined Boeing in 2004 as the capture team lead for the F-15K follow-on programs in Singapore and Korea. Besides the F-15K, Laxton has led campaigns for the 737 Airborne Early Warning and Control aircraft.

“We are very excited to have Greg on board and look forward to introducing him to the world of business aviation at ABACE in Shanghai in April,” a Boeing Commercial Airplanes spokeswoman told AIN.

(Samantha Cartaino - AINOnline News)

American Airlines CEO: How Do We Beat Delta? We Bet on New Aircraft

American CEO Doug Parker said his airline has a revenue gap with Delta and is on the way to making it up -- thanks largely to its modern fleet.

In 2016, American's 2016 revenue per available seat mile was 6.2% behind Delta's, according to a chart Parker displayed at last week's JPMorgan transportation conference.

For American, "all the leverage is in closing this gap," Parker said. "It can be done and it's happening.

"You only do that with the most aggressive fleet modernization in the history of the industry," he said.

"We are outspending Delta and we can catch them," he said. "American had the second-oldest fleet in the industry; now we have the youngest."

At the end of 2017, the average age of American's aircraft will be 9.8 years, down from nearly 14 years in 2012. (American has nearly 950 aircraft). The average fleet age is 10.4 years at Southwest, 14.4 years at United and 16.6 years at Delta.

This year, American will take delivery of 57 new aircraft. By the end of 2017, it will have taken delivery of 395 new aircraft since the 2013 merger with US Airways, while retiring 391 old aircraft. New aircraft are more fuel-efficient and can be more appealing to passengers.

Buying aircraft costs money. Between 2014 and 2017, American's capital expenditures, mainly for aircraft, totaled $22.7 billion, while Delta spent $12.3 billion and United spent $12.2 billion.

But Parker's point was that airline investors should try long-term thinking.

"You care more about the month's {revenue per available seat mile} than I do," Parker said. "You guys are thinking too short term. It sounds whiny {but} we need you to think long term."

A fourth chart showed that 80% of American investors today are "low turnover," up from 44% at the time of the merger.

The best-known of these investors is Warren Buffett. Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway is now the largest or second-largest owner of the big four U.S. carriers. It owns about 9% of American shares, 9% of United, 8% of Delta and 7% of Southwest shares.

Buffett "is not the only one," Parker said. "Now we're getting firms coming in that are buy and hold."

One other point: The revenue gap with Delta was shown on a chart comparing revenue adjusted for stage length. The chart showed that American lags Delta by 6.2% and lags United by 12.2%. Arguably, calibrating United's revenue with American's average stage length, about 1,200 miles, overstates United revenue. In any case, Parker's presentation focused on the comparison with Delta.

Delta Chief Financial Officer Paul Jacobson has countered Parker's argument at two recent investor conferences, where he has said that operating older aircraft benefits the airline, its investors and its passengers.

"Many of you who are new to the Delta story would look at Delta's fleet age, which is among the oldest in the United States, at least in the domestic markets," Jacobson said at a Raymond James conference.

"It would probably defy logic for me to tell you that despite having the oldest fleet, we have the highest reliability, we have the lowest maintenance unit cost, and we have the highest customer satisfaction among all of our peers," he said.

"While our average fleet age is old, we have a very healthy mix of both new aircraft and older airplanes which not only gives us the ability to utilize the savings of the newer airplanes, but also gives us added flexibility in the case of a downturn," he said.

In a downturn, Delta could stop flying older, paid-for airplanes at virtually no cost, Jacobson said. In fact, it could even use those airplanes for parts, which would "ultimately lower the cost of operations for the remaining aircraft that are flying," he said.

Another Delta advantage is lower debt. In a recent letter to American's pilots, leaders of the Allied Pilots Association Charlotte base wrote that American's debt load, which stood at $22.5 billion on Dec. 31, "is more than all the other network carriers combined."

Parker discussed the high debt load on American's third-quarter earnings call in October. "Borrowing money at 3% interest to buy aircraft is good policy," he said.

"That leaves us cash balances that are in excess of the target," he said. "We think the right thing to do with that is to return it to our shareholders. But the way we protect ourselves is having a much higher liquidity balance than others."

(Ted Reed - TheStreet)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Kelowna Flightcraft McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30(F) (47928/192) C-GKFD

Captured arriving on and departing from Rwy 9 at Miami International Airport (MIA/KMIA) on February 8, 2017.
(Photos by Michael Carter)

The aircraft which wore registration N54644 during pre-delivery test flights from the factory at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB), was delivered to Lufthansa on March 10, 1975 as D-ADJO "Essen." She operated with the carrier until being leased to Sabena on July 14, 1994 with whom she served with for 5 months then returned to Lufthansa on December 19, 1994. On March 22, 1995 the aircraft was transferred to Condor where she finished her carrier serving Lufthansa and it's subsidiaries. 

She started a new carrier back in the United States on November 13, 1997 operating for Continental Airlines as N17087 until being withdrawn from service on December 7, 2000.

On October 31, 2001 she was leased to World Airways Cargo as N304WL and converted to a DC-10-30(F). She served with the carrier until February 17, 2010 when she found her way to current Canadian operator Kelowna Flightcraft which keeps this beautiful "DAC Heavy" flying.

Cathay dives to 2016 operating loss on competition woes

The Cathay Pacific Group posted an operating loss of HK$525 million ($70.2 million) for the year ended 31 December 2016, as a strong local currency, slowing Chinese economic growth, and intense competition put pressure on yields.

The poor operating result marks a significant contrast to the operating profit of HK$6.7 billion posed in 2015.

Revenue dropped 9.4% to HK$92.8 billion, and it posted a net loss of HK$575 million. The net loss is its first since 2008, when it posted a deficit of HK$1 billion as it booked sizeable losses from fuel-hedging contracts.

The Oneworld carrier says the biggest challenge is the capacity added by other airlines, as well as the growth of direct flights between China and international destinations, which cuts out its Hong Kong hub. In addition, the strong Hong Kong dollar discouraged mainland Chinese from visiting Hong Kong, and also lowered the value of Cathay’s earnings overseas.

ASKs rose 2.4% as it grew capacity across all regions, but load factor slipped 1.2 percentage points to 84.5%.Southeast Asia was the only region to see an improvement in load factor, rising 1 percentage point to 84.2%.

Passenger yield fell 9.2% to HK$0.54. Cathay says this metric was under “intense pressure…reflecting overcapacity in the market, a decline in premium class demand, and weak foreign currencies.”

Group cargo revenue fell 13.2% to HK$20 million. Cargo capacity at both Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon grew 0.6%, but cargo load factor only rose 0.2 percentage points to 64.4%. Demand on European routes was weak, but grew marginally on transpacific routes.

The carrier’s liquid funds as of 31 December stood at HK$20.1 billion, just down from HK$20.6 billion at the end of 2015.

“We expect the operating environment in 2017 to remain challenging,” says Cathay chairman John Slosar. “Strong competition from other airlines and the adverse effect of the strength of the Hong Kong dollar are expected to continue to put pressure on yield. The cargo market got off to a good start, but overcapacity is expected to persist.”

(Greg Waldron - FlightGlobal News)

Chile's Sky launches new livery

Chile's Sky Airline has unveiled a new livery as it updates its branding.

The Santiago-based carrier's new colors are dark purple and fluorescent green, with a simpler design on its aircraft tail.

Sky has also launched a new website and new uniforms for employees.

Asset Image
(Sky Airline)

The all-Airbus A320 family operator had previously painted its aircraft in a blue and green livery, with a sun and palm trees on the tail.

Sky is Chile's second largest carrier, although it operates only about half the number of flights that dominant player LATAM Airlines Chile does. It flies mostly within Chile, and operates to a handful of international destinations.

(Ghim-Lay Yeo - FlightGlobal News)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Volaris Is Becoming More Like Spirit Airlines

A first-bag fee on trans-border flights will help Mexican budget airline Volaris produce more stable profits in the future.

Volaris is in many ways the Spirit Airlines of Mexico. Each one offers rock-bottom base fares, stimulating air travel growth in both countries. Spirit and Volaris then charge extra for a variety of optional services that customers can choose from.

However, checked-baggage fees are a key area where the two carriers have diverged. Spirit Airlines started charging passengers for checking a bag nearly a decade ago. It now generates hundreds of millions of dollars a year from bag fees. By contrast, stricter regulations in Mexico have prevented Volaris from charging passengers for their first checked bag.

The regulatory environment in Mexico is starting to thaw, though. As a result, Volaris was recently able to implement a first-bag fee on international flights. This move to act more like Spirit Airlines could be very good for Volaris investors in the long run.

A big ancillary revenue gap

Spirit Airlines and Volaris both try to maximize their ancillary revenue, because it represents a relatively stable source of revenue that's less affected by changes in demand. Over the years, the two carriers have steadily rolled out new optional services while working to squeeze more revenue out of their existing fees.

However, Spirit Airlines has been far more successful at diversifying its revenue away from pure ticket sales. During 2016, its non-ticket revenue per passenger flight segment came in at $51.87, compared with an average fare of $55.54. By contrast, Volaris' non-ticket revenue per passenger was far lower, at about $18.50, even though its average fare was slightly higher at $58.

Lower bag-fee revenue accounts for much of this discrepancy. On most routes, Volaris customers are entitled to two free carry-on personal items plus a free checked bag, whereas Spirit Airlines fares include only a single free personal item.

Volaris starts charging for bags on some routes

Volaris got its first taste of charging for the first checked bag in late 2016, after it set up a new subsidiary based in Costa Rica. The regulations governing Volaris' operations in Central America don't prohibit such a fee. However, the Costa Rican subsidiary is brand new and will represent a very small percentage of Volaris' total capacity this year.

On March 1, Volaris implemented a first-bag fee on its international routes from Mexico to the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The fee starts at $15 if the reservation is made at the time the ticket is purchased. This is a much more significant development, because Volaris has devoted about 30% of its capacity to these trans-border routes in recent years.

Trans-border routes are likely to become an even bigger part of Volaris' business going forward. The weak peso makes flights to the U.S. more attractive relative to domestic routes within Mexico. Additionally, Volaris will receive some extra slots at Mexico City International Airport later this year, allowing it to start several new routes to the United States.

Good news for investors

The "unbundling" strategy has driven rapid growth and consistently strong margins for Spirit Airlines over the past five years. Volaris has also grown rapidly, but its profitability has been far more erratic. Its lower bag-fee revenue contributes to these big swings in earnings -- although it's certainly not the only factor.

Volaris isn't going to use its new baggage fees to gouge passengers on international flights. Instead, CEO Enrique Beltranena says this new revenue stream will allow the carrier to reduce its base fares. This is still a good result for investors, though. Lower base fares will stimulate more traffic, helping Volaris keep its planes full and enabling its future growth.

Furthermore, if Mexican regulators see that allowing a first-bag fee can drive fares down, they will be more likely to ease the domestic bag-fee regulations in the future. That could lead to even bigger ancillary revenue opportunities for Volaris a few years down the road -- adding to its already massive long-term growth potential.

(Adam Levine-Weinberg- The Motley Fool)

Production of China’s New Airlifter Confirmed

An early-build Y-20 airliner powered by Russian D-30KP2 turbofans.
(Chinese internet) 
China has confirmed series production of the Xian Y-20 “Kunpeng” strategic airlifter and a re-engining with domestically produced turbofans. Chinese state television announced the news at the same time as the go-ahead for production of the Y-20 stealth fighter was revealed.

Speaking to the Chinese media on the sidelines of the recent Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Y-20 design chief Tang Chang Hong said that after eight months of operational trials, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) is pleased with the airlifter. Tang revealed that a timetable is in place to install domestic engines for the Y-20 by next year or 2019. Currently the aircraft is powered by four Russian Soloviev D-30KP2 turbofans, producing 10.5 tonnes of thrust.

Chinese-made Shenyang-Liming WS-20 engines will produce 14 metric tons (30,864 lbs) of thrust, and thereby enable the Y-20 to achieve its maximum payload of 66 metric tons (146 lbs). Touted as China’s most powerful engine, the WS-20 has been flight-tested on an IL-76 testbed since 2014.

China Aviation News reported in 2016 that Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation has the capacity to produce more than 20 Y-20 annually. However, the production line is not meeting its full potential this year due to the limited number of D-30 deliveries and the uncertainty of the WS-20 re-engining program.

“The successful development of the Y-20 is a testament to Chinese industry's ability to produce large scale, high-end equipment and the mastery of technology by the Chinese scientist and researchers.” Tang said. “The Y-20 is a good starting point and will enable us to produce larger and more ‘important’ aircraft projects.” He also noted that a civilian variant of the Y-20 will be developed.

The Chinese media revealed in early March that the Y-20 could be used as a carrier for China’s air-launched rocket system. The head of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, Li Tong Yu, said his agency has developed a new generation of air-launched space vehicle capable of delivering 100 kg (220 lbs) of payload into low-orbit. The Y-20 will be used to air-launch the rocket. A variant with a payload up to 200 kg (440 lbs) is under development.

Li highlighted that China in recent years has been developing numerous small satellites. Deploying them via conventional rockets would be costly, and the Y-20 will aim to solve that problem.

(Chen Chuanren - AINOnline News) 

Boeing’s Myers Upbeat about Influx of Aircraft Investors

Lessors now account for some 40 percent of Boeing's commercial aircraft placement.

Commercial aircraft continue to outperform virtually every other asset class in which financiers can invest, resulting in perhaps unprecedented levels of competition and some of the “cheapest” access to money that airlines have ever enjoyed. As a result, manufacturers such as Boeing continue to express a bullish outlook even while interest rates begin to show some signs of increasing.

“Liquidity is some of the highest I’ve ever seen,” Boeing Capital Corporation president Tim Myers told AIN during the recent International Society of Transport Aircraft Traders (ISTAT) conference in San Diego. “We’re seeing a lot of new investors coming into the space. Because when you look at aircraft finance as an investment alternative, it has really proven itself since ’08-’09, when the financial crisis hit. If you look at other fixed assent type of investments and aircraft have continued to outperform almost everything else. The airline industry is profitable again, so that’s driving people into the space, but we’re seeing continuing new investment coming in from places like Korea, places like Australia…the Japanese regional banks are back in the business…Taiwan.”

The influx of money has come from virtually every kind of source. Myers characterized the number of leasing companies that have entered the market as “phenomenal,” resulting in an environment where, for Boeing, 40 percent of its airplane placement funding comes from lessors. According to Airbus COO for customers John Leahy, lessors account for some 50 percent of all the funding for the European company’s airplanes.

For Boeing, bank debt accounts for some 34 percent of its placements—from sources around the globe—while direct cash purchases amount to about 26 percent of its sales. “The one thing that we’ve seen with commercial aircraft bank debt is it’s coming from everywhere, whether its the European banks that were strong; the U.S. banks are playing; Australia is kicking in; the Middle East banks are participating; you’ve got banks certainly in Asia,” said Myers. “But it’s competitive. You’ll probably hear some rumblings about how competitive it is. Some people are coming off new aircraft and going down into the second tier airlines and looking at used aircraft just to chase yields.”

Meanwhile, capital market funding from instruments such as Enhanced Equipment Trust Certificates (EETCs) account for another 31 percent of the marketplace, and export credit agencies typically back another 9 percent.

Happily for Boeing, the strength of capital markets and bank funding has softened the blow of the government’s failure to renew the charter of the U.S. ExIm bank. While Airbus continues to suffer an interruption of export credit agency funding while it works to address “irregularities” involving third-party consultants, Myers said he remains concerned about the potential lack of equilibrium once ECA funding to Airbus resumes.

“We’re certainly working with the government to make sure that Boeing gets a level playing field,” he stressed. “To us that means ExIm Bank is back up and running.”

Export financing accounts for much of the success of the aerospace industry in general, particularly during lean times, he added. During the financial crisis of 2008-2009, export financing accounting for 30 percent of Boeing’s deliveries. In fact, Airbus never once dropped production rates—they increased during that time—even while the financial markets had become nearly frozen. Without ECA financing, the company would undoubtedly have faced the expensive proposition of dropping rates substantially.

Meanwhile, Boeing, through its participation in the Aviation Working Group, spends a lot of time and effort fostering an environment that encourages financiers to take the risks associated with backing commercial aircraft sales. Myers cited the Cape Town Convention as one of the important elements of ensuring such a healthy environment. In the event of bankruptcy, airlines registered in a country that has ratified the convention must ensure their airplanes either go back to their owners or they must renegotiate their contracts with lessors or banks within, typically, 60 to 90 days.

“We’ve found that by having Cape Town ratified in different countries and then adopted by the [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)]…creates more access to the financial markets for the airlines that reside in those countries,” said Myers. “Boeing has been pushing that kind of initiative with the Aviation Working Group [co-chaired by Boeing and Airbus comprised of airframe and engine OEMs, banks and leasing companies].”

Sixty-five countries have so far ratified the Cape Town Convention, but Myers would like to see more. “We’re looking to see more of the Europeans really move. The UK ratified Cape Town and we were hoping to see that kind of be where Europe would really start taking off…Now most European countries have fairly sophisticated bankruptcy laws already, but still I think Cape Town would make it easier for those countries to do the kind of financing…especially if they were trying to do international EETCs and things like that.”

Myers also stressed the importance of the ability to freely and quickly transfer airplanes across borders in the event of lease expirations, for example. “So we’re trying to work with [ICAO] and the various civil aviation authorities around the globe to try to create some kind of a standardized cross-border transfer for airplanes,” he noted. “This is a very sensitive topic because it involves safety standards, other issues with different countries, but the entire industry will benefit from having these standards in place and the ability to move aircraft freely because it adds to the mobility of the asset.”

Of course, ease of mobility lessens risk for investors and, therefore, the longevity of the asset and its residual value. Under the status quo, however, it takes too much time and expense to transfer airplanes in Myers’s estimation. “There are ways we think that we can work together with the right aviation authorities to bring them together…because it will basically lower the cost of financing for everybody, if we can make that happen.”

(Gregory Polek - AINOnline News) 

VistaJet Reaches 100,000-flight Mark

VistaJet has completed its 100,000th flight just 13 years after Thomas Flohr founded the charter and membership-based service, the company announced on Tuesday. The company has connected 250,0000 passengers to more than 1,600 airports in 187 countries.

The milestone was reached as the company continues to add to its all-Bombardier fleet.VistaJet took delivery of 15 new business jets last year, which the company said equaled a 26 percent fleet growth. The fleet now numbers 71 aircraft, including the largest stable of Global 6000s and Challenger 350s in the industry.

It also is attracting more youthful customers, with some as young as 25, the company noted. A number of the younger customers come from the technology industry. In fact, major technology firms purchased 400 flight hours last year.

VistaJet believes it will continue to grow as it captures business from the increasing number of millennials entering the business aviation market.

But VistaJet also noted that it has gained members from other corners of the industry, reflecting the difficult market last year. As much as 40 percent of VistaJet’s new business came from former aircraft owners and fractional share owners.

“What we’re seeing is that, due to broader uncertainty and changing attitudes toward ownership, while entrepreneurs and corporations want the flexibility and convenience of using a business aircraft, they don’t want the asset risk or the up-front costs,” said Flohr, who is chairman of the company. “Our 100,000th flight is a real indication that customers have found the answers they are looking for in our business model.”

The VistaJet Program, a membership program tailored for individuals and corporations that fly more than 50 hours a year, accounted for the majority of the company’s business in 2016.

Also in 2016, the company moved its global headquarters to Malta and expanded its offices in cities including Los Angeles, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul and Lisbon.
(Kerry Lynch - AINOline News)

U.S. FAA Gives Nod to G500, G600 P&WC Engines

Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) has received U.S. certification for its new PW814GA and 815GA turbofans that will power the Gulfstream G500 and G600, respectively. The FAA validation, granted on February 24, comes as Gulfstream prepares for initial deliveries of the G500 later this year and of the G600 in late 2018.

Gulfstream is the launch customer for P&WC’s new 16,000-pound-thrust PurePower PW800 turbofan that shares a common core with the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G Geared Turbofan engine. P&WC began core testing on the engine in 2009 and first flew it in 2013. The engine maker secured Transport Canada certification for the PW814GA/815GA in early 2015, just a few months after the unveiling of the 5,000-nm G500 and 6,200-nm G600.

Along with the engines, P&WC is supplying an integrated powerplant system for the aircraft that includes nacelles and thrust reverser systems.

The new engine incorporates a full authority digital engine control (Fadec) system with advanced diagnostics and lightweight materials such as titanium and composites that are designed to improve performance and dispatch availability. P&WC estimates that the engines provide double-digit improvements in fuel efficiency. In addition, the engines incorporate P&WC’s Talon X combustor, which provides a double-digit margin in meeting international NOx emissions targets.

(Kerry Lynch - AINOnline News)

Gulfstream's G550 To Enter Medevac Ops in Beijing

Gulfstream Aerospace's G550 has been selected for medevac operations in Beijing, the company announced. The Rolls-Royce-powered twin-jet will be outfitted to support the Beijing Red Cross Emergency Medical Center and used for disaster relief and air rescue.

The aircraft will be equipped with in-flight emergency resuscitation and on-board tracking capabilities for better doctor-patient access. It will include a medical bay, powered gurney-loading system on aircraft stairs, fold-out nurses’ seats for individual patient care, refrigerated medical storage cabinet, X-ray viewing equipment and a crew-rest area with berthing.

Close to two dozen G550s and G450s are used in medevac service, worldwide. The models also are used in a range of special-mission and support operations, from military personnel transport to atmospheric research, electronic intelligence gathering and long-range surveillance, among others.

“We are committed to working with customers to deliver an aircraft that exceeds their requirements, and this uniquely tailored G550 is no exception. The aircraft’s customizable cabin will serve as an example for future programs,” said Scott Neal, senior v-p, worldwide sales, Gulfstream.

Established in 2010, the Beijing Red Cross Emergency Medical Center has more than 1,000 employees, 300 ambulances, two emergency medical services helicopters and another fixed-wing medevac aircraft. The Beijing Red Cross emergency rescue operation, known as 999, took delivery of a Dassault 2000LX in late 2015 and became the first to offer helicopter emergency medical services in China in 2014 with an Airbus Helicopters EC135 P2e.

(Kerry Lynch - AINOnline News) 

Second Global 7000 Prototype Joins Flight-test Program

I missed this news worthy story while I was in Dallas covering HAI Heli Expo 2017. Please excuse my tardiness on posting this.

Michael Carter
Editor & Cheif
Aero Pacific Flightlines

The second Bombardier Global 7000 (c/n 70002) C-GBLB lands in Toronto after a March 3rd first flight lasting four-and-a-half hours.

The second flight-test vehicle (FTV2) for Bombardier’s new Global 7000 program achieved its first flight on Saturday. In a statement issued this morning, the Canadian airframer said that the Global 7000, for which development work was delayed by two years, remains on track to meet its revised entry-into-service target in the second half of 2018. This follows the maiden flight of the first flight-test vehicle (FTV1) in November.

FTV2, which Bombardier has dubbed “The Powerhouse,” is being used to test aircraft systems, including propulsion, electrical and mechanical systems. Taking off at 10:50 a.m., the aircraft flew for 4 hours and 28 minutes on March 4, and then took to the air again yesterday, according to FlightAware. Bombardier is working on securing a permit for a ferry flight to get the aircraft to its flight-test center in Wichita.

At the controls for the first flight were captain Jeff Karnes, copilot J.R. Marcolesco and flight-test engineer Ben Povall. They tested FTV2’s performance at high altitude by climbing to 43,000 feet.

“We now have a flight-test vehicle dedicated to testing the aircraft’s systems,” explained Fran├žois Caza, Bombardier’s product development vice president and chief engineer. “Data from FTV2 will supplement the successful results we have already obtained from the test rigs, including the integrated systems test and certification rig and, from the extensive flight testing of FTV1 to date. We are on track with our test program and we are very pleased with the progression and performance of our flight-test vehicles to date. The dedication and collaboration of our teams have shown were critical in achieving this significant milestone.”

The Global 7000 will offer range of up to 7,400 nm carrying eight passengers and cruising at Mach 0.85, allowing for nonstop flights such as London to Singapore and Dubai to New York City. High-speed cruise will be Mach 0.925.

Bombardier’s sales team spent yesterday notifying holders of purchase agreement for the Global 7000 about the latest flight-test breakthrough.

(Charles Alcock - AINOnline News)

Why size matters for '797X' project

It has an authority to offer from Boeing, public endorsements from influential airlines and lessors and finally, it seems, a name: the 797X.

Boeing strangely has not yet confirmed the project’s designation, but it is reasonable to assume the company will not break with the numbering system that it established in 1956.

So what is it? We know it is a family of two wide-body aircraft sized to capture an estimated 2,000-3,000-unit slice of the commercial aircraft market over the next two decades. Although often referred to as a 757 replacement, the market opportunity encompasses both the legacy single-aisle and wide-bodies like the 767. It will probably be able to accommodate up to about 220 passengers and fly between 4,500-6,000nm (8,330-11,100km).

The 797X could inherit a harvest of finally mature technologies pioneered by the 787 a decade ago, including a core computing system, as well as electric-powered cabin pressurization and wing de-icing systems.

It will also likely benefit from a new composite wing center that Boeing has erected in Everett, Washington, to support the 777X, with the target of producing more efficient carbonfibre structures for the same price as their metallic equivalents.

Perhaps breaking from a trend set by the exclusively powered 737 Max and 777X, the 797X also stands to benefit from a three-way competition to provide up to two engine options to airlines.

Pitches are likely to include 40,000lb (180kN)-thrust versions of CFM International’s Leap core, Pratt & Whitney’s second-generation geared turbofan and the Rolls-Royce Advance concept.

With so much technology available off the shelf, Boeing’s biggest challenge with the 797X is crafting the marketing strategy.

It is the Goldilocks conundrum: a wide-body aircraft sized too large is undercut by the Airbus A330-800neo, but too small is no competition for the A321neoLR. Boeing has to get the 797X just right – an unusually small target to hit.

Still, so much about the 797X is speculation or leaks from informed customers. It is time now for Boeing to lead the public discussion about the project.

The first half of the year will naturally belong to the public reveal of the 737 Max 10X, with an official launch at the Paris air show.

But details about the 797X must soon follow – starting with the confirmation of the program’s name.

(Flight International / Flight Global News)

Boeing plans layoffs for May

Boeing sent a notice to employees at its commercial jet factories Friday warning of layoffs in May.

Workers at the company's Washington state factories were informed by their union that Boeing had issued a federally-required notice that "involuntary layoffs were scheduled for May."

A Boeing spokesman confirmed the 60-day notice, but declined to say precisely when it would initiate the layoffs.

Boeing has been cutting staff to reduce costs since early 2016, primarily through buyouts and the attrition of executives, managers and engineering staff. The notices are the first official signal from the company that it will lay off some of the factory workers who assemble its jets.

A person familiar with the notices said this latest round of cuts in May would affect fewer than 500 staff.

The Machinists union in Seattle, which represents thousands of Boeing employees, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

After years of record buying, the pace of orders for Boeing's twin-aisle jets, including its 777 and 787 Dreamliners, has slowed significantly. Boeing is cutting back current-generation 777 production, its most profitable large jet, by nearly 60% from its peak.

Boeing is adjusting its employment to account for that lost revenue and is under pressure to offer better prices to airlines while promising Wall Street improved profit margins.

As of last month, Boeing had 148,000 workers. About half its employees work in its commercial aircraft unit, where the buyout offers were made. The company had already cut the jetliner unit's head count by 9% in the past year.

(Jon Ostrower - CNNMoney)

Boeing Keeps Selling Current-Generation 737s

Continued demand for the outgoing version of Boeing's 737 jet ensures that the company will be able to ramp up production as planned in the next few years.

Last November, U.S. legacy carrier United Continental announced that it would cut its capital spending plans for the next few years by deferring 61 orders for Boeing's workhorse 737 jet. This caused some investors to worry about whether Boeing would still be able to ramp up 737 production as planned.

However, Boeing continues to sell current-generation 737s -- confusingly called the 737 Next Generation (or 737 NG) by Boeing -- at a slow but steady pace. Combined with the company's policy of "overselling" its production slots, this means that Boeing's 737 production plans still look safe.

Boeing has an aggressive plan for the 737

With demand for the aging (but highly profitable) Boeing 777 wide-body falling off a cliff lately, the Boeing 737 is set to become the company's main cash flow generator in the years ahead. To maximize the 737 program's cash flow and meet customer demand, Boeing plans to aggressively raise output over the next two to three years.
Today, Boeing is building 737 jets at a rate of 42 per month. It will boost production to 47 per month this summer, with plans to increase output to 52 per month next year and 57 per month in 2019.

These projected increases are supported by a backlog of roughly 4,400 unfilled 737 orders. That said, most of the remaining orders are for the upcoming 737 MAX variant. Boeing plans to deliver the first MAX airplane next quarter, but it won't fully switch over to 737 MAX production until late 2019 or 2020. Thus, if too many customers want to switch from the 737 NG to the 737 MAX, it will disrupt Boeing's production plan.

United changes its plans

This explains why so many investors were concerned when United Continental converted a slew of orders from the 737 NG to the 737 MAX.

United had ordered 65 737-700s earlier in 2016. However, CEO Oscar Munoz overhauled his management team during the course of the year. The new leadership group decided that the 737-700s weren't really needed.

United Airlines ended up keeping the four orders that were scheduled for delivery in 2017, but converting them to the larger 737-800 model. The other 61 737-700s -- which were set to arrive in 2018 and 2019 -- were deferred indefinitely. United hasn't even decided which version of the 737 MAX it will take.

Boeing rebuilds its backlog

Ordinarily, order deferrals aren't very worrisome for popular models like the Boeing 737. Airbus and Boeing both routinely take in more orders than their production capacity allows, anticipating that some customers will want to defer or cancel orders for one reason or another.

That said, as of January, industry analyst Scott Hamilton observed that Boeing had "pretty much used up its over-sales margin" for the 737 following the big United Airlines deferral. This potentially raised the risk that any future deferral requests would force Boeing to alter its production plans.

Yet that line of thinking assumes airlines are done with buying 737 NGs and only want state-of-the-art models like the A320neo and 737 MAX. However, both of those next-gen models have long backlogs. Airlines that need extra planes in 2018 or 2019 may have no choice but to buy an older-technology aircraft like the 737-800. Big "end-of-line" discounts can also spur sales among more price-sensitive airlines.

Indeed, orders for the 737 NG are still flowing in at a steady pace. Year to date, Boeing has sold 22 737 NGs, compared to just 15 737 MAX aircraft. Thus, within a few months, Boeing has replaced more than a third of the deferred United orders in its backlog.

This result is particularly impressive considering that Boeing was still sold out of 737 NG production slots (or close to it) after the United deferral. It suggests that if a few more customers choose to convert 737 NG orders from late 2018 or 2019 to future 737 MAX orders, Boeing would have no trouble lining up replacement buyers.

The 737-800 and other members of the 737 NG family aren't exactly state-of-the-art anymore. Nevertheless, they are proven performers that airlines are still happy to buy -- at least if the price is right.

(Adam Levine-Weinberg - The Motley Fool)

Amazon's air force is hiring to fill aerospace jobs in Seattle Inc.'s Prime Air wants to hire two veteran aerospace managers in Seattle to oversee airframe and aircraft engine maintenance programs for its contract air cargo carriers across the U.S.

Amazon needs the managers to ensure that its partners, including Atlas Air Holdings and Air Transport Services Group, comply with all Federal Administration Administration regulations and industry best practices.

Details of the job openings were posted on Amazon's website (but not on Prime Air's jobs website).

"I presume what Amazon wants is to have a quality control hand over things," said David Harris, senior editor of Seattle-based Cargo Facts news website, which covers the global air cargo transport sector.

"None of those two carriers has ever had any violations, to my knowledge," Harris said of Atlas Air and Air Transport Services Group. "They're highly respected and quality conscious operations."

Amazon wants the Prime Air managers to have at least 10 years of experience in the aerospace industry. Top candidates must also "be charismatic with a proven track record of positively influencing work behaviors in relatively short amounts of time."

Prime Air is also hiring at least 43 more staffers for its aviation unit as the e-commerce giant ramps up its fledgling air division, which includes drone delivery development.

Amazon said the key responsibilities of its new airframe program manager will include:

Evaluating new airframe repair stations as well as on-going oversight of such operations

Creating and managing industry-specific audit programs to ensure compliance at maintenance vendors

Generating "continuous improvements in operational reliability," while "keeping costs in check" will be a byproduct of this role as well

Amazon said the key responsibilities of its new aircraft engine program manager will include:

Create, build, and foster an airline industry-specific aircraft engine management program

Oversee Amazon’s air carrier engine program

Maintenance provider program oversight
Assist in creating "a dispatch reliability program" and reliability indexing

News of the hires comes amid reports that Amazon is soon planning to offer air cargo services to its clients in China.

(Andrew McIntosh - Puget Sound Business Journal)

Friday, March 17, 2017

BA owner IAG launches new long-haul airline Level


The owner of British Airways is launching a new long-haul budget airline based in Barcelona.

IAG said the new airline, Level, would initially fly to Los Angeles, Oakland, Buenos Aires and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic from June.

The airline will use Iberia crew and two new Airbus A330 planes.

Willie Walsh, IAG chief executive, said Level would become its fifth airline brand alongside Aer Lingus, BA, Iberia and Vueling.

"Barcelona is Vueling's home base and this will allow customers to connect from Vueling's extensive European network onto Level's long-haul flights," he said.

The company will look to offer Level flights from other European cities. "We're really excited about the opportunities for expansion," Mr Walsh added.

Fares start from 99 euros/$149 each way.

Low-cost challengers

Travel writer and broadcaster Simon Calder said the new airline was good news for travelers as more competition would put pressure on fares.

He said IAG's move echoed Lufthansa's decision to offer flights to destinations in the Caribbean and Asia on Eurowings, its low-cost offshoot.

It was also an attempt to counter the challenge posed by low-cost newcomers such as Norwegian Airlines.

As well as operating Boeing 787 services from London Gatwick airport to cities such as Orlando, Las Vegas and New York, Norwegian plans to offer direct flights to the US using smaller Boeing 737 planes from the likes of Belfast and Edinburgh.

Mr Calder said that move would put even more pressure on traditional airlines such as BA and Iberia.

Loizos Heracleous, a professor of strategy at Warwick Business School, said budget airlines had far lower costs than longer-established competitors, meaning they were more profitable.

"IAG's decision to expand with a separate low-cost brand safeguards the image of its flag-carrier brands," he said.

"The real trick will be to start Level on as high an efficiency point as possible, this being a crucial factor that distinguishes winners and losers in the budget airline sector."

Last month IAG reported a 64% jump in annual profits to 1.8bn euros (£1.4bn), helped by lower fuel prices.

Shares in IAG were flat at 571.1p on Friday but have risen by almost 30% since the start of the year, valuing the company at more than £12bn.

(Chris Johnston - BBC News)

France Joins U.K. in Probing Airbus Financing of Plane Sales

Shares in the maker of the world's largest passenger aircraft lost altitude on fears of fines relating to third party consultants' activities in securing financing deals.

Airbus Group SE stock lost altitude Friday after the European plane maker said French authorities had launched an investigation into potentially illegal activities relating to the financing of aircraft sales.

The French probe mirrors an ongoing investigation by the U.K.'s Serious Fraud Office, or SFO, which in August announced that it was looking into possible fraud, bribery and corruption in the civil aviation business of Airbus relating to irregularities concerning third party consults, said Airbus.

The SFO launched its inquiry after Airbus reported evidence of false declarations relating to the use of agents during application for export credits. UK Export Finance, a government agency that provides financing for exporters, responded by suspending export credit to Airbus. That move was followed by France and Germany and has resulted in Airbus having to self-finance some customers in order to secure their orders.

Airbus shares fell 1.3% in the wake of the announcement, before paring declines to 0.83% by 13:00 CET to change hands at €69.73 each.

France's Parquet National Financier, a judicial unit established in 2013 to investigate significant fraud, will run its inquiry both in parallel too and in co-operation with the British inquiry.

The French investigation concerns the same practices as the U.K. probe and is "not a new issue," Airbus CEO Tom Enders told a press conference on a visit to New Delhi to mark the opening of a pilot training facility.

Airbus, which makes the world's largest passenger plane the A380 and it the main competitor to Boeing, could face fines, while individuals could also face criminal charges if the company is found guilty of illegal practices.

Aircraft engine maker Rolls Royce, in January, was fined a record £497 million ($615 million) by the SFO following a four year investigation that resulted in 12 counts of conspiracy to corrupt, false accounting and failure to prevent bribery in relation to the sale of aircraft engines. Rolls Royce was also fined by the US Department of Justice and Brazilian authorities.

France last year introduced regulation enabling it to levy so-called deferred prosecution agreements, which enables prosecutors to suspend criminal prosecution of a company in exchange for agreements to meet certain conditions, typically the payment of a fine and the implementation of procedures to avert further regulatory breaches. The law is designed to avoid prosecutions that could damage a company's ability to tender for certain contracts.

(Paul Whitfield - The Street) 

Want to be the first to ride on Southwest Airlines' new Boeing 737 Max? Better make your way to Texas

I will be on the first three flights; Flight 1 DAL-HOU, flight 2 HOU-SAT, and Flight 3 SAT-DAL completing the original Southwest Airlines route triangle which was famously drawn on a cocktail napkin when Herb and Lamar conceived the airline.

Michael Carter
Editor & Chief
Aero Pacific Flightlines


Southwest Airlines said Thursday that it will celebrate the first flights of the newest version of its Boeing 737, the Max, on Oct. 1.

Flyers eager to take the first flight of the brand new plane will have to make their way down to Texas, with special inaugural routes from Dallas to Houston, Houston to San Antonio and San Antonio to Dallas.

Aviation history buffs will recognize those routes as Southwest's original markets when it launched service in 1971.

Southwest will put nine new Boeing 737-8s into service Oct. 1, but it hasn't officially announced what permanent routes they'll be flying. Another five jets will be added to the fleet by the end of 2017.

The carrier said Thursday that the new, more efficient planes will generally be used on longer-haul flights, stopping for the night at one of the Dallas-based carrier's maintenance or crew bases.

The Max is the latest update to a aircraft model that has formed the core of Southwest's fleet since the company's founding. With a total of 200 on order and options to purchase 191 more, the Max will be a major part of Southwest's fleet for decades to come.

The inside of the new version will look familiar to anyone who's flown on one of Southwest's 737-800s, featuring the latest interior layout with 175 synthetic leather-clad chairs, larger overhead bins and improved galley spaces.

The real upside for Southwest comes from the Max's engines, which will make the aircraft's fuel burn 14 percent more efficient and increase its range by 300 to 500 miles. Boeing has called the Max the most efficient single-aisle aircraft on the market.

"It's a stair-step improvement to our fleet," Southwest's chief operating officer Mike Van de Ven said last year. "I think this airplane is the best in class out there in terms of economics ... it's going to allow us to continue to offer great, reliable, low-fare service."

(Conor Shine - The Dallas Morning News)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Cathay Pacific adds third daily SFO-Hong Kong flight

(Cathay Pacific)

This week Cathay Pacific announced that it will add a third daily San Francisco - Hong Kong nonstop on October 29 using an Airbus A350, its first deployed in the U.S. This comes amid news that Cathay Pacific is facing losses due to increased competition among Asian carriers and rising fuel costs.

The new jet will offer Cathay’s newest business class, premium economy and economy class seating (no first class).

What’s really nice about this plane? It burns 25% less fuel (with corresponding reduction in emissions) and its carpet and blankets are made with nylon and plastic recycled from bottles and salvaged fishing nets, which pose a threat to marine life.

Even better, this will be the first Cathay plane to offer inflight wi-fi – essential for those 12-14 hour flights to Hong Kong!

The only other airline serving SFO with an Airbus A350 is Singapore Airlines, with non-stops to Singapore.

(Chris McGinnis - SFGate / Yahoo Business News)