Sunday, February 19, 2017

Trump suggests a large order for Boeing F/A 18XT Super Hornets could be imminent instead of some F35A

President Donald Trump suggested that a larger purchase of Boeing Co.’s F/A-18 Super Hornet may be in the offing. “We are looking seriously at a big order,” Trump said Friday of the fighter jet, with another Boeing plane, the newest 787 Dreamliner, looming in the background. “I think we may get there.”

The Defense Department is studying the capabilities of the Super Hornet, designed in the 1990s, against those of Lockheed’s F-35, which is still in development even as it’s being produced. Trump indicated that price differences between the two fighters could sway the Pentagon to replace some orders for the F-35, which the president has criticized for cost overruns and delays, with more purchases of the Boeing jet.

“If the price doesn’t come down, we would,” Trump told reporters. “The F-18’s a great plane and now put a stealth component onto it.”

Reporters earlier spotted White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus holding a brochure for the F/A-18 XT, a proposed Super Hornet upgrade that could serve as a stand-in as Lockheed ramps up production of the F-35, the Pentagon’s costliest weapons system.

Trump told reporters that, unless prices continued coming down on the F-35, he would be prepared to cut future F-35 contracts and order more Super Hornets instead. He also advocated taking steps to increase the stealth of the Super Hornet, according to Time's White House correspondent Zeke Miller.

The Navy has already requested money for two Super Hornets in its 2017 budget, and is set to request another 14 in 2018.

The F/A-18 XT twin-engine plane is also designed to come equipped with longer-range, low-drag, stealthy conformal fuel tanks; long-range sensors that can detect and target threats without having to depend on radar; a new advanced cockpit system to enhance situational awareness, providing the pilot with the capability to see, track and target multiple long range targets; and improved low-observable next-generation radar cross section for increased survivability, according to the company.

Lockheed has been pushing out data to defend the troubled F35 program

The U.S. Air Force is the largest F-35 operator of all the international forces with a planned purchase of 1,763 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant. The F-35 is the Pentagon’s biggest acquisition program estimated at nearly $400 billion for almost 2,500 aircraft.

The Marine Corps currently flies the F-35B short takeoff/vertical landing (STOVL) variant, with plans to purchase 353 STOVL jets and 67 F-35C carrier variant aircraft. The U.S. Marine Corps declared F-35B IOC in August 2016. Together with the Marines, the U.S. Navy will bring 5th Generation capability to the sea with 260 F-35C jets. The U.S. Navy plans to declare F-35C IOC in 2018.

Mike Fredenburg at the National Review urges Trump to cancel the F35.

His arguments are:

* negotiating a better price on incomplete, crippled fighters will not save taxpayers any money in the long run — because the prices being negotiated between Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon are prices designed to fool the public about the F-35’s true costs. Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon both know that any “discount” or price reduction negotiated in public will quickly be made up on the back-end.

* fatal mistakes made during the conceptual design process well over 20 years ago, the F-35 will forever be crippled by intractable weight and heat issues that ensure that the program will never deliver a reliable, cost-effective fighter.

* In order to protect the F-35 from cancellation, the Pentagon has lowered key performance requirements and helped Lockheed cheat so that it could continue the charade that the F-35 will actually meet its bare-minimum threshold ranges.

* the published $32,000-per-flying-hour cost is a made-up number; its real cost per flying hour will likely be closer to the $62,000 of the much less complex F-22. Its truly dismal sustained-sortie-generation rate of one sortie (mission) every three or four days means that, as is the case with our F-22 pilots, F-35 pilots will only get a fraction of the 30 to 40 hours of stick-time (actual flying time) per month necessary to gain and maintain fighter-combat mastery

The US Office of Operational Testing and Evaluation released a 62 page report on the F-35 stealth fighter and still finds 276 deficiencies in combat performance.

Despite the problems a military program whose cost has soared from $233 billion to an estimated $379 billion has pilots and generals who will vouch for it. Recent estimates suggest the F-35 program could exceed $1 trillion over 50 years. The F35 is getting over $10 billion per year. Does money buy friends and support ?

The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program Office (JPO) acknowledged in 2016 that schedule pressure exists for completing System Development and Demonstration (SDD) and starting Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT and E) by August 2017, the planned date in JPO’s Integrated Master Schedule.

In an effort to stay on schedule, JPO plans to reduce or truncate planned developmental testing (DT) in an effort to minimize delays and close out SDD as soon as possible. However, even with this risky, schedule-driven approach, multiple problems and delays make it clear that the program will not be able to start IOT and E with full combat capability until late CY18 or early CY19, at the soonest.

* weapons problems

* software problems

* heat and overheating problems

* Vertical oscillations during F-35C catapult launches were reported by pilots as excessive, violent, and therefore a safety concern during this critical phase of flight. The program is still investigating alternatives to address this deficiency, which makes a solution in time for IOT and E and Navy fielding unlikely.

* Excessive and premature wear on the hook point of the arresting gear on the F-35A, occurring as soon as after only one use, has caused the program to consider developing a more robust redesign.

* The Services have designated 276 deficiencies in combat performance as “critical to correct” in Block 3F, but less than half of the critical deficiencies were addressed with attempted corrections in 3FR6. [aka they are only even attempting to try to fix half of the critical problems in this current round of fixes.]

* Significant, well-documented deficiencies; for hundreds of these, the program has no plan to adequately fix and verify with flight test within SDD; although it is common for programs to have unresolved deficiencies after development, the program must assess and mitigate the cumulative effects of these remaining deficiencies on F-35 effectiveness and suitability prior to finalizing and fielding Block 3F.

* Overall ineffective operational performance with multiple key Block 3F capabilities delivered to date, available only about half the time.

* Continued low aircraft availability and no indications of significant improvement

On the positive side, they believe they have fixed the ejections seat so that they are now pretty confident it will not kill or seriously injure lighter pilots who eject. Pretty confident but not enough to change the rule that prevents lighter pilots from flying the F35.

Modifications to the pilot escape system (lighter helmet, delayed parachute deployment for lighter pilots) were needed after testing in CY15 showed that the risk of serious injury or death is greater for lighter-weight pilots. Because of the risk, the Services decided to restrict pilots weighing less than 136 pounds from flying the F-35.

The Air Force may be able to reopen F-35 pilot training to lighter-weight pilots (i.e., below 136 pounds) in early 2018. DOT and E is not aware of the plans for the Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy to open F-35 pilot training to the lighter-weight pilots.

Developmental flight testing is projected to end no earlier than mid-2018, based on independent estimates on completing mission systems flight testing – the testing that will likely take the longest to complete.

The Gap would not be that big if the F35 were cancelled.

It would take close to 2030 to field fixed F35s in large numbers.

China currently only has about 600 modern aircraft and is still many years from sorting out the ability to make competitive jet aircraft engines. Russia also has budget problems and will not ramp up its jet fighters to large numbers that would threaten the US.

(Brian Wang - nextBIGfuture)

Boeing Training Jet Rivals Are Dropping Like Flies

Boeing BTX-1 (c/n 00001) N381TX on a recent test sortie.
(Photo: Boeing)

And as foes fall, the aircraft manufacturer's chances of winning a $50 billion contract rise.

Late last year, I made the bold (and perhaps foolishly so) prediction that Boeing had the advantage in bidding to win a $50 billion Pentagon contract to build the U.S. Air Force a new trainer jet.

This was despite the fact that:

The trainer jets in question must train pilots to fly actual fifth-generation fighter jets.

Lockheed Martin -- i.e., not Boeing -- builds the only fifth-generation fighters in the U.S. Air Force today.

In all likelihood, the U.S. Air Force will never buy another manned fighter jet from anyone other than Lockheed Martin (i.e., still not Boeing). Lockheed Martin is itself offering a variant of its very popular T-50 workhorse to compete for the very same trainer jet contract that Boeing wants to win.

Whoa, Nelly! So did I ever go out on a limb there, predicting that Boeing, and not Lockheed, would win the Air Force's T-X trainer contract.

And yet, that outcome is getting more and more likely with each passing week.

Boeing's competitors...

When we looked at this competition two months ago, there were at least five, and possibly six, aerospace teams competing for T-X. Boeing and Lockheed, of course, but also a coalition between Raytheon, Canada's CAE, and Italy's Leonardo; another, featuring Northrop Grumman (allied with BAE Systems and L-3 Communications; a strange-bedfellows combination between America's Sierra Nevada Corporation and Turkish Aerospace Industries; and -- maybe -- an independent entry from Textron with its internally developed Scorpion jet.

...are dropping like flies

But already, the field is thinning. Late last month, we learned that Raytheon has withdrawn its bid from the competition, and taken CAE, which had hoped to handle the on-ground training and simulations side of the contract, with it. Then, earlier this month, Northrop Grumman revealed that it is also dropping out, leaving its simulation expert, L-3 Communications, similarly in the lurch.

(For the record, CAE says it would "welcome" a chance to help out whoever ultimately does win T-X with its simulation needs. One imagines that L-3 would be just as eager to share in the eventual $50 billion award.)

Last fighter-jet maker standing

So where does this leave us? Teal Group aerospace expert Richard Aboulafia thinks that at this point, Boeing and Lockheed Martin are the only serious contenders still bidding on T-X.

Now, Textron and Sierra Nevada would probably take issue with that assertion. Regardless, Aboulafia gives Lockheed Martin the advantage in this contest, telling Investor's Business Daily that because Lockheed is bidding a T-50A trainer that it has already developed, Lockheed has "absolutely no upfront costs to speak of" to inflate the costs of its bid, giving it a cost advantage over Boeing.

As for me, I'm sticking with Boeing. Its "Boeing T-X" offering features both a single engine (like the F-35) and dual vertical stabilizers (also like the F-35). To my mind, this simply seems better suited to train pilots to fly the F-35 than does Lockheed's single-engine, single-vertical-stabilizer design. Additionally, given that Boeing has lost the F-35 contract to Lockheed, and the B-21 bomber contract to Northrop, I have a strong hunch the Pentagon will decide it's now Boeing's turn to win a contract.

Unless Boeing bids unreasonably high, it's my favorite to win the T-X trainer dogfight -- and breathe new life into Boeing's defense business.

(Rich Smith - The Motley Fool)

Southwest lawsuit claims union workers avoiding overtime

Southwest Airlines Co. is suing a major union and its leaders, charging that they did nothing to stop mechanics from boycotting overtime assignments.

Dallas-based Southwest, the nation's fourth-biggest airline, says it relies on mechanics working consistent overtime hours to keep up with maintenance work, and that a boycott has driven up costs by forcing it to bring in outside workers.

The lawsuit comes as the airline and the union remain locked in contract negotiations that have dragged on for more than four years despite the help of a federal labor mediator.

Southwest said in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Dallas that the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association and eight union officers failed to prevent workers from banding together to decline overtime work this month. The company said there was a 75 percent drop in union workers signing up for overtime shifts last weekend.

Bret Oestreich, the union's national director and a defendant in the lawsuit, said the company's claims were false and the union tried to prevent any overtime boycott.

Oestreich said Southwest and the union resolved similar complaints twice last year without going to court. He said that Southwest filed the lawsuit to pressure the union to accept additional outsourcing of major maintenance-overhaul work, some of which the union says is already done in El Salvador.

The union represents about 2,400 Southwest mechanics.

Southwest said the overtime boycott forced the company to use outside workers. A spokeswoman for the airline said the situation has not caused any flights to be delayed or canceled, however.

(Associated Press)

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Gulfstream G450 (c/n 4117) N7KV

This gorgeous G450 is operated by LKV Air LLC and is seen resting on the ramp at Van Nuys Airport (VNY/KVNY) on February 16, 2017.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Gulfstream (IAI) G150 (c/n 272) N819AM

Operated by N819AM LLC, this lovely aircraft is captured on short final to Rwy 16R at Van Nuys Airport (VNY/KVNY) on February 16, 2017.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

JetBlue employee arrested for cocaine distribution

A JetBlue Airways employee was charged in federal court Friday with distributing cocaine in a scheme that authorities said was particularly troubling because the suspect had access to secure locations and aircraft at Logan International Airport.

Francisco Torres, 36, of Mattapan, faces federal charges of cocaine possession with intent to distribute and distributing cocaine, according to the US Attorney’s Office for Massachusetts.

Torres was arrested in a Thursday night sting in Boston’s South End in which he allegedly exchanged 850 grams of cocaine for more than $33,000 in cash.

Though authorities did not make specific allegations that Torres took advantage of his job, they wrote in court documents about “concerns that Torres may be using his employment at JetBlue and his access to aircraft flying international routes to further his narcotics distribution activities.”

Torres had allegedly traveled to Mexico as part of the scheme, according to court records.

An affidavit written by James P. Mahoney, a special agent with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, alleges that Torres told a cooperating witness that he had gone to Mexico to “see what the problem was” with a delayed drug shipment.

JetBlue said in a statement that it had been “cooperating with authorities during the investigation,” but referred further comment to the US Department of Homeland Security, where officials could not be reached to comment.

Torres did not have an attorney listed in court records, and his current employment status with the airline was not available on Friday.

(Andy Rosen - Boston Globe)

Friday, February 17, 2017

Iran Reaches Lease Financing Deal For 77 Boeing, Airbus Planes

Tehran has reached a deal with an international aircraft leasing company to finance the acquisition of 77 planes from Boeing and Airbus, according to local media reports.

Details of the deal remain opaque at this stage and it is not clear who it has been signed with or when it will come into force. However, it is likely to be just the first of several large contracts in the coming weeks and months.

Tehran has signed deals for 100 planes from Airbus, a further 80 from Boeing and 40 turboprops from French/Italian manufacturer ATR. Local airlines have also held discussions with Russia’s Sukhoi and Brazil’s Embraer. All of the deals need to be financed in some way.

Irish leasing companies appear to be in a strong position to get involved in any contracts being negotiated. Ireland is one of the world’s leading locations for aircraft leasing companies and, on February 11, the Civil Aviation Organization of Iran (CAOI) signed a cooperation agreement with the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), covering aircraft leasing, flight supervision and maintenance and repair among other areas.

The CAOI said at the time that “within the framework of the deal, Iranian airlines would be able to operate European-registered aircrafts; in other words, based on their scope of activities, the airlines can sign contracts with Irish airlines or leasing companies.”

Iran Aseman Airlines is set to be one of the first to take advantage of that agreement. It is planning to lease seven Airbus A320neo aircraft and “the terms of this contract [with the IAA] will apply as soon as these aircrafts land in Iran after being registered in Ireland,” according to the CAOI.

Among the Irish leasing companies linked to possible Iranian deals has been Avalon, which is owned by China’s Bohai Leasing. The Irish Times reported on February 11 that Avalon’s chief commercial officer John Higgins had spoken about a recent trip to Iran when addressing an event held by the Ireland China Business Association a day earlier.

Some financing deals have clearly already moved ahead, as the first Airbus – a narrow bodied A321 – was delivered to Iran Air in January and a second is due to be handed over in March. The first Boeing delivery is not expected until early 2018. There have been concerns that the administration of US President Donald Trump could try to disrupt these deliveries, although Iranian officials have publically dismissed such a prospect.

In the meantime, two other smaller leasing deals are currently being discussed according to the Ministry of Roads and Transport. They include a deal for 17 Airbus, six Boeing and eight ATR planes and another deal covering three Boeing 737 aircraft which would be used by Aseman.

(Dominic Dudley - Forbes)

HAL Proposes an Indian Multirole Helicopter

A full-scale mockup of the Indian multirole helicopter (IMRH) was displayed on the HAL stand at Aero India.
(Photo: HAL)

Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) has launched an Indian multirole helicopter (IMRH) program by displaying a full-scale mockup at the Aero India show in Bangalore. The IMRH is being designed to fulfill a long list of missions and could replace India’s large fleet of Mil Mi-8/17s, as well as some naval helicopters. The company did not indicate a timescale for development, flight trials and production. HAL previously stated (on its website) that it was seeking a partnership with an international helicopter manufacturer for the IMRH, to shorten the development time frame.

HAL said that the twin-engine IMRH would be in the 12-ton class IMRH with a service ceiling of approximately 20,000 feet, a payload of 3,500 kg and a seating capacity of 24. It will be equipped with an automatic flight control system (AFCS), mission systems and advanced cockpit displays. “The Indian Air Force version will have a significant hovering and payload capacity at higher altitudes,” said T. Suvarna Raju, chairman and managing director of HAL. The company said that it has “not yet identified” the powerplants for the IMRH.

Raju stressed the multirole nature of the project. These include tactical troop transport, casualty evacuation, underslung load carriage, combat search and rescue, anti-surface operations, offshore operations, VIP transport and air ambulance. But asked about the status of the project by AIN, Raju said: “This is only a proof of concept. We need to take it further. We have conceived all the options.”

India is one of the world's largest operators of helicopters with approximately 140 in its inventory, and continues to acquire more. Clearance has been given for the purchase of 48 Mi-17V5s by the Indian Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by defense minister Manohar Parrikar.

At Aero India, Bangalore-based Alpha Design Technologies announced a $30 million contract with Elbit Systems of Israel to upgrade the Indian Air Force’s 90 Mi-17 helicopters. Alpha Design, as the major offset partner, will manufacture key sub-units including smart cockpit displays, transponder, digital voice recorder (DVR), missile launch detection systems (MILDS), cables and brackets.

The Mi-17, an export version of the Mi-8, is also operated by India’s neighbor, Pakistan. Afghanistan is another Mi-17 operator in the region, but it may be replacing its fleet with refurbished U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawks. A recent report of the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction was quoted in the media as saying that this is because the Mi-17s are in a state of “steady decline due to higher-than-anticipated utilization rates and accelerating attrition.”

(Neelam Mathews - AINOnline News) 

Gulfstream's G650 and G650ER Earn China CAA Nod

Gulfstream announced yesterday that its flagship G650 and G650ER ultra-long-range twinjets have received type certificate validation from China’s Civil Aviation Administration, confirming the authorization given by the FAA, and removing the last barriers for an aircraft to be registered in the Asian country. The approval marks the 26th country approval for the G650 and the 16th for the G650ER.

“The G650 and G650ER demonstrate real-world capability that our customers value,” said Scott Neal, the Savannah airframer’s senior vice president of worldwide sales. “As business aviation needs in the Asia-Pacific region continue to increase, we are pleased to offer our customers in China the safety, performance and reliability [of] the G650 and G650ER.” At Mach 0.85, the G650 offers a range of 7,000 nm, while its longer-legged G650ER sister can travel 7,500 nm.

In February 2015, the G650ER set two city-pair speed records, during a one-stop, around-the-world trip, traveling 6,939 nm from White Plains, N.Y., to Beijing at Mach 0.87, and a 6,572-nm return from Beijing to Savannah at Mach 0.89.
(Curt Epstein - AINOnline News) 

Wheels Up Partners with Talon Air on NY-Florida Shuttle

Membership-based Private Aviation Company Wheels Up is partnering with Talon Air to launch scheduled per-seat shuttle service in Talon’s super-midsize Hawker 4000s from Westchester County Airport (HPN) in White Plains, New York, to Florida’s Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport (FXE). The service, which is exclusively for Wheels Up members, begins tomorrow and costs $2,100 per seat one-way, including taxes, according to company founding partner Justin Firestone.

Flights will leave HPN at 4 p.m. on Fridays and return at 6 p.m. on Sundays, with the exception of this holiday weekend, when the flights will return on Monday at 6 p.m. Firestone said that the shuttle service will run through March 5, but could be extended past this date depending on usage.

“This is currently the only shuttle we are running with Talon Air,” he told AIN. However, it already runs several shuttle flights in the Northeast and central California using its fleet of Beechcraft King Air 350is that are operated by Gama Aviation. In fact, Firestone said, it will be adding King Air shuttles from New York and Boston to Nantucket and Hyannis this summer, as well as other to-be-announced destinations.

(Chad Trautvetter - AINOnline News) 

First Global 7000 Logs 100 Hours; FTV2 To Fly Soon

The first Bombardier Global 7000 flight test vehicle, FTV1, has now amassed more than 100 hours of flying. FTV2 will soon join the flight-test fleet as the program moves toward certification and entry into service in the second half of 2018.
(Photo: Bombardier Aerospace)

Bombardier Aerospace’s Global 7000 program is “progressing” solidly, with the sole flight-test vehicle, FTV1, having completed more than 100 hours of flight testing to date, the Canadian aircraft manufacturer announced today. FTV2 is also now complete and has been moved to its dedicated pre-flight bay ahead of its first flight, which is expected “shortly.”

Global 7000 FTV1 “is showing a high level of maturity, demonstrating that we have captured the lessons learned from the C Series [airliner] program,” Alain Bellemare, president and CEO of parent company Bombardier, said this morning during a financial earnings conference call. Both the C Series and the Global 7000, as well as its Global 8000 sibling, employ fly-by-wire control systems.

Meanwhile, Bellemare said that the production wing for the Global 7000 is now in final design and expected to be flying on a production-conforming airplane later this year. Bombardier cited issues related to the Global 7000 wing as a factor in its decision for a two-year program delay, and in late December, wing supplier Triumph filed suit against Bombardier over wing development costs.

The Global 7000 remains on track for entry into service in the second half of next year, Bellemare noted. A company spokeswoman told AIN that the follow-on Global 8000 “continues to be part of our development program,” adding that its schedule will be released “later on” in the Global 7000 flight-test program.

(Chad Trautvetter - AINOnline News)

Icelandair opts for Scimitar Blended Winglets to cut fuel costs

Icelandair is to undertake a modification program on its Boeing 757-200 fleet, through fitting them with Aviation Partners Boeing’s Scimitar Blended Winglets (SBW).

With 25 757-200s (plus a single 757-300) in its fleet, the Icelandic flag carrier is the largest user of the Boeing narrow-body outside North America.

The SBW uses existing Blended Winglet technology but adds new, aerodynamic “Scimitar” tips and a small outboard aerodynamic trailing edge wedge, which further cuts drag and increases the aircraft’s efficiency. The aircraft already carry the earlier-generation Blended Winglet.

Work to fit the new aerodynamic devices has already started, with the fourth aircraft undergoing the modification and Icelandair expects to have 17 retrofitted by the start of the northern hemisphere summer season.

Icelandair fleet managing director Andri Grétarsson said, “By adding the SBW to our 757-200 Blended Winglet fleet, we will further cut fuel consumption by over 1% on many flights, and therefore reduce emissions. This kind of technology helps us with our ongoing drive for carbon neutral growth by 2020.”

Like Nordic nations generally, environmental factors weigh heavily in Iceland. Icelandair has been rigorous in examining its flight operations to find economies, from reducing the amount of paper carried and extra water stored in the aircraft’s tank, to implementing environmentally friendly aircraft design updates.

(Alan Dron - ATWOnline News)

Las Vegas eyes Asia for future routes

Two months of Beijing-Las Vegas service has whetted Las Vegas’ appetite for more flights to China and elsewhere in Asia.

Hainan Airlines launched the three-times-weekly flights Dec. 1, and the airport says load factors have beaten expectations.

Although firm data are not yet available, Rosemary Vassiliadis, aviation director at McCarran International Airport, told ATW’s sister publication Aviation Daily at the Routes Americas conference that load factors, based on the airport’s calculations, are about 80%. “China is virtually an untapped market for us, and there is more to be had there,” she said, referring to air-service potential.

The airport is in talks with other Chinese carriers, and has identified markets in Japan and Australia as targets for future air service, Vassiliadis said. She declined to identify to which specific carriers the airport is talking.

China’s Hainan Airlines operates Boeing 787s on the route, the first nonstop Las Vegas-China flight. The key difference between Hainan Airlines and other Chinese carriers is that Hainan Airlines does not offer a large premium cabin, an important difference for a primarily leisure destination. “We couldn’t fill the front of an airplane in Las Vegas,” Vassiliadis said.

Almost all of Hainan Airlines’ sales for the route are in China. Traffic primarily consists of tour groups, but this is expected to change as Chinese travel habits evolve, said Rossi Ralenkotter, president of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “We expect more individual travelers as the market matures, and individual travelers tend to be younger,” Ralenkotter said.

This changing demographic has entered into planning for the China route. Tour groups usually have an English-proficient leader, who can help navigate the airport, hotel check-ins and translate restaurant menus. Anticipating more individual travelers, the airport has added signage in Mandarin Chinese in the passport control hall and around the international terminal.

Restaurants in the terminal, run by concessionaire HMS Host, have added Chinese-language menus. The airport also has hired staff proficient in Chinese to assist visitors, Vassiliadis said. In town, hotels have been encouraged to add Chinese-proficient staff, to translate menus and to add familiar menu items for Chinese tourists, Ralenkotter said.

McCarran International Airport has direct international service to Canada, Mexico, South Korea and points in Europe, including Germany, the UK and Norway. The airport has seven international gates, and built one gate that can handle the Airbus A380. However, Vassiliadis noted that airlines are unlikely to fly that aircraft to Las Vegas.

The airport will have seven additional gates available for international flights when a new, secure tunnel opens in May. The tunnel will run under the terminal in order to ferry passengers from those gates to the customs and immigration hall.

(Madhu Unnikrishnan - Aviation Daily / ATWOnline News)

Juneyao Airlines finalizes 787-9 order


China’s Juneyao Airlines has finalized order for five Boeing 787-9s, valued at about $1.32 billion at current list prices, according to the US-based manufacturer.

Boeing said this new order, which also includes options for five more 787-9s, represents the Shanghai-based private carrier’s first Boeing order and first wide-body aircraft order.

“Our strategic vision is to develop into an international airline that provides high-quality service with an extended network, while ensuring excellent profitability,” Juneyao Airlines chairman Wang Junjin said. “Today's order is set to play a key role in our growing business in the years to come, and we look forward to continuing our relationship with Boeing into the future.”

Juneyao Airlines was founded in 2005 and started operation in 2006. It currently operates domestic routes and short-haul international flights to neighboring countries such as Japan, South Korea and Thailand. The carrier plans to open new routes to North America, Europe and Australia by 2020.

(Linda Blachly - ATWOnline News)

Southwest, Frontier aircraft collide on ground at Phoenix airport

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-800 and a Frontier Airlines Airbus A320 were involved in a ground contact incident at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), the airlines and airport have confirmed.

A PHX spokesperson told ATW that the two aircraft “clipped wing tips on a taxiway” at around 8 p.m. local time Feb. 16. The Southwest aircraft was taxiing after landing and the Frontier aircraft was pushing back from its gate when the incident occurred. There were no reported injuries on either aircraft. Damage to the two aircraft is unknown. FAA is investigating, according to PHX.

A Southwest spokesperson confirmed the incident to ATW in an emailed statement: “Southwest flight 4182 was taxiing to the gate at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport when another airline’s aircraft pushed back from another gate and made contact with our aircraft. There were no Southwest customer or employee injuries. Our aircraft is currently out of service for repairs and the customers who were traveling to Denver were accommodated on another aircraft, and arrived approximately an hour late.”

A Frontier spokesperson told ATW: “Frontier flight 765, an Airbus A320, scheduled to operate from Phoenix to Denver was cleared to push back from the gate in Phoenix. While the aircraft was being pushed back, an aircraft belonging to another airline made contact with our aircraft. No injuries have been reported. There were 163 passengers on board and a crew of six. Frontier is cooperating with the [US National Transportation Safety Board] and FAA in the investigation and is working with customers to accommodate them on other flights.”

(Linda Blachly - ATWOnline News)

Xiamen Air opens Fuzhou-New York route

China Southern Airlines subsidiary Xiamen Air has opened a new route from Fuzhou to New York JFK. The new 3X-weekly service uses a Boeing 787-9 and is its second direct route to the US. In September 2016, Xiamen opened 3X-weekly Xiamen-Shenzhen-Seattle services.

Over the past two years, the carrier has opened six intercontinental routes: Xiamen-Amsterdam, Fuzhou-Sydney, Xiamen-Sydney, Xiamen-Melbourne, Xiamen-Vancouver and Xiamen-Shenzhen-Seattle. The airline plans to launch service from Xiamen to Los Angeles in June and more intercontinental routes to Toronto, Paris and London in the future.

More carriers are interested in opening intercontinental direct services from Chinese secondary cities, such as Xiamen, Fuzhou, Xi’an and Hangzhou as outbound travel increases and local governments subsidize the routes.

Xiamen has maintained a consecutive profit record for 30 years. In 2016, its operating revenue increased 6.8% to CNY20.8 billion ($3 billion) year-over-year and operating profit grew 23.2% to CNY2.23 billion.

The airline carried 23.7 million passengers last year, up 4.2% from 22.8 million in 2015 as market demand—especially on international routes—experienced rapid growth.

(Katie Cantle - ATWOnline News) 

Air Canada posts $650 million 2016 net profit

Air Canada reported C$876 million ($650.3 million) net profit for 2016, nearly tripling the airline’s C$308 million net profit in 2015.

The airline’s full-year consolidated operating revenue was C$14.7 billion, up 5.8% over C$13.9 billion in 2015; operating expenses totaled C$13.3 billion, up 7.8% from C$12.4 billion in 2015. Operating income for the year totaled C$1.3 billion, down 10.1% from C$1.5 billion in 2015.

Excluding special items, the company’s full-year EBITDAR totaled $2.8 billion, up 8.9% over 2015.

Air Canada’s full-year operating margin was 9.2%, down 1.6 points from 2015, and its full-year ROIC was 14.7%, compared to 18.3% in 2015.

Full-year passenger traffic grew 13.2% to 76.5 billion RPMs as capacity increased 14.7% to 92.7 billion ASMs, producing a full-year passenger load factor of 82.5%, down one point from 2015. The airline opened 28 new routes in 2016 and 18 additional routes are on track to be launched in 2017.

Full-year PRASM was down 7.7% to C13.9¢ and CASM declined 6% to C14.4¢. The airline’s full-year yield decreased 6.6% YOY to C16.8¢, which the company attributed to a 5.1% increase in average stage length combined with an increase in the number of seats in long-haul leisure markets. Lower carrier surcharges, growth in international connecting traffic and competitive pressures in the domestic, European and Pacific markets also contributed to the yield decrease, the company said.

Air Canada’s 2016 fourth-quarter operating revenue increased 2. % year-over-year (YOY) to C$3.4 billion and operating expenses rose 12.7% YOY to C$3.4 billion, producing C$18 million in fourth-quarter operating income, an 88.6% decrease from C$158 million in 4Q2015. The airline reported a 2016 fourth-quarter net loss of C$179 million, deepened from the company’s C$116 million net loss in 4Q 2015. Fourth-quarter yield was down 7.2%, also attributable to the increase in seats, lower fares in long-haul markets, lower carrier surcharges and international traffic growth, the company said.

Air Canada’s combined mainline and Air Canada rouge fleet totaled 213 aircraft as of Dec. 31, 2016. Nine Boeing 787s and two 777s were introduced into the mainline fleet in 2016, and the airline ordered 45 Bombardier CS300s with options for an additional 30 of the model. In 2017, the airline expects to add nine 787-9s and two 737 MAX-8s to its mainline fleet, while also removing six 767-300ERs. Four new 767-300ERs will enter the Air Canada rouge fleet in 2017, bringing the combined fleet to 222 by the end of 2017.

“In 2016 [we] achieved outstanding results, surpassing the previous records for EBITDAR, total revenues and liquidity levels, underscoring the effectiveness of our business strategy and improved competitive position,” Air Canada president and CEO Calin Rovinescu said. “Our share price jumped 34% in 2016—more than that of any of our North American airline peers and nearly double the 17.5% return on the S&P/TSX composite index.”

“Looking at 2017 we see a continued strong demand environment and growth in sixth freedom traffic though our major Canadian hubs. Taking advantage of our broad network and locations as ideal transit points between international and connecting traffic is key to our strategy going forward,” Rovinescu said. “We expect to achieve an EBITDAR margin between 15%-18% even with our current forecast of rising fuel prices and our ROIC is projected to be between 9%-12%.”

(Mark Nensel - ATWOnline News)

Volaris 2016 net profit up 42.8%

Mexican low-cost carrier Volaris posted a 2016 net profit of MXN3.5 billion ($170 million), up 42.8% over net income of MXN2.46 billion in 2015, on a 29.3% year-over-year rise in revenue to MXN20.8 billion.

Volaris, in releasing its earnings, announced it would begin charging a fee for the first bag checked on flights between Mexico and the continental US and Puerto Rico starting March 1. Even without the checked bag fee, the airline said ancillary revenue rose 12.9% year-over-year in 2016 to MXN381 million.

The carrier’s 2016 CASM did rise 11.5%, and Volaris said it continues “to experience pressure in US-dollar denominated costs, such as aircraft and engine rent expenses, international airport costs, and maintenance expenses [because of] the depreciation of the Mexican peso.”

Volaris’s 2016 expenses increased 32.6% year-over-year to MXN20.8 billion and EBIT was MXN2.7 billion, up 9.1% over an EBIT of MXN2.5 billion in 2015.

The carrier’s 2016 traffic rose 23.9% year-over-year to 14.3 billion RPMs on an 18.9% lift in capacity to 16.7 billion ASMs, producing a load factor of 85.8%, up 3.5 points. Unit revenue in 2016, as measured in PRASM, grew 5.9% and yield rose 1.6%.

Volaris added two Airbus A320s and four A321s in the 2016 fourth quarter and ended the year with 69 aircraft in its fleet, comprising 15 A319s, 43 A320s, 10 A321s and one A320neo.

(Aaron Karp - ATWOnline News)

Boeing rolls out first 787-10 with Trump in attendance


Boeing rolled out the first 787-10, the third and largest Dreamliner variant, from its plant in North Charleston, South Carolina, the exclusive final assembly site for 787-10 aircraft.

More than 5,000 people, many of them Boeing employees, attended a roll-out ceremony featuring a speech by US President Donald Trump.

Trump, who toured the Boeing South Carolina facility with Boeing chairman, president and CEO Dennis Muilenburg prior to the Feb. 17 ceremony, called the 787-10 “one beautiful airplane” and “an amazing piece of art.”


An 18-foot stretch of the 787-9, the 787-10 can seat 330 passengers in a single-class layout. First flight is expected later this year. First deliveries are slated for 2018 to Singapore Airlines and United Airlines.

“I think [Trump] was impressed with what he saw” during the facility tour, Muilenburg said. “This is about manufacturing in the US.”

Trump used his speech to tout US manufacturing. “Our goal as a nation must be to rely less on imports and more on products made right here in the USA,” Trump said with both the 787-10 and Air Force One, a Boeing 747, in the background.

Though 787 final assembly occurs in the US, the aircraft is put together via a vast international supply chain that includes parts manufacturing in Japan, South Korea, France, the UK, Sweden, Italy, Canada and Australia.

There are 149 orders for the 787-10 from nine customers.

(Aaron Karp - ATWOnline News)

JetBlue Follows American Airlines and Cuts Capacity in Cuba

U.S.-Cuba flights are still a long way from being profitable, and the top U.S. airlines in Cuba are reacting accordingly.

At this time last year, U.S. airlines were developing ambitious growth plans for Cuba after it became legal to offer scheduled service to the Caribbean island nation for the first time in more than half a century. As the top airlines in South Florida, American Airlines and JetBlue Airways had the most ambitious plans for flying to Cuba.

However, U.S. airlines haven't had much success during their first few months of operating scheduled service to Cuba. As a result, American Airlines announced capacity cuts in Cuba back in November. Last week, JetBlue joined its larger rival in slashing capacity there.

A giant land grab

The recent wave of capacity cuts in Cuba has a lot to do with the circumstances under which U.S. airlines entered the market last year.

Under the U.S.-Cuba aviation agreement signed a year ago this week, U.S. airlines are allowed to operate up to 110 daily flights to Cuba. This consists of 20 daily flights to Havana and 10 daily flights to each of nine other international airports.

The U.S. Department of Transportation ran a competitive route allocation process to determine which airlines would be allowed to fly which routes to Cuba. This sparked a "land grab" of sorts in Havana, as airlines tried to obtain as many of the limited slots there as they could justify.

Indeed, American Airlines and JetBlue each requested authority to fly 12 times a day to Havana. Ultimately, both got less than half of the Havana flights they had requested. By contrast, there wasn't much demand for route authorities to the other nine international airports, so American and JetBlue received the rights to all of the non-Havana routes they had requested.
Trouble in paradise

While airlines were eager to introduce service to Cuba last year, they have found that making a profit there isn't easy. U.S. residents still aren't allowed to visit Cuba as tourists, which cuts off the greatest potential source of traffic. To visit Cuba, you must certify that your travel falls into one of 12 permitted categories, including visiting family; educational, religious, or humanitarian activities; and participating in various cultural programs.

As a result, there hasn't been nearly enough demand to fill the massive amount of capacity that has entered the market. In late November, American Airlines announced that it would drop one of two daily flights in three secondary cities it had only recently begun serving in Cuba. These cuts will be implemented this week. American also hopes to switch to smaller aircraft on a few routes.

JetBlue has had just as much trouble filling its flights at sensible fares. It doesn't plan to drop any routes for now, but it recently downgraded all of its routes to Cuba to smaller aircraft. Flights to Havana will now use 150-seat A320s instead of 200-seat A321s, while flights to other cities in Cuba will use 100-seat E190s, down from 150-seat A320s.

No big surprise here

Some pundits have attributed the recent flight cuts in Cuba to overly optimistic demand forecasts on the part of U.S. airlines. That's certainly true, to some extent.

However, the DOT allocation process also encouraged airlines to "overbid." In other recent route allocation proceedings, the DOT has shown a clear preference for carriers that promise to use bigger aircraft. For example, wasn't surprising whatsoever that the DOT rejected tiny regional carrier Silver Airways' proposal to fly 34-seat turboprops to Havana.

Thus, JetBlue and American Airlines (and their peers) had a strong incentive to request more flights than they wanted, with larger airplanes than they needed. This essentially allowed them to reserve scarce route authorities to Cuba, which could become extremely valuable in the long run -- especially if the tourism ban is ever lifted.

Now that the dust has settled, JetBlue and American have started to right-size their operations in Cuba. Outside of Havana, there are plenty of unused route authorities. This allowed American Airlines to reduce the number of flights on its routes to Holguin, Santa Clara, and Varadero. If demand improves, it will have no trouble reinstating service.

The situation is more complicated in Havana. While the market is oversupplied right now, it's not feasible to cut flights, because other airlines would take over any unused slots in order to profit from the long-term growth of U.S.-Cuba travel.

However, now that JetBlue has demonstrated a good-faith effort to make service with a 200-seat A321 work, it can easily downgrade service to a smaller A320 for as long as necessary. It has taken the same approach outside of Havana, cutting capacity by switching to smaller airplanes rather than operating fewer flights.

Flying to Cuba could become an extremely profitable enterprise a decade from now. But at the moment, it's a loss-leader. Investors should expect to see further capacity rationalization in Cuba this year as airlines try to mitigate their losses while continuing to develop the market.

(Adam Levine-Weinberg - The Motley Fool)