Thursday, August 17, 2017

HondaJet Ranks as Most-delivered Jet in its Category During First Half of 2017


Honda Aircraft Company today announced that the HondaJet was the most-delivered jet in its category for the first half of 2017, as reported by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

Honda Aircraft delivered 24 aircraft to customers in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and countries in Europe during the first six months of 2017. The company is steadily ramping up production to meet customer demand, and is currently manufacturing the aircraft at a rate of about four per month at its world headquarters in Greensboro, North Carolina.

"Our customers are extremely pleased with the performance, comfort and superior fit and finish of the HondaJet. The HondaJet is very high tech, sporty aircraft and it is like a flying, high precision sports car," said Honda Aircraft President and CEO Michimasa Fujino. "We want to create new value in business aviation and I hope to see many more HondaJets flying all over the world."

The HondaJet is the world's most advanced light jet, and its distinctive design incorporates advanced technologies and concepts including the unique Over-The-Wing Engine Mount (OTWEM) configuration. The aircraft is the fastest, highest-flying, quietest, most fuel-efficient, and most comfortable business jet in its class, and has gained greater acceptance in the market, especially by corporate executives, business owners, corporate flight departments, charter companies, and aviation enthusiasts.

About HondaJet

The HondaJet is the fastest, highest-flying, quietest, and most fuel-efficient jet in its class. The HondaJet incorporates many technological innovations in aviation design, including the unique Over-The-Wing Engine Mount (OTWEM) configuration that dramatically improves performance and fuel efficiency by reducing aerodynamic drag. The OTWEM design also reduces cabin sound, minimizes ground-detected noise, and allows for the roomiest cabin in its class, the largest baggage capacity, and a fully serviceable private aft lavatory. The HondaJet is equipped with the most sophisticated glass flight deck available in any light business jet, a Honda-customized Garmin® G3000 The HondaJet is Honda's first commercial aircraft and lives up to the company's reputation for superior performance, efficiency, quality and value.

About Honda Aircraft Company

Honda Aircraft Company is a wholly owned subsidiary of American Honda Motor Co., Inc. Founded in 2006, Honda Aircraft is responsible for the design, manufacturing, sales, service and support of the HondaJet. The company's world headquarters is located in Greensboro, North Carolina, the birthplace of aviation. The challenging spirit upon which Mr. Soichiro Honda founded Honda Motor Co., Ltd. is alive today as Honda Aircraft fulfills one of Honda's longstanding dreams to advance human mobility skyward.

(Business Insider / PR News Insider)

Changing direction in flight: Sun Country CEO outlines no-frills strategy for MSP airline - CEO wants it to operate like a low-cost airline

Sun Country Boeing 737-8Q8(WL) (30683/1669) N809SY "Lake Nokomis" at Los Alamitos AAF (SLI/KSLI) on August 10, 2017.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Sun Country Airlines new CEO Jude Bricker told employees the carrier would cut costs, add fees and seats and look to expand its network beyond reliance on its hub at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.Sun Country Airlines’ new boss is overhauling how it operates — and customers will eventually feel the changes.

Jude Bricker, who was appointed its chief executive last month, outlined his vision for the Eagan-based carrier in a memo to staff Tuesday. He praised Sun Country’s strong reputation, but he stressed the need to cut costs, increase revenue through fees and expand beyond its hub at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Bricker’s formula mirrors the model of ultralow cost carriers like Frontier and Spirit airlines, which charge passengers for things like carry-on luggage and in-flight beverages.

Marty Davis, chairman and owner of Sun Country, hired Bricker, a former executive at Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air, in July after removing Zarir Erani from the CEO position.

Bricker’s memo to employees did not set a timetable for the changes. He stressed that Sun Country would protect its reputation of quality customer service, but he said changes are crucial for the airline to grow.

Under his plan, Sun Country will cut costs in a variety of ways and put more seats on airplanes, which provides more revenue opportunity but leaves less legroom for passengers.

The company is offering buyouts to senior employees, particularly flight attendants or nonunion full-time employees with more than 10 years of experience. The buyouts were framed as a way to give “long-tenured employees an opportunity to leave Sun Country if those individuals were not on board with the new vision,” according to a memo sent to employees Tuesday night by Dee Powers, the airline’s human resources director.

The airline is not offering buyouts to pilots. Sun Country and other U.S. airlines are coping with a shortage of pilots.

“The idea is just to buy out older, more expensive workers and replace them with younger, cheaper employees,” said Robert Mann, an aviation consultant and former airline executive. In doing so, Sun Country risks losing some of the people who built its service reputation.

“It’s a high-touch airline, so the last thing in the world you want to do is cut off the people who bring that level of customer service, which may very well be the 10-plus-year flight attendants,” he said.

Sun Country will also add new fees, including charging for overhead bin space. That means no more free carry-ons. The logic goes that an airline can lower the base airfare by taking away amenities included in the ticket price. Customers then have more choice on using — and paying for — the perks they want.

“Our customers are leisure travelers who are generally paying for their trip with their own money,” Bricker wrote in the memo. “While they value product and service, their behavior tells us that they care most about affordable airfare when making their travel decisions.”

Another key in Bricker’s strategy is to rely less on its hub at MSP, where it faces heavy competition.

The problem, as Bricker sees it, is that Sun Country isn’t a big legacy airline, like Delta, United or American, which build loyal customers through frequent-flyer programs and other incentives. And Sun Country isn’t as cheap as low-cost competitors like Spirit and Frontier. Being caught in that squeeze is one reason Sun Country’s financial performance is below its peers, he wrote.

Even if Sun Country reduces its costs per available seat mile by 20 percent, it will still be a more expensive airline to operate than Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant Air, Bricker wrote. But he suggested there was room for that by adding, “We’ll be different. We’ll continue to offer a better product.”

Because Bricker’s industry experience is chiefly at Allegiant Air, a no-frills specialist where he was chief operating officer, there’s little surprise in the direction he wants to take Sun Country.

“That’s his experience base, and that is what he does best,” Mann said. The consultant added that the challenge for Bricker is that too many changes could alienate Sun Country’s loyal customers.

Reached Wednesday night, Sun Country owner Davis stressed that this is not a downsizing and that the airline won’t become like Spirit. “We don’t want to nickel and dime customers. We want to stabilize it for long-term growth by finding the right rhythm between our pricing and customer service,” he said. “Jude very much recognizes the value that exists at Sun Country and we aren’t going to change that.”

Mann said it is easier to transition an airline gradually than to flip a switch and upend the model.

“Pivoting is so difficult. You have a brand reputation, and you have to be careful to walk away from it on the thought that you can create a better brand,” he added.

(Kristen Leigh Painter - Star Tribune)


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Hong Kong Airlines to begin flying to Los Angeles (LAX) with new Airbus A350s

Hong Kong Airlines' first Airbus A350 makes its maiden flight at the Airbus assembly line in Toulouse, France.
(Photo: Airbus)

The line-up of international airlines flying to the U.S. mainland will grow this winter.

The latest to announce service is Hong Kong Airlines, which will launch non-stop flights between Los Angeles and Hong Kong on Dec. 18 on Airbus A350 aircraft. The airline will begin with four round-trip flights a week before moving to daily service on Jan. 16.

News of the L.A. route comes less than two months after Hong Kong Airlines began flying from Vancouver, it’s first North American destination.

Beyond its new North American routes, Hong Kong Airlines -- founded in 2006 -- flies from its Hong Kong hub to more than 30 destinations across Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

“Following the success of the Vancouver route, we are excited to launch our first route in the continental United States and further expand our international network,” George Liu, Hong Kong Airlines’ chief marketing officer, said in a statement. “By strengthening the connection between North America and our Asia Pacific destinations, we can provide more options for American business, leisure, academic, and family travelers.”

Hong Kong Airlines will face competition from oneworld partners American and Cathay Pacific, which also fly non-stop on the route

While Los Angeles will be the carrier’s first route to the mainland United States, it’s not its first to a U.S. territory. Hong Kong Airlines already flies to Saipan, part of the U.S.-controlled Northern Marianas Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

As for Hong Kong Airlines, the A350s it will use for the Los Angeles route will be brand new to its fleet. The carrier's first A350 made its maiden flight at Airbus' assembly line in Toulouse, France, just last week. It's the first of 15 A350s Hong Kong Airlines has on order and is expected to be delivered to the carrier by the end of the month.

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

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Patriots buy two Boeing 767s, become first NFL team with own planes

The New England Patriots released these images via Twitter of a Boeing 767 painted in the team's colors.
(Photo: New England Patriots)

The New England Patriots have purchased two Boeing 767s to handle the team’s travel. That would make the franchise the first in the National Football League to buy its own jets, according to ESPN, which broke the news.

The defending Super Bowl champs confirmed the purchase via Twitter with a mock-up image of the planes. “New airkrafts,” the team tweeted, apparently misspelling the word on purpose in reference to Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

“Sources tell ESPN that the reigning Super Bowl champions bought two 767 Boeing wide-body jets in the offseason and retrofitted them with all first-class seats, some of which recline completely. On the outside of at least one of the planes is the team logo and five Lombardi trophies on the tail.”

Patriots spokesman Stacey James told ESPN the team would not reveal details about the purchase. But the sports network’s sources say the two 767s are extended range variants that will be based in Providence, the closest major airport to the team’s stadium in Foxborough, Mass. Fox 25 Boston said the franchise told it that it would rent the planes when not in use for the team.

The Patriots’ move comes amid changes in the market for pro sports charters. American Airlines, for example, recently ended its contracts to fly six separate NFL teams.

The carrier is still flying three teams that play in its hub cities – the Dallas Cowboys, Carolina Panthers and Philadelphia Eagles – but the company told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette earlier this year that it was ending other partnerships due to a lack of resources.

“After careful evaluation, we are reducing the number of charter operations for 2017 to ensure we have the right aircraft available for our passenger operation,” American spokeswoman LaKesha Brown added to Forbes in April.

Given the broader shake-up in the sports charter market, ESPN writes the Patriots’ decision to buy its own 767s comes as “the rising cost of chartering flights for NFL teams makes the decision to buy a plane somewhat easier. Sources with knowledge of the deals teams have done with charter companies say the 10 round-trip flights per season can cost up to $4 million.”

It was not clear who sold the Patriots the 767s – or for how much. Boeing’s website shows a list price of about $200 million for a brand new 767-300ER, but jets can come for much less than that when bought on the secondary market.

Aside from the Patriots, there have been several NFL-themed planes flying for commercial airlines during the past decade, though none were owned by a team. US Airways, and later American, have flown planes painted in the color schemes of the Eagles, Cardinals and Patriots, among others. JetBlue once painted a jet in the colors of the New York Jets.

And in 2014, Boeing rolled out a mean-looking Boeing 747 painted in the colors of the Seattle Seahawks. That jet was used for testing and was owned by Boeing, which said it gave it the unique livery to play up its ties to the Seattle area during a playoff run by the Seahawks.

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

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Long Beach added more flights at its airport and passenger volume soared 50%

A decision by the city of Long Beach to open its airport to new carriers and more flights has paid off with a nearly 50% increase in passenger volume over the last six months.

During the first half of the year, Long Beach Airport served nearly 1.3 million passengers, a 46.5% jump from the same period in 2016, according to the city of Long Beach.

By comparison, Los Angeles International Airport served nearly 41 million passengers in the first six months of the year, a 5% increase over the same period last year.

Long Beach Airport’s growth is attributed mostly to the city’s decision last year to add nine new daily departures and arrivals, bringing to 50 the total daily flights allotted to large carriers at the 1,166-acre facility.

The new slots opened the door for Southwest Airlines, the nation’s largest domestic carrier, to serve Long Beach for the first time and compete head-to-head with rival JetBlue Airways.

The increase has already boosted revenue from parking and concession operators at the airport, airport spokeswoman Stephanie Montuya-Morisky said. “It’s better overall financially,” she said, adding that the city’s financial report wouldn’t be released for several months.

The decision to add the nine slots riled some Long Beach residents worried that the extra flights would generate more jet noise. But a city study found that the airport could add the nine daily flights without violating an airport noise limit that sets a threshold tied to the airline noise generated in 1989-90.

Southwest Airlines received four daily slots, with JetBlue getting three more slots and Delta Air Lines getting two.

Southwest Airlines began serving Long Beach Airport in June of last year, handling 10,231 passengers in that first month. In June of this year, Southwest served 17,911 travelers, a 75% increase, according to city data.

“We’ve worked week by week to add additional flights utilizing unused slots that make available our low fares and ‘bags fly free’ to more people going more places,” Southwest Airlines spokesman Dan Landson said. Long Beach became the 10th California airport served by Southwest Airlines.

JetBlue, the biggest carrier at Long Beach Airport, also has experienced higher passenger volume, serving 124,065 people in June, up 23% from the 101,270 passengers handled a year earlier.

(Hugo Martin - Los Angeles Times) 

Gulfstream (IAI) G280 (c/n 2073) B-66666

Operated by Taiwanese cosmetics manufacturer Panco, the aircraft is captured departing on then returning from a short test flight at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on August 4, 2017.

(Photos by Michael Carter)

US President's future Marine One takes to the skies for the first time

Artist rendering of the VH-92A (Lockheed Martin)

The US President's next official rotorcraft ride has made its maiden flight as a 250-hour flight test program for the Sikorsky VH-92A helicopter begins. According to Sikorsky parent company Lockheed Martin, the future Marine One took to the skies at Lockheed's Owego, New York facilities on July 28, followed by a second flight the same day at Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford, Connecticut. The total sortie time of one hour included hover control checks, low speed flight, and making a pass of the airfield.

Operating under the official call sign of Marine One, the VH-92A will be used to ferry the US President, Vice President, and other officials. It's being developed under a US$1.24 billion US Navy Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) contract for the US Marine Corps' VH-92A Presidential Helicopter Replacement Program awarded on May 7, 2014. Under the contract, Sikorsky will provide two test/trainer aircraft and four production aircraft with the option for an additional 17 helicopters.

The VH-92A is based on the dual-engine, medium-lift S-92A commercial variant helicopter, which has flown over one million hours with over 200 customers in 10 countries. It replaces the current Marine One fleet made up of VH-3D Sea Kings and VH-60N WhiteHawks built in the 1960s and 1980s, which are now obsolete and long past their service lives.

The helicopters will be assembled at Sikorsky's S-92 production facility in Coatesville, Pennsylvania before being sent on to a secure facility in Stratford, Connecticut for modifications. These include integrated communications and mission systems, defensive countermeasures against missiles, hardening against electromagnetic pulses from nuclear explosions, a comfortable presidential interior, and in-flight toilets.

The current aircraft, designated Engineering Development Model 1 (EDM-1), will undergo flight tests over the next year, during which it will be joined by a second prototype, EDM-2. The first operational VH-92A will enter into service in 2020.

"This first flight of the VH-92A configured test aircraft is an important milestone for the program," says Spencer Elani, director VH-92A program at Sikorsky. "Having independently tested the aircraft's components and subsystems, we are now moving forward to begin full aircraft system qualification via the flight test program."

(David Szondy - New Atlas)

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Gulfstream G-V (c/n 526) N125GH

125GH LLC / John Wing Aviation LLC operates this lovely G-V which is captured at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on August 5, 2017 as it readies to depart on short test sortie during a visit to the Gulfstream service center.

(Photos by Michael Carter)

Emirates crash investigators focusing on pilot actions


The United Arab Emirates investigation into the 2016 Emirates crash in Dubai is focusing on pilot actions and has identified ways that air traffic control and flight crews can communicate better, an interim report said on Sunday.

The Boeing 777-300 flight from India, crashed on Aug. 3, 2016 after the pilots tried to pull out of a landing attempt.

The report raised the number of injured people to 30 from 24, but gave no reason for the increase. All 300 passengers and crew evacuated the plane but a firefighter died tackling the fire caused when it skidded along the runway on its fuselage.

Investigators were "working to determine and analyze the human performance factors that influenced flight crew actions during the landing and attempted go-around," the report from the UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) said.

An Emirates spokeswoman told Reuters it was reviewing its training and operational processes and procedures as part of its own ongoing internal investigation into the crash.

She declined to comment on whether Emirates believed pilot actions were a factor in the crash.

Unspecified "safety enhancements" have been identified by investigators related to communication between air traffic control and the flight crew, and with weather information shared with the flight crew, the report said.

A GCAA spokesman told Reuters the regulator was unable to provide specific information on the report because the investigation was still going on.

Investigators have previously said the aircraft was subjected to shifting winds as it came into land.

The report said investigators had found no pre-existing mechanical issues with the plane or its Rolls-Royce engines.

The crash forced Dubai International Airport, the world's busiest for international travel, to temporarily close, and was the worst incident in Emirates' 30-year history.

Analysts have suggested the cause of the crash should have been determined relatively quickly after the incident.

GCAA Director General Saif Mohammed al-Suwaidi said in November the investigation would take two to three years.

(Alexander Cornwell - Reuters)

Friday, August 4, 2017

Gulfstream G-VII G500 (T-3) (c/n 72003) N503G

(Photos by Michael Carter)

This gorgeous bird paid a visit to Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on August 3, 2017 to the delight of the few Gulfstream fans on hand to witness her arrival and departure.

She spent approximately two hours at the Gulfstream Service Center for employees to get a look at as this is the first time the G500 has been to Long Beach. She has been based up at Meadows Field Airport (BFL/KBFL) in Bakersfield since Sunday July 30, 2017 performing flight test work.

Congress Backs Buying Planes That Russia Abandoned to Use as Future Air Force Ones

The Pentagon moved a step closer to buying two deeply discounted 747 jumbo jets from Boeing Co. for the next Air Force One fleet after four congressional panels approved a request to shift $195 million in funding, according to congressional aides.

The deal to buy planes to be used by the U.S. president from Boeing has attracted attention because of the reason the company has them sitting in storage and available: They were originally built for Transaero Airlines, once Russia’s second-largest airline. The carrier never signed for the humpbacked passenger jets before it dissolved in late 2015.

Air Force access to the $195 million was approved by the Senate and House defense appropriations and authorization committees as part of a Defense Department request to “reprogram” $2.4 billion in previously approved defense funds for the current fiscal year, according to the aides, who asked not to be identified in advance of a formal notification to the Pentagon.

The Air Force said in its request that the shift will take advantage of a limited-time offer from Boeing that’s contingent upon a contract award his month. “This effort will ensure delivery of two aircraft by December” instead of late fiscal 2019 and early 2020 as planned now, according to the request.

Boeing is offering favorable pricing if a contract is awarded by this month, according to a government funding request. The model carries a list price of $386.8 million, but the cost to the Air Force for the planes hasn’t been set.

The planes would still require extensive -- and pricey -- modifications to turn them into the flying fortresses that ferry U.S. presidents and their entourages around the world.

Classified Capabilities

The Air Force expects the aircraft to have the range to fly between continents and provide work and sleeping quarters for the president and first family. They also have to be equipped with highly advanced, secure communications and classified defense capabilities.

“We support the reprogramming as it’s key for Air Force funding” while Boeing and the service “work toward a contract,” company spokeswoman Caroline Hutcheson said in an email.

Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said the service is now “waiting for final coordination on the contract to purchase” the aircraft and sign a preliminary design contract award by the end of September. Boeing is now operating under a $172 million contract for “risk reduction activities” for the program.

President Donald Trump has taken an active interest in the program to replace the current, aging Air Force One planes. Shortly after last year’s election, Trump tweeted that the “costs are out of control” for the new planes and wrote, “Cancel order.” He later boasted of negotiating with Boeing to reduce the expense.

The White House Military Office is working with the Air Force to define the aircraft’s requirements.

(Anthony Capaccio - Bloomberg Business News)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

USAF to buy unclaimed Russian 747s for Air Force One replacement

Before his inauguration, President Donald Trump raged about how the US Air Force's program to replace its two aging VC-25A aircraft—the heavily modified 747-200 aircraft known as Air Force One when in service—was too expensive. Via Twitter, he declared that the cost of the program was out of control and said, "Cancel order!"

But the Air Force has pressed on with its plans to purchase two newer 747-8 aircraft to replace the existing presidential transports, for good reason: the VC-25As currently in service have been flying since the George H.W. Bush administration. Fortunately, the Air Force has managed to find a way to save on the $386.8 million price tag for each of the two 747-8s needed—with a little help from Russia.

As Defense One's Marcus Weisberger reports, Boeing has two completed 747-8 aircraft that were ordered in 2013 by the Russian airline Transaero, which used to be Russia's second-largest air carrier. But Transaero went bankrupt two years after placing the order and making partial payment for the planes.

Russia's Aeroflot acquired Transaero's operations, but the airline decided not to complete the purchase of the two 747s. That left Boeing stuck with two completed, flight-tested aircraft and no buyer. Five months ago, the planes were flown to a storage facility in the Mojave Desert (Victorville (VCV/KVCV) to preserve them until Boeing could find someone to take them off its hands.

The Air Force came to the (somewhat delayed) rescue and is currently negotiating a deal for the aircraft. In a prepared statement, Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek told the press, "We're working through the final stages of coordination to purchase two commercial 747-8 aircraft and expect to award a contract soon."

(Sean Gallagher - ARS Technica)