Monday, April 30, 2018

WestJet launches inaugural Halifax/Gatwick flight

WestJet today officially launched its route between Halifax and London (Gatwick). The departure of WS24 marks the start of daily, nonstop service between Halifax Stanfield International Airport and Gatwick Airport until October 26, 2018.

Westjet Boeing 737-8 MAX (60510/6384) C-FRAX arrives at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS/KLAS) on March 15, 2018.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

This is the first time the airline has used its newest aircraft, the Boeing 737-8 MAX for transatlantic travel.

"WestJet continues to demonstrate its commitment to innovation using its fleet of fuel-efficient, guest-friendly Boeing MAX aircraft for transatlantic service," said Tim Croyle, WestJet Interim Executive Vice-President, Commercial. "This service also demonstrates our commitment to support efforts on the part of Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada to enhance trade and tourism, and grow the economies of both Canada and the United Kingdom."

"WestJet's addition of this direct route represents another link to the UK and connections throughout Europe, important markets for Nova Scotia," said Geoff MacLellan, Minister of Business and Tourism Nova Scotia. "This route will help further connect our people, cultures and businesses, making it even easier for UK tourists to visit our province. On behalf of the provincial government, I want to thank WestJet for its confidence in our region and ongoing investments that are helping to build our Atlantic Gateway."

"WestJet continues to demonstrate their commitment to Halifax Stanfield, our community and our future as we expand into an airport where travellers can conveniently connect to and from Europe and beyond," said Joyce Carter, President and CEO of Halifax International Airport Authority. "We thank WestJet for their leadership in developing new links to European markets from our gateway, and the travelling public for supporting new services."

On May 31, WestJet will launch its inaugural flight between Halifax and Paris on its Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft. The flight will mark the first time WestJet will land on the European mainland.

WestJet serves 18 cities from the Halifax International Airport, up from 12 in 2013, including 12 Canadian, two transborder, one international and this summer will serve Glasgow, London and Paris; at peak summer schedule, the airline will operate around 25 flights per day or more than 170 flights per week. Since 2012, the airline's traffic from Halifax has grown by more than 160 per cent.

Details of WestJet's new non-stop service:

Effective April 29, 2018

Halifax – London (Gatwick) - Daily

Depart: 10:35 p.m.

Arrive: 8:21 a.m. +1 


Effective April 30, 2018

London (Gatwick) – Halifax - Daily

Depart: 9:50 a.m.

Arrive: 1 p.m.

(PR Newswire / Business Insider)

Sunday, April 29, 2018

How Boeing Helped Force Rival Airbus To Cut Production On This Jet

Airbus is cutting production of its A330 jet as it continues to lose orders to Boeing while struggling with soft demand.

And in a double whammy, the European aerospace giant's Q1 earnings were hit by ongoing struggles to get enough engines from suppliers General Electric and United Technologies to meet demand for its hot-selling A320neo. Management admitted Friday it has "plenty to do" to make its annual aircraft delivery target.

Airbus will cut production of the A330 to about 50 planes a year starting next year, down from planned shipments of 60 this year and 67 last year.

It follows major setbacks for the wide-body jet. Earlier this month, American Airlines ordered 47 Boeing 787 Dreamliners in a deal worth $12.3 billion at list prices, turning down offers from Airbus for its A330 and A350. American also canceled an order for 22 A350s that U.S. Airways placed before it was acquired by American.

That followed Hawaiian Airlines' decision in March to order 10 Boeing 787s instead of the A330.

Boeing is also seeing softening demand for its 777 wide-body as customers await the next-generation 777X. Demand for narrow-body jets from both Boeing and Airbus remains high however.

Airbus shares were up 1.1% at 29.29 on the stock market today, working on a nine-week flat base with a 30.68 entry. The relative strength line is also near its all-time high. Boeing was down 0.6% to 340.88, holding above its 50-day moving average.

Airbus also reported a 48% decline in EPS to just 11 cents per share, with revenue diving 10% to $12.43 billion.

"The first quarter performance reflects the shortage of A320neo engines and back-loaded aircraft deliveries as we indicated in the full-year disclosure. This is clearly shown in the financials," Airbus CEO Tom Enders said in a press release. "It's a challenging situation for all but based on the confidence expressed by the engine makers and their ability to deliver on commitments, we can confirm our full-year outlook. This still leaves us with plenty to do this year to reach the target of around 800 commercial aircraft deliveries."

CFM International, a GE-Safran joint venture, is trying to catch up on deliveries for the Leap-1A engine Airbus uses on the A320neo.

Meanwhile, United Technologies' engine-maker Pratt & Whitney has started shipping new geared turbofan engines for the A320neo.

(Michael Larkin - Investor's Business Daily)

Saturday, April 28, 2018

JetBlue Is Cutting Its Losses in Long Beach, California

jetBlue Airbus A320-232 (c/n 5060) N796JB "100% Blue" (Highrise - Tail Art) holds short of Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on January 23, 2018.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

For years, jetBlue Airways has vacillated in its commitment to Long Beach, California: its smallest focus city. jetBlue began building a mini-hub in Long Beach in late 2001, just a year and a half after it started service. However, while it has tried a number of strategies there, none have been terribly successful in recent years.

As a result, jetBlue recently decided to implement big cutbacks in Long Beach. This fall, it will eliminate about a third of its flights at Long Beach Airport. The carrier plans to redeploy this capacity to more profitable opportunities, mainly in the transcontinental market.

A turbulent history in Long Beach

From 2001 to 2009, jetBlue used Long Beach Airport as a low-cost alternative to the crowded Los Angeles International Airport, which is less than 20 miles away. At one point, it offered eight daily roundtrips to New York. It also operated several other long-haul flights from Long Beach at various times.

Around 2006, with high oil prices pressuring the profitability of its transcontinental flights from Long Beach, jetBlue began to shift its focus to short-haul routes. However, these routes weren't much more successful, due in part to the growing presence of other low-cost carriers -- particularly Virgin America -- in the Los Angeles area.

As of 2016, jetBlue was only using about two-thirds of its 32 slot pairs in Long Beach. Nevertheless, when more slots became available that year, jetBlue tried to get as many as possible. (It was assigned another three.) The carrier used this opportunity to add extra flights on several routes from Long Beach, largely to prevent Southwest Airlines from taking over its slots and adding competing service.

Since jetBlue expanded its Long Beach schedule in 2016, it has offered ample short-haul service, including four daily roundtrips to each of the three Bay Area airports and up to six daily roundtrips to Las Vegas. Part of the goal was to increase jetBlue's appeal to business travelers.

However, jetBlue clearly didn't plan to maintain its entire short-haul schedule in Long Beach forever. The carrier lobbied aggressively for several years to have a customs facility added, to enable international flights from Long Beach Airport. In this sense, some of its flights were placeholders to ensure that it didn't lose any slots. Unfortunately, the Long Beach city council voted in early 2017 against pursuing a customs facility at the airport, nixing this long-term plan.

Furthermore, competition in the California short-haul market has been brutal lately. Southwest Airlines in particular has aggressively added flights to protect its market share in California. This includes six daily intra-California flights from Long Beach: four to Oakland and two to Sacramento.

jetBlue abandons its growth experiment

JetBlue hinted during its earnings call on Tuesday that big changes were coming to its West Coast route network. Sure enough, on Wednesday, it announced a slew of new routes -- along with big cuts to its Long Beach flight schedule that will go into effect after Labor Day.

Indeed, jetBlue plans to cut half of its flights on its routes to several key West Coast markets. It will go from four daily roundtrips to two daily roundtrips on its routes from Long Beach to Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose. It will fly three times a day to Las Vegas (down from six trips today), and it will drop one of its two daily roundtrips on the Long Beach-Portland and Long Beach-Seattle routes. jetBlue will also make smaller cuts to its Long Beach-Salt Lake City route.

The net result is that jetBlue will operate up to 23 daily flights in Long Beach going forward, which is roughly where it was before its 2016 expansion. Southwest Airlines is likely to seize this opportunity to gain additional slots in Long Beach and expand its offerings there.

Spreading the love

Cutting back in the short-haul market from Long Beach makes sense. Fares are extremely low on these routes, mainly due to competition between Southwest Airlines, Alaska Air, and the three legacy carriers. jetBlue will use the capacity freed up from its Long Beach cutbacks to add a variety of additional long-haul flights from the Los Angeles area in September.

In Long Beach itself, jetBlue plans to add a second daily roundtrip to Boston. The carrier will also boost service at Hollywood Burbank Airport, adding a second daily roundtrip to New York and introducing a daily roundtrip to Boston. Finally, the carrier will return to Ontario International Airport, launching daily service from New York.

Additional new service will start in December. jetBlue will add a second daily flight between New York and Salt Lake City. It will also begin seasonal service to two ski destinations: Steamboat Springs, Colorado and Bozeman, Montana. jetBlue will fly twice a week from Long Beach to Bozeman. In Steamboat Springs, it will offer two weekly flights from Long Beach, two weekly flights from Boston, and one weekly flight from Fort Lauderdale. Lastly, jetBlue will add frequencies on its seasonal New York-Palm Springs route this fall.

These route network changes are likely to pay off for jetBlue in 2019. The carrier has a strong presence in New York and Boston and a loyal customer base there. Centering more flights on those key focus cities should improve jetBlue's profitability.

(Adam Levine-Weinberg - The Motley Fool)

Friday, April 27, 2018

Southwest Airlines orders 40 Boeing 737 MAX jets worth $4.68 bln

U.S. carrier Southwest Airlines has ordered 40 Boeing Co 737 MAX 8 jets worth $4.68 billion at list price to help modernize its fleet, the airline said.

It converted options it held over the jets into firm orders, with 10 to be delivered each year from 2019-2022, Southwest said in a statement on Thursday announcing its first-quarter earnings.

"This is first and foremost an extension of our fleet modernization strategy," Southwest chief executive officer Gary Kelly told analysts on a post-earnings conference call, according to a transcript.

"We have a very strong business case to replace older 737-700 aircraft given the superior operating economics of the MAX 8."

Southwest is the world's largest operator of 737 jets, with more than 700 of the airplanes.

The airline on Thursday warned the consequences of a mid-air engine explosion on a 737-700 last week will weigh on second-quarter bookings, as investigators probe the events that led to the first passenger death in the airline's history.

Southwest posted first-quarter profit of $438 million, excluding special items, up from $372 million a year earlier.

(Jamie Freed - Reuters)

JetBlue reducing Long Beach flights, blames city for halting international plan

JetBlue Airways will curtail flight operations at Long Beach Airport, and last year’s decision by the city council to refuse international flights was a deciding factor.

“The majority of the change in Long Beach is being driven by the rejection of the Customs facility,” said Marty St. George, JetBlue’s executive vice president of commercial and planning operations.

JetBlue announced changes to their Southern California flight schedules Wednesday morning. Besides plans to reduce its take of daily flight slots at LGB to 23 from 35, the airline also announced preparations to add flights to new destinations in Colorado and Montana from Long Beach.

The airline also is moving to resume flight services at Ontario International Airport — something that hasn’t happened for nearly a decade — and to expand its operations at Hollywood Burbank Airport.

Long Beach officials said they expect other airlines to quickly snap up opportunities at LGB after JetBlue’s presence there decreases.

“We see this as an opportunity to create a better balance among the air carriers serving Long Beach Airport and one that will maintain our existing service, and in fact will likely lead to new markets in the very near future,” Airport Director Jess Romo said in a statement.

Responding to Long Beach’s “no”

The Long Beach City Council voted by an 8-to-1 margin in January 2017 to cease activities that could have led to the construction of a federal inspection facility, a necessity for any airport welcoming international travelers, at LGB.

The vote followed some two years’ worth of work and debate. Although city attorney Charles Parkin had advised city leaders that LGB could accommodate international flights without sacrificing the city’s strict airport noise control ordinance, a highly-vocal contingent of residents living near the airport’s flight paths strenuously objected to changing the status quo at LGB.

JetBlue senior vice president of government affairs Rob Land provided a statement in the immediate aftermath of that vote stating the airline was “profoundly disappointed” in the council’s decision and that JetBlue leaders would take a new look at their plans for Long Beach and Southern California.

The airline publicly disclosed the results of those evaluations Wednesday. Although JetBlue won’t abandon any destinations from its Long Beach schedule, the airline is set to reduce the frequencies of flights to Las Vegas, Oakland, San Francisco and other destinations.

JetBlue’s surrender of a dozen flight slots is set to be official Sept. 5, and its activity level at Long Beach will be essentially what it was in 2016, according to an airline announcement.

JetBlue executives had looked forward to the prospect of LGB becoming an international airport so that Long Beach could connect travelers visiting such destinations as Mexican beach cities, St. George said. Now that international flights are off the table, St. George said it doesn’t make sense for JetBlue to maintain its current frequency of flights.

The airline also plans to add a daytime flight from Long Beach to Boston in September, allowing for two departures from LGB to Boston Logan International Airport. Additional plans call for seasonal flights from Long Beach to Steamboat Springs, Colo., and Bozeman, Montana, which begin in mid-December.

Long Beach’s airport noise control law effectively limits airlines to 50 daily flight slots at LGB. Airlines can apply for unused slots after they become available, and JetBlue’s previously-confirmed plans to give up one of its 35 slots made it possible for Hawaiian Airlines to announce its plans to begin Long Beach-to-Honolulu flights as of June 1.

Airlines that do not operate at LGB get priority treatment whenever there are applications for open slots. Besides JetBlue, the other airlines operating at LGB are Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines.

Delta, Hawaiian and Southwest are already on the airport’s waiting list for additional slots, according to city government.

Inland Empire, Burbank arrivals

JetBlue dropped Ontario International Airport from its network in 2008, when it ceased offering daily flights to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City. The airline blamed high fuel prices when it announced that decision.

Now, JetBlue executives view flying out of Ontario to be a more affordable proposition and will resume flights from ONT to JFK on Sept. 5.

“The airport has done a really good job of getting their costs down,” St. George said.

The Ontario International Airport Authority, a team-up between the Ontario’s city government and San Bernardino County, took control of ONT from Los Angeles World Airports in November 2016. The landing fees airlines are required to pay when flying to ONT have fallen from a high of $14.50 a passenger at a time when the airport was under Los Angeles’ control to below $10 by last October.

In addition to its announcements for Long Beach and Ontario, JetBlue also announced plans to begin a Burbank-to-Boston flight in September, while adding a second Burbank-to-New York flight to its schedule. JetBlue also plans to resume seasonal flights from Palm Springs International Airport to JFK on Oct. 10.

(Andrew Edwards - Long Beach Press Telegram)

Boeing says sees no threat to 777 output from Iran deal uncertainty

Boeing does not see production of its 777 mini-jumbo as being threatened by doubts over the future of a nuclear sanctions accord between Iran and major world powers, Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg said on Wednesday.

U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to pull the United States out of the 2015 pact, under which Boeing agreed to sell 80 jets to IranAir, including 15 current-generation 777 planes.

Deliveries of the jet were originally slated to begin this year, but Boeing has been able to juggle delivery schedules with other airlines, Muilenburg said on a conference call.

When asked whether a collapse of the deal would put pressure on Boeing to further cut output of the current model of the 777, which is nearing the end of its production run, Muilenburg said current plans were "not dependent" on the Iran sanctions deal.

The remarks contrast with signals given by the company in December 2016, when a senior executive told staff the Iran sale had been factored into 777 production plans, suggesting output could be cut further without deliveries to Iran, CNN reported.

Since then, 777 orders more than doubled to 60 in 2017.

(Tim Hepher - Reuters)

No read-across to Airbus from Rolls engine problems on Boeing 787s: Airbus CFO

European planemaker Airbus said there was no read- across to engines made by Rolls-Royce to power its A330neo planes from the durability problems with Rolls engines installed on Boeing's 787 Dreamliner jets.

"I'm not aware that there's commonality of a problem between 787 and the A330neo engine, so it's separate," Airbus CFO Harald Wilhelm told analysts on a first-quarter results call when asked whether the issue could infect the Rolls engines it has ordered.

Rolls-Royce is working to fix problems with its Trent 1000 engines on 787s, where turbine blades have worn out sooner than expected, forcing airlines to disrupt their schedules to allow for the engines to be inspected more regularly.

Airbus will use Rolls's Trent 7000 to power the A330neo jet which is due to enter service later this year. The Trent 7000 is derived from the Trent 1000-TEN product which is used on some Dreamliners.

Wilhelm said Airbus was talking to Rolls to make sure it was focused on the A330neo project.

"We send the wide body engine guys (Rolls-Royce and rival engine-maker GE ) to be on spot and that means in the case obviously of the A330 to be on spot for an entry to service in 2018," he said.

(Tim Hepher - Reuters)

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Southwest reports 37% 1Q profit increase; takes 40 737 MAX options

Southwest Airlines has exercised 40 Boeing 737-8 options, bringing its total 737 MAX firm orders to 280 aircraft, and plans to retire 40 737-700s as it takes delivery of the additional 737-8s from 2019-2022.

The latest MAX orders were announced as the Dallas-based carrier reported a first-quarter net profit of $463 million, up 36.6% from net income of $339 million in the 2017 first quarter. The profit rise was achieved despite revenue increasing just 1.9% year-over-year (YOY) to $4.9 billion as Southwest contended with what CEO Gary Kelly characterized as “overly aggressive discounting” by competitors in many of the markets it serves.

But fuel hedging helped insulate the carrier from the cost spikes that rivals that do not hedge, such as American Airlines, have been facing. First-quarter expenses increased only 1.9% YOY to $4.3 billion, including a relatively modest 6.5% increase in fuel costs (American, by comparison, reported a 25.8% YOY increase in first-quarter fuel costs).

First-quarter operating income of $616 million was up 1.7% YOY from an operating profit of $606 million in the 2017 March quarter. Southwest’s first-quarter traffic increased 3.7% YOY to 30.4 billion RPMs on capacity growth of 1.8% to 37.4 billion ASMs, producing a load factor of 81.5%, up 1.6 points. Yield decreased 2.8% YOY to 15.06 cents.

Southwest continues to aim to start operating flights to Hawaii this year, but has not named a start date yet. It did, however, announce the Hawaiian airports it will serve: Honolulu International Airport, Lihue Airport, Kona International Airport (in Keahole) and Kahului Airport.

(Aaron Karp - Aviation Daily / ATWOnline News)

Allegiant Air 1Q net profit up 31% on revenue tools, MD-80 retirements

Las Vegas-based Allegiant Travel Co., parent of ultra-LCC Allegiant Air, reported 2018 first-quarter net income of $55.2 million, up 31% from $42.2 million in the 2017 first quarter. Operating revenue was $425.4 million, up 12% from the year-ago quarter.

Allegiant’s ambitious plan to fast-track the retirement of its MD-80 fleet remains on track, and the associated efficiency gains along with expanded use of revenue management tools has executives bullish on the company’s revenue-generation potential.

Allegiant ended the first quarter with 32 MD-80s in its 88-aircraft fleet. It plans to park five this quarter, eight in the third quarter, and the last 19 in the final quarter. It will add 26 Airbus narrow-bodies—20 A320s and six A319s—as part of its transition to a single fleet type.

“Our second-quarter activity, which has 16 Airbus inductions from six different operators and five MD-80 retirements, is more than we would typically take on and accomplish in an entire year,” CFO Scott Sheldon said on an April 25 earnings call.

Allegiant’s original plan was to retain some MD-80s through 2019. But mounting reliability problems with the aircraft led management to revise its plan in mid-2017. Issues with the MD-80s were spotlighted in a recent CBS “60 Minutes” report that called the carrier’s safety culture into question. Allegiant executives acknowledged “reliability challenges” in 2015 in 2016, but said changes made to address them—including phasing out the MD-80s and personnel changes—have put those issues in the past.

“We have the proud distinction of having the best controllable completion at 99.9% of all US airlines since August 2017,” Allegiant president John Redmond said. “We’re doing significantly better than prior year on all reliability metrics, we and other airlines track.”

Redmond said bookings dropped and cancellations rose immediately following the April 14 “60 Minutes” story, but the long-term effect will be negligible. “The degree of these cancellations and bookings have reduced each day to a point we were starting to reach normalcy,” he said, adding that full-year guidance will not change as a result.

Meanwhile, the company is testing its new revenue management system on about 80% of its capacity as measured by available seat miles (ASMs). Early returns show the system boosts total revenue per available seat mile (TRASM) 1-2 points compared to markets where it is not used, SVP-commercial Lukas Johnson said. “The reason we haven’t gone to 100% [of ASMs] is because we're still seeing enough opportunity to improve the bulk of the 80%,” he said. “We think there’s still plenty more that the system can do.”

Replacing the MD-80s with more flexible, fuel-efficient Airbus narrowbodies adds another dimension, Johnson said. “The Airbus, because it is so much more efficient, you’re seeing us being able to make markets, seasons, [and] days a week work that the MD-80 simply wasn’t able to.”

For the first quarter, TRASM was 11.30 cents, up 1.4%, factoring in the company’s new revenue-recognition standards. Excluding the standards, TRASM was up 2.5% on a like-for-like basis. Cost per available seat mile last quarter was 9.27 cents, up 2.2%, and 6.43 cents ex-fuel, down 2%.

Looking ahead, second-quarter TRASM is expected to be down 2% year-over-year (YOY) because of the earlier Easter holiday. For the year, Allegiant remains on track to increase ASMs 11%-15%. Fuel costs are now projected at $2.20/gallon, up 3 cents over earlier guidance.

(Sean Broderick - Aviationweek / ATWOnline News)

Vallair buys six feedstock A321-200s for freighter conversion


Aircraft trading and leasing company Vallair has acquired six A321-200 aircraft as initial feedstock for the launch of its Airbus A321-200 passenger to freighter (P2F) program.

The Luxembourg-based company said that the aircraft will be attributed to short term lease programs within Vallair’s current portfolio.

The A321 and A320 P2F conversion programs, launched in 2015, are a collaboration between ST Aerospace, its conversion subsidiary EFW and plane manufacturer Airbus.

In February this year, EFW/ST Aerospace won the launch contract to convert 10 Airbus A321-200s to a 14-pallet cargo configuration for Vallair Solutions. The first conversion under this contract will begin towards the end of 2018 for redelivery by the end of 2019.

That deal was in addition to an October 2017 launch announcement by Vallair for a similar conversion program with A321 Precision.

ST Aerospace is responsible for the engineering development phase, up to the Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) approval by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Airbus contributes to the program with Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) data and certification support, while EFW leads the overall program and marketing & sales.

Peter Koster, head of Vallair’s cargo conversions business unit, commented: “The A321 P2F conversion program is the first in its size category to offer containerized loading in both the main deck (up to 14 container positions) and lower deck (up to 10 container positions). With a generous payload-range capability that can carry up to 27.9 metric tons over 2,300 nautical miles, the A321 P2F is the ideal narrow-body freighter aircraft for express domestic and regional operations.

“This recent transaction secures sufficient feedstock for the initial conversion program, and enhances our developing portfolio of assets available on lease. Vallair expects the prototypes of both programs to obtain their initial STC approval by end 2019 ready to enter operation early 2020.”


Cargolux surges to $122m net profit in 2017

Cargolux Airlines saw 2017 full year net profit after taxes reach $122.3m, compared with a prior year $5.5m for the European freighter aircraft operator.

For the first time in its history, the Cargolux Group exceeded one million chargeable tonnes flown, as FTKs increased by 12.3% in 2017 and the Luxembourg-based carrier's load factor rose to 70.1% for the year.

Market demand remained high throughout 2017, resulting in the airline generating a record 131,212 block hours, a 7% increase compared to the previous year. Aircraft utilisation remained high, with the daily average utilisation in excess of 15:00 hours.

Cargolux president and chief executive Richard Forson said: “The outstanding results for 2017 are a reflection of Cargolux’ employees’ dedication, passion and commitment to make this year a successful one on all fronts.

"Our employees are at the heart of Cargolux’ success and continually endeavor to ensure all requirements are met to provide customer satisfaction and ensure business sustainability. At the same time, I would also like to thank all of our loyal customers for their support”.

In 2017, Cargolux embarked on a comprehensive review of all its business processes, technological developments and innovation.

Cargolux said that it continued to build on its strong commercial relationship with China, especially at its Zhengzhou hub.

The airline carried in excess of 250,000 tonnes of freight to and from China, including 147,000 tonnes to and from Zhengzhou, establishing itself as the largest cargo carrier at the hub. The airline operates between 19 and 25 weekly flights to mainland China depending on season.

During a State visit by Prime Minister Xavier Bettel in June 2017, several key MoUs and agreements were signed between both governments to extend commercial exchanges between the countries.

In 2017, Cargolux and Emirates SkyCargo also entered into an agreement, the first of its kind between a mainstream airline and an all-cargo carrier.

A number of agreements were signed with the Middle East carrier, including capacity swaps on each other’s aircraft to certain destinations, a new freighter service operated by Emirates SkyCargo’s between Luxembourg and Dubai that complements the three times a week connection that Cargolux already offers to Dubai World Central.

In 2017, two additional destinations were introduced in Africa; Douala in Cameroon and Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These weekly flights bring the number of destinations in Africa up to 14.

Since July 2017, the airline also offers four weekly connections between Europe and Quito, Ecuador, in addition to flights to Curitiba, Viracopos and Mexico.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Boeing says sees no threat to 777 output from Iran deal uncertainty

Boeing does not see production of its 777 mini-jumbo as being threatened by doubts over the future of a nuclear sanctions accord between Iran and major world powers, Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg said on Wednesday.

U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to pull the United States out of the 2015 pact, under which Boeing agreed to sell 80 jets to IranAir, including 15 current-generation 777 planes.

Deliveries of the jet were originally slated to begin this year, but Boeing has been able to juggle delivery schedules with other airlines, Muilenburg said on a conference call.

When asked whether a collapse of the deal would put pressure on Boeing to further cut output of the current model of the 777, which is nearing the end of its production run, Muilenburg said current plans were "not dependent" on the Iran sanctions deal.

The remarks contrast with signals given by the company in December 2016, when a senior executive told staff the Iran sale had been factored into 777 production plans, suggesting output could be cut further without deliveries to Iran, CNN reported.

Since then, 777 orders more than doubled to 60 in 2017.

(Tim Hepher and Ankit Ajmera - Reuters)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Southwest has been faced with fines, union safety complaints

Southwest Airlines runs its planes hard. They make many short hops and more trips per day than other U.S. airliners, which adds to wear and tear on parts, including the engines.

As the investigation into last week's deadly engine failure continues, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly could face questions about whether the company's low-cost business model — which puts its planes through frequent takeoffs and landings — is putting passengers at risk.

Some aviation safety experts said they see no reason for alarm. And, in fact, Southwest's safety record is enviable: Until last week, no passenger had died in an accident during its 47-year history.

Still, the Dallas-based airline has paid millions over the past decade to settle safety violations, including fines for flying planes that didn't have required repairs. Twice in the past nine years, holes have torn open in the roofs of Southwest planes in flight.

In another episode in 2016, an engine on a Southwest jet blew apart over Florida because of metal fatigue, or wear and tear, hurling debris that struck the fuselage and tail. No one was hurt.

Then, last week, one of the engines on Southwest Flight 1380 blew apart at 32,000 feet over Pennsylvania, spraying the Boeing 737 with shrapnel and killing 43-year-old Jennifer Riordan, a mother of two who was blown partway out a broken window. The National Transportation Safety Board said a fan blade that had snapped off the engine was showing signs of metal fatigue.

The union representing Southwest mechanics recently accused the company of pressuring maintenance workers to cut corners to keep planes flying. And the Federal Aviation Administration investigated union whistleblower complaints and found mistrust of management so serious that it could hurt safety.

In one case, investigators said a worker who should have been praised for finding corrosion on a plane in Dallas was chastised for working beyond the scope of the task he had been assigned. The leader of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, Bret Oestreich, said Southwest had created a culture of hostility and retaliation.

Nevertheless, aviation safety experts and longtime industry watchers said they do not consider Southwest unsafe.

"They have had a lot" of incidents, said John Goglia, a former NTSB member, "but you have to remember that they have a very large fleet" — more than 700 Boeing 737s, the largest 737 fleet in the world.

Before last week, if Goglia thought about airlines that might have safety questions, Southwest wasn't even on the radar, he said.

Southwest's short, frequent flights put more stress on the plane and engines, like a car used heavily in stop-and-go city traffic, said Alan Diehl, an aviation-safety consultant and former NTSB and Air Force accident investigator.

Diehl said, however, that Southwest's crews are accustomed to the quicker pace and that their work is made easier because Southwest flies only Boeing 737s instead of an assortment of planes.

Southwest jets make on average 5.3 flights per day compared with between 2.8 and 3.4 per day at American Airlines, Delta and United, according to an analysis by industry newsletter Airline Weekly using information from airline data provider Diio.

Southwest flies frequently on short routes such as Los Angeles to San Francisco and Dallas to Houston. Its average flight is 764 miles, the shortest among U.S. airlines and barely half as long as the average at American and Delta, according to the Airline Weekly analysis. Each takeoff and landing contributes to wear and tear on the aircraft.

"It's amazing how safe Southwest has been over the years, considering the operational difficulty of what they do," said Seth Kaplan, managing partner of Airline Weekly. Like others interviewed for this story, Kaplan said he is not afraid to fly Southwest — he and his family are booked on a flight next week.

Although last week's accident was Southwest's first passenger fatality, it was not the first time someone was killed by one of its planes. In 2005, a Southwest jet skidded off a runway and through a fence at Chicago's Midway Airport, striking a car and killing a 6-year-old boy.

Southwest, the nation's fourth-biggest airline by passenger traffic but the largest in terms of U.S.-only flights, has paid millions in fines after enforcement actions by the FAA.

The biggest FAA fine against Southwest was $7.5 million in 2009. The FAA said Southwest kept 46 planes flying even though they had skipped critical inspections of the fuselage for metal fatigue.

Five years later, the FAA proposed a $12 million fine over 44 planes that had undergone improper fuselage repairs while at a contractor hired by Southwest. The airline settled a lawsuit by agreeing to pay $2.8 million.

The 2016 engine failure over Florida highlighted the need for closer inspection of engine blades. Southwest spokeswoman Brandy King said that after engine maker CFM International recommended more inspections last year, Southwest had inspected all fan blades covered by the recommendation before last week's accident.

King said the airline will meet a new CFM recommendation to inspect all older fan blades by the end of August. She said the airline is also inspecting all newer fan blades, a move not yet required by the FAA.

Southwest's CEO has said many times before and since last week's engine failure that safety is paramount at the airline.

Rather than hide from bad news, Kelly spoke to reporters just hours after the accident and promised to "do all we can" to help Riordan's family.

"His emotion was very real. It was palpable," said Henry Harteveldt, a travel-industry analyst. "Mr. Kelly has done a very good job in communicating this to the public and leading the airline."

The day after the accident, Southwest sent letters from Kelly to passengers on Flight 1380, saying that the airline would give them each $5,000 "to cover any of your immediate financial needs" and a $1,000 travel voucher.

Harteveldt said Southwest clearly hoped the letters might discourage lawsuits, "but I thought it was a noble gesture."

(David Koenig - Associated Press)

Gulfstream Aerospace To Add Second Service Center at Savannah

Gulfstream's new 202,000-sq-ft/18,766-sq-m service center on the east side of Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport will complement its existing 679,199-sq-ft/63,100-sq-m main Savannah Service Center. The new $55 million facility is expected to open in second-quarter 2019.
(Photo: Gulfstream Aerospace)

Gulfstream Aerospace is building a 202,000-sq-ft/18,766-sq-m service center on the east side of Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV/KSAV), complementing its existing 679,199-sq-ft/63,100-sq-m main Gulfstream Savannah Service Center at the Georgia airfield, the company announced this morning. When the $55 million Savannah Service Center East is completed in second-quarter 2019, Gulfstream will have more than 1 million sq ft/92,903 sq m of dedicated customer-support hangar space, offices and back shops in Savannah.

“This expansion of our customer service and support organization is the result of the strong and steady fleet growth we’ve had for several years and the arrival of the G500 and G600 in the coming months,” said Gulfstream president Mark Burns. “As we’ve announced recently, we’re also expanding to meet customer needs in Appleton, Wisconsin, and Van Nuys, California. These new facilities will keep us well positioned for support, maintenance, and refurbishment of the Gulfstream fleet, which is now at nearly 2,700 aircraft.”

Attending the expansion announcement event were state and local dignitaries, including Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter. The event was held at Savannah Technical College’s Aviation Training Center, whose students will play a “key role” in Gulfstream’s growth.

“Our Savannah expansion is also the direct result of our partnership with Savannah Technical College,” Burns said. “The school’s aviation programs, which have provided us with more than 500 skilled employees over nearly 20 years, will help us meet the workforce needs this expansion creates.”

Like the existing Savannah service center—which is the largest such facility in the world—the East Savannah location will offer a wide range of services, including aircraft-on-ground resources, hourly and calendar-driven airframe inspections, avionics installations and interior refurbishments.

In addition to Savannah, Gulfstream has factory-owned service centers in Brunswick, Georgia; Long Beach, California; Cahokia, Illinois; Westfield, Massachusetts; Appleton; Dallas; Las Vegas; Beijing; Sorocaba, Brazil; and London Luton.

(Chad Trautvetter - AINOnline News)

Thursday, April 19, 2018

FAA to issue CFM56 engine directive after Southwest incident

Engine cowling from CFM56-7B engine that failed on Southwest Airlines flight 1380.

FAA will issue an airworthiness directive (AD) in the next two weeks requiring inspections of certain CFM56-7B turbofan engines, the US agency announced one day after the Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-700 engine failure.

“The directive will require an ultrasonic inspection of fan blades when they reach a certain number of takeoffs and landings. Any blades that fail the inspection will have to be replaced,” FAA said in a statement released on the evening of April 18.

Southwest flight 1380, a 737 with 144 passengers and five crew aboard, made an emergency landing at Philadelphia International Airport on April 17 after experiencing an apparent left-engine explosion. One passenger died in the incident.

US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators responding to the Philadelphia airport immediately focused on a missing fan blade in the damaged engine. The number 13 fan blade—one of 24 titanium alloy fan blades—had broken at the point where it attached to the disk hub, where there was evidence of fatigue cracking.

At an April 18 briefing, NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt said the fan blade separated in two places. “It also fractured roughly halfway through, but it appears the fatigue fracture was the initiating event that later caused that secondary failure,” he told reporters.

The engine cowling was found in Bernville, Pennsylvania, about 70 miles northwest of the airport. Air traffic control primary radar detected additional debris falling through the atmosphere, and additional pieces of engine cowling later were recovered.

An NTSB structures group documented further damage to the aircraft. “The leading edge of the left wing suffered damage. It’s banged up pretty good. We can see paint transfer,” Sumwalt said. Analysis of the window frame vicinity at Row 14, where the fatally injured passenger was seated, “found no window materials—the acrylic that the windows are made of—inside the airplane.”

Asked if the engine failure was cause for concern about the reliability of the overall fleet of 737NG-series airliners powered by CFM56 engines, Sumwalt said: “We are very concerned about this particular event. Engine failures like this should not occur, obviously. To be able to extrapolate that to the entire 737 fleet, I will say that if we feel this is a deeper issue we have the capability to issue urgent safety recommendations. I will say that the CFM56 engine is a very widely used engine and it’s got a great record, generally speaking.”

While Sumwalt has said that it is too early to make a direct comparison, the incident was reminiscent of the uncontained engine failure on a Southwest 737-700 on Aug. 27, 2016, that forced pilots to divert to Pensacola International Airport, Florida, during a flight from New Orleans to Orlando. In that case, the NTSB found that one fan blade had separated from the fan disk because of fatigue cracking. Debris from the CFM56-7B engine inlet damaged the aircraft’s fuselage, wing and empennage.

As a result of the 2016 incident, engine manufacturer CFM International, a GE Aviation/Safran Aircraft Engines joint venture, had issued guidance as recently as June 2017 providing instructions for ultrasonic inspection of certain high-time fan blades in the engine type, which powers 737NGs.

Last August, FAA released a proposed AD that would require engines with more than 15,000 cycles-in-service since their last engine shop visit to undergo ultrasonic inspection of certain fan blades within six months of the rule’s effective date. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) issued a comparable AD in March that became effective April 2. It requires ultrasonic inspection of each affected fan blade within nine months.

The CFM56-7B engine type entered service in 1997 and powers 6,700 aircraft worldwide. FAA issued a certificate of registration in 2000 to the Southwest 737 that experienced the latest inflight engine failure.

After the April 17 engine failure, Southwest said it will accelerate ultrasonic inspections of CFM56 engine fan blades “out of an abundance of caution,” a process it expected will take 30 days.

As of Dec. 31, 2017, the carrier reported operating 693 737-700/800s. It also operates 14 737 MAX 8s powered by CFM LEAP-1B engines.

Southwest said April 18 it had inspected “more than half” of its 737-700/800 aircraft.

(Bill Carey - Aviation Week / ATWOnline News)
Santiago-based LATAM has added a fifth leased aircraft—a Boeing 747-400—to fill in for grounded 787s as they are taken out of service for newly mandated Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 inspections.

The 747-400 joins four Airbus A330-200s flying for LATAM—all of them on short-term leases from Spain’s Wamos Air. LATAM is using them to operate several long-range routes, including Guayaquil-Madrid, Santiago-Bogotá, and Guayaquil-New York, in place of 787s.

LATAM is one of about 15 operators dealing with reliability issues on their 787 Trent 1000 Package C engines. The carrier, the first in the Americas to operate the Boeing widebody twin, has been hit harder than most.

A LATAM spokesman confirms that about a quarter of the carrier’s 24-aircraft 787 fleet is out of service, and it could get worse, depending on the outcome of the latest inspections.

“The carrier is taking additional measures to maintain its schedules, including the reassignment of aircraft on selected long-haul routes and the lease of an additional Boeing 747 from Wamos Air,” the spokesperson said. “Further details about service changes will be communicated to passengers in due course.”

LATAM finalized the 747-400 lease as European and US regulators were preparing to order the latest round of inspections and operational restrictions on Trent 1000 Package C-powered 787s. Affected aircraft also face extended operations (ETOPS) restrictions that limit how far they can fly from the nearest suitable airport.

The latest inspections and ETOPS limits are tied specifically to findings of cracked intermediate pressure compressor (IPC) stage two blades, leading to unscheduled engine removals. The issue, one of several that have plagued the Trent 1000 and disrupted airline operations in the last two years, has not been linked to any inflight shutdowns.

The restrictions are expected to hit some carriers harder than others, with airlines that fly long transoceanic flights facing the biggest challenges. Among those that expect the newest restrictions to affect operations are Air New Zealand and Scoot. LATAM is one of several carriers that leased aircraft fill in for grounded 787s before the latest issues emerged, and the number of leased aircraft filling in for grounded 787s is expected to increase.

One reason for the lease activity: Even operators unaffected by the ETOPS limitations are likely to face disruptions if, as expected, many engines fail the latest mandated checks. Engines with cracked blades must be removed and repaired, and Rolls-Royce is struggling to keep up with demand for parts and MRO capacity.

The new Package C mandates affect about 200 787s. Industry estimates suggest the new inspections and expected groundings could leave about 25% of the affected fleet out of service, including aircraft already down because of the ongoing reliability issues.

Rolls-Royce is designing new IPC parts to eliminate the issue, but they are not expected to be available until early 2019. In the meantime, the OEM is ramping up MRO capacity and stockpiling airworthy blades, including from out-of-service engines. It is also analyzing the failure modes to demonstrate that cracked blades will not lead to failures—a move that could see the ETOPS restrictions eased.

The new Trent 1000 TEN engine, which has only about 25% parts commonality with the Trent 1000 Package C, is not affected by the IPC issues.

(Sean Broderick - Aviation Week / ATWOnline News)

Boeing Dreamliner 787-8 manufacturing change may signal move to South Carolina

Boeing is changing how it makes it smallest Dreamliner in a move that may signal plans to eventually shift all Dreamliner production from Everett to South Carolina.

The jet maker is modifying how it builds the rear of its 787-8 jetliner to make it more like bigger 787-9 and 787-10 models, said Darrel Larson, director of aft body operations at Boeing's South Carolina campus, earlier this month.

The goal is to make 787-8 aft sections more compatible with newer Dreamliner jets while cutting manufacturing costs.

"Eights and Nines in this building will look the same and they'll build the same," Larson said. "We're very excited about this common aft."

Bainbridge Island aerospace analyst Scott Hamilton thinks the move will intensify speculation that Boeing intends to consolidate all Dreamliner production in South Carolina to make room in Everett to build its New Mid-Market Airplane, known as the NMA or 797.

"Boeing has chosen to invest more in Puget Sound than any other region in the world over the past decade," said spokesman Paul Bergman, who declined to comment on Hamliton's remarks.

All aft fuselages for Dreamliners are made at Boeing's North Charleston site. They are then either moved to the North Charleston assembly plant or flown to Boeing's Everett on a Dreamlifter, a specially modified 747 jet Boeing uses to fly components between its suppliers and assembly sites. Boeing moved the Dreamlifter Operations Center from Everett to Charleston.

The 787-8, the first Dreamliner model, has only about 30 percent of common parts and components with the newer 787-9 and 787-10 models, Larson said. The 787-9 and 787-10 models are about 90 percent the same plane as each other, except the 787-10's body is stretched an extra 18 feet so it can carry more passengers.

A common aft body for all 787 models will reduce costs throughout the 787 program, a goal of Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Kevin McAllister.

Boeing's plans to modify the 787-8 aft fuselage manufacturing process were first reported by The Charleston Post and Courier.

Boeing has orders for 91 undelivered 787-8s on its books, including 22 recently ordered by American Airlines, compared to 409 orders for the bigger 787-9 and 170 for the 787-10.

(Andrew McIntosh - Puget Sound Business Journal)

'Sully' Responds to Southwest Airlines Pilot Tammie Jo Shults Landing Plane, Recounts Processing Trauma

Tammie Jo Shults, the level-headed pilot praised as a hero for steering the Southwest Flight 1380 to safety after it suffered an engine blowout, has received additional praise from one of the few people on earth who knows what must have been going through her mind at the time.

Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger was the captain who managed to land US Airways Flight 1549 safely onto the Hudson River in Manhattan in 2009 when the plane suffered engine failure after hitting a flock of geese while flying over New York, saving all 155 people on board.

Southwest Airlines pilot Tammie Jo Shults poses at MidAmerica Nazarene University in this handout photo received April 18, 2018.
(Kevin Garber/MidAmerica Nazarene University/Handout via Reuters)

Sullenberger told Newsweek that Tuesday’s emergency landing had similarities to his “Miracle on the Hudson,” which was later made into a film starring Tom Hanks.

"In those first seconds, I knew it was going to change our lives forever. I knew that every thought I had, every choice I made, everything I said, everything I did or did not do would be scrutinized not only by investigators, but by aviation professionals for years," Sullenberger said.

The California-based pilot praised Shults and her crew for keeping a cool head during the emergency situation.

Audio recording of the moment Shults told air traffic control about the emergency has since been released, revealing just how calm the pilot remained under extreme pressure.

"No, it's not on fire, but part of it is missing,” she says, almost tranquilly. “They said there's a hole and someone went out."

Sullenberger spoke about how pilots summon calm in a sudden emergency. Despite decades of training, planning and anticipation, those situations can still surprise a pilot and be startling, he said.

“I never gave a second thought about making that choice, about sacrificing the airplane to save lives," he told Newsweek. "It is a great responsibility to have that much authority. I'm sure that's one that this captain feels deeply. The outcome indicates that they worked together as a rise to the occasion and achieve the best possible outcome under those circumstances.

Sullenberger and Shults, one of the Navy's first female fighter pilots, are part of a "small club" of people who have managed to safely land a plane after experiencing major failure. But the aftermath can be very tough to settle, he said, adding that for anyone who experiences such a moment, life is defined as before and after the incident.

"What really helped me in dealing with this was that I realized I had to make this experience a part of me, not simply something that had happened to me," he said. "I had to integrate it into my psyche, to made it part of my life experience that made me who I am and not feel like it was just a trauma –to take control of it, to embrace it, and that’s what finally helped the most."

Sullenberger pointed to another engine failure in 2016, which was identified as the cause of Tuesday’s incident.

“The fact that it is a similar failure to the one in 2016 makes me wonder if the actions taken up to now to require additional inspections of some of these series of engines are sufficient, apparently not,” he said. “This is a surprise that this particular engine had this kind of failure at this point.”

One passenger, Jennifer Riordan, died from her injuries after the engine explosion blew out one of the plane’s windows, causing her to be partially sucked from the aircraft due to the air pressure.

The 43-year-old mother of two from Albuquerque, New Mexico, was taken to hospital after it landed but died as a result of impact trauma to her head, neck and torso, according to Philadelphia health officials.

In a joint statement with the copilot Darren Ellisor, Shults said she and her team were “simply doing our jobs” by landing the plane.

“Our hearts are heavy. On behalf of the entire Crew, we appreciate the outpouring of support from the public and our coworkers as we all reflect on one family’s profound loss.”

(Ewan Palmer - Newsweek / Yahoo News)

Monday, April 16, 2018

Triumph Dumps Gulfstream Wing Production on General Dynamics

The aerospace component manufacturer makes a difficult, but necessary, choice as part of its broader restructuring effort.

Aerospace components manufacturer Triumph Group has worked out a deal with customer Gulfstream Aerospace to reallocate wing assembly work to Gulfstream's facility in Savannah, Georgia. It's a good deal for both sides in the near term, but could telegraph a loss of future business for Triumph.

The details

The deal, in effect, makes General Dynamics-owned Gulfstream both a customer of and subcontractor to Triumph on G650 wing box and wing completion work. Wing production work currently being performed at Triumph facilities in Nashville, Tennessee, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, will move to Gulfstream's Georgia facility.

Triumph said it would maintain its role as the supply chain integrator on the program, saying the agreement is expected to have a positive impact on its long-term financial results. This appears to be a win for both sides, helping to bring down production costs and working capital demand for Triumph while lowering overall costs for Gulfstream. It also gives Gulfstream more control over production rates at a time when demand for business jets is expected to grow.

Making the best of a tough situation

A Gulfstream wing assembly. 
 (Triumph Group)

This wing business has been an albatross for multiple owners. Spirit AeroSystems was losing money doing wing work on the Gulfstream G650 and Gulfstream G280 before paying Triumph $160 million in December 2014 to take over the contract. Triumph already had a close relationship with Gulfstream at the time and believed its experience working on other production programs -- including making wings for the G450 and G550 -- would allow it to make a profit from the G650 and G280 wing work.

But it appears the wing work has not lived up to initial expectations. The company last December said it would combine its $4 billion wing business with its precision-component unit as part of a restructuring designed to streamline operations and reduce costs.

Triumph, an amalgamation of dozens of acquisitions over nearly four decades, has missed out on a long-running rally fueled by a strong up-cycle in commercial aerospace sales. Shares of Triumph are down more than 7% over the past 10 years, a time when shares of Spirit are up 259% and shares of aerospace components manufacturer TransDigm Group are up 684%.

Current Triumph Group CEO Daniel J. Crowley was brought on board in January 2016, well after the Spirit wing assembly transfer, and has been hard at work simplifying a company that had grown to house 47 different operating entities spread across 72 locations worldwide. Through divestitures and division mergers, he has reduced Triumph to 17 operating entities and has trimmed the company's overall footprint by 1.3 million square feet by closing a dozen locations.

This deal with General Dynamics continues Crowley's push to focus Triumph on the company's best businesses, and find alternatives for the laggards.

What next?

The G650 wing deal is a win for Triumph because it allows the company to keep revenue coming in, while reducing costs. But if, as implied, it means that it is cheaper for Gulfstream to do the work in-house than it is for it to work with Triumph, it seems likely Gulfstream will not bother going through a third party on future models, downgrading Triumph from an integrator and assembler to a component supplier on Gulfstream wings.

That's a bitter pill for Triumph to swallow, given that companies gravitate toward higher-value assembly work over easily commoditized part supplies. But given the economics of this particular line of business, moving on is probably the best possible outcome for Triumph shareholders.

(Lou Whiteman - TMFeldoubleu / The Motley Fool)

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Etihad's CEO says it's still business as usual at the airline

Etihad Airways may have faced turbulence in the last financial year, posting a $1.87 billion annual loss in 2016, but its chief executive said it was still business as usual at the Abu Dhabi airline.

"The core airline has always been operating in a very, very solid way even in the most challenging times," Peter Baumgartner, chief executive officer of Etihad Airways told CNBC's Hadley Gamble on Monday.

The collapse in oil prices in 2016 hit Middle Eastern airlines, including Etihad, which had been on an upward trajectory.

According to Baumgartner, the period saw local and regional markets contract, accelerating overcapacity in the region and bringing yields lower. But even though the airline faced a "perfect storm," it continued to operated with "very solid" load factors, he added.

The airline will be cutting some of its routes in the year ahead as it continues with a review to turn its business around. Etihad will suspend flights to Edinburgh, Scotland and Perth, Australia, as part of that review, but Baumgartner said that did not affect the airline's global ambition.

"This is a constant evaluation that is not a one-time cut and then you are done for the next 10 years. This is a very agile business in a very agile environment, so it's kind of business as usual," he said.

(Cheang Ming - CNBC)

FAA Could Put a Massive Hurt on Boeing 787 This Week

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is expected to issue a new airworthiness directive (AD) this week that could severely limit the flight operations of The Boeing Co.’s (NYSE: BA) 787 Dreamliner. The problem revolves around a continuing issue with the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines that power about 25% of the 787’s customer fleets.

The FAA’s AD is expected to slash the long-range operations of the R-R-powered 787s by more than half and possibly by as much as 80%. Last Friday the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), issued an AD for all R-R-powered 787s requiring more inspections and limiting the plane’s operation to a distance of no more than 60-minutes flying time from the nearest airport.

The R-R engines have suffered from corrosion problems with the turbine’s fan blades for a couple of years now. All Nippon Airways (ANA) was forced to cancel flights in August of 2016 to replace the fan blades. ANA also said at the time that it could take three-years fully to correct the problem. The Japanese carrier was the launch customer for Boeing’s 787 and currently has 64 787s in its fleet.

In addition to more frequent engine inspections, the FAA is likely to reduce or suspend the R-R-powered 787s’ “Extended-range Twin-engine Operations,” known in the industry as ETOPS. Prior to about 2007, a twin-engine aircraft could not operate more than 60-minutes away from a diversionary airport due to the possibility of an engine failure. The new, more powerful engines could qualify for extended operations that would allow the aircraft to fly up to 330 minutes from a safe landing location.

The following illustration from illustrates what this means. On a flight from New York’s JFK airport to London’s Heathrow, an aircraft with a 60-minute ETOPS rating would have to follow the dogleg path while a plane with a 120-minute ETOPS could fly the straight line path.


A 330-minute ETOPS means a twin-engine plane like the 787 could fly as much as 5.5 hours away from the nearest airport because a single engine is capable of powering the aircraft for that long in the event one engine failed and the plane had to be diverted from its original destination. That is virtually anyplace on the globe outside a few places in Antarctica.

According to a report from Leeham News, the FAA’s expected AD will require more inspections of the 787s and limit the ETOPS to 140 minutes. The inspections need to be completed by May 20 — the same date required by EASA. If an engine fails the inspections, the ETOPS on that plane could be reduced to 60 minutes.

Boeing has apparently begun to divert some of the R-R engines that would have been installed on new 787s rolling off the production line to customers with planes that have been grounded due to problems with previous versions of the engines.

The financial impact on Rolls-Royce will likely be greater than the impact on Boeing. In early March the engine maker said it would be paying $315 million for repairs to the Trent 1000 and 900 model engines. R-R has said that up to 500 of the affected Trent 1000 engines will be taken out of service and repaired between now and 2022.

If airlines are forced to wait for new 787s, however, that will have an impact on Boeing’s deliveries and cash flow. Some airlines may be forced to modify their flight paths or switch to another airplane if the ETOPS on the engines is reduced. That most likely means leasing planes and even crews, an unexpected expense that the airlines will want to recover from Rolls-Royce or Boeing or both.

(Paul Ausick - 24/7 Wall St.)

Hawaiin Airlines performs Hawaiian language flight to Las Vegas

Hawaiian Airlines is making strides to incorporate traditional Hawaiian language into everyday business.

Hawaii News Now reports Hawaiian Airlines flight HA18 bound for Las Vegas on Friday was the first mainland-bound flight where Hawaiian language was spoken in cabin announcements and crew instructions.

A Hawaiian Airlines spokesperson said via email the mission is for flight attendants to provide a "one-of-a-kind cultural experience by engaging with guests in both olelo Hawaii and English" as preservation of the Hawaiian language continues to be a hot issue on the islands.

The idea was tested earlier this month on four flights to Hilo.

The in-flight announcements and the announcements at the gate were both done in Hawaiian.

Hawaiian Airlines says it hopes to expand and formalize the language immersion program in the coming months.

(Today in the Sky / USA Today / The Associated Press)

The Luxury Jet Industry Has a New Long-Range Champion

A prototype of Bombardier’s Global 7000 business jet. 

Bombardier is extending the range of its marquee business jet to 7,700 nautical miles, unseating the Gulfstream G650 as the long-distance champ of the private-aircraft industry.

The 300-mile improvement for the Global 7000 means the plane will be able to whisk passengers from New York to Hong Kong, or Singapore to San Francisco, Bombardier said in a statement Sunday. A flight-test program with five aircraft has demonstrated the added reach, the company said.

The extra range gives Bombardier bragging rights over the G650 on flying distance as well as size, both of which are crucial selling points for the well-heeled customers who buy the planes. Bombardier Chief Executive Officer Alain Bellemare is counting on the Global 7000 to generate the lion’s share of his targeted $3.5 billion increase in annual sales of private jets by 2020 -- a key component of his turnaround plan for the debt-laden company.

“There’s a significant, almost endless desire for more range, more luxury and more space among business-jet buyers,” said David Tyerman, an analyst at Cormark Securities. “We saw that with the G650, and the Global 7000 takes it yet another step further. Every time a manufacturer comes out with a product that’s more capable, there seems to be a market that we didn’t know existed.”
Luxury Battle

Flight testing now exceeds 1,800 hours for the Global 7000 and the plane has reached a top speed of Mach 0.995, just short of the sound barrier, Bombardier said Sunday. The aircraft, with a sticker price of $72.8 million, is sold out through 2021, according to the company.

The Montreal-based manufacturer still has a long way to go as it tries to catch up to the coveted G650, which lists for $69.4 million and has dominated the upper echelon of corporate jets since its debut five years ago. Gulfstream, a unit of Falls Church, Virginia-based General Dynamics Corp., has delivered 300 of the planes.

Bombardier announced plans in November to hire about 1,000 people to work on the Global 7000 at its Montreal completion center. The company is still looking to fill about 500 of the jobs. The jet is assembled at Bombardier’s Downsview factory in Toronto.

Canada’s biggest aerospace company invested $1 billion last year alone in developing and producing the Global 7000, with total cost of the project amounting to “a few billion dollars,” Bellemare said in an interview in December.

(Frederic Tomesco and Thomas Black - Bloomberg News)

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A330neo faces uphill battle in USA

American Airlines’ decision to opt for the Boeing 787 and ditch a stagnant order for Airbus A350s is something of an equalizer in terms of the three US majors’ recent long-haul fleet decisions.

Delta Air Lines handed Airbus a breakthrough deal for its A330neo-A350 combination, and subsequently axed an outlier order for 787-8s originally placed by Northwest Airlines in 2005 and which Delta inherited during its merger with that carrier three years later.

In declining the A330neo in favor of the 787-8 and -9, and culling the earlier A350 pact sealed by merger partner US Airways – coincidentally, also in 2005 – American Airlines has almost inverted the Delta scenario.

United Airlines, of course, has showed that the two rivals can co-exist with an honors-even selection of both the 787 and the A350.

Airbus pulled off one of its most notable successes with American in 2011 when the US carrier split a colossal single-aisle order between the A320 and the 737, with the European jet taking the greater share.

But attempting to achieve a similar upset with the long-haul fleet was always going to be a tough endeavor. If the name “American” on the fuselage combined with the stars-and-stripes fin design were not necessarily an obstacle to an Airbus deal, the dominating presence of Boeing aircraft – including the 787 – in the US carrier’s fleet certainly was.

American’s decision inverts history in another sense. When US Airways originally selected the A350, the aircraft’s design was Airbus’s first-iteration effort to counter the 787 – essentially a re-engined and updated A330. Airbus was pitching the jet at the crucial US market, eager for a launch customer, and its agreement with US Airways was mutually beneficial.

Some 13 years later, the 787 has ultimately overturned that initial verdict, the Boeing twin-jet belatedly emerging as the victor against Airbus’s current re-engined and updated A330, the A330neo.

And this is arguably the real source of anxiety for Airbus. It has established the A350 on US turf, but Airbus has yet to demonstrate, despite its confident public assertions, that the A330neo is really capable of fending off the 787 in a straight fight, particularly after its humbling by Hawaiian Airlines’ shift of allegiance.

Which means Airbus will need to prepare itself for another brutal uphill contest if the A330neo is to become a fixture, rather than a curiosity, in the US market. All eyes on United.

(Flight International / FlightGlobal News) 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Gulfstream G650 (c/n 6304) N604GA tbr N871FR

Taxies to Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) as it prepares to depart on a pre-delivery test flight, April 11, 2018.

(Photos by Michael Carter)

Southwest Airlines, mechanic union reach agreement after years of negotiation

Southwest Airlines and the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, which represents more than 2,400 Southwest employees, have reached an agreement in principle for a new deal, the two sides announced Wednesday.

After a few more finalization steps, the agreement will be sent to the Southwest employees where they'll vote on whether to affirm the agreement. There is no timetable for when the vote will take place.

This has been a deal years in the making that has seen the AMFA lash out at the airline, especially after Dallas-based Southwest announced its intentions to begin Hawaii service.

"After nearly six years of negotiations, the parties have reached the stage where it is time for our members at Southwest to review and vote on a package produced by this protracted process," said Bret Oestreich, AMFA national director, in a prepared statement.

"We will now work toward educating our members as to the contents of the (agreement in principle) so that they can make an informed decision for them and their families," Oestreich added.

Southwest said the five-year agreement includes updated work rules, improved wages and benefits and a ratification bonus.

"The agreement is good for our people and helps Southwest maintain an efficient operation," said Russell McCrady, vice president of Labor Relations for Southwest, in a prepared statement.

Friction between the union and the airline has grown since Southwest announced its intentions to fly to Hawaii. AMFA said it October it would file a cease and desist order to stop the Hawaii flights from happening in part because the airline has such a low mechanic-to-aircraft ratio.

In February, AMFA lashed out again when it didn't like Southwest's plans to outsource mechanic work for Hawaii flights.

"Southwest continues to want to increase the outsourcing of the aircraft maintenance footprint," Oestreich told the Dallas Business Journal in February. "We do not want to negatively impact expansion to Hawaii, but AMFA needs black and white job protection language."

(Evan Hoopfer - Dallas Business Journal)

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Lion Air lands big order for Boeing 737 Max 10s

Lion Air Group has purchased 50 Boeing 737 Max 10 aircraft, Boeing and the Indonesian discount airline announced.

Valued at $6.24 billion at list prices, the deal was previously listed as unidentified on Boeing's orders and deliveries website.

"We are honored that Lion Air Group, one of the most innovative and fast-growing carriers, has once again placed its trust in the 737 family," said Dinesh Keskar, senior vice president, Asia Pacific and India Sales, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "With the 737 Max 10, Lion Air will have a range of efficient and reliable options to optimize their network to serve their customers and grow profitably."

(Greg Lamm - Puget Sound Business Journal)

Gulfstream G650 (c/n 6325) N325GA

Captured on short final to Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) as "GLF33" following a mid-day flight from Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport (SAV/KSAV), April 9, 2018.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Gulfstream G550 (c/n 5492) N550JH

Prime Jet LLC operates G550 (c/n 5492) N550JH and it is captured at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) as it turns onto Rwy 30 to depart to an unknown destination, April 9, 2018.

(Photos by Michael Carter)

Gulfstream G-IV (c/n 1030) N10YU

Operated by the Nutrawise Corporation, G-IV (c/n 1030) N10YU arrives at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) following a very short flight from Orange County John Wayne Airport (SNA/KSNA), April 9, 2018.

(Photos by Michael Carter)

Sunday, April 8, 2018

U.S. Air Force McDonnell Douglas C-17A (P-7) 90-0532

Based at McChord Air Force Base in Washington and operated by the 62nd AW 446th AW, this gorgeous bird returns home to Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) where she was built for a visit. It felt like the old days here at the airport with her return. 
It was originally delivered on August 26, 1993 to Altus Air Force Base and the 97th AMW. It was also the first C-17A to be modified with the Airlift Defense System.

(Photos by Michael Carter)