Thursday, June 28, 2018

NASA Tech Cuts Airframe Noise by 70% on GIII Testbed

NASA's Acoustic Research Measurement (ARM) flights tested technologies such as landing gear fairings and the FlexSys morphing-wing flap on a Gulfstream GIII testbed. Using an 185-sensor microphone array deployed on the Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base in California, the agency found that airframe noise can be reduced by more than 70 percent on landing approach using these non-propulsive technologies.
(Photos: NASA/Ken Ulbrich)

A series of NASA test flights with a Gulfstream GIII testbed last month demonstrated that airframe noise can be reduced by more than 70 percent on landing approach using non-propulsive technologies. The Acoustic Research Measurement (ARM) flights, conducted at the agency’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, tested technologies such as landing gear fairings and the FlexSys morphing-wing flap. For the noise tests, the modified GIII flew at an altitude of 350 feet over a 185-sensor microphone array deployed on the Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

The experimental landing gear tested by NASA had fairings that are porous along their front, allowing some of the air to flow through the fairing, minimizing drag, while also deflecting some of the airflow around the gear. Meanwhile, the landing gear cavity was treated with a series of chevrons near its leading edge and sound-absorbing foam at the trailing wall, as well as a net stretched across the opening to align airflow more with that of the wing.

To reduce wing flap noise, NASA used the experimental, flexible flap that had previously been flown as part of its Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge (ACTE) project. The ACTE flap, built by FlexSys of Ann Arbor, Michigan, is a seamless design that eliminates gaps between the flap and the main body of the wing.

“The number-one public complaint the FAA receives is about aircraft noise,” said Mehdi Khorrami, an aerospace scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia and ARM principal investigator. “NASA’s goal was to reduce aircraft noise substantially to improve the quality of life for communities near airports. We are very confident that with the tested technologies we can substantially reduce total aircraft noise, and that could really make a lot of flights much quieter.”

According to ARM project manager Kevin Weinert, “This airframe noise reduction produced by NASA technology is definitely momentous. While there are obvious potential economic gains for the industry, this benefits the people who live near major airports and have to deal with the noise of aircraft coming in to land. This could greatly reduce the noise impact on these communities.”

(Chad Trautvetter - AINOnline News)

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Textron To Cease Production of Cessna Citation X+

Production of the Cessna Citation X+ is coming to a close, Textron Aviation announced. The speedy twinjet and its predecessor Citation X have been in continuous production since 1995.
(Photo: Textron Aviation)

Textron Aviation has confirmed it is ceasing production of the Cessna Citation X+, ending a more-than-21-year manufacturing run for the Mach 0.935 twinjet and its predecessor, the Citation X. The Mach 0.92 X was announced at NBAA 1990 and certified in June 1996; the upgraded Citation Ten, later renamed the X+, was revealed at NBAA 2010 and certified in June 2014. To date, the company has delivered 314 Xs and just 24 X+s.

“We continuously monitor the market as it fluctuates and adjust our product offerings as necessary,” a Textron Aviation spokesperson told AIN. “The Citation X platform has a storied heritage…and has become a beloved aircraft by operators and passengers alike as the fastest civilian aircraft in the world. With the upcoming entry into service of the Citation Longitude, we are taking the opportunity to minimize overlap within this customer segment and discontinuing production of the Citation X+.” Both the Longitude and X+ can seat 12 passengers and have about 3,500 nm of range.

The move wasn’t unexpected since Textron has delivered an average of only four Citation X+s annually over the past two years, said business aviation analyst and JetNet iQ managing director Rolland Vincent. “We predicted the end of the Citation X+ production a few years ago,” he told AIN. “The X+ was never going to move the needle now that folks can get a jet with a flat-floor cabin, at least 3,000-nm range, and reasonably fast speeds for the same money.”

According to the Textron spokesperson, “With this transition, employment levels will not be impacted, as employees will move to other production lines to align with business priorities. Textron Aviation remains committed to delivering full service and support to Citation X customers.”

(Chad Trautvetter - AINOnline News)

Planet Nine In It for the Long Haul

Air charter startup Planet Nine secured its FAA Part 135 operating certificate on Friday and is making its first Dassault Falcon 7X available for charter, the company announced yesterday. It intends to have four 7Xs in its fleet by year-end, each featuring refurbished cabins with Gogo/SwiftBroadband Wi-Fi and in-flight entertainment systems. Wi-Fi is complimentary on all domestic charters in the U.S., it added.

Headquartered in Los Angeles and London with a staff of 28 employees, Planet Nine will be a “competitive offering in the premium end of the ultra-long-range charter market,” said co-founders Matt Walter and James Seagrim. Notably, Bill Wulf, NetJets’ former senior v-p and CFO, serves as Planet Nine's CFO. Combined, the management team has more than 75 years’ experience in business aviation, the company said.

According to Planet Nine, its 11-passenger, 5,950-nm Falcon 7X has operating costs at least 30 percent lower than those of the “equivalent” Gulfstream G550 and Bombardier Global 6000, giving the operator a “distinct advantage” over its competition. Planet Nine is currently working with charter brokers, said director of sales Kirti Odedra.

(Chad Trautvetter - AINOnline News)

Vietnam's Bamboo commits to 20 787-9s

Vietnamese start-up Bamboo Airways has committed to an order for 20 Boeing 787-9s, and plans to deploy the aircraft on international routes to Europe and the USA.

The airline, which is wholly owned by conglomerate FLC Group, tells FlightGlobal it plans to launch sales in October and begin service in the fourth quarter of this year. It is on track to attain an air operator's certificate from Vietnamese authorities, says FLC chairman Trinh Van Quyet.

Bamboo has paid deposits for the Boeing order, which was announced in a ceremony in Washington DC today attended by Vietnam deputy prime minister Vuong Dinh Hue.

The aircraft is tentatively scheduled to be delivered from April 2020 through 2021, says Boeing.

Trinh says the airline is working with Boeing to take delivery of the aircraft earlier, as it wants to begin international service in 2019. Potential destinations include Paris and Berlin, which Bamboo plans to serve from Hanoi, says Trinh.

The airline had previously signed a memorandum of understanding for 24 Airbus A321neos, which remains in place, says the carrier.

(Ghim-Lay Yeo - FlightGlobal News)

Chinese carriers to start taking delivery of A350s in July

Rendering of Airbus A350-900 in China Eastern livery

Several Chinese carriers, eager to launch international expansion plans, are scheduled to start taking delivery of new Airbus A350 aircraft in July, the first of the model to enter-into-service in mainland China.

Air China is expected to introduce its first A350 on the 19th or 20th of July, which will be deployed to operate on Beijing-Chengdu service initially and then will be used on the international routes. The Beijing-based carrier has ordered ten A350s.

Sichuan Airlines is also expected to take delivery of its first A350 in July. The Chengdu-based carrier signed leasing deals in 2016 to take three A350-900s from AerCap and one from Air Lease Corp and in February 2018 ordered 10 Airbus A350-900s.

Sichuan plans to use its A350 on a Chengdu-Boston route which is expected to launch in December with 2X-weekly flights. Other possible intercontinental routes Sichuan is considering for its incoming A350s include Chengdu-Copenhagen, Chengdu-Cairo and Chengdu-Tel Aviv.

China Eastern Airlines, which has ordered 20 A350s, is scheduled to introduce its first A350 in September; Hainan Airlines will take delivery of two A350 from Brazil’s Azul Airlines in the second half of this year; and China Southern Airlines, which has ordered 20 A350s, will introduce its first A350 in 2019.

Notably, the A350 is still waiting for the validation of type certificate from Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC); the aircraft is expected to secure clearance by Chinese authorities on July 1 at the earliest.

(Katie Cantle - ATWOnline News)

Boeing shows hypersonic airliner concept

Boeing unveiled a hypersonic airliner concept June 26.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes has unveiled a concept vehicle for an airliner capable of crossing the Atlantic in two hours, or the Pacific in three.

Boeing has joined with hypersonic specialists at the company’s Research & Technology unit to study a Mach 5 vehicle, which was revealed June 26 at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Aviation 2018 conference in Atlanta.

The concept is a preliminary step toward a long-range development plan targeted at both commercial and military applications. Although not yet defined, the concept is provisionally aimed at a passenger capacity larger than long-range business jets, but smaller than the Boeing 737, with potential entry into service from the late 2030s onward.

Flying at Mach 5, and with a projected cruise altitude of 95,000 ft., the vehicle would travel at more than 2.5 times the speed and 30,000 ft. higher than the supersonic Anglo-French Concorde, which was retired in 2003. According to Boeing, the additional speed would enable same-day return flights even across the Pacific and provide airlines with increased asset utilization.

Emerging from the same internal high-speed vehicle research studies that produced the hypersonic intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) and strike military concept unveiled early in 2018 at the AIAA SciTech conference in Florida, the civil design forms part of a broader Boeing program that might include the nearer-term development of a reusable hypersonic demonstrator. This vehicle, if sanctioned, would be used to prove a wide range of airframe, systems and propulsion technologies for multiple applications, and could be flown as early as 2023 or 2024, Boeing chief scientist for hypersonics Kevin Bowcutt said.

“You have to do these kinds of studies now to know where we have to push the technology and where we have to advance things,” Bowcutt said. “Technologically we could have an [operational military] hypersonic aircraft, such as an ISR, flying in 10 years. But there’s a lot that goes into a commercial airplane, including the market, regulatory and environmental requirements, so it will happen when there is a convergence of those things.”

The Boeing Research & Technology (BR&T) hypersonics group has studied the potential advantages of operating at significantly higher cruise speeds on today’s networks. “If you look at time differences and schedules, you can conceive of going back and forth in a day. It is also interesting from an airline business perspective, because now you can double the rate of income generation [as] you use the asset twice in a day instead of once or even less,” Bowcutt said.

“Our commercial airplane team has been working right alongside the BR&T team as this technology has evolved,” Boeing Commercial Airplane VP product strategy and future airplane development said. “We share our insight into the commercial market and where we see it going, as well as the requirements any commercial airplane would need to meet—ranging from passenger appeal to regulatory mandates.”

The combined team has “so far been looking at requirements and flight times,” Bowcutt said. “And we have some of their advanced concept folks working shoulder-to-shoulder with us. We are trying to get to a point where we have a concept in which we are comfortable with the way the design closes, and then we can start looking at the market and at things like sonic boom and takeoff noise.”

However, from a technological challenge perspective, it is speed that sets the research agenda. “To get from Mach 0.8 to Mach 5 is a sixfold [600%] increase in speed, but from Mach 5 to 6 is only a 20% increase. After Mach 5 you get diminishing returns and increasing costs, so what I am looking for are technical cliffs, or step changes. If you go much faster, eventually you are going to hit a step change in propulsion or materials,” Bowcutt explained.

(Guy Norris - ATWOnline News / Aviation Week)

Monday, June 25, 2018

Gulfstream G650 (c/n 6274) N136ZC

Operating for Flexjet, this gorgeous G650 is captured arriving at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) this afternoon (June 25, 2018) following a very short flight from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX).

(Photos by Michael Carter)

Sunday, June 24, 2018

TAP Portugal uses 'proving flights' to show off new Airbus A330neo

Airbus' newest jet, the A330neo, visited Miami on Saturday. It marked the first U.S. visit for the jet, which is now flying in a series of globe-trotting flights that will cap off a brisk, year-long test flight program for the A330neo.

The first models of the type are expected to be delivered this fall.

The test aircraft, painted in the livery of launch customer TAP Portugal and almost completely configured with the airline's newest cabin update, flew in from the airline's Lisbon headquarters earlier in the day.

The flight is part of a series of flights — known as "route-proving" — required to show regulators the aircraft will be able to perform to the specifications Airbus has claimed. The flights test everything from fuel consumption to air flow in the cabin, meal services to baggage loading. Those types of items are generally considered among the last boxes to check in a new jet's test-flight program.

Airbus says it has 150 hours of such flights coming up, split into three stages. The first had already seen the jet visit Brazil earlier in the week, with Miami as the final stop before returning to Airbus headquarters in Toulouse, France. Future stages will see the jet fly routes as long as Toulouse to Mauritius (5,670 miles) and as short as Kuala Lumpur to Jakarta (699 miles). The aircraft will also return to the U.S., visiting both Atlanta and Chicago.

As the A330neo's launch customer, the occasion also allowed Lisbon-based TAP Portugal an opportunity to show off its latest cabin overhaul several months ahead of taking delivery of its first version of the aircraft.

The new business class cabin will feature 298 seats in total, split between 34 in business and 268 in economy.

Regular business-class passengers on TAP can expect a fairly substantial upgrade from TAP's previous options. The airline chose a Recaro lie-flat seat, arranged in what's become the industry-standard 1-2-1 layout that guarantees direct-aisle access for each customer in the cabin. Other features include extra storage space, power and USB outlets, touch-button seat controls and a 16-inch swing-out inflight entertainment monitor.

The airline also chose Recaro for its economy cabin, which is split between standard coach and a 96-seat "Economy Xtra" section. Both seats are the same, with large seat-back monitors, headrests that adjust both on the sides and for the neck, and power outlets. Both are arranged in a 2-4-2 configuration, with 18” wide seats. The only difference between the two is pitch: 31” in coach, 34” in Xtra.

All cabins will feature Airbus' much vaunted AirSpace cabin improvements, which include larger overhead bins, new lighting options, and changes to the lavatories.

Since the particular plane shown off in Miami is still an active member of the A330neo test fleet, it also has a few features that won't exist after delivery. A test station and related equipment have been installed in the economy cabin, enough to occupy several rows worth of seats in the center of the cabin. Airbus engineers use the station to collect and analyse performance data for the aircraft.

TAP is expected to utilize most of the 21 A330neo jets on order to replace its existing fleet of current-generation Airbus A330s and A340s.

That's a replacement scenario Airbus sales teams are undoubtedly hoping to replicate among carriers now flying the approximately 1,200 older A330s already in service.

Both versions of the A330neo, a -900 and a smaller longer range -800, are intended to be direct replacements of the original A330-300 that first began flying 25 years ago. The newer versions can fly up to 20% more efficiently, Airbus says, in large part thanks to new, larger Rolls Royce engines, along with aerodynamic improvements and introduction of cross-over technology from Airbus' A350 program. Both versions of the neo are able to seat marginally more passengers than current-generation A330s.

But the neo's order book has struggled to gain traction since it first flew for Airbus in October 2017. The program claimed 212 firm orders at the time, but that tally has not changed substantially since. The -800 currently has no orders at all, after sole customer Hawaiian Airlines defected in favor of Boeing 787s in March.

“It's a slow burn,” acknowledges Thomas Burger, Airbus' A330 marketing director, before adding that Airbus expects orders to begin to flow as current-generation A330s retire.

Even Airbus' own chart emphasizes a long game: while the A330neo is due to enter service this year, the bulk of older model A330s needing replacement doesn't begin in earnest for another six years.

“We don't give it up if it's slow for a few years,” said Burger. “We know the market is out there. If we give it up, we lose that market,” he said.

(Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren - Today in the Sky / USA Today)

Friday, June 22, 2018

Nippon Cargo Airlines extends suspension of flights

Nippon Cargo Airlines (NCA) has extended the suspension of its flights for more than another week as the process of checking maintenance records takes longer than expected.

In a customer update, the airline said that it could not re-start operations until it had concluded the record checking process, which was initially expected to take around a week from last Saturday.

However, in an update, NCA said: “The first aircraft will resume operation in more than another week. The rest of the aircraft operation will resume in sequence as soon as the aircraft safety is confirmed.

“We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and worries that we caused our customers. We will do our utmost effort to check safety for resuming operation as quickly as possible.”

Last Friday, The all-cargo aircraft operator said that an “inappropriate maintenance record” concerning the lubricating oil supply to the aircraft parts for one of its Boeing 747-8 freighters (JA 14KZ) had been found.

Local reports say government inspectors had identified the “inappropriate maintenance record” during an investigation into the airline’s records after it had been found to be negligent in reporting damage to aircraft.

The government inspection started after damage to aircraft was incorrectly reported by the airline.

In January, a bird strike, which left a 25cm dent on one of its freighters, was reported as a minor repair instead of a major repair “by mistake”.

Another dent that was found in March during pre-departure maintenance was also incorrectly dealt with.

NCA said that the investigation had been launched on May 22.

“We are fully co-operating with the investigation and remain committed to improved implementation of safe operating procedures,” the airline said at the time.

The airline operates a total of 11 freighter aircraft – three B747-400Fs and eight B747-8Fs.

In May, the Narita headquartered airline carried out a total of 653 flights, with services mainly operating to the US, Europe, and Asia.

Destinations include; Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Anchorage, Amsterdam, Milan, Luxembourg, Frankfurt-Hahn, Osaka, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok and Taipei.

(Air Cargo News)

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

FedEx orders 24 Boeing widebody freighters worth $6.6 billion at list

FedEx Corp. has ordered 12 new Boeing 767-300 freighters and 12 new 777F cargo jets from Boeing.

The 24 wide-body jets are worth $6.6 billion at list prices, though bulk buyers often receive deep discounts. Boeing has not said when the aircraft will be delivered.

The 777 freighter has a list price of $339.2 million, while the 767-300 freighter retails for $212.2 million.

Boeing said the deal brings its total wide-body freighter sales to more than 50 so far this year. Boeing earlier this year said it expected new orders for 777 freighters in 2018 due to an increase in global air cargo demand.

Cargo volumes are rising at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and elsewhere, driving sales of new Boeing wide-body freighters such as Boeing's 747 and 777 jets. Sea-Tac Airport's cargo volume has increased 22 percent since January.

The International Air Transport Association said in January that global air freight markets grew nine percent in 2017, more than double the increase in 2016.

The FedEx order is not yet reflected on Boeing's orders and deliveries website, which says FedEx has so far received 28 of the 34 777s it ordered previously and 55 of the 108 Boeing 767s it has ordered.

FedEx has not ordered any of Boeing's next-generation 777X jets, which are also made in Everett.

FedEx is already the largest operator of 767 and 777 freighters, which are both made in Everett. FedEx and Boeing have been doing business for more than four decades.

Boeing is using a FedEx Express 777 freighter to test new technologies including collision avoidance, 3-D printed titanium parts and 100 percent biofuel. FedEx Express, a subsidiary of Memphis-based FedEx Corp., turned over a plane named “Hollie” to Boeing for the testing in January.

(Ashley Stewart - Puget Sound Business Journal)

United States Air Force KC-46A "Pegasus" (767-2LKC) (41983/1092) N884BA tbr 15-46006

Captured performing one of three missed approaches yesterday (June 18, 2018) at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) as "Boe466" Heavy.

She came from Seattle Boeing Field (BFI-KBFI) and after Long Beach proceeded to March AFB performing one missed approach then onto Las Vegas McCarran International (LAS/KLAS) for one missed approach then headed home to Seattle.

(Photos by Michael Carter)

Monday, June 18, 2018

JetBlue's founder is reportedly raising $100 million to start a new low-cost airline

David Neeleman, the founder of JetBlue, WestJet, and Azul. 
(Associated Press)

JetBlue's founder, David Neeleman, is reportedly launching another low-cost airline in the US. According to the trade publication Airline Weekly, Neeleman's new venture is to be called Moxy and will be aimed at smaller secondary airports.

Moxy has already placed orders for 60 Bombardier CS300 airliners and is working to raise $100 million, Airline Weekly reported, citing people familiar with the venture.

Funding for the new airline is expected to come from several sources including the former Air Canada CEO Robert Milton, the former ILFC CEO Henri Courpron, and Neeleman himself.

Neeleman was not immediately available for comment.

Bombardier CS300.

According to the trade journal, Moxy plans to commence service in 2020 when Bombardier is to deliver the first of its new airliners. All 60 Bombardier jets are expected to be delivered by 2024.

Moxy will target smaller, lower-cost, secondary airports located near major metropolitan transportation hubs. These include the Stewart and Republic airports near New York City as well as airports in Milwaukee and Gary, Indiana, to service Chicago. Baltimore and Trenton, New Jersey, are also prospective destinations.

Should Moxy get off the ground, it would be latest in a long line of airline endeavors for the Brazilian-American serial entrepreneur. Neeleman helped found a series of successful airlines over the past three decades including Morris Air, which was sold to Southwest Airlines; WestJet; JetBlue; and Azul. He's also running Portugal's national airline, TAP. 

(Benjamin Zhang - Business Insider)

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-7H4 (32533/2294) N280WN "Missouri One"

Delivered to Southwest Airlines on June 20, 2007, the aircraft wore the "Penguin One" livery from June 2013 - April 2015 when due to negative publicity issues at Sea World the aircraft was immediately repainted to it's current "Missouri One" livery in April 2015.

The aircraft is seen on short final to Rwy 24R at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on December 13, 2017.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Westjet Boeing 737-8CT(WL) (37158/2841) C-GWSV

Caught on final to Rwy 24R at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on January 11, 2018 sporting the carriers "Walt Disney World - Frozen" livery celebrating the Walt Disney movie. 

The aircraft was delivered to Westjet on March 20, 2009.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Sun Country Airlines Boeing 737-8Q8 (30689/908) N804SY "Lake of the Woods"

Seen on short final to Rwy 25L at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on November 20, 2017. This lovely aircraft was delivered factory fresh to the carrier on August 7, 2001.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Air Canada Airbus A321-211 (c/n 1691) C-FJNX

Captured at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) sporting the carriers new livery on September 22, 2017.

This aircraft was originally delivered to Air France as F-GTAL on March 4, 2002 and served with the carrier until being WFU on November 1, 2015. Air Canada leased the aircraft from Apollo Aviation on January 13, 2016 entering service with the carrier on April 14, 2016.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Spirit Airlines Airbus A319-132 (c/n 2983) N528NK

Delivered to the carrier on January 19, 2007 the aircraft is captured on short final to Rwy 25L at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on September 22, 2017 sporting one of the three liveries currently worn by the companies aircraft.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Frontier Airlines Airbus A320-251N (c/n 7824) N316FR "Shelly The Sea Turtle"

Taxies from Rwy 25L at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) following it's arrival from Denver International Airport (DEN/KDEN) on December 5, 2017.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Volaris Airbus A319-132 (c/n 3463) N502VL "Ana"

Arriving at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on December 13, 2017 an absolutely gorgeous day in SoCal and little did I know but this would be the last time I would see this aircraft.

Delivered to Volaris on April 14, 2008 (XA-VOM - NTU) it operated with the carrier until early this year (2018) when it was WFU and returned to AerCap Leasing. The aircraft now serves with Cambodian carrier Lanmei Airlines as XU-963.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Aeromexico Connect Embraer ERJ-190LR (c/n 19000673) XA-GAK

Captured on short final to Rwy 25L at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on December 13, 2017. The aircraft was delivered to the carrier on July 7, 2014 ex-Embraer PR-EGV.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Interjet Airbus A320-214 (c/n 3123) XA-ILY

Seen on short final to Rwy 25L at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on December 13, 2017. Originally delivered to Mexicana as N213MX, ex-Airbus F-WWBE on May 24, 2007 the aircraft found its way to Interjet on October 13, 2010 following the demise of Mexicana.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Friday, June 15, 2018

Airbus delivers first US - Built A321neo to Hawaiian Airlines

Airbus delivered its first American-built A321-271N (c/n 8129) N212HA this week handing the aircraft over to Hawaiian Airlines on June 11. It is also the first new engine option (PW1133G) aircraft to be completed at the Airbus’ US manufacturing facility in Mobile, Alabama.

Hawaiian flies larger Airbus A330 jets between Hawaii and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The airline just placed an order for 10 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, picking the long-haul jets over new Airbus A330 wide-bodies.

Hawaiian (owned by parent company Hawaiian Holdings) already had three European-made A321neo jets, using the aircraft for daily nonstop flights between Honolulu and Portland, Oregon, and Long Beach, California.

The jets will fly between San Diego and Kahului, Maui; Portland and Honolulu and Kahului; Oakland and Honolulu, Kahului and Līhu‘e, Kauai; and Los Angeles and Līhu‘e and Kona on the Island of Hawaii.

The airline is taking 17 more aircraft through 2020 and said it will announce new routes between the West Coast and Hawaii using the new jets.

Hawaiian's A321neo jets have room for 189 passengers: 16 in first class, 44 in premium economy seats and 129 in economy. Flights have wireless internet, USB outlets, wireless streaming in-flight entertainment and complimentary meals.

Airbus said the A321neo operates 15 percent more efficiently than the A321ceo (current engine option) aircraft.

SeaTac-based Alaska Air Group also has Airbus A321neo jets in its fleet, inheriting them from Virgin America.

Three of those jets have been painted with Alaska color schemes. Alaska said last year that all 10 of the new aircraft would be in service by the third quarter of 2018.

(Jim Hammerand - Puget Sound Business Journal)

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Etihad Airways in talks to cancel, defer Boeing 777X orders

Etihad Airways is exploring options with Boeing to cancel or defer orders for 777X jets worth billions of dollars in a fresh sign of the carrier's financial strains and potentially squeezing Boeing's newest model, four sources familiar with the matter said.

Etihad, owned by Abu Dhabi, has been reviewing its fleet plans as part of a strategy overhaul launched after a nearly $2 billion loss in 2016.

The airline's management believes it no longer needs all of the 25 777X twin-engined jets and may be willing to incur penalties for cancellations rather than be saddled with future recurring losses stemming from overcapacity, the sources said. 

Etihad and Boeing declined to comment.

Etihad is a launch customer of the 777X: an upgrade to Boeing's successful mini-jumbo series that includes plans for the world's largest twin-engined jetliner, the 406-seat 777-9 which is due to enter service in 2020.

Cancelling or deferring orders for jets earmarked for production at such an early stage of the ambitious new program could create a headache for Boeing as it switches to the new model.

Although twinjets like the 777X have prevailed over larger and less-efficient four-engined aircraft like the A380 and Boeing 747, analysts say demand for such aircraft remains relatively thin due to cost and size. The 777-9 version has a list price of $426 million.


Finding alternative airlines to fill Etihad's production slots in time for the launch phase may not be easy, they say, though Boeing has said it is confident in demand for the 777X and that development of the plane is on schedule.

Rivals Emirates and Qatar Airways are also launch customers of the 777X, whose features include a sleek new wing with folding wingtips to allow it to fit in parking stands.

Other buyers include Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa , Japan's ANA, Singapore Airlines, and Turkish Airlines has also expressed interest.

Few details of the fleet review have been made public but Etihad's new Group Chief Executive Tony Douglas said in April it aimed to develop in "a sustainable way".

The airline has been shrinking its business, including cutting routes and retiring some aircraft without replacements.

Reuters reported in May that planemakers were preparing for possible changes to dozens of plane orders from Etihad as it pressed ahead with its review.

It remains unclear to what extent suppliers will be willing to accommodate such requests, with the Gulf making up a significant portion of wide-body jet demand.

Etihad has outstanding orders worth tens of billions of dollars for over 160 Airbus and Boeing aircraft, including the new 777Xs.

The bulk of the aircraft were ordered when Etihad was pursuing an aggressive expansion strategy to keep pace with Emirates and Qatar Airways.

Etihad said then that under the agreements with Airbus and Boeing it could transfer orders to airlines it had invested in.

But the airline investment strategy seemingly collapsed last year when minority-owned Air Berlin and Alitalia filed for insolvency. Etihad currently holds stakes in four other airlines, half as many as it once held.

(Alexander Cornwell and Stanley Carvalho - Reuters) 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Bombardier BD700 Global 6000 (c/n 9561) N979CB

Operated by Design Air Professionals LLC, this lovely aircraft is captured climbing from Rwy 25L at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on December 8, 2017.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Southwest wants to be 'Milwaukee's hometown airline' as Midwest Express revival looms

Before 2009, Southwest Airlines didn't even fly out of General Mitchell International Airport.

But by 2017, the Dallas-based airline held a 43 percent market share at Milwaukee's airport, and with 23 direct flight destinations, has a veritable stranglehold on the market. When Ryan Green, Southwest's vice president and chief marketing officer, addressed the Greater Milwaukee Committee Monday, he made it clear that the airline has prioritized the Milwaukee market and hopes to continue its regional dominance.

"I want to be clear with you all," Green said. "We want to be Milwaukee's hometown airline. It's really important to us for you all to consider us your hometown carrier. That is why we do the things that we do to not only serve the market, and hopefully do so profitably, but also to be really ingrained and be a deep part of the community."

That comment is particularly noteworthy given that in late May, Midwest Express, formerly known as "Milwaukee's hometown airline," filed a private stock offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission, signaling its intentions to return service to General Mitchell International Airport in the coming years.

Green also referenced Midwest directly during his Monday comments.

"I started coming to Milwaukee a few years ago, and one of the things that I heard a lot about was a chocolate chip cookie," Green said, alluding to Midwest's signature in-flight snack. "It was a beloved chocolate chip cookie, and all that came with Midwest."

He made those comments while showing the room a graphic that illustrated how Southwest, by the end of 2017, was bigger at General Mitchell International Airport than the prior incarnation of Midwest was at its peak in 2007. Midwest Airlines, the successor to Midwest Express, was acquired by Republic Airways Holdings Inc. in 2009 and was merged into Frontier Airlines in 2010.

"Today, Southwest Airlines brings more people to and from Milwaukee than any of the other airlines that have served Milwaukee at the past at their peak," Green said.

And if anything, Green's comments indicated that Southwest plans to push its market share at Mitchell International toward the 50 percent mark.

"We feel good about the growth in this market," Green said. "We've served Milwaukee for less than 10 years, and we hope that you keep choosing to fly out of Milwaukee and the demand is there and we can continue to grow together."

(Patrick Leary - Milwaukee Business Journal) 

Monday, June 11, 2018

The votes are in: Sun Country Airlines' new paint scheme is ...

Last week, Sun Country Airlines asked employees to vote on their preference for a new paint scheme that will eventually adorn the carrier’s airplanes. Now the results are in.

Sun Country employees picked the design labeled “Team A” in a “landslide” vote.

The company announced the winning design via social media, noting that it introduces new elements while keeping some older ones. The Minnesota-based carrier also noted that Lake Minnetonka – one of the Twin Cites' many lakes – served as inspiration for some of the new livery.

Via its Facebook page, Sun Country said:
This is the new 'livery' that Sun Country employees voted to put on the carrier's aircraft.
(Photo: Sun Country Airlines)

“This livery reflects our brand in several ways. As you can see, the compass logo on the tail mirrors the tail of our current livery, keeping us connected with our wonderful passengers we’ve come to know throughout the years. Second, the introduction of Minnetonka’s depth chart as our new ‘lakes’ design element demonstrates our continued commitment to our home state and local customers. Lastly, the refreshed bold use of orange symbolizes our bold vision for a bright future serving leisure travelers ahead. See you in the skies!”

When the vote was first announced, Brian Davis – Sun Country’s Senior Vice President, Commercial – described it as a way to give employees a voice in Sun Country’s transformation from a traditional low-cost carrier into a more of a no-frills, budget-oriented outfit.

“It is important to me that as we build, we build together,” Davis said in a note to workers ahead of the vote. “It is imperative that we not only listen to the feedback of our customers, but also the expertise and input of our most valued asset – you!”

Sun Country says all new planes coming into its fleet will bear the new livery, including some new aircraft due to arrive by the end of the year. The airline also will update its existing fleet of about 20 aircraft, though planes will get the new scheme only when it’s time for their next regularly scheduled repaintings. Sun Country’s aircraft typically get repainted about once every seven years, though the schedule may vary by individual plane, according to spokeswoman Jessica Wheeler.

(Ben Mutzabaugh - Today In The Sky / USAToday)

No sacred cows': South African Airways boss plans deep cuts

Six months into the job of running loss-making South African Airways, Vuyani Jarana is mapping out a punishing austerity plan.

Jarana, who faces the daunting task of turning the flag carrier around, said layoffs and other cuts were unavoidable as he contends with a draining cost-to-income ratio of 108 percent.

"SAA cannot carry the same workforce, whether it is pilots, cabin crew or administration," he told Reuters. "We have to make some tough decisions to save the airline. There cannot be sacred cows when it comes to SAA."

He declined to put a number to the job losses, but two sources familiar with his plan said the state-owned carrier was likely to cut between 1,000 and 1,500 people via a combination of layoffs and voluntary redundancies to bring its employee-per-aircraft ratio in line with regional competitors.

The numbers include roughly 300 flight attendants, according to one of the sources. Some of the carrier's 700 pilots, encouraged to look for jobs elsewhere, have drafted their own severance pay offer to SAA, the second source said.

In a dramatic fall from grace over the past decade, SAA has lost its place as Africa's biggest airline and a symbol of patriotic pride to become a source of frustration for taxpayers who have forked out more than 30 billion rand ($2.3 billion) since 2012 to keep it in the air.

SAA's woes are emblematic of the struggles of traditional flag carriers around the world, such as Malaysia Airlines, Air India and Air France-KLM. These airlines are contending with low-cost rivals and a spike in oil prices, which puts pressure on those with the highest labour and other non-fuel costs.

The problems are also an illustration of the malaise afflicting the airline industry in Africa, whose airlines have the weakest finances and emptiest planes of any region of the world.

Jarana told Reuters he was also setting up other moves to reduce the airline's 33.5 billion rand operating costs. They include squeezing suppliers for better deals and cutting back on its number of flights to London from twice to once a day.

The carrier makes its biggest losses on the London route because it faces fierce competition that expose its inefficiencies.

"My view is that the starting point to getting out of the hole is to stop digging, you stop doing the things that sink you deeper into trouble," Jarana said in his office near O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.


Although the global industry is looking at another profitable year in 2018, much of the money is in the United States where legacy carriers have been through years of restructuring.

Africa is the weakest region of all, with airlines struggling to improve load factors - percentage of seats filled - from the world's lowest level of 61.5 percent in 2018, compared with 81.7 percent globally, according to International Air Transport Association forecasts.

SAA employs just over 10,000 people and has 64 aircraft, putting its employee-per-plane ratio at 160. That compares with just over 130 employees per aircraft for Ethiopian Airlines , which has overtaken SAA to be become the biggest airline by revenue and profit in recent years.

However, the ratio is below 190 employees per aircraft at Air India, a debt-laden and loss-making carrier that last month failed to attract a single bidder for the government's 76 percent stake.

Despite carrying roughly the same number of passengers annually - around 10 million - Ethiopian Airlines makes more than $200 million annual profit while SAA extended its losing streak to the sixth year in 2017 when it suffered a hefty $400 million loss.

Ethiopian Airlines has bucked the African trend and has been expanding fast, thanks in part to a geographical position that enables it to serve as a hub in competition with Gulf carriers and to a young, modern fleet.


While investors are likely to welcome Jarana's blueprint, it could put him on a collision course with politicians a year before the national elections.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa faces a dilemma.

He wants to wean SAA off its state support, which is a major risk to South Africa's credit rating, and burnish his economic reformist credentials. Yet mass layoffs could prove politically unpalatable in a country where a quarter of adults are unemployed.

However BNP Paribas South Africa senior economist Jeff Schultz said the government had little choice but to take the political hit at the polls from turnaround plans at inefficient state firms like SAA and power utility Eskom.

"Large cuts to state-owned companies' workforces are probably unavoidable and necessary at this juncture, even as the ruling African National Congress is going into an election year," he said.

To cushion the blows, however, Jarana said he had been talking to other airlines about offloading some pilots and flight attendants to them, without naming the carriers.

The plan comes at a time when there is a growing shortage of pilots across the airline industry.

"We have got excess pilots and we are signing up contracts for them so that they are not put out on the street," said Jarana, a former executive at telecom company Vodacom. "That is what we have been working on in the past five months."


Sunday, June 10, 2018

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker Is Deep in a Mess of His Own Making

It can't be fun to be American Airlines CEO Doug Parker right now. His company has experienced massive nonfuel cost increases over the past few years. Now that the carrier is finally reining in controllable costs, fuel prices have surged, creating a new headache. Meanwhile, American has the weakest balance sheet of any major U.S. airline.

At a major industry event last week, Parker reiterated his stance that industry capacity growth will slow and airfares will rise to offset the increase in fuel costs. However, he acknowledged that this process wasn't likely to play out right away.

Indeed, Parker's protege Scott Kirby -- now the president of United Continental is pushing ahead with an aggressive growth plan despite recent fuel price increases. The threat from United's growth will make it hard for American Airlines to fully offset its rising fuel bill.

United Continental changes course

For many years after the United Airlines-Continental Airlines merger, United was arguably the strongest proponent of "capacity discipline" in the U.S. airline industry. As fuel prices rocketed higher after the Great Recession, United Airlines maintained a very slow growth rate to ensure that it could pass its rising costs through to customers. Even when fuel prices plunged in 2014 and 2015, United continued to grow at a very modest rate.

Everything changed after United Airlines poached Kirby from American. Kirby believes that in the long run, United must regain its "natural" market share -- particularly in smaller cities, where airfares are high -- to improve its profitability and competitiveness.

As a result, United plans to increase its capacity by about 5% in 2018, with a similar growth rate in 2019 and 2020. That's more than three times United's growth rate for the 2015-2016 period. Much of this growth will be focused in the carrier's three main mid-continent hubs of Chicago, Houston, and Denver.

No good choices for American Airlines

Thus far, Kirby hasn't shown any inclination to scale back United's growth, even though the price of jet fuel has risen by more than $0.20 per gallon since he first revealed the carrier's aggressive growth plan in January. That's putting American Airlines in quite a bind.

On the one hand, American Airlines would probably like to cut capacity to help it push fares higher. After all, its adjusted pre-tax margin fell to 9.1% last year from 12.6% a year earlier and it is on track to post another substantial margin decline in 2018 due to rising fuel costs.

On the other hand, cutting capacity would play right into United's hands. American Airlines competes directly with United Airlines in Chicago, and its Dallas-Fort Worth hub competes for much of the same connecting traffic that United is targeting in Houston. Capacity cuts by American would help United Airlines gain market share and become a more formidable rival.

As a result, American Airlines has been forced to err on the side of leaving too much capacity in the market and absorbing the hit to its profit margin. This is probably the right move in the long run, but that doesn't make it any less painful.

American Airlines needs more flexibility

American's massive debt load could become a big problem if the competitive battle with United Airlines continues unabated through 2020. American Airlines frittered away billions of dollars on share buybacks over the past few years, causing its debt to swell to an unhealthy level.

As of the end of 2017, American Airlines had more than $25 billion of debt and capital lease obligations. Its pension plan was also underfunded by $7.5 billion. To make matters worse, nearly half of its debt matures by 2021.

Right now, the economy is booming. This has allowed American Airlines to remain decently profitable despite its woes. It has also had no trouble rolling over its debt this year.

However, if there is a recession in the next few years and United opts to keep growing, American would likely be forced to cede market share to its rival to protect its profitability and ensure that it can meet its debt and pension obligations. That's exactly the kind of trade-off that management has been trying to avoid. Unfortunately, the company's reckless capital allocation decisions of the past few years could put it in a bind during the next downturn.

(Adam Levine-Weinberg - The Motley Fool) 

Friday, June 8, 2018

Gulfstream G-IVSP (c/n 1193) N608CL

Operated by Cassandra Lee Flight Operations LLC, this lovely G-IVSP arrives at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) at 08:42 PST as "KAI58" from Oakland International (OAK/KOAK) and parked at Ross Aviation.

(Photo by Michael Carter)

Gulfstream G650 (c/n 6316) N316GA

June 8, 2018 (Top)
May 31, 2018 (Bottom)
Captured on pre-delivery test flights a week apart at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB).

(Photos by Michael Carter)

Gulfstream G650 (c/n 6307) N307GA tbr N518KA

Departs from Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on May 25, 2018. (Above)

Short final and touchdown at Long Beach following a successful pre-delivery test sortie.

(Photos by Michael Carter)

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Gulfstream G650 (c/n 6334) N634GA tbr N650GD

Captured on short final to Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) as it arrives from the factory at Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport (SAV/KSAV) on June 6, 2018.

(Photos by Michael Carter)

Southwest Airlines designates Midway Airport an 'innovation station'

Southwest Airlines has designated its largest hub, Chicago’s Midway International Airport, as what its calling an “innovation station.” At least, that’s what a sign prominently posted in the airport’s B concourse announced to passengers as of this past weekend.

The messaging on the sign was relatively vague, referring to “new opportunities and exclusive updates designed to make make your in-airport experience even better.” As always with Southwest, which likes to keep things as upbeat as possible, the messaging on the sign also noted that “when your journey is easier, we smile even bigger.”

I reached out to a Southwest spokesman for further explanation of what might be forthcoming for passengers transiting through the newly-designated Innovation Station that Midway now is, and two specific things emerged from my inquiry.

Southwest apparently plans to experiment with what the low-fare carrier is calling new “wayfinding signs” to help passengers navigate around the airport — something that could be helpful in the months ahead as Midway is in the early stages of a massive revamp that will include a new food court, a children’s play area and a much larger Transportation Security Administration checkpoint.

The Southwest spokesman also said the airline could use Midway to test out new “tools designed to celebrate with our customers on important milestones like birthdays and anniversaries.” Pressed further on what this is all about, the spokesman indicated that a Southwest customer service agent or other employees might use new devices that contain information about passengers on a particular flight to help personalize the experience.

United Airlines and other carriers already have software and devices that help them do this sort of thing. (To wit, I was startled recently to hear a United purser on an international flight greet me with a “Happy Birthday” without my ever having said a word about the occasion.) Looks as if Southwest is trying to move in this same direction in its interaction with customers.

The Southwest spokesman added that the airline might be doing other things “behind the scenes” as well to make travel easier throughout the year. It’s those behind-the-scenes things, such as perhaps a more efficient de-icing of planes, that could be the best kind of innovation Southwest could institute at Midway. Last winter, Southwest flights were horrendously delayed because of various de-icing issues.

(Lewis Lazare - Chicago Business Journal)

Boeing says it will not deliver any aircraft to Iran

Boeing will not deliver aircraft to Iran in light of US sanctions, effectively aborting a pair of large contracts with Iranian carriers, a Boeing spokesman said Wednesday.

"We have not delivered any aircraft to Iran, and given we no longer have a license to sell to Iran at this time, we will not be delivering any aircraft," the Boeing spokesman said.

"We did not factor the Iran orders into our order backlog either."

The announcement follows President Donald Trump's decision last month to pull the United States out of the landmark 2015 nuclear accord between Iran and major powers that had cleared the way for a relaxation of sanctions on Iran.

Boeing had previously said it would respect US policy on Iran and had pushed back the delivery dates on the Iran planes without commenting directly on deliveries.

Boeing and Airbus were among the companies to receive US Treasury licenses to begin conducting business in Iran under strict oversight after sanctions were eased.

Boeing in December 2016 announced an agreement to sell 80 aircraft valued at $16.6 billion to Iran Air. Boeing also announced a contract in April 2017 to sell Iran Aseman Airlines 30 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft for $3 billion, with purchase rights for another 30 aircraft.

Last week, a person close to the matter said engineering giant General Electric would cease all activities in Iran by November 4 and meet a 180-day deadline set by the Trump administration to exit the country.

(AFP / Yahoo Business News)

AerCap and Boeing Celebrate the Milestone Delivery of the 100th Aircraft to Ethiopian Airlines

AerCap has announced the delivery of a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, on long term operating lease to Ethiopian Airlines. The milestone delivery marks an important first in African aviation, with Ethiopian Airlines becoming the first African airline to reach 100 aircraft.

AerCap is the world’s largest lessor of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, with 115 aircraft owned and on order.

This milestone follows a series of firsts celebrated by AerCap and Ethiopian Airlines. In July 2016 AerCap delivered to Ethiopian Airlines their first Airbus A350 aircraft, making the airline the first operator in Africa, followed by the delivery of their first 787-9 in October 2017.

"We are very pleased to deliver the 100th aircraft to Ethiopian Airlines, and to be a part of the airlines’ great success story,” said Aengus Kelly, CEO of AerCap. "We congratulate Tewolde GebreMariam and all the team at Ethiopian Airlines, and wish them continued success in leading the way in African aviation.”

Ethiopian Group CEO, Mr. Tewolde GebreMariam said: "It is an immense honor for all of us at Ethiopian to reach the milestone of 100 aircraft. This milestone is a continuation of our historical aviation leadership role in Africa and a testimony of the successful implementation of our fast, profitable and sustainable growth plan, Vision 2025.”

Marty Bentrott, senior vice president sales for Middle East, Turkey, Africa, Russia & Central Asia Boeing Commercial Airplanes said, "The delivery of the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner as Ethiopian Airlines’ 100th aircraft is a proud moment in our historic partnership. Over the years, Ethiopian has been an aviation pioneer in Africa, flying technologically-advanced airplanes such as the Boeing 777, 787 and soon the 737 MAX as well. It's an honor to be Ethiopian Airline's partner. We are also proud to work with Ethiopian to continue a tradition of transporting humanitarian supplies on the delivery flight.”


A decade after debut, first A380 jumbos to be broken up

A German investment company said on Tuesday it would strip two unwanted Airbus A380 super-jumbo passenger jets for parts after failing to find an airline willing to keep them flying following a decision by Singapore Airlines not to keep them in service.

The decision by Dortmund-based Dr Peters Group deals a fresh blow to the planemaker's efforts to maintain market interest in the double-decker, barely 10 years after it went into service hailed by heads of state as a symbol of European ambition.

"Psychologically it is not good for Airbus, but this is a very large aircraft with a very small second-hand market," said UK-based aerospace analyst Howard Wheeldon.

Despite strong reviews for its quiet and spacious cabin, demand for the 544-seater has fallen as many airlines drop the industry's largest four-engined aircraft in favor of smaller twin-engined ones that are more efficient, and easier to fill.

"It's too big. There was a battle for airline fashions and it lost out," Wheeldon said.

Airbus says the iconic jet will eventually prove itself as travel demand saturates airport capacity at major cities.

"We can’t comment on the decision by Dr Peters, which is the owner of the aircraft," an Airbus spokesman said.

"We remain confident in the secondary market for the A380 and the potential to extend the operator base."

Singapore Airlines launched A380 services amid fanfare in December 2007, but returned the first two aircraft to their German financiers when leases expired some 10 years later.

The two discarded aircraft were repainted and flown to Tarbes in the French Pyrenees to be stored, and since then their fate has been uncertain as their owner looked for other takers.

"After extensive as well as intensive negotiations with various airlines such as British Airways, HiFly and IranAir, Dr Peters Group has decided to sell the aircraft components and will recommend this approach to its investors," the company said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

Airbus has been working for months to try to stimulate a second-hand market for the A380 to encourage new airlines to take the risk of investing in the plane, knowing the asset would be worth the right amount when they decide to sell it on.

When it was launched, the A380 boasted highly customized interiors to help airlines promote a luxury feel, but the cost of replacing such bespoke fittings is now seen as a handicap.

"The problem is the cost of reconfiguration. It is $40 million or more per plane," a senior industry source said.


The planes will not be scrapped entirely, but their huge frames will be combed for valuable components such as landing gears and electronics, a Dr Peters official told Reuters.

Their engines have already been removed and leased back to manufacturer Rolls-Royce for use as spares.

U.S.-based VAS Aero Services will be responsible for extracting and selling parts.

Dr Peters said the deal would yield a positive return for investors in funds used to finance the jets. It operates a number of boutique funds targeted at wealthy individuals and has two more A380s in Singapore that could face the same fate.

While dismantling the first two passenger-carrying A380s will embarrass Airbus and dismay the plane's 3,800 workers, later examples of the flagship jet may not be as vulnerable.

Early copies of a new plane tend to be less efficient and Singapore Airlines recently ordered some new A380s. However, overall demand is thinner than Airbus expected, forcing it to slow production to a trickle while looking for more business.

Still, Emirates, the largest A380 customer, is keeping faith with the jet which brings millions of passengers a year through its Dubai hub and is associated with the airline's global brand.

Throwing the loss-making program a lifeline for a decade, Emirates recently ordered up to 36 more A380s and set out plans on Tuesday to install 56 Premium Economy seats.

(Tim Hepher - Reuters / Yahoo Business News)

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Oman Air Nears Widebody Order As Network Expansion Takes Off

(Photo by TJDarmstadt)

Oman Air is close to ordering the largest variant of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner or the Airbus A350, chief executive Abdulaziz Al Raisi has revealed, with a decision potentially expected by the end of this year.

The flag-carrier wants to replace some of its ten A330s around the turn of the decade, and Al Raisi believes that high-capacity next-generation aircraft are best-suited to its expanding network. The planned up-gauging comes as management conduct studies into a dozen possible route launches.

“With Boeing we are looking at 787-10, and with Airbus we are looking at A350-900 or -1000,” he told me in a telephone interview, referring to stretched models currently entering service that typically seat between 315 and 366 passengers depending on their configuration.

“We are hoping by end of this year we could finalize the whole deal.”

Oman Air already deploys seven smaller 787-8s and 787-9s with between 234 and 288 seats. Three more Dreamliners will arrive this year – including the airline’s first 787-9 configured in a three-cabin layout, due later this month – while another three are expected in 2019.

This year’s arrivals will be put to work on the London and Manchester routes. The A330-300s they replace will be reconfigured in a high-density layout – up from 230 to 312 seats – and re-deployed to Jakarta and Manila.

“Most of our routes are matured enough now,” Al Raisi said of the fleet-wide up-gauging, which will also see Oman Air retire its 71-seat Embraers. “A couple of years ago, we were looking at aircraft with 220 to 230 seats. Today, I am looking at aircraft with over 300 seats. Maybe by next year, or in a couple of years’ time, we will be looking at an aircraft with 380 to 390 seats.”

Asked about network development beyond this year’s already disclosed route launches – Istanbul, Casablanca, Moscow and Malé – the chief executive rattled off a dozen markets under consideration.

Flights to either Shanghai or Beijing could get under way in the first quarter of 2019, he said, following successful talks with the Chinese government.

Elsewhere in East Asia and Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Bali are now being evaluated. In Europe, Amsterdam is under review. In Africa, Tunis and either Johannesburg or Cape Town are considered attractive, particularly once feeder traffic from China increases.

But it is India – already Oman Air’s largest overseas market, with 11 points served – where the flag-carrier sees the biggest potential for growth. Muscat has long complained that its bilateral agreement with New Delhi unfairly curbs traffic rights. Predicting more liberal access, Al Raisi said that Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Mangalore and Coimbatore are now in his sights.

Frequencies will also grow across the existing network, he added, with Paris, Milan, Frankfurt, Munich and Guangzhou among the identified targets.

“I’ve got a very long wish-list, but it depends on the numbers,” the chief executive stressed. “Oman Air is very well known for its steady growth. We don’t want to grow really fast. We are doing it very wisely.”

The loss-making state-owned airline has postponed its breakeven target to 2024, by which time the fleet should have grown to at least 70 aircraft. Its outstanding order-book comprises five 787-9s, four 787-8s and 25 737 MAX 8s – five of which are due this year and “five to six” in 2019.

Oman Air currently operates to 50 cities in the Middle East, Asia, Europe and Africa with a fleet of 21 737-800s, five 737-900ERs, two 737 MAX 8s, four 787-8s, three 787-9s, six A330-300s, four A330-200s and four Embraer E175s.

(Martin Rivers - Forbes)