Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Spurred by Amazon, Airbus reportedly weighs building A330 cargo model

Airbus is considering building a freighter version of its slow-selling A330neo wide-body, spurred by requests from potential customers Amazon and United Parcel Service, according to people familiar with the matter.

The interest from Amazon and UPS could rekindle a competition between Airbus and Boeing as the global air-cargo market rebounds from a decade long slump. Production of the popular Boeing 767 freighter has been restricted as the U.S. manufacturer focuses on a military tanker variant that is more than a year behind schedule, the people said.

If Airbus moves ahead, the cargo model could help lift sales of the A330neo, a re-engined version of the European planemaker’s smallest wide-body, which has struggled in the marketplace. The aircraft has garnered 214 orders and lost a sale this month after Hawaiian Airlines switched to Boeing’s Dreamliner.

Airbus and Amazon declined to comment. “UPS studies possibilities for acquiring new and used aircraft as a matter of routine business. However, anything you may be hearing is speculation,’’ Glenn Zaccara, a spokesman for the Atlanta-based courier, said by email.

Airbus has already been exploring ways to boost sales of the A330, including a pitch to increase the jet’s maximum takeoff weight and range. Both Amazon and UPS are asking Airbus to consider stretching the A330-900’s fuselage to enable it to carry more cargo while flying a shorter range, the people said.

A freight variant would be a natural advancement of an aircraft that uses the same fuselage as its predecessor, the A330ceo. There is already a freighter version of the earlier model. It garnered just 42 orders over more than a decade, all but four of which have been delivered. One issue was that the A330 freighter’s front landing gear has to be extended to overcome a tilt forward on the passenger version that complicates cargo loading.

Amazon plans an initial fleet of 40 used 767 freighters for its Prime Air fleet, and has discussed ordering airplanes with Boeing in the past. The $1.5 billion air hub the company is plotting to build near Cincinnati suggests it will eventually have a far larger operation.

Still, it’s uncertain whether adding new engines to the A330ceo freighter would allow Toulouse, France-based Airbus to make significant inroads in a market dominated by Boeing. The Chicago-based company has logged 196 orders for its 767-300 freighter, almost five times more than the Airbus A330-200F, and has 61 undelivered planes.

Cargo carriers typically value cost and capacity over performance, said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace consultant at Teal Group.

While Boeing’s freighter, at a list price of $212.2 million, is cheaper, brand-new cargo planes from both companies also face competition from inexpensive conversions from used passenger models. A wave of retired 767s and A330s provide “a lot of feedstock,’’ Aboulafia said by telephone.

(Julie Johnsson and Benjamin Katz - Bloomberg News / The Seattle Times)

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A350-941 (c/n 187) B-LGD

The carriers newest A350 which was delivered on February 28, 2018 is captured arriving at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on a glorious St. Patrick's Day morning here in SoCal.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Boeing moves to keep 777X on track after engine snag

Boeing Co has scrambled to reorganize testing of its new 777X to avoid being delayed by engine snags, while robots and mechanics are starting work on the fuselage, the executive who heads efforts to build the world's largest twin-engined jet said in an interview.

Engine supplier General Electric began flight trials of its new GE9X jet engine on Tuesday after a three-month delay caused mainly by a problem in its compressor. But to put the engine development back on track it must build a new component.

During that time, Boeing will place two temporary engines on the first flight-test aircraft that is gradually beginning to take shape, starting with its lightweight carbon wings and now the fuselage, which Boeing says is on schedule.

The engines, identical in every other respect to the ones that will go into service, will be swapped for fresh ones with the new part before the first 777X carries out its maiden flight next year. The temporary engines will not be fired up, but having them in place will allow other tests to go ahead.

"Honestly, when this happened I thought 'this is going to be bad' and we just kept grinding and grinding at it, and we came up with some pretty creative things to test where we could, build where we could," 777X Vice President and General Manager Eric Lindblad told Reuters.

"To put engines on and then take them off - that is all to protect the schedule," Lindblad said.

The hurried rejig reflects the fact that after years of planning, production has begun in earnest - something evident from activity inside Boeing's new high-tech wing center.

"We are at the point where it is time to start scaling up the speed that we build things here," Lindblad said inside the 1.3 million-square-foot (120,800-square-meter) fabrication plant where machines weave and bake major parts of the carbon wings.

The engine swap is also an example of how Boeing is trying to avoid eating into the 'buffer' traditionally built into development schedules. That's because it faces a challenging two years before the latest version of its 777 enters service.

"We are now in the thick of it ... There is no more waiting until later to solve problems," Lindblad said. "There are still two years left. You cannot give away your buffer."

The 777X aims to maintain Boeing's grip on the 'mini-jumbo' market by leapfrogging Airbus SE's 365-seat A350-1000. Boeing has sold over 300 jets, though activity has slowed.


So far, Boeing says it is on track to meet a 2020 target for delivering the first 406-seat 777-9 model to Emirates Airline.

But although the engine snag marks the first significant public slippage, Boeing has already faced a number of teething problems in building carbon wings and other components.

"Everything is hard at this point where you start building an airplane. When you ask me how wing assembly has been going, it's been hard," Lindblad said.

One of the problems involves fitting the carbon panels to the skeleton of spars and ribs, with the light but strong carbon-fiber material less forgiving than traditional aluminum.

"Assuming we continue to march our way through the plan that we have laid out, I feel pretty optimistic about (the engine) and I think that wing assembly is a matter of incorporating the learnings," Lindblad said.

Six months ago, Lindblad says something else was making him feel "queasy". Integration of aircraft systems in a special demonstration lab was not happening as quickly as planned.

"I am more optimistic today," he said. He added that he would be "cautiously guarded" until the first flight, due in the first quarter of 2019.

Another headache has been producing enough wing stringers: reinforcing strips that go outwards from the fuselage.

"I feel confident we have got a plan for that so we are tracking basically back to schedule."

Now Boeing must marry together the various wing parts and produce the long metallic fuselage.

Fuselage panels arriving from Japan have been loaded into a "Fuselage Automated Upright Build" (FAUB) machine used to fasten them. Boeing had delays when the machine was tried out on existing versions of the 777, but Boeing says the system is now running at full speed of five planes a month.

Drawing on experience of the smaller 737 MAX, which has absorbed production increases on a larger scale, Lindblad said the 777X production system had been set up to handle a targeted speed but would not disclose capacity.

"We are planning for world demand," he said.

The first task is to get flight trials under way so that ambitious fuel-saving goals can be tested.

"Will we get four airplanes in the flight test on schedule? We'll see. I think we have a pretty good shot at it."

(Tim Hepher - Reuters Yahoo Business News)

Boeing completes 737 MAX 7 first flight


Boeing test pilots completed a 3-hour, 10 min. first flight of the 737-7, the third and smallest member of the 737 MAX family, when the aircraft landed at Boeing Field, Seattle, on March 16.

Boeing is scheduled to spend the bulk of this year completing the flight test and certification program before delivering the initial 737-7 in 2019.

However, the company is banking on positive performance results from the test campaign to help stimulate further orders for the variant. While overall sales of the MAX now exceed 4,300, the diminutive 737-7 is believed to have attracted less than 100 orders, lagging behind its siblings as operators continue to “up-gauge” to larger aircraft.

Despite a redesign of the -7 in 2016 at the request of launch customer Southwest Airlines and Canada’s WestJet, which added range and an extra 12 passenger seats, Boeing until now has acknowledged only around 60 firm orders for the variant, which seats 138 in a typical two-class configuration. However, Boeing believes the aircraft’s range capability of 3,850 nm, the greatest of any MAX version, could make it attractive for airlines looking to open new point-to-point routes in much the same way as the 787.

The second 737-7, which is scheduled to join the program in coming weeks, is set to conduct “hot and high” temperature and altitude takeoff tests in China where Boeing anticipates additional demand for the aircraft will emerge.

Piloted for its maiden flight by Boeing test and evaluation captains Jim Webb and Keith Otsuka, the aircraft departed Renton, site of Boeing’s 737 production line, at 10.17 am and climbed to 25,000 ft. and 250 kt. while heading west to pass over the Olympic Peninsula before flying back over Seattle on its way to eastern Washington. The crew continued to conduct handling tests while descending to 15,000 ft. before flying a missed approach to Boeing’s Moses Lake test site. The aircraft was then flown to the Mount Rainier area where Boeing took the opportunity to capture some air-to-air photographs before landing at Boeing Field, Seattle.

Boeing says aerodynamic and propulsion improvements developed for the MAX 7 enable it to fly 1,000 nm farther and carry more passengers than its predecessor, the 737-700, while having 18% lower fuel costs per seat. As a result, the company said the MAX 7 has the advantage over its nearest rival, the Airbus A319neo. The aircraft, it said, carries 12 more passengers 400 nm farther than the smaller Airbus and with “7% lower operating costs per seat.”

Other close rivals in the tightly contested 130-seat sector include Bombardier’s stretched CS300 and the Embraer E195-E2.

(Guy Norris - Aviation Week / ATWOnline News)

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Turkish Airlines to buy at least 50 Airbus, Boeing jets

Turkish Airlines has confirmed plans to buy at least 50 wide-body aircraft from Airbus and Boeing as the flag carrier ramps up its ambitions ahead of a move to a new Istanbul airport.

The company said in a statement late Friday that it had agreed to buy 25 Boeing B787-9 aircraft, known as the Dreamliner, and 25 Airbus A350-900 aircraft.

In addition, it has the option to buy five more of each aircraft from both suppliers, meaning the eventual purchase could total 60 planes.

It said six would be delivered in 2019, 14 in 2020, 10 in 2021, 12 in 2022, 11 in 2023 and 7 in the year 2024.

A statement by Airbus indicated that the catalogue price of the 25 A350s alone would amount to $9.5 billion.

Turkish Airlines chief executive Ilker Ayci said that the announcement came after agreements signed during recent visits to France and the United States -- the homes of Airbus and Boeing -- by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

He hailed the deals as a "very important initiative to meet the need for wide-body aircraft at the new airport" and strengthen the fleet ahead of the 100th anniversary of the founding of modern Turkey in 2023.

"We believe this will not just accelerate the steady rise of Turkish Airlines, but also contribute to Turkish civil aviation as a whole," Ayci said, quoted by the Anadolu news agency.

The government plans to open the new airport by Istanbul's Black Sea coast on October 29, hoping to make it a global hub that can compete with Dubai for transfer traffic.

Turkish Airlines, which is 49-percent owned by the government through a wealth fund, has grown exponentially in recent years in a rise strongly supported by Erdogan to create a national champion.

Passenger numbers have swelled from just 14 million in 2005 to 69 million in 2017.

And the airline is targeting a total 74 million passengers in 2018 and wants to expand its fleet from 329 at present to 424 planes by 2023.

(AFP / Yahoo Business News)

Thursday, March 8, 2018

American to Retire 45 Boeing 737s in Next Two Years

American Airlines Boeing 737-823 (30084/629) N942AN delivered to the carrier on August 14, 2000 is captured on short final to Rwy 30 at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB).
(Photo by Michael Carter)

American Airlines Group Inc. plans to retire 45 of its oldest Boeing 737 jets over the next two years as part of an overhaul that will reduce the age of its workhorse narrow-body fleet.

The Fort Worth, Texas, carrier plans to withdraw 12 of the aircraft next year and 33 in 2020, or about three a month. American’s oldest 737-800s are almost 19 years old, although recent deliveries have reduced the group’s average age to 8.1 years, according to the airline’s annual report. American had 304 of the Boeing model at the end of last year, making up nearly one-third of its main jet fleet.

“It’s strictly an age-based retirement at this point,” American spokesman Josh Freed said Thursday. “We have some that we took back in 1999.” Older planes tend to require more maintenance than newer models.

Between the end of this year and the end of 2020, American plans to add 50 Airbus A321neo jets and 40 Boeing 737 Max aircraft, according to a regulatory filing.

The changes are part of American’s broader effort to offset deliveries of new planes with retirements to hold its mainline fleet at around 950, although the figure is set to drop to 935 in 2020. The carrier has received 469 new planes since it merged with US Airways at the end of 2013. It has retired the same number, lowering its average fleet age to 10 from 13.

By the end of next year, American will shed the last of its aging MD-80s, which have an average age of 21.3 years. The carrier previously had as many as 375 of the planes, which once made up the majority of its fleet.

(Mary Schlangenstein - Bloomberg Business News)

Sims succeeds Saretsky as chief of WestJet

WestJet executive vice-president of commercial Ed Sims has succeeded Gregg Saretsky as president and chief executive of the Calgary-based airline, effective immediately.

Saretsky, who has headed WestJet since 2010, will retire.

"Gregg Saretsky, president and CEO, has advised the time has come for him to retire from the company. Having found his successor, he has agreed with the company that his retirement will be effective immediately," the airline says.

"With plans well underway for the launch of Swoop and the introduction of the 787-9 Dreamliners on the horizon… I'm confident WestJet will continue to grow to the next chapter and beyond," says Saretsky.

Saretsky joined WestJet in June 2009 as vice-president of WestJet vacations. He became the company's executive vice-president of operations in October 2009, then became chief executive in March 2010.

A newcomer to WestJet, Sims joined the airline as executive vice-president of commercial in May 2017, taking a position previously held by Bob Cummings, who transitioned to head WestJet's new ultra-low-cost subsidiary Swoop.

Sims previously had been chief executive of Airways New Zealand, that country's air service provider. He also worked at Tui, Thomas Cook, Virgin Group and Air New Zealand, leading the latter's international widebody business, WestJet notes.

"I am honoured by the opportunity to assume the role of president and CEO, and believe strongly in WestJet's next global chapter and the growth potential ahead," says Sims. "WestJet has a strong challenger's spirit."

The change comes at a pivotal moment for WestJet, which is executing a business transformation executives say will help it compete at all spectrums of the air travel market.

That transformation includes the launch of Swoop, aimed at attracting price-sensitive travellers. Swoop is scheduled to operate its first flight on 20 June.

Meanwhile, the company is going upscale and international. WestJet is preparing to take delivery of 10 Boeing 787-9s, an aircraft that will help the largely-provincial carrier expand overseas. WestJet is also building business class lounges and has discussed adding business class to its 737s.

(Jon Hemmerdinger - FlightGlobal News) 

Virgin cancels long-dormant A380 order

Virgin Atlantic has finally cancelled its order for six Airbus A380s, the airframer's latest backlog data shows.

Airbus has listed a cancellation of six of the double-deck type in its figures covering the first two months of this year.

Virgin Atlantic had six A380s on order, but Airbus no longer lists these aircraft against the UK airline.

The carrier had been among the first A380 customers, originally signing for the Rolls-Royce Trent 900-powered jets in 2001.

But it has repeatedly postponed deliveries – the jets were supposed to have been handed to the airline in 2006 – and Virgin Atlantic has since amended its fleet plans to include long-haul twinjets such as the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350-1000.

Virgin Atlantic has confirmed the A380 cancellation.

"Following a thorough review of our fleet we have taken the decision not to pursue our order for six Airbus A380," says the carrier.

It says it is "in discussions" to acquire additional A350-1000s, as it prepares to introduce the first of its current batch of 12 from spring next year.

"We believe the A350-1000 will best serve our customers and network, and will enable us continue reducing the carbon emissions from our fleet, through our ongoing investment in quieter, more fuel efficient aircraft," it adds.

Airbus has lifted the A380 backlog, however, with the inclusion of 20 firm aircraft for Emirates.

These take total A380 orders to 331 of which 222 have been delivered, leaving 109 still to be produced.

Airbus is aiming to deliver 12 A380s this year but is intending to cut production of the A380 to just six aircraft per year from 2020.

(David Kaminski-Morrow - FlightGlobal News) 

Rolls-Royce spending millions of dollars to repair 787 engines

The deterioration of turbine blades inside Rolls-Royce jet engines that power more than 200 in-service 787 Dreamliners has required constant monitoring of the engines and urgent maintenance in some cases. The problems have caused serious disruption to airlines — and they’re proving costly to the British engine-maker.

Rolls on Wednesday reported an accounting charge of $315 million to cover ongoing repairs to two models of its jet engines, mostly the Trent 1000 in the Boeing 787 fleet, as well as compensation to airlines for planes taken out of service for the engine retrofits.

The affected Trent 1000 engines now flying will be monitored and gradually taken out of service and repaired through 2022.

“These issues have required urgent short-term support including both on-wing and shop visit intervention which has resulted in increased disruption for some of our customers,” Rolls said in a news release. It said it is “making solid progress with longer-term solutions, largely through re-designing affected parts.”

The problems with the engines first appeared in 2016, when All Nippon Airways (ANA) of Japan discovered that turbine blades inside the engine were corroding faster than expected and said it would have to cancel up to 300 flights as it took aircraft out of service for repairs.

Similar problems later were discovered by British Airways, Air New Zealand, Norwegian Air and Virgin Atlantic.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in 2016 issued an airworthiness directive after an investigation of high engine vibration during climb revealed damage to some Trent 1000 high pressure turbine blades attributed to cracks in the metal.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) followed up a year ago with its own directive requiring repetitive inspections of Trent 1000 high-pressure turbine blades.

In December, Air New Zealand took two of its 787s out of service after each encountered in-flight abnormalities in one engine. The airline canceled some flights and delayed others as engines were taken out of service for repair with no replacement engines available.

“The remainder of the (Air new Zealand 787) fleet is subject to a Rolls-Royce approved monitoring and scheduled maintenance program,” said airline spokeswoman Hannah Searle, in an email.

Norwegian Air is swapping out 42 Trent 1000 engines in its fleet.

Boeing spokesman Paul Bergman said the jetmaker is working with Rolls-Royce and its airline customers to ensure the engine issues are “addressed in a timely manner.”

ANA spokewoman Nao Gunji said the airline has “been able to operationally manage the situation to avoid a major impact to our scheduled service.”

The second Rolls engine affected by the early corrosion problem is the Trent 900, which powers some models of the Airbus A380 super-jumbo jet.

Rolls has also redesigned an extended-life turbine blade for this engine and further redesigns will be available in 2020.

The engine-maker said Wednesday that the cash impact to cover the problems with both the Trent 1000 and Trent 900 was $236 million last year, will rise to a peak of about $472 million next year and is expected to decline to $333 million in 2019.

(Dominic Gates - The Seattle Times)

VietJet will make widebody decision by year-end

Vietnam low-cost carrier VietJet Air will make a decision on whether to obtain wide-body aircraft by the end of 2018.

The carrier, which operates narrow-body aircraft mainly on domestic routes, is considering three options, says carrier vice president Nguyen Thi Thuy Binh. These are the Boeing 787, Airbus A330neo, and the A350.

"We are near a conclusion," says Nguyen. "This year we will decide yes or no. We've taken a long time to study this model, and we're being very careful about the cost efficiencies of wide-bodies. This year we will make a conclusion."

For several years, VietJet executives have flirted with the idea of using wide-bodies to serve the Vietnamese diaspora in the United States, Europe, and Australia.

"Our advantage is that we understand Vietnamese [people], and we know what they expect," she says. "Countries where you have huge Vietnamese communities will be our future markets."

Vietnam Airlines is also considering the launch of services to Los Angeles, possibly as soon as 2019. The country has no FAA category rating, precluding Vietnamese airlines from launching US services, but category 1 is expected to be granted in May.

Nguyen declined to discuss how a VietJet wide-body would be configured, but stressed that there are vast differences between narrow and wide-body operations.

"We try to think about how we can provide a reasonable experience for the customer," she says. "How do we make them the most comfortable?"

In an August 2016 interview with Flight Airline Business, VietJet's chief executive held open the eventual possibility of long-haul, wide-body operations, but said that the carrier was content to focus on narrow-bodies.

Nguyen adds that the carrier has also looked at the A321LR as a way tapping markets farther afield.

"We are studying the range of this aircraft and it's very interesting," she says. The company is studying the cost effectiveness of the type.

Nguyen adds that the mainline VietJet Air carrier will take 15 new A320 family aircraft this year after taking 17 in 2017. Flight Fleets Analyzer shows that the carrier has 55 A320 family aircraft in service, with orders for 77. In addition, it has orders for 100 Boeing 737 Max 200s.

A major focus will continue to be international growth. In 2017, international traffic grew to 20% of total traffic, compared with 18% a year earlier. By 2020, VietJet aims for 35% of its traffic to be international.

Key markets for development include India and Japan, where VietJet presently has no services. It also aims to increase frequencies to existing North Asian destinations in South Korea, China, and Taiwan.

Apart from demand locally and abroad for LCC services to Vietnam, growth to North Asia is partially driven by the slot situation at Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhat International Airport. Nguyen says the carrier has added flights in the evening to North Asian destinations, and passengers generally do not mind late departures because they can get a full day in their destination upon arrival.

In addition, the carrier plans to have a new e-commerce platform implemented by the third quarter. This will be integrated with its passenger service system.

"Whatever passengers need, they can select: fares, tickets, seats, baggage, meals, hotels, insurance... even consumer goods," she says. "2018 is a year of innovation and connectivity."

(Greg Waldron - FlightGlobal News)

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Boeing promotes government operations leader Tim Keating ahead of 797 decision


Boeing has promoted Tim Keating to executive vice president of government operations.

Keating, 56, has served as senior vice president of government operations since joining Boeing in May 2008. He leads the unit's office in Arlington, Virginia, heading up the company's public policy efforts, including all U.S. federal, state and local government liaison operations.

Boeing's government operations unit will play a key role as the jet maker comes closer to making a decision about whether to launch a new mid-sized airplane and where to build it.

Tax incentive packages offered by lawmakers and bureaucrats in Washington state and competitors for the new jet, dubbed the 797, will be among the top factors that influence the company's decision.

Boeing Chairman, President and CEO Dennis Muilenburg said Keating will also serve on Boeing's Executive Council, a select group of top leaders and executives, and continue to lead the Boeing Global Engagement organization, the company's philanthropic unit.

"This well-earned promotion recognizes Tim's many contributions to our company over the past decade and reflects the critical role he and his talented team play every day in the long-term success of our business," Muilenburg said in a news release. "Tim has worked tirelessly to develop and strengthen relationships at all levels of government and in our communities to help ensure our collective voices are heard on issues important to Boeing, our people and our customers."

Before joining Boeing, Keating was senior vice president of global government relations at Honeywell International. He was also chairman of the board and managing partner at Washington lobbying firm Timmons and Co.

Earlier in his career, Keating served the Clinton Administration as special assistant to the president and staff director for White House Legislative Affairs, Boeing said.

(Andrew McIntosh - Puget Sound Business Journal)

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Hawaiian Airlines to purchase 10 Boeing Dreamliners in lieu of Airbus planes

Hawaiian Airlines announced Tuesday that it will purchase 10 Boeing Dreamliner aircraft in lieu of its original plan to purchase planes from Airbus Industries.

The Honolulu airline has executed a non-binding letter of intent for the purchase of the Boeing 787-9 aircraft, with the first plane scheduled to arrive in the first quarter of 2021.

General Electric’s GEnx engine will power the 10 aircraft, which will be used for Hawaiian’s long-haul Asia/Pacific and North America routes.

“The Dreamliner combines excellent comfort for our guests with fantastic operational performance and will allow us to continue modernizing our fleet into the next decade,” said Hawaiian Airlines President and CEO Peter Ingram in a statement. “It has more seating capacity than Hawaiian’s current wide-body fleet, which will allow us to further build upon our successful growth in Asia."

In 2014, Hawaiian ordered and finalized six A330-800neo planes from Airbus. The company chose to instead go with Boeing as the result of a competitive bid process, the airline said.

“We were in the enviable position of choosing between two outstanding models for our flagship aircraft of the future and I couldn’t be more excited about the prospect of adding the Dreamliner to Hawaiian’s fleet,” Ingram said.

The wide-body aircraft is fuel-efficient, lightweight and passenger friendly because it allows the airline to pressurize cabins at a lower altitude, according to Hawaiian said. Additional features include a quiet cabin, dimmable LED window shades, and larger overhead luggage bins.

Hawaiian expects to finalize binding purchase agreements with Boeing and GE in the second quarter of this year. The company also said it plans to begin negotiating inclusion of the new Boeing aircraft in its contracts with the Air Line Pilots Association and the Association of Flight Attendants, which is required prior to final approval of the purchase by the company’s board of directors.

Hawaiian currently operates a mainline fleet of 54 aircraft: 24 Airbus A330-200, eight Boeing 767 wide-body aircraft, two Airbus A321neo planes and 20 Boeing 717 narrow-body aircraft.

(Katie Murar - Pacific Business News)

IAG's Walsh Calls for Cheaper A380s as It Considers Fleet Plan for Level

IAG could consider buying more A380s from Airbus if the superjumbo was cheaper, CEO Willie Walsh said, adding that he was also looking at planes for the airline group's new carrier Level.

IAG operates the British Airways, Iberia, Vueling and Aer Lingus airlines, as well as Level, a low cost unit launched last year which flies between Europe and the United States.

IAG already operates 12 A380s, and could be interested in buying more if Airbus improved the pricing, Walsh said, although the airline was not currently negotiating with Airbus.

"The pricing that Airbus has offered in the past is unacceptable to us," Walsh said on the sidelines of a conference hosted by industry body Airlines for Europe.

"We've said very clearly to Airbus if they want to sell A380s they need to be aggressive on pricing and when they work out how to sell the aircraft, knock on our door and we'll talk to them."

Airbus secured the future of the superjumbo when it agreed a deal with airline Emirates in January for up to 36 A380s worth as much as $16 billion at list prices.

For Barcelona-based Level, Walsh said he would need to buy planes to meet a plan to grow the fleet to 30 aircraft by 2022, and would consider a number of different aircraft.

"I think in five years' time, I think there might be opportunities for a different aircraft type," he said, suggesting that Level would not just stick to the A330s it currently operates.

"There are Airbus options with the A330-neo or the A350 and as I said more and more we'll see Boeing 787s becoming available at that stage," Walsh said, noting that 787s may become an option in the coming years, if their price comes down or second-hand planes become available.

Those decisions may fall to Level's new chief executive. Walsh said IAG was in the final stages of interviews to appoint a CEO for Level.

Among Walsh's other concerns is the building of a new runway at Heathrow Airport in London, where IAG's biggest airline British Airways is based.

IAG would be interested in running terminals at Heathrow, Walsh said.

The company already runs a terminal at JFK airport in New York and Walsh cited the example of Munich's terminal 2, run as a joint venture between airline Lufthansa and the airport, as a "good example" of how this can be done.

"Would I like to run Terminal 5? Absolutely," Walsh said when asked about his interest in running parts of Heathrow.

Walsh has long-complained about the cost of a proposed new runway at Heathrow, and a lack of competition at the airport, and has recently called for Britain to allow other operators to build facilities and run terminals at Heathrow.

"We know how to do it (run terminals) and we know the benefit that that can bring so we're open to doing it," he said.

(Sarah Young - Reuters)

Ryanair to use "pretty much all" of Boeing 737 buying options

Ryanair expects to exercise "pretty much all" of the options it has to buy Boeing's 737 MAX 200 jets, chief executive Michael O'Leary said on Tuesday.

Ryanair has options to buy 100 of the planes, which it expects will lower its fuel consumption and offers a greater number of seats. The Ireland-based company was the launch customer for the 196-passenger jet in 2014.

"I expect we will exercise pretty much all of these options as they come due to exercise two years prior to delivery," O'Leary told a news conference in Brussels. 

(Robert-Jan Bartunek and Samantha Koester - Reuters / Yahoo Business)

Boeing unlikely to resume passenger 767 production

Boeing is unlikely to resume production of the passenger version of the 767-300ER, even as airlines look to meet fleet needs until the possible New Mid-market Aircraft (NMA) comes on the market in the next decade.

"Bringing back the 767 passenger airplane – I just don't see it," says Randy Tinseth, vice-president of marketing at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, during a media briefing from an industry conference in San Diego.

The airframer continues to build military and freighter versions of the 767, and executives have said as recently as November 2017 that resuming production of the passenger variant was an option.

Reports last fall suggested that Boeing could resume production of the passenger 767-300ER to act as a bridge until the NMA debuts in the 2024 to 2025 timeframe. United Airlines was understood to have expressed interest.

Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg said last November that the airframer had "broad customer interest" in the 767 beyond military and freighter uses.

However, resuming production would only act as a bridge until the NMA and not provide airlines with an aircraft with next generation engines and economics that they are looking for.

Tinseth says today that potential customers for the NMA, which is aimed at replacing ageing 757 and 767 fleets, tell Boeing that they are happy waiting for an entry-into-service as late as 2025.

The NMA would seat 220-270 passengers and have a range of around 5,000nm, he says.

American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have all expressed interest in the NMA, with Delta chief executive Ed Bastian reportedly telling pilots in February that the airline would like to launch the new aircraft.

The three US carrier operated a combined 238 757s and 153 767s with an average age of 20.1 years and 20.4 years, respectively, Flight Fleets Analzyer shows.

Boeing faces competition from Airbus for some of the 757 and 767 replacement market. The European airframer will deliver its first A321LR this year targeting some transatlantic 757s and airlines, including American and United, are considering the A330-800neo to replace their 767 fleets.

The A330-800neo is scheduled to enter service in 2019. However, the future of the variant is in question as the only customer – Hawaiian Airlines – is publicly exploring options to drop the order, with reports suggesting a possible Boeing 787-9 deal.

(Edward Russell - FlightGlobal News)

Israel claims Saudi Arabia is allowing use of its airspace for the first time in 70 years

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters on Monday that Saudi Arabia has given permission to an airline flying through to Tel Aviv to use its airspace.

"Air India signed an agreement today to fly to Israel over Saudi Arabia," he said during a briefing in Washington, DC on Monday, according to Times of Israel.

Currently, Saudi Arabia does not recognize Israel and has banned any flights to the country from using its airspace for more than 70 years. If Netanyahu's claims are correct, it would mark the first time Saudi Arabia has allowed commercial flights to Israel to use its airspace, and would signal a significant shift in strategic policy in the region.

But an Air India spokesman denied the Prime Minister's comments several hours later, stressing they had not received any confirmation and had only submitted a request for a flight along that route.

"We have yet to receive anything from authorities," Air India spokesman Praveen Bhatnagar told The Times of Israel.

Saudi Arabia's aviation authority did not respond to requests for comment from Business Insider.

Last month, Air India confirmed it had begun plans for three faster weekly flights between Israel and India, although Saudi Arabia's aviation authority was quick to deny reports that its airspace would be used.

At the time, Israel's Airports Authority told Reuters the service was set to begin in early March.

Currently, Israel's national airline El Al is the only airline offering direct flights from Israel to India. The route avoids flying into neighboring Saudi Arabia's airspace by diverting to the Red Sea and around the Arabian peninsula, adding two hours to the overall trip.

If Saudi Arabia were to ease its airspace regulations it could be seen as concrete evidence of warming relations with Israel and a broader re-configuring of regional alliances.

(Rosie Perper - Business Insider)

Monday, March 5, 2018

Boeing expects more 777 Freighter orders as air cargo market surges

Boeing expects to secure new orders for 777 Freighters later this year thanks to a surging air cargo market, a senior executive said Monday.

"You're going to see more 777 Freighters (orders) this year as that market continues to improve," Boeing Commercial Airplanes Vice President of Marketing Randy Tinseth said during a conference call with journalists during the annual International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading conference in San Diego, California.

Asked if he meant new 777 cargo jet orders in the single or double digits, Tinseth declined to answer but added: "There's a lot of freighters in the pipeline and I'm confident that a lot of them will come home,"

Boeing makes the 777 Freighter in Everett. The wide-body aircraft has a list price of $339.2 million, and a surge of orders would be good news for the jet maker and its Puget Sound-area supply chain.

Boeing has not yet reported an order for a 777 Freighter in 2018, but has so far only disclosed deals for the month of January. Boeing has 30 undelivered orders for 777 Freighters, all of them powered by GE engines, according to Boeing's website.

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

Last month, shipping giant UPS ordered 14 Boeing 747-8F cargo jets and four Boeing 767 freighters, saying it needs the 18 new aircraft to boost its air cargo capacity amid surging global demand.

In January, Boeing disclosed an order for three 777 freighters from Turkish Airlines. Worth $977.1 million at list prices, that order came weeks after the carrier took delivery of two 777 cargo jets.

Tim Myers, president of Boeing Capital Corp., said at the ISTAT conference that aircraft sales have been spurred by alternative financing solutions that emerged because of the inability of the Export–Import Bank of the U.S. to approve new aircraft loans.

More than $1 billion of new airplane deliveries in 2017 were supported by a new Marsh McLennan affiliate called the Aircraft Finance Insurance Consortium.

(Andrew McIntosh - Puget Sound Business Journal)

Aeromexico says farewell to the Boeing 777

The end of the 777 era at Aeromexico has come to a close as the carrier bid farewell to it's final 777-2Q8(ER) in late February. As the carrier modernizes it's aircraft fleet, the Boeing 777, an aircraft that has been critical to it's history did not fit into the airlines future plans. During its tenure, the 777 held court as the largest commercial aircraft operated by a Mexican airline.

The last flight took place on February 26, 2018 utilizing 777-2Q8(ER) (28689/365) N774AM, departing from Buenos Aires (EZE/SAEZ) as "AM31" and landing at Mexico City International Airport (MEX/MMMX) at 7:50 PM.

Beginning February 27, 2018, all long haul flights (to Europe, Asia, and some cities in South America) will be operated with the carriers 787 Dreamliner, the world’s most modern passenger aircraft.

(Michael Carter - Editor Aero Pacific Flightlines)

Airbus new production plan: 3600 jobs threatened

Airbus announced reduced production of its A380 and A400M. That new production schedule could be affecting 3600 jobs, French daily Challenges estimates. France should be spared, but in Germany, United Kingdom and Spain, workers are expecting some reassignments.

The company released a statement that it would meet the European Works Council (a committee in charge of representing the company workers of the four different countries where Airbus is installed) to officially address the consequences of the reduced production.

"Airbus is committed to managing any social implications in a responsible manner and has demonstrated its ability to find the best possible solutions for its workforce on various occasions in the past“, the statement says.

The factories most affected are those only devoted to one program. In France, the different sites have been refitted to counter the reductions: in Toulouse for example, most of the A380 assembly line is now constructing A350 to meet the needs of the company.

But other factories might have to endure the full blow of Airbus sales problems on some of its models. The sales of the massive A380 have been plummeting throughout the years. From 30 aircrafts produced in 2012, it should go down as low as 6 in 2020, just enough for the company to keep it in its catalogue.

Same problem with the military cargo plane A400M: only 26 deliveries are planned until 2019, threatening the factories solely dedicated to it: Seville, Filton and Breme. On February 7, 2018, Airbus had negotiated with the Organization for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) a reduced rate of production of the cargo plane in order to avoid a delay that could lead to penalties. So far, the plane has costed over 30 billion euros in development and is still struggling to find new customers outside of the initial partners.

Airbus uses temporary workers to keep maneuverability in its workforce. If the 3600 threatened jobs do not lead to direct layoffs, they might however be rotated to other facilities.

(AeroTime News / Airbus)

Search for missing Malaysia MH370 plane to end in June 2018

Four years after the MH370 flight disappeared, Malaysia’s civil aviation chief, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, says that the search for the missing Boeing 777 carrying 239 people on board will end in June, 2018. The plane disappeared en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur on March 8, 2014.

The Malaysian government signed a “no find, no fee” contract with a Texas based exploration company Ocean Infinity to find the missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft within 90 days. However, the hunt for the missing plane is set to spread out over a few months, until mid-June, Rahman told the press during the fourth annual remembrance of the missing flight in Kuala Lumpur event.

The Seabed Constructor vessel searching the ocean floor has to refuel in Australian shores and bad weather may also be a factor, according to Rahman.

The contract with Ocean Infinity was signed on January 10, 2018, and the search for MH370 began on January 21, 2018 – approximately one year later after official government search for the wreckage ended without finding the crash site.

If successful, Ocean Infinity - that is focusing on 25,000km2 area - will be paid based on the size of the ocean floor searched.

Malaysia says it will pay Ocean Infinity $20 million for 5,000km2 of a successful search, $30 million for 15,000km2, $50 million for 25,000km2 and $70 million if the plane or flight recorders are found beyond the identified area, CTV News report.

According to Malaysia’s Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai, there is a 85% chance of finding debris in the search area that being covered by the U.S. company.

As of February 25, 2018, the area covered by Ocean Infinity was 8,200km2, based on the company’s official report. No significant findings were identified so far.

The disappearance of MH370 has become the greatest mystery in modern aviation, prompting one of the biggest and most expensive search missions in history.

According to the official report by Australian Transport Safety Board (ATSB) the transmissions were lost 38 minutes into the flight, but the plane continued flying for another seven hours making it extremely difficult to determine the site of the crash.

According to aviation journalist Christine Negroni, Malaysia Airlines’ long-haul fleet only transmitted ground-to-aircraft location information once every half hour around the time of the tragedy, The Telegraph reported.

In contrast, Malaysia Airlines planes now transmit its information every five minutes and international requirements state that by January 2021 all new planes will have to broadcast their location every minute if the aircraft is in distress.

(AeroTime News)