Thursday, August 17, 2017

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


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

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

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

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

About HondaJet

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

About Honda Aircraft Company

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

(Business Insider / PR News Insider)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Kristen Leigh Painter - Star Tribune)


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Hugo Martin - Los Angeles Times) 

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

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

(Photos by Michael Carter)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(David Szondy - New Atlas)

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Gulfstream G-V (c/n 526) N125GH

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

(Photos by Michael Carter)

Emirates crash investigators focusing on pilot actions


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Alexander Cornwell - Reuters)

Friday, August 4, 2017

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

(Photos by Michael Carter)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classified Capabilities

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

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

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

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

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

(Anthony Capaccio - Bloomberg Business News)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Sean Gallagher - ARS Technica)

Monday, July 31, 2017

Ruling eliminates seniority protections for ex-TWA pilots in St. Louis

Sixteen years after American Airlines’ takeover of Trans World Airlines, the deal is stirring some new fallout at St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

An arbitration ruling this month could result in a loss of seniority, pay cuts or moves to other cities for many of the ex-TWA pilots still working for American, including more than 100 here.

That’s according to Allen Press, a Clayton attorney representing three former TWA pilots who on July 20 asked a federal judge in Dallas to block the ruling. The three earlier had sued American and its pilots union over the issue.

Press said pilots tell him they also expect American to shut down its pilot base at Lambert, which is among 11 maintained by the airline. However, a spokeswoman for the airline said there are no plans to do so.

The ruling would end the last remaining seniority protections that ex-TWA pilots received when American took over the bankrupt TWA in 2001.

Some other seniority rights for former TWA pilots ended following a new labor agreement worked out in 2013 as part of American’s bankruptcy reorganization. At issue now is when the more limited protections cease to exist.

Press said there are currently 162 ex-TWA pilots working for American out of St. Louis — 80 captains and 82 first officers who function as co-pilots.

“They ultimately will be affected one way or the other,” he said.

In all, the legal challenge to the ruling contends, more than 900 former TWA pilots across the country would “suffer substantial and irreparable harm.”

The challenge asserts that at least 85 ex-TWA captains could be demoted to first officer because of the loss of seniority, resulting in a loss of pay of about $70,000 a year.

Among them is plaintiff Kevin Horner of Bowling Green, Mo.

However, under a new agreement between the union and the airline, they could avoid pay reductions by opting to become captains on smaller former US Airways planes, known as E-190s. Those planes were added to American’s fleet in the American-US Airways merger in 2013.

But such pilots would have to move or commute to Philadelphia, where those planes are based.

In addition, the suit says, many of the 150 other captains likely to retain that rank may have to shift to on-call positions outside their current home base, requiring them to move or commute to other base cities. Commuting pilots typically maintain apartments.

Many of the more than 650 former TWA first officers, the suit says, would also shift to on-call positions and see their paths to captain “yet again extended beyond that of any other American pilot.” This group includes plaintiff John Krakowski of Ballwin.

At issue is a provision that says the seniority protections would end when a particular ex-TWA pilot hired in 1997, Magnus Alehult, accumulated enough seniority to get a captain position on any aircraft.

The arbitrator said that occurred last September when Alehult qualified to become a captain on American’s former US Airways E-190 planes. The arbitrator agreed with three American pilots who had made that point in a grievance.

Press’ clients say the protections end only when Alehult gathers additional seniority needed to be a captain on larger planes that were in American’s fleet at the time the provision was worked out.

An earlier lawsuit filed by some former TWA pilots against American and the pilots union — the Allied Pilots Association — is pending before a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in New York, Press said. The case was shifted there from a federal court in St. Louis.

Press said closing of the pilot base at Lambert could result in some smaller planes being used on certain flights.

American, in a bankruptcy court filing in 2012 seeking an end to its post-TWA labor agreement regarding pilots here, said “hundreds of American’s pilots and many of its aircraft are committed to operations out of that facility that make no economic sense. These assets could generate a far greater return if redeployed.”

However, airline spokeswoman Leslie Mayo said last week that American has no plans now to shut down any pilot bases, including the one here.

American now operates 42 daily flights from Lambert, down from 417 in 2003. “I don’t see how (the arbitration ruling) would have any impact on St. Louis or the airport,” Mayo said.

A pilots association spokesman declined to comment.

Lambert’s director, Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge, said American hasn’t notified the airport of any plan to close the base or make other operational changes. “They just opened a brand new pilots’ lounge,” she noted.

Even if the base eventually closed, she added, there might be no impact on the airport itself. “At the end of the day, they operate flights,” she said of American. “They could operate that without a base here.”

(Mark Schlinkmann - St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Saturday, July 29, 2017

‘Incredible shrinking airline seat’ draws U.S. appeals-court rebuke

Blake Emery, who headed interior cabin redesigns at Boeing, inside the passenger cabin of a Boeing 737-900ER . The issue of passenger legroom has boiled over as some carriers consider adding more seats.
(Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times)

The court found in favor of Flyers Rights, a nonprofit advocacy group, which had argued that steadily shrinking legroom and seat size created a safety hazard and that the Federal Aviation Administration should impose new restrictions.

If you think the government should do something about the cramped legroom on airplanes, you’ve got a friend in a federal court.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., on Friday ordered aviation regulators to consider setting minimum standards for the space airlines give passengers.

“This is the Case of the Incredible Shrinking Airline Seat,” Judge Patricia Ann Millett wrote on behalf of the three-judge panel. “As many have no doubt noticed, aircraft seats and the spacing between them have been getting smaller and smaller, while American passengers have been growing in size.”

The court found in favor of Flyers Rights, a nonprofit advocacy group, which had argued that steadily shrinking legroom and seat size created a safety hazard and that the Federal Aviation Administration should impose new restrictions.

The issue of airline-passenger legroom has boiled over this year as some carriers said they plan to add more seats to planes. American Airlines in May announced it would shrink the space between most rows to 30 inches on its newest Boeing 737 MAX jetliners, while later dropping a move to cut the distance in some rows to 29 inches in the face of criticism from employees and customers.

Flyers Rights argued that the average seat width has narrowed from approximately 18.5 inches in the early-2000s to 17 inches in the early to mid-2010s. In recent decades, the distance between seat rows, known as “seat pitch,” has gone from an average of 35 inches to 31 inches, and as low as 28 inches at some airlines, the group said in the suit.

While the FAA has contended its standards for safely evacuating an aircraft are adequate, U.S. lawmakers have grilled members of the administration and airline executives on the issue at several hearings this year, and some have drafted legislation to address the issue.

The court said the FAA had used “off-point” studies and “undisclosed tests using unknown parameters” to justify its initial refusal to review the rules. “That type of vaporous record will not do,” the court said.

The combination of less legroom and larger passengers has created a safety hazard, Flyers Rights argued, making it more difficult to exit a plane in an emergency and heightening the risk of deep vein thrombosis, a potentially fatal condition of blood clots in the legs that has been associated with longer flights.

“We’re really gratified,” Paul Hudson, president of Flyers Rights, said in an interview. “We hope the FAA will now take it up as a proper rulemaking.”

The FAA said in an emailed statement that the agency “does consider seat pitch in testing and assessing the safe evacuation of commercial, passenger aircraft. We are studying the ruling carefully and any potential actions we may take to address the court’s findings.”

The long-term impact of the court rules remains unclear. It stopped short of ordering the FAA to create new rules, so the agency could conduct a review and decide not to act.

In a statement last May, the agency said it had already conducted evacuation tests on the smaller-seat configurations to ensure they are safe. The agency has no rules on seat width or the distance between rows, relying instead on the evacuation standards.

After American’s initial announcement it was shortening the distance between seats, the agency said Boeing in 1998 successfully performed evacuation tests on the 737-400 with seats spaced 28 and 29 inches apart. As a result, the agency had certified up to 189 passengers aboard the 737 MAX that American is buying.

(Alan Levin - Bloomberg News / The Seattle Times)

Friday, July 28, 2017

Airbus delivers its 100th A350 widebody jet

Airbus celebrated the delivery of its 100th A350 at a delivery ceremony in Toulouse, France, on July 26, 2017. The milestone aircraft went to customer China Airlines.
(Photo: Airbus)

Airbus delivered its 100th Airbus A350 on Wednesday, handing over the milestone aircraft to customer China Airlines during a ceremony at the jetmaker’s assembly line in Toulouse, France.

“The 100th A350 XWB milestone comes as we reach our fastest widebody production ramp-up, on track to meet the target of 10 A350 deliveries per month by the end of 2018,” Airbus COO Fabrice Bregier said in a statement. “We are especially proud to deliver today’s aircraft to our long-standing customer China Airlines. The A350 is setting new standards for long haul air travel in terms of efficiency and comfort, thus being the perfect aircraft for China Airlines to expand its long-haul network.”

Airbus' inaugural A350 delivery was just in December 2014, when launch customer Qatar Airways became the world’s first carrier to take one of the jets.

Since then, Airbus has delivered A350s to a total of 14 airlines. Among the others that now have A350s in their fleets: Cathay Pacific, Finnair, LATAM Airlines, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines.

In fact, it was a Singapore Airlines A350 that helped Airbus mark another milestone just this past October. That came when Singapore Airlines took possession of an A350 that Airbus commemorated as the 10,000th all-time aircraft to roll off its assembly lines.

In the USA, Delta took delivery of its first A350 earlier this month. American and United also have ordered the Airbus A350. However, each has since deferred their initial delivery schedules for the plane, raising uncertainty about the status of those orders.

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

Airbus Reports Cut to A380 Production, More Worries Over A320neo

China Southern Airbus A380-841(c/n 31) B-6136 arrives at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) on June 27, 2017.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

European aircraft maker Airbus reported first-half 2017 results Thursday morning, and the news was almost uniformly weak. The company’s revenues for the first half of the year totaled €28.71 billion, essentially flat year over year (€1 = $1.17). That was the good news.

Adjusted EBIT totaled €1.1 billion, a drop of 35% year over year, and net income fell 15% to €1.5 billion. Airbus took a €70 million charge on its A400M military transport, which the company can add to a charge in the fourth quarter of 2016 totaling €2.2 billion. Earnings per share (EPS) also fell 15% to €1.94.

The value of the company’s order book dropped 8%, from €1.06 trillion to €980.9 billion and net cash slipped by 29% to €7.9 billion.

For the second quarter, net income and EPS fell 34% to €895 million and €1.16, respectively. Adjusted EBIT slipped 27% to €859 million.

For the first half of the year, Airbus delivered a total of 59 A320neos against a full-year target of 200. The primary cause of the lower numbers is a problem with the Pratt & Whitney engine that Airbus offers on its A320neo single-aisle commercial jet. The company has delivered just 16 of the Pratt & Whitney-engined planes in the first half of the year, according to a report from Reuters. Qatar Airways already has cancelled delivery of four of the planes.

Airbus also announced a cut in production of the A380 super-jumbo jet from 12 per year to eight per year beginning in 2019. The company had previously announced a cut from 15 this year to 12 in 2018. Last year Airbus delivered 26 of the giant planes.

A single airline, Emirates, has been pressing Airbus for a couple of years now to put new, more fuel-efficient engines on the A380, promising to order 200 of the new planes. Airbus has demurred and it is not clear any longer that Emirates could make good on its promise.

Shares of Airbus traded down about 3.4% in Paris Thursday, at €71.63 in a 52-week range of €49.51 to €$77.25. The 12-month price target on the stock is €81.67.

(Paul Ausick - 24/7 Wall St.)

Novus sells B777-200ER to Air Peace

Novus Aviation has arranged the sale of one B777-200ER to Air Peace in Nigeria. The aircraft was on lease to Emirates Airlines until January 2017. The transaction marks the first B777 aircraft to be operated in Nigeria.

“We are very pleased to support Air Peace’s development through the sale of this 777-200ER. This asset provides excellent cost economics and is an ideal platform for Air Peace to pursue their strategic growth ambitions across Africa, Europe and Asia,” said Mamoun Kuzbari, Managing Director at Novus Aviation Capital. “We are also satisfied that we are extending the customer base of the 777 aircraft which Novus looks to continue to invest in.”

"We are pleased to have acquired this aircraft from Novus; the acquisition forms part of our strategy to increase the Air Peace fleet size and expand the airline’s international operations,” said Allen Onyema, CEO of Air Peace. “The aircraft happens to be our first wide body and is the first of four B777s expected to join the Air Peace fleet between now and February 2018.”

“We greatly appreciate the professionalism and transparency displayed throughout the transaction by Novus and its subsidiaries, and we look forward to working with them again in the future,” Onyema added.

(AeroTime News /Novus Aviation)

Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-3H4 (28401/2932) N656SW (Retired)

N656SW smokes the mains on Rwy 25L at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS/KLAS) on December 16, 2007 still in her original livery. This was the last 737-3H4 delivered factory fresh to the carrier on September 26, 1997 ex Boeing N1786B.

I remember this aircrafts first flight into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX/KLAX) as I was the Operations Agent assigned to her flight and being the avgeek that I am knew the significance of this lovely bird.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

Yesterday July 27, 2017 Southwest Airlines retired 3 Boeing 737-3H4 aircraft, N361SW, N655WN, and N656SW. Aircraft info as follows:

N361SW (26572/2309) Delivered June 18, 1992. Ferried July 27 DAL-SBD.

N655WN (28400/2931) Delivered September 10, 1997. Ferried July 27 DAL-VCV.

N656SW (28401/2932) Delivered September 26, 1997. Ferried July 27 HOU-VCV.

Sadly, the entire Southwest Airlines 737-300 fleet will be retired no later than September 30 of this year which is the day before the carriers first 737-8MAX enters service. 

(Michael Carter - Editor - Aero Pacific Flightlines) 

Marines ground KC-130T planes after deadly crash

United States Marine Corp (USMC) Lockheed Martin KC-130J (c/n 382-5565) 166765 / QB VMGR-352 "Raiders" on short final to Rwy 7 at Palmdale Regional Airport / USAF Plant 42 (PMD/KPMD) on November 17, 2016.
(Photo by Michael Carter)

The Marine Corps has grounded its KC-130T aircraft following a crash that killed 15 Marines and one sailor in Mississippi.

"Out of an abundance of caution, the Marine Corps took the prudent action not to fly our KC-130T aircraft in the wake of the mishap on July 10 until further notice," the Corps said in a statement Thursday.

The plane is often used for airborne refueling, and can also deliver cargo, troops and equipment.

The transport plane, which was carrying 15 Marines and a Navy corpsman, was moving personnel and equipment from North Carolina to a western base to train before deploying, the Marine Corps said. It has 12 of the aircraft in its fleet.

The crash remains under investigation. The Federal Aviation Administration reported it lost contact with the plane when it was flying at an estimated altitude of 20,000 feet.

Andy Jones, a witness to the crash, described the moments before the plane struck the ground.

"At first it looked like an acrobatic plane, like a stunt plane, blowing the smoke out the back," Jones said. "Then all of a sudden you realized that the smoke was coming off one of the sides of the wing."

(Barbara Starr and Paul LeBlanc - CNN)

Sukhoi refutes reports of SSJ100 deal with Iran

Earlier this week, the Iranian news agency Fars reported that Russia and Iran signed a contract on deliveries of several SSJ100 planes during the MAKS-2017 air show, according to Sputnik.

"The Russian Sukhoi Civil Aircraft company, manufacturer of Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft, officially refutes the media reports on signing the contract on SSJ100 deliveries to Iran," the company said in a statement.

In February, 2016, Russia's United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) Vice-President Vladislav Masalov said the delivery of SSJ100 planes to Iran could only be made after the approval of US component manufacturers. The approval has not been given yet.

The SSJ100 is a twin-engine plane made by Russia's Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company. It can transport up to 98 passengers and fly distances of up to 2,470 miles. The jet made its maiden flight in May 2008.
(Sputnik / (AeroTime News)

Southwest 2Q net profit down 9%; ready to add 737 MAX 8

Southwest Airlines reported a $746 million net profit in the second quarter, down 9% from net income of $820 million in the 2016 June quarter, as it prepares for big fleet changes in the third quarter.

The Dallas-based carrier still has 67 Boeing 737 Classics in its fleet after retiring 10 in the second quarter, but all 67 are scheduled to be retired by the end of the third quarter, marking the largest number of aircraft retirements in a single quarter in Southwest’s history. It is also taking delivery of its first 737 MAX 8 next month, and will receive 10 737 MAX 8s by the end of September and 14 by the end of 2017. Southwest will place the MAX 8 into revenue service Oct. 1.

The airline plans to have a fleet of 707 aircraft by the end of 2017 comprised entirely of 737-700s, 737-800s and 737 MAX 8s.

Company executives said the gains in aircraft fuel efficiency from retiring older 737 Classics and adding MAX 8s will help Southwest improve its cost performance, which was a negative mark in the second quarter as both labor costs and fuel expenses increased year-over-year (YOY). Southwest’s unit cost pressure will “begin to ease in the third quarter,” CEO Gary Kelly told analysts and reporters.

Southwest will also fix some minor “design issues” in the Amadeus reservation system it transitioned to in May, Kelly said. He praised the “flawless deployment” of the new reservation system and said the few quirks will be “remedied quickly.” The issues have “nothing to do with the elegance of the system” and are “a couple of one-off items that we’ve found and we’ll fix and get behind us,” Kelly said.

Rising costs and reservation system cutover issues are largely being overcome by a strong revenue performance, evidenced by Southwest’s average fare rising 1.5% YOY in the second quarter, the first average fare increase for Southwest in two years.
“The second quarter was a very strong revenue performance and the third quarter outlook is more of the same,” Kelly said, adding, “The majority of our markets are showing unit revenue gains year-over-year. For a while, it had been the minority.” The carrier’s YOY RASM growth turned positive in the second quarter, rising 1.5%.

Southwest’s second-quarter revenue rose 6.7% YOY to $5.7 billion while expenses increased 9.4% to $4.5 billion, producing operating income of $1.25 billion, down 2% from an operating profit of $1.27 billion in the 2016 June quarter. Labor costs rose 13.9% YOY and fuel costs heightened 9.6% YOY in the second quarter.

Southwest’s second-quarter traffic rose 5.1% YOY to 34.4 billion RPMs on a 5.1% increase in capacity to 40.2 billion ASMs, producing a load factor of 85.6%, flat YOY. Yield rose 1.5% to 15.2 cents.

(Aaron Karp - ATWOnline News)

Fiji Airways to help Samoa relaunch national airline

Fiji Airways has signed an agreement confirming that it will help the government of Samoa relaunch its national airline.

The Fijian carrier has signed an agreement with state-owned Samoa Airways, which intends to resume international services. Under the agreement, Fiji Airways said it would “provide initial support” to help Samoa Airways introduce flights to New Zealand and Australia. It will do this “through the use of [Fiji Airways’] established infrastructure in sales, commercial operations and maintenance.”

Following the agreement, the two carriers said they are now negotiating the “separate commercial and operations agreements” that will form their alliance. Samoa Airways said it will “solely manage” routes from Samoa to Australia and New Zealand, but other routes will be jointly managed through codesharing and interlining.

The Samoan government said partnering with Fiji Airways was “driven mainly by the critical need to look beyond New Zealand and Australia.” The intention is to gain connectivity to broader markets through Fiji Airways’ international network and its alliances with other carriers.

The Samoan government recently approved the name change of Polynesian Airlines to Samoa Airways. It is still unclear what aircraft will be used to launch Samoa Airways’ international flights, as it currently operates only turboprop aircraft. The carrier has indicated it will operate its own jet aircraft, but has also raised the possibility of leasing arrangements with Fiji Airways.

(Adrian Schofield - Aviation Daily / ATWOnline News)

Air Partner remarkets 15 Saudia Boeing 777-200ERs

Air Partner’s Aircraft Remarketing division (formerly Cabot Aviation) has been appointed by Saudi Arabia’s national carrier Saudia as its exclusive remarketing agent for 15 Boeing 777-200ERs.

The 15 new aircraft, which were delivered to Saudia from 1997 onward, are powered by GE90 engines and have a total of 232 seats in a three-class configuration, comprising 24 first-, 38 business- and 170 economy-class seats.

Air Partner Remarketing divisional MD Tony Whitty said, “This appointment follows a successful period for our remarketing services, during which we have also completed the sale of two Boeing 737-700s and a new GE90 engine on behalf of Kenya Airways and two 747-400s for China Airlines.”

Saudia is undergoing a fleet revitalization, which includes phasing out the 777-200ER. As part of the airline’s SV2020 transformation plan, multiple new aircraft are joining the Saudia fleet monthly, including Airbus A330-300s, Boeing 787-9s and 777-300ERs. The ongoing fleet investment will bring the airline’s average aircraft age to 3.75 years by the end of this year, which is a key element of Saudia’s targeted strategy to operate one of the youngest fleets in the skies.

By 2020, the Saudia is set to operate 200 aircraft in its fleet. The SkyTeam member currently operates to 86 destinations worldwide.

UK charter broker Air Partner acquired aircraft remarketing specialist Cabot Aviation in May 2015 for up to £1.2 million ($1.9 million).

(Kurt Hofmann - ATWOnline News)

Hawaiian Airlines posts $80.4 million 2Q net profit

Hawaiian Holdings, parent of Hawaiian Airlines, posted $80.4 million net income for the 2017 second quarter, up 1.1% from $79.6 million net profit in 2Q 2017.

The airline is gearing up for the delivery of its initial two Airbus A321neos, scheduled for October and November, the first of 18 A321neos the carrier plans to receive through 2020.

“It allows us to begin our plans to transform our service between Hawaii and the US west coast [and earlier this week] we announced the first route extensions associated with the arrival of our first neos,” Hawaiian Airlines CEO Mark Dunkerley said.

“The A321neos will provide us with a combination of growth and replacement, enabling the retirement of the remainder of our [Boeing] 767 fleet by the end of 2018 and capitalizing on our … unit revenue performance between the west coast and Hawaii,” Hawaiian EVP and CCO Peter Ingram said. “The smaller gauge and next generation economics of these aircraft make them ideal for the routes we fly with wide-bodies today.”

Ingram elaborated on route expansions announced July 24. “Starting in January 2018 we will be introducing new nonstop service between Portland and Maui, taking advantage of the arrival of our first A321neo,” Ingram said, adding an extension of seasonal service between Los Angles and Kona will go year-round beginning in March, “first with our 767s and later with the A321neos.” Additionally, the carrier’s seasonal Oakland to Kaua’i service will transition to year-round nonstop service in April 2018, also utilizing a new A321neo. Hawaiian’s Oakland-Maui service will switch over from its existing wide-body aircraft to A321neo in January, Ingram said.

“While delays of the delivery of the first units of this type have been extremely disappointing, we remain committed to the A321neo as it is the aircraft optimally configured for service between Hawaii and the mainland,” Dunkerley said.

Dunkerley also addressed increased competition and capacity scheduled for the coming peak winter-travel season, courtesy of United Airlines’ recently announced expansion of nonstop Hawaii service from its Chicago, Denver and west coast hubs, set to begin Dec. 20.

“Total industry capacity [between North America and] Hawaii has ebbed and flowed over the 15 years that I’ve led Hawaiian. The North America to Hawaii capacity growth scheduled for next year, while more than we’ve seen over the past 18 months, is not, in fact, unprecedented,” Dunkerley said.

“Our perspective on this [is] … no airline is better positioned to serve Hawaii than Hawaiian,” Dunkerley said. “We have studiously diversified our business, precisely to make sure short-term conditions in one of our geographies do not overwhelm our overall performance … we have a number of capabilities that will mitigate the impact of rising industry capacity -- aircraft better suited to the markets we serve, product improvements already delivered and on the way, … organizational strengthening, [these] will all help. None of these were at hand the last time industry capacity increased markedly a few years ago.”

Hawaiian’s second-quarter revenue increased 13.6% year-over-year (YOY) to $675.3 million, outpacing expenses, which grew 13.2% YOY to $532.8 million during the quarter. Operating profit came to $142.6 million, up 15% from a year ago.

Fuel expenses for the quarter increased 22.6% to $102.8 million, compared to $83.8 million in 2Q 2016.

Hawaiian’s passenger traffic increased 6.6% during the quarter to 4.1 billion RPMs, as capacity grew 4.1% to 4.7billion ASMs, resulting in a passenger load factor of 86.6%, up 2.1 points YOY.

Yield increased 7.3% YOY to 14.47 cents. PRASM was up 10% YOY to 12.53 cents. CASM ex-fuel was up 5.6% to 8.98 cents.

(Mark Nensel - ATWOnline News)

SkyWest attributes $51 million 2Q net profit to fleet transition

Utah-based SkyWest Inc., parent of regional carriers SkyWest Airlines and ExpressJet Airlines, reported a $50.5 million net profit for the 2017 second quarter, up 25.4% over $40.2 million net income in 2Q 2016.

SkyWest’s second-quarter revenue increased 1.1% year-over-year (YOY) to $809.8 million while expenses fell 2% to $703.2 million, producing $106.6 million in operating profit, a 26.7% rise.

“Our [2Q] results reflect strong production, solid operating performance and ongoing fleet improvements,” SkyWest CEO Chip Childs said, attributing the net growth primarily to SkyWest’s continued fleet transition, including the net impact of the addition of 47 new Embraer E175s, partially offset by the removal of 76 “unprofitable or less profitable aircraft”, including 51 ERJ-145s, 18 Bombardier CRJ200s and seven CRJ700s, since Q2 2016.

SkyWest added five E175s into service with United Airlines and another five E175s into service with Delta Air Lines during the second quarter. An additional E175 will be delivered in the fourth quarter; the company will close out the year with a total of 104 E175s.

During the quarter, SkyWest and ExpressJet completed the transition of 49 CRJ700s from un-named “other major airline partners” to American Airlines under a multi-year contract, “further reducing fleet risk,” the company said.

SkyWest attributed its decrease in expenses to lower direct operating costs related to having 29 fewer aircraft in service, as well as a 5% reduction in block hour production. The cost cutting, however, was partially offset by higher crew training expenses associated with the new E175s.

Also during the quarter, SkyWest pilots agreed to extend their current salary contract for four years, effective July 2017 through mid-2022, and will receive additional compensation primarily in profit sharing and 401(k) matches.

(Mark Nensel - ATWOnline News)

Falcon Sales Boost Dassault First-half Results

Dassault delivered 17 Falcons in the first half of this year, up from 15 in the same period a year ago. It also achieved a 0.9:1 book-to-bill ratio, logging net orders for 14 Falcons in the first six months.
(Photo: Dassault Falcon)

An increase in new and pre-owned Falcon business helped lead to a 23.5 percent jump in Dassault Aviation’s first-half results, from €1.66 billion ($1.94 billion) in 2016 to €2.05 billion ($2.40 billion) in 2017, the company reported.

Operating income was stable at €123 million ($144 million), while net profit rose 7.5 percent thanks to the contribution of Thales' half-year results. Total order intake reached €1.38 billion ($161 million), of which 83 percent involved exports.

Deliveries of Falcons increased from 15 to 17 year-over-year. And the pre-owned aircraft business was better, the company reported.

Net Falcon order intake was also positive, with 14 aircraft sold in the first half versus 11 in the same period last year. The orders included a fourth maritime surveillance Falcon 2000 ordered by the Japanese coast guard. Including new and pre-owned, the order intake for just Falcons amounted to €1.029 billion ($1.20 billion) in the first half, compared with €778 million ($909 million) a year ago.

“The market for business jets is still difficult,” said Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier, who noted that depressed prices in pre-owned business jets are still hampering new sales. “There are some positive signs on the pre-owned market. They are starting to sell a little better.”

Trappier confirmed Dassault's forecast for 2017: an increase in total sales, with an anticipated 45 Falcon deliveries and nine Rafale fighters.

“We are approaching the launch of a new Falcon,” he said, without specifying when the aircraft would be launched or any of its designcharacteristics.

Meanwhile, the Falcon 5X test campaign with temporary Silvercrest engines, manufactured by Safran, will allow Dassault to speed up the integration with the aircraft in the face of the four-year delay in the engine program, Trappier explained. The 5X flew for the first time on July 5 with “preliminary engines.”

Sales at the Defense division increased by 16.5 percent, to €943 million ($1.102 billion), thanks to the Rafale export support activities for Egypt and the Mirage 2000 for the French Air Force. On the other hand, Rafale deliveries dropped: Dassault delivered three Rafales to Egypt, unchanged from the year-ago period, and one Rafale to France versus four in the first half of 2016.

Trappier expressed interest in participating in the European MALE (medium-altitude long-endurance) drone, UCAV and Future Combat Aircraft System (FCAS) projects. The CEO reaffirmed its willingness to sell Rafales to Malaysia, even though the country has reportedly delayed the decision to buy new combat aircraft. “There is no cancellation of this project as far as we know,” Trappier said.

In India, the creation of a joint venture with the Indian group Reliance will support the policy of “Make in India” related to the sale of 36 Rafales there. But the aircraft manufacturer also wants to sell the marine version of the Rafale to India, with 57 aircraft currently in negotiation.

(Guillaume Lecompte-Boinet - AINOline News)

2Q17 Deliveries Down, but Sales Steady, at Gulfstream

Deliveries at Gulfstream fell 17 percent in the second quarter from a year ago, but Phebe Novakovic, chairman and CEO of parent company General Dynamics, said today during an investor conference call that she expects overall shipments at the Savannah, Georgia-based business jet manufacturer to be on par with last year, when it delivered 115 aircraft (88 large-cabin and 27 midsize jets).

During the quarter, Gulfstream delivered 30 jets (23 large and seven midsize) versus 36 in the same period last year (29 large and seven midsize). In the first six months, it has shipped 60 airplanes (46 large and 14 midsize), compared with 64 (49 large, 15 midsize) in the first half of last year.

Novakovic said that Gulfstream has seen “steady demand” for its airplanes, recording a 0.9:1 book-to-bill ratio in the second quarter. Notably, she said, “In this quarter, we had the highest number of orders that we've seen in the last six quarters for the G650/650ER.” The G650/650ER, as well as the G550, built backlog during the quarter, she added.

Second-quarter revenues at General Dynamics’ aerospace division, which also includes Gulfstream sister company Jet Aviation, were down $206 million year-over-year, to $2.078 billion. However, comparative earnings increased by $1 million, to $425 million, thanks to a “more advantageous mix.”

(Chad Trautvetter - AINOnline News)

FAA Dismisses Signature Santa Ana FBO Lease Complaint

Signature Flight Support expressed disappointment in the U.S. FAA’s decision to dismiss its Part 16 complaint over the ending of its leasehold at John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Santa Ana, California, but vowed to continue pursing all legal options to regain its position as an FBO provider on the airport.

Signature filed the complaint to the FAA earlier this year, alleging that the Orange County Board of Supervisors had violated Grant Assurance 22 regarding economic nondiscrimination. It argued that the county had discriminated against Signature by awarding a lease that it had held for two decades at SNA to ACI Jet. Signature said the request for qualification process used was discriminatory and that the county failed to negotiate renewal in good faith.

But in a July 21 determination, the FAA disagreed that the county had violated its grant assurances, saying, “Grant Assurance 22 does not require that an airport adhere to any particular methodology for letting or assigning leases. Discretion is left to the airport sponsor using practices that support its individual needs.”

The agency added it does not arbitrate lease agreements through Part 16, nor does it enforce lease terms through that complaint process. Rather, Part 16 is aimed at contracts between the federal government and airport sponsors.

“Signature Flight Support is disappointed by the decision,” the company said in a statement. “We continue to steadfastly stand by our position that the 2016 SNA RFP process was flawed, and did not provide a level playing field for those who participated; ultimately penalizing Signature, the airport’s customers and constituents.”

Signature ended its 20-year tenure at SNA on March 31 after the Orange County board of supervisors in late February reaffirmed its decision to award leaseholds for the two FBOs at SNA to Atlantic Aviation and ACI Jet. The board had cited pricing concerns and a desire for a more local company in its decision to switch vendors. Signature, however, accused the board of illegal and unfair bidding processes.

Signature said it was nearly complete on a contract extension when a third party expressed an interest in becoming an interim FBO provider. The county then issued an RFQ, and during the initial evaluations, Signature ended up as the top ranked qualifier, the company noted. However, the county chose to award the leasehold to a lesser-ranked bidder that did not, at the time, provide the requisite audited financial statements.

Orange County, however, argued that it used a “deliberative, thoughtful and transparent process” and charged that Signature wanted to reverse the leasing process to continue its “anti-competitive position and excessive pricing.”

“While others may have made a different decision than the board,” the FAA said in response to the arguments, “we find nothing in the procedures followed by the board or its ultimate decision that violates Grant Assurance 22.”

The FAA added that airport sponsors “have a right and responsibility to consider pricing in FBO selection.” Signature has argued that the pricing picture presented by the county did not take into account its full approach to pricing.

(Kerry Lynch - AINOnline News)

JStars Contenders Argue Merits of Business Jet Versus Airliner

Gulfstream and Northrop Grumman propose a modified G550 business jet for the JStars program. (Image: Northrop Grumman)

Gulfstream and Northrop Grumman are making their case for hosting the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JStars) on a business jet as the U.S. Air Force nears a decision on the JStars recapitalization program. The companies are proposing the Gulfstream G550 to replace the service’s Boeing E-8C JStars fleet; they face competition from Boeing, offering a system based on the 737-700 airliner, and a team led by Lockheed Martin proposing the Bombardier Global 6000 business jet as a host platform.

“The real discussion is whether or not these next-generation assets should be on a business jet or continue to be on an airliner,” said Troy Miller, Gulfstream regional vice president for military and special mission sales, during a mid-July briefing in Savannah, Georgia, Gulfstream’s headquarters. “In broad terms, we think a business jet compared to an airliner can do these missions higher, faster, farther, better [and] less expensively.”

Responding separately to an AIN inquiry, Northrop Grumman concurred that a 10-station JStars battle management command and control (BMC2) system hosted on the large-cabin, ultra-long-range G550 “can fly higher and see more to prosecute more targets without any added cost.”

The G550’s “agility and size allow it to be closer to the fight because it can base at two times the number of bases that heavy aircraft can fit in,” Alan Metzger, Northrop Grumman vice president for next generation surveillance and targeting, stated in an email. “Our Recap offering uses substantially less fuel, can generate substantially more mission on-station time while flying at threshold altitude, and provides crews with greater comfort due to the better cabin pressure than a commercial airliner would.”

Northrop Grumman expects the Air Force will select a JStars weapons system provider “sometime after late October.” The service plans to award an engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) contract valued at $6.9 billion. The EMD phase calls for the delivery of three test aircraft, with options for two low-rate initial production and 12 production aircraft over three lots, for a total of 17. Separately, the service has awarded Raytheon and Northrop Grumman contracts to develop competing designs for the JStars radar subsystem.

Miller offered a number of comparisons between a nominal narrowbody airliner and a G550. Airliners traditionally are certified to fly no higher than 41,000 feet; the G550 is certified to fly up to 51,000 feet, offering a better field of view for ground surveillance. An airliner’s maximum speed is Mach 0.82; the G550 cruises at Mach 0.85. An airliner can fly to 6,200 nm; the G550’s range is 6,750 nm.

Comparing commercial aircraft platforms, the fuel burn of an airliner is almost double that of a G550 business jet, Miller said, citing figures from the firm Conklin & de Decker of Orleans, Massachusetts. The operating cost of a G550 is $9 per nm versus just under $15 for an airliner.

Gulfstream has produced 207 business jets for government and special-missions purposes in 39 countries, including 70 U.S. government and military aircraft. Working with a prime contractor, it modifies green aircraft off its Savannah production line to accommodate mission equipment.

The companies offered the Air Force multiple configurations to satisfy the requirement of the JStars recapitalization program for an aerial refueling receptacle; of those the preferred option was a nose-mounted configuration—the same location used on aircraft including the A-10 Thunderbolt II, B-1 bomber and Air Force One, Northrop Grumman said.

The latter company has flight-tested its G550 testbed behind a surrogate tanker “with no adverse handling issues.” It has also conducted in-flight refueling of the G550 behind both KC-135 and KC-10 tankers in a full-motion simulator to evaluate flight crew field of view. “Results were excellent for both a nose-mounted and crown-mounted UARRSI (Universal Aerial Refueling Receptacle Slipway Installation),” the company said.

Northrop Grumman bases the G550 JStars testbed and a mission crew trainer at its Manned Aircraft Design Center of Excellence in Melbourne, Florida. The company says it has flown the aircraft about 500 hours each year since 2011 as it has matured its offering for the JStars recapitalization program. During that time, it has displayed the testbed and mission crew trainer at Langley, Andrews, Hanscom and Robins air force bases.

Boeing Defense has a case of its own to make about replacing aging, Boeing 707-based E-8C JStars and E-3 AWACS as well as C-135 Rivet Joint, Combat Sent, Cobra Ball, Open Skies and Constant Phoenix mission aircraft with the 737. “What we believe is that the 737-based platform is the right solution for the recapitalization of all of these aircraft moving forward,” said Jamie Burgess, Boeing Defense program manager for mobility, surveillance and engagement, during a briefing in Seattle in May.

Fleet size and parts and service availability rank high among reasons for adapting the 737, which already serves as the platform for the U.S. Navy’s P-8 Poseidon. Boeing reports delivering more than 8,000 737s with another 4,000 on order. Over 65 years, it has delivered 1,200 militarized derivatives to customers in 21 countries.

“When you think about militarizing an airplane like a 737 you don’t really lose much performance in terms of mission capability and aero performance due to considerations like weight [and] mass properties,” Burgess argued. “When you start militarizing a smaller luxury business-jet class airplane, you do start to see degradation in aircraft performance. They’re just not designed to carry as much weight for as long a mission as the 737.”

Gulfstream’s Miller would disagree. “A business jet is going to be more right-sized for these types of missions,” he said. “The airliner community routinely talks about how much bigger their aircraft is than the mission requires. They use the phrase all the time ‘that gives us room for growth.’ What 'room for growth' means is that they’re offering way more aircraft than the mission requires.

“If we concede that a business jet offers better performance and lower costs and we’re right-sized for the mission, it’s really difficult to understand why an airliner would be appropriate,” he added.

(Bill Carey - AINOnline News)

Thursday, July 27, 2017

United States Navy Boeing EA-18G Growler (c/n G-12) 166900 / 504

First time seeing this squadron, VAQ-209 "Star Warriors" at Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB)! Caught one of their Growlers departing from Rwy 30 on July 25, 2017 even got a little afterburner!!

(Photos by Michael Carter)

United States Navy Boeing F/A-18E Super Hornet (c/n E209) 168359 / 410

Captured departing Long Beach Airport (LGB/KLGB) on July 25, 2017, this Rhino of VFA-25 "Fist of the Fleet" makes a fast climb out as it departs from Rwy 30.

(Photos by Michael Carter)