Stobart Air ceases trading

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UK officials have set in place contingency plans after Stobart Air, which operates a string of short-haul and services on behalf of Aer Lingus, British Airways and KLM, ceased trading and called in liquidators.

The collapse of the regional carrier has left thousands of passengers at risk of being stranded with a host of scheduled trips being cancelled.

British Airways and Aer Lingus have stated that they are to operate the services directly instead.

Stobart Air was part of London-listed Esken, an aviation and energy business that was previously called Stobart Group. It operated Aer Lingus regional services between Belfast, Leeds Bradford, Edinburgh, Exeter, Manchester, East Midlands, and Birmingham, as well as flights from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and Newquay to Dublin and Irish domestic routes from the capital to Donegal and Kerry.

Prior to the pandemic, Stobart Air also ran services for BA CityFlyer from London City Airport, and KLM Cityhopper from Amsterdam. The carrier had picked up several routes following the collapse of Flybe, Europe’s biggest regional airline, in March 2020.

Esken put Stobart Air up for sale in the hope of offloading expensive aircraft leasing contracts costing the group tens of millions of pounds.

A deal was struck in April to sell the airline for a nominal £2 to Ettyl, a start-up led by 26-year-old Isle of Man Bitcoin investor Jason Scales. Recently however, it was revealed in the UK press that police had been alerted to potential irregularities relating to the takeover. This followed an announcement by Esken that Mr Scales’ financing had fallen through.

Boeing and Alaska Airlines team up to make flying safer and more sustainable

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Boeing and Alaska Airlines have announced they are partnering on the latest Boeing ecoDemonstrator program and will flight test about 20 technologies on a new 737-9 to enhance the safety and sustainability of air travel.

In flights beginning this summer, Boeing and Alaska will test a new halon-free fire-extinguishing agent that significantly reduces effects on the ozone layer, evaluate an engine nacelle designed to reduce noise and assess cabin sidewalls made from recycled material, among other projects.

“We have a long history of working with Boeing to advance aviation technology, safety and fuel efficiency,” said Diana Birkett Rakow, Alaska Airlines’ Vice President, public affairs, and sustainability. “Alaska Airlines flies to some of the most beautiful and geographically diverse regions in the world and we are committed to finding ways to reduce climate impacts across our network. This work with Boeing to accelerate innovation on the ecoDemonstrator programme enables us to contribute to a more sustainable future for our global community.”

Since 2012, the ecoDemonstrator program has accelerated innovation by taking nearly 200 promising technologies out of the lab and testing them in the air to address challenges for the aviation industry and improve the passenger experience.

“Boeing is committed to continually improve air safety and the environmental performance of our products,” said Stan Deal, Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO. “We’re proud to collaborate with our hometown customer and other partners around the world this year to make flying more sustainable.”

In five months of ecoDemonstrator flight tests, Boeing and Alaska will work with nine other partners to test new technologies. After tests are complete, the airplane will be configured for passenger service and delivered to Alaska. The program’s technologies include:

  • Testing a new fire extinguishing agent for aircraft that significantly reduces effects on the ozone layer. This material is intended to replace Halon 1301, which is no longer being produced.
  • Collaborating with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to measure greenhouse-gas levels in the atmosphere to support the agency’s climate modelling and long-term forecasting.
  • Evaluating acoustic lining concepts within the engine nacelle that may reduce noise on current engines and will inform designs for next-generation models.
  • Recycling carbon composite material from Boeing 777X wing production into a cabin sidewall panel. This durable, light material would reduce fuel use and carbon emissions, and supports Boeing’s goals for sustainable manufacturing.

Boeing’s current and future airplanes leverage several technologies evaluated in previous ecoDemonstrator testing, including:

  • Advanced Technology winglets on the 737 MAX family that reduce fuel use and emissions.
  • iPad apps that provide real-time weather and other data to pilots, improving fuel efficiency and reducing CO2 These apps complement digital analytics services Boeing offers to help airlines optimize fleet utilization.
  • A camera system on the new 777X that will enhance safety by helping pilots avoid obstacles on the ground.

“Boeing put additional emphasis on sustainability in 2020 to align with our stakeholder and business priorities as well as our values,” Boeing Chief Sustainability Officer Chris Raymond said. “Through our collaboration with industry partners, the ecoDemonstrator programme is a great example of our commitment to work together to make flying safer and more sustainable for current and future generations.”

ecoDemonstrator test flights are flown on a blend of petroleum-based and sustainable aviation fuel. SAF is in regular use today, reduces life-cycle CO2 emissions by up to 80%, and offers the most immediate and greatest potential to reduce emissions over the next 20 to 30 years in all commercial aviation markets.

In January this year, Boeing committed to make sure its commercial airplanes are capable and certified to fly on 100% SAF by 2030. The company also plans to work with regulatory authorities and across the industry to raise the current 50% blending limit for expanded use of SAF. Boeing’s 2018 ecoDemonstrator 777 Freighter made history as the world’s first commercial airliner to fly on 100% sustainable fuel.

Airbus intends to return production to pre-pandemic levels

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Airbus has said it would increase production of its A320neo to 64 aircraft per month by the second quarter of 2023. It is even more than the average output in 2019.

The leading plane maker also asked its supply chain to adjust operations to allow a further rise to 70 aircraft in 2024.

“The aviation sector is beginning to recover from the COVID-19 crisis,” said chief executive Guillaume Faury.

Although many airlines still do not find themselves financially viable, Airbus looks ahead and predicts the commercial aircraft market to reach pre-pandemic levels between 2023 and 2025, led by single-aisle planes that usually carry 200-250 passengers.

However, in regard to A350 production, no drastic changes can be seen here. Airbus intends to increase it from five to six, but there is no clarity about the timing. Supposedly, it would start by autumn 2022.

Flight diversion of Ryanair FR4978 by Belarus regime sparks international outrage

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The diversion of a Ryanair flight by the Belarusian regime to arrest a journalist has drew condemnation by western nations. Many of these nations have called for sanctions. Several European airlines have chosen to avoid Belarus’ airspace.

On 23 May, an armed Belarusian MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jet intercepted Ryanair’s Boeing 737, registered SP-RSM, operating flight FR4978 from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania. 126 passengers and six crew members were on board the airliner. The interception was launched due to an alleged a bomb threat on the aircraft. The 737 was escorted to carry out an emergency landing at Minsk National Airport (MSQ) in the capital city of Belarus.

At the time of the diversion, the aircraft was 72km away from Vilnius, its destination, and 30km from the Lithuanian border. Despite the alleged urgency of the bomb threat, Belarus authorities preferred to divert to Minsk, 183km away. Other Belarusian airports were also closer, such as Grodno Airport as a point of diversion.

When the plane landed in Minsk, two passengers were detained by the KGB, the Belarusian security services. They were identified as Roman Protasevich and his partner Sofia Sapega, a student. Protasevich is a Belarusian journalist, co-founder, and former editor-in-chief of the Nexta information channel.

Nexta was particularly active during the recent protests in Belarus which started in May 2020, following the sixth reelection of President Alexander Lukashenko. According to the exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Protasevich may face the death penalty in Belarus, the last European country to apply such sentence.

Other passengers reported being searched and detained for seven hours. The plane departed from Minsk and landed in Vilnius later in the evening of 23 May, where it was met by Lithuanian authorities. Roman Protasevich was not on board.

Breeze Airways all set for take-off

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Breeze Airways will begin its inaugural service on the 27 May with flights between Charleston, South Carolina; Tampa, Florida; and Hartford, Connecticut. Airline entrepreneur David Neeleman’s latest low-fare startup, unveiled its debut network on 21 May consisting of 39 nonstop routes between 16 cities in the Southwest, Midwest, Southeast, and Eastern US.

“These 16 cities are just the beginning for Breeze,” said Neeleman. “The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the nation’s air service have meant many secondary markets and smaller cities have seen a significant reduction in flights. There are so many city pairs needing nonstop service around the country; we have a further 100 cities under consideration. Flying nonstop, Breeze will get you there in half the time, but also for about half the price.”

Friday’s unveiling marks the start of Neeleman’s fifth airline start-up, after JetBlue, Brazil’s Azul, Canada’s WestJet, and Utah-based Morris Air. Headquartered in Salt Lake City, Breeze will concentrate its flight operations at four main airports: Tampa, Florida; Charleston, South Carolina; New Orleans; and Norfolk, Virginia.

The new airline plans to operate 13 single-class Embraer E-Jets this summer, flying routes with an average flight time of under two hours. Ten E190s jets leased from Nordic Aviation Capital will seat 108 passengers and the three ex-Azul E195s will seat 118.

AerFin officially launches its Engine MRO Lite service

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AerFin has announced the launch of Engine MRO Lite, a scope of leading engine MRO services from its 100,000 sq ft CAA/EASA & FAA approved facility in Caerphilly.

Focussed on optimising engine residual value to provide efficient and sustainable solutions, this new service offers a range of in-house and off-wing engine maintenance solutions, including quick-turn services, hospital shop repairs and engine transitions across CF34-8, CFM56-5 & 7 and RB211-524 platforms.

The MRO facility, which recently achieved its approved Repair Stations accreditation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAR 145) is complete with OEM engine line tooling, a 10-tonne gantry overhead crane and has the capacity to store up-to 55 fan engines.

Director of Operations, Simon Bayliss, said: “We are looking forward to offering new and existing customers our innovative engine maintenance solutions by offering them quick access to engine maintenance services through our hospital/quick-turn activity, enabling operators to maximise liquidity of their assets and optimize their fleets readiness.”

Bob James, CEO, added: “The launch of our Engine MRO Lite services is a fantastic opportunity to further strengthen our relationships with airlines, lessors and MROs and will help us to build substantially on our ability to deliver cost-effective sustainable solutions to the aviation industry.”

Take off for new Icelandic LCC PLAY

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PLAY, a new bright red, low-cost, Icelandic airline has launched today, with flights from London Stansted to Iceland.

Iceland, which features on the UK’s green travel list, makes for a desirable holiday destination for Brits all year round. Since March 2021, volcanic activity has been ongoing on Iceland’s Reykjanes Peninsula, located just 30 minutes from the airport. Trips to view the eruptions will be a must-see for those travelling to Iceland from the UK this summer.

Mr Birgir Jónsson, CEO of PLAY says, “It’s brilliant to be able to open up Iceland to UK travellers and offer competitive fares now that international travel has resumed. While the UK market knows Iceland well, the destination has changed a little recently with the (minor) volcanic eruptions in the Reykjanes Peninsula. Certainly, a must-experience for UK travellers.”

PLAY will operate direct flights to Iceland from London Stansted Airport, with flights operating four times a week on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, with the aim of introducing daily flights in the future. The inaugural flight is scheduled to depart London Stansted at 16.10 on Thursday 24 June, arriving in Iceland at 18.20.

“We are looking forward to providing safe effortless travel, and great value, as we bring low fares to people in the UK.” Jónsson adds.

The PLAY fleet will comprise three Airbus A321neo aircraft, each with 192 economy seats. The first aircraft, TF-AEW, commences operation on 24 June. The second and third will be delivered in July.

The future of aircraft maintenance arrives in Malaysia

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Asia Digital Engineering Sdn Bhd (ADE), a wholly-owned subsidiary of AirAsia Group Berhad, is well on its way of becoming Asia’s leading provider of aviation engineering services as it obtained base maintenance approval from the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM).

With the approval, ADE will now not only perform regular line maintenance, but also base maintenance (hangar or C-checks) for the AirAsia Group’s airlines, and will also be available to support third party airlines for aircraft maintenance repairs and overhaul (MRO).

Mahesh Kumar, CEO of ADE said: “ADE has made great progress since it was launched in the midst of the pandemic in September last year. We are thrilled to expand our services now to support AirAsia Group and other airlines in the region. AirAsia Group have been sending aircraft to other MRO operators for scheduled base maintenance, which will now be able to be serviced locally in Malaysia delivering significant efficiencies including reduced maintenance costs. Furthermore, ADE has received approvals from the Directorates-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) of India and Indonesia and we will continue to work with other aviation authorities in Asean as well as the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) for further approvals to support more local, regional and international operators with leading edge technology, innovation, and great value services at the highest quality.

“We always believe Malaysia should be the strategic hub for aircraft maintenance in the region and beyond, creating jobs and economic benefits for the future and we thank CAAM for assisting to make this a reality. Based on demand, we are looking to expand our aircraft maintenance facilities and services in KLIA, Johor and other airports in Malaysia by either utilising existing hangars or building new hangars.

“With this base maintenance approval from CAAM, ADE is now poised to become not just the biggest MRO in Malaysia, but also one of the biggest in Asean and beyond. Importantly, as ADE continues to drive digital innovation, our base maintenance division will continue to enable ADE to deliver industry leading, cost effective and high quality solutions through cutting edge technologies, which previously were not possible.

Our operations are highly driven by big data and state-of-the-art digital technologies. Being a fully integrated digital company, we strive for operational excellence through enhanced visibility, intelligence, and decision making enabled by data. By combining data from our daily operations with other external data sources, we can provide our customers with the most comprehensive end-to-end solutions to meet their needs.”

“With our experienced team of more than 19 years supporting AirAsia Group’s airline operations, our qualified technical workforce will ensure best in breed services tailored to any operation. As every aircraft is unique and every situation requires a tailored solution with an optimum outcome, we will always ensure the best, tailor-made solutions in supporting our clients.”

Icelandic startup PLAY to acquire its first Airbus A320neo soon

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Icelandic startup airline PLAY will receive its first aircraft – Airbus A320neo – at the beginning of June. Two more aircraft will follow in July.

In the meantime, PLAY pilots are completing simulator training in the UK in preparation for the first passenger flight, which is planned for 24. The airline that intends to position itself as a low-cost carrier has already confirmed its initial destinations, including Paris, London, Copenhagen, Tenerife, and Alicante.

All three aircraft joining PLAY are designed to carry 220 passengers, but the planes in PLAY’s fleet will transport less than 200 passengers to provide extra comfort to its passengers.

ABL Aviation secures JOLCO financing of two A350s for Luthansa

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ABL Aviation, the global independent aircraft investment management firm, has closed another Japanese operating lease with call option (JOLCO) arranging the equity portion of two Airbus A350-900s aircraft for Lufthansa.

This transaction, the first that ABL Aviation has completed with Lufthansa, was efficiently managed and closed in a short timeframe, with the financing secured for both A350 aircraft by the end of April, less than three weeks after being mandated. This deal represents the tenth transaction arranged by ABL Aviation since the beginning of the pandemic.

The deal reflects the growing airline demand for new technology aircraft that are more fuel-efficient for use on international routes. Also, it reflects Lufthansa’s interest in the JOLCO market is mutual, given the strong preference for first-tier credits by Japanese equity investors.

Ali Ben Lmadani, CEO of ABL Aviation commented: “We are delighted to work on this transaction with Lufthansa, one of the world’s leading airlines, offering competitive financing in record time. The deal reflects both ABL Aviation’s innovative approach to finance and resilience with high levels of activity and successful transactions at the beginning of this year, despite ongoing economic uncertainty. It is encouraging to see new capital being deployed in the new aircraft space. We hope it is the first of many deals we deliver with Lufthansa.”