Mitsubishi SpaceJet No 10 performs maiden flight

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Mitsubishi SpaceJet Flight Test Vehicle 10 (FTV10) has completed its maiden flight from the Prefectural Nagoya Airport.

With the success of the test flight, Mitsubishi is preparing to complete the final phase of certification, making the SpaceJet the first commercial aircraft manufactured in Japan.

“I am very pleased that FTV10, which was handed over from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in January this year, successfully conducted its first flight today,” stated President of Mitsubishi Aircraft, Hisakazu Mizutani.

The company’s Chief Development Officer, Alex Bellamy added, “Today’s announcement is especially encouraging, as it marks the start of certification flight testing for the first SpaceJet M90 in final, certifiable configuration.

The captain aboard the flight, Hiroyoshi Takase described it going “smoothly and according to plan.” Continued sorties will be conducted over the next few weeks in Nagaoya for the final phase of type certification.


Jazeera Airways provides planes to State of Kuwait

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Kuwaiti LCC Jazeera Airways is offering its fleet of 14 aircraft at the disposal of the State of Kuwait in order to help deal with the effects of the COVID-19.

Jazeera Airways press release stated, “The airline has always placed its fleet at the service of Kuwait in times of crisis and continues to do so as part of its national duty.” The airline will provide support in returning Kuwaiti nationals to the country and transporting necessary medical equipment.

All commercial flights in and out of Kuwait were suspended on 13 March which has meant that a number of foreigners who live and work in the country can no longer re-enter. On the other hand, tourists and visitors are potentially trapped if they cannot find another way home.

The airline is currently building an auxiliary special medical facility in coordination with health and civil authorities at its terminal at Kuwait International Airport and aims to be ready when passenger traffic resumes at the airport.

Eastern Airways

Eastern Airways takes on Southampton

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Eastern Airways

Eastern Airways announced it will connect Southampton to Belfast City Airport.

Previously serviced by Flybe, the route will operate about seven flights per week and is aimed to commence on 23 March.

Flybe had been the largest airline operator to fly for Belfast, accounting for 80% of outward routes but this “significant expansion” for Eastern Airways will benefit the economy by resuming connections. It is expected to particularly benefit passengers travelling to cruises as they have easy access via London rail connection and the port.

“Belfast has long been one of our most in-demand destinations, and importantly this will once again enable vital regional connectivity with Northern Ireland. We look forwards to enhancing our route network further with Eastern Airways,” said Neil Garwood, Managing Director of Southampton Airport.

Eastern Airways has also launched routes from Southampton to Manchester, Newcastle and Aberdeen via Teesside International Airport and expects flight frequency to increase.


Delta decreases due to demand

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Delta announced that it will ground 300 of its aircraft and cut 40% of its flights in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The carrier has seen a drop in demand since the pandemic began but a huge contributor to these cuts follows the United States government’s decision to suspend European connections.

“The speed of the demand fall-off is unlike anything we’ve seen,” commented Delta CEO, Ed Bastian. “We are moving quickly to preserve cash and protect our company. And with revenues dropping, we must be focused on taking costs out of our business.”

Due to the reduction in demand, Delta claimed it will be focused on utilising smaller aircraft and has deferred plane deliveries, despite having over 200 aircraft on order currently. Additionally, these measures are followed by the freezing of hiring practices, a reduction to contractors and the offer for employees to take voluntary unpaid leave. Several other airlines have undergone the same measures as the situation continues to evolve.

However, Bastian believes that the airline will be able to resume to normal, claiming that the actions the company has taken will ensure it can recover when passengers return to travel. He states, “Delta remains better-positioned to weather a storm of this magnitude than ever before in our history. We’ve spent a decade building a strong, resilient airline powered by the best professionals in the business.”


airBaltic suspends flights until mid-April

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airBaltic has announced it is suspending all flights from 17 March until the middle of April, including international flights in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The decision was made by the Government of the Republic of Latvia, who owns 80% of the airline, to limit the virus’ spread. With airBaltic operating many of Latvia’s flights through Riga, the airline has essentially shut down internationally.

CEO of airBaltic, Martin Gauss commented, “The safety and health of our passengers, our employees and the society is above all!”

The airline is “working intensively to assist all passengers affected,” emailing each customer and advising them on how to manage travel bookings. As well as those travelling, the impact of the coronavirus has already seen airBaltic reducing its staff numbers and the recent decision will mean more will be sent on unpaid leave.


Interjet implements new routes

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Interjet has announced the launch of a new flight to San Pedro Sula, Honduras in April, as well as an increase to routes and destinations in Colombia. It is undetermined where the Honduras route will connect from but there is speculation it is to be either Mexico City or Cancun.

The LCC also intends to develop its operations in Colombia, operating a new connection between Mexico City and Cali. At present, Interjet flies to the cities of Cartagena, Medellin and Bogota, meaning that Cali would become its fourth Colombian destination.

The airline currently provides routes to seven countries in Latin America in addition to Mexico. The launch of this new route to Honduras would see Interjet become the main Mexican operator in Central America, connecting to Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica.

Interjet CEO, William Shaw stated “We are also trying to get a new route to Bogota, from a new city. So, we would launch two new routes (to this country) this year.”

In February, Interjet owed over $150m in taxes and other items and has been facing the problems with its Sukhoi aircraft fleet.

Airbus Bird Formation

Airbus flocks in bird-like formation

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Airbus Bird Formation

As a part of its “fello’fly” programme, Airbus has tested a bird-like formation with its A350s, believing that flying aircraft one behind the other could result in significant fuel savings.

Beginning on 12 March Airbus conducted comparison flight tests using A350, in order to gather information about the effectiveness of formation flying. The manufacturer flew a single aircraft an 11-hour journey from Toulouse to Canada to Iceland to Greenland and repeated this with a second Airbus aircraft following. If the programme proves to be effective, it could increase airlines efficiency through considerable reductions on fuel costs and emissions.

The proposed formation would see the FAA approved separation distance of five nm changed to 1.5nm, hoping to result in a reduction of 10-15% in fuel burn in the follower aircraft.

The fello’fly programme aims to “demonstrate the technical, operational and commercial viability of two aircraft flying together for long-haul flights.”

However there are many issues with the proposal. Having two aircraft following on a busy route would increase the possibility of incidents were it not monitored closely. It would also require aircraft to take off together, adding pressure to air traffic control and creating crowding in airport terminals as more passengers wait for coordinated flights.

Wizz Air puts Poland on hold

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Wizz Air has suspended all flights to and from Poland as of 15 March 2020, due to imposed travel restrictions on all foreign flights.

The ban is aimed to minimise the further spread of COVID-19 and will mean that no foreign citizens will be permitted entry to Poland, whilst Polish citizens arriving from abroad are to be quarantined.

Passengers who booked directly through the airline’s website will be automatically informed of flight suspensions and will be provided 120% of the original flight flare to be used to purchase Wizz Air products and services.

It is uncertain when routes to Poland will return as the global situation develops. Other low-cost airlines such as Ryanair have also temporarily stopped flights to Poland until further notice.

Editor’s Comment: Cancellations, confusion and coughs

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Unless you’ve been residing off planet you can’t have failed to have noticed the influence of the COVID-19 outbreak on the world. It’s  impacting everyone’s way of life and it’s affecting businesses globally.

Clear efforts to try and contain the virus spreading have been made by the airlines and airports. Over the past week they have been hit by a succession of country “lockdowns” and flight restrictions.

The world gasped at President Trump’s decision to implement a 30-day travel ban on passengers entering the US from 26 European countries. European Union President, Ursula von der Leyen, called for “co-operation rather than unilateral” action, making it clear that the EU was not consulted before Trump’s announcement.

Within Europe, regional and low-cost carriers have released details of a swathe of flight cancellations. Ryanair and Wizz Air have both suspended flights to Poland as the country enters a “lockdown”. The Spanish Government reacted similarly so Buzz and Lauda have severely reduced their flights to and from Spain. Norway has closed its airports as of the 16 March as part of a string of international travel restrictions. Other European nations have been, or will be, following suit.

But looking beyond the virus outbreak, when the world emerges on the other side of COVID-19, how many regional airlines will be left? Many are already struggling with groundings following the Boeing 737 MAX tragedies, and many LCCs have seen their profits tumble.

We ended 2019 with a positive outlook for the summer of 2020. There was potential for the grounding of the MAX to lifted, and things looked set to get back to some normality.

The lives lost in the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines tragedies will never be forgotten, but emerging from these accidents will be a safer and more rigorously tested commercial aircraft industry. Prior to entering widespread service, new models will be tested like never before.

But nobody could have anticipated the depth and speed of the impact of COVID-19.

Many airports have announced that they will retain operators’ slots at airports to reduce the so-called “ghost flights”, but I fear a lot more will need to be done.

Perhaps it’s time for regional airlines, LCCs and airport managers to work together to develop a plan that works for all so that businesses and passengers remain positive and healthy.

Mitsubishi SpaceJet M90 to rocket into market

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Mitsubishi Aircraft is preparing to conduct the maiden flight of its M90 Flight Test Vehicle 10 (FTV10).

Its most recent delivery date, to launch customer All Nippon Airways (ANA), was intended to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics which are to due begin on 24 July 2020. However, the programme has endured many delays and now aims to begin deliveries in April 2021.

The SpaceJet M90 had already obtained 167 firm orders including one from Utah-based regional carrier, SkyWest. It is expecting 100 M90s with the option for a further 100. Mitsubishi has also received orders from ANA, Japan Airlines and various leasing firms.

Once the M90 is in the market, Mitsubishi has stated that it will focus on the SpaceJet 100, specifically designed for US scope clause requirements and has already obtained an order from Mesa Airlines for 50 aircraft.

The company has described the vehicle as a “new, certifiable baseline design,” and was built by MHI Manufacturing at the beginning of 2020.