Thursday, December 5th, 2019

Sir Richard Branson does U-turn and retains 51% stake in Virgin Atlantic

It was two years ago that Sir Richard Branson struck a deal to sell a 31% stake in the then vulnerable Virgin Atlantic to Air France-KLM for approximately 220 million pounds (US$284 million) as part of a three-way venture with Delta Air Lines as Delta Air Lines already held a 49% stake in the carrier. At the time, Branson opted to relinquish his majority stake in Virgin Atlantic to protect the long-term viability of the carrier. The three carriers also struck up a potential revenue and cost-sharing joint venture and this joint venture was cleared last month by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

However, in the two years since Virgin Atlantic struck its deal with Air France-KLM, Virgin Atlantic’s financial situation improved considerably. With the addition of the approval of this joint venture for transatlantic flights, the financial benefits to the carrier now no longer necessitate Branson selling off his controlling stake and he has consequently pulled the plug on the deal. Virgin recently acquired Flybe Group PLC which provides vital feeder traffic, and the carrier also committed to buying 14 A330-900neo jets at the Paris Air Show this year.

Commenting on the current situation with Delta Air Lines and Air France-KLM, Branson said: “We’ve had a fantastic 2019, with the new A350s joining the fleet, complete with a refresh of our famed onboard experience. We’ve continued to build a modern, fuel-efficient fleet, signing the deal at the Paris Airshow for the A330neos that will join our A350s from 2021. We’ve started flying to Tel Aviv, returned to Mumbai and added more and more seats out of Manchester airport. As we enter 2020, the 50th birthday year for the Virgin Group, there is more excitement ahead, with the launch of our first South American route to Sao Paulo. And as well as expanding our partnership with Delta, Air France and KLM, we’ll see more red planes flying around Britain, as Virgin Connect starts flying under the Virgin brand.”


Bombardier to relocate its Global aircraft final assembly

Bombardier has signed a long-term lease agreement with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) to build its new state-of-the art Global manufacturing center located at Toronto Pearson International Airport. With preliminary site work underway in Mississauga and first production activities set to begin in 2023, the cutting-edge facility will optimize final assembly operations for all Global business jets, including its flagship the Global 7500 business jet. The Global manufacturing center at Toronto Pearson International Airport, is approximately 20 km away from the current Global aircraft final assembly site at Downsview.

“Today, I'm very excited to announce the relocation of our Global aircraft family production activities to a new, cutting-edge manufacturing facility at Toronto Pearson. This is a strategic move for Bombardier and a strong commitment to Ontario’s aerospace industry. It will allow us to offer world-class career opportunities and continue fueling the economic development of the region for years to come,” said Alain Bellemare, President and Chief Executive Officer, Bombardier.


United sets course for the future with order of 50 Airbus A321XLR aircraft

United Airlines has signed an order to purchase 50 new Airbus A321XLR aircraft, enabling the carrier to begin replacing and retiring its existing fleet of Boeing 757-200 aircraft and further meet the airline's operational needs by pairing the optimal aircraft with select transatlantic routes. The state-of-the-art aircraft, which United expects to introduce into international service in 2024, will also allow United to explore serving additional destinations in Europe from its East Coast hubs in Newark/New York and Washington.

United plans to begin taking delivery of the Airbus A321XLR in 2024. Additionally, the airline will defer the delivery of its order of Airbus A350s until 2027 to better align with the carrier's operational needs.

Spirit AeroSystems delivers first integrated 767 forward fuselage

Spirit AeroSystems has completed its first integrated 767 forward fuselage section for Boeing, an expanded statement of work on the Boeing platform, which serves as both a freighter and the basis for the KC-46 tanker for the U.S. Air Force. The unit is scheduled to be delivered December 4, to Boeing in Everett, Wash.

Spirit previously has designed and built four separate forward fuselage end items for the 767 -- the cab, lower lobe and two side panels. These were shipped by rail to Boeing for integration. With this new statement of work, Spirit will integrate the four sections into a single unit before shipping to Boeing. 

The 767-integration work began in October of this year in the newly opened advanced manufacturing facility on the company's Wichita, Kan., campus. The building showcases Spirit's innovative use of new technologies on production lines to improve quality and efficiency.


Airbus appoints new Communications leadership team

In order to support its newly-created Communications & Corporate Affairs function, which will go live on January 1, 2020, Airbus has appointed a new Communications leadership team which will work together to bring the next chapter of the company to life, while ensuring business proximity, reinforcing audience centricity and growing digital, editorial and visual content capabilities.

Maggie Bergsma, currently Head of Communications for ATR, is appointed Head of Communications Commercial Aircraft. In the new Communications leadership team, she will join Yves Barillé, Head of Communications Helicopters, and Dirk Erat, Head of Communications Defence & Space.

Philipp Encz is appointed Head of Creative Core, a newly-created role in which he will lead Airbus’ creative content teams and oversee group-wide internal and external communication activities. Encz joins from Siemens where he acted as Head of Financial and Corporate Media Relations. He will work closely with Bergsma, Barillé and Erat to ensure proximity and coordination with the company’s three main businesses.

Meanwhile, Guillaume Steuer is appointed Head of External Communications, reporting to Philipp Encz and managing Airbus’ media relations, web and social media activities.


Norwegian sells Argentinian subsidiary to JetSMART Airlines

Norwegian Air Shuttle has signed an agreement for the sale of 100% of its Argentinian subsidiary Norwegian Air Argentina (NAA) to JetSMART Airlines. “We’re taking necessary steps to return to profitability,” said acting CEO Geir Karlsen.

JetSMART will assume the NAA operation with immediate effect. To minimize the impact on passengers, JetSMART will continue to operate the NAA scheduled flights from Aeroparque airport. The parties expect that the integration process will take several months, and the Norwegian brand will be phased out in the domestic Argentinian network during this period.

Over the next six months, the three Boeing 737 currently operated by NAA will be replaced by JetSMART’s Airbus A320 aircraft. The three Boeing 737s will return to service for Norwegian in Europe.

JetSMART has been created by Indigo Partners, a private investment fund with over 15 years of experience developing successful ultra low-cost airlines worldwide. It currently has investments in Wizz Air (Eastern Europe), Volaris (Mexico) and Frontier Airlines (United States). JetSMART commenced scheduled operations in July 2017.


Dowty Propellers inaugurates new facility

Dowty Propellers has inaugurated its new facility in Brockworth, England to provide a modern operation for the company’s development, manufacture and support of state-of-the-art propeller systems with all-composite blades.

Located just outside Gloucester at Brockworth’s Gloucester Business Park, this 183,000-ft² building brings together Dowty Propellers’ primary resources at one site: from the full production process for its propeller systems to the company’s administrative offices, design and engineering teams, as well as the Dowty Propellers Repair and Overhaul (DPRO) center – the U.K. arm of Dowty Propellers’ global support network.

It will incorporate technologies for the high-quality production, control, repair and in-service support of the company’s propeller systems, which are used on turboprop and turboshaft engines powering regional airliners and military airlifters, along with amphibious aircraft and marine hovercraft.

The Brockworth facility replaces Dowty Propellers’ original headquarters and blade manufacturing facility in Gloucester that was destroyed by fire in February 2015. To enable the continuation of operations, the company purchased new production equipment and created an interim blade manufacturing facility in the Gloucestershire area at Mitcheldean. This equipment is now being transferred from Mitcheldean into the new building at Brockworth, which is to become fully operational in the first half of 2020.

Additionally, the U.K. DPRO center – which previously had operated at a separate location in Gloucester – will now be integrated into the new Brockworth facility, providing additional synergy with the company’s design engineers, production specialists and support teams. There also are DPRO
centers in Sterling, Virginia, U.S.A., and Brisbane, Australia, as well as a team of field service engineers that are deployed around the world for field repairs.

CSAT signs new base maintenance agreement with Jet2.com

Czech Airlines Technics (CSAT), a subsidiary company of Prague Airport and provider of aircraft, repair and maintenance services, has entered into a base maintenance agreement with leisure airline Jet2.com.

Under the contract, employees of CSAT provide Boeing 737NG aircraft base maintenance checks for the U.K. carrier, in facilities at Václav Havel Airport Prague. Czech Airlines Technics has provided one base maintenance check for Jet2.com last summer and work now continues during main maintenance season.


CAE introduces CAE TRAX Academy

CAE has introduced the CAE TRAX Academy, an integrated and advanced training continuum designed to deliver faster and more efficient throughput for military student pilot training. 

CAE also launched the CAE Sprint Virtual Reality (VR) trainer, an integral part of the CAE TRAX Academy, to enable self-paced learning in an immersive, high-fidelity virtual environment. The CAE Sprint VR trainer comes complete with virtual reality headset, haptics, physical flight controls, CAE Medallion image generator, and CAE virtual coach, in addition to leveraging CAE Rise (Real-time insights and standardized evaluations) for objective grading and assessment.

“Global militaries are faced with a current and growing challenge to produce pilots faster and more efficiently without impacting the quality standards that military pilot training has become known for,” said Joe Armstrong, Vice President, Global Business Operations – Product & Solutions, CAE. “Today’s digital technologies such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence and data analytics are enabling a new approach to pilot training that is more self-paced and tailored to student learning. As a leading training systems integrator, the CAE TRAX Academy is CAE’s answer to redefining how military student pilots learn, practice and then perform on the journey to becoming a pilot.”


Airbus Helicopters signs Global Support Contract for Tiger helicopters

Airbus Helicopters and OCCAR (Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en matière d'Armement / Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation) have signed a tri-lateral Global Support Contract aimed at boosting the availability rate of the Tigers in service in the French, German, and Spanish Armies.

With this long-term support agreement, Tiger readiness and supportability will be secured for the next decade and beyond. The contract covers critical items such as continuous improvement and obsolescence treatment as well as securing repair and spares capabilities with all vendors involved. In addition, it provides for the individual needs of each customer in line with their operational and deployment scenarios. For instance, in France, the agreement guarantees parts availability up to 98% and provides for the simplification of logistics as Airbus Helicopters will also directly take over the provisioning of new parts, as well as repaired parts and other expendables.

At present 183 Tigers have been delivered to France, Germany, Spain, and Australia, and have accumulated over 130,000 flight hours to date.

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