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Thursday, April 8th, 2021

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EU gives go-ahead for €4 billion Air France state bail-out, despite Ryanair protestations

The EU has given the green light for the French government to inject up to €4 billion into Air France by increasing its current 14.3% stake in Air France KLM to 30%. The deal has been subject to weeks of negotiations as the EU has always been keen to ensure that any aid given to European carriers does not give them an unfair advantage. To mitigate the situation, the commission, which is the EU’s anti-trust regulator, has demanded Air France to release up to 18 slots per day at Paris’ second-largest airport, Orly. “This gives competing carriers the chance to expand their activities at this airport, ensuring fair prices and increased choice for European consumers,” EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said.

Like airlines worldwide, Air France had been hit heavily by the COVID-19 pandemic and in 2020 posted a €7.1 billion loss. It should be noted that the Netherlands’ flag-carrier KLM, which forms an alliance with Air France, will not benefit from the aid, though in a joint statement Le Maire and his Dutch counterpart Wopke Hoekstra said a recapitalization of KLM by the government of the Netherlands was being looked at.

Rival airline Ryanair has been highly critical of previous French aid for Air France, claiming that it distorts competition. Ryanair, which is Europe’s biggest airline in terms of passenger numbers, is also looking to challenge Germany’s substantial bailout of Lufthansa in the EU courts as well as schemes in Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark and Portugal. However, the French and Dutch ministers defended their support for their airline group. “The connectivity of France and the Netherlands is of great importance for both economies and therefore the recovery of the Air France – KLM Group is in the best interest of the two states,” they said, while further underlining both carriers’ commitment towards environmental stability. (€1.00 = US$1.19 at time of publication.)

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UPS to buy ten electric VTOL aircraft from Beta Technologies

United Parcel Service (UPS) has confirmed its agreement to purchase ten electric vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft from Vermont-based Beta Technologies. According to the American package delivery company, the purchases are to assist with speeding up deliveries in small markets.

The aircraft in question will have a cruising speed of 170 mph and a range of 250 miles, with a cargo capacity of 1400 pounds. Cargo will be of a time-sensitive type more usually transported in small fixed-wing aircraft. The deal also includes an option to buy a further 150 of the aircraft from Beta Technologies and delivery of the first ten units is expected to take place in 2024. It is also anticipated that at some point in the future these VTOL aircraft will be operated autonomously.

Premier Aviation Quebec (PAQ) announces ownership change

Premier Aviation Quebec (PAQ) has finalized its sale to Sylvain Perron current COO of PAQ and former CFO of the Premier Aviation Group. Ronnie Di Bartolo, outgoing CEO and President, says: “The reputation of PAQ in the regional market has been established as one of the industry leading Regional MRO shops. Today I am pleased to announce that our COO, Sylvain Perron has acquired the company and is very well positioned for the next chapter of growth. The most important thing for me was to secure my most valuable asset - our employees”.

“As Premier Aviation is looking to grow its current footprint and launch new service offerings, it was important to secure the expertise and also be able to partner with local governments and airport officials, says Sylvain Perron, new President and CEO of Premier Aviation Quebec. PAQ employees in Quebec City have proven time and time again to be one of the top regional MROs in North America.”

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Nexcelle names Sugato Bhattacharjee as President of the jet engine nacelle joint venture

Sugato Bhattacharjee has been appointed President of the Nexcelle engine nacelle joint venture of Safran Nacelles (Safran) and Middle River Aerostructure Systems, a subsidiary of ST Engineering.

Bhattacharjee is a member of the Middle River Aerostructure Systems (MRAS) leadership team who brings extensive experience in management, design, manufacturing, and engineering – including managerial positions on international jet engine programs and in the joint venture environment.

Prior to his appointment as Nexcelle President, Bhattacharjee was MRAS’ Senior Product Manager for regional nacelle programs. He began his aviation industry career in 1996, joining GE Aviation as a structural design engineer, then progressing through a number of expanded roles involving product design and manufacturing.

Bhattacharjee assumed an Executive Engineering Manager role before joining the product management executive team for GE’s GEnx high-thrust turbofan jet engine. In 2010, Bhattacharjee transitioned to CFM as the Manufacturing Programs Director. He served as the Executive Director of Customer Training and MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) – working with GE Aviation customers worldwide.

The Nexcelle presidency rotates between MRAS and Safran Nacelles. Bhattacharjee succeeds Patrice Provost, a Safran Nacelles employee, who was the president since early 2019. Provost continues his relationship with Nexcelle as one of the joint venture’s two Executive Vice Presidents.

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Finnair reports traffic performance for March 2021

In March, Finnair carried 86,300 passengers, which was 82.7% less than in March 2020 even though the COVID-19 impact was visible already then. The number of passengers in March 2021 was 1.1% less than in February 2021.

The overall capacity measured in Available Seat Kilometers (ASK) decreased in March by 81.3% year-on-year. Finnair operated 74 daily flights (cargo-only included) on average which was 34.6% compared to March 2020. The differences between capacity figures are explained by the shorter average stage length of operated flights and by the smaller gauge of operated aircraft compared to March 2020. Finnair's traffic measured in Revenue Passenger Kilometers (RPKs) decreased by 92.0%. The Passenger Load Factor (PLF) decreased by 33.4% points to 24.6%.

The ASK decline in Asian traffic was 78.7%. The North Atlantic capacity decreased by 91.4%. In European traffic, the ASKs were down by 85.0%. The ASKs in domestic traffic decreased by 65.3%. RPKs decreased in Asian traffic by 96.4%, in North Atlantic traffic by 99.3%, in European traffic by 89.4% and in domestic traffic by 59.6%.

The PLF was 9.9% in Asian traffic but it was supported by strong cargo operations and a high cargo load factor. The PLF was 5.3% in North Atlantic traffic, 39.6% in European traffic and 58.9% in domestic traffic.

Passenger numbers decreased in Asian traffic by 96.2%, in North Atlantic traffic by 99.2%, in European traffic by 85.5% and in domestic traffic by 65.1%.

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RINA acquires Interconsulting Engineering in move to strengthen Space and Defense arm

RINA, the multinational inspection, certification and engineering consultancy company, has acquired the entire share capital of Interconsulting Engineering, headquartered in Rome, through its subsidiary RINA Consulting.

Interconsulting Engineering brings cutting-edge know-how in the design and development of integrated systems, applications and high-tech solutions in avionics to the group. With a turnover of approx. €5 million and 50 employees specializing in electronic systems, the company has participated in major Italian and international aerospace programs.

The acquisition, which has obtained the sector-specific authorizations, represents a further step forward in the implementation of RINA's strategy to grow in the Space and Defence sectors. This strategic move will augment RINA's existing expertise in safety-critical software engineering and complex electronic systems prototyping.

RINA, the multinational inspection, certification and engineering consultancy company, has acquired the entire share capital of Interconsulting Engineering, headquartered in Rome, through its subsidiary RINA Consulting.

Interconsulting Engineering brings cutting-edge know-how in the design and development of integrated systems, applications and high-tech solutions in avionics to the group. With a turnover of approx. € 5M and 50 employees specialising in electronic systems, the company has participated in major Italian and international aerospace programs.

The acquisition, which has obtained the sector-specific authorizations, represents a further step forward in the implementation of RINA's strategy to grow in the Space and Defence sectors. This strategic move will augment RINA's existing expertise in safety-critical software engineering and complex electronic systems prototyping.

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SA’s Pegasus Vertical Business Jet gets ready for lift-off

The Pegasus Vertical Business Jet (VBJ), being developed in South Africa, is entering its next phase with two quarter-scale models to be ready for testing and engineering by May 2021 and a full-scale unmanned hover model by the end of the year. This follows the successful hover demonstration of a 1/8-scale model in July last year and the registration of patent rights in South Africa, Europe, and the U.S. The aircraft is set to revolutionize business travel globally and free travelers from the burden of the time-consuming drive to the airport.

The aircraft, that combines and enhances the characteristics of a helicopter with the luxury, range, and speed of a business jet, has been hailed by the urban mobility project as the 6th most likely to succeed globally in a 2019 independent review by Abbott Aerospace. The review included 100 different projects, including some sponsored and supported by Boeing, Airbus and various governments around the world as well as venture capital companies with billions of dollars in funding. “Most of these are of the air taxi type, therefore, more compelling and exciting for us, is that we were ranked first in the VTOL airplanes aimed at business jet type mission profile,” says Dr. Reza who first conceptualized the Pegasus VBJ.

The aircraft seats seven people, including the pilot and has a range of 4400km from a runway take-off and 2124km from vertical take-off. Its endurance is 6.6 hours (runway) or 3.18 hours (VTOL). Flight speed is up to 796km/h. The unique flight control system being developed by Callen Lenz in the U.K. will ensure enhanced safety and ease of flight from a pilot’s perspective.

Pegasus has partnered with Centurion-based aeronautical engineering company Epsilon Engineering Services in the further development of the aircraft. Transportation and Industrial designer Tamir Mizrahi joined Pegasus in January 2021 as the VBJ's exterior and interior innovation designer.

GATES receives Indonesian DGCA certification to overhaul CFM56-5B/7B and CF6-80C2 engines

GA Telesis Engine Services (GATES) has received certification from the Indonesian Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to overhaul CFM56-5B/7B and CF6-80C2B engines. DGCA approval opens access to a key MRO market for CFM56-5B/7B engines in growing Southeast Asia and will allow GATES to develop and expand its customer base
in Indonesia.

GATES has also been granted certification by the FAA (United States), EASA (European Union), TCCA (Canada), CAAC (China), GACA (Saudi Arabia), DGAC (Mexico), ANAC (Argentina), and ECAA (Egypt).
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Tamar