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Tuesday, November 2nd, 2021

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Struggling Thai Airways to take drastic measures - will offload 42 jets and slash workforce by a third

Founded in 1961, the flag-carrying airline Thai Airways International Public Company Limited (Thai Airways) has remained virtually unprofitable for the best part of a decade. The ailing carrier is now taking drastic measures to turn round the company’s fortunes by selling off 42 less-fuel-efficient aircraft, 16 aircraft which are on lease will also be returned, basically halving its current fleet size to 58 planes across four different types.

These moves are all part of a bankruptcy-protected restructuring after protection was granted by the Central Bankruptcy Court in September 2020. In June 2021 the Central Bankruptcy Court accepted Thai Airways’ business plan, which had been previously agreed by creditors, to restructure its approximate 424-billion-baht debt. On Monday the Thai government lifted restrictions to enable quarantine-free travel for vaccinated tourists and the carrier intends to now expand its flight coverage, adding flights especially from Europe. By December 2022 Thai Airways will also reduce its workforce from a current 21,300 staff to 14,500.

While currently in discussions with the Thai government for an additional loan of 25 billion baht, the Thai carrier will finalise a 25-billion-baht credit agreement with financial institutions to aid cashflow by the end of next year. For the six-month period up to June this year Thai Airways posted a profit of 11.1 billion baht, compared to a loss of 28 billion baht for the same period in 2020. (£1.00 = US$1.18 = 45.44 baht).

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MTU Aero Engines and EASA develop approval requirements for flying fuel cell

MTU Aero Engines has entered an innovation partnership with the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Together, the partners are investigating the potential ways forward for future certification of a flying fuel cell (FFC).

The hydrogen-powered fuel cell is a very promising propulsion concept on the way to emission-free flying and an integral part of MTU’s Clean Air Engine (Claire) technology agenda. Safety is a top priority in aviation, which is why entirely new standards, approval regulations and verification procedures must be defined for the safe operation of the new propulsion concept of the flying fuel cell.

“When it comes to the approval of a flying fuel cell, all parties involved are entering uncharted territory,” explains MTU’s Head of Quality Thomas Frank, “which is why we are seeking dialog with the certification bodies at such an early stage.” In this way, he says, MTU is underscoring its pioneering role in this new technology. “We rely on a strong network of partnerships and research collaborations. Together with EASA, we are breaking new ground for a sustainable orientation of aviation,” adds Barnaby Law, Chief Engineer Flying Fuel Cell at MTU.

“MTU is one of the first companies to cooperate with EASA in this area”, said EASA Chef Engineer Alain Leroy. “Our learnings from this innovation partnership will enable us to efficiently support the safe introduction of these disruptive technologies in the aviation world, with its expected benefits for the environment.”

MTU Aero Engines aims to advance a promising future option for zero-emission aviation with the flying fuel cell. Together with the German Aerospace Center DLR, the engine manufacturer is developing and validating a fuel cell powertrain. A Do228 aircraft will serve as a technology platform and flight demonstrator, equipped and tested in the coming years with a hydrogen-powered fuel cell and a single-sided electric propeller drive.

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Qatar Foundation and Rolls-Royce sign MoU to enter into partnership to create groundbreaking centre for climate-tech innovations

Rolls-Royce and Qatar Foundation announced they will enter into a long-term partnership to create a global centre for climate technology innovation. As partners, Rolls-Royce and Qatar Foundation will develop two world-class campuses dedicated to launching, investing in and growing businesses that can accelerate the global energy transition.

The centre will help entrepreneurs create and grow new climate technology businesses, aided by academic leadership, funds for R&D and early-stage venture capital investment. Businesses will be able to use infrastructure on the campuses to test, prove and scale their technologies, enabling them to have a rapid impact. This integrated approach is a global first in climate technology.

Qatar Foundation and Rolls-Royce are ambitious in their vision for the centre and for the scale of investment and technological change it will create. To address the challenge of climate change, the world needs tangible, technology-driven businesses at a scale that matters. This centre is intended to create and scale-up businesses worth multi-billions of pounds.

Rolls-Royce and Qatar Foundation will work in partnership to build the campuses, generating up to 1,000 jobs in the centres, and at least 10,000 within the related start-up companies and broader ecosystem by 2040. A substantial investment pool will be created for venture funding at the scale needed to create global climate tech businesses with real impact and in anticipation that third-party investors will co-invest, with a target to grow up to five unicorns by 2030, and up to 20 by 2040, driving significant economic value for investment partners. (A “unicorn” is a privately held start-up company valued at over US$1 billion).

This partnership will position Qatar among the top 5 countries globally investing in clean energy RD&D (in terms of spend per GDP) and as a pioneer within Small Advanced Economies. It is also in line with Qatar’s vision to further promote the state’s economic diversification, including legislative and commercial incentives to develop projects that preserve the environment and counter climate change.

A detailed analysis will be completed to finalise the design of the centre and select locations for campuses in both countries. This is expected to conclude in mid-2022. The North of England has been identified as a location to reflect the scale of the intended physical campus, alongside access to necessary skills and to manufacturing infrastructure.

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SmartLynx adds two more A321Fs to its expanding cargo fleet

As part of an ambitious expansion strategy, SmartLynx Airlines, a high-profile European ACMI charter and cargo operator has announced the addition of two more A321Fs to its growing cargo fleet.

The two new cargo freighter aircraft will bring the airline’s A321F fleet to a total of eight active aircraft of the type by the end of 2022. SmartLynx, a family member of Avia Solutions Group, additionally has plans to double its fleet number in the near future.

Both A321Fs – MSN 1204 (9H-CGC) and MSN 775 (9H-CGD) – are leased to SmartLynx by entities managed by Cross Ocean Partners and will be registered in Malta. The passenger to freighter conversion is being undertaken by Precision Conversions in the United States and the aircraft are expected to enter service in Q1 2022.

Stevens Aerospace starts construction of new Tennessee MRO facility

Stevens Aerospace and Defense Systems (Stevens) has started construction on its new MRO facility in Smyrna, Tennessee. The first phase of the facility will provide 57,000 ft² of operational space and phase two will see an additional 40,000 ft² of hangar space.

Stevens has operated in the Nashville metropolitan area for nearly 40 years. The Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport offers all the operational features found at larger airports, but with considerably less congestion plus room to expand making it an ideal fit for Stevens’ continuing business growth. In addition, most of Stevens’ Tennessee employees live closer to the new facility which reduced their daily commute.

“John Black, the airport’s executive director, has done an outstanding job of growing and modernizing a WWII military training airport”, said Christian Sasfai, Stevens’ president. “He understands how to attract aviation businesses and, maybe more importantly, that the airport is a key part of overall business growth in the region.” Stevens expects the new facility to be fully functional by mid-2022.

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A.P. Moller - Maersk orders two Boeing 777 freighters

A.P. Moller - Maersk (Maersk), the global provider of end-to-end container logistics, has placed an order for two Boeing 777 freighters. The freighters will be operated by Star Air, Maersk's in-house aircraft operator and is the company's first 777 order. Star Air currently operates an all-Boeing 767 freighter fleet.

"As a global integrator of container logistics, Maersk is improving the ability to provide one-stop shop and end-to-end logistics capabilities to our customers. This year, we have strengthened our integrated logistics offering through e-commerce logistics acquisitions, tech investments, expanding our warehouse footprint and as a natural next step, we are now ramping up our air freight capacity, creating a broader network to cater even better for the needs of customers," said Vincent Clerc, executive vice president and CEO of Ocean & Logistics, A.P. Moller – Maersk.

The Boieng 777 freighter offers 17% better fuel efficiency and reduced CO2 emissions compared to legacy airplanes. With a range of 9,200 kilometres, the 777 freighter can carry a maximum revenue payload of 102,000 kilograms, allowing Star Air to make fewer stops and reduce landing fees on long-haul routes.

AerCap completes acquisition of GE Capital Aviation Services

AerCap Holdings, a global leader in aircraft leasing, has completed its acquisition of the GE Capital Aviation Services business (GECAS) from General Electric (GE).

The acquisition positions AerCap as the worldwide industry leader across all areas of aviation leasing: aircraft, engines and helicopters. The combined company will serve approximately 300 customers around the world and will be the largest customer of Airbus and Boeing.

AerCap now has a portfolio of over 2,000 aircraft, over 900 engines and over 300 helicopters, as well as an order book of approximately 450 of the most fuel-efficient and technologically advanced aircraft. The aircraft fleet represents approximately 90% of the assets of the combined company. New technology aircraft are expected to make up 75% of the aircraft fleet by 2024.

Under the terms of the transaction agreement, General Electric received 111.5 million newly issued AerCap shares, approximately US$23 billion of cash and US$1 billion of AerCap notes. General Electric now owns approximately 46% of AerCap’s outstanding shares.

In connection with the transaction, Jennifer VanBelle has joined the Board of Directors of AerCap, bringing the number of members serving on AerCap’s Board of Directors to ten.

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ARCTOS names Chris Greamo as President and Chief Executive Officer

ARCTOS has named defensce technology leader Chris Greamo as its new President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). 

Greamo has deep technical competence and significant experience leading innovative defence technology enterprises. He previously served as President and CEO of Two Six Labs, building the technical products and services company with greater than 30% annual growth and leading its sale to The Carlyle Group in February 2021. Following the transaction, he served as President and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to support the merger between Two Six Labs and IST Research that formed Two Six Technologies.

Greamo also previously served as the Executive Vice President and General Manager at Invincea Labs, where he was responsible for technology innovation, research and development for new cybersecurity solutions. Prior to his executive leadership roles, he worked as a technologist and engineer in developing product lines for defence and aerospace industry leaders.

AFG Aviation Ireland completes acquisition of two Boeing B747-8F freighter aircraft

AFG Aviation Ireland, a wholly owned subsidiary of Aircraft Finance Germany GmbH, has completed the acquisition of two two Boeing B747-8F freighter aircraft bearing MSN 37562 and MSN 37563 from Saudi Arabian Airlines Corporation (Saudi Arabia) for its strategic partner Hongyuan Group (the People’s Republic of China).

The Hongyuan Group is the official warehousing and storage services provider for the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. Both aircraft will be operated by AirBridgeCargo Airlines (the Russian Federation) on behalf of Hongyuan Group.

Christian Nuehlen, CEO of Aircraft Finance Germany, commented: “We are proud to have had the opportunity to work with the professional team at Saudia and that we managed to bring this transaction to a successful close. I would like to thank everybody involved for their hard work and dedication and we look forward to seeing both aircraft entering commercial operations once again in the near future.”
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