EBACE: Embraer service deal in South Africa

By Alan Peaford

Embraer has appointed AdoAir Maintenance of South Africa as a new authorised service centre for routine, scheduled and unscheduled maintenance on its Legacy and Phenom aircraft.

AdoAir is based at Lanseria airport in Johannesburg.

The agreement was signed at EBACE at lunchtime today by AdoAir’s Danie Joubert (left) withn Embraer‘s Edson Carlos Mallaco and Antonio Martini.

EBACE: Embraer – deliveries to recover in 2012

By John Croft

Embraer is predicting that business aircraft deliveries will take three years to recover to 2008’s rates, assuming the economy bounces back next year and sales recover in 2012.

Once the delivery rebound happens,Luis Carlos Affonso, Embraer executive vice-president for executive aviation, says the increase in output everyyear will climb more slowly for 10 years compared withits mercurial year-over-year rise from 2005to 2008.

Affonso admits to wearing rose-coloured glasses when looking forward at the NBAA show in October. “We thought backlogs would sustain deliveries,” he says. “This was proven wrong.” Instead, owners cancelled or delayed their orders as the economy and flight hours plunged. Affonso says European business jet traffic has dropped by 23%, the USA by 30% and fractional owners are seeing a liquid reduction in shares (more returned than sold).

The company’s revised forecast now calls for 11,000 business jets to be delivered over the next 10 years, compared withthe 13,000 it had predicted at the NBAA. Growth will be focused on emerging markets in Asia and elsewhere, with the US and Europe growth rates contracting slightly year over year.

Embraer’s mantra from 2005 -to be a major player in the business aviation market by 2015 -continues to steer the airframer’s course, however. Although much has changed since NBAA, Affonso says Embraeris continuing its new aircraft development as before, keeping entry into service dates for the Phenom 300 (this year), the Legacy 500 (2012) and Legacy 450 (2013) in place.

Airbus single-aisle output could revive

By Max Kingsley-Jones

Airbus single-aisle output, running at 36 aircraft a month, will be reduced to 34 a month (at the start of final assembly) by October.

Despite pressure from some corners for further single-aisle cuts, executive vice-president programmes Tom Williams says Airbus is “pretty comfortable” with the adjustments it has already made, based on its “watchtower process” that monitors each customer and each delivery two years ahead. “Our visibility over the next six months is pretty good, but beyond that it gets a bit tougher,” he says.

“Into next year, we’ve still kept our cushion with overbooking [of slots], more in the second half of the year, so today we’re pretty comfortable.”

Chief salesman John Leahy says Airbus aims to get through the downturn with flat production rates rather than a boom/bust realignment of output. “We can get through this crisis if airlines just do aircraft retirements a little bit faster during the 2009-10 period,” he adds.

Leahy says that although single-aisle output is being wound back, it could soon be heading the other way. “We had planned to go to rate 40, and I think that sometime by late 2010 or 2011, you’ll see us back at rate 40 again.”

Williams agrees, saying that Airbus is “looking at scenarios” to take the rate back up. He says the airframer met all its key suppliers in Toulouse this month “to give them as much visibility as possible of our view of the marketplace over the next 12-24 months to try to avoid the situation where they are trying to second-guess what’s going on”.

Turkey retires first squadron of F-4 Phantoms

By Tolga Ozbek

Turkey has disbanded its first squadron of McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom strike aircraft, under a transition plan leading to its future operation of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The Turkish air force’s 172nd Sqn, based in Malatya Erhac, had flown the F-4E for more than 32 years. It is planned to reform in 2014 following first deliveries of the JSF. Ankara expects to receive its first two F-35s that year, although these will first be used at a training centre in the USA. The air force’s first conventional take-off and landing F-35As should arrive in Turkey in 2015, with the nation planning to buy 100 of the aircraft.

The 172nd Sqn retirement leaves Turkey with five Phantom units, including the 112th Sqn at Eskisehir, which operates “classic” F-4Es introduced from 1974. Two squadrons fly F-4E 2020 “Terminator” bombers, which were upgraded in the late 1990s in co-operation with Israel Aerospace Industries. The air force also has two squadrons of RF-4 reconnaissance aircraft.

Tolga Ozbek
© Tolga Ozbek

Boeing’s Super Hornet seeks export sale to launch 20% thrust upgrade

By Stephen Trimble

Boeing is seeking an international launch customer for a 20% higher thrust version of the General Electric F414 turbofan that powers the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

The F414 enhanced performance engine (EPE) includes an all new core and forward fan to dramatically increase the fighter’s takeoff performance, said Bob Gower, Boeing vice president for F/A-18E/F.

The improvements would increase the F414 thrust rating from 22,000lbs to 26,600lbs. The baseline F414-GE-400, which also powers the Saab Gripen demonstration aircraft, is itself a 35% higher thrust version of the F404 and entered service with the Super Hornet fleet in 1998.

More recently, the US Navy, Boeing and GE have been developing durability improvements to reduce foreign object damage and specific fuel consumption, Gower told reporters participating in a Boeing media tour.

While the USN seeks a new engine core to make the F414 more durable, some international customers are interested in a new engine fan that enables higher thrust, Gower said.

© Boeing

“The ‘enhanced durability engine’ becomes the ‘enhanced performance engine’ when you put the fan on it,” Gower said.

Although the core enhancements are already under contract with the USN, the programme is seeking an export customer to launch development of the F414 EPE, Gower said.

The international order would lead to follow-on sales for the USN, which would gradually replace its current inventory with the improved version, Gower said.

Several countries, including India, Brazil, Denmark, Greece and Kuwait, are considering the F/A-18E/F, with the Royal Australian Air Force already signed on as the first export customer. The RAAF has ordered 24 F/A-18E/Fs, including 12 provisioned to become EA-18G Growlers.

The improved thrust would likely be most welcomed among militaries operating in hot weather, which reduces engine performance especially at a takeoff.

Despite the dramatic thrust increase, the EPE would not require enlarging the F/A-18E/F’s engine inlets to enable increased air flow, Gower said.

“We are not modifying the mould line of the aircraft,” Gower said. “The current inlet gives us enough [air] in-take.”

Gower also said the EPE would require changing the number of compressor stages, but he did not elaborate.

The USN is also planning to steadily improve the F/A-18E/Fs sensors, electronic warfare system, connectivity and weapons load-out over the next decade, Gower said.

“The US government and Boeing and our suppliers,” said Gower, “continue to invest in the platform because we see opportunities both domestically and internationally for the platform.”

Japanese carriers feel the heat

By Leithen Francis

Japanese carriers All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines have revealed the extent of the hit they have taken from the financial downturn after JAL disclosed a full-year loss of ¥63 billion ($648 million) for the 12 months ending 31 March and ANA posted its first annual loss for six years.

JAL’s ¥63 billion net loss compares to a ¥17 billion net profit for the previous year and the Oneworld carrier is forecasting a similar loss for the coming year because it anticipates the global economic downturn will continue to adversely affect demand. It expects total operating revenues to fall 10% this year to ¥1.75 trillion, but believes its net losses will remain largely unchanged as it aims to cut its operating costs by 10% to ¥1.81 trillion.

“There will be curtailment of a total of ¥100 billion in investments over the period of 2009/10 fiscal year of which ¥80 billion in flight equipment investment will be held back partially due to the payment period for new aircraft,” it says. “Twenty billion yen of general ground investments and maintenance components and modifications will be deferred till further notice,” it adds.

Other cost saving measures include retiring its Boeing 747-200/300s and replacing its 747-400s on routes with Boeing 777-300ERs.

JAL has also been working on cutting its labour costs. It now aims to shed around 1,200 jobs from 47,500 staff levels by the end of March next year. These cuts include the decision to close its foreign pilot base in Hawaii later this year, which will result in 130 job losses.

JAL is also acknowledging publicly it is speaking to the government’s Development Bank of Japan about applying for a ¥200 billion loan.

ANA, meanwhile, posted a net loss of ¥4.2 billion, its first annual loss in six years.”We achieved more than ¥18 billion in cost savings but this was outstripped by a fall in revenue,” says ANA executive VP, Tomohiro Hidema. The carrier’s revenues fell 6% to ¥1.39 trillion for the period.

It too has embarked on a cost-savings drive to offset anticipated reduced revenues for the year ahead. But unlike JAL, ANA believes it can return to a small profit in 2010 as it estimates a ¥42.5 billion fall in revenues this year can be more than offset by cost-savings of ¥73 billion. It has already embarked on a slew of network changes this year to adjust to the reduced demand environment and will also postpone all non-vital investments.

EBACE: Phenom firsts ready for global adventures

By John Croft

Texas-based married pilots, Jim and Betsey Frost, are racking up an extraordinary number of hours on their new baby, the first Phenom 100 to be delivered.

Since taking possession of the N82DU in Fort Lauderdale on 31 December, they have logged 150h, their latest adventure being a seven-leg, three-day marathon flight from Houston to Geneva to show off their Brazilian-built aircraft on static display here.

The couple, aided by Sergio Leite, a Fort Lauderdale-based private jet captain on contract to Embraer, enlisted the services of Prague-based ABS Jets, a partner company to Universal Weather and Aviation, for the flight planning work.

© billypix

After a steady stream of phone calls, emails and internet tag-ups with ABS over a 10-day period for the flight planning, the Frosts launched out on the trip with Leite along in the four-seat cabin on 7 May. The trio made stops in Dallas, Syracuse, Goose Bay, Iqaluit, Keflavik and Wick in Scotland before arriving in Geneva on 9 May. Legs were flown with either Jim or Betsey in the left seat, with the longest recorded segment of 2,368km (1,280nm), a distance greater than the aircraft’s 2,179km IFR range, thanks to favourable winds on that leg.

Enabling the trip in part was an amenity that played a large part in the Frost’s buying an Embraer rather than a Cessna Citation Mustang -the Phenom’s aft-cabin private lavatory. “I have a wife and two daughters,” says Jim Frost.

The hopscotch route to Ebace has apparently whetted their appetite for more and grander adventures. The couple, who named their aircraft after the year they both graduated from Duke University, told Flight Evening News that they are planning an around-the-world flight in the Phenom in fall 2010.

Austrian shareholders accept Lufthansa offer

By Simon Warburton

Lufthansa‘s offer for fellow Star Alliance member Austrian Airlines has been accepted by more than 85% of the Vienna-based carrier’s shareholders.

The German airline received acceptance declarations from shareholders representing more than 85% of Austrian Airlines’ share capital, excluding the shares held by Austrian itself. A minimum acceptance level of 75% was required for the deal to proceed.

State holding company OIAG’s 41.56% stake is included in the total, as it the syndicate of Austrian core shareholders – LVBG, Raiffeisen-Invest and Wiener Stadtische Versicherung – which account for around 7% of Austrian’s equity.

“By achieving the 75% threshold, we have fulfilled an essential condition in the takeover contract,” says Austrian executive board member Peter Malanik. “By doing so, we have passed another crucial milestone in the privatisation process.

“We are confident we will be able to go ahead with the closing this summer.”

The German airline adds that, despite the minimum acceptance threshold for the takeover bid being reached, the deal is still subject to competition clearance and approval of €500 million ($682.7 million) in restructuring aid.

Lufthansa has notified the European Commission (EC) of its intent to take over Austrian Airlines. The EC will take an initial decision on the deal by 17 June.

Austrian Airlines Group recently posted first-quarter operating losses of €77 million.

Five A350 XWBs to feature in test-flight programme

By David Kaminski-Morrow

Airbus‘ test-flight programme for the A350 XWB will comprise five aircraft, two of which will be fitted with interior cabins.

The airframer expects to complete the five aircraft relatively quickly, in the space of about six months.

A350 XWB programme head Didier Evrard, speaking to ATI during a briefing in Hamburg, says the manufacturer will fit the second and fifth aircraft with cabins.

Evrard says the fifth aircraft will be used largely for longer flights to test the capability for operations, while the early fitting of the second is designed to address customisation and definition “challenges” with the cabin.

He says Airbus wants to demonstrate and validate new cabin features, and noise-damping capabilities, adding: “It’s very important that we have it flying sooner rather than later.”

The sixth aircraft off the line will be the first specifically for customers.

Evrard expects the test regime to last about 15 months but says the flight programme could be completed in 12, with around 3,000hr total flight time.

Airbus has already passed the crucial ‘MG5’ review stage for the A350-900 variant, which has frozen the design of the fuselage, wings, empennage and systems architecture.

Evrard says that the airframer will reach both technological and manufacturing readiness for the twin-jet by the end of this year and be “in place to manufacture the first parts”.