Copa sets official SkyTeam exit date

By Lori Ranson

Panamanian carrier Copa Airlines plans to exit the SkyTeam alliance the same day as its long-time partner Continental Airlines – 24 October.

As soon as Continental opted to join Star in 2008 it was expected Copa would follow suit and relinquish its associate membership in the SkyTeam grouping.

In late 2008 Copa management discussed leaving SkyTeam, noting the carrier had no commercial choice since Continental was exiting the alliance. Continental and Copa’s ties date back more than ten years when the Houston-based carrier took a 49% stake in the carrier. Its ownership would reach 51% before Copa’s initial public offering in 2005. Following the IPO Continental slowly reduced it stake and sold its remaining 10% holding in Copa last year.

In a brief statement released by Copa confirming its plan to leave SkyTeam, the carrier did not specify if it would be a full or regional member of Star.

Big business aviation names shun Paris

By Murdo Morrison

Two of the biggest names in business aviation have pulled out of the Paris air show citing pressure on marketing budgets and the growing importance of niche rivals such as EBACE in Geneva.

This will be the first time in many years that Cessna and Gulfstream have failed to exhibit at the world’s biggest and oldest air show, which is celebrating its centenary. Cessna’s vice-president international sales Trevor Esling says Paris has “become a show for enthusiasts and not aircraft buyers. Customers are attracted to Paris for the spectacle and few sales are made. EBACE is the key show for us and Aero Friedrichshafen has become increasingly important.”

Gulfstream‘s vice-president corporate communications Robert Baugniet says the fact that Paris takes place a month after EBACE means “our budget is spent and there is nothing to announce”. He says the Savannah, Georgia-based airframer’s presence at Paris has declined “almost in proportion” to its growing involvement at EBACE.

Embraer’s executive jets division will also fail to participate at Paris this year, although the Brazilian company will be there to promote its regional aircraft and military businesses.

© Cessna

Hawker Beechcraft, however, will be at Paris with a Hawker 4000 and Beechcraft King Air 350ER on display, although the Wichita airframer will be focused on military and government customers rather than corporate clients.

“EBACE is the best show for us in terms of generating sales,” says vice-president for international sales Sean McGeough. “Our main focus at Paris is the special missions market and the show does attract delegations from around the world who are interested in business aircraft in various applications.”

Two airframers that are enthusiastic about the show are Bombardier, which has a regional aircraft division, and Dassault Aviation – a leading light in show organiser GIFAS and for whom Paris is a vital platform for its defence business.

Bombardier‘s business aircraft president Steve Ridolfi says Paris offers the Canadian manufacturer an opportunity to “meet customers who either prefer this venue to EBACE or weren’t able to schedule a visit with us in Geneva. Paris draws customers from all over the world.” Bombardier will display its Learjet 85 mock-up as well as the Challenger 850 and Global Express XRS.

Smaller airframers are also planning to attend, again with the emphasis on the para-public and government sector. They include Pilatus, which will have its PC-12 single-prop as well as its PC-21 military trainer on show, and Piaggio, which will be talking up the attributes of its P180 Avanti as a medevac, law enforcement and government VIP aircraft. “The show is a unique opportunity to meet our institutional customers,” says chief executive Alberto Galassi.

French manufacturer Daher-Socata has, in its various guises, attended every Paris since 1911 and 2009 will not be an exception. It will have its TBM 850 multi-mission variant on show.

Aviation Partners targets later summer for second-generation spiroid winglets

By John Croft

Aviation Partners plans to fly its second-generation spiroid winglets on a company Dassault Falcon 50 in the third quarter. The flight is part of the $2 million earmark the company received last year to further investigate the novel devices, in part to analyse the potential for reducing aircraft separation distances.

API founder and president Joe Clark says the new spiroids, now in design, are likely to eliminate wingtip vortices in the near field region, although the effects in the far-field, roughly 4.6-5.6km (2.5-3nm) behind the aircraft, will have to be determined by test. API plans to equip its Dassault Falcon 50 with the devices as part of the research programme, which is being managed by the US Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Administration (Rita).

Rita will make progressive payments to API based on milestones, the first of which is a report on the company’s early 1990s’ flight tests of first-generation spiriods in a Gulfstream GII. Results from those tests reportedly showed a 6-10% drag reduction in cruise flight with the devices, although API is not providing quantitative numbers. Rita plans to publish the milestones for the spiroid test programme on 14 June.

Hank Thompson, API vice-president of operations, says the new aerodynamic configuration for the winglets will take advantage of “all that we’ve learned over the past couple of decades”. He says the analytical results are “very promising”, but he’d be “reluctant to put performance numbers on it”.

Aside from aerodynamic performance, Thompson says there remain “significant” manufacturing challenges in building a structure that will be stiff enough to be aerodynamically correct through all flight regimes, but also economical to manufacture.

Engineers are investigating a variety of materials, from composites to metal, from which the looping wingtips might be constructed. A vendor has not yet been selected to build the devices for flight tests that are expected to begin in the summer or early autumn, says Thompson.

Shell Buy in Brazil

Shell Brazil has acquired the arm of sugar and ethanol producer Cosan that is responsible for the distribution of aviation fuels.

The acquisition is a strategic move for Shell Aviation in Brazil and will strengthen its position in the country’s aviation sector, the oil giant says.

Cosan acquired this business segment from Esso in 2008.

In the same year Shell Aviation marketed about 1.6 billion litres (420 million USgal) in more than 50 airports throughout Brazil while Cosan’s supply reached around 560 million litres across seven airports.

Bahrain Air to have nine aircraft within five months

By David Kaminski-Morrow

Middle Eastern carrier Bahrain Air is expecting to expand its fleet rapidly to nine Airbus aircraft within the next five months.

It has just taken delivery of its fifth aircraft, an A320 registered A9C-BAV, and is planning to introduce a sixth on 29 May.

Bahrain Air managing director Ibrahim Al-Hamer says the seventh and eight aircraft will arrive by the end of next month, and another delivery is due in October.

© AirTeamImages

“The delivery of this number of aircraft at this timereflects the ambition of Bahrain Air’s expansion,” says the airline.

It is to increase its network to include Istanbul and Mumbai by July, and expand from October to Sana’a, Addis Ababa, Karachi, Lahore and Riyadh.

Bahrain Air is also entering a joint venture with Bahraini firm Addax which will operate its cargo division from 1 June.

Aeromexico seeks to broaden transborder offerings

By Megan Kuhn

Mexican operator Aeromexico has asked for regulatory approval to launch three US transborder offerings on 1 July.

Aeromexico plans to operate narrowbody aircraft on new routes from Guadalajara-San Jose, California; Puerto Vallarta-San Francisco; and San Jose del Cabo-San Francisco.

Requests for the latest city pairs come as Aeromexico continues to bolster its North American presence with more US service this year. The carrier has launched at least three new US gateways since February, and has increased competition with rival Mexicana in to the Canadian destinations of Toronto and Montreal.

SkyTeam member Aeromexico will also face competition on its newly proposed routes if it receives regulatory approval to launch the city pairs.

Mexicana flies between Guadalajara and San Jose six times per week, according to schedules published in Innovata.

US carriers Alaska Airlines and United Airlines currently connect San Jose del Cabo and San Francisco, while United, Mexicana and Alaska also offer Puerto Vallarta-San Francisco flights.