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US regionals prepare for market share scramble

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By Lori Ranson

Consolidation and continued network pruning at US major carriers is likely to spur fierce competition during the next five years as all their regional partners scurry to gain existing market share as organic growth has evaporated.

Mesa chief executive Jonathan Ornstein recently told employees the US regional industry “is looking to reshape itself”, as evidenced by Republic Airways Holdings recently-announced plans to purchase Frontier and Midwest Airlines.

Ornstein warns that “going forward the trouble our partners are dealing with will impact us over time”.

Recognizing that further mainline consolidation in the US is likely to occur, Republic chief executive officer Bryan Bedford recently said revenue streams for regional carriers serving those carriers are likely to shrink, creating robust competition for contracts that expire within during the next five years.

Management at SkyWest Inc has already started preparing for the competition to steal market share away from its competitors. Company chairman and chief executive Jerry Atkin recently said the company is talking to every major carrier in the industry regarding additional codeshare opportunities.

SkyWest CRJ200 SkyWest

© SkyWest

Parallel to those discussions SkyWest is launching an internal cost reduction plan to effectively compete and win business away from its competitors.

Similar to Republic in some fashions, SkyWest is attempting to build revenue diversity outside the traditional regional airline mode through an investment in Brazilian regional carrier TRIP. SkyWest recently upped its stake to 16%, and TRIP management expects its US stakeholder to increase its investment to 20% by February.

But not every regional carrier has the financial strength of Republic or SkyWest. Recently asked if consolidation is likely in the US regional sector SkyWest chairman Atkin admits fewer participants will remain five years from now, but that is more likely to occur through carriers shrinking and failing rather than traditional merger and acquisition activity.

The near-term pressure on regionals is likely to continue as Ornstein says yields at mainline carriers remain extremely weak, and “it is almost impossible to raise equity”.

He believes that heading into the autumn mainline carriers need to see a rebound in business traffic to see an improvement in their economic outlook.


Crashed Yemenia A310 faced challenging Comoros approach

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The crew of the Yemenia Airbus A310-300 that crashed during a night let-down to Moroni airport on the Comoros Islands on 30 June faced a high-workload approach. Some airlines refuse to perform night approaches at the airport.There was no emergency call from the crew to indicate technical problems.

The aircraft crashed into the sea north-west of the island in a location least 20km (11nm) north of the flightpath that it would have been expected to fly to position for Runway 20.

All 11 crew and 141 of the 142 passengers were killed, but rescue boats picked up a 14-year-old girl survivor who, the Cormoros medical services report, received injuries, although she is expected to recover.

The aircraft was a 19-year-old Pratt & Whitney PW4152-powered A310-300 (70-ADJ) leased by Yemenia from International Lease Finance.

According to Airbus, the accident took place at 01:50 on 30 June. Weather conditions indicate good night visibility, but there were strong southerly winds gusting to 38kt (70km/h).

At Moroni, where there are mountains to the south of the airport, those winds create turbulence and windshear in the airport’s vicinity. The pilots’ approach charts warn of windshear as a standard local hazard.

Moroni’s Prince Said Ibrahim airport is on the western coast of Grande Comore. It has a single north-south runway, 02/20, which is 2,900m (9,515ft) long.

At night, the aircraft, inbound from Sana’a, Yemen, would have been expected to carry out a VOR-DME-ILS (VOR-distance measuring equipment-instrument landing system) approach towards Runway 02 to stay clear of terrain in the non-radar environment, breaking left at the outer marker to position for a 1,000ft altitude right-hand visual circuit to land on Runway 20 because the wind that night would not have permitted a landing on Runway 02.

From the circuit’s downwind leg the aircraft has to carry out a curved descending right turn over the sea on to final approach, assisted by flashing lights under the flightpath intended to help the pilots avoid drifting inland where there is high terrain, so as to intercept straight-in finals about 4km from the runway threshhold.

Unconfirmed reports suggest the aircraft was lost during its second attempt at the approach.

See what David Learmount has to say on the matter on his blog Learmount: Safety and Politics don’t mix


British Airways pushes back A380 deliveries by up to two years

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By David Kaminski-Morrow

British Airways is pushing back its Airbus A380 delivery schedule, with some later aircraft being postponed by at least two years.

The UK flag-carrier is also planning to take six more aircraft in its current fleet out of service during the 2010 season.

BA has 12 A380s on order but says it has “extended” the arrival schedule for the first six by an average of five months.

It says, however, that the first A380 is still expected to arrive in spring 2012, ahead of the London Olympic Games.

But the delivery of the final six has been extended by two years, on average, until autumn 2016.

The carrier had originally been expecting to take delivery of four aircraft per year and complete the introduction of all 12 by autumn 2014.

british airways A380

BA has also stated today that it will ground its last three 757-200s in summer 2010 and another three Boeing 747-400s in winter 2010.

All the fleet changes follow a review of BA’s business plan in the “challenging economic conditions”.

BA is expecting to cut capacity by 3.5% over the summer 2009 season, compared with a previous estimate of 2.5%, and by 5% over winter 2009-10.

In May, BA stated that it would ground 16 aircraft for the upcoming winter, a total of eight 757-200s and eight 747-400s.


Air Charter Service appointed European agent for Boeing 747 Supertanker

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By Kate Sarsfield

Evergreen International Aviation has appointed the UK’s Air Charter Service as European agent for its modified Boeing 747 Supertanker. Oregon-based Evergreen has been developing the advanced aerial firefighting aircraft since 2002. It won US certification last November.

“With a 77,600 litre [20,500USgal] capacity, it is capable of carrying almost twice the amount of retardant than any other firefighting aircraft. It is also the only aircraft to have a variable pressure delivery system, and is able to perform segmented drops, meaning it can fight more than one fire in a single mission. It also has loiter capability enabling ground control to direct it to specific areas,” says Air Charter Service.

Supertanker-1a

The Supertanker also has the ability to respond quickly to a variety of environmental and homeland security threats. Wide area decontamination, soil stabilisation, oil spill response and radiation knockdown are all within the response capability of the Supertanker, making it the most versatile aerial application vehicle in the world.

Supertanker-3a

The Supertanker – which will be operated by Evergreen – is being targeted at governments, forestry commissions, and firefighting agencies “in all countries in Europe”, says Air Charter Service.


Overview of the global commercial fleet

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By Antoine Fafard

Extract from the Commercial Fleet Report 2009 now available for FREE

North America continues to dominate in terms of the sheer size of its active fleet with 36% of the world’s in-service airliners, followed by Europe (26%) and Asia-Pacific (21%). In particular, North America continues to account for 60% of regional jets, although the Asia-Pacific region leads in widebodies taking a third of the world’s active fleet.

In terms of manufacturers, Boeing leads with some 56% of the world’s in-service fleet of mainline airliners, followed by Airbus with just over a third. The regional jet market is narrowly led by Bombardier’s CRJ fleet, but closely followed by Embraer. The Dash 8 also gives Bombardier a leading edge in the small but heavily contested turboprop market, with a 16% share.

Among operators, Federal Express is the clear widebody leader with a fleet of 270 aircraft, which alone represents nearly a quarter of the North American fleet. However, at an average age of 16 years, the region’s widebodies are among the world’s oldest. By contrast the Asia-Pacific fleet averages an age of only 10 years, while the growth spree from Qatar’s up-andcoming flag-carrier gives the country’s widebody an average of only four years.

In the narrowbody sector, the US majors are clear leaders, led by Southwest Airlines with a world-beating fleet of over 500 aircraft – larger than the entire fleet in Africa or the Middle East. Low-cost also leads in Europe with Ryanair and easyJet climbing ahead of established majors such as Air France and Lufthansa, although the combined Air France-KLM fleet would be larger. However, China’s young and growing narrowbody fleet now numbers over 1,000 aircraft.

US carriers also top the regional jet league with the top three – ExpressJet, SkyWest Airlines and American Eagle – together operating around 20% of the world’s entire fleet. North American regionals also continue to operate the world’s largest turboprop fleet, with Ameriflight alone accounting for a huge active fleet of 128 aircraft.

The Commercial Fleet Report 2009 provides a snapshot of the active air transport fleet as it stood at 1 May 2009. The analysis focuses on western-built airliners, including freighters.

Download your FREE copy now.


Overview of the global manned ISR active fleet

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By Antoine Fafard

Extract from the ISR Special Report 2009 now available for FREE

North America has the greatest concentration of Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) operations with a 42% share of the global market representing a total of 857 active aircraft, Europe and Asia-Pacific follow with 27% and 19% respectively. In terms of role, both maritime patrol and reconnaissance dominate the world market, combined this equates to a share of 67% with active aircraft totalling 1,351.

The most widely used ISR aircraft is the Lockheed P-3 Orion with a 20% global share, amounting to a total of 397 aircraft in active service. The P-3 is primarily used in a maritime patrol role but is also used for electronic warfare, reconnaissance and weather reconnaissance.

Within the AEW sector, the Gulfstream G550 clearly has the youngest average age of two years and similarly in the electronic warfare sector the new F-18’s feature with an average age of just 0.3 years. At the opposite end of the spectrum the elder statesmen include the C-130 (communication aircraft), the C-135 (reconnaissance), P-3 (AEW) and Falcon (electronic warfare) who all average beyond 40 years.

The ISR Special Report 2009 provides a snapshot of the active Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) market by geographic region and role.

The report also features the current major unmanned military platforms and is available to download for FREE.