Air NZ chief Luxon to step down in September

Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon will step down from that post on 25 September, after which he will move to an advisory role with the airline.

He resigned on 19 June, and chairman Tony Carter says a search for a replacement chief executive has started.

After 25 September, Carter says that Luxon will “move to advising and supporting the incoming Chairman and new CEO so we have a seamless transition and are set up well for further success.”

Luxon says he is thrilled at having been able to lead the company for the past seven years.

“However, I do feel it is the right time for a new leader to take over and preserve and enhance the good things from our past, but also to put their own stamp on the organisation bringing their own personality and emphasis to the role as I did,” he adds.

Luxon has been credited with helping to turn the airline into a more customer-focused brand, and for reinforcing its Pacific Rim-focused network strategy.

He joined the Star Alliance carrier in May 2011 from Unilever North America, initially taking up the role of group general manager international airline, before succeeding Rob Fyfe from the start of 2013.

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Qantas Group commits to taking 36 A321XLRs

Qantas has committed to taking 36 Airbus A321XLRs in an update to its orders for A320neo family aircraft.

The change sees 26 of its 99 existing A320neo orders converted to the longest-ranging variant, while it will also order 10 additional A321XLRs. That takes its overall commitment for A320neo family jets to 109.

It has previously selected CFM International Leap-1A engines to power its A320neo-family jets.

The first XLR is due for delivery during the 2024 financial year, around two years after its budget unit Jetstar is scheduled to take delivery of its first of 18 A321LRs on order.

“We already know the A320 is a great aircraft and this new variant can fly further and more efficiently than any other single aisle jet on the market,” says Qantas group chief executive Alan Joyce.

“It can fly routes like Cairns-Tokyo or Melbourne-Singapore, which existing narrowbodies can’t, and that changes the economics of lots of potential routes into Asia to make them not just physically possible but financially attractive.”

Airbus launched the A321XLR at the Paris air show on 17 June, which offers range of 4,700nm – around 700nm more than the A321LR.

The Qantas Group’s existing A320 fleet are mostly operated by Jetstar and its affiliates in Asia, while two are operated by charter unit Network Aviation. Qantas’s mainline narrowbody fleet is comprised of 75 Boeing 737-800s.

Joyce hinted that the A321XLR could be operated in Qantas colours.

“We’ll take a decision closer to the time about which parts of the Group will use these aircraft, but there is plenty of potential across Qantas and Jetstar,” he says.

“We’ll also take a view on whether they are used to replace older aircraft or whether they are used for growth, which will depend on what’s happening in the market.”

Qantas says that its order for Airbus narrowbodies now stands at 28 A321LRs, 36 XLRs and 45 A320neos.

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A tour of the Air Tahiti 787 on site

A Boeing 787-9 of Air Tahiti Nui is being exhibited as the Paris air show.

The aircraft is participating in the daily flying display and being used for onboard tours.

The Pacific-based carrier operates two General Electric GEnx-powered Boeing 787-9s. The aircraft at Paris is a new 787 – one of two the airline has on outstanding order.

Read all the latest news and information from the 2019 Paris air show on our dedicated page

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Udvar-Hazy foresees single-pilot evolution for NMA

Air Lease wants Boeing’s New Mid-market Airplane to be designed as a technology platform capable of being updated over decades with new technology or a one-pilot cockpit.

The aircraft lessor’s executive chairman Steven Udvar-Hazy also wants the NMA to have a choice of engine options – an opinion divergent from that of engine makers.

“This airplane has to have a long run” of 20 or 30 years, Udvar-Hazy said on the second day of the Paris air show. It must therefore have “features that will be [able]… to adapt”.

For instance, he says, the NMA should be designed with an eye to the possibility of eventually converting the aircraft’s cockpit to have just one pilot.

In such a configuration, automated systems or a ground-based pilot could support the pilot in the cockpit, he adds.

With regards to the number of engine suppliers, Udvar-Hazy says he has told Boeing he’d like a choice.

“I ask them to look at the A320 and the success that has had with a choice,” he says, adding the ultimate decision will be driven by the forecast size of the overall market.

“I know the engine makers want it to be single-source,” Udvar-Hazy says.

Indeed, on the first day of the show GE Aviation chief executive David Joyce said affiliate CFM International would make only a sole-source bid.

“The size of the market, we don’t think, supports the investment for two engine manufacturers to split that market and try to get any kind of recover on that investment in a timely fashion”, says Joyce.

His understanding is that the other NMA bidder, Pratt & Whitney, will seek similar terms.

Udvar-Hazy’s comments reinforce his already stated believe that a clean-sheet aircraft is best suited for filling the middle-market niche, a category in which Boeing’s 757 and 767 have sat uncontested.

Also on day one of the show, Air Lease chief executive John Plueger argued that the ideal middle-market replacement was a two-variant aircraft family, with the smaller variant carrying about 200 seats and the larger holding about 270 seats.

Those are the specifications Boeing has targeted with its proposed NMA. Udvar-Hazy has long advocated that Boeing develop the aircraft.

“The 5,000nm range, which is about average right now for the NMA, seems about right. Two variants also seems about right on the middle of the market,” says Plueger.

On 17 June, Airbus announced it had squeezed more range out of its A321neo, launching a new variant called the A321XLR. That aircraft will carry around 200 passengers in three classes – fewer than the NMA – but its 4,700nm (8,700km) range places it squarely in the NMA’s niche.

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Are UAVs the new investment frontier?

For investors looking to put money into start-up companies with a good shot at making the transition from technology development to scale production, green lights should come on in business sectors where the market is inefficient – and where the technology might provide a way to cut costs and boost market access. In aerospace, one of those sectors is unmanned systems.

That is the view of Anita Antenucci, the Washington DC-based senior managing director for investment bank Houlihan Lokey. Speaking to Flight Daily News on the sidelines of the Paris air show, Antenucci – who leads the firms’ aerospace, defence and government practice – says the example of SpaceX is a good guide. Elon Musk’s rocket launching company has had many advantages – not least a charismatic billionaire founder – but one key to its success is the fact that the launch market in the early 2000s was ripe for a shake-up.

Where the US government bought launches, it bought them from companies whose products and operating systems were born of Cold War-era technologies and military procurement practices. Musk, exploiting a NASA drive to outsource, rather than develop itself a new generation of rockets, was able to slash costs through an integrated manufacturing and operating service based on a modern, streamlined industrial model.

The result was the creation of a commercial market for launch. And, says Antenucci, unmanned systems could be another example. Modern technologies promise to help the government and government contractors to buy vehicles and services much more efficiently.

The big stumbling block to introducing UAVs into civil airspace – and thereby breaking open a new commercial market for UAV services – is air traffic control. But, Antenucci reckons, this aspect of the system is not so intractable as ongoing efforts by the Federal Aviation Administration and European Union Aviation Safety Agency to manage drone traffic suggest. UAVs, all equipped with collision avoidance systems and flying carefully chosen routes at specified altitudes free of manned aircraft, should be able to operate reasonably safely on these “highways in the sky”.

In other words, in Antenucci’s view: “It’s not that difficult.”

That suggests any number of routes to success for imaginative, ambitious entrepreneurs.

Read all the latest news and information from the 2019 Paris air show on our dedicated page

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Triumph to support design of Mitsubishi’s SpaceJet

Triumph Group has sealed an agreement under which its Aerospace Structures business unit will support the design and development of Mitsubishi Aircraft’s SpaceJet M100.

The US group says it will leverage its structural engineering resources to provide airframe design and analysis support for the aircraft’s development, with a particular focus on wing optimisation and access to advanced material technology.

As part of the contract, Triumph Aerospace Structures will design major structures of the aircraft, targeting optimisation of weight, cost, and producibility. The services will be provided at Triumph’s technology and engineering centre in Arlington, Texas.

Triumph’s capabilities span multiple engineering disciplines, including trade studies, finite element modelling, structure sizing and detail components, and stress analysis.

“We are excited to work with Mitsubishi Aircraft Corporation and support the development of the Mitsubishi SpaceJet M100 aircraft. The workscope presents an exciting opportunity for our engineering team and manufacturing operations,” says Pete Wick, executive vice-president for Triumph Aerospace Structures.

“Our talented and highly-experienced team is well qualified to perform design, development and qualification of large complex metallic and composite aircraft structures and will provide Mitsubishi with the highly-specialised services needed to help bring their aircraft to market,” he adds.

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Lufthansa declines to comment on 777-9 delay ‘speculation’

Lufthansa is not commenting on the potential impact of any lengthy delay to the introduction of the 777-9, as Boeing and GE Aviation work to resolve issues that have pushed back the aircraft’s first flight.

GE confirmed at the Paris air show on 17 June that it was redesigning a static compressor part for the GE9X engine which powers the 777X family, after the component showed premature deterioration during the test programme.

The first variant, the 777-9, was rolled out in March, and its first flight was believed to have been imminent. The aircraft had been due to enter service with Lufthansa in the summer of 2020 after an apprximately year-long flight-test and certification programme.

However, delayed approval of the GE9X is likely to push back the start of airframe flight-testing. Ground tests with the re-engineered part are being conducted and GE vice-president of commercial engines Bill Fitzgerald says the manufacturer is still determining a flight test schedule for the modified engine. He expresses confidence that the GE9X will be certificated “later in the fall” and that Boeing will still conduct the 777X’s first flight this year.

Boeing similarly remains confident that the 777-9 will fly this year and enter service in 2020.

However, the lengthy delay to engine certification and the likely impact on the 777-9 flight-test programme will make a summer 2020 introduction by Lufthansa extremely challenging. The German airline declines to comment on “any speculations” about a delay to first deliveries, stating only that it is “very much looking forward being the launch customer of the B777X”.

Lufthansa has 20 777-9 on order and a further 14 are covered by letter-of-intent commitments, Cirium’s Fleets Analyzer indicates. Other customers include All Nippon Airways, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines.

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EVA Air to raise Tokyo Narita frequency

EVA Air will introduce a third-daily frequency on the Taipei Taoyuan-Tokyo Narita route from 20 July.

The carrier’s flight schedules on its website shows that the additional flight will be flown with its Airbus A321. EVA’s other flights between the two are flown by a combination of Boeing 777-300ERs and 787-9s, as well as Airbus A330-200s.

Cirium’s flight schedules data indicates that there are currently eight other airlines plying Taipei Taoyuan-Tokyo Narita route, including All Nippon Airways, China Airlines, Japan Airlines, and Jetstar Japan.

Tokyo is one of the 10 destinations that the Taipei-based carrier flies to.

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TAP to order A321XLR: Neeleman

TAP Air Portugal plans to order the Airbus A321XLR, which was launched earlier today at the Paris air show.

“We will order it,” TAP Air Portugal co-owner David Neeleman told reporters in Washington DC at an event celebrating the airline’s launch of service to Washington Dulles, hours after Airbus formally unveiled the A321XLR at the Paris air show.

Neeleman, who is not attending the show, says TAP could potentially convert some existing A321LRs to the XLR. “If we have some left, we will take some XLRs,” he says.

TAP Air Portugal chief executive Antonoaldo Neves tells FlightGlobal that the airline is considering starting talks with Airbus on a potential conversion, but this has not happened yet. The A321XLR will not be available until 2023.

The A321XLR will allow the airline to reach destinations further in the USA like Chicago, and to get to cities like Salvador in Brazil, says Neeleman.

“It’s very important, it’s necessary, it’s needed,” he says of Airbus’ launch of the A321XLR. “Because the [A321]LR didn’t end up having the range it was promised… the LR wasn’t a [Boeing] 757 replacement. The XLR is more suited.”

TAP operates two A321LRs currently, and will take delivery of another two later this year, Neves tells FlightGlobal. The fleet is currently scheduled to grow to 10 aircraft in 2020, and then 14 in 2021, he adds.

“The LR is a great airplane for TAP,” says Neves, adding that the XLR will allow the airline to go even further.

Earlier today in Paris, Air Lease signed a letter of intent for 27 A321XLRs out of an order for 100 Airbus aircraft. Middle East Airlines also plans to convert four A321neo orders to the XLR.

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TAP plans further US expansion in coming years

TAP Air Portugal plans to add at least five new destinations in the USA in the next five years, as it continues to see potential in the US-Europe market.

The Lisbon-based carrier began service to Chicago O’Hare and San Francisco earlier this month, and most recently added Washington Dulles on 16 June.

TAP now serves seven US destinations, Cirium schedules data show. The Star Alliance carrier’s US frequencies have grown from about 14 weekly flights three years ago to 56, chief executive Antonoaldo Neves told FlightGlobal at an event in Washington DC marking the launch of Dulles service.

In addition to the seven US cities, TAP serves an eighth North American destination in Toronto.

The carrier plans to decide by October on future US expansion, says Neves, noting that the carrier’s business plan includes potential service to Houston, Los Angeles and Providence. Additional frequencies to existing destinations are also being considered, he adds.

“We are sure that there are at least five new destinations that we can add in the US in the next five years,” says Neves.

While TAP has expanded significantly across the Atlantic, he notes that the carrier’s share of the US-Europe market is still small, at under 2% of seats.

“It’s very big market, but yields are good. There’s less competition than a year ago, and many airlines gave up. We are excited about the US-Europe market,” says Neves.

Carriers like Primera Air and Wow Air, which had operated transatlantic service, have ceased operations in the recent year.

More than 60% of demand in TAP’s US-Europe market originates in the USA, signalling the success of TAP’s marketing efforts to Americans, Neves adds.

TAP is serving its newest US destinations with the Airbus A330neo. The airline was the first operator to take delivery of that aircraft. Neves says the A330neo has been “transformational” for the airline. “It has been expanding our margins by about five to seven points,” he adds.

The carrier has taken delivery of 10 A330-900s, and has orders for an additional 12, Cirium’s Fleets Analyzer shows.

TAP is also taking delivery of new A320neo family aircraft, and expects 80% of its fleet to be re-engined Airbus aircraft by year-end, says Neves.

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