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BOC Aviation delivers first Max 8 to Corendon Airlines

BOC Aviation has taken delivery of its first Boeing 737 Max 8, with the aircraft leased to Turkish carrier Corendon Airlines.

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BOC Aviation

Flight Fleets Analyzer indicates that that the jet bears MSN 64936, and was originally ordered by GECAS.

“This delivery represents a number of significant milestones for us, with the aircraft being the first addition of the Boeing 737 Max 8 to our fleet, the first Boeing 737 Max 8 to be delivered into Turkey and our first delivery to Corendon Airlines,” says Steven Townend, BOC Aviation’s chief commercial officer for Europe, Americas and Africa.

The lessor adds that it has a further 83 737 Max jets on order.

BOC Aviation’s first 737 Max delivery comes nearly one year after it took its first Airbus A320neo, which is operated by Indian carrier Vistara.

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ERJ excursion crew unprepared for contaminated runway

Ukrainian investigators have determined that an Embraer ERJ-145 crew had been ill-prepared to land on a contaminated Zaporizhia runway in crosswinds before the jet veered off.

The Windrose Airlines aircraft (UR-DPB) had been operating a wet-lease service for Ukraine International Airlines from Kiev on 3 March.

It departed the left-hand side of runway 02, some 1,745m from the threshold, coming to rest 99m from the centreline.

The aircraft spun to the left during the excursion, and ended up on a heading of 220°, almost facing the opposite direction.

Ukrainian investigation authority NBAAI says the crew’s “untimely and insufficient actions” as the aircraft prepared to land led to the incident.

It states that the crew, during the pre-flight briefing, did not assess the state of Zaporizhia airport in depth, and proceeded with the flight “without paying attention” to the snow warnings concerning the state of the runway.

The inquiry also found inconsistencies between different aeronautical information sources over the degree of contamination.

While air traffic control provided information on weather and runway conditions, the inquiry says the ERJ crew did not focus on the extent of contamination or discuss the specific issues associated with landing on such a runway in a crosswind.

The pilots had been informed, just before landing, that visibility was reduced to 1,900m and there was a 15kt crosswind from the right.

While none of the passengers and crew members was injured, the ERJ-145 sustained minor damage.

Windrose had suffered another ERJ-145 excursion at Zaporizhia the previous September – the result of a reduced-flap approach combined with wind and runway conditions – while operating another service for Ukraine International.

Ukraine International is to switch Zaporizhia flights temporarily to Dnipropetrovsk from 26 May while the airport undergoes a runway overhaul.

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Air France-KLM in familiar predicament

Air France-KLM may find itself prone to deja vu as it pins its hopes on a change in chief executive to resolve labour unrest at its French mainline operation – which continues to be outperformed by its Dutch counterpart.

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SIA transformation effort lifts full-year profits

Singapore Airlines’ full-year operating profit has surged by more than 80% to S$703 million ($524 million), but that for its SilkAir division more than halved to S$43 million.

The low-cost division Scoot generated a 15% profit rise, the company’s newly-disclosed financial statement shows.

Singapore Airlines, in particular, turned around a fourth-quarter loss in 2016-17 to generate an operating profit of S$137 million for the three-month period.

It says its performance was lifted by early results from “transformation initiatives”, adding that it benefited from implementing a new revenue-management system, centralised pricing operation, and a new fare-pricing structure.

Overall group revenues rose by 6.3% to S$15.8 billion but efficiency measures, including efforts to cut fuel-burn, kept the increase in expenditure to 3.5%, a total of S$14.7 billion.

Fuel costs rose by 4% to S$3.9 billion for the year.

SilkAir’s revenues increased by 3%, but higher passenger numbers were offset by an 11.5% contraction in yield. Capacity hikes resulted in higher fuel and variable costs, and expenditure increased by nearly 10%.

Freight division SIA Cargo, which just managed to break even at operating level last year, turned in a healthier operating profit of S$148 million, as cargo yield and freight carriage improved.

Singapore Airlines’ maintenance arm, SIA Engineering, generated a slightly higher operating profit of S$76 million – despite a S$9 million decline in revenues.

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Saab bullish on Gripen sales prospects

Smooth progress with the Gripen E/F development programme for Brazil has heightened interest in the Swedish-designed fighter among numerous other potential customer nations, Saab officials say.

“The success of Gripen in Brazil has really helped strengthen the Gripen brand globally,” says head of marketing and sales Richard Smith. “We have a very positive outlook,” he adds.

Detailing the company’s current export campaigns during its annual Gripen seminar in Stockholm on 16 May, Smith referred to activity in more than a dozen nations, stating: “I am 100% certain we will sell more Gripens over the coming years.” Its promotional work with the single-engined type spans the in-service C/D version, including a proposed Aggressor variant, and the new-generation E/F.

“We see short- and near-term win possibilities for the Gripen C-series, and are seeing increased market interest for the E-series,” says Smith.

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Prospective buyers for the C/D-version include Botswana, which has shown interest in the type as a replacement for its Northrop F-5s. Despite a recent setback in Europe when Croatia opted to acquire secondhand Lockheed Martin F-16s refurbished in Israel, Bulgaria and Slovakia remain firm targets for Gripen deals via the Swedish government. Indonesia the Philippines are also seen as opportunities, although Jakarta recently selected the Sukhoi Su-30 for a fighter renewal deal.

Meanwhile, Saab is also eyeing “Red Air” contract opportunities in the UK and the USA with its proposed Aggressor variant (below), which was unveiled at last year’s DSEI exhibition in London. Smith says an emerging requirement to support combat training for the UK Royal Air Force could require between six and 10 aircraft, and describes the US aggressor fleet opportunity as “an enormous market – they are looking for 30,000h per year across several bases.”

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Smith lists longer-term prospects for the Gripen E/F as including Austria, Canada, Colombia, Finland, India and Switzerland, and points to its Brazilian programme and relationship with Embraer as a key selling point.

Colombian air force pilots have previously flown the Gripen in Sweden, and Smith says that interest in the programme has recently increased in the nation, with Saab receiving support from Brazil.

“The business model and industrial packages we’ve put forward in Brazil would be a perfect template for India, to increase and boost its aerospace and defence industry,” he says. Saab will respond to a request for information from New Delhi seeking more than 100 light fighters “just before the summer period”, he adds.

The air forces of the Czech Republic, Hungary, South Africa, Sweden and Thailand currently operate the Gripen C/D, while Brazil and Sweden will introduce the E/F from late 2019.

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Washington Dulles pursues Shanghai and Tel Aviv service

Shanghai and Tel Aviv are at the top of Washington Dulles’ wish list for new international service, as the network of foreign airlines at the airport continues to grow.

The two cities are the airport’s “two most important targets”, says Yil Surehan, vice-president of airline business development at Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA).

The airport operator is in talks with a number of airlines to potentially launch those routes, Surehan tells FlightGlobal, although he declines to name specific carriers.

Dulles currently offers nonstop flights to only nine destinations in Asia and the Middle East, FlightGlobal schedules data show. This will grow to 10 in September when Cathay Pacific Airways begins service to Hong Kong.

Beijing is the only destination in mainland China that is served from Dulles, by Star Alliance carriers Air China and United Airlines. Washington DC is currently the largest unserved US-Shanghai market, says Surehan.

There are currently limited opportunities for airlines to add flights between the USA and Shanghai, which is designated a zone one city under the US-China air transport agreement. Earlier this year, United returned three zone one frequencies to US regulators after it ended service between Shanghai and Guam.

The frequencies given up by United will take the unallocated number of US-China zone one frequencies to four weekly, which is not enough to sustain daily service.

Alongside the pursuit of Shanghai and Tel Aviv, the airport is hoping to add more Latin American destinations to its network.

While the airport welcomed Volaris Costa Rica yesterday with nonstop service from San Salvador, the airline’s entry comes months after the airport lost LATAM Airlines Group which exited its Washington Dulles-Lima route.

Surehan says MWAA is in talks with LATAM to resume service, if not from Lima then from other destinations in South America. The airport authority is also in discussions with Mexico’s Volaris, the sister carrier of Volaris Costa Rica.

“We see further opportunities in Mexico and Central America,” says Surehan.

Volaris Costa Rica is the fourth Latin American carrier at Dulles after Aeromexico, Avianca and Copa Airlines. Both Volaris Costa Rica and Avianca offer service from Dulles to San Salvador, while Aeromexico flies to Mexico City and Copa to Panama City.

The Washington DC metro area is home to one of the largest Central America-born populations in the country, with about 4.8% of its population born in that region, US Census data show.

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United finance chief makes sudden exit

United Airlines chief financial officer Andrew Levy has left the carrier, in a move that some see as a reflection of the carrier’s management.

Levy’s departure is sudden and comes in the midst of a multi-year growth strategy aimed at recapturing what United president Scott Kirby calls the Chicago-based carrier’s “natural share” of the US domestic market.

“As satisfying as this job has been, I am considering several exciting opportunities and will choose one in the coming weeks,” says Levy in a post on his LinkedIn page. “I want to express my appreciation to every member of my team and am gratified to leave the organisation in solid financial standing.”

Henry Harteveldt, president and travel industry analyst at the Atmosphere Research Group, calls the move a “vote of no confidence” in Kirby’s strategy, adding that it is almost unheard of for a disciplined executive like Levy to leave suddenly with no immediately apparent job prospect.

However, PlaneBusiness Banter founder Holly Hegeman believes the move is related to the lack of growth prospects for Levy at United where he is second in line for the chief executive seat behind Kirby.

Gerry Laderman, senior vice-president of finance, procurement and treasurer of United, has taken over as acting CFO until the airline finds a permanent replacement for Levy.

“I personally want to thank Andrew for his contributions to United,” says Oscar Munoz, chief executive of United. “He leaves the company in a stronger financial position and with a clear strategy and framework in place.”

Levy, who joined United in August 2016 shortly ahead of Kirby, focused on supporting its growth plans through prudent capital management and opportune aircraft deals, including buying aircraft off lease and on the used market.

United bought 23 aircraft off lease, including two Boeing 737-700s and three Boeing 777-200s, acquired three used Boeing 767-300ERs from Hawaiian Airlines, and reached a deal for 20 used mid-life Airbus A319s due in 2020 and 2021 during the first quarter.

Long-term debt and capital lease obligations, net current maturities, have increased nearly a quarter to $13.2 billion at the end of the first quarter compared to June 2016, just before Levy joined the carrier.

However, liquidity at United increased 7.3% to $6.48 billion over the same period.

Before joining United in 2016, Levy was president and chief operating officer at Allegiant Air. He left the ultra low-cost carrier in 2014 after 13 years with the airline.

Updated with comment from Andrew Levy

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Windshield-loss A319 also suffered control panel damage

Chinese investigators have disclosed that the Sichuan Airlines Airbus A319 which lost a main cockpit window at cruise altitude also suffered substantial damage to its flight-control unit.

The aircraft had been cruising at 9,800m at the time of the 14 May accident, states French investigation authority BEA, citing its Chinese counterparts.

It states that the entire right-hand windshield pane separated, damaging the flight-control unit and causing the aircraft to depressurise.

The flight-control unit, located on the upper forward instrument panel, features dials and switches that enable the crew to relay altitude, heading and other instructions to the autopilot.

Oxygen masks were deployed in the cabin after the windshield loss, says BEA, and the crew transmitted a distress call, setting the transponder to the urgency squawk code 7700.

The aircraft, bound for Lhasa, diverted to Chengdu, bursting two main landing-gear tyres on touchdown.

Civil Aviation Administration of China says its south-western bureau is investigating the event, adding that it has already issued an emergency safety notice detailing the incident and outlining a number of safety instructions.

It says operators should be “highly vigilant” in assessing the safety risk, and that components with relevant part numbers should be checked. Flight crew should “strictly follow” operating manuals and cabin crew, in particular, should remind passengers to fasten seatbelts, it adds.

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Stobart Jet Centre head is ready for a challenge

After a spell working in the airline industry, Steve Grimes moved in to business aviation, where he took on many challenging and rewarding roles. Grimes is now putting his experience to good use as managing director of Stobart Jet Centre, at London Southend airport.

How did I get into aviation?

I was at university doing a degree in building surveying and found it boring, although I have put it to good use with various properties. So I applied to British Airways – my dad had regularly taken my brothers and I to watch the aircraft at Heathrow, which I was fascinated by. In those days, there was just a 3ft (1m) perimeter fence, which was broken in places.

Tell us about your career to date

Eight years with British Airways was great fun and great training. I joined the worldwide operations control centre as an operations clerk. They put me in various departments: finance, catering, sales, operations control and load control. I loved load control and used to do the weight and balance on a range of aircraft, including the Aérospatiale Concorde, Boeing 707 and 747, Lockheed Tristar and Vickers VC10. I emigrated to Australia and joined Lloyd Aviation Group as general manager, but had to return to the UK at the end of 1989 when my child became very ill.

Luton airport paid for us to relocate, and I was appointed airside operations manager, before joining Servisair as head of commercial operations. After the company was floated in 1996, I was headhunted by Egyptian entrepreneur Mohammed al Fayed – owner of the Harrods department store in London. – to set up the best business aviation company in the world. He had acquired a venture called Hunting Business Aviation which was losing £3 million a year. We started by rebranding as Metro Business Aviation. Once the company was performing well, we changed the name to Harrods Aviation. My baby! I loved it and spent 10 very happy years building it. After Harrods came Ocean Sky Aviation. It was certainly a challenge building a large group of aviation companies for Russian shareholders. I then worked for myself as an adviser to various aviation companies including the British Airports Authority, BBA Aviation and Inflite Engineering before joining the Stobart Group in July 2017. Stobart asked me to bring business aviation to London Southend, and hence the creation of the Stobart Jet Centre fixed-based operation. SJC is a passion of mine, and once again I love what I am doing.

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Stobart Jet Centre

What are the highlights of your career?

Concorde. Both as a passenger and working on the weight and balance and despatch team. I loved every minute. I still visit aircraft G-BOAE in its air-conditioned hangar in Barbados whenever I can, and remember her fondly.

Australia was a great adventure too. Flying to places like Moomba and Jackson in the Outback was an experience. Floating Servisair was a challenge – and I love a challenge. Building Harrods Aviation from the start was great fun, and again, a love-affair.

The premiere of James Bond movie Quantum of Solace with 12 different plugs for Ocean Sky in the film was memorable. Our Bombardier Challenger 604 was used in some scenes.

Now Stobart Jet Centre is my new passion, and I am loving every second. The best bit is building the team, and choosing and putting fantastic people together to build something special.

What are the low points?

Leaving Australia with a sick child, not knowing the future. Leaving Harrods Aviation after 10 years was hard too. 9/11 was dreadful and killed business aviation for the following 12 months. Worst of all was losing my dad. We talked about business and all its challenges. He taught me so much.

How has the FBO industry evolved since you entered it?

Back in 1997 when I joined Al Fayed and Metro Business Aviation, there was nothing to speak of in Europe and the UK. Luton was a quiet airport, with Magec its only FBO, concentrating on Hawker business jets. We soon changed that. There are now multiple FBOs at Luton and across Europe, which just didn’t exist 20 years ago.

Tell us about your current role

As managing director of SJC, I am building a vibrant business aviation company at Southend. It is the only 24h airport for London that does not have any restrictions for operators this summer. My role is to build, drive and motivate.

What are the plans for Stobart Jet Centre?

Firstly to grow business aircraft movements at Southend from 1,000 a year to 10,000 by 2022. I also plan to develop a chain of SJCs – probably five in western Europe – and establish Stobart as a major player in business aviation.

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European business aviation prepares for a brighter future

Europe’s business aviation industry is finally emerging from one of the gloomiest periods in its history, and its rebirth is being greeted with a ­mixture of relief, optimism and, perhaps understandably, a little caution.

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