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Norway persists with NH90 helicopters for coastguard missions

Norway has reversed course and determined that it will be able to use its fleet of NH Industries NH90 helicopters for both naval and coastguard operations, following a volte-face by the country’s FFI defence research institute.

Earlier this year, the FFI concluded that the Royal Norwegian Air Force’s eventual fleet of 14 NH90 NFHs would only generate 2,100h flight hours per year, rather than the 5,400h required to support both anti-submarine warfare and fisheries and border protection missions.

Instead of splitting the fleet – six for ASW operations and the remainder for the coastguard – the FFI recommend that all 14 should be used in the naval support role.

However, an updated study conducted by the FFI has determined that “under certain conditions” the fleet will be able to produce up to 5,400h per year.

Those conditions include good spare part availability, sufficient aircraft for maintenance scheduling and a sufficiently large overhaul capacity.

Defence minister Frank Bakke-Jensen says that based on the new report Norway aims to be operating the NH90 for both missions by early next decade.

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Norwegian defence ministry

“The inauguration of the NH90 helicopter on coastguards and frigates is challenging, but we hold on to the ambition that phasing in will be completed by 2022,” he says.

During the first year of operation, FFI believes that 3,900 flight hours will be possible, costing some NKr470 million ($57 million) more than forecast.

The defence ministry describes deliveries of the NH90s – which were ordered in 2001 – as “significantly delayed”. Flight Fleets Analyzer records six examples in service, with eight more on order.

In addition, the ministry says: “Experience so far shows that operating costs are far higher than planned.”

Nonetheless, Norway shows no sign of wanting to ditch the 11t-class helicopters: “The NH90 is customised for Norwegian conditions and tailor-made for the needs of the coastguard and the navy,” says Bakke-Jensen.

“There is no other helicopter on the market today that will provide us with equivalent capacity. The expected increased operating costs and the need for the armed forces must be addressed in connection with the next long-term plan.”


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Copa debuts new business class on first 737 Max 9

Copa Airlines has unveiled its first Boeing 737 Max 9, featuring the airline’s first lie-flat seats in business class and a new economy extra section.

With 166 seats on board, the aircraft will offer slightly more capacity than Copa’s 737-800s which are equipped with 154 or 160 seats. The 737-9 also boasts overhead compartments that are 50% larger, says the Panamanian carrier.

The aircraft marks a “new era” for Copa, after 70 years of commercial service, says Copa chief executive Pedro Heilbron. Registered HP-9901CMP and powered with CFM International Leap-1B engines, the 737-9 was delivered to the Star Alliance carrier in late August. The Max fleet is expected to reduce the airline’s fuel consumption by 14%.

Copa will debut the aircraft on revenue service to Tampa and Miami on 20 September, followed by San Francisco on 21 September. The narrowbody will rotate among Tampa, Miami, San Francisco and Los Angeles initially, Heilbron tells FlightGlobal.

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Copa Airlines

Copa’s new business class product on the 737-9 is its most significant upgrade in the premium cabin, for an airline that has generally eschewed frills, even up front.

Branded “Dreams”, the cabin will feature 16 lie-flat seats with 60in of pitch, 16in-wide seatback touch screens, power outlets and USB connectors. The seats will also be equipped with twice the amount of storage space for personal items. Business class passengers will receive updated amenity kits and bedding.

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Copa Airlines new business class on 737 Max 9

Copa Airlines

Copa’s current business class cabin also features 16 seats, but the seats do not recline to lie-flat and are largely similar to the business class product on most US domestic flights.

In economy class, Copa will offer a new economy extra section with 24 seats with 34in of pitch, in line with the airline’s recent push to grow its ancillary revenue. Copa currently charges passengers to sit in bulkhead and exit row seats, and the economy extra seats will allow the carrier to further segment the cabin.

Passengers travelling in economy extra seats will receive priority boarding. The seats are equipped with 10in seatback screens, individual USB ports, leather headrests and two power outlets for each row of three seats.

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Economy extra seats on 737 Max 9

Copa Airlines

Regular economy seats on the 737-9 come with leather headrests, individual USB ports and mobile device storage. These seats will not have seatback screens, but Copa says passengers will be able to stream in-flight entertainment to their own electronic devices from its onboard entertainment system, Copa Showpass.

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Economy class on Copa 737 Max 9

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Copa Airlines

Heilbron says the airline will generate 90 new jobs for each 737 Max aircraft added to its fleet. Copa will add four additional 737-9s between October and December, and take delivery of another eight in 2019. It will take another nine 737 Max aircraft in 2020, including its first Max 8.

Copa has an order for 71 737 Max aircraft, comprising the Max 8, 9 and 10 variants.

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Copa Airlines


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Washington Dulles to lower airline costs with land deal

Washington Dulles International airport will use $237 million from the sale of unused land on its western periphery to further lower airline costs.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) board approved the sale of 424 acres, acquired for the fourth runway that opened in 2008, to Digital Realty Trust for a new data centre at a meeting today.

“The only thing the airport can do with the funds is re-invest them in airport activity – it’s not roads or trains, it has to go to the benefit of airline operations,” says Jack Potter, president of the airport operator, at the board meeting.

That benefit will be further reducing the cost per enplanement (CPE), or the amount an airline pays to board a passenger on a flight, at Dulles, and not for capital improvements, MWAA confirms.

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Dulles airport will sell 424 acres of land on its western periphery

MWAA

Airline costs at Dulles are forecast to fall 6% to $17.82 per passenger this year, benefitting from $35 million in revenues transferred from MWAA’s other airport Ronald Reagan Washington National and a $25 million grant from the Commonwealth of Virginia. The drop continues the trend that began in 2014, when CPE peaked at $26.55 per passenger.

MWAA has not estimated the impact of the land sale yet but, based on the amount alone, the deal could have a more significant impact than either the revenue transfer or grant.

As recently as May, Fitch Ratings forecast costs at Dulles would rise again to the $22-23 per passenger range after the benefit from the grant ends this year.

Lower costs are likely music to United Airlines’ ears. The largest carrier at Dulles, the airline is evaluating increasing the number of flights at the airport by half by creating two new connecting banks, or when a significant number of flights arrive and depart within a short time frame.

“We applaud MWAA’s efforts in managing costs at Washington Dulles,” says the Chicago-based carrier on the land deal. “Their efforts to improve the cost structure are an important part in growing the hub.”

United president Scott Kirby emphasised this in August, when he told reporters that costs were one of the most important things to make “growth at a hub like Dulles successful”.

For example, CPE at Baltimore/Washington International airport, the busiest in the Washington DC region, was $9.33 per passenger during the fiscal year ending in June. Southwest Airlines and other low-cost carriers continue to add flights at a rapid clip from the airport, which is roughly as far as Dulles from the White House.

The possibility of further cost reductions at Dulles come as United faces potentially higher costs at its Newark hub. New Jersey is considering a four-cent levy on fuel the airline buys to fund a rail extension to the New York City-area airport.

While Newark is strategically important to United, the carrier could focus growth at other hubs like Washington Dulles. The DC airport plays a similar role as Newark in the airline’s network, serving north-south flows along the US East Coast and acting as a European gateway.

United plans to grow capacity 4.5-5% this year, and 4-6% annually in 2019 and 2020.

Dulles can handle more passengers. The airport is on track to handle more than 23 million travellers this year but is designed for 40 million, says Potter. Rising passenger numbers also means lower costs for airlines.

“In fact, the airport can probably handle 80 million [passengers] without an additional runway,” he says when asked by the board if the land sale would limit growth at Dulles. “We are well positioned to handle future growth without an additional runway.”

Cathay Pacific Airways, Primera Air and Volaris Costa Rica have all added new service to the airport this year, with United beginning new flights to places like Chattanooga, Ithaca and Miami.

While proceeds of the land deal are not expected to go to facility improvements, Potter told FlightGlobal in August that MWAA and United are looking at building an addition on concourse C that would both expand the international arrivals facility on the ground floor of the concourse, and add space for the airline’s new premium Polaris Lounge.

Dulles has also invested in adding more food and retail options, as well as other customer improvements in recent years.


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De-risking activities under way for H160M development

Airbus Helicopters is working with its French defence ministry customer on early de-risking activities for the H160M, having been selected by Paris to fulfil a tri-service requirement for almost 170 rotorcraft.

In April 2017, the H160M was selected by France as the basis for its hélicoptère interarmées léger (HIL) programme, which seeks to replace multiple fleets of aged types including SA342 Gazelles and SA314 Alouette IIIs.

A firm contract to officially launch the H160M is expected in 2022, supporting first deliveries after 2025, says Bernard Fujarski, senior vice-president of the programme.

“In the meantime, we are working extensively with the French defence ministry and the armed forces on de-risking studies where we are working on several topics and pre-development activities,” he says.

Paris earlier this year detailed in its latest military acquisition plan an intention to purchase 169 H160Ms under the HIL effort: 80 for the army, 49 for the navy and 40 for the air force.

Fujarski says the development will benefit from the work that has gone into the civil variant of the H160, which is due to enter service in 2020.

The airframer’s vision is to create a common baseline helicopter for all three French services, with specific equipment to tailor the platform to the mission, such as armaments or an in-flight refuelling system.


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​Royal Brunei picks Air France-KLM’s MRO arm for Leap support

Air France Industries KLM Engineering & Maintenance has won a contract to service the CFM International Leap-1A engines powering Royal Brunei Airlines’ Airbus A320neo fleet.

The MRO provider says that the deal covers “full maintenance and repair” services for the engines on seven A320neos.

Flight Fleets Analyzer shows that Royal Brunei has five of the twinjets in service, having received the first in May.

The airline has previously selected AFI KLM E&M to maintain components and APUs for its Boeing 787 fleet under a long-term contract.

“It was quite natural for us to turn to AFI KLM E&M to support our Leap engines,” states head of engineering and maintenance Rob Woods.

AFI KLM E&M senior vice-president of engines product Michael Grootenboer describes the deal as part of the MRO provider’s “first steps on the market” for Leap support.

“We want to be at the forefront of new technological and market developments,” he adds.


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Former Rossiya chief to take over at Vnukovo airport

Recently departed Rossiya chief executive Dmitry Saprykin is to take the helm at Moscow’s Vnukovo International airport.

Speaking to FlightGlobal at the World Routes conference in Guangzhou today, Anton Kuznetsov, Vnukovo’s deputy chief executive and chief commercial officer, says the airport’s board of directors is set to confirm Saprykin as the next chief executive today.

He will take over from Vasily Aleksandrov, who has been at the helm of the airport for 14 years, Kuznetsov says. He adds that Saprykin brings “huge experience” from his time at Aeroflot and Rossiya.

Saprykin left Rossiya earlier this month after its board agreed to terminate his contract early. He was originally contracted to continue in the role until November 2018.

Saprykin became chief executive of the Russian carrier in November 2015 and previously served on Aeroflot’s board.


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Historic Cathay 777 heads for US museum

The first Boeing 777 will be parked permanently at a museum, following its retirement from commercial service with operator Cathay Pacific in May.

In a statement, the carrier states that the aircraft, registered B-HNL (MSN 27116), will be flown from Hong Kong on 18 September to Tucson-based Pima Air & Space Museum, where it will be displayed permanently alongside 350 other aircraft.

The aircraft first flew on 12 June 1994 and was used as a testbed until 2000, where it joined Cathay Pacific. During the 18 years in service, B-HNL operated 20,519 flights and recorded 49,687 flying hours.

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Flight Fleets Analyzer indicates that the aircraft, powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 877 engines, was delivered to the airline in December 2000, configured with 335 seats across two classes: 42 in business and 293 in economy.

Cathay says it was one of the few airlines to provide Boeing input on the 777 at a design stage. Requests at that time included a cabin cross-section similar to the 747s, a modern glass cockpit, fly-by-wire system, and lower operating costs.

Fleets Analyzer indicates that Cathay now operates 69 Boeing 777s in three variants: -200s, -300s, and -300ERs. It also has orders for 21 777-9s.

“As the world’s very first 777, B-HNL holds a very special place in the history of both our airline and that of commercial aviation, and we are very pleased it will soon bring enjoyment to enthusiasts at its new home in Arizona,” says Cathay’s chief executive Rupert Hogg.

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All images by Cathay Pacific


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Insitu unveils extended-range, small UAV for USAF

Boeing-owned Insitu unveiled an extended-range unmanned air vehicle, called the Integrator ER, which is intended for use by the US Air Force.

The medium-altitude UAV has an endurance of 10h on station after traveling 200nm (370km), or 6h on station at 300nm (556km), according to Esina Alic, Insitu president and CEO, who presented the aircraft at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference on 17 September in National Harbor, Maryland. The UAV can be controlled at greater distances using a jam-resistant satellite link, instead of a line-of-site radio link, which typically limit small UAVs to ranges of 50nm (93km) to 70nm (130km), she added.

The 65.7kg (145lb) aircraft is interoperable with Insitu’s other UAVs, the RQ-21A Blackjack and ScanEagle, the company says.

“It has interchangeable modules that can be changed in the field,” says Alic.

For example, electronic warfare, signal intelligence pods, as well as electro-optical and infrared camera pods, can be quickly swapped in and out of the aircraft. The system can be operated by a team of 12 operators, maintainers and mission commanders, says the company.

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Insitu Integrator ER on catapult Credit: Insitu Defense

The Integrator ER is launched via a catapult and landed with a sky hook, allowing it to operate independent of a runway. It is acoustically and visually undetectable at tactical altitudes, says Alic.

The UAV’s satellite communications link allows it bandwidth throughput up to 10Mb per second with a less than 1.5 second latency.

Insitute has added weapons attachment points under both wings of the UAV and has a roadmap to integrate weapons on the aircraft, but declined to elaborate on its specific plans.

The aircraft will initially be offered as part of an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance service to the USAF, said Don Williamson, vice president and general manager of Insitu Defense.

“Full service contractor operations for the Integrator ER will cost approximately one-third of contracted medium altitude unmanned systems in operations today,” he says. “This new option allows the Department of Defense to either increase its current ISR capacity within current budgets or save money by augmenting higher cost systems with smaller unmanned systems.”

The Integrator ER is ITAR regulated, he added.


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Tigerair Australia drops SIAEP after defect found on 737

Tigerair Australia has stopped sending aircraft for heavy maintenance at SIA Engineering Philippines after a Boeing 737-800 was grounded for just over three weeks following a heavy check at the MRO operator’s Clark facility.

The aircraft, registered VH-VUB, developed a cockpit voice recorder fault after departing on its ferry flight back to Melbourne on 31 July. As there were no safety concerns, the aircraft continued on its nonstop ferry flight and landed safely, a source tells FlightGlobal.

As engineers were resolving the cockpit voice recorder issue, they discovered a defect in the cargo smoke evacuation system, which caused the aircraft to be grounded. Tigerair Australia and Virgin Tech conducted a full review of all maintenance items from the heavy check, while rectifying the smoke system fault.

The aircraft re-entered service on 22 August. Virgin Australia, the parent company of Tigerair Australia, stresses that the aircraft “did not operate any Regular Public Transport flights…while any fault was detected” and has been operating normally.

Flight Fleets Analyzer shows that the budget carrier operates four 737-800s and 12 Airbus A320s.

Tigerair Australia has used SIAEP for heavy maintenance on both types for two years, but has not said where it will conduct heavy checks on its fleet after dropping the provider.

Heavy maintenance on Virgin Australia’s 737s is conducted by Air New Zealand Engineering & Maintenance in Christchurch.

SIAEP is a joint venture between SIA Engineering Company and Cebu Pacific Air. FlightGlobal Dashboard data shows that its other clients include Philippines AirAsia, Scoot and SilkAir.


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