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Avianca Brazil cancels some flights despite securing fleet

Financially troubled Avianca Brazil has cancelled about 3% of its daily operations today, even as the airline says it has secured the release of fleet to ensure that operations continue following yesterday’s bankruptcy protection filing.

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Eastar Jet adds 737 Max to component MRO deal with LHT

South Korean budget carrier Eastar Jet has extended its component maintenance agreement with Lufthansa Technik to its on-order Boeing 737 Max fleet.

Earlier this year, Eastar became a new customer for LHT, with a support deal covering components on 737NGs.

LHT says that Eastar “currently” has six Max aircraft on order, the first two of which are scheduled for delivery by year-end.

The remaining four aircraft will follow in mid-2019, the German MRO group adds.

Under the deal, LHT provides component maintenance, pool access, and leased spare components to the airline’s base at Seoul’s Gimpo International airport.

Flight Fleets Analyzer records the airline as operating 18 737NGs.

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Hainan Airlines to serve Paris from Guiyang

Hainan Airlines is seeking rights to launch a daily Guiyang-Paris service from January.

This will be the carrier’s fourth route to Paris, after Chongqing, Xian and Shenzhen.

FlightGlobal schedules data shows that Hainan Airlines will be the only operator between Guiyang and Paris.

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AirAsia coy on report of portfolio sale to Castlelake

AirAsia refuses to comment on a report that it will sell 30 aircraft to Castlelake, in what would be its second major portfolio transaction this year.

Citing unidentified sources, a Reuters report says that Castlelake won the $800 million deal after beating out other US funds and lessors, as well as Chinese-backed leasing companies.

It is not clear if all of the jets are presently in the AirAsia Group fleet, or if it includes some aircraft from its orderbook of 272 A320neos, 100 A321neos and four A320ceos.

AirAsia says that it is not making any comment on the report at this time, and has not issued a statement to the Malaysian stock exchange confirming that any deal has been done.

Castlelake also declined to comment when approached by FlightGlobal, noting that there were confidentiality provisions it has to abide by.

Flight Fleets Analyzer shows that the carrier’s group fleet is comprised of 188 A320ceos and 34 A320neos. Of those, AirAsia is listed as the owner of 74 of the A320s, including 54 A320ceos.

If confirmed, the deal would be consistent with comments by AirAsia Group chief executive Tony Fernandes in a September interview. At that time he told FlightGlobal that the airline had around 40 A320ceos it would like to sell as it transitions towards a fleet of A320/A321neos.

Such a transaction would likely generate $400-$500 million in additional cash.

In March the carrier announced a deal to sell the portfolio of its leasing unit, Asia Aviation Capital, to BBAM, FLY Leasing and Incline B. That $1.18 billion deal covered 84 A320s and 14 engines, as well as 48 aircraft from the carrier’s forward orderbook and options on a further 50.

That allowed AirAsia to announce a special dividend of 40 Malaysian sen per share that will be paid out on 28 December.

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​AirAsia, KLIA2 feud continues with spat over passenger fees

Malaysian low-cost carrier AirAsia has delivered a bitter rebuke following Malaysia Airports Holdings’ (MAHB) issue of a writ of summons for MYR9.4 million ($2.2 million) in claimed passenger service charges.

The airline says it has not collected this sum from passengers, and refuses to do so.

“We shall defend these proceedings vigorously as we believe the claims are made without justification and are unreasonable,” says the carrier.

It adds that it has collected MRY50 per non-ASEAN passenger, and has paid this to Malaysia Airports. It contends that MAHB wanted to increase this by MYR23 in June, but that the airline refused to do so because it regards KLIA2 as a low-cost airport, and that passenger service fees (PSC) should hence be less than at KLIA’s original terminal.

“We maintain that we are not obliged to collect the same PSC for passengers departing from KLIA2 and will not do so for the sake of all the stakeholders in the aviation and tourism industries,” it says.

It goes on to list a number of complaints about KLIA2, which it feels are the basis for legal claims.

“We also intend to pursue cross claims against [MAHB] in relation to the infrastructure and state of the airports and its operations which include major apron defects, random closure of runways, damage to aircraft and rupture of fuel pipelines. We believe these claims far exceed the claims [MAHB] is seeking. We have attempted – without success – on numerous occasions to engage [MAHB] on these issues but regrettably [MAHB] has decided to bring these issues to the public arena by commencing legal action.”

The statement is just the latest development in a long running dispute between AirAsia, MAHB, and the Malaysian Aviation Commission, which oversees KLIA. The feud had its origins in 2011, when MAHB and AirAsia publicly sparred over costs and capacity of the terminal, to which AirAsia moved its operations in 2014.

AirAsia and its chief executive Tony Fernandes, have complained of high charges and poor infrastructure. MAHB has maintained that KLIA2 is not a low-cost terminal, but intended to provide more total capacity at the airport.

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GE begins second round of GE9X flight testing

GE Aviation’s GE9X turbofan returned to the skies on 10 December, kicking off a second round of airborne testing during which the engine maker will evaluate the powerplant’s software and performance in hot-and-high conditions.

The latest round of testing will involve roughly 18 flights on GE’s flying Boeing 747-400 testbed, which will carry the massive GE9X turbofan under its wing, GE says.

The 105,000lb-thrust (467kN) GE9X will power Boeing’s 777X.

GE9X flight tests will stretch into the first quarter of next year, bringing GE closer to achieving its goal of receiving in 2019 certification of the engine by the Federal Aviation Administration, according to the Ohio-based engine maker.

“During the second round of testing, GE will continue software development testing that began in the first round, perform hot-and-high starts and fill in remaining gaps from the first round of testing,” says GE.

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GE’s GE9X turbofan goes to work on the wing of the company’s 747-400 flying testbed.

GE Aviation.

The company’s first round of GE9X airborne testing was delayed more than two months earlier this year after engineers discovered unexpected wear on “lever arms” that alter the pitch of vanes inside the engine’s compressor.

The engine finally got airborne in March when GE began an initial round of airborne tests that lasted until early May. That round involved 18 flights and 105h of flight time, allowing GE to study high-altitude performance and to compare performance during cruise to ground-test data, GE has told FlightGlobal.

With the initial round complete, the company transported the test engine to Ohio, where it was modified into the final configuration expected for production, GE says.

“The engine is more than halfway through the certification testing programme and [has] completed various tests during the last few months,” GE says.

Those tests have included evaluation of performance during water ingestion, overheating and crosswinds, it says.

“Tests that remain include blade out, hailstone, bird ingestion and block or endurance testing,” GE says.

The GE9X-105B variant of the engine will power the 777-9, which Boeing expects will achieve first flight in 2019 and enter service in 2020.

GE also plans to develop versions of the turbofan with 102,000lb-thrust and 93,000lb-thrust, according to regulatory filings with the FAA. Those engines could power other 777X variants.

GE operates a flight test center in Victorville, California, but also performs airborne testing from Colorado Springs in Colorado, Seattle, Fairbanks in Alaska and Yuma in Arizona, it says.

The company acquired its 747-400 flying testbed from Japan Air Lines, then modified and strengthened the aircraft’s wing and strut to accommodate test engines, it says.

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Avianca Brazil files for Brazilian bankruptcy protection: sources

Avianca Brazil has filed for bankruptcy protection with a Brazilian court in a move that comes after lessors sought to repossess some of the carrier’s aircraft, two sources tell FlightGlobal.

The carrier, Brazil’s fourth largest airline, had been working with lessors to reach tenable lease agreements but failed to find common ground, one person close to the proceedings says. The company leases 50 of its 58 aircraft.

Avianca Brazil did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The effect of the filing on Avianca Brazil’s operation remains unknown.

Yesterday lessor Aircastle confirmed in a disclosure with the US Securities and Exchange Commission that it was moving to repossess 11 aircraft one Airbus A330-200 and 10 A320s on lease to Avianca Brazil.

Likewise, BOC Aviation has been named in local reports as using legal channels to take back aircraft leased to the airline. BOC declined to comment.

Following Aircastle’s move, Avianca Brazil filed for judicial protection, asking a judge to block lessors from repossessing aircraft, according to the source close to the proceedings.

Avianca Brazil is awaiting a ruling from the judge, sources say.

In recent days, Avianca Brazil told FlightGlobal it would return eight aircraft to lessors. That news followed reports of legal action by lessors seeking the return of up to 13 Airbus aircraft. The carrier said it had planned the fleet reductions since August and did not specify which aircraft were included in the returns.

GECAS also has large exposure to Avianca Brazil, with one A320 and 10 new A320neos on lease with the carrier. GECAS decline to comment.

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RAF Typhoon makes air-defence debut with Meteor missile

UK Royal Air Force Eurofighter Typhoons have begun flying quick reaction alert (QRA) sorties armed with MBDA Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles, the Ministry of Defence confirms.

A first QRA mission with the new weapon was conducted from RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland on 10 December, the MoD says. “The introduction of Meteor brings a new and innovative long-range capability, and further enhances Typhoon’s already potent arsenal,” it notes.

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Crown Copyright

Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, chief of the air staff, describes the new weapon’s introduction as “another huge leap forward in capability for the Typhoon force”. The RAF remains on track to declare a wider package of updates for the type operational by March 2019 via its Project Centurion activity, which includes MBDA’s Brimstone air-to-surface missile and Storm Shadow stand-off-range cruise missile.

RAF Typhoons have previously been equipped with Raytheon’s AIM-120 AMRAAM and MBDA’s short-range ASRAAM missiles in the air defence role.

MBDA developed the ramjet motor-powered Meteor under a UK-led programme in partnership with the defence ministries of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden. In addition to arming the Eurofighter, it is also fielded with the Swedish air force’s Saab Gripen fleet, and has been cleared on the Dassault Rafale as part of a future F3R operating standard upgrade for the French air force and navy.

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Bell 407GXi wins European certification

European regulators have approved the Bell 407GXi, the latest iteration of the Canada-built light single-engined helicopter.

Certification was confirmed in a 10 December revision to European Aviation Safety Agency documentation for the type.

The GXi gains a FADEC-equipped Rolls-Royce M250-C47E/4 engine and a Garmin G1000H NXi digital flightdeck.

Bell achieved initial Transport Canada certification for the rotorcraft in January, with US validation following in October.

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Diamond wins 60-unit order from Saudi training school SNCA

Diamond has secured an order from Saudi National Company of Aviation (SNCA) for up to 60 single-engined DA40 NGs and twin-engined DA42-VIs, with the first examples scheduled to arrive at a new training facility in February 2019.

The deal comes a year after SNCA signed a partnership with Canada’s CAE to create a 40,000sqm (431,000sq ft) pilot training facility in Dammam, Saudi Arabia.

Anthony Miller, global business development director for SNCA describes the order as “one of the largest in the history of aviation academies in Saudi Arabia, and perhaps the Middle East”.

He says the new centre will supply locally trained pilots to the region’s growing airlines “which are facing a shortfall of some 64,000 flightcrew”.

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Diamond Aircraft

“We are determined to provide the aviation industry with highly qualified male and female pilots that are able to advance within the aviation industry and serve as an integral tool for development in the region,” notes Miller.

The academy plans to admit up to 400 cadets a year, with the first students scheduled to be inducted in September 2019.

A dozen aircraft will be shipped between February and September – 10 DA40s and two DA42s – and SNCA will add the remaining examples “over a five-year period”, says Miller.

The DA40 NG and the DA42-VI are powered by Austro Engine AE300 engines and equipped with Garmin G1000 NXi flightdecks.

Diamond says it plans to establish a service centre at the Dammam site to support SNCA’s fleet as well as the growing inventory of DA-prefixed aircraft in the Middle East.

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