​Vietnam Airlines enters competitive Da Nang-Busan route

Vietnam Airlines will enter the hotly contested Da Nang-Busan route with a twice-weekly service from 20 July 2019.

The airline says it will operate Airbus A321s on the route, which adds to the carrier’s services to the South Korean city from Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

The service will be operated just after midnight on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Cirium Schedules data shows that Vietnam Airlines will the seventh competitor – and first Vietnamese airline – on the route. Air Busan, Asiana Airlines, Jeju Air, Jin Air, Korean Air, and T’Way air all operate on the route, with each airline operating an average of 30 narrowbody services per month.


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​Bangkok Airways enters U-Tapao development fray

Bangkok Airways and two other firms have submitted a joint proposal for the development of an aviation hub at Thailand’s U-Tapao airport.

The company is teaming up with BTS Group and Sino-Thai Engineering for the bid, says the airline in a Stock Exchange of Thailand statement.

The name of the entity is BBS Joint Venture, which is bidding for the U-Tapao International Airport and Eastern Aviation City Development Project.

According to the Bangkok Post, other companies that have placed bids with the Thai Navy, which runs the airport, are local conglomerate Charoen Pokphand as well as Asia Aviation, which owns Thai AirAsia.

The report adds that 24 local companies and 18 foreign firms have expressed interest in the project.

Thailand is in the process of developing U-Tapao both as an airport and an MRO centre.

In 2018, the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand said that the airport’s handling capacity will grow from 3.7 million passengers annually to 15 million within five years, to 30 million within 10 years, and 60 million within 15 years.

Plans call for the airport, a two-hour drive from Bangkok, to be linked with the city via high speed rail links. There will also be rail links to the capital’s other two airports, Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang.

As for MRO, Airbus and Thai Airways International are setting up a new MRO facility at the airport.

The facility will offer heavy maintenance and line services for all widebody aircraft types, including Boeing aircraft. The complex will also have repair shops for composite structures, as well as a training centre.


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Bombardier Global 7500 enters service

Bombardier’s flagship Global 7500 business jet has entered service, eight years after its launch.

The milestone was marked at a dedicated ceremony on 20 December at the airframer’s Montreal-based completion centre, where Bombardier Business Aircraft president David Coleal called the ultra-long-range aircraft “the gateway to a transformed business aviation landscape and a very bright future”.

The aircraft, which carriers the serial number 70006, was delivered to its unnamed owner in early December and Bombardier will operate the aircraft as a demonstrator under a lease-back arrangement with the customer. “It will then move on to another end-user,” the airframer says.

The GE Passport-powered twinjet was launched in 2010 as the Global 7000. It was rebranded in May to reflect a 300nm (560km) increase in maximum operating range during flight testing to 7,700nm.

The Global 7500 has the longest cabin in the traditional business jet market, at 16.5m (54ft) and is described by Bombardier as the only aircraft in its segment with “four customisable living areas”.

“The world-class, highly skilled team [at Bombardier] continues to carry on the tradition of delivering game-changing large-cabin aircraft in Montreal, much like the original Global Express 20 years ago,” says Michel Ouellette, senior vice-president, programme management and engineering.

Bombardier has secured over 100 orders for the Global 7500 and says production is sold out until 2021. The company forecasts deliveries of between 15 and 20 aircraft in 2019 and between 35 and 40 in 2020.

Customers include former Formula 1 racing driver and Bombardier brand ambassador Niki Lauda, Hong Kong charter and management company HK Bellawings Jet, fractional ownership giant NetJets, and Thomas Flohr, founder of luxury charter provider and long-time Bombardier customer VistaJet.


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Argentina’s FLYEST enters scheduled market

FLYEST, the Argentinian Bombardier CRJ 200 charter operator, has announced its foray into the scheduled market with flights connecting Buenos Aires Aeroparque downtown airport with Santa Fe.

FLYEST will operate five weekly roundtrips. Both Aerolineas Argentinas and Avianca Argentina are currently serving the route with Embraer 190 and ATR 72 aircraft respectively.

The airline’s decision to enter the scheduled regional market on its own comes as a surprise as it had positioned itself strategically as an ad-hoc charter and potential franchise partner to operate regional routes for a major network carrier.

FLYEST is owned by the international investment arm of Spain’s Air Nostrum, a major Bombardier CRJ operator and Iberia Regional franchise partner.


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Northrop Grumman enters full-rate production on F-35 fuselage

Northrop Grumman entered full-rate production on the F-35 Lightning II’s centre fuselage at its Palmdale, California facility in May in order to meet increasing order quantities from the Pentagon and international customers.

The company said the 400th centre fuselage was completed and delivered to F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin last month. Production of the 500th centre fuselage began the week of 18 June.

Situated on the edge of the Mojave Desert in California, the factory — known as Building 401 on Site 4 of Plant 42 — supplies fuselages for aircraft final assembly facilities in Fort Worth, Texas; Italy and Japan. An adjacent bay in the same building once was the final assembly site of the B-2A bomber. It sat empty during a media tour of the full facility in December 2015. During the latest tour of Building 401 in mid-June, Northrop officials refused to discuss the secret location of the B-21A bomber assembly site, but the former B-2A bay was walled off and not accessible.

Northrop reached a production rate of a centre fuselage every 1.5 days in the fourth quarter of 2017 and completed a total of 74 last year.

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The manufacturer projects that it will complete 113 fuselages this year and it aims to produce 153 fuselages in 2019. At peak production the facility will produce a fuselage every 1.25 days.

To accommodate the increased production Northrop hired 1,000 additional employees at its Palmdale facility between the beginning of 2017 and the end of the first quarter 2018. It also has added new sanding and painting booths.

The company competes for talent with Lockheed’s nearby Skunk Works division, which is based across the runway at US Air Force Plant 42 and is in the midst of hiring 1,000 employees this year.

Nonetheless, Northrop said it has not had trouble finding workers for its plant, drawing many employees from Aircraft Fabrication and Assembly programme at nearby Antelope Valley College.


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First Airbus ACJ320neo enters final assembly

The first Airbus ACJ320neo has entered final assembly in Hamburg, Germany, and is on schedule for delivery to its UK customer, Acropolis Aviation, in the fourth quarter. The Farnborough-headquartered luxury charter company launched the VIP version of the A320neo in 2015, and selected the CFM International Leap-1A engine for the aircraft in 2017.

Acropolis has appointed Swiss completions house AMAC Aerospace to outfit the narrowbody, which will feature 19 seats and a private master bedroom with luxury en-suite bathroom, designed by French studio Albert Pinto.

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Airbus

AMAC is scheduled to complete the project with 12 months.

A second ACJ320neo is also due for green delivery at the end of 2018 to an unnamed customer. The aircraft will be outfitted by Comlux Completions in Indianapolis, USA.

Airbus has secured nine orders for the ACJ320neo family, of which three are the smaller ACJ319neo variant. Airbus is aiming to deliver the first example in the second quarter of 2019 to Germany’s K-5 Aviation. The charter and management company has appointed Dutch maintenance, repair and overhaul firm Fokker Techniek to outfit the aircraft on behalf of its unnamed owner.

Airbus has more than 190 corporate airliners in service worldwide.


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JetGo enters administration, suspends scheduled flights

Regional carrier JetGo Australia has suspended its scheduled services after entering voluntary administration on 1 June.

A statement from administrators Jonathan McLeod and Bill Karageozis says that the carrier will continue to operate limited charter services while scheduled services will be suspended “for the duration of the administration period”.

There has been no indication of how much creditors are owed, with further details expected to be released at a later time.

FlightGlobal schedules show that, at the time it entered administration, JetGo was operating flights from Brisbane and Melbourne to regional centres in New South Wales and Queensland.

It had also planned to launch flights from Brisbane to Karratha in August, with the intention of extending those to Singapore in future, under an agreement with the City of Karratha.

Its fleet consists of two Embraer ERJ-135s, two ERJ-140s and one ERJ-145. Flight Fleets Analyzer shows that four of these jets are owned by the airline, while the ERJ-145 is leased from Regional One.

JetGo had also been due to take delivery of an E190 in July that was to be used on the Karratha services, but that now appears unlikely.

The privately-owned carrier had reportedly been banking on an equity infusion by a new investor, but it appears that did not eventuate. Managing director Paul Bredereck had previously told staff in an email that it was working with consultants on ways to boost its cash flow in the absence of the new investment.


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US-Brazil open-skies deal enters into force

A long-awaited open-skies agreement between the USA and Brazil has entered into force, the US Department of Transportation (DOT) confirms to FlightGlobal.

The deal took effect after an exchange of diplomatic notes between the two governments on 21 May, says the regulator.

While an open-skies agreement was first signed in March 2011, the deal has taken years to be ratified and only gained approval by Brazil’s congress in the last six months before making its way to a signature by Brazil’s president Michel Temer.

“The agreement strengthens and expands our already strong trade and tourism links with Brazil and will benefit American and Brazilian businesses and travelers. It will allow for an expansion of air service opportunities and encourage vigorous price competition by airlines, while safeguarding aviation safety and security,” says the DOT.

The entry into force of the open-skies deal will pave the way for Oneworld carriers American Airlines and LATAM Airlines Group to file for anti-trust immunity for a planned joint venture. Brazil’s Azul has also said it had initiated talks with partner United Airlines for a similar partnership.

American’s senior vice president of government affairs Nate Gatten says: “This agreement will strengthen economic ties between the US and Brazil and deliver significant benefits for consumers.”

Azul, LATAM and United did not immediately comment.


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Boeing’s 100th P-8 Poseidon enters final assembly

The 100th Boeing P-8A Poseidon entered final assembly in Renton, Washington in March.

The maritime patrol aircraft is destined for the US Navy in fall 2018 and is part of a string of backorders that Boeing said will keep its P-8 production line running until 2022. The aerospace manufacturer said it has delivered 82 aircraft since the launch of the programme in 2011, and in total has 127 aircraft contracted to the US Navy, Australia, United Kingdom and India.

The company believes it can add more aircraft orders to the programme from current and new customers, eventually extending the total number of the aircraft delivered to 200. Norway signed an agreement for five P-8A’s in 2017 and Boeing is bidding to sell aircraft to South Korea, which is expected to decide on a maritime patrol aircraft by the end of 2018.

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The P-8A is known for submarine hunting, but in the face of additional competition from aircraft such as the Saab Swordfish Boeing is keen to emphasize that the aircraft’s size gives it extra room for capabilities beyond anti-submarine missions.

“Especially for the countries in the Middle East and a lot of Asia Countries what makes the P-8 interesting is it is a multiple mission aircraft,” said Matt Carreon, global sales and marketing lead for the P-8, noting the jet’s anti-surface warfare, intellgence-collecting, and search and rescue capabilities. “We are able to incorporate new technologies, additional sensors, additional crewmembers which makes it really appealing for our customer who can’t afford another aircraft.”

The company also points out that it has produced more than 10,000 units of the 737 commercial airliner, the airframe on which the P-8 is based, and is able to pass on economies of scale savings onto its military customers. And though the 737 production line is transitioning to accommodate the larger 737 MAX, Boeing remains confident that the P-8 will continue to benefit from its commercial cousin.

“The 737 production line process has supported multiple models of the 737. That process is not changing,” the company said. “The P-8 has benefitted from those efficiencies, which have largely contributed to an overall 30% cost savings and 50% reduction in production time.”

Boeing added that the latest aircraft upgrade, Increment 3, also includes a wideband satellite communications link, which will increase the volume of data the plane can send and receive.


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Pilatus delivers second PC-24 as launch aircraft enters service

Pilatus Aircraft has delivered its second PC-24 to its US dealer and maintenance provider Western Aircraft. The handover of aircraft serial number 102 – carrying the registration N224WA – came as the first production example enters service with fractional ownership company PlaneSense.

Pilatus plans to deliver 23 of the superlight business jets in 2018, from an order backlog of 84 aircraft.

Western Aircraft, based in Boise, Idaho, is described by Pilatus as “its most successful dealership”, having sold more than 230 PC-12 single-engined turboprops since it joined the Swiss airframer’s network in 1996.

The business aviation services company says it has seen strong demand for the PC-24, “with more than a dozen offers to buy the first aircraft”.

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Pilatus Aircraft

Despite this demand Western plans to add aircraft 102 to its inventory, where it will be used for ad hoc charter and, for the coming year, as a company demonstrator. “This gives us the ability to show the PC-24 to existing order holders, and also to prospective customers who want to get in on the next block of aircraft when Pilatus re-opens the orderbook,” says Western’s vice-president of sales and charter, Phil Winters.

The manufacturer, headquartered in Stans, has not disclosed a timeframe for the next order round – but with pressure mounting from eager customers keen to secure additional aircraft, it could be as early as the fourth quarter of this year.

PlaneSense, one of Pilatus’s largest customers, has an order for six PC-24s, but is keen to acquire additional aircraft to add to its fleet of 36 PC-12s.

The fractional ownership operator, based in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is the launch customer for the eight-seat, Williams International FJ44-4A-powered twin, having taken delivery of its first example in February.

The aircraft, bearing the registration N124AF, entered service with fractional owners on 1 April, says PlaneSense founder and chief executive George Antoniadis. “The PC-24 has been received enthusiastically, and sales of shares in the programme are brisk,” he adds.

PlaneSense will take delivery of two more aircraft in the fourth quarter, and the remaining three units that it currently has on order in 2019.


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