Aviation News in Brief 14 September 2020

Changi Airport, Liebherr, Aerion, Virgin Atlantic, Satcom Direct, Nakanihon Air, Airbus Helicopters, TrueNoord, Embraer, Hong Kong CAD, COMSAT, Orbit Communications Systems, Air New Zealand, Air France-KLM, Amadeus, Elbit Systems UK

A medical and customs control team meets an Air Astana repatriation flight at Almaty airport with passengers from coronavirus-infected countries for quarantine. (PHOTO: Shutterstock)

Use this oneChangi chairman resigns post: The chairman of Singapore’s award-winning Changi Airport, Liew Mun Leong, has stepped down from his post after a Singapore court overturned a conviction against a domestic worker who had been charged of stealing from his household. Liew said he would retire from Changi Airport Group and various public service and business roles with immediate effect. “I do not wish my current situation to be a distraction,” he said in media reports. Singapore’s High Court acquitted Parti Liyani, an Indonesian maid, with the justice saying the Liew family had an “improper motive” for accusing the helper of stealing S$34,000 (US$24,890) worth of items such as watches and clothes. The judge noted there was reason to believe the family filed a police report against their former maid to stop her from lodging a complaint against them about her work arrangements. The scandal sparked a fierce backlash in the city-state, including angry comments on the airport’s Facebook page calling for him to step down.

Liebherr air management system selected for Aerion AS2 supersonic business jet: Liebherr-Aerospace has been selected by Aerion to develop and supply the integrated air management system for the new AS2 supersonic business jet. One of the system’s key components will be an electrical air conditioning pack, which contributes to a higher efficiency and greener aircraft operation. Aerion and Liebherr first began formal collaboration mid-2019, working on preliminary designs of the AS2’s integrated air management system. Following the initial technical discussions, Liebherr-Aerospace and Aerion converged on a next generation electrical pack with an integrated air management system. The electrical air-conditioning pack, under development for several years at Liebherr-Aerospace, is a major step towards greener aircraft operation. In lieu of the traditional methods of utilising bleed air from the aircraft’s engines, the innovative design selected by Aerion draws ambient air from an inlet located on the leading edge of the wing strake, enabling electrically powered compression. Fuel consumption due to the air-conditioning packs will thus be considerably reduced compared to current bleed air systems.

Virgin Atlantic completes solvent recapitalisation: Virgin Atlantic has announced the completion of the £1.2 billion private-only solvent recapitalisation of the airline and holiday business. Its restructuring plan has now been sanctioned by the English High Court under Part 26A of the UK Companies Act 2006, and formally recognised in the US court. This final step in the legal process paves the way for the company to continue its efforts to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis a sustainably profitable airline. Now that the restructuring plan has been formally sanctioned by the UK court and given full force and effect in the US, the airline will implement its restructuring plan with the support of Virgin Group and Delta, existing creditors and new private investors, keeping Virgin Atlantic flying and providing essential competition and connectivity to customers. The plan delivers a refinancing package worth  £1.2 billion over the next 18 months in addition to the self-help measures already taken: £280 million in cost savings per year, £880 million reduction in fleet capex in the next five years. Shareholders Virgin Group and Delta are providing £600 million in support over the life of the plan, including a £200 million investment from Virgin Group and the deferral of  £400 million of shareholder payments such as brand fees and joint venture related costs. Davidson Kempner Capital Management, a global institutional investment management firm, is providing £170 million of secured financing and the airline’s largest creditors and suppliers are contributing an additional £450 million by way of deferrals.

SD installs FlightDeck Freedom on 2,000th aircraft: Satcom Direct (SD), the business aviation solutions provider, has installed its FlightDeck Freedom datalink service on its  2,000th aircraft. The head-of-state customer signed for the service to take advantage of its unique configuration options, ability to integrate third-party flight planning services, evolving compliance support, and the streamlining of flight crew and ground operations workflow. Specifically designed for business and military aviation, FlightDeck Freedom features an open architecture design to support every type of avionics and datalink-capable airframe and can be customized to meet each customer and/or aircraft platform’s mission needs.  On launch in 2007 it was the first datalink service to give customers the freedom – hence the name –  to select, upload from, and communicate with preferred third-party trip planning services and today is still the only datalink service provider with a comprehensive offering of flight planning options.  FDF also continues to be the only service that supports flight deck and cabin communications enabling crew to monitor connectivity and troubleshoot issues in real time to better manage passenger expectations.

Nakanihon Air reinforces utility capabilities with new H215 order: Nakanihon Air, one of Japan’s largest helicopter operators, has ordered one H215 heavy helicopter to shore up its capabilities for utility and aerial work. “We are looking forward to receiving Airbus’ mission-proven H215 to support our wide-ranging activities in Japan,” said Taku Shibata, president of Nakanihon Air. “We believe the H215 offers the enhanced precision and stability we require, which will not only boost mission readiness but will also build up our fleet capabilities. We are happy to further this partnership with the Airbus Helicopters team in Japan that understands our needs and has supported our operations for many years.” Currently operating 45 Airbus helicopters, Nakanihon Air specialises in activities covering emergency medical services, electronic news gathering, as well as passenger and goods transportation in Japan. The air services company also runs an Airbus-approved maintenance centre for H135 helicopters, while major inspections of the operator’s existing Super Puma fleet are performed at the manufacturer’s Kobe maintenance facility. The twin-engine, heavy-lift H215 is a member of the Super Puma helicopter family, known for its high availability rate, performance, and competitive operating cost. Equipped with state-of-the-art technologies, the rotorcraft consists of two versions — one tailored for multi-role operations and the other for aerial work and utility missions. There are currently 28 helicopters of the Super Puma family in Japan flown by civil operators, parapublic operators, and the Ministry of Defense for various search and rescue missions, coastguard operations, fire-fighting, as well as Private and Business Aviation and commercial air transport missions.

TrueNoord acquires two Embraer E195s: TrueNoord, the specialist regional aircraft lessor, continues its growth path with the addition of two Embraer E195 aircraft on lease to Portugália. Both aircraft, MSN19000407 and MSN19000429, were purchased with leases attached from Brazilian operator Azul. The project was financed by TrueNoord’s revolving warehouse facility underwritten by Citibank, Société Générale and Royal Bank of Canada.  Legal counsel for TrueNoord on the acquisition was CMS, with Milbank advising on the financing. With this acquisition, TrueNoord completes another significant milestone and reaches a fleet of 50 modern regional aircraft. Portugália Airlines is a Portuguese regional airline. It is a subsidiary of TAP Air Portugal and operates scheduled international and domestic services from its bases at Lisbon Airport and Porto Airport under the brand TAP Express. Renovation of their regional fleet has been a major initiative for the past five years and TAP Express operates the Embraer 190 and 195, as well as the ATR72-600, across its route network.  These aircraft benefit from low emission characteristics and provide the airline with significant savings in fuel consumption.

hong-kong-unrest-cuts-into-passenger-trafficCAD in Hong Kong opts for Aireon’s ADS-B System: Aireon announced that the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) of Hong Kong has selected Aireon to provide space-based ADS-B for Air Traffic Service (ATS) surveillance services. CAD Hong Kong provides annual air traffic services for more than 400,000 aircraft landing and departing the Hong Kong International Airport, and manages overflights passing through the flight information region (FIR). Aireon will provide real-time space-based ADS-B air traffic position information to CAD Hong Kong, including 100 percent coverage of their FIR. The ANSP will also gain access to Aireon data in transition zones surrounding the CAD HKSAR airspace for enhanced cross-border safety and situational awareness of aircraft entering or flying near the HKSAR boundary. Additionally, the Aireon-CAD Hong Kong agreement includes the provision of space-based ADS-B for air traffic flow management (ATFM) to support regional coordination for a significant portion of the Asia-Pacific airspace. CAD Hong Kong is scheduled to deploy space-based ADS-B for ATS surveillance and ATFM in the first quarter of 2021. They will join other leading ANSPs in the region already utilising Aireon’s space-based surveillance service, including the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, Airports Authority of India and NiuSky Pacific, formally known as Papua New Guinea Air Services.

COMSAT has new Orbit Communications Systems agreement: COMSAT, the global satellite connectivity solutions provider and member of the Satcom Direct family, is further expanding its international terminal, hardware and service footprint following the signing of a new distribution agreement with global provider of airborne and maritime satellite solutions, Orbit Communications Systems (Orbit). The addition of Orbit’s Multi-Purpose Terminals (MPT) bolsters the extensive COMSAT portfolio, positioning COMSAT as a single source for both hardware and connectivity services for demanding government customers worldwide. The MPT WGX models deliver added value to COMSAT’s connectivity offering as the reliable, modular, multi-role aviation terminals are designed to be fully interoperable with the US government’s military Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) network and are optimized for use over Inmarsat’s Global Xpress (GX) Ka band constellation. Available in 30cm (12in) or 46cm (18in), the lightweight, small-footprint terminals couple high transmit and receive performance and reliability, enabling a wide range of communication opportunities for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), military mission aircraft, rotary-wing platforms and business jets. With only three Line Replaceable Units (LRUs), the system is lighter and easier to install than existing offerings. Built to fulfil “anytime, anywhere” connectivity needs, the MPT WGX terminals provide outstanding RF and tracking performance for customers operating in the harshest environmental conditions

Air New Zealand grounds 777 fleet until September 2021: Air New Zealand has grounded its Boeing 777 fleet until at least September 2021 due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19. In May the airline grounded the majority of its seven 777-300 aircraft until the end of the 2020 calendar year. At the same time the company also signalled it was unlikely to fly its eight 777-200 aircraft in the foreseeable future and began preparing to send these into long term storage overseas. Four of Air New Zealand’s 777-300 aircraft will be stored in Victorville in the Californian desert, while the remaining three will stay in Auckland where they are able to be returned to service if required. The airline’s 777-200 aircraft will be sent to long-term storage facilities in both Roswell, New Mexico and Victorville, California from later this month. The North American locations were chosen for their arid conditions and existing storage facilities which will ensure aircraft are kept in a condition that will enable them to be returned to service within six to eight weeks if required. Air New Zealand Chief Operating Officer Carrie Hurihanganui says the recovery of the airline’s international network post-COVID-19 is now looking to be slower than initially thought. The 777s are the largest aircraft in Air New Zealand’s fleet and have operated the majority of the airline’s long haul routes over the past 15 years. The airline’s international schedule will be operated by the more fuel-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, along with A320s and A320/21neos for trans-Tasman and Pacific Island routes.

Air France-KLM and Amadeus sign new agreement: The Air France-KLM group and Amadeus announced they have signed an NDC distribution deal that means Air France-KLM NDC offers can be made available for travel agents through the Amadeus Travel Platform and its NDC-enabled solutions. To access Air France-KLM content distributed via NDC, agents will need to sign bilateral agreements with Air France-KLM and Amadeus. Agents will be able to search, compare, book, and service Air France-KLM content in one merged display through their go-to Amadeus solution, whether the Travel API or Selling Platform Connect. Amadeus will also be enabling corporate travellers to book via NDC through cytric Travel & Expense.

Elbit Systems UK demonstrates Hermes 900 maritime SAR: Elbit Systems’ Hermes 900 Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) recently successfully completed a series of flight demonstrations for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) in the UK. The demonstration were run by the MCA and were designed to test the capabilities of using a UAS to enhance Search and Rescue (SAR) capabilities and the use of long-range unmanned capabilities in civilian airspace. Taking place off from the west coast of Wales over the first two weeks of September, the Hermes 900 was able to fly advanced Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) missions into unsegregated and uncontrolled airspace, in full alignment with the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). The success of these trials is a significant step forward in enhancing the capabilities of the MCA as they seek to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its search and rescue operations while reducing the risk to MCA personnel in the field. Elbit Systems UK is closely collaborating with the UK Civil Aviation Authority, supported by additional UK companies, including Inzpire and Aviation Systems Group. In the recent demonstration, the Hermes 900 equipped with search and rescue specific radar, an Automatic Identification System (AIS), EO/IR payload, an Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) and full satellite communications, was deployed on a range of missions that simulated shore-line rescues, water rescues in dangerous air space and long-distance ship rescues which crossed international airspace lines.

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