Airbus celebrates 40 years

May 29: It’s 40 years since the Franco-German agreement was signed that launched Airbus’ first ever aircraft programme, the A300. On May 29, at the 1969 Paris Air Show the French Minister of Transport, Jean Chamant and the German Minister of Economic Affairs, Karl Schiller, agreed the joint development of the A300, a twin-aisle twin-engine jet for medium-haul air travel.

Airbus built 822 A300/A310 Family aircraft and delivered them to 80 customers, against an original forecast of just 300. Of those 620 aircraft are still in operation. It gained the nickname ‘profit machine’ within the company and enabled Airbus Industrie to be created on December 18, 1970, gathering together the European industrial partners of the programme SNIAS (Société Nationale Industrielle Aérospatiale) Deutsche Airbus, Hawker-Siddeley and VFW-Fokker.

Tom Enders, today’s Airbus President and CEO, remarked: “40 years ago the commercial jet aircraft market was entirely dominated by the US industry. Giving the go-ahead for the A300 was a bold strategic decision.”

To date Airbus has delivered more than 5,600 aircraft to approximately 400 customers and operators worldwide with 3,500 aircraft on order.

Guernsey firefighters strike shuts airport

May 26: Guernsey Airport was forced to close for the day due to a long-running industrial dispute with its firefighters over pay and conditions.

All flights were either cancelled or diverted to Jersey after talks broke down between the union and the Guernsey States Public Services Department. The firefighters returned to work late in the afternoon after the promise of more talks.

The Guernsey Press reports that a deal was agreed the next day between the union and Guernsey ministers, but outside of the Public Sector Remuneration Committee (PRSC) that was officially negotiating. It is understood that the ministers had used emergency powers to remove the PRSC from its negotiating position, causing anger within Guernsey State members. Firefighters are believed to have each been offered a £4,000 deal over the next 12 months.

Virgin Atlantic’s birthday bonus

May 26: On the eve of its 25th birthday, Virgin Atlantic announced a pre-tax profit in the last financial year of £68.4million, up from £34.8million the year before.

The results are in marked contrast to British Airways, which posted a record loss. Sir Richard Branson, President of Virgin Atlantic, said: “The last financial year has proven to be the most volatile yet in our 25-year history. To increase profits against a backdrop of such a severe recession is an excellent achievement.”

Virgin Atlantic will celebrate its 25th birthday on June 22.

British Airways – from record profit to record loss

May 22: British Airways presented its preliminary results for year ending March 31 posting a record loss of £401 million, contrasting with a profit of £922 million for the previous year.

Declining passenger numbers and soaring fuel costs through 2008 were blamed. British Airways’ Chief Executive Willie Walsh said, “Our total fuel bill reached almost £3 billion. The prolonged nature of the global downturn makes this the harshest trading environment we have ever faced.”

To combat the losses, aircraft will be withdrawn from service. “Next winter we will continue to reduce capacity by taking out 4% of flying compared to last year, parking up to 16 aircraft”, said Walsh.

British Airways’ chairman, Martin Broughton, said “In the last twelve months we have gone from a record profit to a record loss due to the current tough economic environment. The revenue outlook continues to be weak during the current financial year, but we expect lower fuel prices to reduce our costs by approximately £400 million.”

Walsh and finance director Keith Williams both stated they would forgo their salaries in July, reported to be £735,000 and £440,000 a year respectively.

First Chinese-built A320 flies

May 18: The first A320 aircraft built at China’s Airbus Final Assembly Line China (FALC) made its maiden flight.

“The flight was a complete success thanks to excellent teamwork,” said Fernando Alonso, Senior Vice President Flight & Integration Tests, Airbus. “This A320 assembled in China unquestionably demonstrated the same quality and performance as those assembled and delivered in Hamburg or Toulouse.”

This aircraft will be delivered to Dragon Aviation Leasing in June and will be operated by Sichuan Airlines. The FALC production rate will be ramped up to four aircraft per month by the end of 2011.

Kemble Airport ties-up with Gulf

May 27: Fuel retailer and distributor, Gulf, has signed a long-term supply agreement with Kemble Airport in Gloucestershire. “We are delighted that Kemble has chosen Gulf Aviation as their new Avgas and Jet A1 supplier,” explained Paul Muncey, General Manager of Gulf Aviation.

Gulf will be investing in new storage tanks and refuelling bowsers at the airport, and will provide assistance at the Kemble Airshow over the weekend of June 20/21.

A330 gets fitter

Airbus’ A330-200 payload and range capabilities will be further improved with a 5 metric-tonne increase in maximum takeoff weight.

The enhancement to the twin-engine jetliner has been achieved without changing the aircraft’s acoustic category or runway loading, which means it will be able to use existing runways and airport take-off slots without penalty.

New-build A330-200s will have the option of an extra 3.4 tonnes of payload or additional 330 nautical miles of range beginning in August 2010, and a retrofit package for post-February 2004 aircraft will be available from November 2010. For the retrofit, upgrading in-service aircraft should only take a few days for airlines to complete.

To date, more than 550 A330-200s have been sold, with over 340 currently flying with carriers around the globe.

BBJ Convertible hits the showroom

May 11: Boeing announced that its BBJ Convertible, based on the highly successful 737, is now available to prospective customers. The aeroplane can reconfigure from all-passenger to all-cargo configuration in less than eight hours.

Governments, corporations and individual operators can quickly change from transporting VIPs, staff or troops to delivering disaster-relief supplies or configuring for medical evacuation. There is room for transporting tools, parts and machinery; race cars or race horses; or equipment for touring bands and musicians.

BBJ owners receiving their aircraft after mid-2011 will enjoy reduced fuel consumption by 2% through a combination of engine and structural improvements, reducing drag on the aircraft. CFM is contributing fuel savings through hardware changes to its CFM56-7B Evolution engine.

Gulf Air heads Bahrain’s 2010 International Airshow

Farnborough International Ltd (FIL), joint organiser of the inaugural Bahrain International Airshow (BIAS) has confirmed Gulf Air as the official carrier for the show to be held under Royal patronage at the Sakhir Airbase in Bahrain, January 21–23 2010, in partnership with Civil Aviation Affairs (CAA) for the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Companies already signed up to participate in the show – the format of which will focus on exclusive business-to-business meeting opportunities – include Rolls-Royce, BAE Systems, TAG Aeronautics Ltd, Bell Helicopter Textron Inc, Cessna and Bahrain Aerospace.

FIL spokeswoman, Events & Exhibitions Director, Amanda Stainer commented: “We are delighted that alongside CAA we are able to confirm Gulf Air as the official carrier for BIAS 2010. Gulf Air also hosts the other major event the country is home to, the Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix and it is very pleasing indeed to welcome them on board for BIAS, which will be the only event of its type in the whole of the Middle East. We are certain the airshow will prove itself to be as an exciting event in Bahrain as the motor-racing has over the last few years.”

Gulf Air Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Björn Näf, also expressed his enthusiasm for the project, saying: “As the national carrier of the Kingdom, it is natural for us to be involved in such a prestigious event that will not only add great value to the growing prominence of the Kingdom in the international arena, but will also open up vast business opportunities for the aerospace industry.

“Bahrain is one of the few economies which is successfully managing the economic downturn and has become a preferred business destination for major global business because of the ‘Business Friendly’ government that has chartered out a long-term development plan though it’s ‘Vision 2030’. I am sure the Bahrain International Airshow will be a landmark event in the Kingdom.”

Airbus slows production

May 6: Airbus is slowing its A380 aircraft delivery schedule for 2009/2010 due to the current economic crisis and following specific customer requests for deferrals.

According to the new plan, it expects to deliver 14 aircraft in 2009 and over 20 aircraft in 2010. Onward production rates and deliveries will be dependent on airline demand and availability of financing.

Airbus also confirmed its intention to reduce the A320 family production rate from 36 to 34 aircraft per month from October 2009, but production of the A330/340 family remains at a rate of 8.5 aircraft per month and A350XWB development is continuing.