Yemeni plane crashes – updated

June 30: It has been confirmed that an Airbus A310-300 from Yemen crashed in the Indian Ocean with 153 people on board. The aircraft, flight number IY626 from Sana’a in Yemen was attempting to land in bad weather at Moroni, on the western coast of Grande Comore island in the Comoros.

An official from the state airline Yemenia said some bodies had been recovered and it is thought that only one passenger survived, a fourteen-year old girl. Yemenia, or Yemen Airways, operated three A310-300s and the lost aircraft is reported as being A310-324 70-ADJ, first delivered from the production line in 1990 and operated by Yemenia since October 1999. It had accumulated approximately 51,900 flight hours in some 17,300 flights.

Strategic buys Ozjet Airlines

June 29: New Australian airline Strategic Airlines has purchased Ozjet Airlines from its administrators after it won the support of Ozjet staff and creditors.

“We are extremely pleased to announce the purchase of Ozjet Airlines. It is a great outcome when you are able to not only ensure the payment of entitlements to staff, but also retain some of the existing employee base for future company operations,” said Michael James, Executive Director of Strategic.

Strategic has yet to start operating, but expects to do so in September with a fleet of two A320 and a single A330 aircraft. With the acquisition of Ozjet, Strategic has gained its remaining two Boeing 737-200s and services from Perth.

Qantas cuts 787 order

June 26: Hot on the heels of Boeing’s announcement of further delays to its 787 Dreamliner’s first flight, Qantas became the first airline to cut its order. It cancelled 15 aircraft due to be delivered in 2014 and deferred delivery of another 15 by four years.

Qantas originally ordered 65 aircraft in December 2005, but according to its Qantas Chief Executive Officer, Alan Joyce, “the operating environment for the world’s airlines has clearly changed dramatically since then. The agreement we have reached with Boeing will provide greater certainty going forward in terms of our fleet renewal and matching capacity with demand. The latest delay is disappointing, but we remain committed to the aircraft as the right choice.”

Despite the order changes, the Qantas Group will jointly remain the biggest airline customer for the 787 with 50 aircraft with another 50 additional aircraft on an option contract. The first aircraft will now be delivered in 2013.

Search for Air France crash debris called off

June 27: Brazilian authorities ended the search for debris and bodies from Air France A330 Flight 447 that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1 with the loss of 228 people. Over the 26 day recovery operation, 51 bodies were recovered, but none in the last eight days.

Over 600 pieces of debris have been recovered, but the Flight Data Recorder ‘black boxes’ have still to be found – they have a thirty-day transmitter life and hopes of finding them is fading fast. France has sent the navy nuclear-powered submarine ‘Emeraude’ to the area in a last-ditch effort to locate the recorders.

Emirates adds Paris to A380 routes

June 25: Emirates announced that it will use the A380 on its Dubai to Paris route from February 1, 2010. Tim Clark, President of Emirates, said “Our plans have been accelerated by almost a year which, in the current economic climate, is a major achievement.”

Emirates has the world’s largest order of Airbus A380s, with five operational and a further 53 to be delivered. A380s currently fly to Toronto, London Heathrow, Bangkok, Sydney and Auckland.

Chilly mood at Ryanair

June 23: Ryanair confirmed that it will freeze growth at its nine UK bases with immediate effect. The airline cites the British Government’s proposed £10 “tourist tax” and BAA’s “high airport charges” as the reasons for its decision.

Ryanair is calling for the scrapping of the Air Passenger Duty “tourist tax” and for the speeding up of the sale of Gatwick and Stansted airports. Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary said “The Government should follow the example of their Belgian, Dutch, Greek and Spanish counterparts by immediately scrapping this stupid and regressive tourist tax to avoid any further devastation to British tourism and jobs.”

Boeing postpones 787 first flight

Boeing has once again delayed the first flight for its Boeing 787 Dreamliner, this time after discovering a potential safety problem with one of the sections of the aircraft.

The US manufacturer says that a need to “reinforce an area within the side-of-body section of the aircraft” was discovered during scheduled trials of the static test airframe. Preliminary analysis had indicated that the maiden flight could go ahead in late June as planned, but after further assessment and consideration of possible modified flight test plans, Boeing decided to postpone the event.

No new timetable for the first flight has been announced, nor what impact the latest delay will have on plans to deliver the first production aircraft to All Nippon Airways (ANA) of Japan in the first quarter of 2010.

For more on this story look out for the next issue of Airliner World.

BA to launch new long-haul route

June 22: Despite the recession and recent poor financial results, British Airways is to press ahead with its proposed long-haul route to New York’s JFK airport from London City this September.

The twice-daily business-class only service will use a specially configured Airbus A318, the largest aircraft to operate from London City Airport. It will use the flight number BA001, previously used by Concorde.

Fitted with just 32 seats, which convert to fully flat beds, the aircraft will refuel at Shannon Airport in the west of Ireland, but return flights will be non-stop as the aircraft will be able to use JFK’s full-length runways and therefore take-off with sufficient fuel. Outbound passengers will also be able to clear US customs and immigration at Shannon, rather than at JFK.

“In the harshest trading environment airlines have experienced, we believe it is more important than ever to embrace the future and innovate. That is what this historic new route is all about,” said BA Chief Executive Willie Walsh.

Japan Air Lines to get government assistance

June 23: Japan Air Lines, part of the JAL Group, is experiencing difficult trading conditions due to the worldwide recession. It recently announced a series of cost-cutting measures including restructuring of the network with 36 routes axed, a reduction in the aircraft fleet by nine, reduction of staff bonuses and reducing the number of employees through early retirement.

Added to this, ATW Daily News reports that the Japanese Government may provide a loan of approximately ¥100 billion ($1.04 billion) with 80% guaranteed and the balance provided by three private sector banks, but this is dependent upon JAL implementing further cost-reduction measures.

First Chinese-built Airbus delivered

June 23: The first Airbus A320 assembled at the company’s Final Assembly Line China (FALC) in Tianjin was delivered to Dragon Aviation Leasing, who will provide the aircraft for Sichuan Airlines to operate.

“Our Final Assembly Line here in Tianjin and this first aircraft delivery outside Europe mark an important milestone in our strategic long-term partnership with China and the Chinese industry,” said Tom Enders, Airbus President and CEO. “This FAL is state of the art, second to none in the world. And so are the aircraft manufactured here in Tianjin.”

Sichuan Airlines will operate the A320 in a two-class configuration, with eight first class seats and 156 economy seats. The aircraft will be used on domestic routes between the airline’s base at Chengdu to major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai.