Airbus A319neo Makes First Flight

Airbus has successfully completed the maiden flight of the A319neo, D-AVWA (c/n 6464). Powered by CFM International LEAP-1A engines, the smallest member of the A320neo Family, took off from Hamburg/Finkenwerder on March 31, landing at the manufacturer’s Toulouse facility after a five hour test flight.

Experimental test pilots Michel Gagneux and Eckard Hausser had the honour of conducting the first flight and were assisted by Test-Flight Engineer Jean Michel Pin and flight test engineers Sylvie Loisel-Labaste and David O’nions.

The A319neo, which can accommodate up to 160 passengers, will be based in Toulouse where the flight test programme will be completed. Airbus says the flight campaign will focus primarily on aircraft handling qualities, autopilot and performance and systems, building on the required engine tests that already have been performed with the A320neo and A321neo.

Experimental test pilots Michel Gagneux and Eckard Hausser conducted the first flight. Airbus

LOWI Unleashed

Innsbruck Airport (LOWI) is a destination that needs no introduction, famous for jaw-dropping backdrop and heart-stopping approaches.

The package, released by Orbx, was developed by Jarrad Marshall (previous releases include: KPSP/KEGE/KMRY/KJAC/KSEZ/YBCS).  This is his first European destination and is largest coverage area by Orbx to date.  You can explore the peaks and glaciers of the Austrian Alps, the picturesque Inn, Wipp and Stubai Valleys, the historic Brenner Pass and even Germany’s tallest mountain, Zugspitze.  More than a dozen towns and villages dot the Tyrolian landscape, and the city of Innsbruck has been created in immaculate detail.

You will see airlines competing for space alongside corporate hi-flyers, rescue and leisure helicopter crew, general aviation flyers, recreational glider pilots and even frequent Red Bull visitors? Try your hand at the infamously tricky Runway 08 approach, test your aircraft’s performance with a mid-summer departure, or explore the hidden valleys from one of the five bonus heliports.

Features

Ultra-detailed rendition of LOWI

2500sq km coverage area at 1m/60cm/30cm with 10m DEM

Five additional heliports including LOJO, LOIU, LOJT, LOIN

Over 160+ Landmarks and POI in coverage area

30km of animated train routes

Custom HD GSE exclusive to Innsbruck

Crisp 2048 textures for priority buildings

Highly detailed and AI-ready APX by Graham Eccleston

Advanced AO, rendering and night lighting techniques

City centre and many other focus areas in high detail

Over 20 custom bridges and overpasses

All-new static aircraft types unique to Innsbruck Airport

Huge extended coverage area 275km diameter

Painstakingly optimised for best performance across all sims

Click here for the Orbx website

San Diego Out Now

ORBX has released a new destination for FTX Southern California, KSAN San Diego International Airport.

Designed to work with FTX SoCal, Global Base or openLC NA this airport is a must have and is an exciting debut for Matteo Veneziani featuring huge photoreal coverage of the entire San Diego Metropolitan area.

The package comes with improved airport textures and ground polygons, hundreds of POIs as well as helipads on skyscrapers and even a hospital.

San Diego Airport has been recreated with a highly rendered reconstruction of with animated jetways

This busy single-runway airport is situated in San Diego County adjacent to the Mexican border. It sits in San Diego harbour, next to the bay, close to central business district.

Note KSAN is compatible with FTX openLC NA and FTX Southern California.

Click here for the Orbx website

Red Arrows set for Blackpool Air Show

The RAF Red Arrows display team is set to perform on both days of the annual Blackpool Air Show, which takes place above the Promenade on Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 August.  It’s the first time that the Reds will feature on consecutive days of a Blackpool Air Show.  The RAF Typhoon display team and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight are also set for both days of this year’s show.

Cllr Gillian Campbell, Deputy Leader of Blackpool Council, said: “The Red Arrows are a huge favourite with visitors to the Blackpool Air Show and its truly fantastic news to hear that they will return to Blackpool for two days this year.

“The Air Show is always an important date in our calendar and I’m certain that this year will be no different.  The show brings in tens of thousands of people on to the Promenade and provides a huge boost to our local economy, with those visitors spending money in our shops and restaurants and supporting our jobs.”

Royal Saudi Air Force deploys to Sudan

The Royal Saudi Air Force (RSAF) has deployed four Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4s and four F-15C Eagles to Merowe Air Base, Sudan, for a joint exercise, which is scheduled to run from March 29 to April 12. Sudanese Air Force participants were to include more than two dozen fighters, including MiG-29s and unspecified Sukhoi jets. Sudan has both the Su-24 Fencer and Su-25 Frogfoot in service.

Merowe, situated around 210 miles (340km) north of Khartoum, does not have any resident units, but regularly sees detachment of Sudanese fighters. Officials said they had been planning the exercise for almost a year, following a proposal put forward by Saudi Arabia. It marks the first such joint training to take place between the two countries since Sudan broke its ties with Iran and allied with Saudi Arabia in 2015. At that time, Sudan also joined the Saudi-led Arab coalition fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The exercise was intended to improve the operational capabilities of both air forces, promote co-operation and enhance operational capabilities.

T-X RFP response deadline

Boeing said today that it has formally submitted its RFP response ‘two days early’ for the US Air Force’s T-X advanced pilot training competition.

The deadline for RFP responses in set for March 31, with a contract award for a winner takes all deal expected by year end.

Lockheed Martin says it’s T-50A proposal is in the process of being submitted to Air Force Materiel Command.  Leonardo DRS is also expected to submit a proposal for the T-100, based on the popular M-346 Master.

Austrian Expansion on Hold

VIENNA AIRPORT has appealed against a court ruling banning the construction of a third runway at the Austrian hub.  The facility has been lobbying for an additional runway, to be built to the southeast of the airfield, for several years amid claims its existing infrastructure was close to maximum capacity.

However, its plans were dealt a blow on February 18 when Austria’s Federal Administrative Court blocked the proposal, claiming the positive aspects of the new runway did not justify its environmental impact and extra carbon dioxide emissions.

Launching its challenge on March 23, the airport said: “An extraordinary appeal has been filed with the Austrian Supreme Administrative Court on grounds of unlawfulness of content, serious procedural violations, inconsistency in the reasoning underlying the court decision and an inconceivable interpretation of the law.”

Julian Jäger, a management board member of Vienna Airport operator Flughafen Wien added: “In terms of its contents, the court decision is indecisive and contradictory.  On the one hand, the court found that there would be further passenger growth at Vienna Airport, and that there is a need for an additional runway for aircraft to take off and land.  However, it does not deal with the issue of where this need will be diverted if the runway is not built.”

Jäger noted that banning a third runway at Vienna will force passengers and airlines to use neighbouring airports.  This, he said, would cost the facility around 30,000 new jobs and would have a significant impact on Austria’s economy and tourism industry.

Flybe Launches at Heathrow

Flybe has launched scheduled flights from London/Heathrow.  The Exeter-based regional carrier introduced its first of 40 weekly connections from the capital to Aberdeen and Edinburgh on March 26, operated by its fleet of Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 turboprops.

Flybe CEO Christine Ourmieres-Widener said: “We are so pleased to confirm further our commitment to Scotland by offering even more flights to London with our two new routes from Edinburgh and Aberdeen to Heathrow’s Terminal 2: The Queen’s Terminal, giving passengers greater choice and linking them with our range of codeshare partners through our ‘One Stop to the World’ approach.”

Flybe’s arrival at Heathrow comes just two months after the airport reduced its charges for domestic passengers in a bid to improve regional connectivity.

The carrier gained access into the capacity-constrained hub via slots surrendered by British Airways’ parent International Airlines Group (IAG) following its 2012 acquisition of British Midland International.  Under the terms of the deal, the European Commission ordered IAG to release 14 daily slot pairs, seven of which were to facilitate new competition between Heathrow and Edinburgh and/or Aberdeen.  As a result, Flybe was not required to pay for these slots.

Flight Restrictions Tightened

The US and subsequently the UK Governments have introduced additional airline security measures on flights originating in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey. Britain’s Minister for Transport, Chris Grayling MP, said in a written statement to the House of Parliament on March 21 he was revising aviation security measures for selected inbound flights to the UK.

“In conjunction with our international partners and the aviation industry, the UK Government keeps aviation security under constant review.  The UK has some of the most robust security measures in the world and we will not hesitate to put in place measures we believe are necessary, effective and proportionate,” he said.

Under the new restrictions electronic devices such as mobile telephones, laptops and tablets larger than 6.3in (16cm) x 3.7in (9.3cm) x 0.6in (1.5cm) will not be allowed in the cabin on flights to the UK from Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Tunisia.  Instead these items must be packed in travellers’ hold luggage.  Passengers have raised concerns that these items could be stolen or damaged.

The ban follows an earlier directive by the Trump Administration to prohibit electronic devices from a passenger’s carry-on luggage on nonstop flights to the US from eight nations.  The indefinite US ban covers ten airports and nine airlines with restrictions applying to travellers from Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Although no specific reason was given for the new ban initially, Reuters quoted US officials as saying it relates to a terror threat uncovered several weeks ago, during a US Navy SEAL raid on a suspected al-Qaeda base in Yemen.  Subsequently, US Department of Homeland Security said the decision was based on this information as well the downing of a MetroJet aircraft over Egypt on October 31, 2015 and the attempt to destroy a Somali-owned Daallo Airlines Airbus A321 on February 2, 2016, after which investigations showed explosives had been smuggled aboard both aircraft.  “We have reason to be concerned about attempts by terrorist groups to circumvent security as they continue to target aviation interests,” US officials said in a statement.

Virgin America Brand Axed

Alaska Airlines says it will “retire” the Virgin America brand in 2019 after the two carriers merge – but will retain many of the brand elements popular among Virgin America passengers, including enhanced in-flight entertainment, mood lighting and music.

Brad Tilden, CEO of Seattle-based Alaska Air Group, explained: “Our goal from the very beginning of this merger was to become the go-to airline for people on the West Coast, with low fares, convenient flights, a premium product and genuine, caring service.

“Three months in, we’ve dramatically grown our presence in California and are united behind a new purpose: creating an airline people love.”

In February, Alaska Airlines announced 25 new daily departures from San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles and San Jose, California, the largest addition of routes in the company’s history.

Sangita Woerner, Alaska Airlines’ VP of Marketing, said: “We spent the last ten months conducting extensive research and listening carefully to what fliers on the West Coast want most.

“While the Virgin America name is beloved to many, we concluded that to be successful on the West Coast we had to do so under one name – for consistency and efficiency, and to allow us to continue to deliver low fares.”

Next year Alaska will introduce a redesigned cabin with new seats and amenities, while new staff uniforms by designer Luly Yang will be introduced in mid-2019.

Meanwhile its entire fleet of Boeing 737s will be equipped with high-speed satellite Wi-Fi by this autumn.  Guests will be able to stream free entertainment on their own devices while travelling on the Boeing fleet.  The facility will be extended to the Airbus fleet in August via the Red entertainment system.

Premium seating will be expanded across the Airbus fleet, increasing the number of First Class seats from eight to 12 and adding 18 new Premium Class seats.

On the ground, the airline is refreshing and expanding lounges in Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles and opening new facilities in San Francisco and New York/JFK.