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.
Low-cost carrier Wizz Air has agreed to lease two new Airbus A321s and two A320s from Vermillion Aviation Holdings Ireland. The jets, which are powered by International Aero Engine V2500 engines, are due to be delivered between July and March next year.
Wizz Air’s fleet currently consists of 63 A320s and 16 A321s.
International Airlines Group (IAG) has named its new low-cost long-haul carrier LEVEL. The airline will launch in June with flights from Barcelona to Los Angeles, Oakland, Buenos Aires and Punta Cana. It will fly two new Airbus A330s configured with 293 seats in Economy and 21 in Premium Economy. Initially the airline will operate with flight and cabin crew supplied by Iberia.
Willie Walsh, IAG Chief Executive, said: “LEVEL is an exciting new IAG airline brand which will bring a stylish and modern approach to flying at prices that are even more affordable. It will benefit from having the strength of one of the world’s largest airline groups behind it.
“LEVEL will become IAG’s fifth main airline brand alongside Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia and Vueling. It will complement our existing airline portfolio and further diversify our current customer base.
“Barcelona is Vueling’s home base and this will allow customers to connect from Vueling’s extensive European network onto LEVEL’s long-haul flights.
“This is just the start. We’re really excited about the opportunities for expansion and we plan to bring LEVEL to other European destinations”.
Customers flying in Premium Economy will enjoy complimentary checked luggage, meals and seat selection. Those travelling in Economy will be able to purchase these extra services while high speed internet will be offered to all passengers with prices starting at €8.99. Travellers will also be able to earn and redeem Avios – the loyalty currency for IAG’s airlines.
Flights to LA begin on June 1 operating twice weekly while Oakland will launch the following day and be flown three times per week. Services to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic will be flown twice weekly from June 10 with Buenos Aires coming online on June 17 with three flights per week.
South Korean start-up KAIR Airlines has placed a firm order for eight Airbus A320ceos. The new low-cost carrier is based in Cheongju and will operate international services throughout North East Asia.
“We see enormous potential for the development of a low-cost model linking central South Korea with destinations in China, Taiwan and Japan”, said Byung Ho Kang, KAIR Airlines Representative Director and Chairman. “KAIR Airlines will focus on point-to-point services at low fares while offering passengers a modern and fun product offering. Brand new A320 aircraft will be perfect for our business model and customers, combining the lowest operating costs with the widest cabin in the single aisle segment.”
John Leahy, Airbus Chief Operating Officer, Customers, said: “We have been impressed by the business model developed by KAIR Airlines. We are confident that the efficiencies offered by the A320 will contribute to a successful launch by KAIR Airlines, bringing more choice for passengers flying in the North East Asian region. The selection of the A320 by KAIR Airlines underscores once again the position of the Airbus single aisle product line as the preferred choice for low cost airlines in Asia.”
Airbus has delivered Iran Air’s first A330-243, EP-IJA (c/n 1540). The jet was originally built for Avianca Brasil but never entered service with the carrier and had been stored at Teruel, Spain.
Iran Air’s A330-200 is configured with a two-class cabin layout with 32 seats in Business Class and 206 in Economy. It is the first of 54 widebody jets included in the carrier’s 100-airframe order placed in December 2016.
French Caribbean carrier Air Caraïbes has taken delivery of its first Airbus A350 XWB. The jet, F-HHAV (c/n 082) – acquired on lease from AerCap – was handed over to the Les Abymes, Guadeloupe-based airline on February 28 during a ceremony at the Airbus Delivery Centre in Toulouse.
It was then ferried to Paris/Orly ahead of its maiden commercial service to Pointe-à-Pitre and Fort-de-France on March 2.
The aircraft features the European manufacturer’s ‘Airspace by Airbus’ cabin, accommodating 389 passengers in a three-class configuration including 18 in Business, 45 in Premium Economy and 326 in Economy.
Flag carrier Air India has taken delivery of the first of 14 Airbus A320-251neos it is leasing from Kuwaiti-based Aviation Lease and Finance Company (ALAFCO). The aircraft, VT-EXF (c/n 7459), was flown to New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport on February 16 where it received a traditional water cannon salute from the fire department. The jet will undergo crew familiarisation before entering commercial service on the Delhi to Chennai route at the end of the month.
This is also the first neo handed over to ALAFCO from its order for 85 A320neo Family aircraft. They were ordered in two separate batches, at the 2011 Dubai Airshow (50) with 32 more added in February 2012.
Air Mauritius has agreed long-term leases for two Airbus A330-900neos with Air Lease Corporation. The two aircraft will join the carrier in September and October 2018, replacing two A340-300Es whose leases expires in November and December 2018. Air Mauritius will initially deploy the aircraft on medium haul routes to Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Delhi and Perth.
The A330-900s will be configured in a two-class layout accommodating 291 passengers with 28 fully lie-flat seats in Business Class and 263 in Economy. The jets will also feature a new inflight entertainment system as well as Wi-Fi.
“This decision follows a thorough evaluation process and accelerates the fleet renewal program of the airline with another state of the art aircraft,” Air Mauritius said in a statement.
“The replacement of the two A340-300E by the A330-900 aircraft is key to modernising the fleet of Air Mauritius and will offer enhanced passenger experience and comfort, operating efficiencies and technological innovation. The new aircraft will also allow Air Mauritius to improve its products and competitiveness in the current dynamic and challenging market environment.”
Air Mauritius also has six A350-900s on order and has announced it is deferring delivery of the last two from 2020 to 2023.
Airbus has transferred A380 MSN4 to the Museum of Air and Space at Paris/Le Bourget. The jet is the first of four aircraft the European manufacturer has pledged to donate to museums, with A320 MSN1, A340-600 MSN360 and A380 MSN2 set to go Aeroscopia in Toulouse.
A380 MSN4 was delivered to Le Bourget on February 14 where it will be prepared for display at the museum. After undergoing technical work, including structural preservation, it will be refurbished to showcase its operational role with a special exhibit created inside to enable the greatest possible number of people to visit it. The attraction is set to open in 2018.
The aircraft destined for Aeroscopia will be maintained by Airbus Heritage in Toulouse, within the Airbus plant, and moved across to the museum over the next two years. An area in the northern part of the attraction has been made ready for them.
Airbus has revealed the first images of its next-generation oversize cargo airlifter, dubbed the Beluga XL, which is taking shape at the company’s production facilities in Toulouse, France.
The core airframe is an extract of an Airbus A330-200 freighter that has already been structurally reinforced and will form the platform on which the Beluga XL will be built. Assembled in December, it currently lacks a nose fuselage and tail assembly, both of which will be added later this year as this first airframe starts an 18-month integration process. This will involve the aircraft’s structure being completed and its mechanical and electrical systems fitted. After which it will be moved to a second station for ground testing and engine installation.
Bertrand George, Programme Head for the Beluga XL, commented: “The coming year of final integration will be a series of small steps. The number of holes to be drilled, and fasteners to be installed, is far bigger than on any other Airbus aircraft.”
A total of five Beluga XL airlifters are being built with the first expected to make its maiden flight next year. After flight testing and certification the first aircraft is scheduled to join Airbus Transport International in 2019. The new jets will replace the company’s existing fleet of Beluga STs, which were derived from the shorter-fuselage A300. The manufacturer says when the first Beluga XL enters service it will provide crucial support to production ramp-up as it can carry a full set of A350 XWB wings.