The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has made progress in delivering some of the operational improvements that are envisioned by the NextGen ATC modernization effort. But to demonstrate those improvements sooner, the agency has also made “trade-offs” that could limit their overall benefit to airlines in the coming years, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
AIN Air Transport Perspective
The global rivalry between Airbus and Boeing is now firmly rooted on American soil. On April 9, Airbus broke ground on a new A320-series assembly plant in Mobile, Ala., its first U.S.-based production facility. Boeing announced a second-phase expansion of its 787 production facility two states away in South Carolina the next day.
The imminent merger of the freight operations of TWO Aviation and Flex Aero will create the largest express freight carrier in Brazil, Two-Flex. The new operation expects to command 60 percent of the country’s air cargo market, with 18 aircraft and 11 bases throughout the country. Flex Aero’s operations are stronger in the north of Brazil, and TWO’s in the center and south. “Now, I can go from the north of Brazil to Porto Alegre in the far south. Before, I couldn’t offer that,” said Flex Aero president Rui Aquino.
Sri Lanka’s second international airport–the $200 million China Exim Bank-funded Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (MRIA)–opened last month and has already attracted national carrier SriLankan Airlines and its subsidiary, SriLankan Cargo; Sharjah-based budget carrier Air Arabia; and flyDubai.
One of the highlights of last week’s Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg, Germany, was French start-up company Expliseat’s unveiling of a new economy-class seat that significantly cuts weight and engineering complexity. The new seat, called Titanium, tips the scales at 8.8 pounds per passenger, which the Paris-based firm claims is around half the weight of traditional airliner seats. This may translate into an estimated 3- to 5-percent fuel saving, or $300,000 to $500,000 per aircraft per year.
Boeing moved one step closer toward returning the 787 to service on Friday, when it flew Dreamliner Line Number 86 on a one-hour, 49-minute mission to demonstrate conformity of its battery system modification to U.S. certification authorities. Painted in LOT Polish Airlines livery, LN 86 took off from Paine Field in Everett, Washington, at 10:39 a.m.
Demand for air travel continues to surge worldwide as emerging markets led another strong month of traffic growth in February. International Air Transport Association (IATA) data released last week shows that passenger demand rose 3.7 percent during the month compared with February 2012. According to IATA, since last October passenger demand has grown at an annualized rate of 9 percent, almost double the growth trend over the first nine months of 2012.
UAE government-owned carrier Etihad Airways inaugurated its fourth destination in North America on April 1, starting daily flights between Abu Dhabi and Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C. Etihad last opened a new route to North America more than three years ago by starting service to Chicago, adding to its previous launches in New York and Toronto. Emirates, the largest Middle East carrier, started service between Washington Dulles and Dubai last September.
Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, took what executives describe as an historic first step into aircraft leasing last week as it ordered 12 Boeing 737-800s. Expected to spur further financing and leasing of imported aircraft in Russia, the transaction calls for the bank’s Sberbank Leasing subsidiary to place the airplanes with Moscow-based Transaero Airlines.
A new aluminum-lithium foundry in Issoire, France, opened March 26 by aluminum specialist Constellium embodies the latest effort to regain ground lost to composite materials in aircraft construction. Dedicated to a new line of alloys dubbed Airware, the new casthouse has the capacity to produce 14,000 metric tons of aluminum-lithium per year, making it the world’s first large-scale production facility of the alloy.