Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Gol B737 and ExcelAire Legacy 600 accident: cockpit voice recorder transcript released

Cockpit voice recorder transcript from the ExcelAire Legacy 600 that collided with a Gol 737-800 in midair and resulted in the deaths of all 154 aboard the airliner, was published yesterday by Folha de S. Paulo, Brazil's largest newspaper. It indicated that the Legacy pilots had difficulty communicating with ATC throughout the flight. "I've got a problem with the radio here," one said, according to the Associated Press. While the pilots may be found criminally liable, Brazilian ATC has come under considerable scrutiny in recent months as communication system failures have led to delays and cancellations. Following the collision, the pilots complained they had been abandoned by ATC, the transcript revealed.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Dassault Set Record Sales Year In 2006 For Falcon Business Jets

Falcon 7X Passes Another Sales Milestone

At his company's annual financial analyst meeting held Thursday, Dassault Aviation Chairman and CEO Charles Edelstenne announced record results for the second consecutive year for Falcon business jets.

A total of 158 firm orders were received worldwide in 2006. This includes a $1.1 billion US order from NetJets Europe for 24 Falcon 7X tri-jets, the largest order ever for business jets in Europe. Dassault Aviation 2006 sales were 3.3 billion Euros with Falcon business jets ($4.32 billion US), accounting for 62% of total consolidated sales.

"Driven by growth outside of North America, the worldwide market for business jets remained impressive in 2006," said Edelstenne. "It wasn’t long ago that 40% of our sales came from outside the US but that number has grown to more than 60% driven this year primarily by Western Europe. It’s important to recognize that the US market has not weakened, other markets have gained strength."

Growth was also particularly strong in Brazil, India and the Middle East. At the end of 2006, Dassault had a total backlog of more than 300 aircraft. Over 80 aircraft will be delivered in 2007 compared to 61 in 2006. Delivery rates will continue to increase in 2008.

"A substantial fuel efficiency advantage and consistently superior retained values continue to be the force behind the success of our Falcon sales efforts," said John Rosanvallon, President and CEO of Dassault Falcon. "2007 promises to be another strong year for Dassault Falcon driven largely by these advantages."

The sales success of the Falcon 7X continued in 2006 and into 2007, with over 150 firm orders booked since the announcement of the program. This makes the Falcon 7X the most successful launch of a business jet ever in terms of sales dollar value. The next available delivery position is in the second half of 2011.

The Falcon 7X flight test and certification program accumulated 1520 flight test hours over 543 flights, and is now complete. Certification from both the EASA and FAA are expected soon with first deliveries in the second quarter of 2007.

In 2006, Dassault Falcon’s Little Rock (AR) Completion Center completed further expansion to accommodate growth, including 99,000 square feet of completion space that has been dedicated to Falcon 7X completions. Employment is expected to increase by about 200 over the coming years to meet the unprecedented demand for the 5,950 nm business jet.

Michael Waltrip Racing buys private regional jet

MWR AVIATION (Michael Waltrip Racing), NC purchased ex-Lufthansa Cityline CRJ100 (msn 7021) from Bombardier. Michael Waltrip Racing, originally formed in 1995, is a NASCAR team owned and operated by two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip.
Let's bet this airliner (which can normally seat 50 passengers) will be converted and operated in a smaller, more comfortable VIP or corporate shuttle configuration.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

EOS Airlines: new CEO and new frequency

Eos Airlines named former American Airlines and Royal Caribbean Cruises executive Jack Williams CEO, effective immediately. He replaces interim CEO David Pottruck, who will continue as chairman.
Separately, Eos will add a third daily all-business-class New York JFK-London Stansted frequency "during peak travel days." The expansion is effective April 15.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Two may buy private A380 superjumbos

Airbus, maker of the delayed A380 superjumbo, is in talks with two potential buyers of private versions of the $300 million plane that the company calls the "flying palace."

"They are not customers until they sign, but there are two very interested parties," Richard Gaona, vice president of Airbus' executive and private aviation unit, said in an interview Monday in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. "It's going to be a private jet," Gaona said, adding that one of the customers was in the Middle East.

The A380 is at least two years late, and spending on the program will result in an $8.2 billion cash shortfall through 2010, Airbus said in October. Airbus' parent, European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co., said Jan. 17 that the unit will record a loss for 2006, the first in its history.

"Airbus could sell 400 Flying Palaces and it won't save the program," said Doug McVitie, managing director of Arran Aerospace, a Dinan, France-based consulting company. "Airbus won't make a lot of money on sales like this because these guys want everything done their own way, so with highly customized planes, you reduce by a large percentage the number of components Airbus could provide."

Airbus began offering its jets configured as business aircraft in 1999, initially using mainly the A319, normally a 124-seat jet. Since 1999 it has doubled the sale of its corporate jets and wants to tap increasing demand, particularly in the Middle East.

The plane maker is expanding from the Airbus Corporate Jetliner, based on the A319, to bigger planes, including the widebody A330 and A340, "and soon the A380 flying palace," it said on its Web site.

The Middle Eastern market is one of the most important in the world as a result of the booming economies of the oil-rich Persian Gulf states, Gaona said. He estimated global demand to be 30 to 35 private aircraft a year, from the 20 aircraft Airbus sold in 2006 and 15 in 2005. Airbus has sold 80 private jets to date.

"Most probably the demand will keep at 30 aircraft a year and I think this is already a good number in the market," Gaona said. The Middle East will represent 30 percent to 40 percent of private jet sales.

Gaona also said Monday that Airbus has won two orders for the private "VIP" versions of its long-haul A340, one for the A340-500 and one for the A340-300. He said one of the buyers is from the Middle East, but he declined to be more specific. "It's too confidential," he said.

Airbus' sales of the four-engine A340 have dwindled in the past two years as customers choose either Airbus' two-engine A330 or The Boeing Co.'s 777, which also has two engines. The additional engines on the A340 increase fuel costs by roughly 10 percent per trip.

Private aviation in the Middle East, the world's third-largest market after the U.S. and Europe, is expected to continue growing at 10 percent to 12 percent annually and be valued at around $800 million in 2012, double its current worth, said Ali al-Naqbi, chairman of the Dubai-based Middle East Business Aviation Association.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Here come the private widebodies

The superrich are increasingly buying widebody planes, remodeled to their own preferences for luxurious living aloft

Think a luxuriously appointed private Gulfstream or Lear jet is the ultimate way to fly? Not any more. Increasingly, the world's superrich are buying big, big planes -- the same kind of widebody Boeing (BA) and Airbus jets the airlines use on long-haul flights -- and outfitting them with everything from his-and-hers bathrooms to onboard movie theaters. "Private jets are becoming flying apartments," says Jacques Pierrejean, a French designer who specializes in aircraft interiors.

These airborne penthouses cost plenty. New widebodies, such as the Airbus A340 and the Boeing 777, list for well over $100 million. Even the oldest secondhand widebodies cost at least $10 million. A customized interior adds $25 million to $30 million, says Ed├ęse Doret, a New York-based designer who has outfitted several big planes for private use.

With price tags like that, it's no surprise that only five or six such planes are sold each year. But that's enough to provide a steady business for Pierrejean, Doret, and a handful of other aircraft-interior specialists. Their client lists -- held in strictest confidentiality -- range from Middle Eastern sheikhs and Russian oil barons to Western corporate moguls and Hollywood stars.

Several trends are fueling the push for bigger planes. Because of increased concern over security, especially post-September 11, some businesspeople now use their aircraft as a base of operations on overseas business trips. Rather than going to a hotel or office after landing, they just stay onboard.

The planes are outfitted with computers, fax machines, and high-speed Internet connections, so work can continue uninterrupted. Guests are invited to business meetings in onboard conference rooms, which a widebody plane can accommodate far more easily than a smaller aircraft.

Time-pressed executives and celebrities also like to bring spouses and friends along when they travel. The widebodies have space for several guest rooms, as well as entertainment facilities such as big-screen TVs and video-game consoles. Not all the fun is family-style: New York designer Doret says one of his clients wants to install a pole in his plane so he can watch strippers dance.

Another motivation, it seems, is one-upmanship. "As soon as someone gets one of these [big planes], others want it," Doret says. So it's not surprising that some clients are already eyeing the biggest plane of all: the doubledecker Airbus A380, scheduled to enter service late next year and designed to carry up to 800 passengers.

Pierrejean has done preliminary designs for a wealthy Middle Eastern client who wants to buy an A380 for personal use. Among the amenities he has requested are an onboard movie theater, a prayer room, and a discotheque. With features like that, why bother landing?

New Airbus Corporate Jet Orders: two A320s and two A340VIPs!

AIRBUS booked orders from ROYAL AIR FORCE OF OMAN for two A320CJs with V2500s for troop deployment and VIP transport, and from undisclosed customers for a A340-500 VIP with Trents and a A340-300 VIP with CFM56s.

COMLUX orders new business jets

COMLUX, Switzerland (the company that operates Michael Schumacher's private jet) ordered two more A318 Elites with CFM56s, and has now ordered five (largest customer). It expects to take delivery of the first A318 Elite in 2Q07 after completion by LUFTHANSA TECHNIK at Hamburg.