Virgin Australia: A decade of international services.

Today marks ten years since Virgin Australia (Blue at the time) launched it’s first international flight, DJ007 between Christchurch and Brisbane on January 29, 2004.

Across the Tasman, Virgin’s competitive bullseye wasn’t locked squarely on the Qantas Group, it was also taking on a newly relaunched and reinvigorated Air New Zealand in its highest yielding market place. Pacific Blue grew quickly, leveraging the opportunity to develop reliable low-cost air services to the remote, developing islands of the Pacific, an area of the world that couldn’t support the high-cost operation of either national carrier.

Virgin’s long-haul ambitions came to fruition in 2009 – the worst time to launch an international airline, but it had little choice – with the launch of V Australia services to the US.

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A380 Harbour Flyover

A few shots of Qantas A380 VH-OQE’s flying display over Sydney Harbour in celebration of Australia Day.

The weekly rollerboard 19 January: A350 special

The A350XWB flight test campaign continues in earnest, and with more than 850 flight hours now logged it’s time I wrote an update. I was following the campaign and the CSeries more closely in the initial stages, but the number of great resources available online meant I took a bit of back seat.

Flexible limits

The static test frame MSN5000 has now successfully completed ultimate wing load testing reaching a five metre deflection the wing, subjecting the wing to loads to 1.5 times greater than expected in service life. Strains were measured by 10,000 measurement channels which correlate load information against structural design models.

The ultimate load is the beyond which the wing is expected to fail, and is calculated at 2.5 times the maximum expected G load. As the Airbus Fly By Wire system limits G loads to +2.5G or +3.5G in a reversion to Direct Law, the ultimate load could be higher than 7.5G. Continue reading “The weekly rollerboard 19 January: A350 special” »

Missed Approach: Air India AI301

Image: hartlandmartin on flickr

There’s been three notable incidents of late in which flight crew have mistakenly landed at the wrong airport – see the Dreamlifter, a C-17 and a Southwest 737. A third was almost added this past Tuesday morning when an Air India Boeing 787-8 registered VT-ANM mistook Melbourne’s Essendon Airport for Melbourne International Airport (Tullamarine).

Operating AI301 from Sydney to Melbourne VT-ANM approached and crossed Melbourne from the east following usual tracking paths for aircraft inbound from the north-east to YMML’s active Runway 34.

The flight crew initiated a right turn to lining up for Essendon’s Runway 35 mistaking it for YMML’s Runway 34. Essendon Airport is located 4.5nm to southeast of Melbourne International Airport, and has a similar cross-runway layout to Melbourne with the runway headings only offset 1 degree.

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The weekly rollerboard 12 January

AA’s inaugural A321T service. Image: Edward Russell.

This week Australia’s mantle for offering the best transcontinental airline product in the world – which Australian’s unjustifiably love to pick apart as woefully inadequate – was challenged for the first time in perhaps two decades as American Airlines launched its new premium A321T service from New York JFK to Los Angeles.

Compared with the past decade of woefully inadequate product offer onboard American carriers, the product reinvention is a welcome return to the days of glamorous transcon air travel. There will be a 30 per cent increase in the number of first class seats AA offers as business class and economy decline by 13 per cent and 27 per cent respectively. Continued capacity rationalisation carries through to the strategic relaunch with AA’s total New York-Los Angeles capacity decreasing in favour of frequency growth from ten to thirteen services daily.

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The oryx’s new home.

Delays in the opening of Doha’s critically important new Hamad International Airport (HIA) are almost as farcical as those of Berlin’s new Brandenburg International Airport, but the transition to full operations is now in its home stretch and we have a great preview of the stunning new terminal below.

According to Qatar transport minister Jassim Seif Ahmed Al Sulaiti a soft opening trial will begin this month from the chic new terminal involving ten carriers - Air Arabia, Air India Express, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, Flydubai, Iran Air, Nepal Airlines, Pakistan International Airlines, RAK Airways, Syrian Air, and Yemen Airways.

Qatar Airways is now expected to transition its operations into its new home on April 1.

Doha International Airport is cripplingly overcapacity. Designed for an annual throughput of 12 million passengers a year, in 2013 the airport handled approximately 25 million people with 75% handled by Qatar Airways. After Dubai, it is now the second largest Middle East hub, and is now in the top 25 airports in the world measured by international passenger traffic.

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The weekly rollerboard 5 January

Flying Knight

Her Majesty seems to have taken a keen interest in airline strategy, with Emirates President Tim Clark knighted in this year’s New Year honours for “services to British prosperity and to the aviation industry”. Clark is recognised as an “outstanding British business leader and premier airline strategist”. Clark worked for four years at Gulf Air as a route planner, before joining Emirates in 1985. In 2003 Clark was appointed president and under his stewardship Emirates has grown to become one of the top ten biggest carriers in the world. The Royal Aeronautical Society’s fascinating interview with him earlier in 2013 is well worth watching:

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Looking to the sky in 2014.

Our 2013 retrospective, and Airbus breaking with tradition on A350 MSN2 , inspired me to take a look at what this dynamic industry might have in-store for 2014:

A350 MSN2 the first test aircraft to be fitted with a full cabin interior in its new carbon fibre scheme. Image: Airbus SAS.

CASA Regulation
Some big regulatory changes will take place in 2014. In particular, CASA will need to guide the Australia’s airlines on the use of Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs) following changes to regulatory legislation by the FAA in the US and EASA in Europe. Currently Australian carriers are self regulating in this respect, but moving independently as a way to gain competitive advantage will only create headaches for crew in enforcing use on-board.

 

Image: Graham Cook

Domestic capacity
The war will continue until the end of the first half, bringing further revenue pressure to the Qantas and Virgin groups. Qantas has invested too much the public rhetoric behind in its strategy, to back away now would look like it was giving in. Not the best market image to present given its current financial position. Expect the Federal Government to make small changes to the level of single foreign ownership to the Qantas Sale Act.

 

 

 

Sydney Airport
The political future of Tony Abbott’s Government depends on their ability to deliver a courageous bipartisan policy decision. With a promise of a decision, a ‘government of no surprises’ will now need to deliver with a real commitment on Badgery’s Creek. This will come as a stage 1 single runway development, with no rail connection, because Abbott’s made it clear he doesn’t like trains. Also expect a change to the slot caps at Sydney Airport, starting with the 05:00-06:00am landing window.

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Carry-on’s top 13 of 2013.

2013 was exceptional proof that aviation is far from sclerotic. Beginning with continued fixation on the 787 as Boeing’s amour propre was tested by further incidents and a grounding. Eyes turned skyward for the equal greatest number of first flights in history. Rarely appreciating the continued challenging conditions airlines and the industry faces, politicians continued to provide opaque interference, compounding an already fractured dichotomy. There was awe as the world’s largest airline was replaced with with an even larger carrier, rosy profit turnarounds turned into sickening loss projections, and a renewed geopolitical rivalry in everything from aerospace manufacturing to air traffic rights. Here’s our 13 of 2013:

1. The 787.

The most exciting new aircraft in years became known for one thing in 2013: fire. In January the worldwide fleet was grounded – only the second aircraft since the DC-10 to be grounded in this way – following a series of electrical faults and battery fires caused by thermal runaway. The batteries were pulled out, boxed, and additional venting at a cost of approximately $500,000 per aircraft. Back in the air confidence has grown, the 787-9 is now flying and there has only been a small fiery issue relating to a locator beacon. Image: Richard Deakin.

 

2. CSeries flies.

110 years later Bombardier did it again for the very first time. This time with the first completely new narrow-body design since the A320 family.

 

3. ICAO’s emissions agreement.

ICAO’s member states reached a landmark multilateral agreement to develop a market-based measure that would reduce carbon emissions by 2020. The agreement will allow countries and airlines to operate under a single global standard rather than competing carbon regimes. Governments’ individual plans will be approved at the next assembly in 2016.

 

 

 

 

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Flying Tiare: Air Tahiti Nui’s birthday GoPro.

A month in production and filmed entirely with a GoPro camera this is possibly one of the most epic aviation videos produced to date.

Commissioned in celebration of its 15th anniversary, the video was created by Air Tahiti Nui technical engineer Matthieu Courtois, with assistance from pilot Ludovic Allain, follows the airline’s fleet of A340s as they operate from Papeete to Auckland, and Paris via Los Angeles.

We hope you enjoy as much as we did. Merry Christmas!

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