11 MAY 2009

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Air Europa makes Gatwick introduction

AIR EUROPA has introduced the Embraer 195 to its new twice-daily Gatwick – Madrid service.  It is a two class operation.  In another move Colin Stewart, formerly of BAA marketing at Stansted has been appointed as the carrier's first UK General Manager, based at Flight Directors, the airline's GSA (general sales agent).  He is keen to push the route’s connectivity at the Spanish capital to Buenos Aires, Caracas, Havana, and Santa Domingo.  “Air Europa is long- established, but not well known to the British traveller,” he said.  “Our aim is to exploit the South American market mainly through the travel trade.”  He said that further UK destinations from Madrid are being considered. www.air-europa.com

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Belfast International Airport in major upgrade

BELFAST INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT has confirmed that work is starting immediately on a UKP10m investment to improve facilities.  This will see the construction of a new two-storey glass facade which will create space for more than 20 retail outlets.  The current landside security search will also be relocated to the departures area to speed up the time it takes passengers to get through the airport.  Completion is expected by the summer of 2010.  Last year 5.2m passengers moved through the airport much the same as 2007.  Malaga remains the most popular destination. www.belfastairport.com

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Carlisle to get a steam train service

RAILWAY enthusiasts this summer will have the opportunity to ride on a unique train line that has not offered a regular timetabled steam train service for over 40 years.  They can contrast the journey by riding one leg on a modern 125mph tilting train.  Statesman Rail is partnering Virgin Trains in offering an exclusive 260-mile return day trip along the world famous Settle and Carlisle line.  Virgin will provide connections to the steam-hauled special train at both Lancaster and Preston.  Passengers will be able to witness how effortlessly modern trains tackle gradients on the route, while the steam-hauled train will demonstrate how demanding a job it was on the locomotive and fireman to keep moving.  It will operate every Wednesday from 29 July to 2 September. www.statesmanrail.com

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Eurostar in upmarket branding

EUROSTAR has unveiled a new onboard branding for its upmarket first class leisure product which it calls ‘Leisure Direct’.  The high speed rail link to the near continent from London’s St Pancras International will now offer three classes of services on its trains.  ‘Business Premier’ is tailored to provide maximum flexibility of ticketing, ten-minute check-in, business lounge access and a work-on-the move environment, with catering including an express breakfast service.  The new ‘Leisure Select’ occupies the same coaches as Business Premier.  However it is aimed at travellers who want to relax, not work.  Travellers are offered champagne, a choice of meal, and have the opportunity to read, play games or meet like-minded travellers.  ‘Standard Class’ is extremely comfortable and travellers can purchase food and drinks from the bar buffet, or take their own provisions with them.  The fastest train to Paris takes just 2h15m.  To Brussels the quickest service right into the centre of the city is five minutes under two hours. www.eurostar.com

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London business travel show changes

LONDON’S annual Business Travel Show is downsizing to two days for 2010 (9-10 February) bringing it in line with the Travel Technology Show, with which it shares Earls Court 2.  Organisers Centaur says that it is introducing a host of new exhibiting packages and further developing the Executive Buyer Programme, which it launched to great acclaim earlier this year. Attached to the show is a conference programme giving in total over 60hrs of discussion covering all the various aspects of the travel trade. www.businesstravelshow.co.uk

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Qatar Airways expansion continues

QATAR AIRWAYS undeterred by the current economic climate has confirmed that it is pressing ahead with an expansion plan that includes new aircraft, routes, infrastructure and continued environmental efforts to reduce carbon emissions.  Six new routes planned across India, Australia and Europe over the next ten months with new aircraft joining the fleet at an average rate of one a month.  The airline’s fleet size of 68 aircraft will increase to more than 110 aircraft by 2013 and destinations served are set to rise from 84 to over 120 in the next five years. www.qatarairways.com

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United Airlines offers Pittsburgh non-stop to West Coast

UNITED AIRLINES is to become the only carrier to offer Pittsburgh non-stop to Los Angeles and San Francisco.  Beginning 2 September the airline will introduce daily return flights to both cities.  These will be flown by Airbus A319s offering eight in its First Class, 40 Economy Plus, with 5in extra legroom, and the balance 72 Economy seats. www.united.com

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MOTORING UPDATE by Ted Wilkinson

Nissan X-Trail 2.0 dCi Sport 150 Expedition

FIAT’S audacious plans to partner the ailing American car giant Chrysler will bring one quick benefit for the once troubled Italian operation opening up North America to both Fiat itself and its subsidiary Alfa Romeo previously sold in the US.  In Europe Fiat wants to take over much of the GM operation which could mean the end of the remaining parts of Vauxhall in Luton, and Ellesmere Port in Cheshire.  In the modern EU the fact that a plant is efficient and makes a good product means nothing.  The Peugeot factory at Ryton on Dunsmore is no longer and is currently a desolate industrial wasteland.

GKN is a name both in motoring and the aviation industry.  It is a major component supplier to the British car market and at the beginning of this year took over the former Airbus UK plant at Filton which manufactures part of the wing structures for all current Airbus products.  GKN says that it has moved back into the black after a loss making start to the year as solid aerospace sales helped mitigate “extremely challenging” markets for private and commercial vehicles.  During the period GKN also bolstered its trading position by securing guaranteed payment for goods supplied to Chrysler and General Motors in the US through the government-backed supplier payment schemes.

LOTUS
has begun to prepare for first deliveries of its eagerly awaited Evora 2+2 unveiled at the London Motor Show last year.  The first new Lotus since the Elise of 1996 the car follows in the Colin Chapman tradition of being lightweight and quick with outstanding handling.  Prices start from UKP45k.  AERBT plans for offer an  appraisal in the coming weeks.

RENAULT’S
new Clio range, embracing a total of 38 models across three-door, five-door and Sport Tourer models, officially arrives next Friday (15 May). With a choice of seven trim levels available – Extreme, Expression, Dynamique, GT, Privilège and Initiale, plus TomTom Edition – on-the-road prices for the three-door range start at UKP9,995 for the Extreme 1.2 16v 75bhp rising to UKP14,445 for the GT 1.5 dCi 106.

ROADS
Minister Paul Clark has confirmed that tougher parking regulations are to be introduced by English local authorities from 1 June.  Councils which carry out parking enforcement will be able to issue Penalty Charge Notices to motorists who park at dropped kerbs or double-park, without the need for these prohibitions to be indicated with specific traffic signs or road markings.  The DfT says that Authorities in London have successfully used this tool for a number of years to help wheelchair users and those with prams manoeuvre on and off pavements – as well as stopping inconsiderate motorists from blocking residents' driveways.  It has also helped deter motorists from blocking the road when parking.

PORSCHE and Volkswagen (VW), historically always close, have confirmed that they are to merge.  This come after weeks of talks between the two firms' management. A statement from the luxury carmaker said that it wanted to see the "creation of an integrated car manufacturing group".  Porsche will not actually takeover VW and the future structure of the new format is expected to be decided in the next four weeks. The VW brands include Audi, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, SEAT and Skoda plus various commercial and military vehicles.

 

ROAD TEST:  Nissan X-Trail 2.0 dCi Sport 150 Expedition

Here’s A Reasonable 4x4!

No, I have not jumped on the anti-4x4 bandwagon but I find it increasingly hard to justify the use of the largest examples of the breed on congested urban roads.  However, several years ago when, for another publication, I tested the original Nissan X-Trial 4x4 I reported that the model made a lot of sense by combining exceptional competent off-road ability with refined road manners, good interior space and tidier than average, for the class, body dimensions.

I also recall recommending the X-Trail to a fellow motoring journalist who was shopping for a vehicle that would meet his critical driving requirements plus suiting his energetic out-door activities.

What stopped him from owning one at that time was that he wanted a diesel-powered version complete with automatic transmission and that combination did not feature in the X-Trail line-up at that time.

Good news is that the latest generation X-Trail, introduced in late 2007, not only included an all-new product, including high efficiency petrol and diesel engine but the availability of a 6-speed automatic transmission designed for dealing with the massive torque generation by a diesel engine and also for controlling the vehicle in the most testing off-road conditions.

Just what my colleague wanted and just what, I suspect, is required by a good number of drivers who genuinely require a competent 4x4 that can also give them an easy life under less challenging driving conditions.  A vehicle that stacks up strongly for so many reasons.

Tested here is the version that I feel is tailor-made for the current climate, it is powered by a 2.0-litre relatively clean living diesel unit that develops just short of 150 bhp in a quietly efficient manner and with a smooth acting yet very responsive multi-mode automatic transmission that is claimed to provide a top speed potential of 112 mph and able to reach 63 mph (100 kph) from rest in 12.5 seconds.  A turn of performance to ensure that on-road driving is competitive and offers easy driving in a civilised manner.

In fact, I would go as far as to say that the X-Trail drives ‘small’.

By pooling development resources with Renault, Nissan has certainly strengthened all aspects of the quality and design of its current product range, especially when it comes to power units it is right up there with the best.  This diesel unit not being too hard pressed to return around 30 mpg under mixed driving conditions more than good for a vehicle using all wheel drive, automatic transmission and a spacious 5-seat body that obviously does not match the aerodynamic efficiency of say a conventional estate car.

The loftier than average driving position is easily accessed despite the lack of a grab handle (one is provided adjacent to all three passenger doors) and the manually adjusted driver’s seat is generous in dimensions and padding and has a wide range of adjustment to cope with all sizes of occupant.  Amazing how many diminutive women drive this sort of vehicle!  Tilt reach steering column adjustment and good pedal positioning also combine to make the driver feel ‘at home’.

Though a seriously efficient vehicle in all respects, the X-Trial provides the driver with a very easy life with light yet positive feeling controls, highly efficient braking, impressive road grip, a very civilised ride and, a smart yet functional fascia area (with easy to use satellite navigation), good driver vision, the latter being augmented by a rear camera when reversing.  Powered exterior mirrors can also be folded flat.
 
The X-trial also shows up some larger bodied 4x4 when it comes to interior space ratios, this is a roomy 5-seat car with generous luggage capacity with a removable double deck floor plus also a removable sliding drawer compartment and easy folding (60/40) rear seats.  Other notable items also included fixed roof rails, keyless start/stop system, push button/remote door locking, efficient air conditioning throughout the cabin.

This Sport model, falling between the Trek and Adventure models, is extensively equipped though but obviously lacks leather upholstery and a few extras but still manages very high trim standard and, of course, hard to beat build quality.

Pitched in a very competitive market sector this latest X-Trail range builds on the high regard achieved by the original and strongly deserves to be on the short list for all buyers seeking a mid-size user-friendly 4x4.  Price from UKP23,201.

SOME RIVALS: Land Rover Freelander 2.2 TD4 GS  UKP23,324, Mitsubishi Outlander 2.0 Di-D Elegance UKP22,735, Honda CR-V 2.2  Dci EX UKP24,599.



STAR RATINGS:   
Performance 9
Handling 9
Transmission 9
Noise 8
Economy 9
Ride and Comfort 9
Accommodation 9
Styling 8
Brakes 9
Finish 9
TOTAL: 88%

 

TECHSPEC: Engine: Transversely mounted: Capacity: 1,995cc, 4 cylinders, 16 valves, high pressure common rail turbo diesel, max power: 147.9 bhp/150ps @ 4,000 rpm. CO2 Emissions: 190 g/km. Transmission: Four wheel drive, 6-speed automatic. Suspension: Fully independent Brakes: Ventilated discs front/rear with ABS/EBD/EBA Steering: Electric power assisted, 10.8m turning circle. Dimensions: Length: 4,630mm, width 1,785mm (excluding mirrors). Height: 1,685/1,770mm. Weight: approx 2,170kg, max towing weight: 1350kg (braked).  Fuel tank capacity 65 litres/14.2 gallons.  Range approx: 450 miles. Insurance Group 13E.

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AERBT (An Executive Review of Business Travel) continues to expand its distribution for which we thank you, the reader.

Please note that we have discovered that some Internet Explorer readers have experienced a less than perfect display of the images shown below with the border missing.  We suggest you try Firefox which gives no problems.  Readers might also note we have moved the introduction to beneath the story index.  This, it is hoped, will speed up your reading of AERBT (pronounced "air-BT").  Comments welcome please to info@aerbt.co.uk.

We welcome Mark Wagner to the team at AERBT.  Mark is one of the world's leading aeronautical photographers and more details can be found at www.aviation-images.com

This being the second Monday of the month we also feature Ted Wilkinson's motoring page.  Please see below.  For the archive visit www.aerbt.co.uk/motoring.

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Airbus confirms slowdown in production

AIRBUS has confirmed that due to the current economic and aviation crisis it is slowing down production of both the A380 and A320 family.  The Toulouse-centred company says that customers have been requesting deferrals.  Current plans now call for 14 completions of the double-decker aircraft in 2009, as against the projected 18, but back to more than 20 aircraft in 2010.  In February Airbus announced its intention to reduce the A320 series family production rate from 36 to 34 aircraft per month from October 2009.  Production of the A330/340 family runs currently at a rate of 8.5 aircraft per month.  Airbus was able to confirm its plan to deliver in 2009 about 483 aircraft, the same number of aircraft as in the record year of 2008. www.airbus.com

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Boeing road show hits town

BOEING’S financial road show came to London last week attracting nearly 150 bankers and leasing experts to a well illustrated production at the Four Seasons Canary Wharf.  Leading the presentation Kostya Zolotusky, Managing Director capital markets development, said he found London in a more dour and pessimistic mood than New York a few days earlier.  He explained the current Boeing product range to a mostly uninformed audience noting that bio-fuels for aircraft was not  far away in a practical sense, and already technically proven.  Unlike the motor car a bio-fuel top-up can mix jet fuel with farm derived productions (no diesel and petrol stickers required).  The target price is USD70 a barrel.  He said that there was great opportunities for the money men at the present time with a buyer’s market.  In an aside he noted that Boeing’s market forecast over the years had been proven dramatically correct, particular its scepticism regarding large aircraft sales. www.boeing/commercial

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Coventry is the latest airport open to offers

COVENTRY AIRPORT has been put up for sale by its joint owners, the Irish investment company Howard Holdings Plc, and AFCO Holdings Ltd, a company specifically created with airport development in mind.  It is currently the home of West Atlantic, the cargo airline (formerly Atlantic Airlines), Air Atlantique Classic Flight, various executive and general aviation activities and The Midlands Aviation Museum.  From March 2004 until November 2008 it hosted scheduled low cost operations to a number of popular continental destinations.  A record of just under 600,000 passengers passed through the airport in 2007 but with the loss of a planning application to develop the terminal and the subsequent departure of its main base carrier ThomsonFly, clearly the aspirations of the owners have not been met.  Coventry Airport has a single runway 05/23 2000m (6576ft). www.coventryairport.co.uk

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Hilton Doubletree makes Middle East debut

DOUBLETREE SUITES by Hilton is to open in Ras Al Khaimah (UAE) during the early part of 2010.  It will be the upmarket brand's first opening in the Middle East.  The hotel will feature 84 studios, 14 one-bedroom apartments and 14 two-bedroom apartments, all very well equipped in technology terms including an internet package and stereo speaker connectivity for MP3 and CD players.  Additional facilities planned include an all-day dining restaurant and bar, a boardroom, business centre, swimming pool and a fitness centre.  www.doubletree.com

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New Jersey gains W Hoboken hotel

HOBOKEN, New Jersey, perhaps best know as the birthplace of Frank Sinatra, has a brand new W Hoboken hotel and The Residences.  Directly across the Hudson from Greenwich Village, a ferry boat ride away, the property has 225 guest rooms, including 23 suites, and 40 W branded residences.  There are a further five W Hotels in Manhattan.  W Hotels is part of the Starwood Group, which includes Starwood, Le Meridien, Sheraton and Westin. www.whotels.com/hoboken

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Ryanair suspends Paris flights

RYANAIR has suspended all services to/from Paris (Beauvais) between the 3 and 10 June (inclusive) as the airport closes for one week to upgrade its landing systems.  The airline is contacting all affected passengers via email to offer them alternative flights or a full refund.  Another French airport, this time at Pau, well on the way to the Spanish border, has also chosen the holiday period to do what it calls essential work to its technical aids.  The dates are 27 July and 8 August inclusive.  The same rules apply concerning those booked during this fortnight. www.ryanair.com

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Virgin Atlantic adds Puerto Rico

VIRGIN ATLANTIC has literally added Puerto Rico to its destinations for next winter tagging the Caribbean self-governing US territory onto its Antigua flights.  The services will be flown by Boeing 747-400 aircraft offering the normal Gatwick configuration of 14 Upper Class, 58 Premium Economy and 379 Economy seats.  The weekly services will begin on 7 November 2009.  Puerto Rico will complement the airline’s strong presence in the Caribbean with existing flights to Antigua, Barbados, Grenada, Havana, Jamaica, St Lucia and Tobago. www.virgin-atlantic.com

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HAPPY TALK: Stormy weather at Sky

Commenting on last week’s dismal results from News Corporation Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch said “I am not an economist, and we all know that economists were created to make weather forecasters look good.”  The lady from SKY clearly knows where the next storm is coming from!

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COMMENT: The French drop security standards

France has followed a number of European countries, but not the UK, in introducing what is known as One-Stop-Security.  Passengers that have already been screened at a European airport will not need to be looked at a second time when making flight connections at French international hubs.  The new policy will be applied to individual airports this year, starting with Lyon and selected terminals at Paris Charles de Gaulle.

It could be construed that the French are lowering their security standards. 

In Britain, tiresome as it is, transiting passengers, originating from anywhere, except domestic, have to go through the tedious x-ray and search routine.  It matters not whether flying in from Bucharest, Ljubljana or Sofia you get the same treatment.  As regards security the British government has not sacrificed control to Brussels.  In this vital area at least we are still our own bosses. 

Whilst standards have improved considerably since Lockerbie in 1988 the facts are that the bomb originated at Malta not Heathrow.  That airport, like the ones in the previous paragraph, is now in the EU.

BAA is the UK’s largest airport operator.  "BAA will continue to work with the DfT in maintaining the highest standards of security across its airports," said a spokesperson.  At the Department for Transport (DfT) the status quo remains.

AERBT is of the view that any reduction of standards should be frowned upon.  It is a necessary evil not withstanding the inconvenience and general nuisance it creates. 

What is noticeable is that at the major British hubs inbound and outbound passengers do not meet airside at any point.  Providing this level of separation is clearly expensive.  This is certainly not the case at certain continental operations where the two streams do cross-over.  Likewise in the US where, to be fair, at the big hubs it would be virtually impossible to segregate domestic travellers when congregating airside.

It is worrying that the International Air Transport Association (IATA), has welcomed the French adoption of a One-Stop Security.  Since his appointment as Director General and CEO in June 2002 Giovanni Bisignani has proved to be an effective and charismatic leader of a generally excellent trade organisation.

Commenting on the new French arrangements he had this to say:

“The business case for One-Stop Security is clear: faster, hassle-free connections for passengers and lower security costs for everyone involved.  There is no compromise on quality.  I urge other states – particularly the UK and Ireland – to come on board quickly.”  IATA estimates that the new moves will impact six million passengers and save USD30m a year, figures hard to justify.

AERBT disagrees and urges the British government not to follow this path.

Only Heathrow of UK airports has transiting traffic of any numbers.  The elimination of security for these passengers would give some cost saving, that is true, but at what potential drop in safety principles.  It is our contention that BAA would be wrong to even consider an approach to the DfT to attempt to lower standards. 

If the French, or indeed any other country, wish to pursue this risky procedure it is entirely up to them.  Would they consider putting up large advertisements in New York?

“Visiting Europe? – Travel home via Paris – No security controls to slow you down.”  We rather think not!

Malcolm Ginsberg

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BAA moves towards sale

BAA is moving quickly towards the sale of London’s second airport – Gatwick – with an announcement of a preferred buyer not many weeks away.  The Spanish-owned company has published a pre-tax loss of UKP316.2m (2008 – UKP55.6m) for the first quarter and says that passenger traffic at its three south east England airports declined 10% in the period to UKP24.8m (2008 – UKP27.6m).  It is not legally bound to publish quarterly figures for its other four airports, one of which it has a requirement to sell.  Heathrow declined 6.4% to 14.4m (2008 – 15.4m) and both Gatwick and Stansted reported a drop in traffic of 14.6% to 6.3m and 4.1m respectively (2008 – 7.4m and 4.8m). www.baa.com

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British Airways loses out with business traffic

BRITISH AIRWAYS suffered a further steep fall in demand in the vital business travel market last month, premium traffic revenue down by 17.7%.  This was in some ways made up for by a reduction of capacity of 2.4% and a rise in the number travelling in the back by 5.2%, all on a year to year basis.  Cargo fell by 14.8%.  Overall load factor was 2.6% up at 78%, showing that in some areas the company was getting it right.  Besides the worldwide downturn the airline was also hit by serious discounting on the vital North Atlantic market and criticism by regular business travellers in the way they were handled particularly when an aircraft failed to find a gate.  In difficult times all aspects of an airline have to be in perfect harmony. www.ba.com

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easyJet in turmoil

EASYJET seems to be in something of a turmoil with founder and largest shareholder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou seemingly at war with the executive board.  CEO Andy Harrison wants to replace the remaining Boeing fleet with 91 new Airbus for a net increase of 28 aircraft.  Stelios appears to be more cautious and is making noises that now is not the time for major investment.  easyJet said pre-tax losses in the six months to the end of March had risen from UKP57.5m to UKP116.5m, despite a 16% increase in revenue from UKP892m to UKP1.03bn.  The airline expects to be profitable for the whole year.  www.easyjet.com

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Korean Air presses on with upgrade

KOREAN AIR has confirmed that it is continuing with its fleet renewal and has commenced an extensive refurbishment plan on its current Boeing 777-200s and Boeing 747-400s.  Next generation seats, consisting of Kosmo Suites in First Class, Prestige Sleepers in Prestige Class and New Economy in Economy Class, will be unveiled later this month when the airline starts taking delivery of its new fleet of B777-300ER aircraft. www.koreanair.com

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Oneworld in flying tenth anniversary logo

ONEWORLD is celebrating its tenth anniversary with a roll-out of aircraft painted in a special livery.  First out of the blocks is American Airlines with a Boeing 777 aircraft sporting the special alliance exterior paint design, the first of four AA aircraft to receive such treatment in the coming months.  Each of the ten alliance members is participating in the livery project, which, when completed, will involve 40 aircraft. On the 777 the oneworld name in letters, more than six feet tall, appear on the side of the fuselage against American’s familiar polished aluminium skin.  The tail remains the same with the AA logo in blue and red, separated by the trademarked eagle symbol. www.oneworld.com

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Singapore Airlines speaks out against APD

SINGAPORE AIRLINES has been holding an annual reception for MPs and the media at Westminster for over 20 years.  Last week’s was one of the most outspoken with UK General Manager Joey Seow sounding off regarding APD, noting that UK taxes in two years’ time will represent 25% of the fare.  He stressed that the government seemed bent on destroying Heathrow as the hub of the world’s airlines and pointed out the more enlightened example of the Dutch authorities.  Jim Fitzpatrick, Transport Minister and Member of Parliament for the constituency which includes London City Airport, was in attendance, and took it in good spirit.  With excellent timing an SIA A380 passed over as guests viewed from the terrace.  Since its service introduction the mighty Airbus has carried over 1m passengers. www.singaporeair.com

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ON TOUR: EBACE opens today in Geneva

In spite of the gloom the annual EBACE (European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition) opens today (Monday 11 May) in Geneva.  Star of the event, or at least the most interesting, is the cabin mock-up of the all composite Bombardier Learjet 85, a stand up headroom, eight-seat passenger jet – capable of a range up to 3,000nm.  Not due to enter service until 2013, the price point is attractive for operators at USD17m.  Learjet’s ambassador is world motor racing champion Lewis Hamilton.

The show itself occupies halls 6 and 7 of the Palexpo Centre, with no overspill into hall 5.  Bookings are 10% down from the 440 of 2008 but you will never know from looking at the busy ramp at the adjoining Geneva International Airport, home for a few days to around 60 aircraft, many of them for sale.  EBACE is without doubt the place where interested customers – from Europe, the US, Middle East – shop for aircraft and it is a buyer’s market out there now.

In terms of visitors last year some 13,692 were registered.  Organisers will keep an anxious eye on the numbers.  The excellent exhibitor turnout can be explained by the fact that most bookings were made many months ago, often at the time of the 2008 show.  Whether this can be repeated remains to be seen.

Some 40 years ago the British aerospace magazine Flight International ran an executive aviation show at Cranfield (England).  One of the stars was the de Havilland 125.  It is still around in much updated form, as the Hawker 800.  But you won’t see the likes of the Javelin Personal Jet or the Grob Spn – even though there are plans afoot to restart that light jet programme, which would have been the industry’s first all carbon fibre business jet.  Also missing will be the Cessna Columbus mock-up, Cessna having taken a recent decision to postpone its development.

It is the ramp that will inevitably be a major talking point.  And Embraer especially is going to have a lot to show off this year.  Its Lineage 1000 is making its debut, a derivative of the popular Embraer 190.  Yours for USD42.95m.  And, the smallest members of its family – the entry level Phenom 100 and the as yet to be certificated 300.  Also, making a debut appearance is the BAE Systems Avro Business Jet, a conversion of an RJ70. 

The business aircraft market has been hit hard by the economic downturn, not helped by the leaders of the three largest US motor manufacturers turning up in Washington in their large private jets and pleading poverty!  They failed to explain what an important time machine these aircraft are to those businesses – as a result, damning headlines in the mainstream press about the ‘company jet’ which prompted NBAA/EBAA to launch campaigns of their own.

The airframe companies are sending out mixed messages prior to the show.  Cessna is cutting back from the 535 Citations it expected to deliver in 2009, to 375, with even less anticipated for next year.  Bombardier says it is reducing production by 25% and slashing 4,000 jobs.  Gulfstream annual numbers for its large cabin aircraft have contracted from 94 to 73, and it is also reducing production of the G150/G200 series, partly produced in Israel. 

Honda continues with its slowly coming together HondaJet project, but you get the feeling has been around for ever.  It would be strange if it finished up the way of its Formula 1 racing car, rebadged and then successful, with another, Brit Jenson Button, at the helm.  Button has promoted the HondaJet!

Whilst its order book is down, in fact into negative figures, Dassault says that it will hand over somewhere between 80 and 90 aircraft this year, an improvement on the 72 from 2008.

This was supposed to be the year that the Very Light Jets (VLJ) or entry level jets as they have now been rebadged – began to make a real impact in Europe.  With the bankruptcy of Eclipse in March and the standstill of the USA’s Adam Aircraft, potential operators and their backers are scrutinising this marketplace.  Yes, there is business for jet powered air taxis – but for how many?  Clearly not the large number forecast. 

Right now, the new Cessna Mustang is ahead of the Embraer Phenom 100 this side of the water with a number of aircraft delivered, but for how long?  By the end of the year there should be ten of the six passenger Brazilian mini-jets operational in Europe. 

At the lower end of the market sales have been particularly hit.  Piper, the second oldest of them all (Cessna can trace its history back to 1911), has confirmed that deliveries in 2009 will hardly make 110, as against 268 in 2008.  It does seem that the days of new piston-engined business aircraft are limited, although the tens of thousands of ‘twins’ in the United States will be with us for many years.

Next week Alison Chambers will be reviewing EBACE.  It will be interesting to appreciate her views on what the future holds, not only for the attendees, but for the show itself, currently an annual event.  It should make for good reading.

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