10 JANUARY 2011

YOUR WORDS


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A380 one deck one class

Korean Air will launch its first A380 service in May 2011 with the entire upper deck of the aircraft devoted to Business Class clients.  The unique configuration will allow Korean Air business flyers “to feel exclusivity like they’re travelling in their own private jet,” says Mr Jae Ho Kim, Managing Vice President and Director of Korean Air Europe Headquarters.  He added "this innovative approach to dedicate an entire floor for a single class will be benchmarked by other airlines."

The airline’s A380 will have a total of only 407 seats: 12 First Class and 301 Economy Class seats on the first level, and the 94 Prestige Class seats on the upper deck.  It is the first airline to devote the entire A380 second level to the business flyer.

Korean Air has ordered ten A380 aircraft with the first five to be delivered by the end of 2011 and an additional five by 2014.  The airline will launch its A380s on short haul routes to Japan and East Asia in May, and then expand to Korean Air’s US and European routes in August 2011. www.koreanair.com

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Airbus review from Tom Enders

Airbus Chief Executive Tom Enders said in an end of year statement to staff that he was optimistic regarding 2011 in terms of orders and deliveries.  The Toulouse-based manufacturer's output was just over 500 aircraft last year, a record figure.

"Overall, 2010 has been a good year, with a better-than-expected market recovery with, again, record commercial deliveries and an order intake which will be at least 50% higher than we expected it to be at the beginning of the year," the note said.

Airbus has delivered 18 A380s this year, below an initial target of 20.  A 19th aircraft was to go to Qantas but this will slip into the "first weeks of January", an Airbus spokesman confirmed.  Blame was placed on Rolls-Royce due to modifications required on the Trent 900 engine. www.airbus.com

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Beijing and Shanghai link

China will open its record breaking high-speed rail link between Beijing and Shanghai in June, state media said last week, cutting the journey between the two cities in half to less than five hours.  It was only in last November that a prototype train on the track set a world record of 300mph. 

The 1,318km (819-mile) railway, which has cost CNYuan220.9 bn (US$33.45 bn) to build, began construction in April 2008 and was originally planned to open in 2012.

The new line is expected to provide a serious challenge to airlines including Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines.  The route, connecting China's capital with its most important economic hub, is one of the most lucrative for Chinese airlines.  City centre to city centre the journey time by train will be much the same as by air.  With both cities much will depend on where you need to get to. www.cnvol.com

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easyJet to add aircraft and capacity

Airbus has started the new year with easyJet in effect tidying up its commitment for A320 aircraft which should leave it with a 220-size fleet by the end of September 2013. 

What is evident from its negotiations with Airbus is that the airline is now committed to the larger 320 series aircraft (180 passengers) for the future.  Whilst around 160 of the smaller A319s are available (156 passengers) and will make up the majority of the operation in the years ahead, where lease/finance commitments allow these are being dropped for the bigger plane.

Listed on the London Stock Exchange easyJet was launched at Luton in 1995 as a Boeing 737 operator.  It purchased GO (Stansted) in 2002 from British Airways and GB Airways (Gatwick) in 2007.  In 2002, in a change of strategy, it ordered 120 Airbus A319 series aircraft and now has virtually finished disposing of all its Boeing aircraft. www.easyjet.com

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High-Speed Rail Proposals Unveiled

UK Transport Secretary Philip Hammond confirmed just before Christmas that the Government’s proposed high-speed rail network will include a direct link to Heathrow and to the European high-speed rail network but at a later date than the initial route to Birmingham.

The completed 'Y'-shaped network would bring the West Midlands within about half an hour of London and would allow journey times of around 80 minutes from Leeds and Manchester to the capital.  Connections onto existing tracks would also be included, allowing direct high-speed train services to be operated to cities including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool and Newcastle.  A direct link to Britain's existing high-speed line, High-Speed 1 – which runs from London St Pancras to the Channel Tunnel – would allow travel from cities along the new high-speed line to the continent.

Various action groups opposing segments of the line are said the be planning to fight the whole project. www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/rail/pi/highspeedrail

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Routes adds to its hub

Richard Maslen, the popular Newcastle based air travel journalist, has joined Routesonline, where he will be in charge of what is known as “delivery”. 

“Routes”, as it was originally called, was initially developed as an airline/airport gathering, putting together airports, with either established airlines or more often that not, start-ups.  Now part of UBM Aviation, which includes OAG, Routesonline is a many faceted operation offering conferences worldwide, airline exchange, route opportunities and consultancy skills.

Previously at Key Publications Ltd, responsible for Airliner World and a whole host of related magazines and periodicals Maslen was before that with Airclaims, a leading provider of risk and asset management services to the global airline industry, where he edited its house journal. www.routesonline.com

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Xiamen to Europe

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines will begin operating scheduled service from Amsterdam to Xiamen (China) on 27 March three times per week with a two-class Boeing 777-200ER.  These will be the first ever flights between the city, 400 miles north of Hong Kong, and Europe.  With this new route the airline will have 43 weekly frequencies to China.

Xiamen is the second-largest city in the province of Fujian and has a population of 3m inhabitants.  Owing partly to its favourable geographical location, Xiamen is undergoing rapid economic growth, attracting large international corporations.  The city is also a tourist destination with interesting cultural and historical highlights.  Geographically speaking it is directly opposite Taiwan, 75 miles away across the Taiwan Straight. www.klm.com

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AND FINALLY

From the Sunday Times travel pages over the holidays.

“We were running the bar service on the Sydney route when a charming but slightly doddery older gentleman asked how he could order another G&T,” says Lou, from Qantas.  “I pointed at the call button on his arm rest – I wouldn’t do it for everybody, to be honest – and told him he simply needed to push it.  Sure enough, 15 minutes later, his light went on.  When I got there he was holding his glass underneath the arm rest and stabbing the button repeatedly, while shaking his head and muttering that it didn’t work.  Bless him.”

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ON THE SOAPBOX: Antonio Vazquez, Chairman of the International Airlines Group

Antonio Vazquez is Chairman of the International Airlines Group and Chairman of Iberia.  Born in Córdoba in 1951 he studied at Malaga University.  In the 1974-1978 period he worked for Arthur Andersen & Co (today Accenture).  From 1978 until he joined Tabacalera in 1993 Vázquez was employed in consumer product companies, including the Osborne group and Domecq.  With the Tabacalera Group he became Managing Director of the cigar division and is credited with playing a decisive role in the achievement of world leadership by Altadis in this sector.  He became a Director of Iberia in 2005 representing Logista, a shareholder at that time.  He was previously CEO of Telefónica International.

2011 will be a landmark year in the history of Iberia and British Airways and, I believe, also in the history of the airline industry. 

On January 24 the shares of International Airlines Group (IAG) will start trading in the stock market.  The third largest scheduled airline in Europe and the sixth scheduled airline in the world in terms of revenue will be born.  I am confident about the success of this new holding company because it is propelled by two powerhouses in the airline business: Iberia and British Airways.  These are companies with renowned brands and they are market leaders.  Together they fly more than 400 aircraft and carry over 60 million passengers a year.  Thanks to this merger both airlines are going to play a leading role in the consolidation process the industry is going through in the last years.  We do not want just to be part of this process, we want to lead it.

Iberia and British Airways are the perfect match for many reasons.  Let me outline some of them.

We know each other for more than ten years, when we became oneworld members.  We are shareholders in each other and we have been working together on a joint business between London and Madrid for five years now.  Besides, we launched last October, along with American Airlines, a joint business in the North Atlantic routes.  So, you can say we have worked together very closely for quite some time and know each other very well.  This will be very important to make the merger go ahead and be successful.

British Airways and Iberia have also very complementary networks.  If you look around at the European airlines, you will not see a better match in terms of route networks.

Iberia is the leading airline between Europe and Latin America and British Airways is very strong in North America and has a significant presence in Africa and Asia.  This means that we will be able to offer our customers the world.  Our combined network will consist of more than 200 destinations, so our passengers will have more travel choices and better connections all around the globe.  We will also be able to invest more money in our products and services.

Our hubs – Heathrow and Madrid Barajas – are two of the busiest airports in Europe, with around 120 million passengers a year.  Terminal 4 in Madrid and Terminal 5 in London are the most modern terminals in Europe, which let us offer our clients easy and comfortable connections.  Besides, Madrid has a very significant growth potential; its four runways can absorb 120 flights and hour, and now, during peak times, it operates around 90.  This is very important for the planned expansion of IAG.  

I believe the way IAG has been structured will be one of the good reasons for its success.  It is scalable, so it can grow in the future through further mergers and acquisitions.  Iberia and British Airways – like the airlines that will join IAG in the future – will keep their own brands and nationalities, and at the same time they will benefit from the advantages of the merger.  The proposed synergies for the Iberia-British Airways merger account for €400m per annum from year five; 60% will come from lower costs – maintenance, IT, joint procurement – and 40% from increased income – joint selling, network optimization, codeshare expansion.

And finally, I am very proud of the management team that will run IAG, with some of the best executives of both Iberia and British Airways, the Board of Directors, probably one of the best in Europe, and the 60,000 employees of both companies that will be the engine behind this new leader of the airline industry.

Antonio Vazquez

January 2011

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Air New Zealand and Virgin Blue

A surprise decision by New Zealand’s Transport Minister, Steven Joyce, to approve the trans Tasman alliance between Air New Zealand and Virgin Blue has been welcomed by Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Rob Fyfe.  Just three months ago all the indications were that the deal would be blocked.  The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has also approved the arrangement.

“Air New Zealand and Virgin Blue will now form a team to ensure we move ahead quickly with bringing the alliance to life over the coming months.  We look forward to being able to connect our customers between all Australian cities served by Virgin Blue and all towns and cities where we operate in New Zealand.” www.virginblue.com.au www.airnewzealand.co.nz

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Airport rail link fully operational

Bangkok’s airport rail link has made a major breakthrough with passengers using Thai International and Bangkok Airways can now check-in and drop off their luggage at the city’s Makkasan Station.  The service is available up to 13 hours prior to the listed departure time.  Other airlines are expected to follow with similar arrangements.

There are two train services: the Express Line, a 15-minute non-stop ride from Makkasan terminal to the airport and the City Line, a commuter train that stops at eight stations and takes about 30 minutes to travel.

Tickets for the Express Line are Bt150 (US$5) per trip, while fares on the City Line range from Bt15 to Bt45 (45 cents and US$1.50) per person, depending on the distance they travel. www.bangkokairportonline.com

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Boeing ups 777 production rate

Seattle completed the year with some good news at last.  The much delayed 787 (see above) went back into flight testing mode following the near disastrous in-flight fire back in November and Boeing was able to announce that the assembly rate for the 777 would increase to 8.3 aircraft per month in the first quarter 2013.  This is the second production increase announced for the programme in the last 12 months.  Last March the company confirmed that a rate increase from five to seven aircraft monthly was planned for mid-2011.

The 777, which first entered service in 1995, has been a stalwart performer for Boeing with 907 deliveries to date and a backlog of more than 250 aircraft. www.boeing.com/commercial

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Heathrow Emergency Service Centre

Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) just prior to the year-end holidays proudly proclaimed 20 years of continuous service at its Heathrow Emergency Service Centre (ESC), a 24/7 traveller assistance centre for clients.  It then found itself in a 200-500% increase in call volumes (depending on the day) during the snow travel disruptions, not only at Heathrow but across Europe.  To help as many travellers as possible, CWT implemented its contingency team including homeworkers and UK and Continental branch offices. 

Since its creation in 1990, the ESC has seen its staff grow by more than tenfold and clocked more than 10.5 million minutes of non-stop traveller emergency service for clients in 58 countries.  It comprises of more than 70 travel counsellors, representing more than 20 nationalities and providing service in English, French and Spanish.  They use all major global distribution systems (GDSs) to access reservations made by CWT offices around the world.

Trevor Greenaway, Director of the Heathrow ESC since 2000 said: “The demand for emergency travel services has increased significantly over the years, particularly since airlines closed their 24-hour call centres and transferred e-ticketing functions to travel management companies.”  Christmas 2010 will be long remembered. www.carlsonwagonlit.com

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HondaJet in another milestone

Seven years after the proof of concept prototype HondaJet took to the air the first “conforming” aircraft in the programme has flown. 

Taking off from the manufacturer's facility at Greensboro, North Carolina, on 20 December, the six-passenger plane remained aloft for 51 minutes, during which time its flight characteristics and performance were analyzed and systems checks were conducted.  Data gathered during the flight was transmitted real-time to Honda's telemetry operations base within the company's facility.

To support the company's certification programme, Honda has completed its second FAA-conforming aircraft, which already has undergone numerous structural tests required for commencement of certification flight testing.  The manufacturer has also completed the mating of main assemblies for its third ‘plane, which is now in the systems installation phase of completion.  A total of five FAA-conforming aircraft, including one additional flight test aircraft and one additional structural test aircraft, are planned to support the HondaJet certification programme leading to a production ramp-up beginning in 2012.  http://hondajet.honda.com

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Singapore and Macau

Air Macau, a full service carrier, last week introduced twice weekly flights between the special administrative region of the People's Republic of China and Singapore.  Two-class Airbus A321 aircraft are used on the 3hrs 40mins flight.  The route is also served daily by Tiger Airways daily and Jetstar Asia three times a week. 

Next Friday (14 January) Hong Kong Airlines introduces a daily service between Changi and Hong Kong operating a single class Airbus A330 on the route, joining Cathay Pacific, Jetstar Asia, Singapore Airlines, Tiger Airways and United Airlines.

In 2010, nine new airlines commenced operations at Changi Airport – the two most recent being Philippine carrier Southeast Asian Airlines (SEAIR) and Moscow-based Transaero. http://en.airmacau.com.mo

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ON TOUR: You can still fly across the water

How quickly we have forgotten that before the advent of Eurostar in November 1994 the best alternative way across the English Channel was by hovercraft, a fast (maximum 75mph ) waterborne surface skimmer that took less than 30 minutes between Dover and Calais.  The special ramp in Dover Harbour still remains. 

It may surprise many but you can still travel on a scheduled hovercraft service in Europe, admittedly on a very short ‘flight’.  The service, launched in 1965, is the world’s longest running commercial hovercraft operation.  Linking Portsmouth and Ryde on the Isle of Wight the journey is just ten minutes, a Solent rule limiting the speed to 45 knots rather than the 65 maximum the hovercraft is capable of achieving.

In truth the Channel route between England and France could not sustain four forms of transport (hovercraft, train, traditional ferry and catamaran), five if you include the aeroplane.  Strangely enough one of the economic factors that destroyed the economics of the hovercraft operation was the withdrawal of Duty Free by the EU on the route, previously a strong money earner. 

Hovercraft have been used by the military over the years with some degree of success, very large machines by both the Russians and Greeks, and what are termed air cushioned landing craft by the American and British armed forces.

The word hovercraft will always be associated with Sir Christopher Cockerell, one of a whole series of brilliant British engineers who made their mark during and after the Second World War including Sir Frank Whittle, Sir Barnes Wallis and Sir George Edwards.  His invention of the hover principal culminated with the four-man SR-N1 which made an English Channel crossing in July 1959 proving the principal of what is an air cushion machine. 

The advantage of the hovercraft is that it can be waterborne at extremely low tides.  If it hadn't been for the tides hovertravel might never have existed.  The low tides at Ryde take the sea out far beyond the town's esplanade, and it has always been impossible for any ship to berth anywhere near roads or bus routes.  Until 1965, the only passenger ferries from Portsmouth stopped at the end of Ryde’s third of a mile long pier.

With more than 25m passenger journeys achieved since its inauguration, Hovertravel now carries an average of 70,000 passengers per month.  Hovertravel is also a freight operator and Royal Mail has used the hovercraft to carry post to the island since 1980.

The Hovertravel terminals are located at Quay Road in Ryde and Clarence Esplanade in Southsea.  The service takes under ten minutes and runs every half an hour between 06:15 and 20:30, with a 15-minute service operating at peak hours.  Hovertravel also operates a somewhat misnamed Hoverbus between the Southsea terminal and Gunwharf Quays/Portsmouth mainline rail station which takes just four minutes.

Hovertravel have two craft: Freedom 90 is of the API-88/100S designs, but the BHT130 Solent Express, introduced in 2007, which marks one of Hovertravel's most significant achievements, being the first model to be entirely designed and built by sister company Hoverwork (now called Griffon Hoverwork Ltd).  The BHT130 weighs 75 tonnes and carries 130 passengers.  Don’t expect any luxury or even a loo.  After all it is only a 600 second journey.  And once you are off the device at Ryde it is easy to find your way onto another form of transport you probably did not know existed.  A 1938 London Underground train.  But that’s another story! www.hovertravel.co.uk www.southwesttrains.co.uk/island-line.aspx

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787 gets airborne again

Boeing resumed flight test activities with the 787 Dreamliner on Thursday 30 December.  The company has installed an interim version of updated power distribution system software and conducted a rigorous set of reviews to confirm the flight readiness of ZA004, the first of the six flight test aircraft that will return to the programme.

“Initially, we will resume a series of Boeing tests that remain to be completed in the flight test schedule.  That testing will be followed later by a resumption of certification testing,” said Scott Fancher, Vice President and General Manager of the 787 programme.  Today’s testing will include an intentional deployment of the Ram Air Turbine (RAT), which is a small turbine that is deployed when back-up power is required.

“As we return to flight test and determine the pace of that activity, we remain focused on developing a new programme schedule,” Fancher added. “We expect to complete our assessment of the programme schedule in January.” www.boeing.com/commercial

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Airbus moves ahead with the A380

South Korea's Asiana Airlines, a Star Alliance member, has ordered six A380 super jumbos from Airbus in a boost for the world's largest airliner following an in-flight emergency in November. 

The deal is the first firm order for the A380 since the Qantas scare and the largest from a new customer since British Airways ordered 12 in 2007.

Japan's Skymark Airlines said in November it may order up to 15 and announced an initial order for four, though these have yet to appear on the official Airbus order book.

Airbus said Asiana would make an engine selection for its A380 fleet in the "near future", in what could be seen as a test of industry support for engine maker Rolls-Royce or US rivals.  The purchase puts Asiana in direct competition for deployment of the double-decker plane with national carrier Korean Air, which has ordered a total of ten A380s with the first due to enter service this year.  The A380 order book currently stands at 240 with 41 delivered. www.airbus.com http://us.flyasiana.com

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American Airlines no-go on Expedia

Expedia, the online travel booking organisation, has stopped selling American Airlines seat tickets on its website following a disagreement over terms.  The Dallas-based oneworld member claims that the travel retailer is too expensive.  Last month it broke its partnership with travel comparison site Orbitz Worldwide. 

With American now in partnership with British Airways and Iberia, both of whom are heavily endorsed by Expedia, and whose offerings feature around the top of any route listing, a real question mark hangs over its relationship with not only Expedia but also the Global Distribution Systems (GDS) such as Sabre and Travelport.  Sabre, says that it will drop American before its contract ends next September. www.aa.com www.expedia.com

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Business Jets in the Middle East

Late January (26/27) will see the business jet community gathering in Bahrain.  The Movenpick Hotel is the venue for a high quality gathering of the movers and shakers in the executive jet world under the patronage of Civil Aviation Affairs, Kingdom of Bahrain.  It will provide users and others working in the business jet sector with a valuable update on the latest trends and regulatory issues within the Middle East market, as well as staging a networking forum for service providers to meet with prospective clients.

Speakers include David Macdonald, Air Partner; Dr Mark Pierotti, COO, Al Jaber Aviation; Khader Mattar, Regional VP Sales, Bombardier and David Velupillai, Product Marketing Director, Executive & Private Aviation – CDJ, Airbus. www.quaynote.com/ankiti/www

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Helsinki Airport update

Finnair's Silver Wings Lounge at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport has been refurbished in line with Finnair's identity renewal.  The substantial refurbishment and enlargement gives the lounge premises over 60% more space.  The lounge is strategically located near Gates 26 and 27 ideal for European connecting passengers to and from long haul Asian flights.  Very close nearby is the Finnair Spa & Saunas, offering customers four different saunas, water baths, shower rooms and therapy packages.  There is a further Finnair Lounge in non-Schengen area.

At the end of 2010, Finnair increased the number of direct flights to Osaka, Nagoya and Seoul and last week Delhi went daily.  A new destination, Singapore, starts in May, and in June Finnair will increase the number of flights to Hong Kong.  Next summer the airline will operate a record number of 74 services per week to ten Asian cities. www.finnair.com

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Monarch makes changes

Tim Jeans has stood down as Managing Director of Monarch Airlines and is succeeded with immediate effect by Kevin George.  Kevin, one time head of customer experience at British Airways, has been with Monarch Airlines for four years since leaving BA.  He was most recently Managing Director of Airline Operations, with responsibility for all operational and customer service areas of the business, both on the ground and in the air.

Jeans was six years with the group, both as MD of Monarch Airlines and formerly as MD of Scheduled Services.  The scheduled airline business has during that time been significantly developed, with the growth of both Monarch’s network and fleet.  Tim previously worked for MyTravelLite and Ryanair.

Monarch Airlines operates a fleet of 30 aircraft on scheduled and charter flights from several UK airports and carries around 6m sector passengers every year. www.flymonarch.com

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Stansted gets new Managing Director

BAA has confirmed the appointment of Nick Barton as Stansted Airport Managing Director.  Barton has been performing the role on an interim basis since the departure of David Johnston at the end of November.  Of all the BAA airports the Essex operation is under the most pressure with passenger numbers running at less than 20m per annum, well below the 2007 peak of 24m.

On another front in March 2009 the Competition Commission decided that BAA Ltd (BAA) should sell its two lesser London airports, that is Gatwick and Stansted.  Events overtook the decision and Gatwick was disposed of.  As regards Stansted BAA appealed and the matter has been referred to the High Court.  BAA has to prove that the circumstances have changed over the last 18 months in order for the Spanish-owned company to retain tenure.  It is thought that a judgment will be made before the end of March. www.stanstedairport.com

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THE CHRISTMAS QUIZ ANSWERS

Here are the answers to the Christmas quiz.  There is a deliberate mistake in that questions 4, 5 and 16 do not exist.  Finger trouble by your Editor when setting the whole thing up.  If you took part fine, if not we hope you enjoyed trying to work out what was what.  The prize winners will be announced next week.

1. Embraer 170 at London City Airport

2. Antonov 72 at Coventry Airport

3. ATR 42

6. Caudron C61 - first flight 1922

7. Chinese C119 project 2010

8. Douglas DC2 - first flight 11 May 1934

9. Lockheed Electra L188

 

10. Airspeed Ferry - first flight 5 April 1932

11. Fairey Rotodyne

12. Shorts S360

13. Saunders Roe Princess

14. Boeing 767 (Silverjet at Luton)

15. Sukhoi Superjet 100

17. De Havilland Canada Twin Otter in the Maldives

19. Vickers Vanguard at Brooklands

20. Lockheed Constellation

21. De Havilland Comet 1

22. Sud Aviation Caravelle

23. Bristol Brabazon at Farnborough 1950

24. Douglas DC8 - first flight 1958

25. Airbus A310

26. Sam Cody - first to fly in the UK

27. Orville Wright

28. RJ Mitchell & Sir Henry Royce

29. Sir Geoffrey de Havilland

30. Amy Johnson

 

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