Setting a transatlantic course

WestJet introducing Boeing 787-9s on routes to Europe from Calgary, including C-GUDO (c/n 64976) pictured here, has added even more seats to the transatlantic air travel market.

WestJet introduced the Boeing 787-9 on its transatlantic routes in May, with C-GUDO (c/n 64976) put on its Calgary–London Gatwick service. The carrier says using 787-9s on the connection alone adds around 24,000 more seats to the route per year.

WestJet will also put 787-9s from Calgary to Paris CDG and Dublin by June, the carrier now having three Dreamliners (the others are C-GUDH, c/n 64974 and C-GUDP, c/n 64975), with a further seven to follow.

WestJet starting 787-9 operations adds more capacity to an already large transatlantic air travel market. Industry analyst CAPA says frequencies in the market are up 37.3% and capacity up 44.5% from 2010.

The consultancy says its analysis shows although some have trimmed capacity in the market this year carriers, including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Turkish Airlines, the big three US carriers of Delta, United and American, as well as Norwegian, TAP Air Portugal, Eurowings and Finnair, have all added more seats.

Another recent indication of the transatlantic market’s growth is JetBlue confirming plans to start flights to London in 2021 from New York JFK and Boston.

The airline is evaluating which London airport to serve, but it will use the Airbus A321LR after converting 13 A321 orders to the longer-range variant, with options to convert more.

With so many players in the transatlantic market, operators have to monitor capacity closely. Industry commentator John Strickland from JLS Consulting thinks JetBlue has good potential, telling AIR International the carrier’s US network is “a very strong asset” to feed passengers on to its routes and that the A321LR’s range and efficiency makes for, “an economic vehicle to fly to ride out seasonality and lighter loads”.

Both WestJet’s 787-9s and the planned JetBlue service use premium cabins. WestJet’s 330-seat 787-9s feature a business class cabin with 16 lie-flat seats and JetBlue says its A321LRs will have a “transatlantic version” of its Mint premium cabin.

However, Strickland cautioned: “The big network carriers are not just going to roll over.”

Although WestJet, JetBlue and other operators might offer lower fares, he noted the big corporates have travel deals with the network airlines, who could offer promotional fares or make schedule changes to retain business as the competitors set course across the Atlantic. Mark Broadbent

Pratt & Whitney-powered A319neo flies

The Pratt & Whitney PW1100G-JM-powered A319neo is the last member of the A320neo range to enter flight testing.
P Masclet/Airbus

The Pratt & Whitney PW1100Gpowered version of the Airbus A319neo has entered flight testing, with test aircraft D-AVWA (msn 6464) conducting its first flight from Toulouse on April 25. The PW1100G-JM-powered A319neo is the last A320neo Family variant to enter flight testing, with European Aviation Safety Agency and Federal Aviation Administration certification anticipated in Q4 2019. The A319neo powered by the CFM International LEAP-1A was certified in December 2018, with D-AVWA also used for the certification before its engines were switched.

The A319neo is the smallest variant in the A320neo range, seating 140–160 passengers. Airbus has only 35 orders for the model, with 30 for undisclosed customers and three for government customers. Two examples have been ordered by Air Côte d’Ivoire. It is unclear if there are any other airlines in the undisclosed part of the backlog, Avianca having upsized an order to the A320neo.

Despite the A319neo representing less than 1% of the orders backlog for the A320neo range and the presence in Airbus’ portfolio of the A220-300, which now has 390 orders, Airbus has said it doesn’t plan to discontinue the A319neo.

One reason is the model is the basis for the ACJ319neo business jet; another is that its 75,500kg (166,400lb) maximum take-off weight and 3,750 nautical miles (6,940km) range gives an option for operators in hot and high environments who might require those payload/range characteristics.

Ultimately, continuing with the A319neo shows that aircraft manufacturers like to offer choices to the market to maximise market share, an important tactic in industries with duopolies such as aerospace where there are fine margins over market leadership.

Although the A319neo’s backlog is so small relative to the other A320neo Family variants, the product gives Airbus another tool to use in the wider contest for market share. Mark Broadbent

Bombardier wing business up for sale

Bombardier’s Belfast plant builds wings for the A220, formerly the C Series.

Bombardier’s wing production facility in Belfast is up for sale as the Canadian company restructures its involvement in the aerospace industry. The firm has announced it plans to combine its commercial aircraft and business aircraft units into a single division, Bombardier Aviation, and divest most its aerostructures businesses.

This means the Belfast factory and a facility in Morocco that manufactures composite parts are up for sale, although the company plans to retain its aerostructures sites in Montreal, Mexico and Red Oak, Texas, where the wings for its Global 7500 business jet are produced.

Bombardier has decided to focus its aircraft-manufacturing activities on the Global and Learjet business jets and the CRJ regional jet; last year, the company sold majority ownership of the C Series to Airbus (with that aircraft subsequently rebranded A220) and reached an agreement for the Dash 8 Q400 turboprop programme to be sold to Longview Aviation Capital, owner of Viking Air. The deal for the Dash 8 programme sale is expected to be finalised in “mid-year”, Bombardier says. It is all part of a wider turnaround plan for Bombardier to return to break-even performance.

The Belfast facility’s heritage stretches back decades (it is the former Shorts factory) and specialises in composites and wing manufacturing.

The A220’s all-composite wing is produced there using resin transfer infusion, an advanced manufacturing process designed to achieve greater control over the laying up of composites to create better predictability and repeatability and the ability to produce large composite parts. This specialist expertise means it is likely a buyer will be found for the Belfast factory, with components specialists GKN Aerospace and Spirit AeroSystems possible suitors.

Airbus itself has also been suggested as a buyer, as the facility clearly offers a centre for composite wing manufacturing that might interest the company as it looks ahead long-term to developing a successor to the A320neo. Mark Broadbent

MC-21-300 milestones

The third Irkut MC-21-300 flight test aircraft 73054 (c/n 0004) departs Irkutsk bound for Ulyanovsk.
United Aircraft Corporation

The third Irkut MC-21-300 flight test aircraft, 73053 (c/n 003), recently flew to Ulyanovsk Vostochny Airport for painting from the assembly site in Irkutsk. Flying the aircraft were test pilots Roman Taskaev and Vasily Sevastynov, who reported: “The flight was made in normal mode, without any complications.”

Painting the MC-21-300 will be carried out by Spektr-Avia, one of several contractors at Ulyanovsk involved in the MC-21 programme. The Aviastar-SP Plant there produces the aircraft’s fuselage sections, tail section and other components, while AeroComposit-Ulyanovsk Company manufactures the aircraft’s composite wings.

The third MC-21-300, which conducted its first flight on March 16, 2019, is the first MC-21-300 to feature a passenger cabin. Following painting in Ulyanovsk, it will move to Ramenskoye Airport, the civil part of Zhukovsky, Moscow, for further flight tests.

Meanwhile, assembly and systems installation work has been completed on the fourth MC-21-300 flight test aircraft, 73054 (c/n 0004) which is due to fly later this year. Yuri Slyusar, President of Irkut parent company United Aircraft Corporation, said: “Adding a third and fourth aircraft will help increase the availability to conduct testing and allow the programme to achieve certification sooner.”

A fifth jet, 73056 (c/n 0005), will follow. Irkut is currently conducting tests on the MC-21-300 to obtain Russian and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) type certification, with EASA having completed an initial phase of certification testing on the aircraft earlier this year. The MC-21-300 had amassed 175 orders by early May 2019. Certification and service entry with launch operator Aeroflot is scheduled for the second half of 2020. Mark Broadbent

Condor Airbus

Condor Airbus A320-211 D-AICA (msn 774) has returned to its retrojet livery, having spent several months in a hybrid Condor/Air Transat livery while on lease.
Wout Goossens

Danish MD-82

Pictured at Bournemouth is Danish Air Transport (DAT) McDonnell Douglas MD-82 OY-RUT (c/n 49902) after leaving the paintshop following repainting from its previous Meridiana scheme to a retrojet livery marking DAT’s 30th anniversary.
Mark Empson

Retrojets together

All four British Airways retrojets pictured together at London Heathrow: Airbus A319-131 G-EUPJ (msn 1232) in British European Airways livery and three Boeing 747-436s: G-BYGC (c/n 25823) in BOAC colours, G-CIVB (c/n 25811) in Negus livery and G-CIVB (c/n 27090) wearing Landor, lined up alongside A319-211 G-EUPU (msn 1384) in BA’s current Chatham Dock livery.
British Airways




Canadian carrier Air Transat has received the first of 15 Airbus A321LRs it will use for long-distance flights on thinner routes to European and Caribbean destinations. The aircraft, C-GOIE (msn 8755) is leased from AerCap. The arrival of the A321LR is part of a larger leasing deal Air Transat has with the lessor to convert to an all-Airbus fleet by 2022 as it phases out older widebody and narrowbody aircraft. Mark Broadbent


Airbus recently confirmed a sixth Airbus A330 will undergo conversion to become a BelugaXL, further expanding the fleet size for its new-generation in-house airlifter. The BelugaXL will be introduced to service later this year, with the company now saying it is planned all six examples will be in service by 2023. Airbus says it is still considering the future of the five current-generation BelugaSTs, saying in April the jets “could continue flying for another 10 to 20 years” and that two scenarios are under evaluation: selling them to a specialist outsize cargo operator or offering that service themselves. Mark Broadbent



Emirates has completed the reconfiguration of a tenth Boeing 777-200LR, completing a $150 million programme converting the jets from three to two class cabins featuring wider business class seats in a 2-2-2 format and a fully refreshed economy class cabin. The reconfiguration of the ten aircraft was completed fully in-house at Emirates Engineering’s facilities in Dubai, with over 160,000 manhours carried on the project, working with more than 30 suppliers and handling over 2,700 spare parts. On average, it took about 35 days for the team to strip a single aircraft completely and reconfigure it. The first 777-200LR with the new configuration was rolled out for commercial service in March 2018 and over the course of the next 12 months, Emirates completed the conversion of the remaining nine aircraft. Emirates is also set to complete the phasing out of the 777-300 from service. Mark Broadbent


The Embraer E-Jet E2 has secured its first customer in Africa after the Nigerian carrier signed a firm order for ten E195-E2s plus purchase rights on a further 20 examples. Embraer delivered 11 E-Jets in the first quarter of the year. Mark Broadbent


Early in May the International Airlines Group, parent company of British Airways, Iberia, Level and Vueling, reported an average load factor of 83.4% for the month of April. Passengers for the month were 9.8 million, an increase of 7.3% year-on-year Mark Broadbent


The first Airbus A330-900 for Indonesian carrier Lion Air rolled out in Toulouse early in May. The aircraft, PK-LEI (msn 1926), is to be leased by the Indonesian carrier from BOC Aviation, and will be the first of ten A330-900s that will come from the lessor. Meanwhile, Air Mauritius recently took delivery of its first A330-900, which alongside its two A350-900s, makes it the first airline to operate both of Airbus’ twin-jet widebodies. Mark Broadbent


From Guam to orbit

Virgin Orbit recently confirmed Andersen Air Force Base on Guam as an additional base for its small satellite launch service, which will see the company put payloads into low-Earth orbit using its LauncherOne vehicle dropped by a Boeing 747-400. Virgin Orbit said Guam will give LauncherOne a 310-mile (500km) radius to deliver payloads into equatorial orbit, while “adding a low-latitude site with clear launch trajectories in almost all directions, giving customers unparalleled control over where and when their small spacecraft are deployed”. LauncherOne is now in the final phases of testing, the 747 having completed captive-carry flights with a test rocket mated to the wing. Mark Broadbent

Trent 1000 update

Further to the item about Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 TEN engines in the May issue of AIR International, the engine-maker has said it expects to start incorporating enhanced highpressure turbine (HPT) blades into the Trent 1000 TEN fleet in early 2020. An earlier than anticipated deterioration in the HPT blade was identified in a “small population” of Trent 1000 TENs, the engine powering the Boeing 787-10, prompting Rolls-Royce to accelerate its inspection regime on the engine. Mark Broadbent

Interest in Condor

Lufthansa Group made a non-binding offer for Thomas Cook group’s leisure airline Condor in early May. Thomas Cook wants to sell Condor and its UK airline arm Thomas Cook Airways. The Lufthansa Group offer only extends to Condor initially, although it said the offer could be extended to include the UK carrier. Lufthansa previously owned Condor for decades, selling it to Thomas Cook in 2009. Indigo Partners is also reportedly interested in bidding for Condor. Mark Broadbent

Government A350-900s

Airbus has sold three A350-900s to Lufthansa Technik, which will convert the aircraft to VIP configuration for the German government. The jets will replace the two former Lufthansa A340s which have served as VIP transports for the German government since 2011. The A350-900s will be operated by the Luftwaff e and arrive in 2023. Mark Broadbent


Despite the airline industry consolidation over the last couple of years, which has seen several smaller operators cease operations, the Kazakhstan flag carrier Air Astana recently launched a new low-cost carrier subsidiary called FlyArystan. Based in the country’s capital Almaty, the new airline uses a single Airbus A320 on routes to regional cities across the country, but plans to serve international destinations in the future. Mark Broadbent

Jet Airways suspends ops

Jet Airways suspended operations in April. The Indian carrier, once the largest privately owned airline in India, stopped flying after lenders rejected a request for funding. Jet Airways’ suspension of operations was preceded by lessors grounding aircraft due to defaults on payments. The carrier is reportedly saddled with $1.2 billion in debt. Mark Broadbent