Airbus has made this announcement:
The study of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF)’s impact on the full scope of aircraft emissions has been few and far between. An Airbus-led project is looking to change that by conducting a series of flight and ground tests aimed at shedding light on the emissions performance of 100% SAF.
Throughout the year, the project will test the emissions performance of 100% SAF on one engine of a Trent XWB-powered A350 test aircraft in the air and on the ground. It is the first in-flight study of its kind using a commercial passenger jet.
“SAF is one of the aviation industry’s best low-carbon solutions with an immediate impact on CO2 emissions today,” Steven Le Moing, Airbus New Energy Program Manager, says. “This research project will help us to better understand the impact of unblended SAF on the full scope of aircraft emissions, while supporting SAF’s future certification for blends that exceed today’s maximum of 50%.”
Ground tests will measure particulate emissions in local environments, while flight tests will assess the volume and consistency of contrails. Initial fuel clearance tests have already begun.
“The first flight went exceptionally well,” explains Emiliano Requena Esteban, Airbus Flight Test Engineer. “There’s no perceptible difference in engine behavior between jet fuel and SAF. It’s very exciting for me to contribute to a project that participates in the decarbonization of our skies!”
The test flight, conducted on March 16, 2021, is the first in a series of clearance tests scheduled this month to analyze the safety of 100% SAF. Then, in April, DLR’s Falcon 20E “chase” aircraft equipped with a “sniffer” (i.e. sensors) will follow 50 metres behind the A350 test aircraft to measure the emissions directly from the SAF-fueled engine exhaust.
Indeed, over the past decade, SAF has demonstrated its efficacy in reducing CO2 emissions when used as a substitute for conventional or fossil-based jet fuel. However, little research has been carried out on how SAF can have a positive impact on other aircraft emissions. This means the industry can paint only half the picture of aviation’s overall climate impact.
“Decarbonizing aviation is not just about reducing CO2 emissions,” Steven explains. “At Airbus, our priority is to deal with the complete climate-impact challenge, which includes overall greenhouse gases and other aircraft emissions. Our decarbonization plan focuses on accelerating technology development to this end, in complement to a dynamic deployment of SAF.”
For this reason, the project will help to better analyze the impact of other climate-relevant emissions from aircraft engines, including:
- Carbon monoxide (CO)
- Nitrogen dioxide (NOx)
- Water vapor
- Aerosol and sulphate aerosol particles
- Contrails and contrail cirrus clouds (i.e. clouds of ice crystals produced by aircraft engines at high altitude under certain meteorological conditions)
The 100% SAF is a key component of the research project. The series of flight and ground tests will compare findings from the unblended SAF mixture made from Hydroprocessed Esters and Fatty Acids (HEFA) against those of standard kerosene and low-sulphur kerosene. HEFA feedstock generally consists of globally sourced animal fat and used cooking oil, but locally sourced feedstock from specific regions can also be used. The feedstock supplied to Airbus for the project is of EU origin.
In addition, the 117 tonnes of neat SAF that will be used for the entire test campaign were entirely produced in Europe and supplied by Finland-based Neste. The SAF refining process was carried out at the company’s refinery in Porvoo, Finland. After refining, the SAF was then transported by ship to Rotterdam, where the final processing step, known as fractionation, took place. From Rotterdam, transportation via truck brought the SAF to Toulouse, France in ISO containers.
Initial results from the ground and flight tests are expected later in 2021 and more complete results in 2022. The Emission and Climate Impact of Alternative Fuels project, focused on SAF’s emissions performance, is one of several climate-impact programs that Airbus is currently leading with its partners in an effort to support significant reductions in aircraft emissions across the aviation industry in the decades to come.
Wow: Virgin Australia Sells 71,000 Domestic Tickets In 24 Hours
Virgin Australia experienced one of its busiest days of domestic ticket sales in 20 years just after the Australian government’s A$1.2 billion (US$920 million) stimulus package went into effect. The enthusiasm was sparked by half-price flights offered on subsidized routes, which included flights to the Gold Coast from the cities of Melbourne and Sydney, among others.
71,000 tickets sold in 24 hours
Within the span of a full day, Virgin Australia sold enough tickets to completely fill over 400 of its Boeing 737-800s (which have 176 seats each). The hottest tickets were for subsidized routes, for which the airline halved its standard prices.
Swept up in the momentum and also experiencing large jumps in ticket purchases were other ‘full-price’ routes, which included Melbourne-Perth, Perth-Sydney, and Melbourne-Sydney.
“The overwhelming response from Australians demonstrates loud and clear that they are ready to get back in the air and travel and are a positive sign for the aviation and tourism sectors as they look to recover from the impacts of COVID-19,” -Virgin Australia statement via 7News.com.au
While Virgin Australia had the record-breaking day, The Islander reports that the country’s other airlines saw spikes in web searches during the same period. Searches for “Qantas”, “Jetstar,” and “Virgin” sharply increased from around midnight Thursday and spiking again at 06:00 Australian Eastern Daylight Time.
The Australian government’s stimulus package
Announced in early March, the government support package includes A$200 million (US$152.6 million) for Qantas and Virgin Australia. Reuters notes that this funding will support the airlines from April to October, with the intent to help maintain mothballed aircraft as well as bring planes out of storage and support wages for international flying staff.
Another major part of the scheme, and the main reason for this story, is the government subsidization of 13 routes. Subsidization has meant that eligible airlines can offer half-price tickets. The impetus for the deal was to support airlines while encouraging domestic tourism at a time when international tourism has been hard hit. According to The Guardian, the routes are as follows:
- Sydney: flights to the Gold Coast, Cairns, Proserpine, Hamilton Island, Maroochydore, Uluru, Alice Springs, Launceston, Broome, and Avalon.
- Melbourne: flights to the Gold Coast, Cairns, Maroochydore, Alice Springs, Uluru, Launceston, Devonport, Burnie, Broome, and Merimbula.
- Adelaide: flights to the Gold Coast, Maroochydore, Alice Springs, and Kangaroo Island.
- Brisbane: flights to Alice Springs, Uluru, and Launceston.
- Darwin: flights to Cairns and Broome.
- Perth: flights to Alice Springs.
- Avalon: flights to the Gold Coast
The half-price fares were made available on April 1st and will continue to be offered until the end of July.
Hope for the best, plan for the worst
One key concern when it comes to domestic flight bookings is the ever-present risk of interstate border closures in the event of an outbreak during this global health crisis. While it’s hard to resist a good deal, it’s also wise to consider the possibility of such unwelcomed restrictions. Having flight bookings with flexible re-booking and cancelation policies will help greatly if such restrictions arise.
Were you a lucky Australian resident who managed to secure a half-priced flight? Or did you try and miss out? Share your experience with us in the comments.
US Congressmen Call On DOT To Deny Norse Atlantic Airways Permits
The Chair of the US House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Peter DeFazio, and Chair of the Subcommittee on Aviation, Rick Larsen, have called on the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to deny permits for Norse Atlantic Airways to fly to the United States, citing concerns about the airline.
Members of Congress on Norse Atlantic Airways
Rep. DeFazio, a Democrat from Oregon, and Rep. Larsen, a Democrat from Washington State, have called on the DOT to deny Norse Atlantic Airways Operating permits on account that it is flouting labor protections.
Drawing on earlier language indicating opposition to the airline, Reps. DeFazio and Larsen have argued that, by organizing itself in a country outside of Norway, where there are strong labor laws, the airline is seeking to flout those laws.
Drawing strong comparisons with Norwegian
The two Congressmen believe the airline is doing this because one of its executives was a former executive at Norwegian, which used Irish and UK subsidiaries to operate long-haul low-cost flights between the US and Europe.
In the letter, the Congressman stated the following:
“Their long-haul low-cost business model was predicated on the use of pilots and flight attendants employed under short-term contracts and assigned to the Norwegian subsidiaries via third-party crew sourcing firms. In short, Norwegian exploited labor while enjoying the liberalized benefits of the U.S.-E.U.-Iceland-Norway open skies agreement and competing unfairly with airlines that do not subvert fair labor standards.”
Using Norwegian as a warning
The letter also urged the DOT to consider that Norwegian failed in its transatlantic operations. Between 2016 and 2019, the letter states that Norwegian incurred debt of nearly $7 billion.
Norwegian is currently under bankruptcy proceedings in Europe and has decided to shut down its long-haul routes and focus on its flights within Europe.
Norwegian made a huge splash when it started transatlantic operations in 2016 between the US and Europe. Using a fleet of mostly Boeing 787 aircraft, the airline brought large numbers of customers across the pond.
Norse Atlantic Airways has already indicated it will operate a similar model, using Boeing 787 aircraft it has signed leases for.
US airlines breathed a sigh of relief
When Norwegian came into the transatlantic market, it followed its initial routes with plenty of growth. That growth put pressure on US airlines.
Now, without Norwegian in the market, airlines are breathing a sigh of relief. Without that low-cost competition in the market, airlines like United are bullish on their international exposure. Without Norwegian in the market, there is also room for plenty of existing airlines to move toward higher-yield transatlantic operations.
The return of transatlantic demand will depend greatly on the removal of travel restrictions between the US and Europe. Most airlines are focused on cargo with low passenger loads on flights to Europe currently. Only essential travel is permitted between the two areas.
Norse Atlantic is a startup to watch. It has the opportunity to massively grow to the size of Norwegian’s long-haul operations before it shut down, but doing so may come at a high cost and low profitability. It will have to make the long-haul low-cost model work to be successful.
For now, it is a waiting game to see how the DOT will respond to Norse Atlantic. US Congressmen are coming down on the side of the US airline industry, but the DOT may end up granting Norse Atlantic operating permission.
Do you think Norse Atlantic Airways should be allowed to operate between the US and Europe? Let us know in the comments!
Frontier Launches IPO – How Can The Airline Benefit?
American ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC) Frontier Airlines has officially gone public. Pricing out at the lower end of its target share price, the airline is still expecting to raise over $200 million from the endeavor. Here is a look at how that could benefit the airline.
Frontier’s initial public offering pricing
Frontier Airlines announced its initial public offering of 30 million shares at a price of $19 per share. This was toward the lower end of the initial pricing for Frontier’s shares. The share consists of 15 million shares of commons tock offered by Frontier and 15 million shares of common stock to be sold by certain of Frontier’s existing stockholders.
Less the underwriting discount, commissions, and estimated offering expenses, Frontier will net proceeds of approximately $266 million. The sale of stock by the existing stakeholders will not raise Frontier cash. Overall, the net proceeds to both Frontier and the private stakeholders is expected to be over $500 million.
The airline is being traded on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the ticker “ULCC.” Since going public, the airline’s stock price has hovered between $18 and $19 a share.
The net proceeds
The amount that Frontier expects to receive is around $266 million. This is a respectable amount similar to the funding another airline IPO, Sun Country, received.
With $266 million, the airline can do plenty of things. Frontier ended 2020 with long-term debt of over $300 million. The airline can choose to pay down some of its high-cost debt with these proceeds. Or else, the money can be used to fuel expansion. The airline sees plenty of growth opportunities and has a sizable aircraft order book which costs money, and this funding can go a long way.
The current state at Frontier
Frontier Airlines is one of the carriers leading the way with capacity increases through the year. The airline’s top stations are Denver, Orlando, and Las Vegas. These are major leisure travel hotspots, but some of them also provide opportunities for Frontier to sell connecting flights.
Frontier serves over 300 nonstop routes touching around 110 airports. Using a low-frequency model, the airline targets mostly point-to-point leisure travelers.
Frontier also sees plenty of room for growth. In the airline’s initial filing for an IPO, the carrier highlighted it had an opportunity to serve 518 additional domestic routes between airports within its existing network not currently served by a ULCC. This is a fascinating number, but it also raises the question of Frontier’s expansion.
In the past, Frontier has not been very hesitant in terms of adding new cities and then cutting them if those flights do not provide the anticipated financial benefits. Moving forward, Frontier will face shareholders and stockholders that may temper some of those ambitions, but the carrier is still expected to add new routes. This is especially true as signs continue to point toward a summer surge, and the CDC outlines guidelines for vaccinated Americans to travel.
The airline is already making moves to become a more modern, fuel-efficient carrier with an eye on costs. The aging and comparatively expensive Airbus A319s will exit the fleet this year as the airline welcomes newer Airbus A320neo family aircraft. Those new jets will also feature lighter-weight seats that will save on fuel, which in turn saves on Frontier’s costs.
Ultimately, Frontier has set itself up to do well in the future. The net proceeds from this IPO will go a long way in getting Frontier the cash influx it needs to survive the next few months and prepare to handle the increase in passengers expected over the summer. As the US airline industry starts to turn the page on the crisis, Frontier is expected to be one carrier that benefits early on from its mostly domestic and short-haul international leisure-oriented model.
Do you think Frontier made the right decision by launching an IPO? Let us know in the comments!
Cheap ticket deal breaks Virgin’s all-time record, despite lockdown
Virgin sold more domestic tickets on the launch day of the government’s half-price ticket scheme than on any 24-hour period in its history.
The result came despite fears Brisbane’s recent snap lockdown, which ended on Thursday, would put people off interstate travel.
Domestic aviation has been pinning its recovery hopes on the federal government’s plan to supplement 800,000 half-price airfares for passengers to 15 destinations including the Gold Coast, Alice Springs and Kangaroo Island. It follows the end of JobKeeper last week.
Virgin said in a statement it sold 71,000 supplemented seats in the 24-hour period from 12:01am on 1 April. The top five routes were:
- Melbourne to Gold Coast
- Gold Coast to Sydney
- Maroochydore to Melbourne
- Cairns to Sydney
- Adelaide to Melbourne
Destinations not in the scheme also received a “significant boost”, in particular, Melbourne to Perth, Perth to Sydney and Melbourne to Sydney.
“The overwhelming response from Australians demonstrates loud and clear that they are ready to get back in the air and travel and are a positive sign for the aviation and tourism sectors as they look to recover from the impacts of COVID-19,” said the business in a statement.
“As a sign of renewed confidence and pent-up travel demand for travel, more than 85 per cent of the new bookings have been booked for travel from May onwards.”
Greater Brisbane lifted its snap lockdown on Thursday at noon, following the state recording just one new case of community transmission.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk did though announce a slight increase in restrictions, which will require residents to wear masks indoors and a limit of indoor gatherings to 30.
The good news came shortly before NSW announced no new local infections across the state, too.
The half-price ticket scheme saw Virgin announcing fares from just $55 between Melbourne-Launceston and Jetstar offering tickets from just $32 between Adelaide and Avalon.
The updated list of destinations now includes Cairns, Townsville, Whitsunday Coast/Hamilton Island, Sunshine Coast, Darwin, Alice Springs, Hobart, Launceston, Devonport, Broome, Avalon, Merimbula, Adelaide, Kangaroo Island and the Gold Coast.
The fares are on sale until the end of July for travel until the end of September, with discounts applied automatically.
Both airline groups have also topped up the 15 locations with sales to other destinations and also extended fare flexibility in light of recent uncertainty.
The package of measures to support aviation in Australia also includes a new wage subsidy for those working in international aviation; cheap loans to small business coming off JobKeeper; and a six-month extension of the ‘RANS’ and ‘DANS’ supplemented routes initiative.
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