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Branson reaches space aboard Virgin spaceplane

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Virgin Australia co-founder Sir Richard Branson has officially completed his mission to become the first of the billionaires currently investing in space tourism technologies to reach space aboard his own company’s rocket.

Sir Richard blasted off to the edge of space on his Virgin Galactic spaceplane on Sunday, in the company’s 22nd successful spaceflight, and fourth crewed flight to space.

On his inaugural spaceflight, Sir Richard joined a full crew of two pilots and three mission specialists aboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo dubbed VSS Unity – a six-passenger, two-pilot craft that is designed to make brief jaunts to suborbital space.

Take-off was slightly delayed due to earlier weather concerns, with the flight successfully taking off from Virgin Galactic’s Spaceport America in New Mexico shortly after 8:30am local time.

According to the space tourism company, VSS Unity achieved a top speed of Mach 3 after being released from the WhiteKnightTwo mothership, named VMS Eve after Branson’s own mother, at roughly 43,000 feet just after 9:15am.

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Unity fired up its engines in order to soar to the edge of space, roughly 282,480 feet (86 kilometres) above the Earth.

Here, the crew onboard experienced a few minutes of zero-gravity. At this point, Sir Richard said: “To all you kids out there — I was once a child with a dream, looking up to the stars. Now I’m an adult in a spaceship … If we can do this, just imagine what you can do.”

The spaceplane soon began its shift into re-entry mode, and its gliding descent, before it successfully returned for a smooth landing at Spaceport America.

The entire flight, from take-off to landing, lasted about an hour.

Over 500 people were present to see Sir Richard fly to space for the first time, a feat he has spoken of for decades since first investing in Virgin Galactic, with many more tuning in via the livestream.

“The whole thing, it was just magical,” the 70-year-old exclaimed following the flight.

“We’re here to make space more accessible to all. Welcome to the dawn of a new space age.”

Notably, Sir Richard was vying against fellow billionaire spacetech entrepreneur Jeff Bezos for the title of the first billionaire to blast off to suborbital space aboard his own company’s rocket.

Not more than a day after Amazon founder Bezos announced that he would be taking a seat aboard his space venture Blue Origin’s first crewed flight into suborbital space on 20 July, rumours began to surface that Sir Richard would attempt to make his space debut first.

Then, earlier this month, Virgin Galactic confirmed that the British billionaire will be taking his seat aboard the next crewed spaceflight just nine days ahead of Bezos.

Both Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Bezos’ Blue Origin ventures are working hard to create a new trend of ‘space tourism’, in which their dedicated ‘spaceplanes’ perform brief jaunts into suborbital space, just above the Earth’s atmosphere, for minutes at a time.

Following Sir Richards’ flight, Bezos took to Instagram to share a congratulatory note.

“Congratulations on the flight,” he said. “Can’t wait to join the club!”

Meanwhile, Virgin Australia Group CEO Jayne Hrdlicka congratulated the Virgin Galactic Unity 22 mission team and the airline’s co-founder Sir Richard for their efforts.

“Congratulations to our founder Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic, and the Unity 22 Mission Specialists on successfully opening space travel for all mankind,” she said.

“Sir Richard’s success presents so much hope for all people around the world at a time where we need it most. Hope for humanity, hope for the future and hope to dream big.”

Virgin Galactic said it plans to conduct just one more test flight before it will begin flying paying customers, with market launch expected for early 2022.

According to Virgin Galactic, about 600 people have already bought their ticket to ride SpaceShipTwo when it is in full operation, each paying around $250,000 for the privilege.

Among the first of the everyday people to take to space aboard SpaceShipTwo will be Australian dad Scott Copeland, who won a seat onboard a future Virgin Galactic spaceflight in the 2014 Velocity Frequent Flying ‘Ultimate Upgrade to Space’ competition.

With Sir Richard’s inaugural spaceflight out of the way, 52-year-old father of three Copeland is one step closer to cashing in on his major prize, and has joined the pool of Virgin Galactic’s Future Astronaut Community.

The senior banker-come-astronaut said he has long dreamed of flying to space, and is excited to see this dream come to reality, just like Sir Richard’s

“I still pinch myself every day that my dream of entering space is close to reality,” said Copeland.

Since winning the competition, the self-confessed “space enthusiast” has travelled to the Mojave Desert in California to tour the Virgin Galactic facility with other future astronauts and see the spaceship VSS Unity.

“Velocity is the only frequent flyer program in Australia to award a member a ticket to space,” Hrdlicka said of Copeland’s big win.

“We’re so proud that working with Virgin Galactic we have been able to make Scott’s childhood dream a reality for simply joining Velocity and flying with Virgin Australia.”

You can watch the livestream of Sir Richard’s space flight here:

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Source: https://australianaviation.com.au/2021/07/branson-reaches-space-aboard-virgin-spaceplane-aussie-dad-set-to-soon-follow-suit/

Aviation

Alitalia Cargo lifts 1 million vaccine doses from Italy to El Salvador

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Alitalia Boeing 777 cargo flight landed in San Salvador, El Salvador at 1:55 pm on July 26, 2021 with one million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from China.

Alitalia flight number AZ9460 operated by Boeing 777-243ER EI-DDH. It returned as AZ9461 the following day to Milan Malpensa.

A few weeks ago Alitalia Cargo operated a similar cargo flight from Milan Malpensa to Port of Spain for delivery vaccines to citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.

Marco Finelli reporting from Italy.

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Source: https://worldairlinenews.com/2021/07/29/alitalia-cargo-lifts-1-million-vaccine-doses-from-italy-to-el-salvador/

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ITA – Italia Trasporto Aereo Shareholders’ meeting approves capital increase of €700 million

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The Shareholders’ Meeting of ITA, which met on July 28, approved a capital increase of €700 million, as proposed by the Board of Directors of the company.

This resolution follows the approval, by the Board of Directors on July 15th, of the 2021-2025 Business Plan lines and the completion of the ongoing approval process by the European Commission on the basis of the “Comfort Letter” issued by the Commission on the same July 15th.

The Chairman of ITA, Alfredo Altavilla, said: “Today is another important milestone in the process that will see the start of operations of the new airline on October 15th. With the just approved capital increase, the public shareholder confirms the solidity of the project from a private investor’s point of view. The following step will be the immediate beginning of negotiations with Alitalia under Extraordinary Administration for the acquisition of the “Aviation” sector, pending the tender for the sale of the Alitalia brand that we hope will take place as soon as possible.

More on the new airline:

ITA (Italia Trasporto Aereo) will be operational from October 15, 2021, flying a fleet of 52 aircraft that will grow to 105 by the end of 2025, as envisaged in the 2021-2025 business plan approved by the Board of Directors of the newly established company destined to take over from Alitalia. The plan also provides for the ‘discontinuity’ requested by the European Commission during negotiations with the Italian Government over the past few months. ITA will be able to acquire, through direct negotiation with Alitalia, the assets to manage the flight sector, the so-called ‘aviation’ branch. The Alitalia brand will be sold through a public tender, issued and managed by Alitalia, in which ITA itself will participate, as it believes that the brand is an essential element for the plan. ‘Ground Handling’ and ‘Maintenance’ activities will also be contracted through a public tender.

ITA will initially operate with a fleet of 52 aircraft. By 2022, it will grow to 78 aircraft and, from 2022 onwards, new-generation aircraft will be gradually added to the fleet. By the end of 2025, the number of aircraft will rise to 105. Over the plan period, ITA plans to rely on a single strategic partner for aircraft, and discussions are underway with the main partners. All employees will be hired under a new employment contract. The ‘Aviation’ branch is expected to employ 2.750-2.950 people, rising to 5.550-5.700 by 2025. In the event that ITA is awarded contracts for the ‘Ground Handling’ and ‘Maintenance’ activities, 2.650-2.700 and 1.100-1.250 staff are expected to be employed respectively.

ITA’s plan has been approved, forecasting a turnover that will reach  3.329 million euros in 2025, with an economic result of 209 million euros and an operational break-even to be reached by third quarter 2023.

At first, the airline will fly to 45 destinations with 61 routes, growing to 74 destinations and 89 routes by 2025. As for long-haul routes, ITA will initially provide connections to New York, Tokyo, Boston and Miami, but new routes to São Paulo, Buenos Aires, Washington and Los Angeles are expected to be added in the summer 2022. From Fiumicino (Rome) and Linate (Milan) airports there will be connections to the main EU destinations. During the shareholders’ meeting scheduled for July, it will be decided on an initial capital increase of 700 million euros.

ITA’s executive chairman Alfredo Altavilla stated: “The approval of ITA’s business plan by the European Commission and the confirmation of compliance with the MEOP, which certifies the soundness of the project in terms of private investment by the public shareholder, is an important result that paves the way for the launch of ITA. Now, within 90 days, we should complete the transition leading to the take-off of the first aircraft on 15 October. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the Italian Government and our representatives in Brussels for the teamwork that made it possible to achieve this important result after months of negotiations, and which we trust will continue in the months to come”.

The CEO and managing director of ITA, Fabio Lazzerini, said: “I am particularly satisfied with the acknowledgement of the industrial and financial solidity underlying the approval of the Plan. A plan which, starting from the customer and its needs, will place ITA among the best companies in Europe in terms of economic, social and environmental sustainability, while guaranteeing connectivity to businesses, tourists and citizens. I would like to express my sincere thanks to the ITA team for the enthusiastic and total commitment with which they have worked during these challenging months, and to the institutions and stakeholders in the sector (ENAC, ENAV, the airport system) for the openness and trust they are showing us. Now we face the great challenge of launching a successful airline in three months. A challenge to which we will devote all our energy.”

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Source: https://worldairlinenews.com/2021/07/29/ita-italia-trasporto-aereo-shareholders-meeting-approves-capital-increase-of-e700-million/

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Etihad rolls out IATA Travel Pass to seven cities following successful trials

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Etihad Airways has issued this statement:

Following successful trials, Etihad Airways has expanded IATA Travel Pass on flights between Abu Dhabi and seven destinations across its network as it continues to implement digital solutions to simplify the travel experience in the wake of the pandemic.

IATA Travel Pass is available for guests on all Etihad flights between Abu Dhabi and Bangkok, Barcelona, Geneva, Madrid, Milan, New York and Singapore and offers the convenience of a one-stop platform for managing COVID-19 documentation.

Mohammad Al Bulooki, Chief Operating Officer at Etihad Aviation Group, said: “The feedback from the IATA Travel Pass trial has been positive, with Etihad’s guests appreciating its ease-of-use and data security. Etihad is pleased to now make IATA Travel Pass available on flights to and from seven major global cities, providing more guests with the option of simplifying their journey and airport experience.”

Nick Careen, IATA’s Senior Vice President for Operations, Safety and Security, said: “Etihad’s decision to expand IATA Travel Pass based on positive customer feedback is a strong endorsement of the solution. IATA Travel pass was designed to provide a one-stop-shop solution for travelers to safely and efficiently manage their COVID-19 documentation and generate an ‘OK to Travel’ which airlines can trust. It’s great to see the app in use facilitating the restart of international travel.”

Etihad Airways was one of the first airlines globally to begin testing IATA Travel Pass in April 2021 in support of a global, standardized solution for travelers to validate their documents and navigate COVID-19 travel requirements.

To access the IATA Travel Pass, guests simply need to download the IATA Travel Pass app for Android or iOS, where they can add their Etihad Airways travel itinerary, view their travel requirements and securely share their PCR test results.

The IATA Travel Pass app also includes functionality to upload vaccination certificates, opening up opportunities for travel where vaccination is a requirement. Currently the app is able to accept EU Digital Covid Certificates issued by all 27 member states of the European Union plus Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, and Lichtenstein as well as vaccine certificates from Singapore and Qatar. As vaccines continue to roll out globally, more and more travelers around the world will be able to upload their government issued COVID vaccine certificates to facilitate seamless travel.

The airline is continuing to work closely with IATA to progressively roll out the digital travel pass to more cities across its route network.

More information including the installation instructions and list of participating IATA Travel Pass clinics in the UAE and worldwide can be found on etihad.com/iatatravelpass.

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Source: https://worldairlinenews.com/2021/07/29/etihad-rolls-out-iata-travel-pass-to-seven-cities-following-successful-trials/

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Contour Airlines to expand in Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh

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Contour Airlines has announced it will launch service to Milwaukee from Indianapolis and Pittsburgh starting on October 12.

Additionally the carrier will launch flights from Indianapolis to both Pittsburgh and Nashville.

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Source: https://worldairlinenews.com/2021/07/29/contour-airlines-to-expand-in-indianapolis-milwaukee-and-pittsburgh/

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