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The Coveted Jet Built for the Economics of the Pandemic

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If there is an aviation wunderkind to come out of the coronavirus pandemic, it just might be the Airbus A220.

The small narrowbody jet has proven popular among airlines even as thousands of aircraft were parked amid the historic drop in air travel during the crisis. The A220s size, seating between 100- and 150-passengers, and low costs have proven a sought after elixir to industry executives looking for the lowest cost way to keep flying when every penny matters.

“The A220 was the best performing production passenger airliner,” Cirium head of valuations George Dimitroff told Skift. The jet retained more of its market value compared to other models through 2020 owing to “a combination of its right size for thinner traffic flows, lower fuel burn and trip costs.”

By December, all but 17 of the 137 A220s in service around the globe — or 12 percent of the fleet — were back in service, according to the Cirium Fleets Analyzer database. For comparison, more than 18 percent of all 737s not including the MAX and a quarter of all A320s remain stored.

This is not to say the A220 is more common than either the A320 or 737 in absolute terms. The latter two jets are the world’s most popular narrowbodies with more than 10,000 models in the air at the end of 2020.

But the A220 is a cheaper option for its size. The list price for the larger model, the A220-300, was $91.5 million in 2018, the last year Airbus published the valuations. This compares to $101.5 million for the competing A319neo and about $100 million for the 737 Max 7.

Delta Air Lines kept all of its A220s flying even as it parked some of every other aircraft in its fleet early in the crisis. Air Canada took nearly its full allotment of the jets this year despite deep capacity cuts and the cancellation of some later deliveries. And JetBlue Airways has held steady on taking its first A220 that arrived on New Year’s Eve even as coronavirus losses mounted.

Adding a new type of plane to a fleet is no small matter for an airline. In addition to the cost of buying the aircraft, an all-new variant requires everything from training staff and preparing airports for the new jet, to making sure spare parts are in stock for the inevitable maintenance situation.

But for the latest technology plane that JetBlue sees as key to its future? That cost is worth the use of scarce cash.

“Space”

The cabin of JetBlue’s first Airbus A220 is, slightly ironically, more gray than blue. From seats to the overhead bins and the walls, gray is the dominant palette. Where the airline’s namesake color stands out is on the bulkheads and in entryways where designers used the color to subtly guide passengers into the cabin.

JetBlue’s A220s feature a largely gray cabin with its namesake blue more of an accent. (Image by Edward Russell/Skift)

“When you start working on an entirely new aircraft, you realize how many things you actually need to do from scratch just because the learnings are not there,” JetBlue director of product development Mariya Stoyanova told Skift on a walkthrough of the airline’s first A220-300 at New York JFK on Monday. “I don’t think we compromised on anything given the design of this aircraft.”

Amenities are the standard lot for JetBlue. They range from large personal inflight entertainment screens to power and USB ports at each seat, and free high-speed wi-fi.

JetBlue’s A220s feature a personal entertainment screen at every seat. (Image by Edward Russell/Skift)

But the big feature for travelers to look forward to is “space,” something that Stoyanova mentioned more than 10 times during the walkthrough. Space includes at least 32-inches of legroom — or “pitch” in airline parlance — in every row, which is at least an inch more than the industry standard. An 18.6-inch seat width that, according to Stoyanova, is more than on any other JetBlue plane. And even the overhead bins are spacious.

JetBlue’s A220s feature at least 32-inches of legroom in each row, about an inch more than is standard on most airlines. (Image by Edward Russell/Skift)

This space ethos is not new to JetBlue. The idea has been part of the airline’s DNA since it began flying in 2000 and continues to be part of its branding, for example the “Even More Space” extra-legroom seating option.

“We wanted to bring humanity back to air travel,” JetBlue founder David Neeleman told Guy Roz on the How I Built This podcast in 2019. The focus for him and his team at launch was to “treat people awesome,” which included offering more legroom and then-uncommon amenities like personal TV screens, and coupling them with superior customer service.

JetBlue used a blue path to subtly guide passengers into the cabin on its A220s. (Image by Edward Russell/Skift)

While no-longer the unique airline with personal TV screens, the space ethos continues to be part of JetBlue’s design decisions. For example on the A220, Stoyanova and her team were challenged with how to relocate emergency equipment from the overhead bins to the bulkheads in order to free up storage space for travelers. The solution was a curbed protrusion from the forward wall — dubbed “the backpack” — that met both their storage and aesthetic needs.

“We’d be like what do we do with the backpack? And everybody knew what we were talking about,” she said.

The bump-out on the forward bulkhead of JetBlue’s A220s is nicknamed “the backpack” by designers. (Image by Edward Russell/Skift)

Passenger comfort was a big selling point for the A220 by its developer, the Canadian planemaker Bombardier. Born the CSeries, Airbus agreed to buy the program when it appeared a trade dispute by Boeing could result in onerous tariffs on any U.S.-bound jet. While the tariffs were ultimately rejected, the deal went through with Airbus rebranding it the A220 in July 2018.

Boston Debut

Flyers will get to put JetBlue’s A220 to the test in a few short months. The carrier will base the jet in Boston and plans to introduce it on regular flights to Fort Lauderdale by mid-June. However, the aircraft could sub in on other flights beginning this spring.

One benefit of the new plane is its ability to open longer, less popular routes in the future. While JetBlue has yet to name any such routes, examples include Air Canada’s plans to use its A220s to launch the first-ever nonstop flights between Toronto and San Jose, California, and Montreal and Seattle. Both routes were indefinitely postponed due to Covid-19.

The new aircraft will replace JetBlue’s smaller and less efficient Embraer E190s. The E-Jets seat 100 passengers whereas the A220s seat 140 passengers, resulting in what the carrier claims is a 30% per seat cost savings. The E190s are due to leave by the middle of the decade, if not sooner.

The A220 is not entirely immune from the crisis. Air Canada cancelled 12 orders due in coming years citing the crisis and lack of aid from the Canadian government. In 2020, Airbus data shows that it lost 28 A220 orders while its A320neo program gained 56 commitments.

And the 737 Max resumed flying in December ending the more than 20 month grounding. This return allowed carriers like Alaska Airlines to commit to more of the jets for their own fleet replacement.

Fleet renewal is seen as a major theme of the crisis on Wall Street. Cowen analyst Helane Becker expects U.S. airlines to remove up to 1,000 planes from their fleets with a “focus on simplicity and increased efficiency” as they retune their operations, she wrote in a report Monday.

In North America, Air Canada, Alaska, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines have all unveiled sweeping fleet changes resulting from the pandemic. Notable for the A220 was Delta’s decision to retire its Boeing 717s as it shifts to the new generation jet.

JetBlue has maintained its orderbook for 70 A220-300s, which includes the one delivered on New Year’s Eve. That’s one plane for every E190 in its fleet plus 10 extra for good measure.

Photo Credit: JetBlue is introducing the all-new A220 in the middle of the pandemic. Courtesy of JetBlue / JetBlue Airways

Source: https://skift.com/2021/01/12/the-worlds-most-popular-jet-built-for-the-economics-of-the-pandemic/

Aviation

Air Côte d’Ivoire Takes Delivery Of Its First Airbus A320neo

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Air Côte d’Ivoire has become the first A320neo operator in the West-African region. On Thursday, the carrier took delivery of its first New Engine Option of the A320 family, as the plane carried humanitarian supplies from Toulouse to Abidjan. The airline will begin deploying the jet on regional routes but eyes an expansion to destinations in South Africa in the future.

Air Côte d'Ivoire A320neo
On Thursday, Air Côte d’Ivoire took delivery of its very first A320neo, and the jet did not come empty-handed. Photo: Airbus

Ferried a ton of supplies for health and education

On Thursday, February 18th, Air Côte d’Ivoire took delivery of its first Airbus A320neo. This makes the Abidjan-based carrier the first operator of the type in the West-African region. Ownership was transferred on Wednesday, and one day later, the aircraft took off from the manufacturer’s facilities in Toulouse.

Not only on delivery, the jet also had a second mission. It carried over a ton of humanitarian goods such as medical supplies and children’s toys. The initiative is a partnership between Aviation sans Frontiéres and the Airbus Foundation and part of Air Côte d’Ivoire’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) drive.

The aircraft, registered as TU-TSX, took off from Toulouse, France, at 11:12 local time. Following five hours and 38 minutes in the air, it landed at Félix-Houphouët-Boigny International Airport in Côte d’Ivoire’s financial capital of Abidjan. Viewers could follow the live event and ceremony of the delivery streamed via the airline’s social media.

The A320neo joins The West African flag-carrier’s fleet of four De Havilland DHC-8 Dash 8 turboprops, three Airbus A319, and two Airbus A320ceos. It is the third Airbus the airline has taken delivery of straight from the manufacturer.

Air Côte d'Ivoire
The airline intends to deploy its new jet (not pictured) on regional routes to Cameroon, Senegal, and Gabon. Photo: Getty Images

Regional with potential for expansion

Initially, it will deploy the jet on its regional network for Senegal, Gabon, and Cameroon. Meanwhile, the carrier intends to add South African destinations to the newcomer’s roster at a later stage, taking advantage of the jet’s operational flexibility.

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Air Côte d’Ivoire is the flag carrier of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire. The airline was founded in May 2012 and commenced operations six months later. It succeeded the country’s former national airline, Air Ivoire, which went bankrupt in 2011.

It is owned 58% by Côte d’Ivoire’s government, 11% by Air France-KLM, 23% by a consortium of private Ivorian investors called Golden Road, and 8% by other investors.

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Air Côte d'Ivoire welcome ceremony
The airline’s first A320s arrived in 2017. Photo: Getty Images

Air Côte d’Ivoire’s Airbus family

The airline took delivery of its first aircraft, an Airbus A319, on lease from Macquarie AirFinance and previously operated by Air France, in October 2012. The second jet of the type with the same arrangement and history arrived a few weeks later.

The third A319 did not arrive until 2017, when an aircraft leased from AirCap previously operated by Mexicana, AeroGal, and Avianca Ecuador arrived in Abidjan. The carrier’s two own A320s also arrived in 2017, the first in July and the second in September.

Have you flown with Air Côte D’Ivoire, or on the A320neo? Tell us about your experience in the comments. 

Source: https://simpleflying.com/aair-cote-divoire-a320neo/

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Aviation

Embraer Supports Brazil’s WTO Subsidy Complaint Withdrawal

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Embraer has signaled its support for Brazil’s decision to withdraw a complaint before the WTO over Canada’s support for the Bombardier C-Series program. While the support may come as a surprise (especially since Brazil filed the complaint to support Embraer), the manufacturer has laid out its reasons. Here is Embraer’s strategy to create a level playing field in aviation subsidies.

Embraer
Embraer is searching for new ways to combat unfair state subsidies to aerospace manufacturers. Photo: Embraer

Withdrawn

In a press release yesterday, Embraer supported Brazil’s decision to withdraw an ongoing complaint before the WTO. Brazil first filed a challenge with the WTO against Canada in February 2017, citing the $3 billion given to the Bombardier C-Series program as being illegal subsidies that distorted the market.

However, the market has shifted rapidly since the complaint was first filed against Canada. Airbus’ acquisition of the C-Series program (now known as the A220) and opening of new production lines meant a ruling would no longer have the same effect Embraer once hoped.

A220-300 Airbus Demonstration Tour in Asia - Yangon
Embraer argued that the deep subsidies to the C-Series distorted the market unfairly against them. Photo: Airbus

In a statement, Embraer said,

“After Bombardier exited the Commercial Aviation segment and transferred the C-Series program (now called A220) to Airbus, which has a second assembly line in the United States, the trade dispute against Canada at the WTO is no longer the most effective means to achieve Brazil’s and Embraer’s goal of re-establishing a level playing field in this sector.”

Competition

Embraer is now looking to other avenues to correct the effect of subsidies. Organizations like the OECD’s Aircraft Sector Understanding could provide other means to solving these disputes. However, the dispute signals an underlying competiton between the A220 and Embraer’s E-jet family.

The A220 has had a strong few years, with orders for the jet ramping up globally since Airbus’ acquisition of the program. As of today, Airbus has racked 630 orders for the jet, including major commitments from Delta, jetBlue, and Air France. This growing dominance threatens Embraer’s position as a market leader in the regional jet market.

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Embraer E175
The A220 is a direct challenger to the new E2 lineup of the E195 and E175. Photo: Embraer

Embraer has been heavily marketing its E195-E2 and E190-E2s, the latest iteration of the E-jet family. Aside from having a strong track record and fleet integration, the lower price of the E2 family could be a strong incentive for airlines.

Playing out

The A220 has had its fair share of disputes and opposition, including Boeing famous anti-dumping petition to the US government. However, as the regional jet soars in popularity (especially during the pandemic), Embraer and others are quickly trying to grow their footprints.

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Envoy Air American Airlines Embraer ERJ-145
Embraer remains a popular manufacturer and is integrated in fleets globally. Photo: Getty Images

2020 was particularly hard on Embraer after its planned deal with Boeing fell through. The Brazilian manufaturer was forced to institute workforce cuts and saw deliveries fall as it reeled from the failed deal. With 2021 signaling higher demand, Embraer is working hard to return to its growth track.

What do you think about Embraer’s move? Can the A220 subsidies be addressed now? Let us know in the comments.

Source: https://simpleflying.com/embraer-brazil-wto-subsidy-complaint/

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In Pictures: A Look Inside Thailand’s Airbus A330 Coffee Shop

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About 160 kilometers or 100 miles south-southeast of central Bangkok (Thailand), you’ll find an old Airbus A330 that’s been converted into a coffee shop. Home of “331 Station Coffee War,” the old Airbus widebody, located in Sattahip, was so popular last year that it was even ordered to close after going viral on social media. Let’s look at the aircraft-turned-coffee shop in a series of photos.

The coffee shop-aircraft is located in Sattahip, which is a district in the south of Chon Buri province. Photo: Getty Images

Pattaya News notes that a Mr. Damri Sangtang, a former Royal Thai Navy officer, is the owner of the business. Sangtang’s history as a member of the military may offer a clue as to part of the business’ “Coffee War” name. The 331 portion of the name appears to come from the fact that it’s located on Road No 331.

The coffee shop A330 is about a two-hours-drive from central Bangkok. Photo: Google Maps

The $333,000 Airbus A330

According to The Thaiger, the decommissioned Airbus A330 cost 10 million Thai baht – which roughly converts to just over $333,000. Stripped of its engines, most of its passenger seating (and likely much more), the aircraft sounds like a deal considering the $240 million list price for a new jet (even if that figure is typically overinflated). Of course, the fact that the plane doesn’t do what it’s mean to do (fly) is probably the reason behind the steal of a deal. We’re guessing that the previous owner simply wanted to be rid of it, not wanting to pay for the scrapping fees.

Whatever the circumstances might have been that led to the aircraft purchase- it looks like it turned out to be a worthwhile purchase, given how popular the shop has become.

With many unable to travel due to travel restrictions caused by the global health crisis, setting foot on an airplane – functioning or not – might be appealing. Photo: Getty Images

In fact, at the end of June last year, the coffee shop was ordered temporarily shut down after it became too popular. Apparently, the aircraft cafe went viral on social media and thus was drawing thousands of customers a day.

While it’s not a crime for a business to be ‘too popular,’ it is a concern during a worldwide health crisis, where close human interaction in confined spaces can lead to the spread of disease. Thus, public health officials had to ask the coffee shop to close for a week, hoping that the pause would help to cool down enthusiasm and hype around the old jet.

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Inside 331 Station-Coffee War

With coffee at the cafe costing as little as 60 baht ($2.00), the next-to-nothing cost of entry seems like a great deal. It’s no wonder why it’s become so popular.

In order to ensure the health and safety of customers, the cafe reportedly conducts temperature checks, requires the wearing of masks, and regularly disinfects surfaces. Only 60 customers are permitted “on board” at any one time, for a maximum of 40 minutes.

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Much of the A330’s regular passenger seating has been removed- mostly replaced by small coffee tables and wooden chairs. Photo: Getty Images
Of course, a few old aircraft seats were retained. Photo: Getty Images
Some economy class seats were even kept onboard. At least they were rearranged to provide more legroom. Photo: Getty Images
The aircraft once flew with Thai Airways. Photo: Getty Images

Before it was a coffee shop

The Airbus A330-300 once flew with Thai flag carrier, Thai Airways, registered as HS-TEA. The jet was delivered new to the airline in 1995 and was configured to seat 42 in business and 263 in economy class.

HS-TEA A330
A look at HS-TEA when it was still flying. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia Commons

The jet was withdrawn from use in March of 2015 and then stored at U-Tapao–Rayong–Pattaya International Airport (UTP) airport in May of that year. UTP is a common storage airport for Thai’s unused jets. Interested in other aircraft re-purposing stories like this? Check out the 727-turned-event-space, and the 737 converted into a cabin.

If you were in Thailand, would you go out of your way to see this coffee shop? Let us know in the comments.

Source: https://simpleflying.com/thailand-a330-coffee-shop/

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Aviation

What Is The Shuttlecock That Hangs Off The Tail Of Test Planes?

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If you look at photos and videos of aircraft conducting their initial test flights, you may see a little object tethered to the top of the vertical stabilizer. This object, known as a trailing cone (or static cone), almost looks like an oversized badminton birdie or shuttlecock. Indeed, it does have a key role to play in the test process. Let’s look at it in this article.

737 max
Known as a trailing cone, it’s shown here on a 737 MAX test flight. Photo: Getty Images

Measuring static pressure

When developing new aircraft, the trailing cone is fixed on to test jets in the early weeks of test flights and is there to measure static pressure or ambient atmospheric pressure. Thus, beyond trailing cone and static cone, some have also referred to it as a static pressure line.

When the line is reeled out in flight, AeronewsTV notes that the nylon cable is generally one to one and a half times the wingspan length or about 50 metres. This gets reeled in and is much shorter when the aircraft is on the ground, however.

Aviation International News gets a behind-the-scenes look at a test aircraft, including inside the cabin. Fitted with computer workstations for the development team, the aircraft shown in the video below also provides a brief glance at the line and reel from the inside of the aircraft. Appearing for just a few seconds at 1:48, the reel in the video is clearly about the same height as the passenger door it is situated beside and thus stands taller than most people.

In terms of an outside look, the trailing cone and its line can be seen quite well in Boeing’s 777X “first flight video” embedded below:

Calibrating sensors

A former flight test director at Airbus explains to AeronewsTV that getting an accurate read on the static pressure is necessary to measure the plane’s exact airspeed and altitude. “The static pressure is therefore fundamental to measure the performance of a test aircraft.”

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a350 test
The trailing cone and its line can be removed once accurate data is collected and integrated into aircraft sensors. Photo: Getty Images

When it is let out to its proper length, the object’s location is far enough behind the aircraft so that it can give a proper indication of the pressure away from the air flowing around an aircraft. Its presence gives the aircraft test team an idea of the difference in pressure between it and the pitot pressure at the front of the aircraft. This difference between the static pressure and pitot pressure helps to calibrate the airspeed measurements. 

Advanced digital electronic air data computers make it possible for aircraft to correct for pitot-static “errors,” as veteran pilot Mac McLellan explains,

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“Those errors can be caused by configuration change, such as extending the flaps, or flying at higher or lower altitudes, and faster or slower airspeeds. But the errors must first be documented in flight test and that’s why the static cone is so essential. The air data computers are terrific at correcting errors, but only after the errors themselves have been documented.” -Mac McLellan via Air Facts

Once the data is collected and analyzed, sensors can then be properly calibrated and adjusted. This, then, allows for the trailing cone to disappear.

Did you know notice this trailing cone before reading this article? Did you already know why it was there? Let us know in the comments.

Source: https://simpleflying.com/test-plane-shuttlecock/

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