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News Letter 17 October 2019

Good day all

We are in for a fairly busy weekend in the Gauteng area with the National Landing Championships being held at Brakpan Airfield, the Nationals will be coupled with an ANR competition, ANR is a new discipline endorsed by the FAI and all the teams that competed in the World Championships last month will be there to give guidance if you need it.

The annual Springs Breakfast Fly-In will be taking place at Springs Airfield on Saturday morning, fly in between 8:00 and 11:00 and they will supply you a free breakfast.

Swedish Air Ambulance Organisation Acquires Six Pilatus PC-24s

After a long period of intensive and very professionally conducted negotiations, the “Kommunalförbundet Svenskt Ambulansflyg” (KSA) has opted for six Pilatus PC-24s in a fully equipped air ambulance configuration. These PC-24s will provide aeromedical care across Sweden from 2021.

KSA is a national organisation formed, mutually owned and financed by all 21 regions in Sweden. The regions are responsible for ensuring that everyone living in Sweden has equal access to good healthcare. Time is the essence for patients in an emergency and given the vastness of Sweden, the establishment of a national air ambulance service provides all residents with access to rapid, professional aeromedical care. Combining the speed of a jet with the ability to use short runways – one of the great strengths of the PC-24 – the Super Versatile Jet from Pilatus is the ideal aircraft for KSA.

Following an extremely intensive selection process, Pilatus was naturally extremely pleased with the award of the contract for delivery of six PC-24s. The aircraft are scheduled for delivery to KSA in 2021.

Oscar J. Schwenk, Chairman of Pilatus, commented as follows: “I’m delighted to see the first air ambulance organisation in Europe opt to buy the PC-24. The highly professional selection process confirmed that the PC-24 is indeed the perfect aircraft for medevac missions. I’m also particularly happy that we managed to carry the day with our Swiss aircraft in a highly competitive market segment. We see further worldwide market potential for our PC-24 in this area.”

Annika Tännström, Chairman of KSA, commented as follows: “We are very pleased to be able to announce that we have completed our procurement of air ambulance aircraft, and to award Pilatus the contract. The fleet of PC-24 aircraft will allow us to fulfil the needs of all regions in Sweden in terms of air ambulance transports. We look forward to deliveries in 2021!”

Andreas Eriksson, CEO of KSA, added: “By signing the contract with Pilatus today, Svenskt Ambulansflyg has passed a major milestone on the way towards establishing a national air ambulance with start of operations in 2021. The performance and capacity of the PC-24 combined with the spacious and easily re-configurable emergency medical service equipped cabin will allow us to conduct the required air ambulance missions safely and efficiently. We look forward to a close and successful cooperation with Pilatus.”

The outstanding flexibility of the PC-24 opens up many possibilities for deployment of this aircraft on Medevac missions. The spacious cabin can accommodate up to three patients plus medical personnel. The large cargo door also facilitates rapid loading and unloading of patients. These characteristics, plus the PC-24’s capacity to use short runways, make it the ideal aircraft for all our Medevac missions. KSA is the second public sector organisation after the Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia to use the PC-24 as an ambulance aircraft. The Super Versatile Jets operated by KSA will fly a total of around 6,000 hours a year on rescue missions.

Launch of new UAE budget airline Air Arabia Abu Dhabi

In a move rated as audacious by many in the industry, Air Arabia and Etihad confirmed they will launch a low-cost carrier, with the hub being in Abu Dhabi and using the established branding of ‘Air Arabia’ to reach for the skies. And they can do so without much of the time consuming processes new carriers have to go through.

“The launch of “Air Arabia Abu Dhabi” falls well short of a full-scale merger, but there are so many cost and time efficiencies that can be generated,” said a consultant with an M&A advisory firm in London. “Etihad could assign even more focus on those routes that serve its status as a premium airline from the Middle East.

“It also has landing rights to several destinations where a budget/low-cost service could have served it better in the past. Now, it has the right sort vehicle to make it happen. Premium and low-cost services require two different mindsets.”

It is in this context that the word “re-purpose” is being thrown about, with Etihad in a position to place some of its existing fleet or new jet orders at the service of the new airline. “Put simply, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel - what they already have can be deployed at Air Arabia Abu Dhabi and at much less cost than is the case for most new airlines,” the source added.

With the announcement of Air Arabia Abu Dhabi, Etihad could also have come up with the best alternative to pursue possibilities into India. And not have to be perpetually distracted by whatever is happening at Jet Airways, the grounded Indian carrier in which the Abu Dhabi entity has a 24 per cent stake. Jet’s future is still clouded, with only one bidder - Synergy Group - taking formal steps to acquire it, based on media reports last month. Jet had been operating services into the UAE, and the loss of capacity following its folding up led to a significant increase in prices of international flight tickets from India.

As ticket prices had already begun to harden in the Gulf-India sector, any further consolidation would have led to a sharp increase in the prices, hurting consumers, especially those Indians who earn their livelihood in the Gulf. The arrival of a new low-cost airline to focus on the Gulf-India sector is a development that would be welcomed by practically all consumers, as well as gain support of the Indian government.

Many didn’t foresee Sharjah-based Air Arabia turning up as Etihad’s joint venture partner. All through recent months, speculation was rife about Etihad seeking local-level alliances, and it was always the possibility of an Emirates tie-up that was speculated. Even when top officials at both Emirates and Etihad denied any such moves, the rumour counters would still go into overdrive.

With the Abu Dhabi connection, Air Arabia has new avenues to pursue “organic growth” more aggressively. Its latest financials show steady gains on the profit side - second quarter profits came in at Dh210 million, up 75 % year-on-year.

The Sharjah airline, which launched in 2003, now has a fleet of 54 aircraft serving more than 170 routes from four hubs, which include Morocco and Egypt apart from the UAE ones.

For the new airline, Etihad would provide much of the fleet strength is what the industry expects. The question is where would that come from? Earlier this year, Etihad concluded talks with Boeing and Airbus to “restructure” a major portion of its existing orders. As per the new plan, it would take delivery of 26 A321NEO’s and five A350’s from Airbus, and six 777-9x’s from Boeing.

“Would Etihad place new orders or make use of those orders it has already placed - it will be interesting to see how that pans out,” said an airline source. “The fact is Etihad had to restructure its orders because of the losses in the last three years.” In the statement that accompanied the announcement of the new carrier, Tony Douglas, Group CEO of Etihad Aviation Group, said: “Air Arabia Abu Dhabi will be formed through the establishment of an independent joint venture company owned by Etihad Aviation Group and Air Arabia. The company will operate a low-cost business model and independent strategy, steered by its board of directors, which will consist of members nominated by Etihad and Air Arabia.”

For the near-term, forecasts for the region’s airline industry are kind of downbeat. Passenger growth continues to be clocked, but “remains far below the double-digit growth trend of recent years,” IATA said in its latest update. “Falling business confidence in parts of the region, combined with some key airlines going through a process of structural change and geopolitical tensions are all likely to be contributing factors.”

The U.S. Navy Flies Its Last F/A-18 Hornet

The U.S. Navy marked the end of an era last week when the last active duty F/A-18C Hornet flew for the last time. The strike fighter, the first to be anointed with both Fighter and Attack designations, flew for nearly four decades before being replaced by its bigger brother, the Super Hornet. The original Hornet still serves with the U.S. Navy’s elite flight demonstration team, the Blue Angels.

The flight took place at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia Beach, Virginia on October 2, 2019. The aircraft was Hornet number 300, assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 106 (“Gladiators”). According to the U.S. Navy, 300 completed its first acceptance check flight on October 14, 1988. The pilot for the last flight, Lt. Andrew Jalali, was also born in 1988.

The F/A-18 Hornet was developed in the late 1970s as the YF-17 Cobra, a competitor for the U.S. Air Force’s Lightweight Fighter program. After losing the competition to the F-16 Fighting Falcon, aerospace giant’s Northrop and McDonnell Douglas teamed up to create a carrier-based version. The result was the F/A-18 Hornet. The Hornet, designed to perform both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions equally, was the first fighter to include both the “F” for fighter and “A” for attack designations in its title.

The Hornet joined the fleet in 1983, replacing F-4 Phantom and A-7 Corsair fighters in Navy and Marine Corps service. The initial -A model gave way to the improved -C model, and in the 1990s the Navy introduced a larger, heavier version, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. The Hornet’s first combat mission was Operation El Dorado Canyon, the 1986 air raid on Libya. The multi-role fighter has participated in every conflict since, from 1991’s Operation Desert Storm to the air campaign against the Islamic State.

The retirement of the F-14 Tomcat in 2006 left the Hornet/Super Hornet the only U.S. Navy fighter jets operating from aircraft carriers. The Hornet remained in Navy service longer than originally planned, thanks to the technical problems with the new F-35C Joint Strike Fighter. Today, the fighter complement in a typical carrier air wing consists of four Super Hornet squadrons, a mix that will eventually transition to two squadrons of Super Hornets and two squadrons of F-35Cs.

The Navy held a retirement ceremony for the Hornet in February 2019 but a handful of the planes remained flying. The Navy’s Blue Angels still fly about a half dozen F/A-18s but will trade them in for early model F/A-18E/F Super Hornets in 2021. The Hornet also flies with the U.S. Navy Reserves as an aggressor aircraft and is scheduled to fly with the U.S. Marine Corps until 2030.


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