RAF St Athan to be turned into civilian airfield by 2019 under Welsh Government plans

Proposal sparks row as Tory MP claims it would mean demolishing local buildings

MOD RAF St Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan

The Welsh Government plans to turn RAF St Athan into a civilian airfield – but already stands accused by a Tory MP of messing the project up.

The RAF is due to hand over operational control of the airfield to private contractors Serco in December, when it will operate seven days a week from 9am to 5pm.

But Conservative MP David Davies says a letter he has received from a UK Government Minister suggests all is not well at St Athan, which forms part of the St Athan-Cardiff Airport Enterprise Zone.

Gallery: When RAF St Athan celebrated 75  years (1938 – 2013)

On Monday, the Welsh Government issued a statement saying that Serco had been appointed “to meet the exacting demands of the diverse and growing client base operating from St Athan”.

The statement said: “In operating the Airfield Operating Service (AOS), all aspects of running the airfield are included, from the issue of aviation fuel to the provision of fire cover, ensuring the vehicles are serviceable and able to safely execute the transmission of Air Traffic Control instructions with all its constituent parts.”

Some 28 jobs are being created, including a number for ex-RAF personnel.

Economy Minister Edwina Hart said: “We want the Enterprise Zone to be an ongoing success and I am pleased we have been able to respond to the needs of businesses operating on the Park and ensure they have the environment and infrastructure for growth.”

But Mr Davies, who represents Monmouth, released a letter he has received from Defence Minister Anna Soubry, which says: “Welsh Government officials’ intent was that Serco, their appointed contractor, would provide seven day airfield operating services from July 1, full vesting day. However, as Serco was unable to provide sufficient Air Traffic Control personnel by July 1, the RAF is providing additional control services to enable limited seven day airfield operations.”

Ms Soubry goes on to say that an Instrument Landing System bought by the Welsh Government “can only be fully commissioned once a number of houses and buildings are demolished, as they infringe the Instrument Landing System safety footprint”. The airfield will be functional by 2019.

Monmouth Conservative MP Mr Davies said: “The Welsh Government has a lot of explaining to do. I am aware that they have been going round air shows promising companies they will be able to use St Athan virtually 24/7, yet that is far from the case. It seems that one proposed contract fell through because the company supposed to be supplying air traffic controllers wasn’t able to find enough.

“It also seems the Welsh Government has bought some sophisticated landing gear that it won’t be able to use for five years because there are some buildings in the way. I’ve no idea how much this gear cost, but you can bet it was a great deal more than a SatNav system from Halfords.”

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said: “We are working with the Ministry of Defence to develop the commercial potential of St Athan airfield. The long-term intention is for St Athan to operate as a civilian airfield from 2019.”

Sourced from walesonline


Thomson to offer Costa Rica on Dreamliner as part of expanded network

Thomson Airways will offer the only direct flight from Europe to Costa Rica in November 2015 as part of an expanded network.

Other destinations being considered include St Lucia, Antigua, Bonaire and Curacao in the Caribbean as well as Vietnam and Malaysia.

The new destinations are under consideration as the Tui Travel carrier confirmed two further Boeing 787 Dreamliners in addition to 47 previously announced new generation Boeing 737 MAX aircraft by 2020.

The 737 MAX will enhance the customer experience on short and mid-haul routes.  The aircraft is also expected to be around 14% more fuel efficient than the current 737.

A multi-million pound revamp across the existing 737 and 757 fleet this winter aims to improve comfort levels and service and provide a more contemporary onboard environment.

New concepts being planned over the next five years include bringing the holiday experience to life on the aircraft, helping holidaymakers plan their trips from 43,000 feet and seamlessly connecting the crew with overseas holiday teams.

The airline is planning a ‘family booth’ on the new 737s with seating for four to six people situated at the back of the aircraft around a table.

An onboard kids’ club will see a trained member of the crew help parents keep children entertained with arts, crafts and quizzes that relate to the destination.

A member of the resort team with extensive knowledge of the destination will be on board to offer advice and recommendations to holidaymakers.

New content and channels designed specifically for holidaymakers, including a bedtime story channel, bespoke teenage content and destination inspiration channels on long-haul, are planned as part of the in-flight entertainment.

Further planned enhancements include the ability to make room upgrades, advance check-in and resort excursion bookings through the system.

Tui UK and Ireland managing director David Burling said: “Our airline business has traditionally been categorised in the charter sector which is often perceived as the poor relation to scheduled and, in reality, bears little resemblance to the Thomson Airways experience today.

“Our overall goal is to make travel experiences special and, as the flight marks both the start and end of the holiday, we see it as an integral part of the whole holiday experience.

“That is why we want to want to define and lead a new category of flying – the holiday airline category.

“This describes an airline designed for the specific needs of the holidaymaker and fully connected to the holiday experience in the destination.

“We’ll achieve this by continuing to invest in our fleet, in state-of-the-art aircraft like the 787 Dreamliner and 737 MAX, in our on-board technology connecting the flight experience to that in resort and in product and service innovations that are entirely relevant to the holidaymaker both today and tomorrow.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Airlines told to replace cockpit kit on Boeing aircraft

Airlines have been ordered to replace or modify the cockpit display units fitted to hundreds of Boeing aircraft.

The US Federal Aviation Administration said tests had indicated that mobile phone and computer signals could cause the screens to go blank.

The affected aircraft are typically fitted with several screens, each of which costs thousands of pounds.

The displays’ manufacturer Honeywell has stressed that the problem has not been experienced in-flight.

“The only known occurrence was during a developmental test conducted on the ground,” a spokesman told the BBC.

“We worked with Boeing and addressed any concerns in 2012 with new display hardware.”

Boeing had previously issued an alert in November 2012 after All Nippon Airways and wi-fi vendor noticed interference caused by the installation of an in-flight internet system on Boeing 777s and 737s.

The ‘phase 3’ display units were found to be susceptible to the same radio frequencies used to transmit data via wi-fi.

The FAA also said it was concerned that the screens could be disrupted by mobile satellite communications, cellular signals from phones, and air surveillance and weather radar.

The regulator noted that the displays were required to provide pilots with information about airspeed, altitude, heading and pitch and roll, and added that the fault could cause a crash.

”We are issuing this airworthiness directive to prevent loss of flight-critical information displayed to the flight crew during a critical phase of flight, such as an approach or take off, which could result in loss of airplane control at an altitude insufficient for recovery, or controlled flight into terrain,” the regulator said.

Boeing said that it had recommended that carriers implement the changes in 2012.

However, the FAA said that it had estimated that a total of 1,326 Boeing 737s and 777s still needed to make the change.

The replacement programme is estimated to cost about $13.8 million to implement.

Ryanair had complained that requiring action on all aircraft, irrespective of the installation or operation of wi-fi systems in the cockpit, was imposing a “high and unnecessary” financial burden on carriers, the FAA said.

Honeywell had suggested that airlines should be forced to install new screens only if wi-fi enabled tablets or other such equipment were used in the cockpit.

However, the FAA rejected these complaints saying it wanted to “eliminate” any risk of interference.

“We do not agree that no problems have occurred on in-service airplanes, since the wi-fi… testing that disclosed this susceptibility was conducted on an in-service airplane fitted with phase 3 display units,” it said.

The FAA has given the airlines involved five years to swap or modify the components.

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Airbus forecasts demand for 31,000 new aircraft over next 20 years

More than 31,000 new passenger aircraft and air freighters will be needed over the next 20 years, due to growing demand for air travel.

Growing middle classes in emerging economies taking to the skies will be the main drivers, according to Airbus.

The European aircraft manufacturer forecasts that the new aircraft will be worth $4.6 trillion (£2.8 trillion) of orders to the aerospace industry as passenger numbers grow at an annual rate of 4.7% from the current rate of 3 billion a year carried by 32 million flights.

The worldwide aviation sector is estimated to be worth $2.4 trillion a year and employs 60 million people.

Aircraft joining the modern day fleet mean the number of air freighters and airliners with 100 or more seats will more than double from today’s total of 18,500 to almost 37,500 by the year 2033.

Airlines are expected to retire 12,400 old and less fuel-efficient jets in the intervening period as they seek to cut costs in the age of ever-rising fuel prices.

Asia is expected to be the biggest single customer for new aircraft, taking 39% of them, more than combined total of the next two biggest regions, Europe at 20% and North America at 18%.

The predictions come in Flying on Demand, Airbus’s global market forecast which analysed themes seen by 800 passenger airlines and 200 freight operators, The Telegraph reported.

Airbus predicts a requirement for 9,300 widebody aircraft valued at $2.5 trillion over the next 20 years.

Some 7,800 of these new aircraft will be twin-aisle models with 250 to 400 seats and the remaining 1,500 will be very large aircraft with 400 or more seats.

The report also predicts that the number of “aviation mega-cities” – those with 10,000 or more international long-haul passengers a day – will almost double to 91 as economic growth in Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East outstrips developed regions.

“Aviation is growing impressively and our latest forecast confirms its long-term growth,” said John Leahy, Airbus’s chief operating officer for customers.

“While mature aviation regions such as Europe and North America will continue to grow, Asia will stand out along with emerging markets for dynamic development. This growth trend is confirmed by Chinese domestic traffic becoming the world’s number one aviation market within the next 10 years”.

The forecast came as the manufacturer’s new generation A320neo made it maiden flight in France.

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Ryanair takes delivery of first new Boeing aircraft

Ryanair will have 21 more aircraft operating next summer to expand its route network and increase frequencies on existing services.

The message came from CEO Micheal O’Leary as Europe’s largest low cost carrier took delivery of the first of 180 new Boeing 737-800s worth $16 billion.

Ryanair will take delivery of a further 20 further aircraft by July 2015.

The delivery came just days after the carrier to purchase up to 200 new generation Boeing 737 MAX 200 aircraft, including 100 options, worth ore than $22 billion.

O’Leary said: “We are delighted to take delivery of the first of our 180 new Boeing 737-800 aircraft. These new Boeing aircraft enable Ryanair to keep the fleet average age below five years, while providing our customers with unmatched punctuality, reliability and an improved customer experience.

“We will have 21 more aircraft for summer 2015 which will allow Ryanair to offer more new routes and increased frequencies to more customers than ever before.

“Ryanair operates the largest fleet of Boeing airplanes in Europe and we are proud and honoured to become the lead operator of Boeing’s ‘gamechanger’ 737 MAX 200 aircraft which will expand our fleet to 520 aircraft by 2024 and create another 3,000 new jobs for pilots, cabin crew and engineers in Europe, while allowing us to grow traffic from 82 million last year to over 150 million by 2024.”

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Virgin Atlantic reveals Dreamliner deployment

Virgin Atlantic reveals Dreamliner deploymentVirgin Atlantic aims to deploy new generation Boeing 787-9s on key routes to the US east coast within five months of the introduction of the first aircraft next month.

The airline will be the first in Europe to take on the larger version of the Dreamliner when the first aircraft is used on the Heathrow-Boston route on October 28, marking the airline’s 30th birthday.

The airline is introducing 17 Dreamliners worth £5 billion over the next four years.

“Within five months of the Boston launch, Dreamliners will start flying on other key London to US East Coast routes,” Virgin Atlantic said.

“As the fleet grows, the aircraft will be added to longer-haul routes, where the onboard experience and fuel efficiency benefits will be even further amplified.”

Improved fuel efficiency means the aircraft will be 21% more efficient on a per flight basis than the equivalent sized aircraft in Virgin’s fleet, allowing it to improve carbon efficiency by 30% before 2020.

The 787-9 also has a 60% smaller noise footprint than aircraft of a comparable size.

Virgin Atlantic chief executive Craig Kreeger said: “For the last 30 years we’ve been proudly serving and delighting our customers, and we know the Dreamliner will set us the bar to take that even further, bringing with it new innovations and a cutting edge product for them to enjoy.

“The 787-9 will represent over half of our fleet by 2018, which demonstrates our commitment to the Dreamliner as the centrepiece of our future fleet. We are looking forward to the next 30 years.”

Virgin Atlantic is promising a new iteration of the carrier’s Upper Class Suite. The Premium Economy cabin will be refreshed with a more comfortable seat design and a social space for “mingling”.

Seats in economy are said to be “best-in-class”. Wi-fi connectivity will be available together with new in-flight entertainment and dynamic mood lighting.

Sourced from Travel Weekly


Ryanair confirms ‘game-changing’ Boeing order

Ryanair confirms 'game-changing' Boeing orderRyanair has confirmed an order for 100 new Boeing 737 MAX 200 aircraft that will take its fleet to 520 by 2024 and allow the airline to carry 150 million passengers a year.

Michael O’Leary, Ryanair chief executive, confirmed the order on Monday, describing the fuel-saving 737 MAX as a “game changer”.

O’Leary said: “As many of Europe’s flag carriers cut capacity on short-haul routes, Ryanair looks forward to using these aircraft to grow at many more of Europe’s primary airports.”

Ryanair was due to take delivery of the first of 180 Boeing 737-800s from an earlier order today (Tuesday).

The 100 737 Max aircraft Ryanair has on firm order will take its fleet to 520 by 2024. The carrier has options on another 100, giving the total order a value of $22 billion at the current list price.

Ryanair said the new aircraft would “significantly lower operating costs”. Boeing reports the 737 MAX to be 20% more fuel efficient than its current 737.

The aircraft will be powered by new CFM LEAP-1B engines which should also be significantly less noisy.

Ryanair will configure the aircraft with 197 seats, eight more than its current 737 fleet – made possible by slimmer seats.

O’Leary said: “We will grow over the next decade to 150 million customers annually while at the same time cutting our fuel consumption by 18%.”

“These ‘game changer’ aircraft will allow Ryanair to lower costs and air fares while improving our customer experience, as we roll out new offers, particularly for our Business Plus and Family Extra customers.”

Boeing commercial airplanes president and chief executive Ray Conner said: “The 737 MAX 200 is the perfect fit for Ryanair, providing improved efficiencies, 20% lower emissions, increased revenues and a high level of passenger comfort.

“The new variant will play a significant role in enabling the airline to continue to expand its operations.”

Ryanair’s current order of 180 737s will take its fleet from just over 300 to 420 aircraft, allowing for lease returns, and annual traffic from 82 million passengers last year to more than 112 million by 2019.

Sourced from Travel Weekly


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