Thursday, September 10, 2015

Rolls-Royce engines to power new Airbus Beluga transporter aircraft

Britain's Rolls-Royce said it was selected by Airbus to provide Trent 700 engines and long-term maintenance services for five new Beluga XL transporter aircraft, in a deal worth $700 million.

Beluga aircraft had in the past been powered by engines made by Rolls-Royce's rival General Electric.

The announcement strikes a more positive tone for Rolls-Royce, which is under pressure after issuing a string of profit warnings - the most recent of which was blamed on difficulties in its main aero engines business.

United Ouster Highlights Tensions With Airports • Airlines regularly negotiate with airport authorities, seeking lower fees, upgrades to facilities

The Wall Street Journal
Updated September 9, 2015 11:52 p.m. ET

The federal investigation that led to the ouster of United Continental Holdings Inc. Chief Executive Jeff Smisek spotlights the often thorny relationship between airlines and airport authorities that, while little-noticed by fliers, is critical to how carriers run their businesses.

Mr. Smisek’s abrupt departure, along with that of two other senior United executives, flowed from a federal probe into the airline’s relationship with David Samson, former chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs New York’s three main airports.

Airlines routinely negotiate with the entities that operate U.S. airports, seeking lower fees, improved access to terminals, and upgrades to facilities. Lease negotiations with airports can be hard-fought, but airlines often have more leverage in their negotiations with other cities than they do in New York—and aren’t shy about using it, industry experts say.

Delta Air Lines Inc., for example, three years ago approached the Metropolitan Airports Commission, which runs the Minneapolis Airport, pressing it for a share of the revenue the airport gets from gift shops and other concessions, says Jeffrey Hamiel, the commission’s CEO. After two years of negotiations, the parties revamped Delta’s existing lease to give it a share of additional concession revenues if the airline—the airport’s largest tenant—brought in more passengers.

Mr. Hamiel said the parties “at times became frustrated” during the talks. “We don’t have a lot of cash to give away, nor should we,” he said. “But we set priorities and Delta got more input.”

A Delta spokesman declined to comment.

Relations between airlines and airports are especially tough in New York, given the Port Authority’s control of all three main airports: Newark Liberty International, John F. Kennedy International and La Guardia. For United and its big rivals, those airports serve not only as access points to the biggest U.S. market for air travel, but also as gateways for lucrative trans-Atlantic routes.

United, formed by the 2010 merger with Continental Airlines, has been pressing the Port Authority for years for better terms at Newark. The airport handled almost 400,000 flights and 35.6 million passengers last year, and United is by far the largest carrier, controlling nearly two-thirds of the departing seats from Newark this month, according to flight-data company Innovata LLC.

Discussions with the Port Authority intensified during Mr. Samson’s tenure. United’s main complaint was the fees it paid at Newark, though the carrier also has pushed the authority on projects such as an improved rail link from Newark to New York City and better maintenance facilities, according to government officials, people familiar with the airline’s discussions, and filings from United and the authority in a dispute before the Federal Aviation Administration.

United says the Port Authority fees for using Newark are by far the highest in the nation, 59% higher than at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and 75% higher than at JFK. United has argued that the fees are inflated because of profligate spending at the Port Authority. It points to a costly labor agreement between the Port Authority and the authority’s police department, and the authority’s use of funding to pay for repairs to the Pulaski Skyway, a New Jersey highway that the authority doesn’t own. That diversion of funds is the subject of a criminal inquiry by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, according to people familiar with the case.

The Port Authority has responded that United’s fees at Newark are set by the same formula used for other airlines, and that they are commensurate with the cost of maintaining and operating the assets of the airport and other needs of the authority that keeps the region’s airports running.

Prosecutors from the office of U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman have been seeking information on United’s negotiations with the Port Authority during Mr. Samson’s tenure, according to people who have seen the subpoenas. Among the prosecutors’ areas of inquiry is whether Mr. Samson, who was appointed in 2011, asked United for a special weekly flight to Columbia, S.C., near his vacation home, during the negotiations.

Tuesday’s executive exits from United were a surprise to federal authorities pursuing the investigation, who weren’t aware of any action on the Samson probe in recent weeks that would have triggered the shake-up, a person familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

United has said only that the three executives stepped down as the result of an internal company investigation that was prompted by subpoenas in the federal probe. Another person familiar with the situation said on Tuesday that Mr. Smisek’s departure was strictly related to what the company found in its probe, and wasn’t driven by board concerns about Mr. Smisek’s overall management performance.

United started that flight in September 2012, and canceled it March 2014, days after Mr. Samson resigned from his position. The flights to and from Columbia, which offered 350 seats each way per month, were typically 60% full in 2013 and just under 39% full last year, according to figures from Innovata and the Transportation Department. That’s well below the typical load rate on U.S. domestic flights today, which is above 80% nationwide.

Airlines frequently add new flights, and airport authorities often offer financial incentives such as reduced landing fees to encourage them. Carriers normally do economic studies beforehand to handicap whether the flights will make money, but sometimes will start new flights to “be good citizens” and try to please the states where they operate, said aviation consultant Michael Boyd of Boyd Group International. “There’s nothing wrong with that,” he said. However, if the Columbia flight was a quid pro quo involving Mr. Samson personally, “that certainly would be unethical,” Mr. Boyd said.

Mr. Samson hasn’t commented on the Columbia flight. A United spokeswoman declined to comment.

Michael E. Levine, law professor at New York University, said relations between airlines and airports have long been tense in New York because of the Port Authority’s clout. In other big cities, different airports are often controlled by separate entities: San Francisco International, for example, competes with airports in Oakland and San Jose.

“The Port Authority has been shameless over the years about using its monopoly,” said Mr. Levine.

The Port Authority didn’t respond to a request for comment.

With Newark, people familiar with the matter say United’s negotiations with the Port Authority also were caught up in a split within the agency, which is jointly controlled by the New Jersey and New York governors. Mr. Samson, an ally and appointee of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, wanted to strike a deal with United, the people said, while New York officials didn’t want to cut the airline a break.

One thing the Port Authority doesn’t control is who gets to fly to and from New York. The FAA controls the number and allocation of takeoff and landing slots at the city’s three main airports. The only other airport where the FAA does that is Reagan National airport near Washington, D.C.

—Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Jack Nicas contributed to this article.

Original article can be found here:

Hawker Hunter T.Mk 7, Canfield Hunter Ltd, G-BXFI: Accident occurred August 22, 2015 near Shoreham Airport

Shoreham air disaster: Families furious at police failure to interview pilot Andy Hill 

Families of the 11 victims of the Shoreham air crash in August are furious that police have yet to formally interview the pilot of the stricken plane, Andy Hill, weeks after he left hospital. Sussex Police say they are hoping to interview Hill as soon as possible.

It is thought Hill, 51, who was placed in an induced coma following the crash, has recovered from any physical injuries he may have suffered, but friends said it was possible he was not yet ready psychologically. Photographs of Mr Hill appear to show a gaunt and haunted figure. His whereabouts have not been published.

Hill was attempting to perform a loop-the-loop in his Hawker Hunter jet at the air show on 22 August but slammed into traffic on the nearby busy A27, bursting into a dramatic fireball captured on video and killing 11 people. It is unclear if Hill used his ejector seat to escape the crash.

An interim investigation by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) found there were "no abnormal indications" of mechanical fault in the build-up to the crash. However, it appeared Hill started his manouevre at 200 feet rather than the 500 feet minimum for which he was licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority.

Among the victims was Mark Tussler, 54, who was riding a motorbike and wanted to see a Vulcan bomber which was also part of the display. His fiance Giovanna Chirico told the BBC: "It's just that frustration at how long it's taking to get information or statement from the pilot. It doesn't make it easier for us families who just want the answers as to why our loved ones are not here any more."

However Det Ch Insp Paul Rymarz said the families had been informed why Hill had not yet been interviewed. "The interview of the pilot forms an integral part of the police investigation, but at this time his fitness for interview has not been confirmed. Additionally, we are still in an evidence-gathering stage, with appropriate expert assistance, as we need to fully understand every element of what is a very complex subject in order to gain maximum benefit from that interview."

The pilot of the vintage jet that crashed at the Shoreham airshow, killing 11 people, is to be questioned by police and investigators.

Andy Hill, 51, a former RAF instructor and British Airways captain, was flying a 1950s Hawker Hunter when it failed to pull out of a loop-the-loop maneuver and crashed on to the A27 in West Sussex and burst into a ball of flames.

Hill was placed in a medically-induced coma in the immediate aftermath of the incident, but has reportedly been released from an undisclosed specialist hospital.

A Sussex police spokeswoman said: “The pilot’s condition is improving. Police and investigators from the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB), who are conducting parallel investigations, are looking to interview the pilot as soon as possible.”

An interim AAIB report published on Friday said two cockpit video cameras had been recovered, giving a partial view of the pilot and the instrument panel, which appeared to show that the aircraft was working normally.

Coroner Penny Schofield opened and adjourned an inquest into the deaths of the 11 people last week.

The victims were: wedding chauffeur Maurice Abrahams 76, from Brighton; retired engineer James Graham Mallinson, 72, from Newick, near Lewes; window cleaner and builder Mark Trussler, 54, from Worthing; cycling friends Dylan Archer, 42, from Brighton, and Richard Smith, 26, from Hove; NHS manager Tony Brightwell, 53, from Hove; grandfather Mark Reeves, 53, from Seaford; Worthing United footballers Matthew Grimstone and Jacob Schilt, both 23; personal trainer Matt Jones, 24; and Daniele Polito, 23, from Worthing.

Hill works as an aerobatic stunt pilot and is part of the the RV8tors flying duo, which performs close formation aerobatic displays at speeds of up to 230mph. Hill and his fellow display pilot Alister Kay perform at events, private functions and weddings in RV-8 aircraft – small two-seat, home-built planes.

He also works as a pilot offering flight experiences to the public for the company Ultimate High, according to its website. He has years of flying experience, having worked as a light aircraft test pilot, an RAF Harrier GR7 instructor, a commercial pilot captaining Airbus planes and a stunt and aerobatic display pilot.

According to Ultimate High, he began his career flying Bulldogs in a university air squadron and, after excelling in fast-jet training, he was picked to go straight into instructing on the BAC Jet Provost, a jet-powered trainer aircraft used by the RAF. He then operated the Harrier GR5 and GR7 jets in Germany and has flown Airbus A340 and Boeing 757 and 767 airliners.


The AAIB was notified of the accident at 1235 hrs on Saturday 22 August 2015 and immediately initiated a Field Investigation. The aircraft was taking part in an air display at Shoreham Airport during which it conducted a manoeuvre with both a vertical and rolling component, at the apex of which it was inverted. Following the subsequent descent, the aircraft did not achieve level flight before it struck the westbound carriageway of the A27.

This Special Bulletin is published to provide preliminary information gathered from ground inspection, radar data, recorded images and other sources.