Saturday, November 28, 2015

Bernard Hickey: Longer runway not plane sailing

As a Wellingtonian, I would love a runway that permits direct flights to Asia and the US.

It would save me schlepping up to Auckland and walking the gauntlet through the carparks to the international terminal.

It could encourage more direct international tourism and boost demand for foreign education.

And what I'd love more than a fancier airport is the sort of house price inflation that Auckland gets from all those tourists, students and foreign buyers of houses.

I'm frustrated at living in a "dying city" - as the PM famously called it - where house prices have risen 3 per cent in six years while Auckland's rose 83 per cent.

Even John Key acknowledged in August others would like to see Auckland-style foreign visitor and investor joy in their cities. So it's no wonder Wellingtonians would like to juice up economic growth with Government help.

This week, Wellington Airport detailed its case for a 354m runway extension. It would cost around $300 million and generate about $2 billion net benefits. In theory, it would allow long-haul 787 and A350 planes to fly direct from Asia and North America, although there is vagueness about whether planes could fly to Vancouver, San Francisco, Beijing or Tokyo. Pilots also have doubts whether these fully laden planes can safely fly in and out of Wellington.

But the catch is that the airport - 34 per cent owned by Wellington Council and 66 per cent per cent owned by listed infrastructure investor Infratil - would like the Wellington region's councils to put up $150m. The rest would be paid for by the airport and the Government, which means taxpayers.

The airport's logic seems compelling. If an extra dollar is spent and it returns $7 to the nation then taxpayers and Government benefit.

But it depends on whether the flights would come. Wellington may be New Zealand's most popular destination for local tourists, but foreigners tend to ignore it.

Without a Lord of the Rings museum, snow-capped mountains or a fancy casino, Wellington seems a bit off the beaten track. There is a hefty batch of chickens and eggs in this debate, but the lack of entertainment for foreigners can't be ignored.

Wellington's ratepayers should chat to politicians in Invercargill, Rotorua, Hamilton and Canberra, who spent millions on the promise of direct international flights, to see them dry up and go away or never arrive. The fallout if the airlines don't come would be significant.

The airport would have to increase landing charges for domestic travelers. Prices could increase by $10 a ticket to pay for the airport's share of the $300m investment. Ratepayers and taxpayers would be out of pocket.

The Government was skeptical, arguing if the business case was so strong, Infratil and the council should stump up all the money.

The extension is a risk and it may be a risk worth taking. But it's a risk informed shareholders should take, rather than ratepayers and taxpayers.

- Source:

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (KSEA) installing high-tech system to detect runway debris, scare birds away

SEATAC, Wash. — Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is installing a runway debris detection system.

Officials at the Port of Seattle say Sea-Tac will be only the second airport in the country to have a foreign object debris detection system.

The system is designed to avoid aircraft damage that is estimated to cost the industry more than $4 billion a year.

The system will detect items as small as a metal bolt and will look for wildlife as well. They system uses both image and radar detection.

It will be able to alert airport staff in real time if there are birds in the vicinity so they can turn on a sound system designed to scare birds away.

The detection system is being installed as part of the reconstruction of Sea-Tac’s center runway.


Successful first run for new Rolls-Royce engine developed in Derby

ROLLS-ROYCE is celebrating the successful first running of a new aero engine that is being developed in Derby.

A Trent 7000 demonstrator engine recently completed its first run on a test bed at the firm's civil aerospace division at Sinfin.

The engine, which will eventually be the exclusive power plant for the Airbus A330neo, is scheduled to enter service in 2017.

It will be the seventh member of the Trent family of engines.

It will bring together some of the best technology developed for other engines in the Trent family that have been designed and developed in Derby – including the Trent 700, the Trent 1000 TEN and Trent XWB.

Chris Davie, Rolls-Royce's Trent 7000 program director, said: "This is a great moment for everyone at Rolls-Royce.

"We have achieved an important program milestone on the journey to deliver our latest Trent engine.

"We are working closely with Airbus to ensure the Trent 7000 brings a step change in performance and economics."

The Trent 7000 was selected by Airbus for its A330neo aircraft at last year's Farnborough International Air Show.

The A330neo is effectively an upgraded version of the A330, to which Rolls-Royce already supplies Trent 700 engines.

Capable of delivering between 68,000 and 72,000lbs of thrust, Rolls-Royce believes the new engine will deliver "significant" performance benefits compared to the current version of the Trent 700.

Rolls-Royce and Airbus have both said that the Trent 7000 will be able to deliver more thrust, use 10% less fuel and be half as noisy.

When it announced its engine choice at Farnborough, Airbus said that it aimed to sell 1,000 of the aircraft, which will look to rival Boeing's 787 Dreamliner in the mid-haul aircraft market.

If it does so, Rolls-Royce can expect orders worth tens of billions of pounds for the Trent 7000 as the firm is the exclusive engine supplier.