Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Dublin Airport French Air Force C-135FR Visits ©


The French Air Force “Armée de l'Air” have a long connection with Ireland being regular visitors for rugby matches and Training/VIP flights using a variety of aircraft types, mostly interestingly over the last two years with Boeing C-135FR’s which undertake multi-sector mission training across Europe, making Dublin one of the R&R stops.

The C-135FR’s Stratotankers are under the command of the Strategic Air Command called ‘CFAS’ based at Istres, in 2004 this unit was renamed 93 "Bretagne" (GRV 93 or Flight Refuelling Group 93) operating a total of 14 units which have both fuelling and transport capability, enhancing their operational flexibility.

The unit purchased 11 aircraft directly from Boeing and three second-generation USAF KC-135R’s in the late 1990s.

The 93 "Bretagne" Group further enhanced the operational flexibility of the aircraft in 2008 through the development of “Morphee” medical system, to provide on-board medical care, the installation process takes less than ten hours, a key resource for France with it’s NATO global commitments in Afghanistan and Libya providing support to Rafales to enforce the No Fly Zone in operation ‘Odyssey Dawn’.

These aircraft have undergone a series of modifications to extend their life, with AFI-KLM being awarded a contract to upgrade the fleet with the aircraft having being completed in earlier this year; the modification programme is due to be complete by 2013.

In 2009 the French Air Force awarded Easterline CMC Electronics to install the latest Flight Management System (FMS), known as the CMA-9000; the IntegriFlight ™ CMA-5024 Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver as well as a Fuel Management Panel for the avionics upgrade of the French Air Force’s C-135FR and KC-135R fleet of fourteen tanker aircraft.

The upgrade involved the installation of dual CMA-9000 FMSs providing Precision Area Navigation (PRNAV) capability; a single GPS receiver providing Space Based Augmentation System (SBAS) / Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) navigation capability; and a new Fuel Management Panel (FMP).


French Air Force C-135FR/KC135’s @ Dublin

738 C-135FR 17/18TH September 2011
736 C-135FR 20TH February 2011
F-UKCI/93-CI 25th June 2009
471 C-135FR 7th March 2009

Let’s hope there will be many more visits from this unit, as a 707 airframe is an increasing rare sight in Irish Skies, with the modification programme having extended their life.

Irish Aviation Research Institute © 21st September 2011 All Rights Reserved.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Aer Lingus: The New Demand Environment ©

The Aer Lingus Investor Day in London on the 28th of September is set to mark a turning point, when phase two of ‘Project Greenfield’ details are released. The airline has signaled a shift in its operations is on the agenda given the reference to seasonality becoming a big challenge, with the business becoming seasonal with a 60% difference between summer and winter demand. 

I await with interest what the carrier will announce. Is the traffic pattern going back to the 1970/1980s??.

The airline is now using a ‘Demand-Lead’ model to manage fleet capacity, the carrier is now going to have increasingly adopt a ‘Seasonality’ model to manage its resources as business prominently shifts to the summer season, reversing the MRO model where the peak business is in the winter season, therefore given the indicaitons of seasonality being a big challenge, is it likely the second phase of Project Greenfield will bring radical change to the operating model??.

The airline can absorb growth with load factors of 75% with one in four seats empty their scope to drive a higher return on its existing assets.

The Aer Lingus CEO Christoph Muller is now taking a tough stance against the DAA charges, having previously called the charges ‘Insane’, he is now calling for ‘Structural reform in airport charges at Dublin’, stating ‘The DAA is an 100% subsidiary of the state’. This clearly indicating the state has control to directly influence the level of airport charges.

It is clear the status quo at Dublin Airport cannot continue, it will become a challenge for the airport operator to keep traffic levels at 18 million passengers per annum. The new daily service to Dubai announced by Emirates Airlines is to be weclomed using A330-200s daily from the 9th of January.

The airline has indicated it is examining options regarding dry lease options in winter 2012/3 for A320/330 with reference to potential carriers in Asia/China with a counter demand cycle, that could could potentially share aircraft ownership costs with Aer Lingus, this can be seen in the context of the three pilar strategy of joining an alliance, in the past the carrier leased Boeing 747-100s to Lan Chile for the Winter season and Ryan International with Boeing 737-400/500s.

The carrier has the option to terminate the A320s leases in the absence of a pick up in domestic demand by not renewing the leases; the carrier could potentially expand the Aer Lingus Regional ATR72 operation on UK routes flown by A320s. This winter will see Aer Lingus Regional take over the operation of the Dublin to Edinburgh route.

The carrier is introducing four leased Airbus A319s to the fleet from 2012 with two units to enter service in 2012 and two in 2013, while displacing larger A320 capacity.

The carrier has completed its business case evaluation of regional jets under consideration for an order within expected in the next two years are the Bombardier CS Series and Embraer E-190/195, allowing the carrier to have flexibility in the 120 seat range. (See Air International August 2011 Issue).

Aer Lingus therefore will reduce its average seat size capacity over the medium term, as the carrier evolves from the single type A320 family fleet on short-haul adopted from the LCC model, giving the carrier greater flexibility to respond customer lead demand on its route network with the ATR72, Airbus A319 and a new regional jet up to the A320.   

The carrier stated customer feedback has been very positive on T2 stating it looks and feels like their own terminal from check-in to the aircraft, giving the carrier a competitive advantage. A number of airbridges on T2 and Pier B are branded in Aer Lingus colours, following the trend of US Carriers at their US Hubs.  

The Aer Lingus CEO Christoph Muller identified a number of  T2 issues with US CBP baggage handling with some manual handling, fuel pump lines not connected to fuel farm,  no aircraft stand guidance system stating Brussles South Charleroi Airport has the system.

The Aer Lingus CEO Christoph Muller stated “It is not an airport it is a shopping mall”.

The Irish Government has indicated a radical change in aviation policy stating the DAA’s ownership of the three airports is no longer ‘Tenable’, and in the medium term the sale of the 25% stake of Aer Lingus is on the agenda, will lead to a radical re-adjustment in the aviation sector.

Aer Lingus commissioned this video to mark 75 years of operation

Irish Aviation Research Institute © 12th September 2011 All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Ryanair: Europe’s Market Opportunities Abound

Ryanair's Cawley Says Rivals `Very Fragile' as Oil Rises

Ryanair is set to continue to grow its presence at primary airports across Europe, as another round of European consolidation will create the necessary conditions enabling the carrier grow, as competitors re-structure their route networks, consolidate and increasingly network-centric their structures on global alliances and partnerships, thus will create new openings across Europe for Ryanair.

A common trait for Ryanair and Southwest Airlines as they continue to evolve their business models is operating from primary and secondary airports, where market opportunities arise.  This enables them to flex their capacity according to market trends enabling them to operate at very competitive unit costs, at airports where they get the best deals.

Ryanair is now focusing its growth in the Catalan region of Spain in Barcelona El Prat, the base fleet is set to grow from 11 to 15 Boeing 737-800s this winter, downsizing its Girona Base and closing its Reus Base. A cornerstone of the business model is to operate routes where it can earn the highest rate of return at the lowest cost base, reflects the shift in the airport strategy, which evolves with the market developments.

The Ryanair Barcelona El Prat Base growth will put increasing competitive pressure on based carriers Spanair and Vueling Airlines, with Ryanair having already set the goal to overtake Spanair in terms of capacity and market share at El Prat, while Vueling Airlines has deferred plans to announce an A320 fleet replacement till next year.

Ryanair has been very strategic with new base and route announcements doing a U-Turn on an earlier announcement not to open up a new bases or routes this winter,  due to a combination of high fuel costs and low yields, Ryanair has taken its competitors by surprise with a spate of new route announcements.

The carrier has been taking a strategic approach with the announcement it will open a new Manchester Base in October 2011 with two Boeing 737-800s operating 17 routes, with the Bmibaby Base closure creating the conditions for the MAG Group to do a deal with the carrier, which will see it compete against Easyjet, Jet2 and Monarch Airlines on a number of routes.

The carrier will put pressure on Air France’s new short-haul model being rolled out at Bordeaux, with the carrier now extending its operation into the winter, by launching seven routes directly targeting the carrier, including Bergamo, using aircraft from its Dublin, London Stansted and Rome Ciampino Bases.

In a surprising move the carrier has announced seven new routes from Eindhoven to points in Eastern Europe and Morocco, no doubt taking advantage of zero air travel tax in Holland, at the expense of its Düsseldorf Weeze Base, as German travellers flock to nearby countries to avoid paying the tax. The flexibility of the Ryanair model enables it to shift capacity quickly, to operate routes where it can earn the highest rate of return.

The carrier is identifying specific route opportunities in the market this winter launching Barcelona to London Stansted and Vilnius, London Stanted to Leipzig. The dust had barely settled on the Air Berlin ‘Shape and Size’ re-structuring plan, with the carrier announcing it would extend Frankfurt Hahn to Alicante to all year round and launch a new route from Memmingen to Alicante, filling market gaps left by Air Berlin.

The Adria Airways Re-structuring plan has opened up an opportunity in the market for the carrier to new launch new routes into Ljubljana airport. The carrier has the firepower to seize, which can deliver a return in the spot market opportunities with 80 Boeing 737-800s available this winter, enabling the carrier to move quickly.

The European Airline sector will undergo fundamental change this winter as airlines continue to evolve to changes in the market, driven multiple external factors with austerity measures in a number of EU countries, high fuel costs, tightening credit facilities, poor economic growth.

In response to this Ryanair’s  competitors will continue to drive costs out of their operation to remain competitive in an increasing hostile marketplace, through applying demand-lead capacity management techniques , outsourcing non-core activities, deepening alliances to yield synergies, driving down unit costs by consolidating bases, the pace of consolidation will rapidly increase, creating more opportunities for Ryanair to grow across Europe.

The signs of new emerging market opportunities are becoming apparent with Air Baltic in a very difficult financial position which will necessitate another round of re-structuring, Air Berlin is now undertaking a fundamental review of its business model with analysts stating the carrier will require much deeper cuts to its fleet and network, Air France is evaluating its options to reduce capacity/costs in the context of ‘economic uncertainty’ after suffering heavy losses of €145 million in Q1.  

A number of carriers in Central and Eastern Europe are showing signs of de-stress, Ryanair previously offered to establish bases in Budapest, Helsinki, Prague it will be interesting to see if these proposals now come back into the table, a structural shift in the shape of the European Airline Industry is about to begin as the winter season kicks in.

Irish Aviation Research Institute © 7th September 2011