Thursday, October 29, 2009

New address

Please note that as of October 01 2010 "Contrails" has moved to a new address at Wordpress.

Nothing else has changed though - it's the same content. !

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Aer Lingus needs to look at merger - Willie Walsh

Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways feels that Aer Lingus may need to surrender it's independence in order to secure it's future. Mr. Walsh was speaking yesterday at the Jim Kemmy Business School at the University of Limerick. Given the way that the Irish economy has performed in recent times and given the way that the carrier has suffered in recent times he said that".. you could now make an argument that it's future as an indepenedent carrier is not that secure and maybe Aer Lingus does need to look at a relationship with some other carrier".
He added however that the current legacy ownership structure will make it difficult to attract new investors. "With Ryanair a significant shareholder at 30% and the Irish government with 25%, ESOT (Employee Share Ownership Trust) with 15% I struggle to see how anyone would invest or want to invest with that sort of structure".
On the subject of a Ryanair takeover of Aer Lingus, Mr. Walsh said that he had always found it difficult to understand why Ryanair would want to takeover Aer Lingus. He wouldn't say that a merger was impossible but it would be difficult given the competition implications. "If you look at the theory of competition, the consumer couldn't win with the two firms being merged. That competition would disappear."

Ryanair welcomes BAA decision

Ryanair was quick to respond to today's news that the BAA had reached an agreement to sell London's Gatwick Airport for £1.5bn. Reacting to the news the airline tempered it's enthusiasm by saying that it recognized the sale of Gatwick as the first step in the breakup of the BAA monopoly, urging the full recommendations of the UK Competition Commission be implemented whereby Stansted and a Scottish Airport would also be sold.
The carrier also called for the breakup of the DAA (Dublin Airport authority) which owns and manages Dublin, Cork and Shannon Airports, forecasting that Dublin will lose 2m passengers this year with Cork and Shannon losing a combined 1m. Against this backdrop, Ryanair will grow by 9m passengers this year. "Even Aer Lingus is growing traffic in the current recession, while the DAA monopoly is losing millions of passengers and thousands of jobs", it added.

EI-REH in clipping incident at Manchester

Today's Aer Arann flight REA515, operated by ATR72 registered EI-REH from Galway to Manchester damaged a propeller when the aircraft impacted a mirror guidance system at the terminal. The aircraft carrying 32 passengers and 4 crew was taxiing onto it's parking stand when the incident occurred. The airline issued a statement stating that "The incident involved Flight RE 515 from Galway. At about 11.45am, the propeller on the aircraft made contact with a docking guidance mirror while parking on a stand. 

"Damage was caused to the propeller which was rotating slowly at the time. As a precaution, the airport fire service attended the incident. There were 32 passengers and four crew members on board. There were no injuries and all passengers left the aircraft normally."

A replacement aircraft, ATR72 EI-REO with engineers and customer service staff was sent from Dublin. It operated flight REA 516 which arrived in Galway just after 20:00 utc.

Ryanair discusses it's future at Shannon

It is five years since Ryanair signed it's current base agreement with Shannon Airport. Under the terms of the agreement which runs out in April 2010 the airline has invested $400m in based aircraft and grown it's passenger numbers at the airport from 300,000 in 2004 to 1.9m in 2008.
Ryanair has said that since the Irish Government introduced it's €10 travel tax on April 1st last passenger number have declined at Shannon. Last winter the airline based 6 aircraft at the airport, reducing that strength to four during summer 2009 and proposes just three based frames this coming winter.
Ryanair has on numerous occasions in the past four years stated that it's Shannon operation has lost money in each of the five years of the current agreement.
In spite of these losses, Ryanair has written to the Shannon Airport Authority (SAA) confirming that if the government drops the travel tax by February 1st next and if the SAA extends the airline's cost base for a further five years then Ryanair will "commit to delivering more than 1.2m passengers annually, on up to four based aircraft".
If both conditions are not met, Ryanair has promised to reduce it's base strength to one aircraft operating the London and some UK provincial routes and delivering just 300,000 passengers.
Shannon faces into the coming winter with a bleak future and a large drop in revenue on the horizon. Delta Airlines and US Airways terminated their transatlantic services in recent weeks. Cityjet is terminating it's Paris route this weekend and Aer Lingus is as good as terminating it's transatlantic services from next spring. On top of that the €20m preclearance facility is rapidly turning into a white elephant - Aer Lingus has refused to use it and USCBP won't increase the manning levels to give 24-7 operations since the passenger numbers aren't there to justify it. With a handling fee of just €10.50 per passenger cleared, a significant throughput is required to make the facility pay for itself.

Ryanair to cut Kerry - Stansted capacity

Kerry Airport has found that it too is not immune from the Ryanair sword. The carrier has announced that it is cutting it's Kerry - Stansted service from 14 per week to 4, blaming the decision on a combination of the Irish government's €10 travel tax and the high airport costs at Stansted. In contrast though frequency on Kerry - Luton is being increased from four flight to seven flights per weekFrom October 25 there will be one flight a day between Kerry and Luton and one flight between Kerry and Stansted on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Passengers planning on early departures to London are restricted to Fridays and Sundays: the only days with flights to London before 10am.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hawker Beechcraft receive world speed record for Shannon flight

N126ZZ overnighted at Shannon after it's record breaking flight and departed for Geneva the next morning.
Hawker Beechcraft Corporation was honored at the NBAA Convention today for a world speed record established in May of this year. At a ceremony at the HBC display at Orlando Executive Airport, National Aeronautics Association officials presented the pilots of the aircraft with certificates commemorating the flight. The Hawker 4000 Horizon aircraft, registered N126ZZ (msn RC-10) to Meir Aviation established it's record on a flight from Farmingdale, New York to Shannon on May 8 of this year. The 4,929 km sector was covered in a time of 5 hrs 17 minutes. The HBC crew consisted of Vice President of Flight Operations Bob Blouin and Senior Demonstration Captain Mark Danin. Their average speed over the route was 932.83 kph at an altitude of 41,000 feet. The NAA approved the record in the category Class C-1.I (35,274 lbs.-44,092 lbs.) Group III (jet), and forwarded it to the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) in Switzerland where it was certified as a world record. N126ZZ was en route to EBACE in Geneva when the record was set. The visit to Shannon was the first visit of a Horizon to Shannon.

NASA Gulfstream 3 N803NA makes Shannon fuel stop

N803NA on finals to R24 at lunchtime today
NASA's Gulfstream 3 registered  N803NA made a fuel stop at Shannon this lunchtime en route Moscow - Gander. The aircraft is msn 309 and is operated by the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force in California. Built in 1980 the aircraft was originally delivered to NASA as N1NA. In September 2006 it became N2NA which visited Shannon on May 12 2007. In March of this year another identity change took place when the current registration was assumed.

Ryanair's plan to help Scottish tourism

Ryanair announced today that it had made a proposal to Scotland's Finance Minister John Swinney whereby it would help the country achieve it's targeted growth in tourist numbers of 50% between now and 2015. Citing the precedent of a route development support program which operated from 2002 to 2007 Ryanair says that it will grow passenger numbers and reverse the downward trend in passengers arising from the £10 APD passenger tax. In the first 8 months of this year passenger numbers at Scotland's airports fell by 6.3% YoY to 15m whilst in the same time frame those at Ryanair grew 12% to 43m. In the event of the route support program being implemented Ryanair has pledged to add an additional 1.5m passengers per annum which would have the knock on effect of creating 1,500 jobs. The APD tax is due to increase to £11 on November 1st next.

Monday, October 19, 2009

G-OBMP diverts to Shannon after birdstrike at Knock

Today's flight BMI 3902, callsign BMI92A routing Knock to Manchester diverted to Shannon this afternoon after the aircraft suffered a birdstrike on takeoff from Knock. The flight operated by B737-300 registered G-OBMP landed safely in Shannon at 14:51 utc.
A relief aircraft G-TOYM positioned to Shannon as BMI 9411. The passengers finally got to resume their journey when TOYM departed Shannon for Manchester at 20:11 utc.

Profit doubles at Aergo Capital to over $10m

The "Irish Times" reports that year end after tax profit at Aergo Capital more than doubled to $10.7m for the year ended December 2008. The company was founded in 1999 by Denis O'Brien who owns 85% of the company along with chief executive Fred Browne who holds the balance. The exceptional 2008 performance is in spite of Aergo taking a charge of $15m when Alitalia returned 25 MD82 aircraft after the carrier was placed in administration. Aergo also took a hit of $18m following it's successful acquisition of South African operator Safair.
At present, the Aergo Capital fleet consists of 90 aircraft placed with 25 operators worldwide including KLM, DHL, South African Airways and the UN. At the end of 2008 the fleet had a book value of $344m. Although the company is Dublin based for tax purposes it's operational bases are South Africa and Chile. Last week it opened a third base with three aircraft in Nairobi.

New terminal opened at Ireland West Knock

On Friday last, October 16, Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey officially opened a terminal extension at Ireland West Airport in Knock, Co. Mayo. The 3,000 sq. m extension will be known as the "Kennedy Terminal" in honor of Joe Kennedy, former Chairman and Honorary President of the Board of Directors. In total a capital investment program of €11.5m has been implemented in the past year, covering the new terminal, a CAT II ILS and a fully automated real time arrivals and departures information system. Commenting on the opening, the current Chairman, Liam Scollan said "Government support for infrastructure here has been of enormous benefit. We can now say now that this airport has arrived as a truly international, low cost, reliable airport with even more ease and speed of passage for passengers wishing to use us from all over Ireland.” 
Ireland West Knock Airport will handle in the region of 600,000 passengers this year which is little changed from last year's figure - a remarkable performance when other airports are showing double digit YoY declines. 

Dempsey says Aer Lingus can't survive without cuts

Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey, speaking on RTE Radio 1's Sunday news program "This Week", said yesterday that unless Aer Lingus achieves it's target savings of €100m "we will not be talking about Aer Lingus in a few years time".  Mr. Dempsey said that the choice facing the airline "was stark" at this time with no choice open to it. He urged the company and the unions to sit down and discuss the savings package. When asked if he supported the cost cutting proposals, Minister Dempsey said that he supported the fact that the need for change must be recognised - a sound political answer.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

UK CAA September Passenger Numbers

The UK CAA has published traffic figures for September 2009.

Dublin's Gatwick traffic which is split between Ryanair and Aer Lingus showed a 6% YoY growth at 90,203. Heathrow and Stansted both showed negative trends with LHR down 14% again this month to 127,947 passengers and Stansted (a Ryanair preserve) down 18% to 62,813. Luton was down 2% YoY at 27,931. Once again no surprises with the trend following previous months with Gatwick and Luton remaining relatively unscathed at the expense of Stansted and Heathrow. The higher cost airports are suffering at the expense of the lower cost which certainly seems to back up the Ryanair contention that the Irish government's travel tax is hitting tourist numbers. 

At Cork, Gatwick traffic was down 5% to 9,258. Heathrow was down 2% to 43,168 while Stansted, a Ryanair route was down 3% to 24,207. Cork's traffic decline has certainly slowed considerably to single digit compared to the mid teen double digit elsewhere.

Shannon has fared similar to Dublin and Cork with Gatwick down 11% YoY for the month at 14,996 and Stansted again down 18% YoY, to 21,633, explainable by one less return flight per day on the route. 
On the Heathrow - Shannon route the total for the month was 10,996 down in the region of 4,000 over the August figure for the same frequency.

On the Belfast City - Heathrow route, BMI will be well pleased with it's September performance. Not only did it manage to buck the seasonal trend which sees numbers drop from August to September but it also managed a 5% YoY growth on the route with 44,173 passengers. 
Over at Aldergrove, Aer Lingus has seen it's slide on the - Heathrow route continue with a 13% YoY decline with almost 4,500 less passengers over August using the service.
BMI 1-0 Aer Lingus once again.
On the Belfast City - London Gatwick route, operated by FlyBe, passenger figures are up 24% YoY at 18,357 which represents a higher growth figure than August but less passengers using the  route Month on Month. EasyJet's Belfast International - Gatwick route suffered again this month with a 10% YoY fall in numbers to 24,135.
FlyBe 1-0 easyJet.

A40-BG delivered to Oman Air via Shannon

A40-BG on finals to R24 in autumn sunshine.
Oman Air has taken delivery of it's latest B737-8FZ. The aircraft registered A40-BG is msn 29664 and arrived in Shannon from Boeing field via Gander yesterday morning. A40-BG departed Shannon at 04:50 this morning for the final leg of it's delivery flight to Muscat with hex code 70C0A9. Sister ship A40-BF was also delivered through Shannon last weekend.

Friday, October 16, 2009

VQ-BEQ departs Shannon on delivery to Vladivostok Avia

Former Aer Lingus A330 EI-JFK departed Shannon on delivery to Vladivostok Avia tonight. Now registered VQ-BEQ the aircraft was towed on stand this afternoon in preparation for it's departure. The aircraft is the second A330 to be transferred to the Russian carrier on lease hand back from Aer Lingus. VQ-BEQ left Shannon as VLK 1777 with hex code 424951 at 22:13 utc.

N297MD finally makes it to Shannon

N297MD on Taxiway 7 shows the challenges presented to the modern aircraft photographer !
B737-752 msn 34297 finally arrived in Shannon yesterday evening from Howard Air Force base in Panama. The aircraft is a 2005 build machine which was delivered by GECAS to Aero Mexico as EI-DMX before taking up marks XA-MAY last year. In mid July of this year it was placed on the US register. The aircraft was due to be ferried Howard - Bermuda - Shannon last weekend but on the sector from Bermuda to Shannon on Sunday last the aircraft developed a technical problem and diverted to Halifax NS. The aircraft is currently in basic Aero Mexico colors with the rudder remaining the only untouched element (due to balance) in the original colors. N297MD is due to go to Turkish operator Andolu Jet once it is transferred to that country's register.

VP-BAJ fuel stops at Shannon

VP-BAJ seen exiting R06 at 'Charlie' this morning
It is so long now since B727 aircraft were used on regular airline service in Europe that the aircraft have now achieved "Classic" status. This morning B727-30/RE registered VP-BAJ (msn 18936) arrived from Southend on a transatlantic fuel stop. Whilst it only went on the Bermudan register in May of last year this aircraft is no stranger to Shannon. Back in the 1980's the aircraft was a regular visitor as N5073L when it was registered to United Technologies with whom it also served as N16764 and N33UT. Prior to taking Bermudan marks the aircraft was registered N67JR and N18HH (Hilton Hotels). Whilst it may sport a 21st century BBJ color scheme it's just a 'scrape' for those old enough to remember !

New airport board structures

In response to questions from Fine Gael's deputy leader and Spokesman on Finance Richard Bruton and the party's Deputy Spokesman on Foreign Affairs and Clare TD (MP) Pat Breen., the Minister or Transport Noel Dempsey issued a written response on Tuesday last relating to the make up of the sub board structures of the DAA (Dublin Airport Authority).
In the past the management of the three state airports was the preserve of airport operator Aer Rianta. The current administration decided to give autonomous control to each of the airports but the decision was subsequently reversed. Both Cork and Shannon airports have fought long and hard for their independence but that day is further away than it ever was.
The original plan to split Aer Rianta was made in 2004 but the decision on whether or not to implement the plan has been deferred until 2011. The irony is that each of the airports is managed by it's own Airport Authority which are subservient to the DAA (Dublin Airport Authority) which maintains overall control of the state airports.
Minister Dempsey announced on Tuesday of this week that he had agreed revised board structures with each of the airports. Under the agreement the Chairmen of the SAA (Shannon) and CAA (Cork) will become members of the DAA board and senior executives of the DAA will be appointed to the boards of the SAA and CAA. Hang on ! Didn't we have this before when it was called Aer Rianta ?
The new structure of the DAA will consist of :

1 Chairman
1 SAA Chairman
1 CAA Chairman
5 members
4 worker directors 

All of which looks like too many chiefs...

The SAA and CAA structure will consist of :
1 Chair
6 members including a DAA executive
2 worker directors

Private Sky takes delivery of EI-EEZ

EI-EEZ pictured outside the Signature hangar at Shannon this afternoon prior to it's departure.
Private Sky has taken delivery of it's latest and largest to date aircraft. Bombardier CRJ 200 registered EI-EEZ was delivered to the company's Shannon base yesterday morning. Guessing from the colors used in the aircraft's cheatline it is a fair assumption that it will be operated from the company's Moscow base. EI-EEZ is msn 8085 and was ferried Montreal - Keflavik - Shannon. The aircraft departed Shannon tonight using what will be it's fixed callsign "Highflyer 85A" (HYR 85A) routing Shannon - ROTEV. Hex code for EI-EEZ is 4CA7DE. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

M-OODY visits Shannon

M-OODY on finals to R24 at Shannon this morning after a transatlantic crossing
The Manx register probably offers more opportunities than any other for word play on the aircraft registration. Today Shannon had a visit from Citation Jet CJ3 M-OODY. Registered to Future Aviation Services the aircraft carries Dighton International titling on the engine cowls. M-OODY (msn 525B-0238) was registered as Manx in December of last year.

British Airways adds second LCY-JFK with G-EUNB

British Airways inaugurated the second daily London City - Shannon - New York service today with the addition of flight BAW 003. Today's service was operated by the second A318 to be delivered, G-EUNB.

Bodies of Air Corps Pilots recovered from crash site

The bodies of the two Air Corps pilots killed in yesterday's crash in Connemara on the Galway / Mayo border have been removed from the crash site and taken to Galway University Hospital for post mortem examination. The two men have been named as Capt. Derek Furniss aged 32 from Dublin and Cadet David Jevens aged 22 from Co. Wexford. Capt. Furniss joined the Defence Forces in 1994 and had been a pilot instructor since 1999. He had accumulated over 3,000 hours and was the Chief Instructor on the PC-9 aircraft. Cadet Jevens was due for commissioning later this year and had accumulated 160 hours on type. 
The crash site which is in a remote hilly area, 2km from the nearest road was sealed off this morning since the aircraft was fitted with ejector seats which had to be made safe before the investigation could begin. Th flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder have been recovered  from the site. The Air Corps hope to remove the airframe (reported as serial 265) from the crash site tomorrow and transport it by road to the Air Accident Investigation Unit's facility at Gormanstown where the forensic examination will take place.
A team from the Pilatus company in Switzerland arrived in Galway today to assist in the investigation. The team arrived on PC-12 registered HB-FOT operating flight PCH121 which landed at Carnmore at lunchtime today.
The Irish Aviation Authority has implemented a TRA (Temporary Restricted Area) around the crash site, radius six nautical miles, surface to 5,000ft until 19:00 hrs utc on October 16.

Ryanair to give away 1.1m seats after Panorama program

Before the BBC aired last night's Panorama edition titled "Why hate Ryanair?", the carrier vowed to give away 100,000 free seats for every false claim made in the "hatchet job investigation". As Ryanair put it "These free seats will allow hard pressed BBC licence payers to escape from Panorama’s false claims, shoddy reporting and cover ups."
Today Ryanair honored the commitment by releasing 1.1m free seats on the basis of eleven false or misleading claims which it says that the BBC aired on the program, including the last claim :

" 11. Panorama claimed that “O’Leary is a bully” – this is clearly false when the whole world knows that O’Leary is a kind and gentle, caring and thoughtful, sensitive and saintly human being widely beloved by all Ryanair’s 6,500 people and its 66m passengers."

It must be said that none of the claims made in the program against the airline were particularly malicious in intent, for the most part concentrating on the consumer side of the experience. It was not so much a 'hatchet job' as being mugged by a teddy bear - the program didn't even cut Michael O'Leary's opportunistic commercial for Ryanair when he was doorstopped by reporter Vivian White leaving the airline's recent AGM. All in it was yet another publicity coup for the carrier. Had Ryanair spent any money on it it would have been well spent !

Montenegro Airlines 4O-AOB visits dublin

4O-AOB on finals to R28 at Dublin today in the copyright picture by Michael Kelly
A most welcome visitor to Dublin today was Montenegro Airlines Embraer E195LR registered 4O-AOB. The aircraft operated flight MGX 7230 from Titograd to the Irish capital bringing the Montenegran soccer team for tomorrow's world cup qualifier. 4O-AOB was delivered to Montenegro Airlines in May of this year and is msn 19000283. 

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fears for crew as IAC Pilatus PC-9 crashes

Fears were growing tonight for the safety of the two occupants of an Irish Air Corps Pilatus PC-9 aircraft which crashed in hilly terrain on the Galway / Mayo border. The aircraft was one of three aircraft which departed Baldonnel this evening with the intention of landing at Galway's Carnmore airport to refuel before resuming their training flights. Shortly after 17.00 utc an eyewitness called ATC at Shannon to report an aircraft had flown low overhead, followed almost immediately by a loud bang. A crash site was subsequently discovered by emergency services in the Crumlin East area of Co. Galway. The two remaining aircraft from the training mission, serials 261 and 266 recovered to Galway Carnmore airport just after 17.30 utc. Investigation teams from the Air corps and the Air Accident Investigation Unit of the Dept. of Transport are due to visit the site at first light.

Challenger TC-CMK visits Shannon

Pictured on finals to R24 at lunchtime today - Setair's TC-CMK
Istanbul based Setair visited Shannon today with it's latest acquisition, Bombardier Challenger 605 registered TC-CMK. The aircraft is msn 5767 and was registered as Turkish on August 18 last. 

Ryanair tackle 'Panormama' head on

"It's more like Bananarama than Panorma", so said Ryanair's chief executive Michael O'Leary this evening, referring to the BBC's flagship current affairs program in advance of tonight's edition titled "Why hate Ryanair ?". O'Leary was speaking on RTE Radio One's "Drivetime" program which featured an item about the ongoing spat between the airline and the BBC. The "Bananarama" comment was made in relation to what Michael O'Leary ascertains is going to be a hatchet job by the broadcaster which he says can drag up little more than two untrue statements in relation to the airline's costings and it's past dealings with Airbus. As further proof of the hatchet job, O'Leary went on to add that the program makers had refused to agree to his request for either a live interview or to broadcast an unedited interview. 
The "Panorama" reporter Vivian White was also interviewed on the "Drivetime" program. He stated that the BBC could not agree to an unedited interview being shown as part of the program as this would have constituted the broadcaster ceding editorial control to Ryanair, something which it was not prepared to do. Mr. White said that he would be happy to have the program judged by what it contains, adding that he had no complaint about the way that Ryanair had dealt with the BBC. 
As the discussion progressed the listener was left wondering if it all wasn't just a case of the battle of the brands with both parties stirring it up for all it was worth. 
The last laugh may well be Ryanair's - for a company which doesn't differentiate between good and bad publicity, tonight's program is 30 minutes of free TV advertising funded by the British TV licence payer and shown on the commercial free BBC !

Hilary Clinton arrives in Dublin aboard 99-0004

Hilary Cinton arrived in Dublin Sunday afternoon for an official visit to Dublin and Belfast, her first since becoming US Secretary of State. Her party arrived in Dublin on board C-32 serial 99-0004, seen in the copyright picture by Michael Kelly. During her brief stop in Dublin she met with Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen and Dan Rooney US Ambassador to Ireland and owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers before some photo calls in Dublin city centre. The Clinton party arrived in Belfast late Sunday night. 

EI-JFK becomes VQ-BEQ

On Tuesday last, October 6, Aer Lingus A330-301 EI-JFK (msn 086) arrived back in Shannon from Bordeaux in the full colors of Vladivostok Avia. This evening the aircraft emerged from the Aer Lingus Airbus hangar wearing registration VQ-BEQ.