17.08.2009
FLUG REVUE

News Update 17 August 2009 - News in Brief

Our weekly news roundup from around the aerospace industry.

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Developed by BlueBird Aero Systems and powered by Horizon Fuel Cell Technologies, the world's first long endurance, commercial hydrogen fuel cell powered Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) named "Boomerang" will be showcased as one of the top innovations at this year's upcoming AUVSI conference in Washington, D.C. Horizon will also display its brand new AEROPAK, a new self-contained 2kg fuel cell power system able to deliver 900Wh, which can increase the flight endurance of small and stealthy UAS by as much as 300 percent. Unmanned aircraft are used in a variety of military, homeland security and civilian applications. The unique ability to perform long endurance missions with a mini UAS, as presented by BlueBird's Boomerang, is a great benefit especially for border patrol, infrastructure surveillance, critical assets and environmental monitoring missions. BlueBird's "Boomerang" is a field-operational 9kg electric powered UAS which is now able to fly for over nine hours using Horizon's high performance hydrogen-electric power system. BlueBird Aero Systems concluded a three-year effort to integrate the Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell technology into a specially designed UAS, developing support systems like hybrid capabilities for system power redundancy, fuel-cell cooling mechanism and more. The fuel cell-powered UAS is already licensed for flights in Israel and is graded as a "matured" system.
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Jet Aviation Dubai has recently expanded its service offerings to include base and line maintenance for Hawker 750/800/800XP/850XP/900XP, Gulfstream G350/G450 and Embraer 135/145 aircraft under the company's EASA #145.0317 approval. In addition, the facility's newly established Boeing BBJ team is now fully operational. Under the company's EASA #145.0317 base and line maintenance approval, Jet Aviation Dubai has added the Hawker 750/800/800XP/850XP/900XP, Gulfstream G350/G450 and Embraer 135/145 aircraft to its maintenance portfolio. The facility is an approved repair station and an authorized service center for the Boeing 737 series (including BBJ), Cessna Citation series, Dassault Falcon series, Embaer Legacy, and Gulfstream series, as well as the Hawker series.
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The Association of European Airlines has released traffic and capacity data for its members in June 2009, along with a projection for July. The June figures, while evidently not as extreme as the minus 8.3% recorded in May, remained heavily negative. Overall, passenger volume was down 6.5% on June 2008. A very small increase was posted by traffic to/from Sub Saharan Africa, slightly higher figures on Middle Eastern and North African traffic; otherwise, all route areas were substantially in deficit. Intra-European traffic was 6.3% down, while the North Atlantic was at minus 7.0%. The hardest-hit market was between Europe and the Far East, at -10.7%, the first double-digit traffic loss in this region since the SARS epidemic of 2003. Seat capacity in June, at -4.9%, was close to the May figure, confirming that carriers were systematically reducing frequency, although at a rate that still did not match the weakening market. Consequently, load factors continued to decline, although the decrease, of 1.3 points (down to 77.0%) was less severe than in previous months. The airfreight market showed no signs of revival, with a 20.7% decrease, and with both the major traffic flows - North Atlantic and Far East - posting losses more severe than this, at -21.8% and -24.9% respectively.
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Boeing received a $500,000 contract from the U.S. Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory on Aug. 5 to demonstrate the company's A160T (YMQ-18A) Hummingbird for the Marines' Immediate Cargo Unmanned Aerial System Demonstration Program. In flights that will take place by February, Boeing will demonstrate that the A160T can deliver at least 2,500 pounds of cargo from one simulated forward-operating base to another in fewer than six hours per day for three consecutive days. The Marines are studying the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in lieu of trucks and personnel to deliver supplies. The A160T has a 2,500-pound payload capacity. It features a unique optimum-speed-rotor technology that significantly improves overall performance efficiency by adjusting the rotor's speed at different altitudes, gross weights and cruise speeds. The autonomous unmanned aircraft, measuring 35 feet long with a 36-foot rotor diameter, has hovered at 20,000 feet and cruised at more than 140 knots. The A160T established a world endurance record in its class in 2008 with an 18.7-hour unrefueled flight.
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L-3's Mobius, an optionally piloted aircraft system built by L-3 Communications, made its first public flight at the 5th Biennial Unmanned Systems Demonstration hosted by the U.S. Navy's Program Executive Office for Strike Weapons and Unmanned Aviation in coordination with the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) at Patuxent River Naval Air Station's Webster Field Annex. Mobius is also on display at L-3 Booth #1000 at the AUVSI symposium in Washington D.C. The Mobius, which can support low through medium-altitude long endurance operations in both manned and unmanned configurations, is based upon a proven, Federal Aviation Administration-certificated design. Its aerodynamic design and carbon composite construction supports in-flight missions lasting up to 24 hours while carrying a payload of 1,000 pounds, in addition to fuel. Mobius has been configured with L-3 Wescam's high-performance MX-15 EO/IR turret in a retractable configuration, L-3 Geneva's flightTEK™ fully autonomous flight control system and L-3 Communications Systems West's mini-TCDL datalink to provide secure, anti-jam, anti-spoof encrypted communications. Mobius also is fully interoperable with the L-3 Rover and VideoScout systems.
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Boeing delivered Qatar's first C-17 Globemaster III airlifter to the Qatar Emiri Air Force during a ceremony at the company's facility in Long Beach. "With this C-17, and the one that will be delivered later this year, the Qatar Emiri Air Force now has unequaled tactical and strategic airlift capabilities -- including high reliability and operational flexibility -- that enhance our ability to transport troops and equipment and to support humanitarian operations throughout the Middle East and South Asia," said Brig. Gen. Ahmad Al-Malki, head of Qatar's airlift selection committee. Qatar became the first Middle East nation to order the C-17 when it signed an agreement with Boeing on July 21, 2008, for the purchase of two advanced airlifters and associated equipment and services.
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In 2009, NetJets' revenues declined $550 million (43%) for the second quarter and $1,024 million (42%) for the first six months as compared to 2008. The declines reflected an 81% decline in aircraft sales as well as a 22% decline in flight operations revenues primarily due to lower flight revenue hours. NetJets produced pre-tax losses in 2009 of $253 million for the second quarter and $349 million for the first six months. The pre-tax losses included asset writedowns and other downsizing costs of $192 million for the second quarter and $255 million for the first six months. NetJets owns more planes than is required for its present level of operations and further downsizing will be required unless demand rebounds.
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An early indicator of general economic development, airfreight continues its rise from the economic trough. With about 156,000 metric tons registered in July 2009, Frankfurt Airport's (FRA) rate of decline in airfreight moved into the single-figure range for the first time this year. Freight throughput fell only 9.4 percent year-on-year; in June 2009 the drop was still 16.5 percent. Passenger traffic enjoyed similar satisfying development: Some 4.9 million passengers used Fraport's home-base airport FRA in the reporting month, only 3.3 percent fewer passengers than in July 2008. For the first seven months of the year FRA's passenger slide narrowed to 7.3 percent. With 40,462 takeoffs and landings, FRA recorded a 5.3 percent fall in aircraft movements. Maximum takeoff weights (MTOWs) dropped by 4.3 percent year-on-year to 2.4 million metric tons. Fraport's majority-owned foreign airports had only a slight impact on the Group's total traffic results. Welcoming a total of 7.7 million passengers, the Group registered a 3.5 percent dip in traffic in July 2009 - a noticeable improvement over the 5.3 percent average decline experienced so far during the current year.
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Republic Airways Holdings announced that it has been declared the winning bidder in the auction to acquire Frontier. The auction was conducted under procedures established in Frontier's Chapter 11 bankruptcy case. "I look forward to welcoming Frontier to our Republic family,” said Bryan Bedford, Chairman, President and CEO of Republic. "Frontier has made impressive strides in returning to sustained profitability in a challenging and uncertain economic environment. We congratulate the employees of Frontier. Their commitment and perseverance during the bankruptcy process has allowed the Frontier brand to survive and thrive. Now, we have to turn our attention to the important work of integrating two great brands: Frontier and Midwest Airlines, which enjoy strong loyalty in Denver and Milwaukee.” Pursuant to its investment agreement, Republic has agreed to purchase 100% of the stock of Frontier Holdings upon its emergence from bankruptcy for $108.75 million, so long as certain conditions are met. Republic also agreed to waive any right to recovery on its $150 million general unsecured claim. Republic Airways Holdings, based in Indianapolis, Indiana is an airline holding company that owns Chautauqua Airlines, Midwest Airlines, Mokulele Airlines, Republic Airlines and Shuttle America, collectively "the airlines”.
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ESA astronaut Roberto Vittori from Italy has been assigned as a Mission Specialist to Space Shuttle mission STS-134, which is currently scheduled for launch to the International Space Station (ISS) in July or September 2010. This mission will deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) to the Station. Vittori's flight opportunity stems from a bilateral agreement between the Italian space agency (ASI) and NASA involving the utilisation of the Italian-built Multi Purpose Logistics Modules. It will be Roberto Vittori's third flight into space and to the International Space Station, but his first on the Space Shuttle. In April 2002, Vittori spent 10 days on the ISS performing a concise experimental programme. Three years later, he returned to the Station for another 10 days this time to conduct an extensive programme consisting of 22 experiments. On both missions Roberto Vittori flew as a Flight Engineer on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
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AAI Corporation announced the completion of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, or CRDA, with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to perform a variety of operational and technical assessments to support integration of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) into the National Airspace System (NAS). The UAS FAA Industry Team, or UFIT, arrangement, which includes AAI, GE Aviation Systems and the FAA, provides a safe and effective means to simulate flying AAI's Shadow(R) Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System (TUAS) in the NAS. Testing will be conducted at the FAA's William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City using the Shadow TUAS, including Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast Technology and four-dimensional trajectory-based flight management testing with GE Aviation Systems. Shadow systems have logged more than 420,000 operational hours, the majority of which have taken place in Iraq and Afghanistan in support of U.S. military operations.
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The Board of Directors and management of SAS AB have decided to launch an entirely new cost program amounting to SEK 2 billion to generate sustainable competitiveness. This program, which is in addition to the total savings measures under Core SAS of SEK 4.5 billion, includes establishing fully competitive collective agreements for flight deck and cabin personnel, a principle for optimizing production to make greater use of the most competitive production resources and further efficiency enhancements in the Group's administration. These measures will entail further reductions corresponding to 1,000-1,500 FTEs. "The measures we are implementing under Core SAS are ahead of schedule and are generating a significant earnings effect. Despite this progress, additional measures are required to manage the unique, fierce competition in today's highly challenging market. Accordingly, it is essential that we now completely close SAS's cost gap with our competitors. This is a matter of competing on equal conditions and, ultimately, about the survival of SAS," says Mats Jansson, President and CEO. In June, the SAS Group commenced negotiations with all of the Group's 39 trade unions to further reduce the cost gap compared with SAS's most effective competitors, which after the implementation of Core SAS now amounts to about SEK 2 billion. Despite having been successful in some areas, an agreement on the reduction of payroll expenses was not reached with all of the Group's trade unions. Since a significant portion of the cost gap of SEK 2 billion primarily comprises salaries, pensions and allowances for cabin personnel, management will immediately initiate collective-agreement negotiations and demand a 10-20-percent payroll and pension reduction among flight deck and cabin personnel. Based on the autumn's negotiations, management will introduce a principle of optimizing production to make greater use of the most cost-efficient production resources regardless of production location or nationality. In addition, the SAS Group will further enhance the efficiency of the Group's administration by reducing personnel in its production companies, central Group and corporate functions, and in SAS Ground Services and SAS Tech.
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GE Aviation announced entering into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRDA) with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The government-GE Aviation collaboration will provide a variety of operational and technical assessments to support integration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into the National Airspace Systems (NAS) including the assessment of Next Generation (NextGen) Trajectory-Based Operations (TBO). "Under this Agreement we will be accomplishing an aviation first by completing the research to facilitate flight of an Unmanned Aircraft System with an FAA certified, trajectory-based flight management system," said Chris Beaufait, president of Avionics for GE Aviation. "Safe integration of UAS into our national airspace will include trajectory-based flight management as an enabler. This CRDA directly supports development of the FAA NextGen Air Traffic Management System." This Agreement provides a safe and effective means to evaluate Trajectory Based Operations Unmanned Aircraft Systems in the National Airspace. Simulation will be conducted at the FAA's William J. Hughes Technical Center beginning this fall and will continue for two years. The research under this Agreement will be complemented by related industry cooperative agreements supported by FAA, including an agreement between AAI Corporation and GE.
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Kaman Aerospace has received a contract from the U.S. Marine Corps on behalf of Team K-MAX to demonstrate the ability of the Unmanned K-MAX. helicopter to deliver cargo to troops in extreme environments and at high altitudes. Kaman will award a subcontract to Lockheed Martin to integrate a beyond line of sight data link and unmanned aerial system (UAS) mission management system with its proven aerial truck. Comprised of Kaman and Lockheed Martin, Team K-MAX will demonstrate the unmanned helicopters capability to deliver cargo to a round trip distance of 150 nautical miles. The Marine Corps objective is to move 20,000 pounds of cargo in a 24 hour period. The demonstration is scheduled for late 2009. The Marine Corps Systems Command at Quantico, VA., developed the urgent requirement for a cargo UAS that can support rapid deployments to Afghanistan by resupplying troops with provisions and materials at forward operating bases.
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Goodrich and Xi'an Aircraft International Corporation (XAIC) have signed agreements to form two joint venture companies to support landing gear and engine nacelle components manufacturing focused on the fast-growing Chinese aerospace market. The new companies are expected to compete for market positions on the COMAC C919 single aisle Chinese commercial aircraft currently under development, and also manufacture various landing gear and nacelle components and subassemblies for other aircraft. The agreements call for creation of two joint venture companies between XAIC and each of Goodrich Landing Gear and Goodrich Aerostructures. The joint ventures will bring together Goodrich's leading market positions on landing gear and nacelles for large commercial aircraft with XAIC's expertise in high quality aerospace manufacturing. In each case, the Goodrich business and XAIC will each own 50 percent of the joint venture company.
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CAE announced that Robert E. Brown, CAE's President and CEO, will retire on September 30, 2009 and Marc Parent, CAE's Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer will succeed Mr. Brown as President and CEO at that time. Mr. Brown will continue as an advisor until the end of December 2009. "Bob Brown has brought financial discipline, healthy governance and strong growth to CAE. He has made diversification a strategic priority and CAE is now well positioned and enjoys the benefits of a strong balance sheet and a well balanced portfolio among markets, products, services and regions. On behalf of the Board, I want to thank him for his strong leadership," said Lynton R. Wilson, CAE's Chairman of the Board. "After a thorough selection process, the Board has appointed Marc Parent as his successor. Marc is an outstanding leader with a proven performance record. He has been a key player in CAE's success over the past four and half years and we are convinced he is the best choice, especially during this challenging environment."
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Czech Airlines will initiate scheduled service from Prague to Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, thereby enhancing the connections between Europe and Central Asia. With this new Czech Airlines route, Tashkent, the largest city in the area, will be linked to Prague twice a week. On the basis of the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Uzbek side, Czech Airlines will begin operating its service to Tashkent on 19 August 2009, as regularly scheduled flights. Czech Airlines will fly this route with its most modern aircraft, the Airbus A319, with room for 135 passengers, using code-share cooperation with Uzbekistan Airways.
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Honeywell announced that the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defense (MOD) will purchase the Honeywell 55-L-714A engine and spares, valued at approximately $185 million, to retrofit their fleet of Chinook helicopters. “Beginning next year, Honeywell will begin fitting U.K. Chinooks with its upgraded 55-L-714A engine that increases power by 17%, increases maintenance intervals and reduces fuel consumption by nearly 5 percent,” said Garrett Mikita, President, Defense & Space, Honeywell Aerospace. “The T55 has proven itself in the field for 40 years. The robust engine design and continual investment in improvements have made the T55 a workhorse in desert operations, where even the most abrasive operating environments of both sand and heat could easily rob a lesser turbine engine of its ability to deliver power in critical combat situation.”
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Thales UK announced that the WATCHKEEPER unmanned air system (UAS) successfully completed a key set of inaugural flights in June 2009, which will allow the system to progress to a series of ground system and flight trials in the UK. These will take place at Parc Aberporth in West Wales and will start in late 2009. The necessary infrastructure and facilities at Parc Aberporth are ready and in place, and the WATCHKEEPER programme will now begin the transfer to the UK. The flight trials undertaken in June represent a significant technical achievement for the WATCHKEEPER programme, with all elements of the system and sub-system being demonstrated to the Ministry of Defence (MoD), including: Full air vehicle system; WATCHKEEPER data links; Radar controlled Automatic Take-Off and Landing System (ATOLS); Electro Optic (EO) / Infrared (IR) and Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) / Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) Radar payloads; Ground control station software; Autonomous Systems Flight Control and Video Imagery downlink. In parallel to the flight trials, work continues with the development of payloads, software, flight management and ground infrastructure systems.
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National Air Cargo announced that it will extend its weekly DC 8 cargo aircraft from Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), to Hahn, Germany before returning back to the United States. The flight will specialize in space available, preferred and priority cargo destined for Europe and the US, from the Middle East. Operated by National Airlines, the DC 8 flight will depart Sharjah, U.A.E. weekly on route to Hahn, Germany and Ypsilanti, Michigan. National has been operating this weekly frequency from Sharjah to Ypsilanti (Michigan, United States) since March 2009. "Extending the flight to Hahn expands our commitment to supplying cargo needs to Europe and throughout the world," Alex Munro, director - Middle East Sales, National Air Cargo said. "The expansion is a confident step for National Air Cargo defying the global market contraction of recent months."
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On August 12 at 15.06 the third Sukhoi Superjet 100 prototype arrived to Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company's Flight-test center in Zhukovsky (Moscow Region). The flight was performed upon completion of a series of flights at Komsomolsk (Russian Far East) and painting. The aircraft, which performed the first flight on July 25, 2009 in less than two and a half weeks, made a one-day travel with a transit stop at Novosibirsk. The crew members shifted at Novosibirsk, where the aircraft landed for refueling at 9.20 local time. Nikolay Pushenko, who captained the first leg, was replaced by Sergey Korostiev, while Andrey Kourov, another test-pilot of Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company co-piloted both legs of the flight. After two hours used for a crew break and refueling, the aircraft continued its way to Moscow. Upon installation of the passenger seats Sukhoi Superjet 100 SN 95004 will take its place at the static display of MAKS airshow, supplementing the flight display of SSJ100 SN95003. This will allow the airlines representatives to see the aircraft in the configuration similar to the operational one. Together with the interior and passenger seats, the aircraft will also feature the passenger cabin equipment, as well as certification ready avionics suite, including options specified by the current contracts and options catalogue.
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Boeing on July 29 successfully completed the first flight of a B-1 bomber upgraded with the Fully Integrated Data Link (FIDL). This upgrade includes new processors, color displays and communications architecture, enhancing B-1 crews' situational awareness and communications capability. The U.S. Air Force 419th Test Squadron conducted the flight from Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The objective of the FIDL development program is to enhance the B-1 bomber by integrating beyond line-of-sight and line-of-sight data links. The data links reduce crew workload by dynamically re-tasking missions, eliminating the need for steps such as manual entry of weapons data for targeting. In addition to the cockpit upgrades, the modification also improves and more tightly integrates the aft crew stations by replacing displays and associated hardware that were installed during aircraft production in the early 1980s. Additional upgrades include new open-architecture processors, mass-storage capability and an Ethernet network to integrate the aircraft's systems.
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Diamond Aircraft´s Italian representative Diamond Aero SRL brought the first two Diamond aircraft on Maltese register. Diamond Aero SRL handed over a DA40 TDI and a DA20 Eclipse to Diamond Flight Training, a recently launched flying school in Malta. Diamond Flight Training will operate exclusively Diamond aircraft and simulators. The aircraft will be used for pilot training, pilot hour building and charter business. “We are proud to be launching a new Flight Training School equipped with brand new state of the art aircraft.” stated Pierre Travers Tauss, director of Diamond Flight Training. Diamond Flight Training is a registered training facility approved by the Malta Civil Aviation Authority under JAR Rules and provides PPL courses, night ratings and hour building packages. The flying school is based at Malta´s International Airport.         
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A Northrop Grumman owned land-based MQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Unmanned Aircraft System (VUAS), designated P7, successfully demonstrated its reconnaissance surveillance and target acquisition/intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (RSTA/ISR) capabilities this week at Yuma Proving Ground, Yuma, Ariz. Fire Scout's RSTA/ISR demonstration at Yuma Proving Ground continues to illustrate its readiness to support the warfighter, highlighting its capability to provide critical real-time RSTA to brigade combat teams (BCT). Fire Scout provides the commander with the most comprehensive view of a selected area across all wavelength spectrums enabling decision-making and integration of soldiers' actions with supporting BCT fires and effects.
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Boeing will pay the United States $25 million to resolve allegations that the company performed defective work on the entire KC-10 Extender fleet, the Justice Department announced today. The KC-10 Extender is a mainstay of the Air Force's aerial refueling fleet in the Iraq and Afghanistan war theaters. The lawsuit alleged that Boeing defectively installed insulation blanket kits in KC-10 aircraft while performing depot maintenance at the Boeing Aerospace Support Center in San Antonio, Texas. The settlement also settles allegations that Boeing overcharged the government for installation of the blanket kits. The $25 million settlement consists of a cash payment by Boeing of $18,400,000 and $6,600,000 worth of repair work to be done at the aircraft manufacturer's expense on the defective blankets. The settlement resolves Boeing's potential liability under the False Claims Act.
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Afriqiyah Airways has taken delivery of their first Airbus A330-200 aircraft, becoming a new operator of this aircraft type. The new A330 will seat 230 passengers in a two-class cabin and will serve long-haul operations on routes from Tripoli to Africa and Europe. The new A330-200, the first of three ordered in 2006, will join Afriqiyah's existing all Airbus fleet of two A319s and five A320s. This brings the unique benefits of Airbus aircraft commonality to Afriqiyah, who can use the same pool of pilots, cabin crew and maintenance engineers across its entire Airbus fleet.
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As part of the Company's 40th anniversary commemorations, Embraer performed a careful restoration of the EMB 121 Xingu prototype, tail number PP-ZXI, which was the first pressurized airplane built by the Company. The restoration work was carried out by students from the National Industrial Apprenticeship Service (Serviço Nacional de Aprendizagem Industrial – SENAI) in São José dos Campos, Jacareí, and Taubaté, under the supervision of Embraer personnel. After being displayed for Company employees, the aircraft will be on permanent exhibit at the Aerospace Museum (MUSAL), in Rio de Janeiro. In 2009, the EMB 121 Xingu, of which 105 were built, celebrates the 30th anniversary of its certification. This initiative continues the process of restoring Embraer aircraft that began in 2008 with the second prototype of the Bandeirante. The Xingu PP-ZXI flew for the first time on October 22, 1976, and is different from the other models that were manufactured. Following its validation, the cabin of this airplane was lengthened, in order to accommodate more passengers, and received more powerful engines.
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