WheelTug improves turnaround times and ground operations at airports

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With passenger traffic forecast to double over the next two decades, airports that operate more efficiently will attract more traffic (both as a hub and a destination). Cue the aviation electric taxi innovator, WheelTug, which showcased its cutting-edge e-taxi technology at this year’s Farnborough Airshow.

More than 20 airlines have already signed with WheelTug, which is currently in the certification process and is expected to enter service, initially for Boeing 737NG aircraft, by 2019. flydubai is the latest carrier to sign up to the innovative solution.

This week the Dubai-based carrier signed up to reserve 60 WheelTug systems for its fleet of Boeing 737 Max 8 and Next-Generation Boeing 737-800 aircraft. It hopes that the innovative system will help make its ground operations more efficient, cost effective and reliable.

“With its innovative use of technology, we look forward to seeing what efficiencies WheelTug’s systems can bring to flydubai’s fleet of 61 aircraft,” said Mick Hills, senior vice president engineering and maintenance, flydubai.

The cutting-edge system uses high-performance electric motors, installed in the nose gear wheels of an aircraft to provide full mobility and enhanced autonomy while on the ground. It enables pilot-controlled forward and reverse movement in gate and terminal areas without tractors or jet engines. Currently around 2% of pushbacks take more than 13 minutes, the effects of which can quickly cascade system-wide. Aircraft fitted with WheelTug technology can reliably push back in 60 seconds without the need of a tractor.

A WheelTug spokesperson explains that one of the advantages for airports is that the retrofit system is leased to airlines/ operators on a savings per minute basis, so there is no charge to airports. It also enables airports to motivate and incentivise airlines to adopt e-taxi systems.

Plus, it is beneficial in terms of its environmental impact. It reduces ground noise, improving the environment for both passengers and neighbours and reduces emissions. And of course, when it comes to the all important passenger experience, flights that leave when scheduled, push back quickly and arrive on time will keep passengers happy and coming back for more.

Written by: Kimberley Young

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Cork welcomes return of Boston link for summer 2019

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Cork Airport is reinstating its link with Boston Providence, Rhode Island,  courtesy of Norwegian Airlines for summer 2019. The summer schedule will commence in April and run through to October.

“We welcome the Cork to Boston Providence route announcement for 2019 coming, just as we celebrate the first year of this significant and successful service,” said Kevin Cullinane, head of communications at Cork Airport.

Norwegian launched Cork Airport’s first nonstop transatlantic flight to Boston in July last year, using its B737 MAX jets.

Although demand on this route hasn’t proved so popular during the winter months – causing Norwegian to cancel its flights from Cork and Shannon to Providence, Rhode Island, from November to March – there is huge demand in both directions during the summer months.

Cullinane added that Tourism Ireland recently confirmed an increase of 12.4%  of inbound passengers from North America in the first five months of 2018. “With Cork Airport being uniquely placed at the beginning of both the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East, this route has made it even easier for US visitors to come to the south of Ireland and experience all it has to offer.”

“This route also offers affordable transatlantic travel for those travelling to the east coast of America to experience the magnificent US summer holiday destinations such as Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.”

Describing Norwegian’s aircraft as “modern and spacious with unrivalled service,” Thomas Ramdahl, CCO Norwegian, said “this is a great time to book affordable flights to the US.”



Written by: Chloe Greenbank

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FIA 2018: Sutherland’s spaceport to benefit airports in the Highlands and Islands

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The announcement earlier this week that a remote stretch of land in Sutherland has been selected as the UK’s first spaceport has been cause for  celebration throughout the Highlands and Islands.

The UK Space Agency has chosen Sutherland’s A’Mhoine peninsula as the most suitable place from which to launch rockets vertically to put satellites in orbit. As part of the deal, the UK government has agreed to contribute £2.5million to help get the spaceport up and running. The goal is to have rocket launches as early as possible in the 2020s.

This week’s announcement is expected to kick-start an exciting new era for the UK space industry, with horizontal launch spaceports at sites including Cornwall’s Newquay, Campbeltown in Argyll and Prestwick in Ayrshire also helping to drive growth in the UK’s thriving space sector.

Speaking at Farnborough International Airshow on Wednesday 18 July, Stuart Black, director of development and infrastructure, Highlands Council described the Highlands and Island’s aviation sector as being in a strong position. “We are seeing increasing numbers of inbound traffic. Flights to and from cities like Birmingham and Manchester have helped boost the growth of short breaks, but also business travel. Connectivity with Heathrow from Inverness – the gateway to the Highlands and Islands – has also helped increase traffic and Inverness in turn serves as a feeder for the islands.”

Passenger numbers at Inverness continue to grow and are forecast to reach 920,000 in 2018. Major carriers such as easyJet, British Airways and KLM combined with regional airlines flybe and Loganair ensure that both inbound and outbound markets are well catered for. However Black did underline the need to keep regional connectivity at the top of the agenda when it comes to Heathrow’s third runway.

While the new spaceport at Sutherland is expected to boost the local economy with new business opportunities and improved local infrastructure, it’s also expected to have a big impact on Wick John O’Groats (its closest airport) in particular, as well as other hubs throughout the region. “The spaceport will undoubtedly be a spin off for all the Highlands’ regional airports,” concluded Black.


Header image: Artist’s impression of Sutherland Spaceport. © Perfect Circle PV

Written by: Chloe Greenbank

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Europe’s summer hotspots served by Jetclass flights

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Throughout the summer months, Jetclass, a tech-enabled airline service offering seats on business jets, has added ten new flights connecting some of Europe’s hottest regional hubs to its platform.

Flights will be added to and from Nice in France, Olbia in Italy and Palma de Mallorca in Spain and will operate on weekends, effective until 30 September. On Saturdays, Jetclass will operate between Zurich and Nice, Nice and Olbia, and Nice and Palma de Mallorca. Meanwhile on Sundays connections will be served between Nice and Olbia and Nice and Palma de Mallorca.

“Seeing Nice-Olbia-Nice again on our schedule is a proud moment – this route was the starting point of our journey and the fact that it has come full circle gives us an opportunity to reflect on how far we have come and how much work is still ahead of us,” said Wagas Ali, CEO and co-founder of Jetclass.

Commenting on how the new flights mark Jetclass’ one-year anniversary Ali added: “summer destinations bring excitement to every party involved, not only the passengers.”

Written by: Chloe Greenbank

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FIA 2018: New Nigerian carrier to support regional airport infrastructure

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Fifteen years after the demise of Nigeria Airways, a new national carrier has been unveiled with high hopes that it will dominate Africa’s aviation sector and shine a spotlight on the opportunities within Nigeria’s airport infrastructure.

Citing how 80% of carriers in Africa are not African, Nigeria’s minister of state for aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, declared this needs to change. “Nigeria has not been a serious player in aviation for too long,” he said, acknowledging that since the region’s dominant player – Nigeria Airways – had stopped flying, airline after airline has failed.

Speaking at the unveiling of a new national flag carrier, Nigeria Air, on Wednesday 18 July, at Farnborough International Airshow, Sirika added “I am very pleased to tell you that we are finally on track to launch a new national flag carrier for our country: Nigeria Air. We are fully committed to fulfilling the campaign promise made by our President, Muhammadu Buhari in 2015. We are aiming to launch Nigeria Air by the end of this year.”

The government will have a maximum 5% stake in the airline, “this will be a private sector led and driven national carrier,” he continued, explaining how it will be run through a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement. “It is a business, not a social service and investors will have full responsibility – the government will give it’s backing but it will not be involved in running or deciding who runs it.”

Eighty-one domestic, regional and international routes have already been identified for the airline’s network and part of the ministry of aviation’s road map in getting the new carrier to market has been to focus on the country’s airport infrastructure. Significant investment has been made in airports throughout the country to ensure they are up to standard.

“Previous governments attempted to build new airport terminals (primarily using Chinese loans), but didn’t complete them. We have taken those airports, solved the issues and made them functional,” stated Sirika.

New terminals in Lagos and Abuja airports will add 11 million passenger capacity in each of the two airports, while Sirkia unveils that the government is in the process of concessioning airports throughout the country. “We don’t want to sell them – they need to remain an asset for the local population,” said Sirika, but “we don’t have the funds or ability to run them.” He concluded that by outsourcing to concessioners who can rebuild the countries airports to international standards and manage them, while paying concession fees, the countries airports can operate more efficiently and effectively.

Written by: Chloe Greenbank

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Regional airports top CAA’s report on accessibility

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The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has unveiled its annual report on accessibility services provided by the top 30 UK airports, with Norwich, Sumburgh, Southend, Doncaster and Liverpool John Lennon (LJLA) all ranking highly.

The report highlights that there are more than three million requests for assistance at UK airports annually – a rise of almost 80% since 2010.

The CAA assesses airports against a number of key measures to establish how well they are performing for disabled passengers. Declaring that it is “essential” that passengers with reduced mobility or hidden disabilities get the service they deserve every time they fly, Baroness Sugg, the UK’s Aviation Minister, said the “CAA has stepped up its work in this area and plays an important role in showing where improvement still needs to be made.”

Baroness Sugg added that she “welcomed the progress made by airports to improve accessibility and will continue to work with all of the aviation industry to make flying easier for disabled passengers.”

LJLA was one of 16 rated in the highest ‘very good’ category with the report stating that “Liverpool has had an excellent year, providing a very good level of assistance to its disabled passengers and those with reduced mobility.”

Southend, meanwhile, was rated the most accessible airport in London and the South East and the only airport representing the capital’s airports to be given a ‘very good’ rating.

Glyn Jones, CEO of Stobart Aviation, which owns London Southend Airport, said: “We want to make sure people enjoy travelling through our airport and it is an efficient and easily accessible experience, as we offer quick access to London and a wide range of European travel destinations, with our Dublin route also providing ongoing connectivity to the USA.”

The report also showed that significant progress has also been made by Heathrow Airport, which was classified as ‘good’ this year, up from last year’s rating of ‘poor’. However, some of the UK’s biggest airports – Birmingham, Gatwick and Stansted – were all ranked as ‘needing improvement’, and Manchester Airport received a ‘poor’ rating for the second year in a row. Issues were identified in relation to long waiting times for assistance and issues with recording and reporting of performance data.

Written by: Chloe Greenbank

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Nice Cote d’Azur Airport launches WeChat Pay

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Lagardère Travel Retail France has unveiled WeChat Pay at 14 duty free and fashion shops at Nice Côte d’Azur Airport.

With 800 million users, the smartphone payment solution is already widely used in China, where more than 70% of transactions are now conducted via mobile devices.

With more and more Chinese tourists travelling to France and a forecast of 5 million visitors by 2020, the introduction of WeChat Pay is all part of the French airport’s strategy to cater for the growth in passengers travelling from Asia. Chinese sales advisers have also been recruited throughout the airport’s retail offerings, while airport signage has been translated into mandarin. Plus, a dedicated airport website has also been made available in mandarin, with access to arrival and departure information, links to tourist sites and information about VAT refunds.

Anne-Gael Normand, director of aeroboutique shopping operations at Lagardère Travel Retail France described the WeChat Pay solution as “a perfect fit with our promise to offer passengers entering our shops a creative, expert service which offers a simplified and pleasant shopping experience.”

Meanwhile, Dominique Thillaud, chairman of the Aéroports de la Côte d’Azur added “we felt it was vitally important to improve our communication [for Chinese visitors arriving in Europe for the first time] and make their journey as fluid as possible. Lagardère Travel Retail France’s adoption of WeChat Pay is an additional step that shows that Nice Côte d’Azur Airport is now fully ready to welcome Chinese passengers arriving directly from China.”

Written by: Chloe Greenbank

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Airports in Cyprus team up with BorderXpress

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The Innovative Travel Solutions (ITS) team at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) has signed a deal to install 74 BorderXpress kiosks at Cyprus’s Pafos and Larnaka airports.

Hermes Airports, which operates Pafos and Larnaka, is installing the kiosks to enable passengers to independently complete passport control procedures under the supervision of Hermes personnel and with the approval of Cyprus police.

With air travel continuing to show signs of growth, Craig Richmond, president and CEO, Vancouver Airport Authority declared that airports need to embrace the need to implement innovative technologies to solve critical passenger processing challenges. “BorderXpress kiosks will increase efficiencies and improve the overall passenger experience at Pafos and Larnaka airports while enhancing safety and security within the European Union,” he said.

BorderXpress’s self-service biometric-enabled kiosks expedite the border clearance process, reducing passenger wait times by more than 50%. Passengers select their language, scan their travel documents and answer a few simple questions. The kiosk also captures an image of each passenger’s face, which is compared with and verified against the photo in their electronic passport. Passengers then take their completed kiosk receipt to a border services officer. Exit kiosks are available for use by all travellers, while the entry kiosks are only available to EU citizens due to government specifications.

Commenting on the new partnership, Eleni Kaloyirou, CEO of Hermes Airports, said: “We are dedicated to establishing Pafos and Larnaka as industry-leading airports, and our commitment to prioritising both safety and passenger experience is paramount to this, especially as we seek to increase passenger traffic.”

With more than 1,500 of its kiosks in 41 airports and sea ports across Canada and the United States, the partnership with Hermes marks the first implementation of permanent kiosks for entry and exit border control in Europe.

Written by: Chloe Greenbank

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Farnborough International Airshow 2018: Cornwall Spaceport deal signed with Virgin Orbit

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Cornwall Airport Newquay’s Spaceport is all set to make its mark in aerospace history. The first British satellite launch in 50 years could take place from Cornwall within the next three years after an agreement was reached between Spaceport Cornwall and California-based Virgin Orbit.

The satellite launch company has selected Cornwall in South West England as an ideal location to operate and deliver one of the first launches of its LauncherOne system outside of its US home. The agreement was signed during the first day of Farnborough International Airshow on Monday 16 July.

The agreement will see Virgin Orbit launching horizontal planes taking off from Cornwall Spaceport before launching rockets and satellites into space.

Commenting on the news, UK Science Minister Sam Gyimah, said: “The announcement of a strategic partnership between Virgin Orbit and Cornwall Spaceport is great news for the region and the UK’s ambitions for regular, reliable and responsible access to space. This partnership could see Virgin Orbit’s innovative horizontal launch technology helping the UK’s small satellite industry access space from the convenience of a Spaceport in Cornwall.”

While Britain is a world-leader in the production of small satellites, supporting more than £250 billion of GDP in the wider economy, it lacks the means to get them into space. The global satellite market is forecast to be worth around £10 billion over the next decade and it’s estimated that up to 2,600 microsatellites (under 50 kg) will require launching over the next five years.

Cornwall Airport Newquay’s long runway, uncongested airspace and direct access to the Atlantic Ocean, were the primary reasons it was selected as one of the UK’s potential spaceport locations. Meanwhile, the signing of the agreement between Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Orbit is the culmination of more than a year’s work by a team led and funded by the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, in partnership with Cornwall Council.

Cornwall Council leader Adam Paynter described the partnership as “game-changing”, saying it will “inspire a generation and create a new industry in Cornwall. The challenge now is to make the most of this hard-won opportunity so that it can deliver on its enormous potential not just for Cornwall but for the UK as a whole.”

The UK’s space sector has estimated annual revenues of £13.7 billion and employs 38,500 people. It has been growing at 8% a year over the past decade, four times as fast as the rest of the UK economy. The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership’s Space Action Plan predicts that the wider space sector could create thousands more jobs in Cornwall and by 2030 be worth £1 billion a year.

“Cornwall can deliver new launch capabilities for the UK quickly and efficiently by upgrading Cornwall Airport Newquay to support our horizontal air-launch platform,” said Patrick McCall, managing director of Virgin Group and chairman of Virgin Orbit’s board of directors.

“The Cornwall partnership allows us to grasp important market share, gain instant global-launch-market credibility and, with the technology already being tested in the US, further lower our risk,” he continued.

Written by: Chloe Greenbank

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TAG Farnborough begins countdown to airshow

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The build-up to this year’s Farnborough International Airshow is now in full swing, as the final preparations are made at TAG Farnborough Airport for next week’s event which lasts from 16-22 July.

Describing itself as the business aviation gateway to London, TAG Farnborough will be offering restricted opening hours to business and general aviation aircraft throughout the week.

The airshow, which takes place every two years, is one of the most iconic aviation events in the UK. The first five days are dedicated to trade with over 1,500 exhibitors pitching their wares and showcasing their innovations. The last show in 2016 saw $124 billion orders and commitments placed.

The static display gives visitors the opportunity to view aircraft up close, while the Farnborough International Airshow Business Aircraft Park (BAP) is dedicated to business aircraft manufacturers, their products and services and is now an integral part of the show. Flying displays will take place throughout the week in the afternoons, leaving the first part of the day free for business activity, and throughout the public weekend (21–22 July).

There will be plenty of news emerging from the show relevant to the regional and low-fare aviation sector too. Japanese manufacturer, Mitsubishi, will be showcasing its long-overdue MRJ90, which will take to the skies for its inaugural public flight display during the show. Meanwhile Embraer will be keeping itself in the limelight with its shark-faced E190-E2 and Franco-Italian turboprop manufacturer, ATR, is expected to entice interest from the US and Chinese market, after forecasting considerably lower sales this year than in 2017.

Cargo will take the spotlight at this year’s show with a 1,000m2 village centred around a static display of ‘giants of the sky’, including 747s, while for the first time there will be a dedicated cargo conference programme. While this year’s show also promises to be one of the most female friendly with women from across the industry, including Baroness Sugg, the UK’s aviation minister and Katherine Bennett, senior vice president Airbus, attending to talk at various conference sessions to encourage and promote women and young girls in the aviation sector.

Highlights during the week will include a special appearance from British astronaut, Tim Peake, on Futures Day, which will be held on Friday 20 July, as well as real-life ‘Iron Man’, Richard Browning, flying above the runway in a lightweight ‘Gravity Jet Suit’ with small engines mounted on each arm and behind his back.

Attending the Farnborough International Airshow next week? Drop by the HMG Aerospace booth (4012) in Hall 4 and meet the team. We will be hosting a Beer & Bubbles drinks reception from 4.30pm onwards on Tuesday 17 and Wednesday 18 July.

Written by: Chloe Greenbank

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