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IRKUT COMPLETES CONSTRUCTION OF FOURTH MC-21-300 FLIGHT TEST AIRCRAFT
Friday, November 29, 2019
MOSCOW -- The Irkutsk Aviation Plant, a branch of Irkut Corp. (a part of UAC), has completed systems diagnostics of the fourth MC-21-300 aircraft designed for flight tests. The results of first prototypes testing were taken into account in the aircraft production process. Three of them are undergoing flight tests, two of them are on static tests.

On November 28, the new aircraft was transferred from final assembly shop to the plant's flight-test division.

The MC-21-300 twin-engine narrowbody commercial jet transport aircraft is powered by either UEC-Aviadvigatel PD-14 turbofan engines rated 122.6-137.3 kN (27,557-30,864 lbst) each, or Pratt & Whitney PW1400G geared turbofan engines rated 124.5-137.9 kN (28,000-31,000 lbst) each.

In early 2019, UAC and its Irkut subsidiary delayed service entry of the MC-21-300 until 2021, a postponement of roughly one year from previous plans. At least in part, the delay was due to supplier difficulties resulting from U.S. sanctions, particularly the supply of composite materials for the wing of the MC-21 . Russian type certification of the aircraft is slated for July 2020.

Source:  Irkut Corp.
Associated URL: Click here to visit

 
AVIC ACQUISITION GROWTH SLOWING; PROGRAM DELAYS CONTINUE
Thursday, December 5, 2019
NEWTOWN, Conn. -- AVIC is the Airbus, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin of China.  The firm consolidates all of China's aviation activities under its aegis in some shape or form.  The goal behind its formation is to transform China into a major aerospace power that can compete on a global stage.   The effort appears to be working as AVIC has been slowly improving its position.  In 2019, AVIC ranked 151st among Fortune magazine's Global Top 500, up 10 spots from 2018.

However, as can be expected from such a large entity, additional changes have been slow in coming.  The most recent change occurred in 2016 with the formation of Aero Engine Corp of China (AECC).  The majority of AECC's operations were separated from AVIC, which now is centered on airframes and related systems.  AVIC still has many non-aviation operations under its structure that could prove to be a distraction for the company.  For example, the company finally divested its shipbuilding holdings in 2019.

In terms of aviation programs, AVIC works hand in glove with COMAC on two of China's premier aircraft programs, the C919 narrowbody airliner and the ARJ21 regional jet.

The first C919 was rolled out in late 2015 and has spent the past year being prepped for its first flight, which occurred in 2017.  This all-new narrowbody airliner is designed to compete directly against the Airbus A320 family and the Boeing 737.

COMAC's inexperience in testing and certificating civil airliners has led to a long, drawn-out flight test program.  While COMAC may have gained experience through the long-delayed ARJ21 program, but even highly experienced Airbus, Boeing, and Bombardier have trouble keeping to aggressive schedules with all-new aircraft.  Currently, COMAC now expects service entry in 2021, but this new target is too optimistic.  Indeed, an executive at one major Western supplier has suggested that a more realistic date for service entry is in the 2025-2030 time period.

Nevertheless, the program represents a milestone for China.  One advantage the C919 program possesses versus Western competitors is that it is largely insulated from the financial pressures placed on Western manufacturers.  The Chinese government wants to build an indigenous capability to produce airliners that are competitive with those built by Western companies, and the program will therefore continue for as long as the Chinese government wants, regardless of whether the aircraft racks up major sales from airlines outside China.

As AVIC continues to develop itself as a manufacturer, the company is recognizing its limitations, such as a lack of experience, aviation talent, and infrastructure.  As AVIC seeks to become more of a developer than a duplicator, the need for outside technical acumen is acute.  Over the past decade, AVIC has been filling these technological gaps with teaming arrangements or outright acquisition of niche firms.

The company has successfully teamed with Western manufacturers such as Bombardier, Parker Aerospace, and Safran to help educate its operations.  Not only do these partnerships help in the here and now, but they will also plant the seeds for future collaboration.  And it is this long view that will help guide AVIC's strategy to eventually become a world-class aircraft developer.

In addition, the company has complemented and expanded its international footprint with acquisitions.  Most recently, the firm acquired AIM Altitude, a manufacturer of aircraft interiors, and Aritex, a riveting systems specialist.  These two operations add to AVIC's growing international footprint, which includes Fischer Advanced Composite Components (FACC) and Thielert in Europe and four acquisitions in the United States: Continental Motors, Epic Air, Cirrus Aircraft, and Align Aerospace.

These acquisitions are of major importance to AVIC, as they provide the firm with access to advanced foreign technologies that can be exploited under China's well-established civil-military integration strategy.  The company is targeting small to midsize operations with technological capabilities in the commercial aerospace sector.  These skills will be leveraged into the firm's current civil aircraft programs and then incorporated into military spheres.

Currently on its acquisition target list is Bombardier's Belfast operation.  In May 2019, Bombardier announced it would pursue the divestiture of the Belfast and Morocco aerostructures businesses.  The sales are part of the company's effort to optimize its global manufacturing footprint. Airbus has expressed interest in acquiring Bombardier’s A220 wing production plant in Belfast. Aero structure specialists GKN, Triumph Group and Sprit Aerosystems may also be interested in the operations.

This flurry of acquisition activity has caused some concern in the U.S., where AVIC's deals have been heavily scrutinized and criticized.  While the deals were ultimately approved, Congress voiced concerns that AVIC would adapt some of the technologies for weapons systems and/or transfer work to China.  China has made no secret that it is looking to improve its military technology, and sees the adoption of civil technology as a means to this end.

With the Trump Administration's current animosity toward China, future activity in the U.S. is unlikely in the near term.  Adding to the concerns is that the company is seeking to gain access to major aerospace manufactures through the acquisition of minority stakes.  The purchases of smaller manufacturers has already established inroads for the firm in U.S. aerospace supply chains. In light of recent allegations and near full production against Chinese tech giant Huawei, AVIC could find itself in a similar position should it push too hard into U.S. markets.

Source:  Forecast International Government & Industry Group
Associated URL: www.avic.com.cn
Author: R. Pettibone, Gov't & Industry  

 
NORWEGIAN SELLS NAA TO JETSMART
Wednesday, December 4, 2019
OSLO -- Norwegian Air Shuttle has signed an agreement to sell 100 percent of its Argentinian subsidiary Norwegian Air Argentina (NAA) to JetSMART Airlines. The latter will take over the NAA operation, effective immediately.

To minimize impact on passengers, JetSMART will continue to operate NAA scheduled flights from Aeroparque airport in Argentina. The parties expect that the integration process will take several months. During this period, the Norwegian brand will be phased out in the domestic Argentinian network.

Over the next six months, the three Boeing 737-800s operated by NAA will be replaced by JetSMART's Airbus A320s. The three 737s will return to service in Europe for Norwegian.

"As Norwegian moves from growth to profitability, we are taking all the necessary actions required to ensure that Norwegian is well-positioned going forward. Over the past few months, we have made important changes to our route network to ensure long-term profitability. Attaining satisfactory profitability for a relatively small domestic operation has proved difficult to achieve, given the overall situation in the country. While most of NAA's costs are denominated in dollars, revenue is obtained in pesos only, and the sharp depreciation of the peso against the dollar has created a significant gap between costs and revenue," said Norwegian's acting CEO/CFO Geir Karlsen.

Karlsen added, "We believe that the agreement we have signed today with JetSMART secures a significant part of what we have built over these two years; continuity of the network and opportunities. It brings the two newest airlines in Argentina into a stronger combined entity that currently carries about 10 percent of the domestic market and will become the third largest operator in the country."

JetSMART CEO Estuardo Ortiz said, "We are very excited about the opportunity to combine Norwegian Argentina with our current JetSMART operations. JetSMART has a long-term commitment to Argentina as well as of our vision of becoming the leading ultra-low-cost airline in South America. With this transaction, we will continue providing affordable air travel to our customers both from Aeroparque and El Palomar airports."

Additional terms and conditions of the transaction were not disclosed.

NAA solely operates domestic flights within Argentina, so the sale will not affect Norwegian's long-haul flights between London and Buenos Aires. These are operated by its British subsidiary Norwegian Air UK.

NAA received its Air Operator's Certificate in January 2018, and started operations in October 2018. The carrier operates 20 daily flights across eight routes between Buenos Aires' Aeroparque airport to Bariloche, Cordoba, Iguazu, Jujuy, Mendoza, Neuquen, Salta, and Ushuaia. NAA has so far carried 982,000 passengers.

Source:  Norwegian Air Shuttle

 

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