Third time lucky: Boeing’s 777X maiden flight finally took place on 25 JAN 20
Claimed to be the world’s “largest and most fuel-efficient twin engine jet”, Boeing’s latest 777-version finally had its first test-flight on 25JAN20, officially setting off from Paine Field Everett (PAE) airport at 10:09 and landing at 14:00 in Boeing Field Seattle (BFI). It is a developed version of the successful B777 and combines the B787 Dreamliner’s advanced technologies. Twice before, (23JAN and 24JAN), the aircraft had been positioned and scheduled for a 10:00 take-off, but tailwinds of up to 29 knots meant that the flight could not take place. Test flights may only be performed at tail winds below 10 miles per hour, and only over unpopulated areas.
After the first aborted attempt on 23JAN, over 10,000 spectators (employees, journalists, guests) turned out the next day, braving the wet and windy weather in Seattle in the morning. They were treated to a rainbow in the sky, but after waiting 5 hours, were informed that the flight would again not be able to take place, since the weather had not improved during the planned flight window.
Third time lucky: finally, on Saturday morning, the first test flight took to the skies, lasting 3 hours and 51 minutes. This was the first of four planned test flights over the next 18 months, in preparing for certification. It was live streamed on the Boeing website.
Customer delivery of the B777X is planned for 2021. Three key features of the 777X are its huge engines which are 10% more fuel-efficient than competitor engines due to reduced drag and higher bypass ratio, its fuselage which is 7 ft (c. 2.14m) longer than the 777 and, though same width on the outside, its passenger version is wider on the inside, and lastly – most impressively: the huge, more aerodynamic, composite wing-span with foldable wing-tips to enable the aircraft to fit into the same airport gates as the 777.
That famous wing-tip also celebrated a particular premier on Social Media on 25JAN20, when Airbus congratulated Boeing on the maiden flight, and Boeing “waved back” as a thank you: Twitter
With the successful sales of the current 777F, the interest is also there for a freighter version of the 777X. CargoForwarder Global reported back in JUL19, that at the Paris Air Show 2019, Qatar Airways’ CEO, Akbar Al Baker, requested Boeing to have a 777X freighter version at the ready for when the airline’s current 777F fleet reaches retirement in 2025.
First A321-200F took to the skies on 22 JAN 20
As CFG reported on 01 DEC 19, Vallair was the launch customer placing an order for 10 A321-200 conversions to the joint venture partners Elbe Flugzeugwerke (EFW), ST Aerospace and Airbus, back in FEB18. Originally, the plan was to have the first aircraft scheduled for redelivery at the end of 2019. Yet, Elbe Flugzeugwerke communicated in OCT19 that there was a delay to the Supplemental Type Certificate approval for the A321-200 conversion program due to delayed delivery of IAE V2500 engines. The first of these conversions, an ex-Onur Airplane, sent to Singapore back in NOV18, finally took to the skies above Singapore last week for a 20-minute test-flight. This aircraft is destinated to be operated by Qantas for Australia Post, as per a Letter of Intent signed with Vallair in AUG19.
Further conversions are underway: at the Paris Aris Show 2019, BBAM also signed a Letter of Intent with EFW of one A321-p2f, and an ex-Thomas Cook Airlines A321 was delivered for conversion in Singapore in DEC19, possibly also destined for Qantas, who announced their intention last year to become the first airline in the world to operate the A321 as a freighter aircraft, starting in OCT20.
The Loong road back to cargo
Chinese carrier, Loong Air, which started out as CDI Cargo Airlines operating narrowbody B737-300 freighters in AUG12 only to be renamed at the end of DEC13 and embarking on passenger flights, has now established a new airline together with Sichuan Airport Development Group: “Sichuan Double Dragon Airlines”, alias “Shuanglong”. Loong has put forward 90% of the 500-million-yuan capital investment and will be leasing its three 737-300Fs to the new airline until it receives an air cargo operations license from China’s Civil Aviation Administration, enabling it to operate its own freighter fleet.
Chengdu’s air cargo development scheme launched back in 2017 with financial incentives to attract freighters, appears to have been successful. Alongside international cargo airlines such as Cathay Pacific Cargo, Lufthansa Cargo, ANA, and AirbridgeCargo, its own local Sichuan Airlines kicked off with the region’s first set of three medium widebody A330-200 freighters in 2019 and the launch of its freighter division. In addition, a second airport is currently being built in Chengdu and is due to open in 2020, adding 370,000 tons/annum handling capacity to the existing 250,000 tons/annum at the current airport.
Coronavirus leads to shutdown of Wuhan Airport
In an effort to contain the rapid spread of the Coronavirus which is thought to have originated in a Wuhan seafood market, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) issued a directive on 23JAN20 to carriers to cancel departure flights and reduce flights into Wuhan International Airport (WUH). Despite the “zero departure” notice, Flightradar24 was showing that only around 55% of flights in and out were cancelled on 24JAN20. Wuhan is the busiest airport in Central China, hosting domestic, regional and international passenger and cargo services for over 25 airlines, including China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines and Xiamen Airlines. Dedicated freighter cargo services started up in 2017. The Coronavirus has so far claimed 26 fatalities (all from the Hubei province in Wuhan), and over 850 cases have been reported (mostly in Wuhan), with cases starting to be noted in Thailand; Singapore; Vietnam; Japan; the United States; South Korea; Nepal and Europe, too. In China, 13 cities have been quarantined, affecting over 36 million people, and fears are increasing that the start of Chinese New Year celebrations on 24JAN20 will lead to a more rapid spread of the virus. The WHO does not deem this a global emergency.
dnata and Toll Group partner Western Sydney Airport
dnata and Toll Group are the latest air freight experts to join Western Sydney Airport Group in designing its freight precinct, bringing the total number of freight industry partners to 12. The national, AUD 5.3 billion project is underway, and due to commence curfew free international, domestic and freight operations in 2026, bringing around 28,000 jobs to the region, and looking to become one of Australia’s largest airports. Key freight focus for Western Sydney International is on temperature-sensitive and perishable products, aiming to satisfy the growing demand for Australia’s fresh produce abroad and create opportunities for the many small to medium, family-owned producers in NSW to tap into lucrative Asian fresh-produce markets.
Western Sydney Airport Chief Executive Officer, Graham Millett, said: “This freight precinct has the potential to become Sydney’s most important freight hub, generating thousands of jobs, and we’re thrilled to have two of the industry’s leaders, dnata and Toll Group, on board enabling us to optimize the functionality and design for our freight customers at Sydney’s new Airport.” Toll Group General Manager Aviation Noel Prosser and dnata Head of Cargo, Terence Yong, both welcome the opportunity to share their expertise in creating a customer-oriented cargo environment.
Tiger Global funds new, RFID digital cargo platform company launch: Cargocast
The Cargocast company launched publicly on 21JAN20. It is a digital cargo platform enabling freight forwarders, airlines, and ground handlers to have full, hands-free transparency, and to automate their warehouse operations.
“We’ve developed proprietary processes and technology that leverage the latest advances in RFID to achieve levels of accuracy that were never before possible,” says Cargocast’s CEO, Dan Diephouse. “This is a gamechanger for companies looking to build a strategic advantage in the air cargo industry.” The accuracy he speaks of is a two-foot radius around the cargo’s RFID label. Processes, such as goods acceptance, can be automated, leading to improvements in handling speed and quality, ultimately reducing costs. Next to Dan Diephouse’s IT expertise, Cargocast also draws on Air Canada’s former Director of Cargo, Mike Morey’s long-standing knowledge of the air cargo industry. Morey commented: “Everyone knows that real-time, piece-level tracking is the future, but very few companies have been able to get there without a massive rip and replacement of their existing systems and processes. Cargocast makes piece-level tracking possible, while also delivering cost savings and working with customers’ existing legacy systems.”
Backed by Tiger Global, Cargocast’s customers include a leading European ground handler and a top-five freight forwarder. Cargocast has also launched an innovation lab in Atlanta, Georgia where they perform development and industry participants can see their solution live.
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