Delta Air Lines has placed a firm order with Airbus for 25 A350-900s and 25 A330-900neos, the airline and manufacturer confirmed Thursday. Worth some $13 billion at list prices, the deal comes as a major blow to rival Boeing, which offered its 777 and 787-9 in a competition to replace Delta's 747-400ERs and 767-300ERs.
"When the most successful U.S. airline today-a company that has flown passengers around the world for more than eighty years, has 80,000 employees and 165 million customers in a year-says, ‘yes, we want fifty more of your widebody planes,' you can't debate the fact that it is a massive endorsement of your product line," said Airbus COO for customers John Leahy.
In its own statement, Boeing suggested the decision reflected practical considerations on Delta's part rather than an outright endorsement of one product over the other. "This was a long and highly competitive campaign," it said. "Boeing competed for the order with the 787-9, but we did not have enough 787 positions available in the timeframe that met Delta's requirement."
Delta now flies 57 A319s and 69 A320s, along with 11 A330-200s and 21 A330-300s. It also awaits delivery of 10 more A330-300s and 45 A321s, bringing its total Airbus backlog to 105 aircraft.
Delta has said it plans to accelerate the retirement of its 747-400 fleet, shedding the last of its remaining 14 jumbo jets by 2017, while it "optimizes" its transpacific network with the current-generation A330s now on order. It said it plans to begin deploying its A350-900s in the second quarter of 2017 mainly on long-range routes between the U.S. and Asia.
Delta's plans for the A330-900neos call for that type's first deployment in 2019, by which time the airline expects to start retiring Boeing 767-300ERs. The neos will primarily fly medium-haul transatlantic routes, along with "select" routes between the U.S. West Coast and Asia, it added.
Kuwait Airways has agreed to buy 10 Boeing 777-300ERs, company chairperson and CEO Rasha Al-Roumi told the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) on Thursday. The letter of intent calls for delivery of the first of the airplanes, worth $3.3 billion at list prices, in November 2016.
Boeing confirmed the deal in a statement released hours after the publication of the KUNA report. "We appreciate the start of a new partnership with Kuwait Airways," said Marty Bentrott, Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president of sales for the Middle East, Russia and Central Asia. "Boeing looks forward to an enduring relationship with Kuwait Airways and we are excited to see that the 777-300ER airplane, which is the preferred long-haul carrier for so many airlines around the world, will now play an important role in the airline's fleet strategy and expansion."
Now flying an eclectic fleet of 15 Airbus A300s, A310s, A320s and A340s along with a pair of Boeing 777-200ERs, Kuwait Airways last February placed a firm order for 15 A320neos and 10 A350-900s. It expects to take delivery of the first of those airplanes in 2019.
I was wrong.
In a conversation with Sheryl Barden, president and CEO of Aviation Personnel International, I dismissed her idea of reaching out to middle and high school counselors to promote careers in business aviation. We were discussing this subject before the NBAA Convention in October, where she was part of a panel session on business aviation careers. Knowing how busy the counselors are at my kids' high school, I felt that it would be difficult to get their attention and that other industries are trying to do the very same to attract kids to their career opportunities.
On October 12, I found out how wrong I was. I drove to Davis Middle School in Compton, Calif., to see the Compton school district's first annual science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) day celebration and to see how the kids reacted to the arrival of Barrington Irving in a Robinson R-44 helicopter.
Irving and his crew flew to Australia and the Asia-Pacific region in a Hawker 400XP equipped as the Flying Classroom, promoting STEM education and introducing kids to the joys of aviation. Irving took off on September 23 and completed the trip in Miami in mid-October. The visit to Compton wasn't originally planned and was added at the last minute, during the Flying Classroom's stop in Van Nuys, Calif., where Irving and sponsor Clay Lacy Aviation hosted an event for kids from Gault Elementary School.
At the Compton event, more than 1,000 kids were bused in from other Compton schools. Davis Middle School, by the way, is named after Gen. Benjamin O. Davis, commander of the Tuskegee Airmen. All of us at the event were thrilled to see Tuskegee crew chief Levi Thornhill, who told the kids, "Pay attention to what your teachers are trying to teach you. Take advantage of what you learn and take care of your friends."
The STEM day at Davis Middle School wasn't just about Barrington Irving's Experience Aviation program and the Flying Classroom, although the arrival of the R-44 and a Los Angeles Sheriff's Department AStar was plenty thrilling for the kids. STEM participants put up booths to show off their work–robots, architectural models, flying machines, etc. The kids were uniformly polite and welcoming and they lined up in droves to see the inside of the helicopters.
The R-44 carrying Irving was flown by a local hero, Robin Petgrave, chief pilot and president of Celebrity Helicopters and founder of Tomorrow's Aeronautical Museum (both are based at Compton Airport). Petgrave and the museum put donations and grants to work to help local kids learn about aviation and learn to fly, and many of these kids have gone on to remunerative aviation careers.
While at the STEM day, I spoke to two counselors at Compton schools and asked them if they wanted industry help to highlight careers in aviation. Rather than complain how busy they are, both responded enthusiastically. Apparently no industries currently are pestering these counselors for attention, so the door is wide open for aviation. This is where I was wrong, so Sheryl, by all means encourage everyone you know to contact their local middle and high school counselors and get aviation's foot in the door. Every company I speak to in aviation these days complains about how hard it is to find qualified personnel. If we don't prime the pump for the future, then it's our own fault.
These kids are enthusiastic, smart, ambitious and just plain fun. What is your plan to reach out to them?
Gulfstream Aerospace on Friday delivered the 100th G650 built, a milestone reached just one month shy of two years after first delivery. "The production of the 100th G650 is a testament to the demand for this aircraft," said Gulfstream president Larry Flynn. "It truly set a new world standard for performance, range, speed, safety and comfort when it entered service in December 2012. The completion of the 100th aircraft also speaks volumes about the skilled employees who build these airplanes."
The G650 was unveiled in March 2008, rolled out in September 2009 and first flew on Nov. 25, 2009. It was certified by the FAA in September 2012; EASA approval followed three months later. Now the Mach 0.925, 7,000-nm wide-cabin jet is certified in 12 countries, and the G650 fleet has logged more than 33,500 flight hours.
The type has claimed 42 city-pair speed records and secured an around-the-world speed record. Clarifying the announcement that the company has delivered the 100th G650, a Gulfstream spokeswoman told AIN today that this event does not mark 100 G650 deliveries, in that some of the aircraft between 85 and 100, while already built, have not been delivered yet.