Leading carriers' profits crimped in 2018

Leading airline groups largely retained healthy profit levels across 2018, but creeping costs and rising competition in some key markets took the edge off recent profit highs, the latest annual Airline BusinessWorld Airline Rankings show.

Figures collected by Cirium covering the 100 biggest airline groups by revenue in US dollar terms show collective revenues rose by around 8% to $782 billion in 2018. These airlines delivered a collective operating profit of just under $49 billion – around 14% lower than the same carriers in 2017. Net profits meanwhile fell more than one-fifth to $27.7 billion.

A large portion of industry profits remain attributed to a relatively small group of leading carriers. Seventeen airlines or groups recorded operating profits in excess of $1 billion and collectively totalling $38.9 billion

That leaves 83 airlines or groups out of the 100 biggest by revenue between them delivering a combined operating profit of $10 billion. Of the 77 biggest groups for which operating profits are so far available for 2018, just under one-quarter posted a loss.

The high numbers of airline groups posting high profit levels continues the trend evident during the strong profits cycle airlines have enjoyed since recovering from the financial crisis a decade ago.

Restructuring, consolidation, a largely benign environment and – in the latter years, at least – lower fuel costs have helped airlines enjoy an unprecedented run of profits – going beyond previous economic cycles.

Fuel costs, however, turned during 2018. Even though a sharp fall in the final quarter helped airlines enjoy stronger profits than they would have expected as the summer ended, there were clear signs in 2018 of profits coming under pressure.

That was evident even among the groups that still delivered the bulk of the industry profit last year. In 2017 there were 20 airline groups that delivered an operating profit in excess of $1 billion. But Alaska Airlines, Air Canada and JetBlue all fell short of that level in 2018.

And those 17 airline groups that did pass the $1 billion mark delivered combined operating profits of over $41 billion – around $2.5 billion more than they did in 2018.

The sharpest fall in profits came among North American carriers, largely reflecting the impact of higher oil prices. The relative lack of fuel hedging among carriers in the region means they more immediately feel the impact of major changes in the oil price.

North American carriers remain the most profitable. Five of the eight most profitable airline groups are from North America and delivered $16.5 billion operating profit between them.

But there is more balance between the leading operators, with five coming from North America and Europe, six from Asia-Pacific and one from the Middle East.

Profits among leading Asia-Pacific airline groups largely remained stable in 2018 – driven by the three big Chinese carrier groups, the Japanese big two All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines, and Qantas.

The big three carrier groups drive European profits – with a particularly strong year for IAG. While all three groups have developing interests in the low-cost segment, the bulk of the profits are still delivered through network operations – in particular British Airways, KLM and Lufthansa. The recovery of its market has aided further growth at Turkish Airlines, and while Ryanair profits took a hit last year, the carrier still recorded profits in excess of $1 billion for a fifth consecutive year.

Although its operating profits fell by one-quarter amid more challenging conditions, Emirates still produced a group profit almost $1.1 billion in 2018 – though at an airline level, this fell to just over $700 million.

A further sign of the tougher conditions taking hold of the industry in 2018 is the greater portion of leading carrier groups posting losses. While there were 17 carriers in the red – out of the 77 for which operating figures are available – there were only seven posting such losses in 2017.

Revenues rose by around 10% among leading low-cost operators in 2018, but profitability again suffered in this sector

Data covering 36 low-cost carriers that feature within the 100 biggest operators by revenue – either in their own right or as subsidiaries of larger groups – shows the segment's carriers accounting for around $112 billion in 2018. That compares with almost $102 billion the previous year.

That increase is roughly in line with the 10% climb in passenger numbers among leading low-cost carriers in 2018. The data, covering 37 operators, accounts for 1.13 billion passengers – around 30% of passengers carried by operators within the 100 biggest airlines by RPKs.

Collective operator profits, which are available for 33 of these carriers, totalled $8.2 billion last year. That compares with $11.8 billion in 2017. Profits at a net level, which cover 26 operators, were down even more sharply. Net profits almost halved from just under $10 billion to a little over $5 billion in 2018.

Southwest Airlines remains the biggest low-cost operator by all three financial measures, and while its profit levels slipped, it still delivered $3.2 billion in operating profits.

Ryanair remains the second-largest budget operator, but its operating profits slipped by 40% to a little under $1.2 billion in 2018. Despite increasing passenger numbers by 9% to over 142 million for the year ended March 2019 – including traffic from its Lauda subsidiary – yield pressure and higher costs ate into its profits. It is one of only two low-cost carriers to generate profits in excess of $1 billion, though.

JetBlue had in 2017 posted net profits of $1 billion, but its profits were hard hit in 2018 by rising fuel costs – and it continues to implement a company-wide cost-cutting programme that it unveiled almost three years ago.

EasyJet, the third largest low-cost operator, lifted its profits after a strong year. That included a 10% jump in passenger numbers during its financial year running to October, which in part reflects its launch of operations at the start of 2018 at Berlin Tegel after acquiring former Air Berlin assets.

It was generally a tougher year for Europe’s low-cost operators, however – one in which Icelandic carrier Wow Air ultimately collapsed. Norwegian continued to struggle to translate its rapid expansion into profit. Similarly, Eurowings' rapid moves to expand in the gap left by Air Berlin and Niki, amid rival competitive pressure in these markets from the likes of EasyJet and Ryanair's Lauda unit, have had an impact on the profitability of all three operators.

Both Norwegian and, more recently, Eurowings have begun measures aimed at improving profitability, revamping their respective networks.

India is another market where low-cost carrier profitability has been hit. Again, this reflected a combination of intense competition and higher fuel costs, which, allied to currency pressure in India hit profitability. Even the country's largest and most successful operator, IndiGo, slipped to a pre-tax loss – its first such of the kind since 2011 – and its net profits were sharply cut.

This tough environment has not stopped IndiGo – nor indeed other Indian low-cost operators – from expansion, which is further accelerated by their efforts to exploit the grounding of Jet Airwaysearlier this year. IndiGo alone increased its traffic by one-quarter in the 2018 calendar year.

Alliance gains two year extension to BHP Iron Ore contract

Alliance Airlines will continue to provide fly in, fly out charter services from Perth to BHP's Coondewanna and Barimunya mines for two more years.

It operates the services using Fokker 100 and 70 jets. Cirium schedules data shows it flies seven times per week to Barimunya, and nine times to Coondewanna.

The extension builds on a 10 year relationship between BHP's Iron Ore division and Alliance.

Last year the airline secured an extension to a key contract with BHP's Nickel West division to provide flights from Perth to its mines in the Goldfields region of Western Australia.

White House Seeking New Air Force Ones

The White House has urgently asked for new presidential jumbo jets to replace two Air Force One Boeing 747-200 aircraft that will reach their 30-year life expectancy next year and are becoming harder to keep flying, according to the Air Force.

"The real challenge and the challenge that is forcing us to buy newer aircraft for the president is to overcome the fact that there are heroics going on every day to keep the current aircraft flying and it's becoming way too expensive and way too difficult to do that," said Kevin W. Buckley, program executive officer of mobility programs headquartered at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson.

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Buckley has oversight of replacing the presidential fleet, known in the Air Force as VC-25s, with two and possibly three Boeing 747-8 planes, a larger and more fuel-efficient version of the iconic blue and white jumbo jetliner with a giant American flag painted on its tail. The Air Force says the new four-engine aircraft will take flight with the president aboard in 2024. Wright-Patterson manages the presidential aircraft replacement program.

"Even with the current replacement program, the existing aircraft will get to be around 35 years old, which is up there in jetliner years," Richard Aboulafia, a senior aviation analysis at the Teal Group in Virginia, said in an email.

While the Air Force has kept bombers and aerial tankers flying decades-longer than ever expected -- many more than half a century old -- that's not an option with the presidential fleet, Buckley said.

"We grit our teeth and bear it in the U.S. Air Force," he said. "We can't do that with the presidential air (fleet). They need 100 percent reliability."

Neither the Air Force nor Boeing released cost estimates when requested Monday, but it was reported early this year that the Air Force has budgeted $1.65 billion between 2015 and 2019 for the new Air Force One. The cost of a commercial Boeing 747-8 is nearly $370 million, according to media reports.

In a recent interview, Buckley said the final cost for the presidential version is "difficult to say at this point because we know we have challenges with affordability." The Air Force was working with Boeing to reduce requirements and costs and a revised estimate was expected next spring or later when an analysis is completed, he said.

So far, the Air Force has awarded $169 million in contracts, he said.

"What drives the price tag isn't the cost of the plane, it's all the costly modifications and equipment that must be installed on such a unique aircraft," said Loren B. Thompson, a senior aviation analyst and industry consultant with the Virginia-based Lexington Institute.

Air Force One is filled with communications gear and defensive equipment to evade airborne threats, such as anti-aircraft missiles.

"It's really not just about getting the president from point A to point B," Buckley said. "It's adding communication equipment. It's adding defensive gear. It's adding everything that the president needs in order to execute his mission in that airplane. He has to be able to do everything in all his roles: commander in chief, chief executive, head of state, president of the United States."

The jetliner is an airborne command post the commander in chief would rely on when the nation is under attack, as former President George W. Bush did when terrorists hijacked U.S. airliners and destroyed the World Trade Center and slammed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

"Boeing's 747 is the only U.S.-built jet that can support all the functions required of an airborne White House," Thompson said. "The plane must be linked to all U.S. military forces worldwide and able to function even in the midst of a nuclear war."

The Air Force has a military version of the Boeing 747-200, known as the E-4B and nicknamed the "doomsday plane" -- meant to be an airborne command post in the event of a nuclear attack or national emergency.

Boeing says the next Air Force One will be larger, faster, and fly further than the current version.

The Boeing 747-8 will fly 7,730 nautical miles, nearly 1,000 miles farther than the Boeing 747-200. The new jetliner will be both the fastest and longest commercial airliner in the world, reaching speeds of Mach. 0.855, and measuring slightly over 250 feet in length. And at 987,000 pounds, the new version will weigh 154,000 pounds more than the old version and produce 16 tons less of carbon dioxide on a typical flight, Boeing says.

Air Force One has a presidential stateroom, a conference/dining room and two galleys to feed up to 100 people at a time.

In 2009, high costs spiraled to a reported estimate of $13 billion for a new presidential helicopter and sunk the Navy's plan to buy 23 helos for the White House. A new program to field the Sikorsky VH-92 as Marine One was OK'd in 2014 under a $1.24 billion contract. The first of 21 Marine One helicopters assigned to White House flight duty is expected in 2020.

When the current Air Force One jets retire from presidential duty, area leaders have lobbied the secretary of the Air Force to send one to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson. The museum has carved out future space in a new hangar to put the jumbo jet on display. A decision has not yet been announced.

Airbus unveils new jet at Paris airshow

Airbus has stepped up the pressure on arch-rival Boeing on the opening day of the Paris airshow by launching a new long-range small passenger jet and announcing $15bn (£12bn) worth of orders.

The European manufacturer unveiled the A321XLR, a long-haul version of the A321neo that competes with Boeing’s grounded 737 Max.

Airbus said on Monday that the plane’s additional range, which opens up routes such as India to Europe or China to Australia, would allow airlines to operate a single-aisle aircraft on intercontinental journeys that are currently possible only on larger, less fuel-efficient wide-body planes.

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It is expected to confirm up to 200 orders for the new model, the A321XLR, at the show this week, according to Reuters. Middle East Airlines, the Lebanese flag carrier, was announced as launch customer, with an order for four A321XLRs, which are expected to be operational from 2023. The California-based Air Lease Corporation also signed a letter of intent to purchase 27 of the new planes – as well as 50 A220-300s and 23 additional A321neos, worth a total of $11bn at list prices.

Boeing, meanwhile, expressed further contrition over the 737 Max, which remains grounded in the wake of the Ethiopian Airlines and Lion Air disasters. The two crashes, suspected to be caused by faulty software and sensors, killed a total of 346 passengers and crew.

Kevin McAllister, the chief executive of Boeing’s commercial aircraft, said: “We are very sorry for the loss of lives.” He also apologised for the disruption to airlines from the subsequent removal of service of the 737 Max. He did not predict when the model would fly again, but said it was “a pivotal moment” for Boeing: “It’s a time to be introspective. And it’s a time for us to make sure accidents like this never happen again.”

Emmanuel Macron and Florence Parly at Airbus stand

France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, and the defence minister Florence Parly at the Airbus stand during a visit to the Paris airshow. Photograph: Benoît Tessier/Reuters

The firm suffered a fresh setback as its engine supplier, GE Aviation, announced a delay because of problems with a part in the GE9X engine that it is developing for a new Boeing plane. The 777X will be the world’s largest twin-engined passenger jet when it takes to the skies later this year.

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Expectations for the Paris show, which usually features a plethora of new products and big-money orders, had been dampened by economic headwinds, including the US-China trading salvoes and concerns over sluggish growth.


However, Airbus followed up the Air Lease deal with news that Virgin Atlantic would buy 14 of its A330neo widebody planes in an order valued at $4.1bn (£3.3bn). Virgin said the planes, with Rolls-Royce engines, would be 13% more fuel-efficient than the aircraft they replaced and also significantly quieter on take-off and landing.

The airline’s chief executive, Shai Weiss, said the deal would “play a pivotal role in our fleet transformation”, adding: “Twenty-nineteen marks a return to growth for Virgin Atlantic as we strive to become the most loved travel company and the nation’s second flag carrier at an expanded Heathrow.”

Optimism over airlines’ prospects was in shorter supply elsewhere after another overnight profit warning from German giant Lufthansa. Shares in Lufthansa, which cut its forecast profit for 2019 by 20% in the face of intense fare competition, fell 10%, and European rivals were also dragged down, with easyJet and the British Airways owner, IAG, also falling on the FTSE 100.

KC-46 Debuts at Paris Air Show

The Air Force's new KC-46 Pegasus tanker landed on the flight line at France's Paris-Le Bourget Airport Saturday ahead of its public debut at the air show here.

But the overseas unveiling comes on the heels of a new government watchdog report outlining new concerns for the KC-46 program, and amid continued challenges with manufacturer Boeing Co. regarding assembly line inspection.

Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, said it will take some time for the new inspection process to become standard at Boeing's production facility. The inspections are supposed to correct actions that set back the program earlier this year.

The Air Force in April cleared Boeing to resume aircraft deliveries following two stand-downs over foreign object debris (FOD) -- trash, tools, nuts and bolts, and other miscellaneous items -- found scattered inside the aircraft.

Roper on Monday said more FOD issues were discovered within the last week.

"It's slowing down deliveries," Roper said here during the airshow.

Currently, the production is averaging one aircraft delivery to the Air Force per month, well below the rate of delivery the service had expected, Roper said.

"We're currently not accepting at three airplanes per month, which was the original plan. But we're not going to be pushing on a faster delivery schedule in a way that would put the rigor of the inspection at risk," he said.

All aircraft under assembly are supposed to be swept routinely for debris. Loose objects are dangerous because they can cause damage over time.

The first halt in accepting KC-46 deliveries occurred in February, and the decision to halt acceptance a second time was made March 23, officials said at the time.

"We're just going to have to stay focused, have to continue verifying through these inspections, and what we hope we'll see is that [detection will happen earlier] for total foreign object debris to come down," Roper said.

On top of the FOD issue, a new Government Accountability Office report says that the KC-46 -- which has had its share of issues even before the FOD discoveries -- has a long road ahead for fixing other setbacks that still plague the aircraft.

The GAO found that while both Boeing and the Air Force are aware of or have begun implementing solutions to fix the aircraft, the repeated repairs and recurring delays in the program will likely cause other hiccups in the company's delivery requirement, according to a report released June 12.

As previously reported, one of the main issues surrounds poorly-timed testing. But GAO said a new issue lies with delivery of the wing refueling pods, which would allow for simultaneous refueling of two Navy or allied aircraft, or for aircraft that do not use a boom system.

Since the company did not start the process for testing the wing refueling pods on time, GAO found, it is not expected to meet the delivery date for the pods, nearly 34 months after the delivery was originally planned.

Air Force to Keep Close Eye on Boeing as KC-46 Deliveries Resume

Air Force Again Halts KC-46 Tanker Deliveries

"Boeing continued to have difficulty providing design documentation needed to start Federal Aviation Administration testing for the wing aerial refueling pods over the past year, which caused the additional delays beyond what [GAO] reported last year," the report said. "Specifically, program officials anticipate that the Air Force will accept the first 18 aircraft by August 2019, and nine sets of wing aerial refueling pods by June 2020 -- which together with two spare engines constitute the contractual delivery requirement contained in the development contract."

GAO officials noted the Air Force still grapples with other previously-known problems with the aircraft. For example, the service said in January said it would accept the tanker, which is based on the 767 airliner design, despite the fact it has a number of deficiencies, mainly with its Remote Vision System.

The RVS, which is made by Rockwell Collins and permits the in-flight operator to view the refueling system below the tanker, has been subject to frequent software glitches. The first tankers were delivered in spite of that problem.

The systemic issue, which will require a software and hardware update, may take three to four years to fix, officials have said.

GAO estimates it will take the same amount of time to fix and FAA-certify the tanker's telescoping boom, which has previously been described as "too stiff" for lighter aircraft to receive fuel.

"The KC-46 boom currently requires more force to compress it sufficiently to maintain refueling position," the report said. "Pilots of lighter receiver aircraft, such as the A-10 and F-16, reported the need to use more power to move the boom forward while in contact with the boom to maintain refueling position."

Pilots also pointed out the same power is needed to disconnect from the boom, which could damage the aircraft or the boom upon release.

The solution requires a hardware change and "will then take additional time to retrofit about 106 aircraft in lots 1 to 8," GAO said. "The total estimated cost for designing and retrofitting aircraft is more than $300 million."

It's unclear if the latest findings will impede prospects for future international sales, especially at the Paris air show.

Jim McAleese, expert defense industry analyst and founder of McAleese & Associates, said that the KC-46 is still the U.S.'s latest aviation program, and international partners will be curious about it.

"Now that [the Air Force] is accepting deliveries, KC-46 is high visibility for international sales," McAleese recently told Military.com.

Acting Air Force Secretary Matt Donovan on Monday said its presence is key to showing U.S. capabilities abroad regardless of "minor" issues.

"KC-46 really is a great airplane," Donovan said. "What we're talking about here are sort of minor things when you take a look at the whole capability of the airplane."

Roper added, "The foreign object debris is not a reflection of the end-state performance. We're not happy with how FOD is being handled ... but once we get the FOD out of the airplane the hard way, our operators are getting good performance out in the field."

The Air Force has received six KC-46 tankers at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, and five at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, according to a service release.

Designated aircraft and aircrew at McConnell earlier this month began Initial Operational Testing and Evaluation (IOT&E), which will provide a glimpse "of how well the aircraft performs under the strain of operations," the release said.

"As the KC-46 program proceeds with IOT&E, participation in the Paris Air Show and other international aviation events serves as [an] opportunity to increase understanding of ally and partner capabilities and proficiencies, while promoting standardization and interoperability of equipment," the Air Force said.

Major Defense Merger Could Spur a Search for New Partnerships at Paris Air Show

The planned Raytheon-UTC merger could be the push international companies in the defense community need to test new deals at the upcoming Paris Air Show, according to a top analyst.

Some experts think the buzz surrounding the Raytheon-UTC news -- which would create a new defense and aerospace giant that may rank second behind Boeing Co. -- will spur other companies to search for new partnerships.

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The biennial air show will take place June 17-20 at France's Paris Airport-Le Bourget.

"The bar for size and critical mass has just gotten higher," Richard Aboulafia, vice president and analyst at the Teal Group, said in a recent phone interview with Military.com. "Anything could be a surprise."

He noted that the Paris Air Show, much like the Farnborough International Airshow in the U.K., focuses on the commercial side, but military negotiations take place behind the scenes.

"I think if you make a surprise announcement at an air show, from a [U.S.] military standpoint, you look like an amateur," Aboulafia said, adding that most military deals aren't publicized as much as commercial sales.

"The commercial side is hit-you-on-the-head obvious," he said. "On the military side, it's [about] positioning, posturing, cooperation. It's not as obvious."

But the proposed merger to create "Raytheon Technologies Corporation" sometime in 2020, pending government approval, will have everyone, including adversaries, watching as another large American defense firm takes shape.

"Let's see what other people are doing and what other alignments may be created" as this gathering happens in Paris, Aboulafia said.

The Europeans are under pressure to make news on the Franco-German-Spanish Future Combat Air System (FCAS), a potential sixth-generation fighter that could be operational sometime between the 2030s and 2040s.

Last year at the Farnborough show, the United Kingdom unveiled its own breakout, Tempest, the optionally manned, next-generation fighter intended to replace the Eurofighter Typhoon. The proposal -- which experts say looks like a mix between a fifth-and-sixth-gen fighter -- is a joint venture between BAE Systems, Leonardo, Rolls-Royce and MBDA. It's expected to fly by 2035.

But the show isn't just for NATO allies and partners.

"Teaming arrangements of near-peer adversaries is something to watch for," Aboulafia said, referring to Russia and China, which may seek to partner with other countries with similar strategic interests.

Unexpected alliances have happened before.

Aboulafia cited Saudi Arabia and Ukraine joining to create the Antonov/Taqnia An-132 military transport plane. It was seen as an unlikely pairing, given that it could displease neighboring Russia. The project was suspended this year over what experts said was Saudi Arabia's attempt to mend ties with Russia.

Turkey is a wild card this year, Aboulafia said. It could seek new business, given the recent news that it plans to proceed with its purchase of Russia's S-400 surface-to-air missile system, straining its ties with the U.S. and NATO and prompting its gradual removal from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

The U.S. will continue to open doors to new partnerships, and not just for big programs like the F-35. The Pentagon for years has aimed to better streamline and expedite its foreign military sales -- from drones to missile systems -- and be the lead arms seller in the Middle East to get ahead of Russia and China.

In an era of "great power competition," positioning matters, Aboulafia said. It's about "how people are positioning themselves for future exports," he said.

"The objective of the U.S. is to be the guy with the pitchfork and horns on the shoulder saying, 'You want to buy our systems,'" he continued. "And if that doesn't work, then you say, 'If you want to build your next-generation systems, you want to build them with us.'"

Skytrax Survey Names Qatar Airways World’s Best Airline for Record-Setting Fifth Time

Qatar Airways has been named the world’s top airline for an unprecedented fifth time.

Those are the headline-making results of the 2019 World Airline Awards, administered by the ranking site Skytrax, which were announced at the Paris Air Show on Tuesday. According to Afar, while some other airlines have managed multiple wins, none of them have taken home the trophy five times. This year, 22 million fliers from more than 100 countries cast votes between last September and this May to determine the world’s top airlines.

“The focus of our annual survey is for travelers to make their own, personal choices as to which airlines they consider to be best,” Skytrax said in a press release. “The company noted that all survey entries are screened to identify IP and user information and that duplicate, suspect, or ineligible entries are deleted.

In addition to the top prize, Qatar Airways also walked away with the award for best business class and best airline in the Middle East. Considered one of 10 Five-Star airlines in the world by Skytrax, the airline has previously won the award in 2011, 2012, 2015 and, most recently, 2017.

Rounding out the rest of the top 10 was a roster dominated by Asian and Middle Eastern carriers, including Singapore Airlines, which won the award last year, ANA All Nippon Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, EVA Air, Hainan Airlines, Qantas Airways, Lufthansa and Thai Airways.

While Qatar Airlines walked away with the main award, Singapore Airlines won the award for best cabin staff, Phillippine Airlines was named most improved airline and Star Alliance was voted the best airline alliance.

Since its founding in 2001, the World Airline Awards have been dominated by a group of four airlines. While Qatar Airlines has claimed the top honor five times now, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Cathay Pacific have all won it four times. British Airways (in 2006) and Asiana Airways (2010) have also won the award.

Aviation's Electric Future Lands at the Paris Air Show

The electric revolution is making its mark at this year’s Paris Air Show with industry giants such as Airbus to nascent developers such as Eviation highlighting technologies that include electric aircraft, urban air mobility vehicles, and autonomous advancements. Their arrival at the show signifies that these technologies will likely become a key component of the future market.

“The Paris Air Show is an exhibition essentially oriented towards the future, which it helps to shape. This is why Innovation is one of the main themes of this 53rd edition,” show organizers said.

As such, the show is marking the return of the Paris Air Lab in the Concorde Hall to provide a venue for presentations and discussions about current and future innovations. Underscoring the interest in next-generation of technologies, the first edition of the Paris Air Lab in 2017 attracted 55,000 trade and general public visitors and 55 delegations.

Among the exhibits are startups in the electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) market, which is raising high hopes with analysts suggesting it could be a cumulative $285 billion business by 2030.

To date, more than $1 billion has been poured into eVTOL and hybrid VTOL concepts and at least 125 designs are now on the drawing board in anticipation of what is expected to be at least a $30 billion market annually. Well-known industry players including Airbus, Boeing, Bell, and Embraer are joining companies such as Intel, Amazon, Honda, Toyota, and Uber to explore concepts. And they are among myriad eVTOL startups in the market, and the lab will feature some of these start-ups, including Ascendance Flight Technologies.

Many of the major manufacturers will spotlight their advancements this week in Paris. Airbus (Static C4), which has a number of projects in the works, is showcasing its Vahana all-electric, autonomous VTOL demonstrator that uses eight 45-kilowatt electric motors and a tandem tilt-wing configuration.

While VTOLs begin to take shape, manufacturers are continuing to progress on the electrification of more traditional designs. Israel-based Eviation (Chalet 282, Static B8), is making the global public debut of its all-electric nine-passenger Alice commuter aircraft prototype this week in Paris.

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Alice is currently one of the largest aircraft to solely run on electric power. Eviation has teamed up with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) on research and development of the commuter aircraft –the largest aircraft to solely run on electric power. Eviation hopes to fly the aircraft in upcoming months.

Powering the Alice are Siemens motors, though Eviation announced a second engine option for the MagniX engine in late April. Over the past decade, Siemens (Chalet 59) has become a fixture at the Paris Air Show and is now a key driver in numerous of all-electric designs.

The company signed a memorandum of understanding at the 2013 Paris Air Show to explore technologies with Diamond and Airbus (then EADs). In 2017, Siemens’ 260-kW motor powered the Extra 330LE aerobatic plane that performed at the Paris Air Show flying display in 2015.

Airbus, meanwhile, arrives at Paris just weeks after signing an MoU with SAS Scandinavian Airlines for hybrid and electric aircraft eco-system and infrastructure requirements research. Airbus already has been testing hybrid-electric subsystems as it explores the potential for powering the next-generation narrowbody, working with companies such as Siemens.

French startup electric-hybrid aircraft manufacturer VoltAero (Static A6) is displaying an iron bird” mockup of its concept as it preps for flight testing of its Cessna 337-based "Cassio 1" hybrid-electric aircraft.

This type of research is being carried out throughout the industry with major engine-makers such as Rolls-Royce, GE, Honeywell, and Pratt & Whitney all testing hybrid-electric concepts. UTC is investing $50 million in a new lab, “The Grid,” that is devoted to the development of new electric power technologies for future electric and hybrid aircraft. This includes research to further the Project 804, a hybrid demonstrator that involves a re-engined de Havilland Dash 8-100 stationed at Pratt & Whitney’s facility in Montreal, Quebec.

Gulfstream's G600 To Make Paris Air Show Debut

As it awaits certification from the FAA, Gulfstream’s G600 will make its debut at the Paris Air Show next week, joining the Georgia-based airframer’s G280, G550, and flagship G650ER in the static display at Le Bourget Airport.

The long-range, large-cabin twinjet is equipped with the same Honeywell Primus Epic-based Gulfstream Symmetry flight deck as its smaller G500 sibling, featuring touchscreen displays and fly-by-wire with active control side sticks. The aircraft is capable of linking Paris with Los Angeles or Hong Kong at an average speed of Mach 0.90.

“The European response to the G600 and the innovations it brings to business aviation have been extraordinary,” noted Gulfstream president Mark Burns. “With Gulfstream’s advanced technology in the flight deck and award-winning design in the cabin, the G600 offers customers in every region a compelling combination of speed, comfort, and safety.”

The G600 could receive certification and approval of its production certificate by the end of June, with the first deliveries to follow soon after.

Farnborough Cancels Public Airshow

The Farnborough International Airshow has announced that it is removing its public weekend, taking the biennial show from seven days to five and eliminating its public airshow. It has been reported that factors influencing the change include negative feedback regarding last year’s airshow, the fatal 2015 airshow crash in Shoreham for which the pilot was recently charged with manslaughter by gross negligence, and a decreasing number of airshow spectators. The public weekend will be replaced by opening the trade show to the public for the final day of the event.

“Allowing the public to see more of the people, products and processes that underpin the global aerospace, defense and space industries will help engage and inspire a new generation,” said Farnborough International CEO Gareth Rogers. “Removing the public weekend will disappoint some, but for our exhibitors and trade visitors the focus is on business and accessing the talent they need to sustain global competitiveness.” Commercial and military air displays will still be held during the week.

The Farnborough International Airshow is held every other year with the next show scheduled for July 20-24, 2020. In 2018, more than 1,500 exhibitors and 80,000 visitors from 112 countries attended the event.