Kiwi trial for Cora – electric aircraft to undergo flight testing in NZ

A US company plans to test-fly Cora, its two-passenger all-electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft, in New Zealand working closely with the Civil Aviation Authority and the NZ Airways Corporation.  Wisk is moving forward with its plans, integrating Boeing subsidiary Inset Pacific Pty Ltd, an unmanned aerial systems developer into the programme.

A statement from Anna Kominik, Asia Pacific director for Wisk says NZ

“ … presents a unique opportunity and we are immensely proud to have been recognised by the New Zealand Government as the first airspace integration industry partner. New Zealand’s focus on decarbonising its economy as part of the electric transport evolution directly aligns with Wisk’s mission to deliver safe, everyday flight for everyone through effective, accessible and sustainable urban air mobility solutions.”

The transport trial is part of the government’s Airspace Integration Trial Program (AITP) to test and demonstrate the integration of unmanned aircraft into airspace. Wisk will be performing flight testing, simulation work and data analysis alongside multiple government agencies and New Zealand’s Airways Corporation, a representative from the company told Avionics International.

Gary Gysin, CEO of Wisk, says the company has always seen the distinct advantages of NZ, including the country’s globally respected Civil Aviation Authority and flexibility for Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS).

“These factors, combined with the advantages of testing and operating in a relatively un-congested airspace and the innovative culture of early adoption, makes New Zealand uniquely positioned as a leader for autonomous unmanned aircraft integration trials.”

The first phase of the Transport Trial will focus on collecting and understanding data to support integrating these aircraft into the airspace system, according to the representative.

The aim of the trial is to safely evaluate, test and demonstrate the integration of unmanned aircraft into existing airspace. The goal is to provide robust data that can be used by governments, air traffic control authorities and civil aviation authorities to advance standards globally.

It has an experimental airworthiness certificate from the NZ Civil Aviation Authority and the US Federal Aviation Administration. Several designs have been developed but the company but will not say which would be used in NZ.

The Transport Trial’s goal is to advance autonomous passenger transport in NZ along with cargo delivery, agricultural services and hazard management and monitoring services.

As Air NZ is buffeted by turbulence, let’s think about returning it to public ownership

Air NZ is in a parlous state. Its long-haul Boeing 777 fleet is in storage in the US and few people in the company expect them to return to service. They are heavy, less fuel-efficient than the 787 Dreamliners. The company has been hammered by the Covid-19 pandemic with international tourism decimated.

There has been a wholesale change at senior management with the loss of decades of experience.  Now many of NZ’s international connections are hanging by a thread. Is it time to rethink our whole airline strategy?

One driver has become obvious: the airline is a strategic asset. Without it, NZ would be isolated.

Should Air NZ return to public ownership? Continue reading “As Air NZ is buffeted by turbulence, let’s think about returning it to public ownership”

How Covid is working through markets: British Airways edition

Because markets clear supply and demand, abrupt shocks often lead to surprising outcomes.  Covid is a big market shock.  

An early example of the ‘I didn’t think of that’ genre comes from world aviation. British Airways is taking advantage of the collapse of air traffic to restructure its workforce. Continue reading “How Covid is working through markets: British Airways edition”

An open aviation market is worth revisiting while we consider the merits of an Anzac bubble

There’s mounting enthusiasm in both Anzac countries to create a Trans-Tasman bubble linking both for air travel and tourism.

Why not?

Those  familiar  with history  say  the two countries should go a step further and re-invent the famous open market which was killed by the then Australian Transport Minister, Laurie Brereton, back  on October  23, 1994?

Reincarnated, this might serve both countries well  at this critical  point  for their economies.

In the early 1990s, both Canberra and Wellington envisaged a single market where the airlines of each country could fly freely to and within the other.  The idea had its genesis with the late Sir Peter Abeles when he chaired TNT, the former Australian multi-model transport giant.

Sir Peter was joint chairman, with Rupert Murdoch, owner of the vast News media empire, of Ansett Australia. He took advantage of NZ deregulation to launch Ansett NZ in 1987 but soon realised the only way it would ever become commercially viable would be to link Ansett operations in both countries.

This ran foul of the current air services agreements between each country. Continue reading “An open aviation market is worth revisiting while we consider the merits of an Anzac bubble”

Russia and the airlines – not the conspiracy you think

Russia Today (sometimes referred to as Kremlin TV) does not have a widespread reputation as a fair and balanced news source. But occasionally if they say it’s raining, you might want to check outside to see if you need an umbrella.

So there is some interest in its reporting of ‘Black Swan’ author Nicholas Taleb’s suggestion that the UK government should let Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic airline go bust, rather than bail it out.

“Planes will fly w/new owners!” as he succinctly put it.

Alert readers will recall that Point of Order raised this very point last week, less directly and with more technical verbiage naturally.

RT also reported (with ill-concealed glee) some nastier bits – quoting Taleb on Branson as “a tax refugee” who “walks around virtue-faking with [the] TED [and] Davos crowd”.

And made the unevidenced allegation that the airline industry had been hugely influential in preventing governments from halting flights from China in the early stages of the epidemic.

But back to the meat of it – should governments ‘bail out’ businesses and, if so, how.  The same question which arises from the global financial crisis back to the demise of Mosgiel Woollen Mills in 1980 (and before then to be clear).

The orthodox view is simple and principled.

When a complex entity is short of cash because of a crisis, but viable, you can provide loans at a penalty interest rate, that will be paid back.  In general terms, this is what happened for quite a few of the big US banks (leave aside the murkier case of the dodgy mortgage lenders). It’s at the heart of central banking practice and done well, provides support at a price, rather than a moral-hazard inducing capital bailout.

Of course the owners get the upside on recovery, and, if the liquidity is cheaper than the market, a bonus.  And historically those with the best political connections or visibility tend to get the most generous consideration.

If the business is not currently viable, there is a procedure to resolve the competing claims and distribute the losses.  It’s called bankruptcy. If possible, a working business is plucked out of the wreckage by new owners.  

This is what Taleb refers to.  This normally means writing down the value of the shareholders to near-zero, concessions by workers and bankers, and restructuring the business to new patterns of demand.  Note that if Mr Branson keeps his airline, the last two are likely to happen anyway.

And it’s more or less what happened with General Motors during the global financial crisis, except that in that case the government ended up chipping in an extra $11 billion, which helped reduce the pain for the auto workers and the company’s creditors.

To extend the analogy, the capital bailout of an airline by a government without a formal restructuring procedure will probably mean an even bigger increase in government debt (for us all to pay back through later ‘austerity’) in order to reduce shareholders’ capital losses and minimise the concessions which workers and creditors need to make.

This is somewhat different from the rest of us chipping in to help workers whose income has just fallen off a cliff.

But at the time it’s rarely so simple or principled. The politicians who make these decisions and the people who benefit from them are often keen to obscure the difference between temporary support eventually repaid and capital transfers.  Even now when the numbers are added up, who would have thought that Morgan Stanley got the former and GM the latter?

So Mr Branson’s airline – and indeed airlines more generally – are starting to look like a good test cast for who might get favourable consideration at the expense of the rest.

The troubles with regional air services hark back to reforms which fuelled rising charges

The analysts and number-crunchers are hard at work at the Ministry of Transport trying to figure out what’s wrong with NZ’s regional air services.  The answer isn’t too hard to find.

It begins with the economic revolution of the 1980s and the Lange Labour Government.  The deregulation of air services launched by his transport minister Richard Prebble brought  gains on the main trunk routes (Auckland-Wellington-Christchurch and possibly Dunedin).

Ansett New Zealand, backed by the  empires of News Corporation and TNT, vastly improved those services with upper-class services and frequent flier lounges. In those heady days Ansett NZ’s “Chairman’s” lounges were packed with ministers, MPs and captains of industry. All at great cost, but Ansett was looking to integrate its Australian and NZ networks, which proved to be a bridge too far.

There was a similar and less-appreciated revolution under way in regional NZ. Till then, airports were joint ventures between the local authority and the Crown, administered by the Ministry of Transport.  All were meant to be public utilities, offering a modicum of comfort for passengers, at reasonable cost to the airlines (in effect National Airways Corporation, then Air NZ from 1978). Continue reading “The troubles with regional air services hark back to reforms which fuelled rising charges”

Time for a new airport on the North Shore?

Air NZ CEO Chris Luxon raised Defence hackles with his proposal to use the RNZAF base Whenuapai for commercial services. The air force has long resisted this for reasons of security, safety and the absence of land for passenger terminals and parking.

Cynics reckon this is an opening salvo from Luxon who seems headed to Parliament sooner rather than later. Sometimes the airline thinks it is the only business in town.

Continue reading “Time for a new airport on the North Shore?”

Rolls Royce not alone in being troubled by airliner engine problems

Rolls Royce has  had to absorb a public caning — as well as a heavy  blow to  its   reputation  as a world leader  in its field —  over troubles with its Trent engines powering the Air NZ Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners. It took a further hit when Air NZ chose the GEnx for its new 787-10 fleet.

Point of Order understand a solution is near  for the  problem  with the  Trent.  Air NZ’s flight operations and engineers are working to manage power levels used by pilots at various stages of the flight.

The problems affect the high pressure turbine sections of the engine and what engineers call “sulphidation” – corrosion of turbine blades caused by various combinations of airborne pollutants.

Rolls Royce is not alone. Air NZ has also experienced problems with the Pratt & Whitney PW1100G  geared turbofan engines on its new A321NEO (new engine option). One has had to have an engine change after only 20 flights while another has had oil contamination issues.

All engines have received gearbox modifications including one on arrival after its delivery flight. Pratt & Whitney are working hard to resolve the issues, we are told, mindful of the public furore suffered by rival Rolls.