Royal Australian Air Force to acquire two additional KC-30s

KC-30A Refuel Boom ContactAustralia is to acquire two further Airbus KC-30A tanker-transports, taking the RAAF’s fleet to seven, Defence Minister Kevin Andrews has announced.

“The two additional KC-30A aircraft will be delivered in 2018 and provide a substantial increase to the air-to-air refuelling capacity of the RAAF,” Andrews said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Defence has signed an update to the existing acquisition contract with Airbus Defence and Space for the two aircraft and associated conversion at a cost of approximately $408 million.”

The KC-30 (Airbus calls it the A330 MRTT – Multi Role Tanker Transport) is a development of the A330-200 airliner, featuring an ARBS (Advanced Refuelling Boom System) boom mounted beneath the rear fuselage and underwing mounted ‘probe and drogue’ pods. It also has a significant ‘air logistics support’ capability able to carry cargo in its underfloor freight compartments and, in RAAF service, 270 passengers in airliner-style seating.

Although four of the original five aircraft were converted from ‘green’ A330 airframes to their KC-30 configuration by Qantas Defence Services (now Northrop Grumman Australia Integrated Defence Services) at Brisbane Airport, the two new aircraft – secondhand ex Qantas A330-200 airliners – will be converted to tanker configuration by Airbus Defence and Space at Getafe, Spain.

“These aircraft will be based on two previously-owned Qantas Airways A330-200 airliners which will be converted to A330 MRTTs by Airbus Defence and Space at Getafe near Madrid and delivered in 2018,” Airbus Defence and Space said in a statement.

“The RAAF decided to use these particular aircraft as they are extremely close to the same basic specification as the KC-30As already in service.”

The two ex Qantas airframes are being acquired are VH-EBH (msn 892) and VH-EBI (msn 898), a Qantas spokesman has confirmed. Both aircraft were built in 2007 (and so are of a similar vintage to the existing RAAF KC-30s) and were leased by owner CIT Aerospace to Qantas. VH-EBH has already been withdrawn from Qantas service, operating its last service for the airline in May, while EBI is expected to be withdrawn by November.

The acquisition of extra KC-30s was first publicly flagged by former Defence Minister Senator David Johnston in a media interview last year.

“When you get good service from a platform it prompts you to say, ‘why don’t you get some more?’,” the then Minister was reported as saying.

After a difficult early development that saw the KC-30 acquisition managed under Defence’s ‘Projects of Concern‘ process, the aircraft has rapidly matured in service. Refuelling trials with the once troubled boom are now underway and earlier problems with the hose and drogue pods and support and sustainment issues have been resolved.

A single KC-30 has been deployed to Al Dhafra in the UAE supporting RAAF and coalition strike aircraft flying combat missions over Iraq against Islamic State since last October, during which time it has offloaded 25 million pounds of fuel.

The KC-30s are operated by Amberley-based 33 Squadron.

The announcement was the second new A330 MRTT order this week after South Korea announced on Tuesday its selection of the aircraft ahead of Boeing’s 767-based KC-46 Pegasus. South Korea will take delivery of four A330 MRTTs – its first air-to-air refuelling aircraft – by 2019.


Aaustralian Aviation

Vietnam Airlines becomes second airline to take delivery of A350

Vietnam Airlines' first Airbus A350-900 in flight. (Airbus)
Vietnam Airlines’ first Airbus A350-900 in flight. (Airbus)

Vietnam Airlines has become the the second airline to take delivery of the Airbus A350.

The Skyteam member accepted its first A350-900 at the official handover ceremony at Airbus’s headquarters in Toulouse, France, on Tuesday morning (European time).

The airline has ordered 14 A350s, with 10 to arrive from Airbus and four through lessors.

This first aircraft, VN-A886, has been leased from Amsterdam-based AerCap.

The delivery ceremony for Vietnam Airlines' first Airbus A350-900 at Toulouse. (Airbus)
The delivery ceremony for Vietnam Airlines’ first Airbus A350-900 at Toulouse. (Airbus)

Vietnam Airlines executive vice president for commercial Trinh Ngoc Thanh said the A350 would enable passengers would “fly in style” in all three classes of travel.

“We are proud to be the second airline in the world to receive the A350 XWB aircraft which is a step forward that helps us to fulfil our commitment to ‘reach further’,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The arrival of the A350 XWB marks the start of a major upgrade of our long haul fleet.”

Vietnam Airlines was expected to begin commercial service with the A350 by the end of the week, starting with flights between the nation’s two biggest cities Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, before deploying the aircraft on the Hanoi-Paris and Ho Chi Minh-Paris routes.

Currently, the airline uses Boeing 777-200ERs to the French capital.

The airline has configured its A350 cabins with 29 seats in business class, 45 seats in premium economy and 231 seats in economy.

In addition to the A350, Vietnam Airlines has also ordered 19 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.

Qantas places its QF airline code on Vietnam Airlines’ flights from Melbourne and Sydney to Ho Chi Minh City.

Finnair and TAM were expected to take delivery of their first A350 before the end of 2015.

Qatar Airways, which was the launch customer for the type, took the first four A350s that were delivered.

Vietnam Airlines' first A350-900, VN-A886, at the Airbus headquarters in Toulouse. ( Airbus)
Vietnam Airlines’ first A350-900, VN-A886, at the Airbus headquarters in Toulouse. ( Airbus)
Vietnam Airlines takes delivery of its first A350-900 at Toulouse. (Airbus)
Vietnam Airlines’ first A350-900 taxiing at Toulouse. (Airbus)


Australia Aviation

Qantas says yields across its international network were lower in May

A Qantas Airbus A330-300 at Brisbane Airport. (Rob Finlayson)

Qantas says its international operations across both its Qantas and Jetstar flying brands suffered a drop in yields during what the airline group describes as the seasonally weaker month of May.

“Group international yields in May were lower compared to the prior corresponding period, offset by both Qantas International and Jetstar International achieving higher load factors in a seasonally weaker month,” the airline group said in its monthly operating statistics for May.

Load factors on Qantas international rose 1.6 percentage points to 76.6 per cent in May, with passenger numbers up 4.6 per cent to 449,000 and capacity measured by available seat kilometres up 1.3 per cent compared with the prior corresponding period.

Meanwhile, Jetstar’s international services reported load factors of 76.9 per cent in May, up from 68.8 per cent in the prior corresponding period, as the 6.5 per cent increase in passenger numbers outpaced the 3.6 per cent growth in capacity.

While yields, or average airfares per passenger, were lower in May for international flying, Qantas and Jetstar’s domestic flying both registered an improvement in yields for the month.

The company’s monthly operating statistics for May also showed Qantas domestic carried 2.6 per cent fewer passengers in the month, compared with the prior year, on a 3.4 per cent reduction in capacity. Load factors rose half a per cent to 70.9 per cent.

“Qantas domestic capacity was lower in the month reflecting adjustments to address resource market softness in Western Australia and Queensland,” the company said.

“Qantas domestic revenue seat factor improved on the prior corresponding period for the eleventh consecutive month.”

Jetstar domestic posted a 2.1 per cent improvement in passenger numbers in May. The low-cost carrier reduced capacity by 0.2 per cent, resulting in load factors rising 2.3 percentage points to 80 per cent.

Qantas was expected to announce a bumper full year net profit when it hands down its 2014/15 financial results in August, with market consensus sitting somewhere north of $600 million as the airline group benefitted from lower fuel prices, a more benign domestic market and slower capacity growth on international routes into and out of Australia.


Australia Aviation

Queenstown Airport celebrates 20 years of international flights with opening of terminal expansion

An aerial view of the expanded international terminal at Queenstown Airport. (Queenstown Airport Corporation)

An aerial view of the expanded international terminal at Queenstown Airport. (Queenstown Airport Corporation)

Queenstown Airport is celebrating the completion of its new international terminal expansion two decades after the airport welcomed its first overseas passengers.

The airport’s international terminal had been doubled in size after the 4,100 metre squared expansion work was completed in late June, adding two additional gate lounges, a new customs processing area, a third baggage belt and more shops.

Queenstown Airport Corporation (QAC) chief executive Scott Paterson said the improved facilities would cater for the ongoing growth in people visiting the popular NZ tourist spot, noting international passenger numbers had increased from 24,000 in 2005 to 381,000 in 2015.

“Back when our first international flight arrived on 1 July 1995, and for several years after, passengers were processed by customs in a makeshift space outside the terminal so we’ve come a long way in 20 years,” he said in a statement.

“Being able to offer a top-class facility in a world-renowned destination has strengthened our position as a key regional and international gateway for New Zealand.”

Queenstown is forecast to receive more than 660,000 international passengers a year by 2025. The airport currently has international flights from Brisbane, Gold Coast, Melbourne and Sydney.

The new arrivals hall and baggage claim area at Queenstown Airport. (Queenstown Airport Corporation)

The new arrivals hall and baggage claim area at Queenstown Airport. (Queenstown Airport Corporation)
Queenstown Airport's new international departure lounge area. (Queenstown Airport Corporation)
Queenstown Airport’s new international departure lounge area. (Queenstown Airport Corporation)

Paterson said the 150 contractors on site over the past nine months had completed the project on time and on budget, adding that the additional space for international flights put the airport “ahead of the curve” in terms of accommodating the current and expected growth in passenger numbers.

“It’s been a constant battle as our infrastructure has struggled to keep pace with huge year-on-year passenger growth so this time we are very fortunate to have strong support from our airline users to build a bigger shell for future expansion,” Paterson said.

“The design and quality of the build is outstanding so it’s important that as an airport community we continue to deliver excellent service and a wonderful first and last impression of the region for our passengers.”

The terminal is being officially opened at a private function on Wednesday evening.

International passengers at Queenstown Airport will be greeted by a new arrivals duty free store. (Queenstown Airport Corporation)


Australia  Aviation




Royal Australian Air Force Base Richmond welcomes the C-27J

The RAAF's first C-27J A34-001 at the arrival ceremony at RAAF Base Richmond.
The RAAF’s first C-27J, A34-001, at the arrival ceremony at Richmond.

In one of his last official duties before stepping down as Chief of the Air Force, Air Marshal Geoff Brown has welcomed the arrival of the RAAF’s first Alenia Aermacchi C-27J Spartan in Australia.

AIRMSHL Brown, whose term as Chief of Air Force ends on Friday, said the C-27J would provide a great replacement for the Caribou, which was retired in 2009.

“It gives us excellent tactical lift and allows us to provide support and sustainment to our land forces across the entire spectrum of operations,” AIRMSHL Brown told guests during the arrival ceremony at RAAF Base Richmond on Tuesday.

“This is a formidable aircraft and Australia got it right when we chose it to fill the gap left by the Caribou.”

AIRMSHL Brown, who described the arrival of a new aircraft type as a cause for celebration and satisfaction, noted the C-27J was able to operate from 1,900 airfields around Australia and strengthened the Australian Defence Force’s airlift capability by increasing its ability to move troops, equipment and supplies.

The first C-27J, A34-001, arrived at RAAF Richmond from prime contractor L-3 Com’s Waco, Texas facility last Thursday.

The delivery flight took nine days as the aircraft made stops in Seattle, Alaska (twice), Japan, Guam, Papua New Guinea and Townsville before touching down in Richmond.

Australia has ordered 10 C-27Js, which will be based at Richmond while facilities at their permanent home at RAAF Base Amberley are built.

The fleet will be operated by 35 Squadron, with initial operational capability (IOC) scheduled for 2016. Final operational capability (FOC) is expected to occur in December 2017 and coincide with the relocation of 35SQN to Amberley, where Air Mobility Group’s C-17s and KC-30s are based.

“It is good to be able to hub all the aeroplanes in the one spot up at Amberley,” AIRMSHL Brown told reporters at the conclusion of the official speeches.

“That is pretty much our plan. It gives us good reach to the rest of Australia from Amberley as well.”

On the future for Richmond, AIRMSHL Brown said: “I think the amount of infrastructure we have got here at Richmond, Richmond will be here as long as we have got the C-130Js.”

Training for the airlifter began in December 2014 when the first RAAF technicians arrived in Waco with aircrews joining their colleagues in Texas in early 2015.

The flight deck of the RAAF's first C-27J A34-001.
The flightdeck of the RAAF’s first C-27J.
Inside the RAAF's first C-27J, A34-001.
Inside the RAAF’s first C-27J.

The C-27J, powered by two Rolls-Royce AE2100-D2A turboprops, is currently in operation with the Italian Air Force, and is entering service with the US Coast Guard and US Special Operations Command (after the US Air Force cancelled its acquisition of the aircraft on cost-cutting grounds).

Aside from Australia, the US and Italy, Alenia has also received orders from the likes of Greece, Romania, Morocco, Peru and Slovakia for a total of 80 C-27Js.

Alenia Aermacchi head of military program management Luca Napolitano and L-3 president of aircraft systems Bruce Trego were also part of the official arrival ceremony of the battlefield airlifter, which was held on the 90th anniversary of RAAF Base Richmond.

Trego said Airbus Group Australia Pacific would provide in-country support for the C-27J and ensure a seamless support transition once the aircraft entered service.

The C-27J was the centre of attention at Richmond on Tuesday. (Defence)


Australia Aviation

Royal Australian Air Force updates on Okra operations

Operation OKRA
A 75SQN operated (but 77SQN marked) Hornet refuels from the KC-30 over Iraq. (Defence)

RAAF Hornet and Super Hornet fighters have now dropped more than 400 precision-guided bombs on Islamic State (Daesh) targets in Iraq, an update released by the Department of Defence on Tuesday details.

According to the update RAAF F/A-18F Super Hornets and F/A-18A ‘classic’ Hornets have now flown over 5,000 flight hours on Operation Okra, the ADF’s contribution to the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State in Iraq. The RAAF deployed six 1 Squadron Super Hornets to the Middle East (operating from Al Minhad Air Base in the UAE) in September 2014. They were replaced by six 75 Squadron operated F/A-18A Hornets in March.

“With more than 400 precision weapons released by Australian strike aircraft onto Daesh targets, since Operation Okra began, we are giving the Iraqi forces the best possible support against Daesh,” Chief of Air Force Air Marshal Geoff Brown said in the statement.

The RAAF’s Okra Air Task Group also includes a 33 Squadron KC-30A tanker transport and a 2 Squadron E-7A Wedgetail AEW&C aircraft. The Wedgetail has now flown 100 operational sorties, while the KC-30 has offloaded 25 million pounds of fuel.

“To provide some perspective to the enormity of the fuel volume that the KC-30A has offloaded, 25 million pounds equates to some 14 million litres of fuel. That is a complete refuel for more than 1,500 F/A-18A Hornets, achieved over Iraq by a single RAAF KC-30A aircraft,” CAF said.

“The E-7A Wedgetail routinely controls more than 60 aircraft in the battle space during a single mission, and when multiplied by 100 sorties it makes for a huge number of aircraft being controlled by the Australian command and control platform throughout the operation.”


The RAAF Wedgetail on the ramp at Al Minhad. (Defence)


Australian Aviation

Westfield FFA Cup round of 32 draw revealed!

Round of 32 FFA Cup fixtures confirmed

The lowest ranked club in the Round of 32 the Westfield FFA Cup 2015, the Balmain Tigers, will host the current Hyundai A-League Premiers and Champions, Melbourne Victory, following the draw which was held earlier today at the Fox Sports studios in Sydney.

Former Socceroo Michael Beauchamp and Bentleigh Greens Head Coach John Anastadiadis conducted the draw which also saw Darwin Olympic SC host Adelaide United, Sorrento FC to face Sydney FC and Edgeworth FC take on Melbourne City FC.

In the all Hyundai A-League clashes, we will get a preview of the opening round of the competition when the Western Sydney Wanderers FC meet Brisbane Roar FC, the Central Coast Mariners take on the Wellington Phoenix and the Newcastle Jets will face Perth Glory.

The Member Federation Club match-ups include some tasty matches with Palm Beach SC hosting South Melbourne FC, Blacktown City taking on MetroStars SC and Broadmeadow Magic up against Heidelberg United FC.

The 16 matches in the Round of 32 of the Westfield FFA Cup 2015 will be split over three weeks (28 July – 12 Aug), with four games scheduled per match day on either Tuesday and/or Wednesday nights. Fox Sports will broadcast one match live and exclusive in full on each match day in the Round of 32, Round of 16 and Quarter Finals with single camera coverage at all other matches with both Semi Finals and the Westfield FFA Cup Final broadcast live and exclusive in full.

While the Westfield FFA Cup 2015 Round of 32 draw has revealed who meets who in the Round of 32, the specific match details in regards to the dates, venues and kick-off times will be announced on Friday 3 July.

Westfield FFA Cup 2015 – Round of 32 Fixtures

Newcastle Jets
Perth Glory
Central Coast Mariners
Wellington Phoenix
Western Sydney Wanderers
Brisbane Roar
Croydon Kings
Lions FC
Hume City FC
Brisbane Strikers FC
Blacktown City FC
Metrostars SC
Rockdale City Suns FC
Perth SC
Oakleigh Cannons FC
Palm Beach SC
South Melbourne FC
Sydney United 58 FC
South Hobart
Gungahlin United FC
Sydney Olympic FC
Broadmeadow Magic FC
Heidelberg United FC
Darwin OlympicSC
Adelaide United
Sorrento FC
Sydney FC
Balmain Tigers FC
Melbourne Victory
Edgeworth FC
Melbourne City FC

Football Federation Australia