Briefing 11 March

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Lufthansa private fleet to have nine jets including two CRJ200s

Business jets Lufthansa is to operate nine of its own business aircraft this year, including converted Bombardier CRJ200s, after deciding to establish a fleet for its executive Private Jet operation. Private Jet will have two 12-seat CRJ200s as well as two seven-seat Cessna Citation XLS+, three four-seat Cessna Citation CJ1+ and a pair of six-seat CJ3s. The carrier will take delivery of the first aircraft, a CJ3, this month. The jets will operate in a "neutral" livery, says the carrier, but have a recognisable Lufthansa colour scheme. The Private Jet service will also be offered to passengers of its Swiss International Air Lines subsidiary. NetJets operated the Lufthansa service until late last year, when the airline opted to switch to its own fleet.

SAS Q400 replacement decision imminent

Turboprops SAS Group is expected to announce "within weeks" that it will opt for Bombardier CRJ700 and CRJ900 regional jets to replace the 27 Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprops it grounded last year after a series of gear-up landings. Replacement is a priority because SAS is having to wet-lease other types and the grounding will have a detrimental SKr400 million ($65 million) effect on its first-quarter results. Meanwhile, the carrier has warned that falling yields mean its first-quarter earnings will fail to offset the effects of high fuel prices.

Rising costs offset British Airways revenue gains

Operations British Airways is forecasting an operating margin of about 7% for its 2008-09 financial year as higher revenues are offset by increased costs. The carrier expects revenues to grow by 4-4.5% to more than £9.1 billion ($18.1 million) for the year, based on 2.4% more capacity. But it sees fuel costs rising by one-fifth to £2.5 billion and expects its non-fuel costs to be 3-3.5% higher. Chief financial officer Keith Williams says: "The outlook for next year is consistent with economic slowdown, the impact of increased fuel costs and one-off [London Heathrow] Terminal 5 transition costs."

Thales will see €200 million from KC-X deal

Thales plans to reinforce its presence in "home" countries through acquisitions as well as continuing to penetrate growing markets, says chief executive Denis Ranque. After completing a major consolidation of its activities following acquisitions and divestments, the manufacturer now has "the financial means to achieve our ambitions", he says. The company's net income rose to €1.01 billion ($1.55 billion) in 2007 compared with €388 million in 2006. Thales will see at least €200 million in revenues from supplying equipment for A330 aircraft thanks to EADS and Northrop Grumman winning the contract to supply 179 refuelling aircraft to the US Air Force, excluding other opportunities related to the militarisation of the aircraft, adds Ranque. He says the deal "confirms the optimism of people like me who think transatlantic co-operation is possible".

Alenia bids to expand in US defence with wholly-owned operation

Alenia Aeronautica is to form a wholly-owned North American defence operation. Washington, DC-based Alenia Defense Company will operate under a special security agreement (SSA) with the US Department of Defense to facilitate the management of classified information. Alenia North America chief executive Giuseppe Giordo says: "The creation of Alenia Defense Company is a critical step in our long-term strategy to expand our presence in the USA. ompliance with specific organisational and operational requirements, together with an SSA, will insulate the company from foreign ownership and control and permit us to expand our direct business with the US gvernment."

Fighter ace led Smithsonian

Obituary Donald Lopez, deputy director of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, has died aged 84. He was an American Ace fighter pilot, having served more than 100 missions in China, flying Curtiss P-40s and North American P-51 Mustangs. After serving in combat, Lopez became an air force test pilot before briefly returning to combat in Korea. After his retirement from the US Air Force in 1964, Lopez worked as a systems engineer on the Apollo-Saturn Launch Vehicle and the Skylab Orbital Workshop. A member of the American Fighter Aces Association, Experimental Aircraft Association and fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, Lopez is survived by his wife and children.