US carrier mergers 'an imperative', says United

Consolidation United Airlines chief executive Glen Tilton told an audience at the carrier's annual analysts day that the case for consolidation in the US airline industry was "inarguable" and combinations were necessary "in order for the industry to be as healthy and competitive in the USA as it should be relative to network carriers around the globe, who are already advancing on the proposition of consolidation". In an open skies environment, Tilton said, consolidation was "a reality of our time". The Wall Street Journal reported last week that talks between Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines were advancing, and a deal could be announced soon.

JET AVIATION BUYs US maintenance business

Acquisition Jet Aviation continues to expand its portfolio of US-based companies after its acquisition of maintenance, completion and refurbishment specialist Savannah Air Center. The deal comes two years after Zurich, Switzerland-headquartered Jet Aviation acquired US maintenance and completions company Midcoast Aviation. Savannah Air Center, which recently completed work on a 9,430m2 (101,500ft2) hangar, will continue to operate under its existing brand name. Meanwhile, Midcoast has selected Stork Fokker as an exclusive repair centre for the Dassault Falcon 7X ultra-long-range business jet in North and South America.

Alitalia cuts Malpensa flights to concentrate on Rome hub

Restructuring In an effort to reduce losses, Alitalia has decided to slash its route network and abandon its two-hub system. This will see it reduce flights at its Milan Malpensa hub from 350 to 170 by eliminating 35 of its 84 destinations and reducing frequencies on other routes. The airline says the move comes because it can no longer afford the two-hub structure and will concentrate its international network at Rome Fiumicino, while Malpensa will become its main cargo hub, with passenger traffic being shifted to low-cost carrier Volareweb.

United launch alliance nabs $505m spy satellite contract

LAUNCHERS United Launch Alliance has made progress towards its goal of four Boeing Delta IV launches a year with the announcement of a $505 million US Air Force contract for three National Reconnaissance Office spy satellite missions - two Delta IV "heavy" variants and one "medium" version - by 2010. The Delta IV heavy can lift more than 23,000kg (50,000lb) of payload to low Earth orbit. There have been eight launches of Delta IV vehicles since 2002. ULA already has a Delta IV heavy launch scheduled later this year for the NRO and another Delta IV launch for NASA.

Pilots sustain knife injuries in attempted ANZ hijacking

Incident Cockpit crew of an Air National turboprop operating on behalf of Air New Zealand suffered knife wounds after a female passenger allegedly tried to take control of the aircraft last week. New Zealand police says the 33-year-old woman also threatened fellow passengers and claimed there was a bomb on board. The turboprop was operating from Blenheim to Christchurch on 8 February on behalf of ANZ's Eagle Air subsidiary with seven passengers and two Air National cockpit crew on board.

Scaled appeals against fatal blast fine

Explosion Scaled Composites has appealed against fines exceeding $25,000 levied by the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration over the 26 July 2007 fatal nitrous oxide explosion at Mojave that killed three of its employees while testing systems for Virgin Galactic. Cal-OSHA listed a lack of employee training as a factor contributing to the explosion, which its investigation linked to the oxider tank for the propulsion system under development for Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo suborbital rocket. Cal-OSHA is preparing to submit its findings to the Kern county district attorney's office, but any decision on criminal charges is months away.


MAINTENANCE Israel's Bedek Aviation Group has signed a nine-and-a-half-year contract with the nation's defence ministry to provide comprehensive maintenance services for the Israeli air force's heavy transport aircraft. Parent company Israel Aerospace Industries says the deal could be worth $170 million over the life of the contract, with services eventually to be provided entirely on air force bases.

Raymond 'Cheval' Lallemant, DFC

Obituary Belgian Second World War fighter pilot ace Raymond "Cheval" Lallemant, DFC, has died aged 88. Having escaped from Belgium via Morocco and Gibraltar, Lallemant joined the Royal Air Force's 609 Sqn in 1941 flying Supermarine Spitfires and later Hawker Typhoon fighter-bombers. He accrued five confirmed victories, including four Focke-Wulf Fw190s, making him an ace. When the Typhoon switched to the tactical role, Lallemant specialised in rocket-firing ground-attack operations and survived being shot down by flak in September 1944.

Source: Flight International