News Briefs: Airbus ‘Belugas,’ Dubai aviation study, Qatar’s show horses and more

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  • Don’t be surprised to find a few more airborne “white whales” in the sky in the next five years. Airbus has decided to double the size of its current fleet of five Beluga transport aircraft by 2019 as it ramps up production of the A350 XWB. While the original Belugas, now nearing 20 years of age, were based on an A300-600ST airframe, the new models will use the A330 as a basic blueprint. The current Belugas, operated by Airbus Transport International, have a 1,660-km nonstop range and fly about 60 flights per week to bring pre-fab aircraft parts for all Airbus models to Toulouse, France, and Hamburg, Germany, for final assembly. The older models will be phased out by 2025.
  • Emirates airline, Dubai Airports and other aviation-related businesses contributed $26.7 billion to the Dubai economy in 2013, representing nearly 27 percent of Dubai’s GDP in 2013, according to a new study conducted by Oxford Economics. The report, “Quantifying the Economic Impact of Aviation in Dubai,” also found that the aviation industry provides 416,500 jobs, or 21 percent of Dubai’s total workforce. The study also found that cargo tonnage handled in Dubai between 1990 and 2013 has grown on average of 13.5 percent per year, compared to global average trade volumes of 5.6 percent per year.
  • Qatar Airways Cargo recently transported 67 elite show-jumping horses from Liège, Belgium, to Doha, Qatar, for the final round of the 2014 Longines Global Champions Tour season. To make the trip, the carrier used two 777F charter aircraft, each containing the high-priced animals, equine equipment and eleven groomers. Both flights carried about 20 tonnes of cargo.
  • After operating three ATR72-500QC “Quick Change” combi aircraft since September, Brazilian carrier Azul Linhas Aéreas Brasileiras said it is scrapping that plan and will convert the three propeller-driven, twin-engine planes back to full-time passenger mode. Instead of using combis, the carrier will instead convert another three of its 51 ATR72-500s into dedicated freighters, which will fly between the Brazilian cities of Belo Horizonte, Campinas, Porto Alegre and Rio de Janeiro.
  • After several months of relative calm in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, fighting broke out again this week in the country’s ongoing civil war, forcing the city to close its only remaining operational airport, Mitiga International (MJI). While local media did not report any casualties, the country’s civil aviation authority halted all passenger and cargo flights in and out of MJI on Nov. 16 for security reasons. Since October, charter carrier Global Aviation had resumed weekly flights from MJI to Belgium and Aqaba, Jordan.
  • As the new Airbus A350-900 continues its 11-day coming out tour around Asia-Pacific cities, Airbus announce that the first delivery to launch customer Qatar Airways will take place in mid-December. The long-range A350 received its certification by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration last week. So far, Airbus has booked 750 orders for the A350, including 549 for the A350-900 and 169 for the larger A350-1000, due to enter service in 2017.
  • Emirates became the latest carrier to resume passenger flights to the Iraqi city of Erbil on Nov. 16, with twice-week service, using a A330-200 aircraft. By Dec. 4, the frequency is expected to rise to four times a week. Many passenger and cargo flights to the semi-autonomous Kurdish region had been halted during fighting with ISIS forces this summer, but most have returned as the city appears to be out of immediate danger.
  • ECS Group has purchased Scandinavian cargo general sales and services agent (GSSA) Heavyweight Freight (HWF Group), with offices throughout the Nordic region. HWF employs 23 people at offices in Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, selling around 20,000 tonnes of freight capacity in 2013 on behalf of its airline partners, including Air Canada, Centurion Cargo, DHL Aviation, Saudi, Virgin Atlantic and Singapore Airlines.
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