Goodbye Delta 777’s, JAL 777’s, Mistubishi SpaceJet, hello Berlin!

Well as the the largest of the four UK nations, England is about to enter a minimum full 4 week lockdown, which is due to run until at least December 2nd, the Scots are still in one more or less, as is Northern Ireland and Wales is due to exit one next week, aviation has ground to a near stop again.

What little there was in the way of passenger operations in and out of Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham and the like for the rest of this month, is about to come to yet another dead stop, banging one more nail into the coffin of the aviation industry as it used to be.

Goodbye SpaceJet

And the ramifications of covid rumble on and on. In Japan, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, who paid millions to buy up and shut down Bombardier’s passenger jet business in Canada to make way for their own aircraft, the SpaceJet, have pretty much announced the project is now on indefinite hold. Indeed, so much of a hold that they don’t expect to resume it for at least three years, and there’s a very big read between the lines in the statements offered, that says they may never finish it at all. In fact that really wouldn’t surprise anyone right now.

The SpaceJet has been far more complicated and difficult to develop than Mitsubishi ever imagined, with substantial redesigns and system rethinks, a name change, and a general malaise over the project. That seems to happen in Japan from time to time. They seem to get to a point and then it just doesn’t quite get there, as though some sort of magic ingredient is missing. They’ve been the same in other high-end tech fields too – Formula 1 was something they never quite managed to achieve as much as they set out to for example.

The MRJ as it started out, is already 12 years in the making, it was at least another two from entering service but the market for it has pretty much vanished. It was originally intended to fit the Pratt & Witney PW1200G engine.

Goodbye Delta 777’s

Delta debuted the 777-200LR

Saturday saw the end of the Delta Airlines 777-200LR fleet, which only entered service back in 2009.In effect they’ve been replaced by the A350, but their young age made them a surprising retirement choice.

Delta decided they were simply not going to be part of the new generation fleet and they were too expensive to run.

The final flight left JFK on Saturday for LAX.

Some of the air raft may be used for charters or cargo ops up to the end of the year, but that was the final scheduled flight.

JAL to retire 777 fleet

Japan Air Lines is to retire 24 777’s, including all 13 used on domestic flights, consisting of 9 772’s and 4 773’s. They will be disposed of by March 2023.

The airline is also returning 5 leased 737-800’s to their owners.

One of the biggest motivators for the airline is its incoming order of A359’s. Originally these were seen as a compliment to the 777 fleet, but they are now seen as elderly and more costly to run, and JAL wants its 25 A359’s to replace them in full.

JAL is also planning on moving more aircraft to its LCC ZipairTokyo, and its planning on operating to Honolulu in direct competition with the three A380’s ANA will operate on the route.

And finally…! BER opens

Well it’s finally happened, after years of appalling delays, a romantic last flight out of the old Berlin Tegel airport by AirFrance (they were the first airline to ever land their), the new Berlin-Brandenburg Willy Brandt Airport, (he was a former Berlin Mayor, and later Federal Chancellor), coded BER has finally opened, with easyJet arriving as the first aircraft into the rebranded, recoded, renamed airport.

BER will be able to operate a range of aircraft types, and it had been looking at new terminal expansion, until Covid cut that out for at least the foreseeable future.

It’s all very much in keeping with the ‘New Berlin’ look of the Bundeskanzlerie and new Federal buildings.

BER has been a litany of political, financial, design and construction scandals for years, at one point costing millions in operating costs because so much of it was finished it required non-stop maintenance even though it couldn’t be used. The main reason was the entire fire alarm and suppression system was deemed utterly useless and had to be stripped out of the airport and replace, taking two years. That was on top of endless delays and failed opening dates. The project had been managed by the Berlin City Government, not the German Federal Administration, and the scandals were so regular the whole thing became a national embarrassment.

But now that’s over. In some ways I will miss Tegel. It was designed for another era. The original main terminal, you got out of your taxi, walked through the doors and the check in desks were literally 3 meters inside the terminal. The corridors were narrow, the gate spaces like a cage, and the whole place was working at almost six times its designed capacity for years. And it was really close to the city centre too, so you never had far to go.

Goodbye Tegel….