ISSN 1718-7966 DECEMBER 10, 2012 / VOL. 368 WEEKLY AVIATION HEADLINES Read by thousands of aviation professionals and technical decision-makers every week www.avitrader.com WORLD NEWS Boeing 787 fuel line fault The US Federal Aviation Authority warned that improper assembly of engine fuel line couplings on the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner could, if not corrected, result in fuel leaks, which could lead to ‘fuel exhaustion, engine power loss shutdown or leaks on hot engine parts that could lead to a fire’. Boeing responded that there were ‘multiple layers of systems to ensure none of those things happen’, while analysts said the problem did not pose a long-term risk for the airframer. US industry’s 10-year high The Aerospace Industries Association forecast a further year of growth for US aerospace and arms companies in 2013, representing the 10th straight year of expansion. Exports have risen to some $95.5bn in 2012 and are set to grow over ‘at least the next several years’ based on order backlogs. The civil aviation sector represented about 88% of aerospace exports. Etihad in Topbonus buy Gulf carrier Etihad is set to buy Topbonus, air berlin’s frequent flyer program, by the end of the year. The deal is expected to narrow the German carrier’s operating loss for the year. Emirates in African venture Emirates is in talks with Fastjet, the new low-cost African airline backed by easyjet’s Sir Stelios Haji- Ioannou, to create a partnership that would see Fastjet’s passengers from African cities able to connect to the rest of the world through Emirates’ Dubai hub. Fastjet also revealed it is in talks to buy 1time, the South African budget carrier that ceased trading last month. Delta looks to boost US-London traffic with Virgin stake Transatlantic alliance would benefit from move - if Branson bows out Delta Air Lines’ reported move to buy the 49% stake owned by Singapore Airlines (SIA) in Virgin Atlantic would be the key to unlocking coveted landing slots at London’s Heathrow Airport and strengthening its transatlantic business, according to sources close to the company. If it goes ahead, the deal would also boost the position of the Sky Team alliance, led by Delta and its joint venture partner, Air France-KLM, on lucrative London-US routes. Any tie-up between Delta and Virgin Atlantic depends, however, on SIA agreeing to divest its holding, which it bought in 1999 for £600m ($962m). The investment is considered to have been disappointing to SIA, with Virgin Atlantic’s total losses over the period far exceeding profits. It will also depend on the degree to which Sir Richard Branson, the maverick founder of Virgin Atlantic, wants to implement strategic change that will turn the struggling carrier’s fortunes around. Branson founded Virgin Atlantic 28 years ago in an attempt to compete with British Airways, but the “Virgin has rather lost its way as the world consolidates and they really need to bite the bullet... They could bring a rock solid basis to Delta’s transatlantic alliance with Air France-KLM.” John Strickland, Director, JLS Consulting airline, which is not a member of an alliance, has lost ground to its rivals: Star Alliance (United Airlines and Lufthansa), OneWorld (British Airways and American) and Sky Team together control 70% of the north Atlantic market. “Virgin has rather lost its way as the world consolidates and they really need to bite the bullet,” said John Strickland, director of JLS Consulting in London. The willingness -or not- of Sir Richard Branson (seen here celebrating Virgin Atlantic’s 25 years of service between London and Miami) to give up control of the airline will be a central factor in Delta’s proposed investment Virgin Atlantic “Signing up to SkyTeam would be part of it, I’m sure, and they could bring a rock solid basis to Delta’s transatlantic alliance with Air France-KLM.” Delta will not want to end up as a lesser partner in Virgin in the same way that SIA did, largely restricted, as it was, to code-sharing and frequent-flier miles agreements, despite its large share. That obstacle would be overcome if, as The Financial Times suggested, Air France-KLM were to buy a stake of between 5 and 10% in Virgin from Branson’s Virgin Group, which holds the 51% majority share. Combined with a Delta purchase of SIA’s 49% stake, the joint venture would then have a majority share - but only if Branson is willing to relinquish control. Earlier this year, outgoing chief executive Steve Ridgway said he was, but only last week he told Bloomberg News that his boss would ‘probably remain in control’.