Aug 26, 2011

Armenian national carrier has “too Russian” directors – WikiLeaks

Completely reversing its previous investment policy, Armenia’s main flag carrier, Armavia Airlines, is halting its plans to expand towards Europe. The company plans to move to European standards and is replacing its modern aircraft with older Soviet models in an effort to reduce costs, reads the cable released by WikiLeaks. Armenian posts the cable.
“The move is a breach of Armavia’s agreement with the Government of Armenia and is a vote of no confidence in the commercial viability of a modern airline servicing European routes from Yerevan.
Bob Chaplin, a British consultant who has been managing Armavia, told us that Armavia’s directors have decided that the investments necessary to expand Armavia’s service to European cities were not justified. Specifically, he said that they were unwilling to accept losses in the initial years of investment and preferred to pocket the earnings from cheap but profitable point-to-point flights in the CIS.  According to Chaplin, for the moment Armavia will continue to operate its current European flights to Frankfurt and Amsterdam in order to avoid forfeiting its exclusive licenses to the routes, for which the company paid USD 14.5 million.  Chaplin noted that these routes will remain profitable through summer, but after that he expects that Armavia will probably try to sell the licenses or liquidate during next winter.
The sudden reorganization of Armavia’s assets signals a clear exit strategy from the European routes. Armavia will transfer three of its five Airbus 320s to Siberian Airlines in Russia and replace them with old Soviet planes that are not allowed to land in European Airports. (Note:  Siberian Air owns a controlling share of Armavia Airlines)  The airline has also halted negotiations with Lufthansa on interline connections through Frankfurt and have withdrawn their bid for International Air Transport Association (IATA) certification.
“The directors are too Russian,” Chaplin told us when asked why Armavia had failed in its plan to become a western airline.  The expense of meeting European standards had proven to be far more than the directors anticipated or were willing to bear.  He higlighted as examples the fact that the directors refused to fly scheduled flights when they were not full, refused to contract an attorney to negotiate interline agreements, and refused to open their aircraft and their books to inspection by third parties.
Armavia’s withdrawal from its strategy puts it in breach of several investment conditions of its contract with the GOAM:  it is not yet clear how the government will react, however.  In case of a material breach the government has the right to cancel Armavia’s licenses and resell them to another airline.  According to Viktor Mnatsakanian, the legal advisor to Minister of Justice David Harutunyan, the Minister is aware of Armavia’s move but the government has not yet taken any decision on how to respond.
If the GOAM were to revoke Armavia’s licenses it could exacerbate the situation considerably:  Armavia’s USD 14 million loss would likely send danger signs to potential investors.  The reversal of Armavia’s strategy is a serious blow to Armenia’s civil aviation industry, suggesting that Armenia cannot support an airline that meets modern Western standards and depriving a land-locked country of vital transportation links.”


Aug 19, 2011

MAKS: Armavia doubles Superjet presence at show

Armavia's first Sukhoi Superjet, the initial production aircraft, demonstrated its capabilities at the MAKS show four months after the type entered airline service with the Armenian carrier.
It spent an hour in the skies over Moscow, showing off its performance to media representatives.
The PowerJet SaM146-equipped aircraft, named after cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, started operating for Armavia on 21 April and by 7 August it had clocked up 617 flight hours across 250 operations.
Sukhoi said the aircraft (EK-95015) had flown on a network from the Armenian capital, Yerevan, covering 20 airports in Russia and Ukraine, as well as Europe and the Middle East.
Daily utilisation had reached, in some cases, up to 16.5h, the airframer said, which displayed the Armavia twinjet at MAKS along with one of its prototype Superjets.
"The aircraft fully confirmed its operability on regional as well as short- and medium-haul sectors," it added.

Aeroflot is the only other user of the type so far, and had logged 227h in 139 operations by 7 August, having put the twinjet into service on 16 June.
It has deployed Superjet on routes from Moscow Sheremetyevo to St Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Ufa and Ekaterinburg.
While Aeroflot's initial experience has not been entirely smooth, Sukhoi said: "Entering commercial operation is one of the most critical and difficult stages of a programme to create a new airliner.
"At the initial stage, without exception, all new aircraft are faced with unforeseen technical problems that may emerge only during intensive use.
"In the first year - especially in the first months - aircraft-on-ground situations occur much more frequently than in subsequent operations."
Sukhoi added that the key issue is not the problems but the speed at which they are resolved.
No such problems emerged during the Armavia demonstration flight, during which participants were able to make a rare in-flight visit to the cockpit.
Sky Aviation of Indonesia has signed for 12 of the twinjets at the show, and sources familiar with the situation say Russian energy giant Gazpromavia also intends to take 10.


Armavia Armenian Airlines dumps Gérard Depardieu for taking the piss on rival carrier

French big nose and Cyrano de Bergerac actor Gérard Depardieu has had a TV advertising contract pulled following an incident aboard an Irish incontinental - er...intercontinental! - airline.

The 62 year-old was enroute to Dublin from Paris before bladder tragedy struck prompting him to find relief on a City Airtours carpet.

Someone in Cattle Class caught the incident on video and leaked it to his Armenian sponsors.

The triple-A carrier whose onboard facilities are whimsically named 'standard' (ie business class) and 'poor' (economy) awarded Depardieu a multi-million dollar contract last year to promote their Sukhoi Superjet on Euronews TV channel ads.

The fly-by-wire plane has done away with onboard loos and replaced much reviled WC cubicles with an innovative - and sturdy/waterproof! - 'sick bag' equivalent.

At the press of a button this slides into position on passenger seats so that immediate relief is at hand without any cumbersome trip down the plane aisle.

Another button then automatically seals the piss bag and sends it to storage in a custom-built underfloor dumpster.

A spokesperson for the Armenian airline said today there was widespread feeling that Depardieu 'had been taking the piss' with his extra-curricular contract violation.

A copy of the Irish plane video can be seen on the YouBoob! Channel No 5


Aug 17, 2011

SaM146 Enters Service

"We plan quite a huge ramp-up in production of the SaM146 engine for the Sukhoi Superjet 100 regional airliner," says Marc Sorel, Country Delegate in Russia for Safran, which makes the engine in a joint venture with NPO Saturn.
Plans call for 24 engines to be in service by the end of 2011, "and next year will be another huge ramp-up," he said.
Today, four engines are in scheduled operation on the two Superjets delivered, one each to the Armenian airline Armavia and Russia’s Aeroflot. The third Superjet is expected to be delivered during MAKS 2011.
Sorel said the engine is working well. Armavia has logged 700 hours and carried 11,000 passengers since putting the aircraft into service in April, and it is currently flying six one-hour flights a day. Aeroflot took delivery in June and plans six flights a day, but has suffered two groundings of the aircraft, though not for engine problems, Sorel said.
Armavia grounded its aircraft to change an engine, a process that stretched out to nearly a week due to customs issues, he said. "There are just two aircraft, so this is a very cautious entry into service. We don’t want to take any risks."
"The engine is proving very robust," Sorel noted, and survived an in-flight birdstrike unscathed. "Fuel consumption is exactly what we expected, and the airlines are satisfied." Cabin noise is also very low, he added.
John Morris


Aug 1, 2011

Armavia receives third CRJ200

Armavia (Armenia) will receive its third CRJ200 plane today, News  
Armenia cites the press secretary of the company, Nana Avetisova, as saying.
The plane was named after Armenian composer Arno Babajanyan.

The CRJ200 is a medium-haul passenger plane developed by Bombardier
Aircraft (part of the Bombardier Aerospace Corporation). It is an
improved model of the Canadair Regional Jet CRj-100. It operates in
mountainous and hot climates.