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AIRBUS

Record Airbus deal lands France ‘5,000 jobs’

Europe's Airbus has won a record order worth €18.4 billion from Indonesia's Lion Air for 234 medium-haul A320 jets, the French presidency announced on Monday. The deal will be worth up to 5,000 jobs over the coming years, according to the Elysée.

Record Airbus deal lands France '5,000 jobs'
French CEO of European aerospace giant Airbus Fabrice Bregier (centre right) and Lion Air founder and president director Rusdi Kirana (centre, left). Photo: Bertrand Langlois/AFP

Lion Air, Indonesia's largest private carrier and one of the world's fastest growing airlines, is a new client for Airbus as it has previously been equipped almost exclusively by US rival Boeing.

French President Francois Hollande said a deal he described as the biggest in the history of civil aviation would create 5,000 jobs in France over the next 10 years.

The agreement, hailed as "historic" by Hollande, was signed at the president's official residence, the Elysee Palace, by Airbus head Fabrice Bregier and his Lion Air counterpart Rusdi Kirana.

Lion Air will buy 60 A320 planes. The remainder involves its newer and more fuel-efficient Neo plane, which bears a catalogue price tag of more than $100 million, though discounts are common for large orders.

According to the Elysee, the A320s currently under production will be delivered from next year while the Neos will be supplied from 2016.

The news comes just days after Airbus received an order worth as much as $15.5 billion from Turkish airlines for up to 117 planes. That order also centred on Airbus's A320 medium-haul family.

Southeast Asia has emerged as one of the world's top market for medium haul planes as rising incomes and a burgeoning middle class have significantly boosted air travel.

Founded in 1999 by brothers Kusnan and Rusdi Kirana, who are ranked the 33rd richest Indonesians with collective wealth of $900 million, Lion Air is the country's first private airline.

Currently it operates a relatively modest 92 planes – all Boeings except for one McDonnell Douglas – which makes it number nine among regional carriers in terms of fleet size.

The company is however set to expand rapidly, having already ordered 230 Boeing 737s for $22.4 billion during US President Barack Obama's visit to Indonesia in 2011.

With some 240 million people, Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous nation and most far-flung archipelago with more than 17,000 islands scattered across 33 provinces. Air passenger numbers are currently growing at 20 percent per year.

Lion Air's 72 destinations are mostly in Indonesia, and the furthest it flies is to Saudi Arabia — a route mostly packed with domestic workers and construction labourers. The company is banned from US and EU skies over safety fears.

In France, where economic stagnation has sent unemployment to record highs, Airbus is one of the few companies that continues to recruit in significant numbers.

In January, Bregier said the company would hire 3,000 people worldwide in 2013.

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TAXI

Paris aims to beat Olympic traffic with flying taxis

Paris aims to give visitors to the 2024 Paris Olympics a flying start by offering airborne taxis to tournament sites straight from the airport.

Paris aims to beat Olympic traffic with flying taxis
An Airbus image showing what the taxis might look like. Photo: Airbus
Arrivals in the City of Light currently face an hour-long haul by train or bus into town from Charles de Gaulle airport to the north of Paris.
   
But if Aeroports de Paris (ADP), Airbus and the RATP regional transport have their way passengers, right after their jets have taxied to a halt on the runway, will be able to take to the air once again with a self-flying urban taxi of the future.
   
The firms used this past week's Paris Air Show to say the Olympics afforded the perfect opportunity to bring into service futuristic Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) machines, and that they would launch a feasibility study.
   
“In 2010, for the first time, more than half of humanity was living in urban zones and we think we shall surpass 60 percent by 2030,” said Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury.
   
The time had now come to vault up to “the third dimension” of local commutes — air, he said.
 
“If we have the conviction that in the next five, 10, 15, 20 or 30 years low altitude is a space to be conquered we have to put in place the conditions today,” said ADP Group's executive director general Edward Arkwright.
   
VTOL converts are already sprouting in number as the world looks to move beyond — or rather, above — today's saturated motorways and growing environmental concerns.
   
Back on the ground, the view has been muddied by a delay beyond the Games, to 2025, of the express fast train designed to cut congestion and travel time between Charles de Gaulle airport and the city centre. 
   
For aircraft manufacturer Airbus, airport manager ADP and RATP, which manages Parisian public transport services, the Games are a chance to showcase French savoir-faire in urban mobility.
 
Multitude of projects
 
ADP has until the end of the year to choose a site for a “Vertiport” capable of hosting taxis from one of 10 aerodromes in the region around Paris.
   
The idea is to have the venue ready in 18 months, requiring infrastructure investment of some ten million euros ($11.3 million), says Arkwright. He adds the project will test out the link “via an existing helicopter corridor”.
   
Ideally, the service would see the taxis take off every six minutes.
   
In order to make VTOL a reality by 2024, ADP is working alongside Airbus, which has for some years been involved in full electric propulsion urban mobility schemes.
   
The manufacturer already has two prototype models — the single-seater “Vahana” and the four-seater variant “CityAirbus”.
   
Faury explained that “the two projects will converge towards a vehicle that will respond to first cases of use.”
   
“This partnership is a unique opportunity to develop technological solutions, a product, a regulatory framework, an economic model,” Faury added.
 
'Important stage'
 
“This project reduces constraints not only in terms of infrastructure but also concerning air traffic as it involves experimenting in a specific (air) corridor,” said Jean-Louis Rassineux, head of aeronautics and defence issues for Deloitte. “It is large scale rollout which is going to be complicated,” Rassineux told AFP.
   
Along with required progress on battery power and anti-collision detection he said there were “constraints regarding compatibility and traffic regulation.” 
   
But there is also the issue of the extent to which the concept will gain widespread public acceptance.
   
Rassineux warned there would need to be “security levels as stringent as those for air traffic” as well as “real value added to existing transport” systems.
   
Deloitte estimates the size of the airborne taxi market at some $17 billion for the United States alone through to 2040.
   
Yet “there remains some way to go before a flying vehicle becomes integrated into urban transport,” cautioned France's transport minister, Elisabeth Borne.
   
Borne nonetheless sees moves towards creating an embryonic service in time for the 2024 games as “one of the important stages” towards “the emergence of a complete transport offering” which would be “integrated and which respects the environment”.  
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