Wednesday, October 31, 2012

FLEET UPDATE: American Jet takes Delivery of ATR-42-320 LV-CZJ

American Jet of Buenos Aires and Neuquen, in the province of the same name at the northern end of Patagonia, took delivery of its first ATR-42-320, registration LV-CZJ, (c/n 257) on 22/23Oct12 when it flew from Denmark to San Fernando (FDO) (just north of Buenos Aires) via Las Palmas, Canary Islands (LPA), Natal (NAT), and Florianopolis (FLN).

The plane is due to continue to Neuquen (NQN) where additional crew training will take place prior to proceeding to Mendoza (MDZ) where it will be based for weekday flights to the Rio Colorado / Vale Mine in the southern part of Mendoza province.   

The aircraft first flew on 26Jun91, and was delivered to AeroMar of Mexico on 15Oct91.  It was acquired by Nordic Aviation Capital in 2008 and leased to OLT Express Regional of Poland until earlier this year. 

American Jet was founded in 1984 as an air taxi company and today mostly flies charters for oil and mining companies.  It also operates some scheduled flights within Neuquen province.  The company's fleet consists of several business jets and props plus Fairchild Metros.  

American Jet was reported back in late July to be taking delivery of an ATR-42 from Trip Linhas Aereas of Brazil but these plans seem to have fallen through.
Click this link for a spectacular approach shot of the aircraft on its delivery flight:


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

ROUTE UPDATES: Argentina & Uruguay Routes by Aerolineas Argentinas, BQB, Gol, TAM, LAN & AeroMexico

The following are among the more significant route changes to air service in Argentina and Uruguay recently:

Effective       Airline           Route                  Equip       Change

23Oct12       BQB             MVD-ASU           ATR-72     Increase from 5x to 7x/week, stop
                                                                                  3x/week in Salto, Uruguay (STY)             
26Oct12       TAM             GRU-MVD           A320         Increase from 2x to 3x/day
28Oct12       Gol               GIG-GRU-COR    737           New Service Daily        
15Nov12       TAM             GIG-MVD            A320         New Service Daily
01Dec12       LAN             SCL-MVD            A320         Increase from 2x to 3x/day 
01Dec12       Aerolineas     EZE-CUN            A340         Increase from 2x to 3x/week
15Dec12       AeroMexico   MEXEZE             767/777     Reduce from 10x to 7x/week
XXDec12      BQB             MVD-FLN            ATR-72      New Service 

The new and additional MVD service is mostly to replace the cancelled PLUNA service per Aviacion News. 

      via Eric Trum
     via Eric Trum

Monday, October 29, 2012

PLUNA CRJ-900's - Part 2 - Cosmo Out, BQB Out, Air Nostrum in ? Conviasa in ? Molinari in ?

The saga continues.....

12Oct12:  BQB Announces Intention to Buy Aircraft Purchase Rights from Cosmo

Lopez Mena announced that BQB intended to buy the US$ 13.7 million guarantee that was made on the seven CRJ-900's and acquire the aircraft outright.  Ismael Fuentes, spokesman of the former PLUNA employee union Pit-Cnt, said that the workers opposed the BQB purchase perceiving it as an attempt to transform Uruguayan flag carrier airline service into a private monopoly.    

13Oct12:  Legislators Accuse BQB of Manipulating Purchase of CRJ-900's to Form Monopoly

Uruguayan senators and congressmen led by Communist Party Senator Eduardo Lorier claimed that BQB owner Lopez Mena was behind the purchase of the CRJ-900's all along through his association with Cosmo Airlines and is trying to form an air/sea private monopoly through the two companies owned by him; BQB Lineas Aereas and Buquebus ferry lines that carry the great majority of passenger and vehicular traffic across the Rio de la Plata between Uruguay and Argentina.

15Oct12:  Senator Lorier meets with Venezuelan Transport Minister regarding New Carrier

Senator Lorier traveled to Venezuela and met with the country's Transport Minister about investing in a new Uruguayan flag carrier with the participation of former PLUNA employees.  He reported that Bandes (the Venezuelan state bank) was interested in being a partner in the new enterprise, presumably with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez' blessing.     

16Oct12:  Anti-BQB Sentiment Builds & Government Evaluates Annulling Auction

Senator Lorier continued his attacks on BQB owner Juan Carlos Lopez Mena saying that Lopez Mena intentionally tried to demean the value of the seven aircraft to the detriment of the Uruguayan national interest by saying they were worth at most US$ 80 million when "they were actually worth the US$ 137 million" auction price.   

He went on to say that a businessman with Lopez Mena's ethics should not be in charge of the Uruguayan national carrier and even said to Lopez Mena "withdraw, or we will withdraw you" (from the airline project) which was widely interpreted as a threat, even though Lorier claimed that was not his intention.  

Additionally the Uruguayan government said it was considering annulling the auction altogether since the "winner" Cosmo was not going to pay for the planes and a solution to the situation seemed further away with each passing day.  

18Oct12:  Lopez Mena Withdraws from Purchase of CRJ-900's

With the former PLUNA employee union members and many sectors of the government against him, plus the prospect of the government annulling the auction, Lopez Mena decided to withdraw BQB from the process of putting together an airline to replace PLUNA, including desisting from the purchase of the US$ 13.7 million down payment "ticket" to the seven CRJ-900's.  

18Oct12:  Molinari Expresses Interest in the Six Leased CRJ-900's

Carlos Molinari changed his position somewhat saying that he would be willing to operate just the six leased CRJ-900's (instead of all 13 planes) and another Uruguayan carrier could be formed to operate the seven owned planes sold at auction.  His investment group had even started negotiations with the Canadian bank EDC and CRJ-900 manufacturer Bombardier to lease the six aircraft.

26Oct12:  Molinari Reverses Position, Interested in Buying Seven-Owned CRJ-900's

With the withdrawal of BQB's interest in the seven auctioned CRJ-900's, Carlos Molinari indicated that he would be interested in acquiring these aircraft after all.  

The new airline could be up-and-running in 60 days with a first "emergency" phase to cover the summer months with five or six aircraft serving the most important destinations.  Over time more aircraft and destinations would be added with more employees being taken on in addition to the initial 200 workers.  Molinari's group foresaw that the carrier would be operating at full strength in about one year.         

Sources: El Pais Uruguay, various articles 13-27Oct12         

Sunday, October 28, 2012

PLUNA CRJ-900's - Part I - Cosmo Out, BQB Out, Air Nostrum in ? Conviasa in ? Molinari in ?

During the last three weeks there have been near-daily changes in the situation with the auction of the seven company-owned ex-PLUNA CRJ-900's.  

The unfolding of events resulted in the Spanish airline Cosmo Airlines not being able to fulfill the commitment it made to buy the aircraft at auction, BQB Lineas Aereas seeming to step in to buy them but then withdrawing and the appearance of a new possible buyer, Argentine real estate magnate Carlos Molinari.

As of now, Mr. Molinari has made a proposal to purchase the CRJ-900's and start a new airline, and the plans of former PLUNA employees to start a new Uruguayan national airline using the six leased-in ex-PLUNA CRJ-900's with Air Nostrum or Conviasa of Venezuela are still alive.

Here is the timeline of events:

04Oct12:  BQB Proposal to the Uruguayan Government

Lopez Mena made a proposal to the Uruguayan government to operate most of the former PLUNA routes using the seven CRJ-900's purchased by Cosmo while leasing all the aircraft from the Uruguayan government for US$ 500,000 per month for five years, which is very cheap considering that the respected British aviation publication Flight Global estimated the monthly lease rate of CRJ-900's to be US$ 240,000 back in 2006. 

He also proposed to operate the routes free of charge, including the lucrative "Air Bridge" between Buenos Aires and Montevideo, with no payments by BQB to the Uruguayan government.  Some officials questioned why Lopez Mena was making an offer to lease the aircraft from the Uruguayan government instead of Cosmo, the presumed future owner of the planes.  It seemed that he knew that Cosmo was not going to be able to pay for them.

05Oct12:  Link between Cosmo and BQB

It was learned that the individual making the winning (and only) bid for the planes at the October 1 auction on behalf of Cosmo Airlines, Hernán Antonio Calvo Sánchez, was a former employee of BQB owner Juan Carlos Lopez Mena.  Additionally, he only used part of his legal name in an apparent attempt to disguise his identity. These two factors raised suspicions that Cosmo and BQB were cooperating to acquire the aircraft through some kind of a scam.  

09Oct12:  Cosmo does not pay Auction Fees

Cosmo failed to pay the US$ 835,000 auctioneer's commission on the sale of the aircraft, a relatively small sum, casting doubts on the airline's ability to pay for the planes.

10Oct12:  Government rejects BQB Proposal

The Uruguayan government rejected BQB's proposal, stating that it wanted payment for the route rights.  

10Oct12:  Boston Seguros paid Auction Guarantee

It was revealed that the 10% down payment (US$ 13.7 million) of the auction selling price of the CRJ-900's was not guaranteed by Cosmo Airlines itself, but by Boston Seguros, an Argentine company that counts Lopez Mena among its customers, further bringing into question Cosmo's ability to pay the full US$ 137 million price that it bid on the aircraft.

10Oct12:  Cosmo Owners confirm that they cannot buy ex-PLUNA CRJ-900's

Spaniards Miguel Castro Marin and Miguel Valentin Martin Lucas, owners of 50% of Cosmo confirmed that the airline does not have the cash to pay for the CRJ-900's and claimed that they only learned of the purchase via the press and do not even know Hernán Antonio Calvo Sánchez, the purported representative of the airline that made the winning bid on the aircraft !  The airline is capitalized with only 7.6 million euros and does not even have an operating license.

10Oct12:  Uruguay to Consider Open Skies Policy

With the nation's air connectivity at risk, especially during the upcoming summer tourist season, the Uruguayan government announced that it was considering declaring an "Open Skies" policy for five months allowing carriers of any nationality to fly freely to/from Uruguay without restrictions regarding  origin, destination or frequencies.

10Oct12:  Air Nostrum meets with Uruguayan Officials

Representatives of the Spanish commuter carrier met with Uruguayan officials to discuss their joint proposal with ex-PLUNA employees to start a new carrier.

10Oct12:  Argentine Real Estate Magnate Carlos Molinari Makes Proposal for New Carrier  
Multimillionaire Argentine businessman Carlos Molinari met with Uruguayan president Jose Mujica with a proposal to start a new Uruguayan flag carrier using all 13 former PLUNA CRJ-900's flying all of the former routes of the carrier plus some new ones too while employing some 400 workers in the beginning.  The agreement would be for a period of ten years.

Sources: El Pais Uruguay, various articles 05-11Oct12

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Aerolineas Argentinas to Paint an A340-300 in Skyteam Colors

Aerolineas Argentinas A340-312, LV-CEK, cn 094, will soon be going in for a "C" Check and will be painted in Skyteam colors, the airline alliance that Aerolineas recently joined.  The aircraft was originally delivered to Air Mauritius in 1995 as 3B-NAV.

The A340 will be the second Aerolineas aircraft to be painted in Skyteam colors, the first being 737-76N, LV-BZA, cn 32674/1952, which was painted in the alliance's scheme earlier this year. 

Click on the link below to see a photo of the 737-700 in Skyteam colors:

Sources:  Aviacion News 04Oct12

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

New Uruguayan Airline to use Six Leased ex-PLUNA CRJ-900's ?

With the sale at auction of the seven company-owned ex-PLUNA CRJ-900's the focus is now turning towards what to do with the six leased ex-PLUNA CRJ-900's.  

When PLUNA shut down indefinitely on July 6, some 900 workers lost their jobs.  Of special concern to the Uruguayan government were the 700 employees based in Uruguay who were thrown out of work.  One of the goals of the auction of the company-owned planes was for the buyer to use them to fly routes out of Montevideo employing at least 250 of these workers.

Cosmo / BQB a Possible Partial Solution

These hopes were put on hold with the purchase of the aircraft by Cosmo Airlines of Spain who indicated that they would use them for expansion of charters into Central and Eastern Europe. There might still be a chance for many of these workers to find jobs with BQB Lineas Aereas of Uruguay as this airline is reportedly negotiating with Cosmo to lease some of the former PLUNA planes.

New Airline with Air Nostrum

However, the workers are more optimistic of future employment with a new airline that would be formed using the six leased ex-PLUNA CRJ-900's.  They have talked with five interested parties, but the most promising possibility is Air Nostrum, a Spanish regional airline that operates a large fleet of aircraft consisting mostly of the same Bombardier CRJ series planes formerly operated by PLUNA, including CRJ-200's, -900's, and the latest model, the -1000.    

Cesar Iroldi, president of the PLUNA workers' union, led a meeting of former PLUNA employees with Uruguayan president Jose Mujica on Friday, October 5.  They presented the project as it has been developed so far with Air Nostrum with further details to be defined this week.  The Spanish airline and the former PLUNA employees would co-manage the new carrier taking on more than 250 workers, and possibly as many as 500.  Iroldi remarked that "You have the trained human resources, the frequencies, the routes, and eventually the planes" to make a new airline viable.      
Prospect of Lease Termination Penalties 

The Uruguayan government also has incentives to start a new airline in that it also wants to see the employees back at work plus the government would face penalties of up to US$ 150 million should it cancel the lease contracts on the six CRJ-900's early.  The option of forming a new airline, possibly even a new Uruguayan national airline, sort of a "PLUNA 2" has widespread appeal.  
Sources:  El Observador and El Pais Uruguay, several articles from 02-06Oct12.

Monday, October 8, 2012

BQB Lineas Aereas Negotiating to Lease ex-PLUNA CRJ-900's from Cosmo

Will former PLUNA CRJ-900's...... 

(CX-CRK lands at Buenos Aires Aeroparque on 06Feb11)

.....soon be flying in the colors of BQB Lineas Aereas ? 

(BQB ATR-72-500, CX-JCL taxis out at AEP on 20Mar11)

BQB Lineas Aereas' owner Juan Carlos Lopez Mena is negotiating with Cosmo Airlines to lease the seven ex-PLUNA CRJ-900's that the Spanish carrier recently acquired at auction.  

BQB would operate the planes from Montevideo (MVD) to Sao Paulo (GRU), Rio de Janeiro (GIG), Porto Alegre (POA), Belo Horizonte (CNF), and Curitiba (CWB), all former PLUNA routes in Brazil, plus Santiago de Chile (SCL) (also a former PLUNA route) and Santa Cruz de la Sierra (VVI) in Bolivia (never flown by PLUNA).  Services would start on December 15.

BQB already operates its own fleet of two ATR-72-500's from Montevideo (MVD) to Salto, Uruguay (STY), and Asuncion, Paraguay (ASU), plus from Buenos Aires Aeroparque (AEP) to Punta del Este, Uruguay (PDP).  

Lopez Mena indicated that "after this first stage of growth, we are thinking of adding four more longer-range aircraft that will enable us to connect Montevideo with the rest of the capitals of South America.  This would require us to hire 120 more employees".

Sources: El Observador and El Pais Uruguay, several articles 02-05Oct12

Sunday, October 7, 2012

ROUTE UPDATE: LAN Started Scheduled 787 Service from Santiago to Buenos Aires Ezeiza on 01Oct12

LAN Airlines took delivery of its first Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, CC-BBA, s/n 38471, on 01Sep12 and announced that it would put the new-generation airliner into service on 01Nov12.  However, the airline surprisingly operated its first regularly-scheduled revenue flight with the plane on Monday, O1Oct12, between Santiago (SCL) and Buenos Aires Ezeiza (EZE), a month earlier than originally planned.  

The aircraft will be operated between Santiago and Buenos Aires for the next six months, at least initially on Mondays only, as the type is introduced into LAN's fleet.  LAN chose Buenos Aires as its first 787 destination because it is the carrier's closest international destination from Santiago of significance. During the first six months crews will be certified on the new type and the aircraft's performance will be closely monitored.

The next new route for the 787 will be Lima (LIM) - Los Angeles (LAX) and later Madrid (MAD) and Frankfurt (FRA). 

LAN's first 787 will be joined by its second and third examples in October and December, respectively, with two more expected in 2013 and all 32 on order scheduled to be delivered to the carrier by 2022.  

Source: Aviacion News 04Oct12

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Seven ex-PLUNA CRJ-900's bought by Cosmo Airlines of Spain

Cosmo Airlines emerged as the surprise winner of the auction for the seven ex-PLUNA CR-900's put up for auction on Monday, October 1.

The Madrid-based carrier placed a bid at the opening asking price of US$ 137 million and with no other bidders stepping forward was declared the winner only seven minutes into the auction. None of the parties rumored to be interested in the CRJ-900's, such as BQB Lineas Aereas, Conviasa, CUTCSA (Uruguayan bus company) and SOL Lineas Aereas participated in the bidding.       

Cosmo made a 10% deposit of US$ 13.7 million guaranteeing the purchase with the balance due in 30 days.  However, El Pais of Uruguay reports that there have been rumors that another party made the deposit with the Banco Republica Oriental del Uruguay (the national bank) and some opposition party members believe that no deposit was made at all.  

Cosmo Airlines was formed in 2011 but did not start European charter services until July of this year with a single A320.  The Spanish airline announced that it will use the CRJ-900's to expand its charter operations in "Central and Eastern Europe".  

Questions regarding Cosmo Airlines & its Participation in the Auction

Questions surround the proceedings as Cosmos is rumored to have started with capital of only EUR 7.6 million and it reportedly has a negative net worth and liabilities of EUR 53 million, according to an analysis of its finances carried out in Spain.  It also appears to have had limited operations and does not even have a website, although one is under construction.  Most noteworthy, El Pais reports that Spanish businessman Miguel Castro Marin, the founder of Cosmo Airlines, founded another Spanish airline, Marbella Airways, in 2004, which was reportedly used for money-laundering purposes in the multi-million Euro "Malaya" corruption case in Spain.  

Further suspicions have been raised because Cosmo paid about 30% more for the planes than their estimated value by most experts.  This is in a market with no shortage of quality aircraft of that operating profile. 

Sources: El Pais Uruguay, several articles 02-05Oct12