AEROSPACE ROUNDUP: Airbus Lands Rocket Launcher Contract European Space Agency, Airbus

AEROSPACE ROUNDUP: Airbus Lands Rocket Launcher Contract

Profits for rival Philippine carriers Cebu Airlines and Philippine Airlines soar. ... Emirates announces the world's longest nonstop flight (close to three-quarters of a day). ... Japan Airlines mourns memory of those killed 30 years ago in the deadliest single-craft crash.

AIRBUS: PARIS — The European Space Agency has tapped Airbus Safran Launchers to build a new-generation Ariane 6 rocket launcher by 2020 for 2.4 billion euros ($2.68 billion), ESA said Wednesday.

The Ariane 6 satellite-carrying rocket launcher is due to take its maiden voyage in 2020, and is an update to the company's Ariane 5 which first launched in 1998. The new system is expected to launch 12 rockets per year to an altitude of 22,000 miles and has partners from 12 European countries. 

Alain Charmeau, president of Airbus Safran Launchers, said the contract showed the partners were determined to create "a launcher just as reliable, more competitive and adapted to the evolution of the space market that is in the midst of transformation."

The contracts signed on Wednesday "cover all development work on Ariane 6 and its launch base," ESA said in a statement, including 680 million euros ($758.13 million) for preliminary development up to mid-2016. 

CEBU AIRLINES: MANILA, The Philippines — Cebu Pacific saw its half-year net profit soar 63% as low fuel costs helped it take full advantage of higher passenger and cargo traffic, the Philippines' largest airline said Friday.

The carrier reported a net income of 5.2 billion pesos ($112.68 million) for the January to June period, compared to 3.2 billion pesos ($69.34 million) a year earlier. However, profit was down slightly to 2.9 billion pesos ($62.84 million) from 3.0 billion pesos ($65.00 million) in the three months to June as the cost of the company renewing its fleet and foreign exchange losses due to a rising dollar offset revenue gains.

Passenger revenues in the first half grew 9.4% to 22.8 billion pesos ($494.07 million), as increased flights drove traffic 8.2% higher to 9.2 million passengers, it said. Cargo revenues grew 11.4% to 1.6 billion pesos ($34.67 million). The group generally records higher domestic revenue in January, March, April, May and December as festivals and school holidays in the Philippines increase seat load factors.

Rival Philippine Airlines reported on Tuesday a near 10-fold increase in net profit to 5.8 billion pesos ($125.52 million), citing peak demand.

EMIRATES AIRLINES: DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Emirates announced Thursday that it will launch the world's "longest non-stop flight" in February from the bustling Gulf emirate to Panama City, lasting more than 17 hours.

The carrier will fly daily to Panama's capital in a passenger flight operated by a Boeing 777-200LR aircraft, which can also carry up to 15 tonnes of cargo, Emirates said in a statement. The flight between the two trading hubs will last 17 hours, 35 minutes, making Panama the airline's first destination in Central America, it said.

Currently, the longest flights connect Dallas to Sydney (almost 17 hours), Johannesburg to Atlanta (16 hours, 40 minutes), and Dubai to Los Angeles (16 hours, 35 minutes). Previously, the longest flight, lasting almost 19 hours linked Singapore and New York, operated by Singapore Airlines. But it was suspended in 2013 in a bid to cut costs.

Emirates operates a fleet of 235 aircraft, serving 147 destinations in 81 countries. The airline has the world's largest fleets of Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s, with another 274 planes on order worth $135 billion. 

JAPAN AIRLINES: UENO, Japan — Hundreds of people attended ceremonies Wednesday marking the 30th anniversary of a Japan Airlines jumbo jet crash that killed 520 people on board, the deadliest single-aircraft disaster in history.

The doomed Boeing 747 had begun the hour-long flight from Japan's capital to Osaka when it crashed into a mountain about 75 miles northwest of Tokyo on August 12, 1985. In all, 509 passengers, including a dozen infants and 15 crew members, were on board. Just four passengers survived.

Bereaved relatives of victims make an annual pilgrimage to Osutaka Ridge, along with JAL president Yoshiharu Ueki who walked the trail to a memorial near the crash site. "I offer my regrets and prayers to the 520 people who died," Ueki told reporters. "I want to once again deeply apologise for the great pain, sorrow and the burden on bereaved families and others affected by this for such a long time. Nothing is more important than peoples' lives."

The world's worst airline disaster was the 1977 runway collision of two 747s at Tenerife in the Canary Islands that left 583 dead.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015

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