How Virgin Atlantic was born.

Nowadays, Virgin Atlantic is among life and death. They’ve just announced its Gatwick base closure and a plan to cut up to more than 3.000 jobs. How this emblematic airline was started up?

Virgin Atlantic is on the verge of disappearance if there is no investment from its owners. It’s a very well-known because of his founder, Richard Branson, a charismatic businessman who allowed his trademark “Virgin” was globally known, creating a relationship between a successful trademark and a successful man.

It’s ironic Virgin leaves Gatwick, the airport where it took off for the first Virgin commercial flight in June 22 of 1.984 to New York Newark. On that maiden flight, the B747-200 registered G-VIRG, “The Maiden Voyager”, took off with Richard Branson himself, other famous people and media on board. They installed a screen in the cabin, so passengers were able to watch take off from their seats. In the image they could see both pilots and the flight engineer having a relaxing chat, meanwhile the airplane was speeding the runway. As soon as the nose of the airplane lifted up, both pilots turned to the camera and people realised they were two famous cricketers, and the flight engineer was Richard Branson himself. They recorded the video during previous day in a simulator. The airline was profitable in the first year of operation.

The beginnings were never easy.

The first contact Richard Branson had with aviation, took place during holidays with his family. That day, Richard and his wife, Joan, were heading to Puerto Rico after spending some days in Virgin Islands to connect with other flight. However, when they arrived at the airport, their flight had been cancelled. He soon realised there were other stranded passengers around with the same problem and called an air charter company. Their flight to Puerto Rico would cost $2.000. Richard borrowed a little blackboard and wrote: “Virgin Airways, $39 single flight to Puerto Rico”. After walking around the terminal could filled in the plane. 6 years later, Virgin Atlantic would see its maiden flight. However, was not as easy as that.

Randolph Fields, an american lawyer, had founded British Atlantic Airways with an ex-pilot from Laker Airways. In 1.983, the Virign Group was looking for investments to diversify their Business and Fields got in touch with Branson as a potential investor in his airline. After a year, in February 1.983, Virgin and Fields were equally partners of Virign Atlantic Airways. Nevertheless, Virgin Banks requested Virgin to have most of stakes to control the airline. Fields then reduced his ownership percentage to a 25%, and Virgin would have the 75% of the airline.

Richard Branson.

British Caledonian, lodged an objection to Virgin Atlantic license application and, soon Fields would be involved in a hearing with CAA (Civil Aviation Authority), questioned about emergency drills, maintenance and financing. The project was still an idea on paper. Richard Branson showed up himself in front of CAA to demonstrate the financial viability of the airline. CAA showed sceptical about Field’s ability to manage the airline and imposed a minimum of £3 million working capital. Virgin had to deal with some tripping, known as “Dirty Tricks Campaign”, orchestrated by British Airways.

The troubled flight test.

After long and difficult negotiations with Boeing, they finally got an agreement to lease a B747-200 for one year. The airplane, which came from Aerolíneas Argentinas, should do a flight test, a non-commercial flight with a CAA official on board to obtain its awaited operator license.  

For this flight, carried the new flight attendants, one hundred of Virgin staff and Richard Branson who was seated on last row with CAA official. Everything was normal involved in a happy atmosphere… until a loud bang with a bright flash coming from one engine leaving a track of black smoke, silenced the cabin. The airplane had ingested a flock of birds. Amid a stunned silence, the CAA officer put his arm around Branson’s shoulder and said: “Never mind, Richard, these things happen”.

Inaugural flight was three days after this incident, and they have no license yet. Roy Gardner, Virgin’s chief of engineering installed the new engine and was ready for the next day for the flight test in a record time. However, there was a cost for Virgin of £600,00 because insurance only covered for an engine damage under an operator license.

Virgin today.

Virgin, as every passenger airline in the world is a victim of current context, and it’s facing a very difficult situation, again. Virgin Will leave Gatwick, whose volume of operation will be affected. British Airways, Norwegian, Thomas Cook and Virgin all have a share of almost 33%. At least Wizzair will increase its presence in the airport.

At the same time, Virgin Atlantic will ground all 7 B747-400 left, airplane which grew with the airline after B747 classic were retired. Besides this, Virgin will ground 4 A330 before 2.022. Virgin currently operates a mixed fleet of 42 airplanes, A330, A350, B747 and B787. Amongst its 33 destinations, fly mainly to caribe, United States and Asia.


Maybe Virgin will overcome its destiny and will be able to come trough thanks to a new investment. With disappearance of Virgin Australia, Virgin America’s acquisition by Alaska airlines, is the only Virgin airline which remains in the sky.

Boeing Rolls Out First Loyal Wingman Unmanned Aircraft.

Prototype will advance Boeing’s global Airpower Teaming System.

A Boeing – led Australian industry team has presented the first unmanned Loyal Wingman aircraft to the Royal Australian Air Force, a historic milestone for the company and the Commonwealth. 

The aircraft, which uses artificial intelligence to extend the capabilities of manned and unmanned platforms, is the first to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia in more than 50 years. It is Boeing’s largest investment in an unmanned aircraft outside of the United States.

As the first of three prototypes for Australia’s Loyal Wingman Advanced Development Program, the aircraft also serves as the foundation for the Boeing Airpower Teaming System (ATS) being developed for the global defense market.

“This is a truly historic moment for our country and for Australian defence innovation,” said the Hon. Scott Morrison MP, Prime Minister of Australia. “The Loyal Wingman will be pivotal to exploring the critical capabilities our Air Force needs to protect our nation and its allies into the future.”

Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force, said the rollout of the first aircraft was a significant milestone in the Boeing Loyal Wingman project.

“This project is an excellent example of innovation through collaboration and what can be achieved working together with defence industry,” said Air Marshal Hupfeld. “This demonstrates the importance of the relationship Air Force has with Boeing Australia and defence industry more broadly. I look forward to exploring the capabilities this aircraft may bring to our existing fleet in the future.”

More than 35 members of Australian industry are supporting prototype work across four Australian states. With a global market demand for highly capable but extremely affordable unmanned aircraft, Boeing applied company-wide innovation to achieve those goals. The aircraft was engineered using a digital twin to model its structures, systems, capabilities and full life-cycle requirements; manufactured with Boeing’s largest-ever resin-infused single composite piece; and assembled using proven advanced manufacturing processes.

“We are proud to take this significant step forward with the Royal Australian Air Force and show the potential for smart unmanned teaming to serve as a force multiplier,” said Kristin Robertson, vice president and general manager of Autonomous Systems for Boeing Defense, Space & Security. “We look forward to getting the aircraft into flight testing and proving out the unmanned teaming concept. We see global allies with those same mission needs, which is why this program is so important to advancing the development of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System.”

The Loyal Wingman prototype now moves into ground testing, followed by taxi and first flight later this year.

For more information about the Boeing Airpower Teaming System, visit

POST-COVID 19’s Passenger.

Airlines with almost their whole fleet grounded, are struggling to survive. It’s about time to ponder and to create new strategies. However, customers may have changed their product demand.

Airlines: Their cash, their survival.

Obviously, airline’s business is to transport passengers and/or cargo from one place to another. However, situation forced airlines to keep almost their entire fleet on ground. In some cases, all of them. Then, Airlines are burning money everyday. Lufthansa, for example is losing $1 million a day! Thei first task is to keep their savings as longer as possible. It’s is as difficult as to try to stop time.

Part of Delta’s fleet grounded in Victorville, California. (Air Team Images).

Some measures will allow airlines to alleviate, just a little, their costs. Some airport managing companies such as Aéroports de Paris, London Heathrow managed by Spanish company Ferrovial, or Amsterdam’s airport, have suspended airport taxes. With exception for Spain in all airports managed by AENA. Besides, to allow airlines to keep their SLOTS given to fly between airports, European Comission has suspended the rule which results mandatory to use at least 80% of them. This will prevent Airlines of flying empty trying to keep their SLOTS. However, almost all mitigating measures will be done by airlines.

As mentioned before, any port in a storm for airlines will be keeping their cash savings. Depending on how “fat” before the crisis they were, will allow the airline to keep their cash for a little longer. In other words, structural costs, debt in short to medium term, and excess of staff. The amount of cash has to be translated into time, so Lufthansa’s group, one of the most solid in cash terms before crisis commenced, around $4.7 billion, requested state aid to Germany.

Government intervention has been considered of crucial importance for some airlines. Air Europa which drags a great debt before storm, secured a credit from the Spanish state to hold their heads above water level while they’re looking forward their acquisition by IAG as a rescue boat. Acquisition which is still pending from European authorities to be cleared. On the other hand, Air France and KLM has secured €7 billion aid from their respective governments. Alitalia, is the most remarkable cases after being nationalised.

State aids look like panacea initially, but they are a double-edge sword. Aids have many dealt conditions implicitly attached. Firstly, there is no doubt they are big credits, in high risk conditions and must be given back. In other words, they are a financial cost which will affect to airline’s operating margin. Even more in a not favourable context. Secondly, but not least important, state’s intervention. This could come up with many options such as to impose decision more political than technical, or to give a seat in the council of the airline. In any case, it could be “uncomfortable” to allow an outsider interferes in airline’s decisions.

With this concerns CEO of IAG, Willy Walsh, has seriously considered other option before asking for certain state aid. Lufthansa, on his side is considering to choose between insolvency and state aid.

Post COVID-19 scenario.

The economy’s predictive signs for this year were not very promising from the beginning of the year. A downturn was also expected in some countries though. Some airlines reported profit warnings for this year. The Chinese virus increased the economic downturn, and airlines were caught by surprise.

Some airlines are not expected to survive to this crisis. And for those who do it, will have to deal with a very weak demand. There will be less airlines to fight for a little cake. In many interviews and webinars, the airline CEOs concurred in the fact that we are facing to an unprecedented crisis in the whole civil aviation history. There is a certain level of confusion in how to act to an unknown scenario.

The expected recovery line ahs been delayed in time.

According to some analysts, air traffic will commence to raise in June. However, other scenarios were taken into account with different tendencies. The most favourable one would end this year a 15% below corresponding 2.019 result. How the airlines are going to face their sales strategy? How’s the customer going to behave when this crisis has passed? There are some questions what commercial departments wondered nowadays. The passengers are afraid of being infected instead of feeling fear to fly, so new necessities have to be taken into consideration by commercials in the airlines.

The new passengers.

From an economical point of view, there will be many jobs cuts thus travel expectation for many people will be reduced and airlines will lose possible customers. Putting this matter aside, let’s focus on some other matters which airlines never have taken into account before.

People, during confinement, have been working with telematic tools. They had to get used to it and maybe from now on they’ve found the way to avoid flying. A very important matter is how they will fly. Maybe passengers who need or want to fly, demand a more aseptic service, and their decision to choose the airline will be based in either the airline is “COVID-FREE” or not. Maybe passengers would not look for an airline with access to internet but to avoid being infected. Airlines will make great investments in to adapt to this new environment to their customers. The Low cost high density cabins could be affected.

We all payed attention to some recommendations such as leaving the middle seat free. In other words, airlines would leave 33% with no chance to put it in the market. To be able to be profitable, airlines would need to pass on to the ticket price. Then we should wonder how many passengers would be willing to pay the extra charge. The distance would never be the recommended one of 1.5 – 2 m between passengers… Michael O’Leary, president of Ryanair Group, rushed to make a statement about this measure, saying it would not be feasible for Ryanair to fly with middle seat blocked.

New cabin seat configurations have been disclosed to media. Some seats appeared alternatively looking to the front and to the rear and with screens as a divider. However, this screen could slow a possible evacuation, and then, to reduce the maximum certified number of passengers an airplane can carry. Its installation must be taken into account. Besides, it looks like a good solution, but its installation also needs more room than the conventional seats, so we would back to the previous paragraph… wasted space implies higher costs per seat. It needs to remind to install new cabin configurations requires great investments by airlines. It’s not like empty your living room and put new sofas instead the older ones. It needs technical documentation from the aircraft manufacturer, to install new wiring and collectors to organise toilets, galleys and In Flight Entertainment (IFE). If passengers are not demanding this kind of services, or if this demand is temporary, it would open a hole in airline’s financing. One more.

To avoid personal contact is the most effective measure. Using Individual Protection Equipment (IPE), such as masks and gloves, is generalised. Airlines have protection kits for passengers before boarding the airplane. However, it’s very common to find boarding cards from one hand to another or security screenings which not really avoid personal contact or need people very close to each other.

On board, in flight service have been drastically reduced to a minimum. In order to reduce airplane’s weight and to help with environment, many airlines moved their paper press to electronic one before Covid-19. Now, the appearance of brochures or magazines is even more reduced. Regarding meals and drinks, is also been reduced to a bare minimum, and they are given in closed boxes to avoid direct contact.

Emirates, made a procedure to do quick test before boarding to all passengers. This was tested on a flight from Dubai to Tunisia last April. Other airlines, for example, has improved some other measures like Iberia which has been successfully tested biometric boarding. However, airports have a lot to say about it. Airlines cannot make all the investment by themselves. Installation of infrared detection equipment to watch body temperature, screens between staff and passengers or airport health controls need to come from the airports side. It is a coordinated effort by all players involved.

Passengers got used to uncomfortable measure along history depending on the threat of the moment. Since 2.001, security measures have evolved and changing to prevent terrorist attacks. Now, health measures must to be taken to protect passengers from an invisible threat. It’s not only for their safety but because they demand this to feel safe to fly. Security measures are mandatory and on the other hand, health measures are most of them recommendations, and still not being regulated. This allows to airlines a certain free decision on how to apply these recommendations and to improve their own in order to differentiate from other airlines to bring customers to their “COVID-FREE” airline. Ironically, for low cost airlines is their cost based philosophy. Until now, low cost airlines follow the statement: “if it’s not mandatory is expendable”. Maybe, from now on Low cost airlines need to reconsider their service. A passenger may not see very favourable seeing flight attendants trying to sell masks or gloves on board, for example. However, if ticket price is low enough, fear we mentioned before could be appeased…

Airlines have adapted to customer’s necessities along years after turbulent periods of time. If not, they joined to big airline cemetery.

  According to IATA statistics, passengers as time passes, expressed an increasing desire to fly again. This gives a hope to a moribund business. Maybe to offer extraordinary services are no longer needed, or these new services need to be removed sooner or later and everything go back to normality once passengers have forgotten their fears.