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Aviation poised for 'third revolution': Airbus boss
By Djallal MALTI
Amsterdam (AFP) April 12, 2017

Dutch panda mania as giant bears arrive from China
The Hague (AFP) April 12, 2017 - Two giant pandas arrived by plane at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport Wednesday after a marathon 8,000 kilometre journey from China, the first breeding pair on Dutch soil in three decades.

Female panda Wu Wen (Beautiful Powerful Cloud) and her male companion Xing Ya (Elegant Star) touched down at Schiphol at around 1730 GMT after leaving Chengdu in central China more than 10 hours earlier.

A giant television screen showed the pandas being lowered onto the tarmac from a passenger jet operated by Dutch national carrier KLM, surrounded by Dutch border police.

Later they were put on display for more than 100 journalists and guests straining to catch a glimpse of the two animals in their specialised cages which included see-through plexiglass.

"I'm so happy so many friends have come to welcome my two new colleagues," China's ambassador to The Netherlands Wu Ken told the crowd, speaking in Dutch.

"This is a huge step in bilateral relations between China and The Netherlands," Wu said.

The pandas are headed for the Ouwehands Dierenpark zoo in Rhenen, where they'll stay on loan for the next 15 years as part of the park's Asian exhibition.

The park has built a special enclosure for the two pandas at a cost of around seven million euros ($7.4 million), Dutch media reported Wednesday.

This includes separate indoor and outdoor spaces, night accommodation, a nursery, a cold store for their bamboo food supply, a special veterinary clinic and an area for their full-time keepers, the Ouwehands zoo said in a statement.

"A warm welcome awaits them, which will naturally be in an entirely panda-themed manner," the park added.

The pandas will be housed at the park at a cost of around one million dollars per year for the rest of their stay, Dutch daily tabloid Algemeen Dagblad reported.

The Ouwehands zoo said it "will make a substantial financial contribution each year to support nature-protection activities in China."

The zoo, with help from the Dutch government, has been negotiating for 16 years to bring the pandas to The Netherlands.

The deal to bring the pandas to The Netherlands was clinched during a state visit to China by Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima in October 2015, the zoo added.

Meanwhile, panda mania has gripped The Netherlands ahead of the bears' arrival, with Dutch newspapers devoting pages of space to the bears' arrival and the hashtags #Pandas #pandakoorts (panda fever) trending on the Dutch Twitter feed.

The last time there were pandas in The Netherlands was in 1987, when two giant pandas were on show at a Dutch safari park for four months.

An expectant Dutch public however will have to wait to catch a glimpse of the animals: the bears will now be kept in quarantine for up to the six weeks before an official opening date, yet to be announced.

The aerospace industry is on the brink of a "third revolution" and Airbus boss Tom Enders is determined his giant company will play a leading role in its future.

"I do genuinely believe that we are at a point where those technological changes and breakthroughs in electric propulsion, autonomous flight, artificial intelligence, machine learning, new materials, all come together, plus the data usage, (and) will be nothing less than a third revolution in aerospace," Enders told AFP in an interview.

"Of course, we will only know that probably 20 years from now, when we look back and say 'Gee, did we get this, did we understand this, did we prepare for it or did we miss it, and why did we miss it?'," he said on the sidelines of an Airbus annual general assembly in Amsterdam.

"Obviously I don't want to look back in 20 years and say 'Jesus, I was at the controls of this company and we missed it, how could that happen'?"

This has led to some frenetic activity within the group, which has seen the Airbus chief executive officer targeted by criticism.

In November, Airbus announced it was cutting more than 1,100 jobs in Europe and closing one of its sites in Suresnes, near Paris, as part of an ongoing restructuring programme.

Unions accused Airbus of cutting jobs at a time when its order book is worth nearly 1.0 trillion euros ($1.05 trillion), equivalent to eight to 10 years of production.

Airbus however is running into headwinds, prompting the search for cost-cutting opportunities.

Its helicopter division has suffered from a weak market, the company has had to set aside nearly two billion euros to cover the cost of its military A400M model, and its A380 flagship has been slow to take off.

- Investment in future -

But Enders insisted the company was not cutting back on investment.

"Overall we are investing much more in innovation and digitalisation than we've done in previous years," he said. "It's inevitable to prepare for the future."

He highlighted a number of projects such as a Pop Up venture for a flying car, and the launch of a partnership with Uber for helicopters.

The future is "more about partnership and ... aeronautic companies who are engaging in urban mobility like we do, and automotive companies, have a lot of potential for cooperation."

He added: "I think in the near future, we will able to go overground, i.e. airspace in cities, because technologically it is possible."

The pace of change is accelerating, he argued.

"There's a lot of projects, a lot of noise and a lot of activity, but that is inevitable. Because at this juncture, hardly any large industrial company knows exactly what its future will look like."

Enders also told AFP that Madrid talks last month with representatives from seven countries buying Airbus's troubled A400M military plane had been "constructive".

"This is basically an area where we want to negotiate, or discuss, with the nations how we can mitigate that."

The A400M was commissioned jointly in 2003 by the governments of Germany, Belgium, France, Britain, Luxembourg, Spain and Turkey, but since a delayed launch in 2013 it has run into difficulty, with behind-schedule deliveries.

- Not giving up on A380 -

Enders also voiced optimism over the Airbus A380 double-decker superjumbo, even though production is due to be halved next year amid falling demand.

"We haven't given up on the A380 because the trend which we saw clearly when we started the project is visible in every area, i.e. a larger aircraft, with larger capacity," he said.

Airbus was "working on making the aircraft more attractive" and studies on how to add 80 more seats "obviously would boost the economics of the aircraft".

In July, Airbus said it would cut the A380 production rate to one a month from 2018.

The group has seen a slowdown in demand for long-distance carriers due in part to falling fuel prices which have impacted on the renewal of ageing fleets, but also as a result of weakening demand from Gulf carriers.

Enders said however he believed Airbus still has time to find new customers for the A380.

"While airlines are sceptical about it because their problem is they're not sure they can fill it, customers love it," he said.

Navy continues grounding of T-45 trainer aircraft
Washington (UPI) Apr 10, 2017
U.S. Navy T-45 trainer jets are grounded for at least another week as investigations continue into physiological episodes experienced by aircraft crew. The three-day grounding was initially called on Wednesday on the orders of Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, Commander, Naval Air Forces as instructor-pilot concerns led to the cancellation of about 40 percent of training flights from three Nava ... read more

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