Qantas 787-9 dreamliner above the clouds

In Conversation Transcribed: Qantas’ Project Sunrise with Jordan Chong

Australian aviation journalist Jordan Chong joins RGN deputy editor John Walton to get to the bottom of Project Sunrise, Qantas’ plan to fly nonstop to London and New York from Australia’s east coast.

John Walton: Hello and welcome to Runway Girl Network In Conversation. A deep dive into aviation and the passenger experience. I’m RGN Deputy Editor John Walton and today I am in conversation with Australian aviation journalist Jordan Chong. Today we are talking about how the expectations and realities of Qantas’ Project Sunrise are stacking up. But first, thanks to our sponsor. In Conversation is brought to you by Boltaron, a Simona Company, purveyor of high-performance thermoplastics for tomorrow’s aircraft interiors. With new and groundbreaking innovations in design capabilities, Boltaron offers airlines the ability to customize the cabin with lightweight materials, with metallic effects, translucent decorative panels with unique embedded patterns, dynamic textures, vibrant pearlescents and much more. Learn more at Now Jordan, welcome to In Conversation.

Jordan Chong: Thanks John, lovely to be with you again.

Walton: Great to have you. So let’s off, what is Project Sunrise?

Chong: Well it is the name Qantas has given to their project, their research into whether they should fly nonstop from Australia’s east coast to the US east coast. New York, for example. Or to Europe. London, for example. They’ve called it Project Sunrise because they want to give a bit of recognition to those flights back in the day when the flights took so long that you saw the double sunrise between Australia and Europe. So that’s the plan that was launched two years ago. We are getting very close to the pointy end of the decision-making process and if they choose to go ahead, the flights will start in 2023. That is what Qantas has told, said publicly.

Walton: So, Qantas already flies to Europe, of course, from the west coast, from Perth and that is using a 787-9 which is their stock standard 787-9. How far east are they going currently from the Australian east coast?

Chong: Well, they are hoping to fly from Sydney or Melbourne to London and New York and other places but obviously these two cities have the greatest amount of traffic and so that’s the focus at the moment. So, Sydney to London and Sydney to New York the 787-9 is not enough airplane to do those missions and so they are looking at a potential new airplane for those flights.

Walton: Right, because Qantas’ New York strategy at the moment is one of its planes continues on from LA to New York. Picks up passengers there and brings them back via LA.

Chong: Yes, so it is a one stop proposition and you know, you either fly a Qantas plane all the way through from Australia to New York via Los Angeles or you fly to one of American’s hubs on a Qantas airplane and then transfer onto an American Airlines service.

Walton: Dallas-Fort Worth, for example, with that A380.

Chong: Yeah.

Walton: So I guess fundamentally what’s, what does Qantas really want out of it? Does it want the ultra high-yielding traffic? Does it want the cache of doing so? What’s its real game plan here?

Chong: I think when you look at the traffic, clearly the flights will be, have to be supported by strong corporate and business and high-value leisure travelers. You know, willing to pay those big dollars to fly in first, business and premium economy to make the economics work. However, Qantas has talked about having a four-cabin aircraft. So, you know, clearly they don’t want to, I guess, give away too much traffic to either one-stop options or other airlines offering one-stop options. Is that achievable, is Qantas being maybe a bit greedy in wanting to capture all segments of the market to ensure the economics of the flight? I mean perhaps because you know they are dealing with lots of operational challenges. An airplane to fly that distance needs a lot of fuel and a lot of fuel means it’s a lot of weight, so you are somewhat limited in what you can do in the cabin. So I think yes, definitely high value passengers. People willing to pay a premium. Qantas has talked recently about how their analysis shows that people are paying about a 30% premium to fly non-stop between Perth and London compared with a one-stop option and they are looking to achieve a similar premium for those ultra longhaul missions from the east coast.

Walton: Yeah, if they can do that, I mean that makes all the financial sense in the world, of course. What I find interesting is Air New Zealand just recently announced that they’ll be ending London service, which they used to well they currently fly one-stop through LA and instead going nonstop to New York from Auckland with their existing aircraft. What’s your take on that? What does that mean for Air New Zealand and indeed for Qantas?

Chong: Well I think Air New Zealand has been looking to bulk up it’s North America, or the Americas network. I think we have seen Huston, Chicago launched in previous years in addition to existing service to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Vancouver. So I think the broader that network is in North America, the more they can influence or convince Australians and South Pacific Islanders to fly one-stop via Auckland to the United States. And, you know, Air New Zealand has been very aggressive in trying to attract Australians, saying to Australians ‘well if you want to fly to these major centers in North America, fly one-stop over Auckland, widebody to widebody service, international connections at Auckland versus a connection at Los Angeles or Dallas or San Francisco. And I think they have been able to get the traffic that they wanted and I think that New York is just a latest extension of that. But then on the other side too I think New York is a very important source market and convincing North Americans that New Zealand is only a flight way is I think a big focus for them. And to tell someone who lives in Brooklyn that you know “you are only one flight away from the delights of New Zealand,” I think it is helping them make that route a success as well. It is one of the ingredients anyway.

Walton: Yeah. Especially, connecting through LAX or indeed any of the US hubs is such an inferior experience to passengers on either Air New Zealand or Qantas. Certainly, the US airlines haven’t been as PaxEx positive for quite some time as  longhaul aircraft are operated by the either of the two South Pacific carriers. The interesting question at this point is that once Air New Zealand can offer that “better than American” passenger experience, how much of Project Sunrise does that take a bite out of.

Chong: Qantas was asked about this at a recent investor day and they seem to think that it doesn’t really affect their evaluation. I think that they are saying “well you know Auckland-New Zealand, Auckland-New York is one-stop for an Australian origin passenger. We are offering nonstop,” so I think it is no surprise that to see Qantas sort of being quite strong on their proposition. But if the, it all comes down to the fares I guess. If Air New Zealand continues to offer attractive fares to North America will a person be willing to you know fly a little bit cheaper while making a stop through Auckland? You can do all the analysis you want but I think ultimately once the flights start and once we get an idea as to what the bookings have been like, then we will get a better gauge on it.

Walton: Yeah yeah

Chong: But I don’t think it makes or breaks the Qantas case.

Walton: Yeah, it’s interesting to see all of the parts that do make up Qantas case right? And if you can offer a connection that is not in LA or that is not in Dallas especially in Auckland which has quite a relatively nice terminal. Yeah, it will be interesting to see and it makes that US business case compared to the London business case where the connection from London is usually in a relatively pleasant terminal. It’s international to international. It’s not domestic to international. No change of terminals like in LA. If you can take that part of the market out of it, it would be really interesting to see how that affects what Qantas can do. Now in terms of aircraft, so in the European corner we have the Airbus A350-1000 and in the US corner, it’s the Boeing 777-8 from the 777X family. Jordan, tell us what the two airframers are proposing here in terms of aircraft.

Chong: As you say Airbus’ offer has been for the A350-1000. They say they have made some adjustments, modifications, tweaks, depends what language you prefer to enable Qantas to meet those two missions. Qantas has said earlier this year that when they got both the offers, Sydney-New York was able to be flown by both manufacturers’ aircraft with a full payload, whereas Sydney-London both ways was a commercial payload. So not a full payload but they reckon they can still make money and so that was the Airbus offer, the A350-1000, and Boeing’s offer is you know to use a North American parlance, it’s complicated because they have proposed the 777-8X. However, that program has been pushed back, the development timetable to an unspecified future end service date beyond 2023 when Qantas wants to start these flights. That doesn’t rule Boeing out of the contest. Boeing has proposed to Qantas what Qantas has described as an interim solution. We don’t know what the interim solution is, it could be 777-9Xs that they’ll just fly with a restricted payload. It could current-model 777-200LRs, which they’ll get at one would assume an enormous discount and fly with a restricted payload until the 777-8X comes on board. And the other complication too is there have been delays in the certification program of the 777-9X already and how much that influences or impacts both the 9X’s timetable and the 8X’s timetable means that it’s very hard to know what Boeing is going to do. And the last thing I’ll say is that Qantas has mentioned very recently that they have gone back to Airbus and Boeing to ask them to quote “sharpen their pencils”. I guess they are looking for a better deal than the first and final offers they received earlier this year in August. So you know they’re obviously trying to just extract every single possible concession or dollar out of this arrangement that they can.

Walton: Yeah I mean what I find really interesting is we may end up with Project Sunrise for JFK or some New York airport but at this point probably JFK but maybe not for London. So, looking at the great circle mapper website which is one of my personal favorite bookmarks, JFK comes in at 8,846 nautical miles, whereas Heathrow is basically 500 nautical miles further on at 9,188. That extra 500 miles of course is to quote The Proclaimers “quite a long way to walk” if necessary. And that’s I think, look fortunately this is not a safety issue into London in the way that it would be over the Pacific, right. There are numerous places you can divert in either direction in the event that the fuel is running below minimums. Not quite so much with JFK of course, although I am sure that you remember when Qantas had a few stops of its A380 service to Dallas and landing in Fiji to top up the tanks before they figured out the winds and the payloads and how that all worked together. I find the Airbus proposal really interesting, as you say they basically say ‘yeah we have tweaked the A350-1000’. That’s a mixture of initial estimates for all of the performance being a little bit conservative. It’s a mixture of making the aircraft lighter in service as airframers will always do, but what it isn’t is an A350-1000ULR and I think that was quite surprising, certainly in terms of their initial proposal. Now Airbus of course can come back with the ULR which is essentially a couple of extra fuel tanks replacing some of the cargo capacity, which Qantas probably wouldn’t need in any case. So I don’t think that will be a deal breaker for them. But this Boeing interim question is very interesting, you know, obviously the 777-200LR wasn’t compelling enough for Qantas as an interim option. The 777-9X if indeed, when indeed it’s certified. I mean I heard this week that in addition to the door blowing off, which seems a little bit of an Italian job to me, but in addition to the door blowing off during that pressurization test, there was also some fuselage cracking. Now in a normal year, in a normal decade, we would expect that, the certification of that to then be relatively swift and relatively easy. They would demonstrate how they would fix the fuselage cracking, would not be required to retest. But of course this is in the context of the 737MAX, global concern about the certification process carried out by Boeing and of course by the FAA, will other regulators say actually “no, we want you to re-certify and retry this pressurization testing”. Because they got up to I believe 99% of the test threshold and then it failed. So will they need to sacrifice another airframe as a result? It’s an interesting question.

Chong: Not to mention the engines too.

Walton: Yeah right. The engines aren’t yet working.

Chong: Yeah. I mean GE has made some fixers and some mods, and modifications and you know those engines are being attached to the airframe and put through some of the testing but you know we have to wait and see on that one as well. So there are a few moving parts on the 777X program.

Walton: Yeah and of course with it being a much less mature program than the A350, there are equally questions about whether or not it will be certified to the say ETOPS level when Qantas want and need it to be. Again that’s not a huge problem for the London routes but it is indeed for New York. You know Qantas has for many years operated four-engined aircraft, including its 747s for ETOPS reasons and that’s something I think that the airline is still focused on. A little bit more widely, though, Qantas has been, has faced, is it an obsession, is it a mindset, the end of the line. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? What’s driving Qantas in that way?

Chong: I think if you look at say the Qantas network, you know, it’s always been reasonably strong in North America because it’s a strong point-to-point with fewer midpoint competitors. Europe has traditionally been a very competitive market with very, very many midpoint carriers offering competition and you know wider network choices. And so I guess, you know, if Qantas wanted to serve 10 European destinations it would need 10 widebody longhaul routes and that requires maybe 30 aircraft. It’s just economics is very difficult. So they have had to partner, you know, Emirates and various others. So I guess the end of the line thing is just that Qantas has had to rely on a very strong home market, and brand recognition in your overseas market or foreign markets. It’s a lot harder. All the airlines, I guess, face similar situations. That there are not a huge number of kind of global airline brands out there. But they have sought to change that. They sought to kind of work out that if we can overfly hubs, we can target these key destinations. Qantas is never going to fly to 30 destinations in Europe and 25 destinations in North America. But if we can target the markets with the specifically highest number of passengers. For example, with Europe, Australians going to Europe, it’s London first, daylight second, and you know the continent of Europe kind of third but still a very distant third. So London makes obvious sense and that means they can aggregate passengers in Australia, get them into Sydney or Melbourne or Perth as the case now and then take them off to where they need to go, therefore keeping more of that market for Qantas rather than flying a one-stop carrier. I guess that is sort of the attitude with regards to end of the line. But you know the markets are changing in the sense of like there is a lot more O&D traffic between Australia and various points in Asia and Qantas plays well in that. It’s got good product, it’s got good frequency to a number of Asian destinations and from various points in Australia. So I guess that’s kind of the, from an outsiders point of view, that kind of looks like the evolution of the network is, you know, we want to fly to places that people want to go and we want to be able to ensure that they fly to where they need to go from Australia and therefore on a Qantas airplane.

Walton: I mean this Perth question is really interesting as well. Obviously they are doing the Perth-London right now and they have plans, aspirations, to do essentially at least Paris and Frankfurt in addition, right? Now this is a part of what, sorry the noise overhead is probably not a Qantas 787, it’s probably an older aircraft taking off from Sydney, they are doing a sort of longhaul use strategy where they fly an aircraft from Europe to Perth and they connect there on a, either that same aircraft or something very similar to it to the east of Australia. So the 787 that goes from London to Perth continues onto Melbourne for example, as the Qantas Melbourne-London aircraft. They use the slot that they have for an A380 via Dubai for the 787 now flying Perth. And for its part that aircraft continues onto LA from Melbourne and tracking a couple of them sometimes they then go back to Brisbane for a quick return to LA before going onto New York as that now one-stop hop from LA to New York. I think the, as I understand it and do let me know if this is changed, but the last time that I spoke with Qantas executives their plan was to do a number of these U shaped service patterns which maximizes the utilization of the aircraft, and so you would go, I don’t know, Paris to Perth to Brisbane to Chicago say, on the new Chicago route, that sort of destination. How does that fit into this wider thought about Sunrise and about then using these partner hubs like American’s hub in Chicago, American’s hub in Dallas, to concentrate the international traffic and of course a domestic hub to concentrate the domestic traffic.

Chong: I think when you look at say the Sunrise flights, say Sydney and Melbourne to London and New York, that city pair has a high number of passengers everyday, right, and you are using the huge number of O&D passengers makes that route an attractive one to start nonstop flights on. Yes they’ll be feeding – there will be other markets within Australia that you can put passengers on – but with Perth, for example, while quite a number of passengers are on the Perth-London flight it’s also a very good connecting hub. So I think it’s just a question of like just balancing where the sources of, the biggest sources of traffic are. Which is the most convenient way to sort of flow them through, if you are in Adelaide does it make sense to just fly one hour to Melbourne and then go off to London if Project Sunrise goes ahead. If you are in Kalgoorlie obviously you just take the short up to Perth. So I think just having these sort of options means that they can just sort of manage the traffic in terms of the passenger and where the demands are. I think in terms of the aircraft though, I’d say that this U shape is very efficient and I think that’s why when they announced in 2017 that they, that the 747 would end in 2020 that they would replace 10 or 12 747s with six 787s, but with the, what Qantas has with the more efficient flying pattern and the longer maintenance intervals and stuff the capacity is sort of not going to be that much affected by having four fewer aircraft just because they are going to be doing more flying. And I think, so I think that that’s, you can kind of tell that it’s not going to be these big aircraft that are going to do these routes. It’s going to be medium-sized aircraft that have the capacity to do a lot of flying and get passengers where they need to go, I think.

Walton: Yeah, I am finding it really interesting how much more premium focus Qantas’ recent aircraft configurations have been. Particularly for their longhaul aircraft. So you know the amount of business class and premium economy on the 787s, for example, is quite striking and I think this is a trend that a lot of airlines are replicating. I mean not necessarily to the extent that United is with it’s 767s which are almost entirely premium – there is only 100 economy seats down the back which seems, seems crazy when you think about it. But yet onboard Qantas is doing a lot of interesting research as well. So they have been working with some academics in Sydney to develop some scientific knowledge about what longhaul flying is like and they’ve been doing these two research flights so far. One from New York to Sydney and one from London which has just landed in fact. Tell us a little bit more about that. What does Qantas hope to achieve with these research flights?

Chong: I think there are two aspects to, I think, the research. The first on the passenger side, they are monitoring the passengers’ well-being and they are asking them to fill out diaries and also they’ve been putting through some I guess what you would call alternative meal service delivery and you know all that sort of stuff is kind of interesting but the other side is the pilots. I think Qantas wants to know, say, if you are a Qantas pilot and you are asked to do these flights, potentially you would fly, you might operate Sydney to Los Angeles, have your scheduled rest, operate Los Angeles to New York, have your scheduled rest and then New York to Sydney nonstop and so it’s not just that flight itself, it’s like how is your body after these longhaul operations to get to New York or London and fly home. So they’ve had researchers monitoring the pilots’ wellbeing and the cabin crew. Just to be for completeness. And I think all that information about the pilots goes into the pilots’ union in terms of fatigue risk management and also goes to the regulator. Because the regulator has to approve an extension of duty time to enable these flights to go ahead. So while those of us who turn on our televisions and see passengers doing the Macarena in the aisle during these two research flights, may kind of wonder as to how much of the research is actually being done. I think definitely on the pilots’ side, the pilots’ union, the pilots themselves and the regulator are very interested in what impact these flights have before they can agree to extend the duty time. Because while Perth-London is a long sector, it’s I think 16-17 hours, these are 19-hour legs and when you include the sign on and sign off, they are 21-22 hours. In the Northern Hemisphere, the winters can be rather extreme and you really want your pilots to be at peak performance when they are landing in Heathrow or JFK early in the morning at a very busy time after being on the flight for 18 hours.

Walton: In the snow and the ice

Chong: Correct. So I think that particularly on the pilots’ side, I think the data will be very closely looked at. And there is one more flight to come in the middle of next month, December.

Walton: So, more than just research into how much PR they can milk out of getting the TV journalists on the plane and as you say doing the Macarena in the famous Qantas PJs. And I find this really interesting because they are obviously pushing these boundaries of flight length. Singapore Airlines does something similar already but that’s a dedicated aircraft and it’s out and back to New York and LA on the A350-900ULR and so they’ve got something strong on that level of flight but this is, this continues onwards, you know, another hour or so and yes it’s really interesting to see how they are looking at that. And if I can recommend to listeners there is an excellent episode of Flightradar 24 AvTalk podcast where they talk to Qantas’ 787 fleet captain and she was saying some fascinating things about what exactly they are looking at in terms of that pilot fatigue management and in terms of what can you roster. How many pilots are you going to need on this aircraft. Is it three, is it four, is it five? Is it six? That gets really interesting.

Chong: And do you need to modify the crew rest areas given the nature of these services. Yeah, there are a lot of questions.

Walton: Now one thing we are unlikely to see is a lot of the big blue sky thinking in terms of passenger experience. So I don’t think we are going to be seeing any gyms in the cargo zone, unfortunately. It doesn’t seem like we are going to be getting the underfloor bunks that were proposed by Safran and by Airbus for the A350 family. Qantas has been saying that they want to have new passenger experience, so new seats in all cabins of the aircraft. And that strikes me as an interesting choice. Its present Thompson Vantage XL seat would be on its fourth generation if installed onto these aircraft. So it debuted on the A330 fleet, then moved into the 787 as a second generation, recently appeared on the A380 refurbishment as a third generation and whenever that happens of course the seat probably becomes a little bit lighter and a little bit more efficient, a little bit more space efficient as well, and it would seem to me to be sensible to continue that perhaps onto a fourth generation here. Now with these wider aircraft that would be the widest implementation of this product yet which would mean they could use something like the Vantage XL+, best known at present as the Delta One Suite, but also seen on the 787s of I believe Shanghai Airlines and I find this very interesting in terms of what Qantas is saying is, they are saying they want new seats. But do they? Are new seats needed do you think? Do you think that they are going to, are people dissatisfied with the present seat or are people happy in business class?

Chong: You know I think with business class the shelf life of a seat or a I guess the lifespan, life cycle of a seat seems to be getting shorter and shorter. Whether that’s because customers continue to want innovation or airlines are continuing looking at other airlines launching new products that causes them to think that they need to get a new seat, it’s hard to say but you know the seats are not old. The design anyway. And I think while there was some initial kind of “I am not quite comfortable on this seat because it’s new.” I think people have come to accept that Qantas has put out a product that I think stacks up reasonably well against its main competitors. And you know a fourth iteration will yield some improvement, as you say. Whether they think it’s worthwhile investing the capital, and it’s going to be a lot of money to design a new seat. And whether they think that that new seat will yield the kind of step change in passenger experience, it’s a really tough one. I mean you know, people now yawn when a new Apple iPhone comes out because the increments, the improvements are so incremental there is no revolutionary new design every year. Which is unrealistic to expect but I guess in the world of passenger experience and airline products because the life cycles have become so short maybe airlines sometimes feel implied pressure to come up with something new and whether that is the case for Qantas or not, I am not sure. But I guess these are some of the factors that will go into the considerations. I think if you think about some airlines have business class seats that lasted 10 or 11 years and aged really well. But some, after two or three years you just look at it and go, well it didn’t quite have that durability or the endurance of another product. I think the Qantas seat is still too new to sort of make that call.


Walton: Which I guess inherently makes that call for you, right? If there’s not a clammer in Australia of “no no we need new seats.” I remember when Qantas first refused the seat, everyone was very much finished with the Skybeds, right, that sort of 2-2-2 layout on the A380 and indeed on the A330. People were kind of done with that, people needed direct aisle access at that point and I am just not sure given the, you know I have flown QSuite, I have flown the British Airways Rockwell Collins or sorry Collins Aerospace Diamond with a door, I am just not sure it adds enough for me if I am Qantas say “no we need a new seat” versus “look what could we do with this Thompson product, which is an existing Thompson product, in terms of just adding a door.” Cause one of the problems with the Qantas product and most staggered seats is what I call the zero sum problem. Half the seats on the other side of the aisle from a side table which is also the foot cubby of the passengers who are  closest to the aisle, which inherently makes just under 50% of the seats in the cabin more private and less prone to disturbance from brushing past by crew, passengers, trollies, etc. Add a door and that zero sum problem diminishes substantially. If you add some other form of privacy option, a curtain. Safran seems to have the flexible divider sewn up for their products but what are the options that Thompson could think of there? Yeah, I can’t see that Qantas has to be feeling huge amounts of pressure to refurbish its seats particularly not on the London route and on the New York route. Certainly on the New York route, I don’t think there is, there is not that pressure at this point partly because the good passenger experience is on the longhaul part of it but then there’s some relatively iffy passenger experience on the short haul. On London, kind of, look if you are happy to make a connection and you want to fly QSuites all the way you are welcome to do that and indeed Qantas are Oneworld partners, if slightly reluctantly at times it seems with Qatar Airways and you know there have always been other options on that route both in terms of, you know if you want it cheap and you are happy to fly on let’s say China Southern over Guangzhou. Do you want a sterling soft product, well Singapore Airlines over Changi is your option. Are you happy with the Emirates proposal? You know there is any number of, do you for some strange reason like British Airways? Speaking of seats that went on rather too long. And I think that will all, that will wrap up and it’s, I think it is to an extent, the same down the back. Certainly, that premium economy seat that they launched, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that evolve including evolving away. I think that there may well be other seats that are superior to that for this length of travel. And in economy, I don’t think they can do much better than the Recaro that they presently have.

Chong: The Recaro economy seat has been the seat of choice for so many full service premium airlines and like you say unless you are willing to do something that would require you to raise your fares in economy, that’s probably the baseline where it sits at the moment with economy I think. It’s very hard to get passengers to pay more for incremental improvements, I guess. It’s an education process. Absolutely.

Walton: Look I mean hey at the end of the day even if Qantas turns around and says “you know what, sorry we couldn’t get the planes to do it.” the amount of PR that they have got out of Project Sunrise makes it inherently a success whatever happens.

Chong: Yeah, absolutely. It’s the centenary year for Qantas next year, it turns 100. And you know whether it does go ahead with Project Sunrise or not, there is going to be a lot of focus on the airline next year and the airline has talked about previously that Project Sunrise is just one of a number of fleet decisions it has to make. It has to think about where it renews its narrowbody fleet, what’s going to happen with, you know if Boeing chooses to launch a new mid-market aircraft or Airbus chooses to launch a new mid-market aircraft that could have implications for the A330 fleet. The 747s are retiring and the A380s are all getting refurbished and, you know everyone will say goodbye to Skybed too. Few tears I would expect. So I mean there is like huge fleet decisions coming up in addition to the regional fleet too. So Project Sunrise is just one aspect of it and I am sure they want it to work and I am sure that they would be doing everything they can to make a “yes” as the answer but there are a lot of challenges in the way and we don’t know what they are going to do yet. I mean they already have said, slightly shifted the language from “make a decision, make an order by the end of calendar 2019” to make a decision in 2019 with a view to placing an order in 2020. So I guess the timetable is shifting slightly perhaps to try to give them more time to make it work.

Walton: Yeah, and indeed potentially to see what the landscape looks like in six months at say the Farnborough Airshow. That will be interesting to keep watching. Well look, that is an interesting place to end today’s conversation. Listeners we hope you enjoyed it and of course we are always keen to find out what you think, please feel free to email me at with any suggestions. Thanks to our guest Jordan Chong. Jordan, where can folks continue the conversation with you online?

Chong: Well, if anyone wants to continue the conversation online they can look for me on LinkedIn my name is Jordan Chong and just search Jordan Chong in aviation.

Walton: Sweet and as ever you can find me on Twitter at @thatjohn and everything from RGN on Twitter @runwaygirl and at If you are enjoying these conversations please do leave a rating and review wherever you get your podcasts and thanks for listening.