Hop to it: Vertiports as an asset class

The sums invested in the development of electric vertical take-off and landing (‘eVTOL’) aircraft have been well publicised. It seems that not a week goes by without a new partnership announcement, a new SPAC combination, or another large investment being reported in the press – such as the additional $450 million being invested by Boeing in Wisk, announced at the end of last month. The Financial Times recently referred to a McKinsey finding that ‘investors have bought into the dream, pumping more than $7bn into such projects, mainly through special purpose acquisition vehicles (Spacs) listed on US stock markets,’[1] The article goes on to note that ‘while all kinds of vehicles are planned, from cargo planes to surveillance drones, almost 75 per cent of the money went to companies developing manned electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) craft.’[2]Continue Reading Hop to it: Vertiports as an asset class

As the global economy becomes more interconnected, aviation takes on an increasingly central role in our collective economic growth. The aviation industry supports 65 million jobs and enables the best part of $3 trillion in global GDP annually. If aviation were a country, it would rank among the world’s largest economies.

With the loss of

In an article a few weeks ago on ‘How tech went big on green energy’, the Financial Times referred to a report released in February by Lancaster University and Small World Consulting, which found that the information and communication technology sector (i.e. IT)  ‘is estimated to form ca. 1.8-2.8% of global GHG emissions in 2020’[1]. That, the FT noted, ‘is roughly the same as emissions from the aviation sector’[2].
Continue Reading Greening pains: How are we going to finance sustainable aviation fuel?

Aviation was exceptionally – and often uncomfortably – visible to the public eye over the course of 2019. The powerful combination of the grounding of the 737 MAX fleet as a result of tragedies and the advancing ‘flygskam’ (‘flight shame’) movement had influenced the global conversation to a significant extent by the middle of the year, which was then compounded by various airline insolvencies and an announcement from a British political party as part of an election campaign that it would investigate a complete ban on private jets from 2025.

As an asset class and as an industry, aviation has been attractive to investors for some time now, as its relative youth as a market compared to its peers and the reliability of its returns have drawn funds from all over the world. Recently, however, it has seemed that some of the features of the market we have come to take for granted have been evolving. For example, the words ‘long haul’ now bring to mind an image of the two-engined 787 Dreamliner, rather than its four-engined predecessors. The famed “double digit” returns for investors may be easing (with IATA reporting a 5.7 per cent ROI for the end of 2019)[1], investments once considered “platinum” are now being sent for part-out, reports of ‘trade wars’ are developing on a weekly basis and we appear to be coming to the end of the era of low interest rates and oil prices.

However, we are also seeing increasing attention from new investors and ever-growing passenger demand figures which, together with the evolutions noted above, indicate a maturing market with a new set of trends being observed by aviation financiers.
Continue Reading The eye of the beholder: After a dramatic year in aviation, how is the industry perceived by investors?

Speed read

A party should not assume that the failure of its counterpart to provide or satisfy conditions precedent gives rise to an automatic right to terminate or not perform a contingent obligation, where it could have obtained or satisfied those conditions precedent itself.

Summary

The recent Odyssey Aviation Ltd v GFG 737 Limited[1] in the English High Court saw both the buyer and seller under an aircraft purchase agreement (the ‘APA’) claiming the deposit, as both parties attempted to terminate the APA on the basis of various alleged breaches of warranty, failure to satisfy conditions precedent and non-payment of purchase price and fees.

The case is significant for aviation sale and leasing practitioners, especially in relation the satisfaction of conditions precedent which is noteworthy for transactional lawyers more generally. It was held that a term should be implied in the APA where a party was to ‘have received’ certain documents, evidence or confirmations, or that the sale would take place ‘subject to the fulfilment’ of conditions precedent, the recipient should take ‘reasonable steps’ to obtain them themselves. This was held to be the case even where there is no express obligation to this effect. Failure to take these steps will mean that the intended recipient would not be able to rely on the other party’s failure to satisfy the condition precedent as a ground for termination.
Continue Reading Case Note: Odyssey Aviation Ltd v GFG 737 Limited

The answer to this question is just one of the many fascinating things the Reed Smith aviation finance team discussed around St Stephen’s Green this January, as members of our London, Paris and Miami teams attended aviation’s largest annual industry gathering in Dublin.

The presiding concern in discussions this year was where the industry is

Our aviation finance team has made it to the end of its first complete year since its relaunch in summer 2017 – and it has been a big one! We have worked on transactions involving over 100 aircraft and 19 different jurisdictions, we have met with clients and friends in Dublin, New York, Hong Kong and London, and we have seen our renewed team go from strength to strength as we welcomed new members in Paris and the United States.
Continue Reading So long, farewell … and happy new year! 2018 trends and 2019 opportunities

Summary

In last week’s case of Triple 7 MSN 27251 Ltd v. Azman Air Services Ltd,[1] Azman Air Services argued that two aircraft lease agreements were void under the English law doctrine of common mistake.

The High Court considered this question and found that common mistake is only sufficient to void a lease agreement (or any other contract) where:

  1. the mistaken assumption on which the parties acted was fundamental to the contract; and
  2. the mistake was such that the “contract or its performance would be essentially and radically different from what the parties believed to be the case at the time of the conclusion of the contract”.

Continue Reading When will a lease agreement be void for common mistake?

The green button has been pressed – airlines are placing orders for turboprop aircraft at top speed. With high velocity, low thrust and the exciting potential of 3D printing, will turboprops make their return to the “hot spot”? In the constant search for efficiency and ways to generate revenue, there are many advantages to this kind of aircraft and more in store as new technologies highlight the possibilities – some of which are already being realised in projects like China’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiatives and the development of emerging aviation markets.

The turboprop profile is definitely on the rise. With a $332 million order for Q400s placed  this week by Ethiopian Airlines, for example, following China’s delivery of 57 MA series aircraft throughout 2017 to New Silk Road regions, and with manufacturers like Rolls-Royce and GE Aviation increasing competitive development in the field, it is fair to say that the turboprop market is experiencing a resurgence of interest.     
Continue Reading Turboprops are back – and better than ever

We are very excited to welcome our new Paris team, as we have now been joined by partner Victoria Westcott and counsel Florent Rigaud, as well as senior associate Elaine Porter (joining shortly) and associate Abdullahi Mohammed.

This new team brings significant diversification to Reed Smith’s global asset finance capability, adding particular expertise in working with lessors to our existing strengths on the financing and airline sides. Our colleagues in Paris are currently the only English and French law qualified team practising in both the English and French languages, giving us a unique ability to serve our clients not only in the United Kingdom and Europe, but throughout the Francophone world.

Florent’s client base includes a number of operating lessors, and he has kindly agreed to be interviewed for our blog – we hope you enjoy!
Continue Reading Meet the Team: Florent Rigaud

Australians are well known as keen travellers, and our geographical isolation has meant that air travel has long been a very important part of this aspect of our national identity. Perhaps unusually, this has grown into a strong local affinity for certain models of aircraft – especially the big ones. But is this set to change?

The Boeing 747, for example, has long held a special place in Australia’s heart. It was a 747 that set the then record for a flight carrying the largest number of passengers while evacuating 673 people from Darwin after Cyclone Tracy in 1974, it was the 747 called ‘City of Canberra’ that set the new commercial aircraft distance record in 1989 when it flew non-stop from London to Sydney, and it is a 747 immortalised by Paul Kelly in ‘Sydney from a 747’, still sometimes played while a flight circles the Harbour as it waits to land.

The current favourite is the A380, which was so quickly embraced and absorbed as part of our travelling lives. Its rock star status is such that Qantas have recognised that passengers may book particular flights just to fly in this model, with a section on its website headed ‘How do I book the Qantas A380?’ setting out the particular flight numbers and routes on which a passenger can be (almost) guaranteed to fly on one. It has become one of our familiar characters, and for a lot of expats the A380 is one of the important constants of our trips home. There is nothing like the feeling of stepping off QF2 in Sydney on Christmas morning – material worthy of the Qantas Christmas advert.Continue Reading Notes from a large island: Australia and its aircraft models

The Invasion of Low-Cost Airlines

The transatlantic market, typically the most lucrative aviation market in the world, is under attack.

Research carried out by Telegraph Travel in conjunction with OAG, the air travel analysts, has revealed the pressure being put on traditional carriers by low-cost, long-haul disrupters.

Telegraph Travel asked OAG to compare this winter’s transatlantic capacity with 2016/17. In terms of total seats on offer, British Airways remains the biggest player for flights between Europe and North America, but the low-cost airlines are closing in fast.

BA raised its available number of seats by 1.1%. Norwegian, on the other hand, raised its transatlantic capacity by 111.4%, whilst WOW Air has grown by 31.1%.

Other legacy carriers such as Delta, United Airlines and Lufthansa, the second, third and fourth biggest transatlantic airlines, are also treading water having increased capacity by just 3.2%, 2.6% and 2.9%, respectively. Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic has cut its number of seats resulting in a drop of 3.2%.

Nevertheless, a few premium airlines are bucking the trend. Iberia and Aeroflot both increased capacity by more than a quarter this winter. In addition, Emirates added almost 50,000 transatlantic seats, driven largely by the introduction of flights from Italy and Greece to North America.Continue Reading The Transatlantic Battle

The gender pay gap has been an issue of much public discussion in the last year. The latest figures show that the overall national average for the pay gap between male and female full-time employees stands at 9.1%. However, the aviation sector is one which has seen particularly negative results.

With new rules regarding pay gap reporting in place and the April 2018 reporting deadline looming, this issue will not be going away – rather, it is likely to become more prominent as more results are published. For example, EasyJet’s announcement of its figures in late November generated a number of headlines, many of which summarised the results as ‘EasyJet admits 45% pay gap between women and men’.Continue Reading Aviation’s gender pay gap