Saturday, August 15, 2020

Video: Three satellites placed in orbit by Ariane 5 rocket

Europe's Ariane 5 rocket flexed its heavy-lift muscles on Saturday launching from French Guiana and placing the Galaxy 30 (G-30) and BSAT-4b communications satellites into orbit along with Mission Extension Vehicle-2 (MEV-2).

Designated Flight VA253, it marked the 253rd launch of an Ariane-series vehicle to date, and the 109th using an Ariane 5 rocket.

Today’s mission utilized an Ariane 5 ECA version rocket with increased payload capacity through the introduction of a new vehicle equipment bay for the launch vehicle. Since kicking off a continuous improvement program for Ariane 5 in 2016, prime contractor ArianeGroup has increased the launcher’s payload capacity by 300 kilograms. This raises the total mass of payload passengers that can be carried by Ariane 5 to 10,200 kg.; for today’s mission, the combined mass of G30, MEV-2 and BSAT-4b was 9,703 kg.

“This was the first time that we delivered three satellites to geostationary transfer orbit on a single launch, and it utilized the most capable Ariane 5 ever,” said Stéphane Israël, the Arianespace Chief Executive Officer.

Deployed first in the flight sequence 27 minutes after liftoff, G-30 is the 62nd satellite Arianespace has launched for operator Intelsat, continuing a business relationship that extends back to 1983. It was produced by Northrop Grumman based on its GEOStar-2 platform, and will provide UHD video distribution/broadcast and broadband services that cover North America.

MEV-2 is designed to dock with geostationary satellites whose fuel has nearly depleted, thereby extending their useful lifetimes. MEV-2 will rendezvous and dock in early 2021 with the Intelsat 10-02 (IS 10-02) satellite, originally launched in 2004. The Mission Extension Vehicle is to utilize its own thrusters and fuel supply to control the IS 10-02 satellite’s orbit.

Including G-30 and MEV-2, Arianespace has now orbited a total of 30 spacecraft produced by Northrop Grumman or its companies.

The lower passenger in Ariane 5’s multi-payload configuration was BSAT-4b, which was orbited for the Japanese operator B-SAT. Produced by Maxar Technologies, it uses this manufacturer’s popular 1300-class spacecraft bus for commercial communications satellites.

BSAT-4b is designed for Ultra-High-Definition (UHD, 4K and 8K) direct-to-home television broadcasting across Japan in conjunction with its twin, BSAT-4a – which was launched by an Ariane 5 in 2017. All of BSAT’s 10 satellites have been orbited on Arianespace mission.

Flight VA253 was Arianespace’s fifth launch so far in 2020.

Friday, August 14, 2020

First Airbus A321LR aircraft order

Airbus Corporate Jets (ACJ) has won the first A321LR order for two aircraft from Lufthansa Technik. The aircraft will be multi-role capable and can be equipped for various types of missions, such as troop transport, different medical evacuation roles and will be operated by the German Air Force (Luftwaffe). Lufthansa Technik has now placed a total order of five Airbus aircraft on behalf of the German Government: three ACJ350-900s and two A321LRs. The A321LRs will be able to fly up to 163 passengers, up to six intensive care patients and up to 12 medium care patients, depending on the installed configuration, with a maximum range of 4,200 nautical miles or 9.5 flight hours.

The A321LR is a member of the A320neo Family with over 7,400 orders by more than 110 customers. It delivers 30 percent fuel savings and nearly 50 percent reduction in noise footprint compared to previous generation competitor aircraft. The A321LR is the unrivalled long-range route opener, featuring true transatlantic capability and premium wide-body comfort in a single-aisle aircraft cabin.

Some 12,000 Airbus aircraft are in service worldwide.

Around 200 Airbus corporate jets are in service on every continent, including Antarctica.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Southwest Airlines adds Steamboat Springs to Colorado flight schedule

Southwest Airlines extended its published flight schedule from early January through April 11, 2021, adding new flights to the carrier's second Colorado destination with nonstop service to Steamboat Springs, Colo. through Hayden/Yampa Valley Regional Airport beginning Dec. 19. Flights are now available on and today through Aug. 20.

The seasonal service will operate Dec. 19 through April 5 with three-times daily service between Denver and Steamboat Springs, and once a day on Saturdays and Sundays between Dallas and Steamboat Springs.

"This year, customers are looking to experience more of the nation's great outdoors. By linking both Denver and Dallas nonstop to Steamboat Springs, customers across a majority of our network will be able to reach the Rocky Mountains," said Andrew Watterson, Southwest Airlines Executive Vice President & Chief Commercial Officer.

Steamboat Springs is the carrier's 90th airport served within the United States and 104th destination across 11 countries in North America.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

United Airlines adds new nonstop flights to four popular Florida destinations

United Airlines announced Tuesday plans to add up to 28 daily nonstop flights this winter connecting customers in Boston, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, New York/LaGuardia, Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio to four popular Florida destinations.

The airline will incrementally add in these flights starting Nov. 6 with new roundtrip service from Boston, Cleveland and New York/LaGuardia to Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Orlando and Tampa. In December, the airline will increase service to Florida with additional flights from Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis; Milwaukee and Pittsburgh to Fort Myers and Tampa.

From Nov. 6 through Jan. 10, United will operate nonstop service from Boston, Cleveland and New York/LaGuardia to Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Orlando and Tampa on peak days.

Beginning Dec. 17, United plans to increase service to up to 28 daily nonstop flights with the addition of service from Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio, to Fort Myers and Tampa.

Retail - home furniture stocks rally on “new operating reality”

Retail home furniture stores are shifting resources to meet changing circumstances, benefit from new opportunities, and capitalize on competitive advantages while battling a worldwide pandemic, and its working. Retail home furniture stores have become the hottest stocks to own right now. Lets take a look at two heavy hitters in the market.

Kirkland's, Inc.

Kirkland's, Inc. (NASDAQ:KIRK) is a specialty retailer of home décor in the United States, currently operating 404 stores in 36 states as well as an e-commerce enabled website, The company's stores present a curated selection of distinctive merchandise, including holiday décor, furniture, wall décor, art, textiles, mirrors, fragrances, lamps and other home decorating items. The company's stores offer an extensive assortment of holiday merchandise during seasonal periods. The company provides its customers an engaging shopping experience characterized by casual, comfortable merchandise with a southern feel and a modern flair at a discernible value. This combination of quality and stylish merchandise, value pricing and a stimulating online and store experience has led the company to develop a loyal customer base.

But Kirkland's first quarter earnings results were negatively impacted by the temporary closure of all its stores for approximately half of the quarter due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company's first quarter cash flow was also negatively impacted by the temporary closure of its stores. The use of cash was driven by continuing to pay merchandise and freight costs, payroll for store management and the corporate office and essential payables, with the significant reduction in sales.

"While the stores were closed, we were pleased with the acceleration of our online sales and the customer reception of our contactless curbside pickup option,” said Woody Woodward, Chief Executive Officer. “Since reopening most of our stores, we have seen a quick ramp up in demand along with margin improvement.  The customer is reacting positively to our expanded merchandise assortment that can furnish a home of any size on a budget.

"We have worked in partnership with our vendors, landlords and employees to preserve these improvements as a new operating reality at Kirkland's that should enable us to better leverage an improving sales trend. The increase in first-time customers to our website and the benefit of stimulus funds on consumer demand are clearly having a positive effect on our sales and margin trends to date in May and we believe will provide a bright future for Kirkland's."

Shares of KIRK stock are up 438 percent over the last 52 weeks (Aug. 12, 2019 to Aug. 12, 2020). This year alone the stock is up 478 percent, closing Wednesday at $7.11 per share, up 0.71 percent for the day. KIRK has a 52-week low of $0.56 and high of $7.60.

Now if you want a dividend play in the retail home furniture sector take a look at Haverty Furniture Companies, Inc.

Haverty Furniture Companies, Inc.

Havertys (NYSE: HVT), established in 1885, is a full-service home furnishings retailer with 119 showrooms in 16 states in the southern and midwestern regions providing its customers with a wide selection of quality merchandise in middle to upper-middle price ranges.

Second-quarter earnings for Haverty was like no other in the company's history, “but optimism for our future and the opportunities for growth endure,” company Chairman, President and CEO Clarence H. Smith said in a company press release this month. “We reopened our stores in May with team members ready to serve customers eager to refresh their homes. Our customers want their homes to reflect their style and be a comfortable, happy place. Our wide merchandise selection, custom options, and free design service assists them in that endeavor.

“We are analyzing our personnel needs and are currently challenged to accelerate staffing and increase our delivery capacity. Many of our vendor partners are also facing workforce issues as they restart their operations and seek to meet product demand. Our inventory position in certain products could be stressed during the coming months as availability lags demand.

“Given the sustained pace of our business since reopening and our liquidity position, the board approved important shareholder actions related to dividends and the stock repurchase program. The per share dividend for the third quarter was increased 33 percent, restoring it to the first quarter’s amount, and the resumption of the stock repurchase program was approved. The board will continue to evaluate returning value to stockholders given the ongoing uncertainty caused by COVID-19.

“The opening of our new store in the Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas, market is on schedule for late August and as previously planned, we closed a store in that market in July. We have also set a new opening date in the first quarter of 2021 for entering the Myrtle Beach, S.C., market.”

Stock shares of HVT are down 5 percent over the last 52 weeks (Aug. 12, 2019 to Aug. 12, 2020). This year alone the stock is down 5 percent, closing Wednesday at $18.52 per share, up 3.93 percent for the day. HVT has a 52-week low of $9.81 and high of $21.43.

The company paid a dividend of $0.20 per share in September, December and March. The dividend was cut to $0.15 per share in June. A $0.20 dividend is planned in September.

Disclaimer: This post is provided for information purposes only and should not be used as the basis for any investment decision. I am neither licensed nor qualified to provide investment advice. Keith Stein has no position in any stocks mentioned in this post. DCNewsroom has no position in any of the stocks mentioned in this post.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Second Cessna SkyCourier test article takes flight

Textron Aviation announced Tuesday the successful flight of its second Cessna SkyCourier flight test article (P1). The milestone flight for the high-wing, large utility aircraft comes just two-and-a-half months after the prototype Cessna SkyCourier first took to the skies on May 17. The P1 aircraft is the first conforming production flight test aircraft and is the first airframe configured as a freighter.

The Cessna SkyCourier is designed and manufactured by Textron Aviation Inc.

The first flight of P1, piloted by Peter Gracey and Todd Dafforn, lasted one-hour and 35-minutes reaching a max altitude of 14,200 feet with a max speed of 210 knots true airspeed. The aircraft will be used for the flight test program, primarily for systems testing, including propulsion, environmental control and avionics.

The Cessna SkyCourier test program will include three variations of flying aircraft. Since the Cessna SkyCourier prototype completed its first flight in May, the aircraft has successfully completed 38 flights and logged more than 76 flight hours. Through the flights, the team has been able to expand speed and center-of-gravity envelopes, complete preliminary engine and propeller tests, as well as initial stability and maneuverability tests.

The Cessna SkyCourier will be offered in various configurations including a 6,000-pound payload capable freighter and a 19-seat passenger version, all based on the common platform.

The aircraft features the popular Garmin G1000 NXi avionics suite and a maximum range of 900 nautical miles.

Cessna Grand Caravan EX: First fixed-wing aircraft to be put in service by Rwanda Defense Force

Textron Aviation announced Tuesday it was awarded a contract by ATI Engineering Services, LLC for two multi-mission Cessna Grand Caravan EX aircraft for the Rwanda Defense Force (RDF) in support of the African Partnership Flight initiative. This will be the first fixed-wing aircraft to be put in service by the RDF. The aircraft, which are anticipated to enter service during the first half of 2021, will primarily be based in Kigali, Rwanda.

The Cessna Grand Caravan EX is designed and manufactured by Textron Aviation Inc.

This African Partnership Flight initiative brings together a series of collaborative engagements between African nations to strengthen U.S. strategic partnerships with key countries in Africa, exchange ideas on aviation-related topics, and enhance regional cooperation and interoperability.

“The Grand Caravan EX serves an enduring mission by providing transport, reconnaissance, and medical evacuation operations throughout Africa,” said Bob Gibbs, vice president, Special Mission Sales for Textron Aviation. “The aircraft is engineered for challenging missions, high payloads and short, rough runways while delivering single-engine economy and simplicity. It is a perfect match for this mission throughout the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) area of responsibility.”

ATI Engineering Services will modify and equip the RDF’s Grand Caravan EX aircraft with secure High Frequency and Ultra High Frequency radio systems, Night Vision Imaging System, a reconfigurable multi-mission interior featuring two ambulatory medical stretcher kits, 11 passenger seats, eight collapsible utility seats and a removable rollerball cargo floor.

The U.S. government has previously provided grant aid funding for 14 Grand Caravan EX aircraft procured through Foreign Military Sale cases throughout Africa, with Rwanda being the latest recipient.

AFRICOM’s African partners who already possess Grand Caravan EX aircraft include Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Mali, Mauritania, Kenya and Uganda. These countries are co-participants in United Nations peacekeeping operations, particularly in missions in the Central African Republic and South Sudan.