New Government Regulations Predict First UK Space Launch to Take Place Next Year


Following the Department of Transports (DfTs) recently introduced regulations, space flights and satellite launches are now permitted to take place in the UK, with the first expected next year. This means that people will be able to visit space for a holiday!

This UK launch will mark the first ever launch from any European country, as many European companies currently launch from a site in French Guiana, South America.

DfT believe that this new regulatory framework has “a potential £4bn of market opportunities over the next decade”,[1] following plans to build spaceport sites across the UK, including in Scotland and Cornwall. The UK is hoped to become Europe’s most attractive destination for commercial spaceflight activities. DfT have also claimed that space tourism trips and hypersonic flights will eventually launch from the UK. Furthermore, the industry intends to launch satellites to improve satnav systems and boost the monitoring of weather patterns and climate change.

The government have agreed to provide £31.5 million to help set up vertical launch services from Scotland, and a further £7.35 million to Spaceport in order to support a horizontal launch in Cornwall. Business plans will also be made for suborbital flights from airports in Machrihanish, Snowdonia and Cornwall. On top of this, another £99 million is to be invested in a new National Satellite Test Facility in Harwell, and £60 million towards the development of a revolutionary hybrid air-breathing rocket engine.[2]

The first UK Pathfinder launch – funded by UKSA – will take place in 2022, seeing Lockheed Martin team up with ABL Systems to launch from SaxaVord Spaceport in Unst.

Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, had boasted that “we stand on the cusp of the new commercial space age”, adding that “this is the blast-off moment for the UK’s thriving space industry”. Shapps acknowledged the government’s commitment towards this sector, which will ultimately result in the creation of new jobs and economic benefits across UK communities and organisations.

The UK space industry is being regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority.



Boeing Delays Starliner’s Launch Indefinitely


Boeing’s astronaut taxi – a CST-100 Starliner capsule – was scheduled to launch Friday, July 30 at 14:53 EDT on a demonstration mission to the International Space Station (ISS), Orbital Flight Test 2 (OFT-2). This was due to be Starliner’s second attempt at an uncrewed meetup with the space station, following a malfunction with the spacecraft’s timer on the mission’s first try in December 2019, causing the mission clock to be off by about 11 hours.[1]

Starliner’s debut attempt resulted in the spacecraft getting stranded in the wrong orbit, circling Earth solo for two days before having to return home. Not only was there a timing glitch, but the post-flight analyses by Boeing and NASA revealed 80 corrective actions for the company to take. Boeing is said to have made all of those changed, as well as additional changes that were not deemed mandatory.

The mission was later scheduled to launch Tuesday, August 3 at 13:20 EDT, on a United Launce Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.[2]

Unfortunately, however, Starliner’s launch has now been delayed indefinitely, after struggling to find the cause of an ‘unexpected valve position’ in the propulsion system. Had the OFT-2 gone ahead as planned, the Starliner would have spent a day in space before docking with the ISS for up to 10 days, then returning to Earth in the New Mexico desert.

Boeing and SpaceX were each awarded one of NASA’s first commercial crew contracts in 2010. In September 2014, NASA selected both of them to be official commercial crew providers. Courtesy of this deal, Boeing was awarded $4.2 billion to finish developing Starliner and send up to six contracted crewed missions to the space station. SpaceX received a similar deal would about $2.6 billion for its own transportation system, which consists of the Crew Dragon capsule and the Falcon 9 rocket.[3]

Initially, NASA announced the target of one or both private spacecrafts to be operational by 2017. Neither Boeing nor SpaceX reached these goals following various development issues and malfunctions upon take off. Boeing has, however, fallen behind SpaceX in the competition to provide commercial flights to the ISS for space agencies including NASA. SpaceX has already flown two sets of astronauts to the ISS, with another scheduled for October and a private flight under operation for 2022.

NASA and Boeing plan to work through every function of the spacecraft in order to identify the cause of the unexpected valve position. Despite this, the flight has only been given a 60 per cent chance of success due to the risk of thunderstorms.

No new date has been announced for the Starliner launch. Safety first.





Virgin Galactic Set for Takeoff After FAA Approval


Billionaire Richard Branson’s spaceship company Virgin Galactic has been cleared for takeoff just a month after a successful test flight. Virgin Galactic’s first manned space flight departed from its new home port in New Mexico with two pilots.

This news comes following approval from the US aviation safety regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), for Virgin Galactic to fly paying passengers to space, having had its general licence since 2016. The spaceflight company says this marks the first time the FAA has licenced a spaceline to fly the paying public.[1]

Since the approval of such commercial licence, the share price of Branson’s company increased by 35 per cent. Virgin Galactic has also already obtained 600 ticket reservations for flights from its new base, costing between $200,000 and $250,000 each.[2] Despite this, and the company so far having completed three test flights, it still has another three to go. The next will carry four passengers to test the spacecraft’s cabin, with the following flight having Branson himself on board. The final test flight will carry members of the Italian Air Force for astronaut training.

This will turn up the pressure on rivals in the space tourism sector. Branson’s space venture faces off against Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s SpaceX. All have been investing billions into their rocket startups. Branson is reported to be flying to space himself with the hopes of beating rival Bezos to the final frontier.[3] Bezos has announced that he will be onboard Blue Origin’s first space flight on 20 July.




KLM Royal Dutch Airline Set to Launch New Routes and Resume Flights from Teesside, England

Following the roll-out of the coronavirus vaccine, demand for long-haul leisure travel is expected to spike. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is one of many airlines looking to resume operations, though it is also adding new routes to its schedule.

KLM is reinstating a number of popular long-haul routes from Schiphol this winter, including flights to Orlando and Phuket four times a week, Barbados, Cancun, and Port of Spain three times a week, and Mombasa twice a week.

Chief Executive of KLM, Peiter Elbers, said “this represents the next significant step towards rebuilding [KLM’s] network for the benefit of our customers.” He added that as many as 99 European destinations will be served during the summer of 2021, also significantly strengthening their intercontinental network for this winter.

Connections to Schiphol, Amsterdam, will be also offered from throughout the UK, with Teesside International Airport’s long running flight link due to resume on 28 June, following a pause due to Covid-19 restrictions. This flight will operate four times a week.

Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen confirmed this service, disclosing that “Ever since the government has started to ease restrictions, I’ve been inundated with emails, social media messages and questions from people across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool all asking the same thing, ‘When are KLM coming back to the airport?’”.

Last June, KLM and Teesside Airport signed a five-year deal. KLM is a long-standing partner of the airport and celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2019, marking its best month in 14 years for the Teesside to Amsterdam route in September of that year. Peiter Elbers states that he is confident the business level will return to this point. “Aviation will come back for sure. It will recover. There is a future.”

What Holidays Could Look Like Under The New Normal

COVID 19 has ushered in a period of change that has brought about the concept of a new normal. Our schools, our shopping and even the way we interact with one another has been greatly altered. We’ve had to get used to a new way of living during the pandemic and it’s likely that social distancing will remain with us for years to come. England is currently preparing to enter into phase 3 and by the 4th July many non-essential businesses in the hospitality sector will open up again. As we begin to move forward our world will have to become accustomed to a new normal. What will holidays in the future look like and what can you expect?

With no vaccine currently available it’s a no-brainer that airports and other modes of travel will be altered to ensure customer safety. With new regulations stating that face coverings are to be made mandatory on all London transport, your new normal will begin even before you get to the airport. Once at the airport be prepared for longer wait times and staggered entry as a number of new safety precautions will be in place. Airports like Heathrow and Gatwick have already started to implement changes by providing PPE to staff, installing hand sanitiser stations and closing off non-essential facilities.[1] More change is expected as a spokesperson for Heathrow said that they have already begun investing in a next generation security programme that will reduce the need for person-to-person contact.[2] During your journey you’ll be expected to wear a face mask and there will no longer be food service available on flights. Some in the travel industry are worried that the restrictions will make flying less appealing and expect to see a dip in the number of travellers post lock-down.

Now that you’ve arrived at your destination – what can you expect? It’s clear that spontaneous holidays will be a thing of the past with many resorts and hotels demanding booking in advance. Be prepared before your travels by checking up on the latest regulations and the policies of any hotels or resorts that you visit. Policies will vary but what you can generally expect is less person-to-person contact and stricter cleaning measures. This could mean mini-bars will be removed and check out times could be earlier to allow for deeper cleaning.[3] Contactless payment is already starting to become the preferred method of payment and it is likely that hotels will not accept cash in future.

With all the policies and restrictions in place the idea of travelling again can seem daunting. Though all restrictions are necessary they can take away from the holiday experience. Maybe staycations will become more fashionable and in many ways this is good for our environment as it could see a fall in greenhouse gas emissions. Our world has to get moving again and these changes are key to ensuring our economy grows and that we’re on the road to financial recovery.


© 2020 Whitestone Chambers





How The Aviation Industry Is Helping To Combat COVID 19

During these challenging times our world has had to adapt to a new normal and undergo radical changes in the workplace. When we think of those directly on the frontline we most often think of doctors and nurses but the aviation industry is playing a big role too. Despite all the setbacks the industry is facing, with a reported $252 billion loss in revenue(1), the aviation industry still remains a vital resource. The importance of the industry has only been made clearer during the pandemic as we have started to become more aware of its contributions to the fight against COVID 19.

A fast and effective mode of transport, airplanes have been used to deliver medical equipment and masks all around the world. When there was a shortage of ventilators it was the aviation industry that played a part in supplying the demand; ensuring that equipment got to where it needed to be. With lockdowns in place there has been less demand for passenger travel which has resulted in some passenger airlines using their space to deliver masks and gloves. Aer Lingus has been routinely flying five of its aircraft from Beijing to Ireland to help deliver much needed health supplies (2). With many countries seeing a spike in infections there has been a greater demand for medical staff to help in locations where the health system has been overwhelmed with cases. The aviation industry has helped in this matter by transporting people to where they are needed. On 12th March a Chinese delegation of a dozen doctors and nurses was sent to Italy on a China Eastern flight to help the country deal with its rate of infection (3).

During the early stages of the pandemic there was a general hysteria that led to stock-piling and an increased demand for more produce. Airplanes and freight carriers are the fastest modes of transport for delivering goods around the world. Air transport has helped keep up with supply chains around the world and played an integral part in feeding nations. United Cargo President, John Krems, has spoken of the industry’s vital role during this time by stating that “United airlines utilise their network capabilities to get vital shipments such as food to areas that need them most.”(4) Once a vaccine does become available the aviation industry will play a huge role in helping to distribute treatment globally. Vaccines need to be handled delicately and stored at a specific temperature and airplanes have the necessary equipment to do this. Many airlines are already implementing changes that will ensure the safety of crew and those helping to move equipment and goods from one point to another.

Despite all the setbacks the aviation industry has faced it has proved itself to be able to adapt to current measures and meet demand. While we work on a vaccine the aviation industry will be here to respond to the needs of the world. And once we open up our gates again the industry will take us on and prepare us for a future of travel in a safer world.


© 2020 Whitestone Chambers

The Impact of COVID 19 on the Global Aviation Industry

The new Coronavirus, COVID 19, has been wreaking havoc on the international aviation industry for almost 3 months now. A sharp decline in travel demand, strict travel restrictions and general fear among the masses have halted global travel & resulted in huge losses for airlines. The second quarter alone has shown around a 70% drop in demand in the international aviation industry resulting in the loss of 61 billion USD. [1] International Air Transport Association (IATA) has estimated that roughly 25 million jobs in aviation are at risk with 11.2 million & 5.6 million jobs at risk in the Asian-Pacific & European regions alone respectively.[1] Many airports have been shut down by travel restrictions and some have little to no revenue left, which was mainly generated from duty-free, car parking and concessions.
Although safety precautions are being considered by most airlines; disinfecting the aircraft, assigning particular seats on the aircraft and leaving the middle seats vacant to respect social distancing guidelines, most airlines are expected to hold the fort for only a few months before they start seeking government financial aid to continue operations. Some airlines have been already been contacted by governments to assist in bring citizens back home while some passenger flights are transporting essential supplies, medical & protective equipment and food instead of people. The UK government launched a $75 million airlift project at the end of March to repatriate thousands of Britons via airlines including British Airways, Titan, EasyJet, Jet2 and Virgin to accommodate stranded citizens to travel back to the UK through charter flights and arranging seats on commercial airlines.[2]
It is being predicted that national governments will have to lend a hand to keep airline companies afloat with Dr Frankie O’Connell, University of Surrey reader in air transport management, considering the three possibilities of government intervention:
1. Taking equity in the airline,
2. Deferring taxes, fees and any loans to carriers to a much later period, or
3. Nationalisation.[2]
With the impending summer season, a time when airlines earn most of their yearly income, coronavirus can cause irreparable damage to the future of airline companies especially due to the predicted oncoming 2020-2021 recession. [3]
Among all this tension, some countries have completely shut down passenger air travel while other resume activities with restrictions. A recently publicised list showing travel restrictions in individual countries can be found below:

Banned Air Travel
Costa Rica
C’ote d’Ivoire
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Dominican Republic
El Salvador
North Macedonia
Saudi Arabia
Solomon Islands
South Africa
Sri Lanka
St Lucia
Trinidad and Tobago

Restricted Air Travel

The United Kingdom
United States of America
the Netherlands
Czech Republic

[4] [5]







Can the aviation industry reach a net of zero carbon emissions by 2050?

The aviation industry is currently responsible for around 2% of carbon emissions globally each year1, and this is forecast to triple by 20502. With this projected rate in mind, members of the Sustainable Aviation coalition, which includes most major airlines and airports, as well as aerospace manufacturers, are planning to sign a commitment to reach zero net carbon emissions by 2050, with a third of the reduction being achieved through carbon offsetting.

One method of reducing the carbon emissions of aircraft is to invest in the development of technology used in these aircraft, resulting in greater efficiencies of engines and lighter aircraft. By increasing these efficiencies, aircraft consume less fuel, and therefore have lower overall carbon emissions. Rolls-Royce is an example of a manufacturer that is making this investment, through the development of its next generation UltraFan engine which will have lean-burn and low-emission combustion, an advanced core with ceramic-matrix composites and super nickel alloys, and a power gearbox in order to reduce fan speed3. Looking towards other aircraft manufacturers, the developments made by Airbus and Boeing today are far more efficient in respect of fuel burn, emissions and noise than the previous generations of aircraft that they superseded.

When discussing carbon emissions from flights, it is important that all parties involved are open and clear in their conversations. One of Ryanair’s recent advertisements was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority on the basis that its carbon emission claims could not be backed up. This was then followed by Ryanair claiming that “consumers could halve their carbon footprint if they switched to Ryanair”. However, the figures used by Ryanair may appear more favourable as they have fewer empty seats on their flights, resulting in the average carbon footprint being smaller. This figure may appear lower than its competitors, however, it does not involve investment in technology to improve efficiencies and reduce the overall footprint of the aircraft.

The reduction to net zero carbon emissions includes the strategy of offsetting carbon emissions by methods such as planting trees to take in and store the excess carbon emissions, and through the use of biofuels. The issues faced by these strategies are that trees can take 15-35 years until their impact is realised, and this could be halted by the trees being felled before they reach maturity. Biofuels offer a net zero carbon possibility, however, this analysis only focuses on carbon emissions taken in by plants during their lifetime, and equates this to the carbon emissions that are released when the fuels are burned. This does not take into account any other carbon emission related activities such as using machines to harvest the grown crops.

As a result of this, there are critics of the use of carbon offsetting as a method of achieving zero net carbon emissions such as John Sauven, the UK executive director of Greenpeace, who dismisses the strategies as “greenwash”.

To ensure that the aviation industry can meet this ambitious target, these strategies and others must be implemented and followed through consistently. By improving technology, ensuring flights are at maximum capacity and by investing in biofuels and planting schemes, it may be possible to achieve the ambition of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

© 2020 Whitestone Chambers




The effect of passport openness on social and economic growth

The Henley Passport Index ranks all of the world’s passports by the number of destinations that their holders can access without a prior visa. The Henley Passport Index for 2020 ranked Japan and Singapore as the world’s most travel-friendly passports offering access to 191 and 190 countries respectively.[1] The lowest ranked country is Afghanistan in which a citizen can only access 26 countries without a prior visa.

South Korea, which had shared pole position last quarter has dropped to third place alongside Germany. These passports offer access to 187 destinations around the world without a prior visa.

One of the most notable shifts in the index was the United Arab Emirates. Over the past five years, the UAE has more than doubled the number of destinations its citizens are able to travel to without a prior visa, bringing it to a score of 171 and a ranking of joint 18th.

Dr Christian H. Kaelin, Chairman of Henley & Partners and the creator of the passport index concept said, “Countries around the world increasingly view visa-openness as crucial to economic and social progress.”[2] There is a direct correlation between visa openness and progressive reform. Countries moving towards nationalist isolationism and away from policies that encourage visa-openness generally experience reduced economic growth, social integration and progressive political change.[3] The higher rankings in countries such as Japan and Singapore are likely to reflect the introduction of mutually beneficial trade agreements. Over recent years, countries have been adapting to mobility as a permanent condition of global life, and countries holding this belief are thriving with their citizens enjoying ever-increasing passport power and the array of benefits that come with it.[4]

Countries generally relax their visa regime to promote fresh economic opportunities linked to the travel and tourism industry, including hospitality and conference sectors. The relaxation of a visa regime helps to grow the tourism sector, bringing greater economic advantages and more jobs for people nationwide.

An example of a country that has successfully implemented a visa-openness regime is Ethiopia whereby the country’s travel and tourism economy witnessed the largest growth of any country worldwide according to the WorldTravel and Tourism Council. The country’s dynamic economic growth has been mirrored in a rise in its rank in the World Bank’s Doing Business Index.[5] While discussions of passport power and mobility tend to focus on benefits for the countries with the strongest passports, increased visa-openness benefits the entire global community.






© 2020 Whitestone Chambers

Government steps in to help Flybe

With Britain’s biggest regional airline, Flybe, reported to be at the verge of collapse this week, news outlets reported that the carrier was trying to secure additional funding and that the accountancy firm Ernst & Young was on standby to handle the possible administration of the Flybe Group if the funding talks were unsuccessful. Normal operations continued and the airline stated that Flybe would continue to provide great service and connectivity for customers to ensure that they could continue to travel as planned.[1]

The reasons[2] for the possible collapse of this regional airline stems, to a great extent, from the uncertainty of Brexit which hurt its demand. Moreover, the value of the pound slumped drastically after the referendum in 2016 dealing with the U.K.’s exit from the European Union. Additionally, Flybe’s size and its competition with other bigger airlines has contributed to its struggles to a great extent. Whenever a Flybe route becomes successful, bigger airlines with larger aircraft move into the market and sweep up. Flybe has almost been driven out of Bristol, with easyJet now having a monopoly in Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle. Flybe is also in competition with rail and road as an air passenger duty of £26 on a round-trip within the U.K. may put people off flying. Demands for air travel remain low as competing rail links are improving, for example new rail timetables introduced on GWR dramatically improved services from Devon to London, damaging the appeal of the Flybe link from Exeter to the Capital. Moreover, regional airlines are arguably the most difficult to operate, due to the relatively short duration of many flights and correspondingly low revenues and profits.

Businesses, unions and MPs urged action to help preserve vital air links between cities around the U.K.

On 15 January 2020, the government agreed a deal with Flybe to implement a re-payment plan for Flybe’s tax bill of around £100 million. Flybe chief executive Mark Anderson welcomed the deal as a “positive outcome for the U.K.” which “will allow us to focus on delivering for our customers and planning for the future.”[3] Prime Minister, Boris Johnson stated that there are limits to what a government can do to rescue a business, but that the government has an obligation to ensure that the country has the regional connectivity it needs.[4] The government insisted that Flybe had not been given “any sort of special treatment” given that HM Revenue & Customs will allow companies of many different types to spread payments under a “Time to Pay” arrangement.[5] According to the most recent Reuters Report, the EU is willing to enter discussions with Britain regarding its rescue of regional airline Flybe, noting that any state aid should be designed to avoid distortion of competition and to ensure a level playing field continues.[6]

The news of the government intervention has angered some in the aviation industry. British Airways’ owner IAG filed a complaint to the EU arguing Flybe’s rescue breaches state aid rules. The BBC[7] reported that Willie Walsh, the outgoing chief executive of IAG, wrote to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, criticising the government’s involvement in its rescue.

In a letter, Mr Walsh said: “Prior to the acquisition of Flybe by the consortium which includes Virgin/Delta, Flybe argued for taxpayers to fund its operations by subsidising regional routes. Virgin/Delta now want the taxpayer to pick up the tab for their mismanagement of the airline. This is a blatant misuse of public funds.”

In the same article, the BBC quoted easyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren as saying: “Taxpayers should not be used to bail out individual companies, especially when they are backed by well-funded businesses” and that Ryanair had called for “more robust and frequent stress tests on financially weak airlines and tour operators so the taxpayer does not have to bail them out”. The news also angered environmental groups and rail companies.

The British Airline Pilots Association General Secretary Brian Strutton however welcomed the news and stated that “This is good news for 2,400 Flybe staff whose jobs are secured and regional communities who would have lost their air connectivity without Flybe.”

When Head of Chambers, Lawrence Power and Head of Legal Operations, Robert Pidgeon visited the Flybe facility in Exeter, they were impressed with the high-quality infrastructure and training programmes in Flybe’s training academy. The Academy is a modern international facility that includes a flight simulator complex, Cabin Door trainer, purpose-built classrooms and an integrated Apprentice workshop allowing Flybe to offer an increased range of training. The employees, ranging from pilots to cabin crew are committed and well trained and shutting down Flybe would mean devastating job losses for Flybe’s loyal employees.

Whilst the arguments and criticisms continue, fortunately so do the flights which is a big relief for the Flybe employees and the 8 million people a year who currently depend on Flybe’s service.

© 2020 Whitestone Chambers