The world is seeing radical series of tests in flight to find alternatives to fossil fuels. So much of an airline’s costs are fuel driven, you can expect to see these tests monitored closely. The USAF is deep into its own bio-fuels tests and pleased so far. EADS is doing equally important tests with bio-fuels. Boeing is also busy with experiments. [Read more...]
The Farnborough Air Show largely exceeded expectations, with Airbus and Boeing announcing more orders than anticipated. As always, there were a number of orders announced that had been previously booked but unidentified. Still, the Big Two OEMs came away with more orders than anticipated and the mood of these OEMs was particularly upbeat.
Embraer turned in the biggest surprise with a large number of firm orders, options and commitments. The E-Jets are great airplanes but they have somewhat fallen into the no-man’s land of 70-110 seats and it faces new competition from the Mitsubishi MRJ (70-90 seats), the Sukhoi Superjet (100 seats) and the Bombardier CS100 (110-125 seats). The MRJ continues to disappoint, finally firming the launch order from ANA, but still without a firm contract from Trans States Airlines.
For those of you who haven’t yet seen The Future by Airbus, a download of their 14 page PDF presentation is available here: The Future by Airbus. One example future concept, with a U-Shaped tail, is shown below.
Looking ahead 40 years is always interesting. The one thing for certain – our technologies will be better, and aircraft will continue to improve. Remember, 40 years ago the 747 was just coming into service, and the first energy crisis that resulted from Nixon’s change in the gold standard for international settlements, hadn’t yet occurred.
Hopefully, we can all take another look at this 40 years from now and see how close Airbus was in their predictions.
I published an analysis on the lack of CSeries orders at Farnborough on GLGNews today, and have added graphical data to that article for our Air Insight blog readers. As posted before the show on this blog, Air Insight did not expect orders for the CSeries at Farnborough, which turned out to be correct. In this posting, I explain the reasons for that and why it is too early to panic. [Read more...]
The show closed today and a clearly exhausted Scott Hamilton shares his assessment of the show’s news. The orders were a lot bigger than anyone expected. Airbus’ John Leahy declared the recession over – and he has good reason to feel that way, as his recession is clearly over. For many others this is manifestly not the case. The Russians had an excellent show as did the Brazilians. The Bombardier team had a quiet show. But that seems to be an outcome to other issues rather than their new flagship product.
Aluminum manufacturer Alcan, a division of Rio Tinto PLC, has announced new aluminum alloys under the brand name AirWare that are lighter in weight and can compete with carbon fiber composite materials. With composites gaining a significant share of the aerospace market, especially with new programs like the Boeing 787, the aluminum industry has begun to fight back.
AirWare can offer a weight savings of up to 30% compared with current alloys. As a result, these new alloys offer similar weight savings to composites, but without the complications of composite materials. Carbon fiber composites, such as those used on the Boeing 787, can be more difficult to repair from ground damage, which frequently occurs from baggage trucks and other ground support equipment accidents. Metal repairs are straightforward, well known, and more commonplace.
While carbon fiber composites remain slightly lighter in weight than aluminum, the tradeoffs include price, durability, and crash performance. Aluminum is less expensive than composite materials, and its characteristics and damage tolerance is well known. While simulations and drop tests have been run on composite fuselage structures, their performance in a crash is still an unknown factor.
Another factor is recycling. Aluminum is easily recycled, while separating carbon fibers from plastics can be more difficult.
Bombardier has selected AirWare for its upcoming CSeries. Airbus has also indicated that new aluminum alloys may be possible for its next single aisle aircraft, with Tom Williams, EVP for Programs stating “it wouldn’t be a done-deal that it would be composites.”
Bottom Line: The metal manufacturers have responded to composites, and airframe manufacturers now have a competitive choice. Competition drives innovation, making better products for us to fly on.
An article in Aviation International News quotes Robert Nuttal, Rolls Royce head of strategic marketing, as stating that “the numbers do not stack up” for re-engining programs on either the 737 or A320 families. Of course, since Airbus rejected Rolls Royce and eliminated them from the running in their NEO contest, leaving Pratt & Whitney’s PW1000G and CFM-International’s Leap-X as possible players, this may just be sour grapes and trying to prevent the elimination of virtually all Rolls Royce current revenue from narrow-body commercial aircraft. Rolls Royce currently is a partner in the IAE V2500 engine, which along with CFM International provides engines for the current A320 family. PW will go it alone with the GTF for Airbus, at the exclusion of IAE.
In the interview, Nuttal offered some pointed opinions about the re-engining programs. He indicated three reasons – “First, we don’t think it offers any significant net financial benefit to the industry. Second, at the manufacturing level the program will be only half as long as a new engine program, so the returns are far less. And third, if re-engining occurs, it delays an all-new aircraft, which will bring real benefits in terms of fuel economy and emissions.”
It seems airlines, who would appreciate an additional 10-12% reduction in fuel costs, would disagree. Both Airbus and Boeing currently have major program overruns (A380/787) and would need to raise $15 billion each for a new narrow body program, while paying for existing programs and others on the drawing board (A350, 777 replacement), and the third seems a lament that it pushes out the time frame for their “game changing open rotor technology” even further into the future.
Translation: we’ve been shut out by our competition, and don’t have a snowball’s chance to compete until 2025 in the narrow-body arena.
He took a shot at the competition, stating that open rotors remain the only “game-changing” technology, with the potential to deliver at least 10% lower fuel burn than any advanced turbofan under consideration. Of course, open rotor technology simply won’t fit on existing aircraft, and new aircraft will need to be designed specifically for that technology.
Pratt & Whitney disagree, indicating that changing the gear ration from 3:1 to 5:1 can generate the equivalent performance of an open rotor in a package that will fit a conventional airframe, and provide lower noise levels.
Bottom Line: Rolls Royce has been outmaneuvered by its competition, PW and CFMI for narrow body propulsion in the short-term, and will likely lock up the market for another decade, leaving Rolls Royce shut out. I’d classify the comments as sour grapes!
We highly recommend you read this link. What caught our eye is at the bottom of the article. “Anyone concerned with Ryanair’s growth coming to a sudden end when the airline’s ordered 737-800s are fully delivered in 2012 can, however, be calmed by Millar’s enthusiasm over Airbus’s recent indications that a re-engined A320 family is to be announced imminently. He argues that this will put pressure on Boeing to do the same, referring to the ended talks with the American aircraft manufacturer last December as “one of the best decisions we never made.””
This suggests something illuminating. Ryanair is considering that Airbus’ re-engine decision will drive Boeing to respond. This then seems to suggest that Ryanair is still in the Boeing camp. Not buying more of the current 737-800 seems also to be a decision they are glad about.
Airlines, when dealing with OEMs, like to play something of a game. Ryanair did its last huge deal right after 9/11 and got pricing it will never see again – ever. Boeing was so scared at the time (who could blame them?) that a big buy from Ryanair kept the factories busy even as other orders were delayed or canceled.
Playing the game is risky though. Airlines and OEMs jockey for bargaining power. Buying (and selling) decisions are big bets. You can be sure that Airbus and Boeing closely monitor each others production to ensure they have the best possible idea of bargaining power. If Ryanair were to try squeeze a better deal out of Boeing, it helps to know if Airbus could even deliver what the airline wants. If Boeing is sure it cannot, then they maintain their bargaining power.
But as many will tell you, the duopoly days are coming to an end. Even if most of the sales at Farnborough this week are for Airbus and Boeing. Ryanair is a Boeing bellwether customer, just like Southwest. Both airlines are open about wanting something more fuel efficient. The option in the short term is a re-engine program and the quickest possible offering would be the 737 and A320 fitted with the Pratt & Whitney PurePower engine. And its not just Boeing being pushed by its biggest customers. Airbus is under pressure from a big customer too – easyJet even made a mock up of the plane they like.
Since Airbus and Boeing are in a race with each other, neither wants to make the first move unless it knows the other cannot move fast enough. Airbus could announce a re-engine program first, but has to worry about Boeing announcing a clean sheet design. The stakes here are enormous.
The decisions airlines and OEMs are facing at present is critical. What happens next will play out over decades. The question is who blinks first? If, just to throw a cat among the pigeons, Southwest (or WestJet) as a big 737-700 customer were to decide it will buy Bombardier’s CSeries because it is the “right size” and has the “right engine”, you can imagine the impact of a sudden logjam bursting free. Before dismissing this as an outlandish scenario, United’s CEO Glenn Tilton has been quoted as saying the CSeries is the “natural replacement” for the 737. Stranger things have happened.
It may be that we are at such a logjam stage in the lifecycle of the 737 and A320. Something will break the logjam. This is a great time to be watching the players and forces work through the process of defining the next narrow body solution.
After the first day’s splashy news, the important takeaway is that narrow bodies are the hottest segment. On day one 150 narrow bodies were ordered. And it is the leasing companies that have taken the lead.
GECAS was the big buyer, ordering 60 A320 family aircraft and 40 737NGs. Air Lease Corporation (ALC), the new aircraft financing/leasing company formed by ILFC founder and ex-CEO, Steven Udar-Hvazy, announced orders for 30 A321s (with sharklets) and 21 A320s. Even Norwegian Air Shuttle exercised an option for 15 737NGs. Sukhoi made a breakthrough order with Indonesia’s Kartika Airlines ordering 30 Superjets. Embraer announced five E195s going to Azul.
One name is noticeable from the news by its absence. Despite much promise, Bombardier had no news regarding its CSeries. The firm is committed to the project though.