Archive For July 28, 2010
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. (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. (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.