Archive For August 31, 2011

Goodbye to Flat Tires?

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Another use for composite materials has been discovered that I’d like for my personal automobile — the NeverFlat tire.  LoPresti Aviation Engineering is introducing a new tire technology for general aviation aircraft – with a 10 year guarantee against flats.  Apparently the secret is a layer of composite attached to the carcass before the tread is applied.  While the tires still use a bit of air – 10 to 12 pounds of pressure – the air is only for the smoothness of the ride — the tires really don’t need air to work.  An interesting video on this technology is available here.

Cirrus design will be the launch customer for this technology, with deliveries beginning in December.

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How does MAX compare?

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[UPDATE – Podcast with Scott Hamilton and Jon Ostrower]

We undertook an analysis based on the data available and have to say the Boeing 737MAX looks pretty good.  Indeed, by digging around the 2010 DoT data we were able to establish benchmarks using the 737-800 and A320.  Then we took the improvements promised by the engine makers. The table below illustrates what have been able to derive. A word of caution – the engine OEMs are reviewing our table, and may update our numbers, in which case we will update this post.

Additionally, Boeing and CFM haven’t yet settled on the diameter of the LEAP-1B that will power MAX–66-inches or 68-inches. The difference may be small, but according to Airbus, each inch accounts for about 0.4%  0.5% in fuel burn. (This does not take into account offsetting changes that would be designed into the smaller fan size.)

A key item to consider here is that CFM promises to keep their numbers at least at where they are now on CFM56 but offer better fuel burn and of course a better noise profile.  We see MAX doing over 7% better than the NG.  The A320neo is interesting because the LEAP alone drives down costs by nearly 8%, then throw in sharklets and a aerodynamic tweaks and the number should comfortably exceed 10% over the current A320.  The GTF powered A320neo does even better because PW promises that its new engine will offer significantly lower repair costs since it has a lot fewer parts.

Which of course only provokes the question – how much better would MAX be with a GTF?  We would estimate 1% better than it looks now, bearing in mind it too would be limited to a ~20% smaller fan.

But of course this all depends on the promises the OEMs are making.  CFM has a remarkable record for delivering what it promises and we are confident they will ensure MAX is optimized.  PW is betting its future on GTF and from what we hear the engine is beating goals – they are ahead in testing in Canada with the flying testbed by a lot. So there is reason to be confident in that engine, too.  We feel that engine OEM numbers are sound.  We also, at this stage, believe Boeing will stick to “keeping it simple” with MAX in order to avoid program stumbles. Airbus, from what we hear, is hitting its milestones on neo, too.

If everyone’s numbers are sound, based on our estimate, MAX will be about 2% better than neo in cost per hour.

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787: Countdown to delivery Sept. 26

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With certification of the Boeing 787 Friday, the countdown to delivery–now slated for September 26–is finally underway.

Aspire Aviation has a piece that for the first time anywhere as far as we know has the actual number of airplanes to be delivered this year (seven). Boeing has been ambiguous about the actual deliveries, including line numbers (only three from pre-20, which are the most challenging airplanes).

AirInsight continues to hear that deliveries could be as few as four; Boeing has yet to announce a number.

Flightblogger has an interesting piece with charts visualizing the 787 orders, cancellations and geographic distribution; and the engine orders.

What’s not there is the math showing the cancellations from the peak. At one time Boeing had slightly more than 950 orders for the airplane. There are now 821 orders.

Despite the program’s difficulties over the past 3 1/2 years, make no mistake: delivery will be a milestone in commercial aviation.


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AirInsight team OK after hurricane

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For those who wonder, Ernie Arvai and Addision Schonland came through the hurricane Irene storm OK.

Ernie is in New England and had power outage and some trees come down, but no damage. Addison, now in Baltimore, still is without power but has no damage.

Addison recently moved to Baltimore from San Diego after 24 years and many earthquakes. Within two weeks he went through an earthquake and a hurricane. Ironic indeed.

For those who had damage and injuries or death, our thoughts go out to them.

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787 Certified!

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After multiple delays, the Boeing 787 has finally been certified, with both the FAA and EASA granting type certificates and the FAA granting a production certificate. Congratulations to Boeing on persevering through a series of difficulties and the “unknown unknowns” that can plague aircraft development program.  Boeing’s Jim Albaugh summarized the moment at the celebration ceremony as follows: “Certification is a milestone that validates what we have promised the world since we started talking about this airplane. This airplane embodies the hopes and dreams of everyone fortunate enough to work on it. Their dreams are now coming true.” Delivering the airplanes is the next step, and ANA will take possession of its first 787 on 25 September, with ceremonies on 26 September.

As the first aircraft with a composite fuselage and main structure, all eyes will now be on how the 787 performs in service, and the reliability of its advanced technologies.  Some airlines are reluctant to be launch customers of aircraft, understanding that improvements are generally made within the first 100 or so units of production.  ANA has taken launch customer risk, and will carefully ramp up its service, first with special introductory charters, then domestic service, followed by regional service in Asia and then long-haul operations.

As the old saying goes, pioneers take arrows, and Boeing has taken a quiver full on this program.  We wish Boeing and its customers the best as the 787 enters service.

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The Orphan Airplane

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Possibly the airplane most qualified to go by this moniker is the Boeing 717.  It started life as the MD95 – and with it went much of the hopes of McDonnell Douglas. It made an early and crucial win at ValuJet which became AirTran.  There a few more sales here and there, but McDonnell Douglas had moved too little and too late.  Once it became clear that the firm was going to disappear into Boeing, the MD95 was going to become an orphan.  Boeing saw the airplane as a threat to its 737-600 and went about keeping it around halfheartedly – renaming it the 717 was a bit of an industry joke because there never officially was a 717 between 707 and 727. (more…)

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