Archive For January 31, 2012

Podcast – India Selects Rafale

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After a long haul, the Indians appear to have selected the Dassault Rafale for their new fighter. Discussing the selection and implications with us are FlightGlobal’s Steve Trimble and G2Solution’s Michel Merluzeau.

The selection process took years. Virtually every fighter that could compete did. In the end it was a fight between Typhoon and Rafale. The lowest cost winner seems to be Rafale. As our guests explain, this selection could have implications for the outstanding deals in Brazil and UAE.


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Airbus to Enhance A330 Capabilities

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Today La Tribune reports that Airbus is going to increase the MTOW of the A330-300 by five tonnes to 240 tonnes.  This should enable the A330-300 to increase its range by 400 miles. The additional weight will be offset by weight reduction from the design where A340 requirements are no longer needed.  The A340 and A330 share a common fuselage.

The move is clearly not only to occupy the segment forgone by the elimination of the A340, it is also an attempt to close the perceived gap between the A330 as we know it and the Boeing 787, which offers longer range.

Airbus newest product, the A350, will be larger than the 787 and similar in size to the 777 series. Boeing has two models that bracket the A350; the 787 at the lower end and the 777 on the upper end.  By adding more capabilities to the A330 Airbus closes what many have thought to be a key gap on the smaller side of the market.

According La Tribune Airbus should be able to offer this enhanced -300 between three and four years from now.

The A330 is proving to be a remarkably resilient and flexible design. John Leahy, Airbus COO Customers, points out that since the announcement of the 787, Airbus has sold 740 A330s. Clearly writing off the A330 is premature, and Airbus enhancements should provide additional life to an already successful program.

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As Airbus and Boeing’s production sells out

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The NEO and MAX have taken the market by storm.  Customers seem to be willing to stand in line – even though the 787 and A380 programs taught that sometimes one can order too early.  Yet the desire for fuel efficient workhorses appears inelastic. (more…)

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Al-Li an alternative to CFRP

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Alcoa announced today that it is expanding its aluminum lithium (Al-Li) capacity and capabilities at three locations to meet growing aerospace demand for its newest alloys.  These alloys, introduced last year and now patented, allow OEMs to build dramatically lighter and lower-cost airplanes compared to composite alternatives.

This news is important when looking at what OEMs are doing developing ever lighter airplanes.  Airbus (A350) and Boeing (787) have selected the CRFP route whereas Bombardier has gone the Al-Li route for its CS. Alcoa believes its product offers less risk to OEMs than CFRP.  While CFRP is well known in military use, it has been used less on commercial airplanes until quite recently.

ALCOA further states that its new technologies:

  • lower the weight of an airplane by up to 10% vs. composite-intensive planes;
  • lower the cost to manufacture, operate and repair planes by up to 30% vs. composite-intensive planes, and at significantly lower production risk;
  • allow for a 12% increase in fuel efficiency, on top of the 15% from new engines; and
  • deliver passenger comfort features equivalent to composite-intensive planes, such as higher cabin pressure, large windows and higher humidity.

The last two items deserve special attention. Offering this much in fuel savings is highly significant and then being able to allow for larger windows (like on the 787) and better cabin pressure/humidity is compelling.


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Big airplane sales mean big engine sales

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This morning CFM provided the following PR: “CFM International (CFM) had a record year in 2011, logging orders for 1,500 commercial, military and spare CFM56 engines and commitments for 3,056 LEAP engines for a combined value of $51.7 billion at list price.

As the company logs record commitments, CFM is also achieving record production rates for the CFM56 product line. The company has built more than 1,000 engines per year since 2006, and the rate has grown steadily. In 2011, CFM delivered more than 1,300 engines, the highest rate in the industry, compared to 1,250 engines built in 2010.  Current plans are to reach more than 1,600 engines per year by 2014.”

This is what a great year looks like.


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Cathay Pacific Adds to its A350-900 order

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Cathay announced it was adding to its existing A350XWB order by committing for six additional -900s.  The airline now has 36 A350s on order plus two more committed via pre-arranged 12 years leases.  These six aircraft are scheduled for delivery in 2016-17.

The selection of this airplane is important because Cathay Pacific is also a significant 777-300ER customer.  The A350-900 falls between the 777-200 and 777-300 in size, with 314 seats, falling between the 301 and 365 capacities of the competing 777 models.  The forthcoming A350XWB-1000, at 350 seats, will be closer to the 777-300ER, and could represent a potential replacement for that aircraft in the future.

This is certainly an interesting development, given that Boeing will be introducing its revised 777-8 and 777-9 shortly after that timeframe, although it is not expected that the re-engined version of the 777 will fully match the economics of the much lighter, heavily composite A350XWB.

Airlines that operate the 777 are typically very pleased with the airplane, which has been among Boeing’s best products.  Cathay has been a particularly happy customer of the 777-300ER.  Boeing’s revised 777-8 and -9 models will no doubt continue to build on the success of their -300ER, and we expect the 777-9 to be larger than the existing 777-300ER to improve seat-mile economics.

Cathay has ordered 71 777s so there is no doubting its current commitment to the airplane. But ordering the new technology A350XWB could mean a key conquest for Airbus in the large wide-body twin segment.  It appears Cathay is planning on standardizing on the A350-900, and possibly the A350-1000 in the future, for the 300-350 seat segment.

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