Archive For November 14, 2017

Ecojet update

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We had the chance to meet recently with the team in charge of the Frigate Ecojet project, the private Russian initiative to develop a middle of the market commercial aircraft concept.

This is not the first time we covered this interesting aircraft, whose most characteristic feature is its elliptic fuselage, so this was an opportunity to learn about the course of this programme.

The most eye-catching, if superficial, novelty is, perhaps, the name change, from “Ecojet” to “Freejet”. However, some more structural changes have also been added to the project during the last year.

The number of engines has been increased from two to four, a rather surprising change at a time when twin-engines seem to be pushing four-engined jets out of business in all categories where they are in direct competition.

Maximum take-off weight has also increased from 129.9t to 140.4t. and Operating Empty Weight (OEW) from 77.57t to 84.86t.

The design team expects to compensate some of the perceived disadvantages with some added positives, such as more thrust and lower noise thanks to a change in the shape and position of flaps. It also expects more internal functions to be driven by electricity.

When it comes to engines it is moving from the Russian-made PD-18R, PS-90A20, advanced turbofan engines to a choice of Russian and Western models: PD-14, PW1000G, and CFM LEAP, which would lead to commonality with other narrow body aircraft.

The Freejet programme managers are looking to build a network of industrial partners to move forward with the next stages of, admittedly challenging, project. So far they have partnered with three technology companies under the umbrella of the large Russian Rostec group as well as with Thyssen Krupp of Germany.

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Bombardier LoI with EgyptAir

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Bombardier announced at the Dubai Airshow, that it signed an LOI for up to 24 CS300 aircraft with EgyptAir Holding Company, of Cairo. This includes 12 CS300 aircraft with purchase rights for an additional 12 aircraft.

Based on the list price of the CS300, a firm-order contract would be valued at approximately $1.1 bn. Should EgyptAir exercise the 12 purchase rights for CS300 aircraft, the contract value would increase to nearly $2.2bn.

This deal, along with an earlier announced deal with no customer named, is expected to be firmed by year end.  The two deals should generate 43 firm orders for the C Series.  Reuters reports that EgyptAir Chairman Safwat Moslem told a Dubai Airshow news conference the CS300 aircraft would be used by the airline’s domestic and regional carrier EgyptAir Express.

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Middle East growth below 150 seats

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Both Embraer and Bombardier have come out with bullish comments on the region.  Take a look at this video from Bloomberg.  This is followed by another series of remarks from Embraer’s CEO. Bombardier has a similar outlook on the region’s potential.

Both OEMs see opportunity in the region because of the ME3 and their well developed hubs.  Whereas the regional traffic has been funneled via single aisle aircraft, the smaller OEMs believe this traffic is being carried at sub-optimal levels.  Rather than serve regional markets with one daily (at best) or a few flights per week, the market would be better served (and generate more traffic) with consistent multi-daily flights.  To accomplish this means switching from larger Airbus and Boeing aircraft to “right sized” aircraft from Bombardier and Embraer.  It’s an argument that holds water.

It is for this reason that Embraer’s CEO says he believes the Airbus/Bombardier deal is good for Embraer.  And he’s right. Airbus, with its decision to develop an alliance around the C Series has endorsed not only that aircraft.  It also demonstrates an understanding at Airbus that the new aircraft from Bombardier and Embraer cannot be bested in economic terms by the larger (if shrunk) single aisles from the big duopoly.

This thinking is bolstered by news of an impending announcement from Bombardier at the Dubai show today.  Bombardier sent email asking reporters to be available at 3pm local time for an announcement.  Reuters reports that this could be an order from EgyptAir.  We noted a report from Egypt on October 25 alluding to a deal.

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The A321neo ACF Enters Production

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Final assembly of the first A321neo ACF, which stands for Airbus Cabin Flex, is underway in Hamburg.  This new model has a 97 metric tonne MTOW and has provision for an optional fuel tank underfloor that can add an additional 400 nautical miles of range, the A321LR model when so equipped.

The ACF introduces fuselage and door modifications to increase the maximum capacity of the aircraft to 240 for high-density routes.  The cabin can accommodate 206 passengers in the LR version that includes an additional center tank and extends the range to 4,000 nm.

Several changes are quite visible.  First, the door just ahead of the wing on the standard A321 is removed, with double swing-up emergency exit doors installed over the wing.  Door 3 is relocated aft of the wing and can be optionally de-activated, depending on the seating configuration.

The LR designation includes the optional third auxiliary center tank (ACT) installed under the floor.  The A321LR has the longest range of any single-aisle plane currently in production.

The first ACF delivery should occur in Q2 of 2018, with the first A321LR in Q4 2018.  The ACF, an option today, will become the standard build for the A321 from 2020 onwards, as demand continues to grow for this popular model.

We expect ULCCs to embrace the high-density interior, and LCCs to utilize the A321LR and its range to introduce additional transatlantic services in the near future.  With a flexible cabin, the A321LR would be an ideal vehicle for a carrier like JetBlue, with its innovative Mint service, to inaugurate transatlantic service.

The Bottom Line
The A321neo ACF has both a capacity and range advantage over the competing Boeing 737 MAX10 and should maintain or expand its market share advantage at the top end of the narrow-body market.  It appears that the A321LR is becoming the de-facto replacement for the Boeing 757 at most carriers as the most capable narrow-body in terms of capacity and range.

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Premium #251 – Can the Icon A5 Survive?

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