IndiGo, India’s largest airline by domestic market share, today accepted its first Airbus A320neo at Toulouse, France. The aircraft, serial number (MSN) 6799, and registered VT-ITC will be the world’s first Airbus A320neo to enter service outside Germany. IndiGo is the second airline to accept the A320neo after Lufthansa.
The A320-271N is powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW1127G-JM engines. Technical issues with the engines had delayed the delivery of these aircraft. At this stage, it is not clear if either the issues have been fully resolved, or IndiGo has benefitted from some sort of compensation from either Airbus or the engine maker Pratt & Whitey. The aircraft is expected to commence commercial operations on on before 15th March 2016.
The first flight for MSN 6799 was on 15th December 2015, nearly 3 months ago. The aircraft is fitted with 186 seats, six more (one row) than the other 101 A320s in the fleet, today. VT-ITC have 31 rows in the cabin, with no windows on the 31st row.
The geared turbofan (GTF) engines fitted on the A320-271N are expected to be quieter than the IAE V2527-A5 engines that power the current fleet of 101 aircraft. The engines are also expected to be more fuel efficient, delivering over 11% fuel burn advantage over the current engines.
The current engines (with the external casing) has a horizontal diameter of 2 meters. The neo engines, with the casing, have a horizontal diameter of 2.67 meters.
It is learnt that technical crew trained on the A320neo are for now based only at Delhi, Kolkata and Bengaluru. The aircraft will be based at Delhi, and initial routes may include DEL-CCU vv and DEL-BLR vv.
IndiGo was supposed to have been the second airline to receive the Airbus A320 neo. Despite the delay, IndiGo will still be the first Indian airline to receive the A320 neos, followed by Go Air. Deliveries to IndiGo are likely to happen in the summer of this year. Lufthansa, the first customer of the variant, is already operating the neo albeit short routes within Germany, between Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich and Berlin.
Seat maps published by Lufthansa allow one to compare the A320’s cabin with the A320 neo’s cabin. Both cabins are of identical length, but have a key difference in the layout: The aft two lavatories are moved to the rear bulkhead, reducing galley space, and making space for one extra row of seats (see the image on top). Lufthansa’s A320ceos has 168 seats in its cabin (across 2 classes), while the A320 neo with the rearranged ‘SpaceFlex’ cabin fits 180 seats (across 2 classes), as shown below.
In the case of IndiGo and GoAir’s A320 neos, the cabin will be fitted with 186 seats (single class), 6 more than the present 180 seats fit in the cabin. Moving the lavatories towards the rear bulkhead, and eating into the galley space makes sense for low cost carriers, as the quantum of uplifted food is lesser than full service carriers. But the last row will be where the lavatories were earlier located.
The issue is not about sitting where the lavatories once were, but that the last row (which will be identified as row 31 on IndiGo and GoAir, and row 32 on all other airlines that skip the number ’13’ when identifying rows) will have no window, and little to no recline. This will, undoubtedly, become the least preferred row on the entire aircraft. To make things a bit more uncomfortable, the walls start moving inwards at that row, part of the taper of the aft fuselage.
Seat pitch on the 186 seat A320s will remain unaffected at 28/29 inches. But remember to keep an eye out for windowless row 31 and above.
Bombardier, manufacturer of the world’s largest western civilian turboprop aircraft, the DHC-8 Q400, today launched the 90 seat variant at the Singapore Airshow, making the largest airplane even larger in terms of capacity, without so much as stretching the airplane by an inch.
The Q400 usually seats 78 passengers in a single class with a 30 inch seat pitch. In 2013, Bombardier had launched the 86 seat variant of the Q400, with Nok Air of Thailand as the launch customer. The 86 seat variant offered a seat pitch of 29 inches, by shifting the aft galley into the aft cargo hold, thereby reducing aft cargo space by 20%, and doing away with the forward baggage hold.
This made the case for Bombardier to announce a 90 seat variant with a seat pitch of 28 inches. To add an extra 4 seats, or one row, Bombardier is, according to Flightglobal, will push back the rear bulkhead and reconfigure the front right hand door. To make the airplane more attractive, Bombardier is increasing the 90 seat variant’s payload by 900 kg, and proposing an escalation of the A-Check and C-Check intervals from 600/6,000 to 800/8,000 flight hours. The 90 seat variant is expected to enter service as early as 2018, provided Bombardier secures a launch customer for the type.
Why at the Singapore Airshow?
There are four reasons why ATR and Bombardier are focusing on South East Asia. First, the geography and infrastructure of countries is such that connectivity within the country is best offered by short haul air transport. Second, the region is comprised of developing nations, where the end customers, the passengers, are very price sensitive. Third, demand for travel is rising. Fourth, the average height of the population is much shorter than the western world.
Turboprops are excellent for short and thin routes. Average ticket prices can only be lowered if the cost per seat falls further. The same airplane packing more seats lowers the cost per seat per flight, which allows airlines to compete better using pricing as a tool. The 90 seat variant may reduce the cost per seat by as much as 11-13% when compared to the 78 seat variant, and by 3-4% when compared to the 86 seat variant. Packing more seats reduces the seat pitch, which would have been a repulsive product to sell to passengers in the western world. But in South East Asia, the lower average height makes a 28 inch seat pitch comfortable. South East Asians are, on average, one of the shortest in the world.
Bombardier had launched the 86 seat variant at Dubai, but the launch airline is from a South East Asian country. Knowing that any demand for ultra high density aircraft variants will only come from Asia, Singapore Airshow 2016, Asia’s biggest commercial aerospace and defense exhibition, had to be the platform of choice.
Today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew into Cochin from Delhi on Indian Air Force One, operated by an Indian Air Force Boeing 737-700 Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) with tail number K5014. The way in which the airplane was flown was interesting, and different from the way in which a similar aircraft operating for a scheduled airline is flown. We compare the way in which the military 737 was flown, with the way in which a commercial 737-800 was flown on the same route.
The 737-700BBJ’s lateral flight path is compared with the lateral flight path of a Boeing 737-800 VT-SZA operated by SpiceJet today on Delhi-Cochin as SG 561. What stands out is that the flight path of the military 737 is curvy, and not straight unlike the SpiceJet 737, strongly indicating that the flight was manually controlled, either by being hand flown throughout or by manual heading inputs to the autopilot. It does point to neither the autopilot’s VOR/LOC function, nor the FMS-controlled lateral navigation being used.
The vertical flight path shows that the Prime Minister’s flight (image on the left shows Him beside the 737 at Cochin) was not optimized for fuel burn. The aircraft climbed to 31,000ft (odd level altitude) when headed in the easterly direction, and as it changed direction over Hyderabad to a westerly direction, the aircraft descended to 30,000ft (even altitude). A BBJ, usually being light, can fly much higher than 31,000ft. The optimum altitude for an airplane gets higher as it gets lighter, and it could have step climbed rather than step-descended over Hyderabad.
The SpiceJet 737, in contrast, flew at 37,000ft till over Hyderabad. By then, the airplane was lighter, having burnt most of the flight’s trip fuel. Over Hyderabad, when turning towards Cochin, it step climbed to 38,000ft – just as one would expect for optimal fuel burn.
A valid argument would be the winds at altitudes that could have impacted the military 737’s decision to fly at a lower altitude. The SpiceJet flight and the military 737 flight were 5 hours apart. However, IndiGo’s VT-IEM operating 6E 289 DEL-COK took off just 28 minutes after the Air Force 737, climbed to 35,000ft and then to 36,000ft over Hyderabad. IndiGo’s aircraft in fact picked up 13 minutes enroute, to land just about 15 minutes after the Air Force 737, clearly showing that winds at higher altitude were not unfavourable.
The intent of this piece isn’t to highlight who flies better, but rather to appreciate some of the differences between air transport flights in the military and in the commercial world. Vastly different priorities may explain the differences in flying. In the airline world though, it is all about minimising costs at every little opportunity.
ATR received EASA certification for its high-density cabin layout which fits 78 seats, using the existing airframe which was until recently certified for a maximum of 74 seats. Cebu Pacific, the leading Phillipines low cost airline, is the launch customer of this new configuration of the ATR 72-600. The airline had formally announced an order for 16 ATR72-600s during the Paris Air Show with options to acquire an additional 10 ATR 72-600, worth US$673 million at list prices.
Cebu Pacific will receive its 78 seat aircraft in August 2016. According to ATR, ” The additional seats are very valuable for airlines operating in the regions where traffic grows rapidly and the demand is highly sensitive to fare”. According to Thierry Casale, ATR Senior Vice President Programmes, “The demand comes from airlines, especially in the Southeast Asian market, requesting to further optimize the cabin space and to increase the number of available seats for regional flights".
In August 2014, Thailand’s Nok Air took delivery of an 86 seat Bombardier Q400, becoming the launch operator for the extra capacity seating configuration. Bombardier was able to squeeze in 86 seats at 29 inches seat pitch by shifting the aft galley into the aft cargo hold, thereby reducing aft cargo space by 20%. Forward baggage hold is done away with.
ATR can pack in 78 seats by reducing seat pitch to 28 inches, downsizing and moving the aft galley into the rear cargo compartment, and by placing two rear facing seats in the first row, which take up a part of the otherwise forward right cargo hold, thereby reducing forward cargo space. ATR’s target is an 80 seat ATR 72, which will be possible only with four, rear facing seats on the first row. Such seats do not recline.
The configuration is built with the current SFE Geven Classic seats, requiring no special or different seats.
Interestingly, demand for these configurations have come exclusively from South East Asian low cost operators. According to a study that the ‘Association of Southeast Asian Nations DNA’ conducted, Filipinos are the second shortest race in the South East Asian region, with males measuring 5 feet 3.7 inches. Thailand’s males are the second tallest, at an average 5 feet 6.9 inches. This makes Filipino men 4.8% shorter than the average Thai man, while a 28 inch seat pitch is only 3.4% lesser than a 29 inch seat pitch. Assuming similar thin seats on both aircraft, Filipinos, due to their height, may feel as comfortable, if not more comfortable, than Thai men flying in the high density Q400.
Indonesian males are the shortest in the South East Asian region, at 5 feet 2 inches, which makes the 78 seat variant well suited for the Indonesian market. If airlines are scientifically driven, airlines in other countries may not opt for the 78 seat variant, unless the business model decides otherwise.
The 78 seat ATR 72 seats 4 more than the until-recent maximum of 74. Assuming a 100% seat factor, 4 extra passengers will burn around 11 kg additional fuel on a 250NM sector, assuming ancillary cargo remains unchanged. This results in a 1.3% fuel burn increase on a 250NM sector, or a 0.65% increase in costs assuming fuel is 50% of the total operating expenses. Yet, due to the four additional seats, the cost per seat, after including the fuel increase, drops by 4.5% on a 250NM sector. We ignore possible increased maintenance costs due to slightly higher stressed operations.
This allows an airline to drop average fares by down to 4.5% to remain competitive in the market at unchanged margins.
The PW1100G-JM family of engines uses a revolutionary but not new technology that essentially makes the engine a cross between a turboprop and a pure turbofan. This is the largest geared turbofan produced till date. With this engine, Pratt and Whitney marks its return as a single brand powerplant option for narrowbody mainline jets. Boeing 737-300/400/500/600/700/800/900/MAX-7/8/9 are all powered by CFM engines, while the Airbus A320 family of aircraft are powered by either CFM or the IAE consortium’s engines. Pratt and Whitney is part of the IAE consortium.
The “JM" in PW1127G-JM represents partner companies Japanese Aero Engine Corporation (JAEC) and (Motoren- und Turbinen-Union GmbH) MTU. JAEC holds a 23 percent share in the PW1100G program and is responsible for the fan, low pressure compressor (LPC) and combustor/diffuser. MTU holds an 18 percent share and is responsible for the low pressure turbine (LPT), and jointly with Pratt & Whitney the high pressure compressor (HPC). Pratt & Whitney is responsible for the remainder of the engine and systems integration.
The PW1100G-JM family powers the Airbus A320NEO family (A319NEO, A320NEO, and A321NEO) and is available in 5 thrust variants of 22,000/24,000/27,000/30,000/33,000 lbf (pound-force) per engine. The PW1127G-JM that powers the A320NEO is the 27,000 lbf variant.
The CFM powered A320NEO (A320-251N) will be certified in the coming months.
In India, all operators that have placed direct orders for Airbus A320NEO aircraft have chosen the PW1127G-JM as the power plant of choice. IndiGo has 430 Airbus A320NEOs on order, some of which may be converted to A321NEO orders. Go Air has an order for 72 Airbus A320NEO aircraft. Vistara, which is committed to the lease of 20 Airbus A320 aircraft from Bank of China Aviation (BOC Aviation), will receive 7 Airbus A320NEOs from mid 2017 onwards. However, the engine option has not yet been finalised. AirAsia India, which leases aircraft from AirAsia Berhad, will receive Airbus A320NEOs powered by the CFM LEAP engines.
One of IndiGo’s Airbus A320NEOs, MSN 6720, is one of the three test aircraft, and has been flying since September 25th, 2015. However, the first production aircraft is destined for Qatar Airways, the launch customer. MSN 6744, to be registered VT-ITA, a Hamburg produced A320NEO already painted in airline colors, may be the first A320NEO for IndiGo, despite being produced after the aircraft that was already flying for the certification program.
The three flight test aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney engines accumulated over 1,070 flight hours over 350 flights. Of these 1,070 flight test hours, 300 were completed with the same aircraft in an airline like environment to ensure operational maturity at entry into service.
The A320-271N is the 9th sub-variant of the A320-200 family, after A320-211/212/214/215/216/231/232/233. The A321-271N is ‘significantly different’ from the original A320 Type certificate via the modification labelled “MOD 161000”. Pratt and Whitney received FAA certification for the PW1100G-JM engine on December 19th, 2014.
The A320-271N’s operating empty weight is around 3 tonnes heavier than the A320-232 which IndiGo flies today. However, the maximum take-off weight of the highest weight variant of the A320-271N is 79 tonnes, which is just 1 tonne higher than the maximum take-off weight of the highest weight variant of the A320-232. The dry weight of each PW1127G-JM engine is 453kg heavier than the IAE V2527-A5 that powers the -232 variant. This implies that the weight of accessories and structural reinforcements total to around 2 tonnes.
The A320-271N promises a fuel saving of upto 11% over the A320-232SL and 15% over the A320-232 (non winglet). Such savings are however realised only on flights of 3000NM and higher.
There is a strong possibility of IndiGo receiving its first Airbus A320NEO by end of this calendar year. As per our information, IndiGo’s A320NEOs will be fitted with 186 seats – six seats more than what it fits every aircraft cabin with, today.
Thanks to Cyril for the heads up on the certification.
IndiGo has turned out to be a consistently aggressive player. The 9 year old airline, which went public when fuel prices were at their lowest and profits at their highest, already flies 98 Airbus A320 current engine option (CEO), and is soon expected to add its 99th airplane. Then, the Airbus A320 new engine option (NEO) starts getting delivered. The magnitude of the airline’s orders, and the airline’s share of the first 35 aircraft to be delivered dwarfs every other airline.
Out of the 98 airplanes that the airline flies, 84 are part of the 100 airplane order that the airline placed in the year 2005. 16 aircraft were returned to the lessor, and those were the only airplanes that had a 6 year lease term. Then, IndiGo did something it had never done before – it started short term dry leasing older, previously operated airplanes, in a desperate attempt to increase capacity. The airline has leased 14 aircraft, most from Tigerair, and is soon expected to induct it’s 15th such airplane, making it the 99th active aircraft in the fleet. All the short term dry leased airplanes that were not part of the airline’s order are registered VT-IDx, with ‘x’ taking values from A to O.
As of October 31st, there are 2,868 disclosed orders for Airbus A320NEO airplanes from airline operators and leasing companies. Out of those 2,868 orders, IndiGo’s totals 430 aircraft – a staggering 15% of that number. This is followed next by the AirAsia, which has 304 NEOs on order.
Although Qatar Airways is the launch customer of the A320NEO, the first production NEO is destined for IndiGo. Out of the first 35 NEOs to be produced, 10 are IndiGo’s, followed next by 6 of Qatar Airways.
Both these point to one thing – that IndiGo is desperate for capacity.
But with the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th, 9th, 10th, 12th, 15th, 18th and 19th A320NEOs destined for IndiGo, why would the airline want to lease a 11 year old A320 as its 99th aircraft?
The A320NEO was expected to be certified this November, but there apparently few delays that has forced Airbus to state that Qatar, the launch customer, will receive its A320NEO by end of this year, without publicly stating a date. IndiGo is a good planner, and perhaps the induction of the 99th aircraft as an old airplane points to the airline having some knowledge about delays in the NEO program which may be unacceptable for a carrier that is ever looking to add capacity.
IndiGo will be adding capacity not just with airplanes, but with seats. While the airline has stated its intent to induct Airbus A321NEOs, orders for such airplanes do not yet officially reflect in Airbus’s order book. Another way the airline is adding seats to airplanes is through the Space Flex concept, where the two aft lavatories will be moved into the galley, freeing up enough space to accommodate an additional row of passengers, taking the total to 186 seats per A320 as opposed to the present 180 seats per A320. All A320s can be retrofitted to the new configuration.
Interestingly, IndiGo co-founder Rakesh Gangwal mentioned that that the larger A321NEO will have a longer range, when compared to the A320NEO. He told Livemint, ” We will soon have the (Airbus) A321, with 234 seats. That brings down costs dramatically and allows us to do different things. Also, the range of the A321 is bigger, so with the same product, we can fly on longer routes from India”. It was only in January this year that Airbus formally announced the A320NEOLR, a 97 tonne Airbus A321 with three auxiliary fuel tanks that offers a range of 4000 nautical miles (NM), which is 300 NM more what is advertised for the A320NEO. Airbus claims that the 97 tonne A321NEO has “the longest range of any single aisle airliner available today and tomorrow, making it ideally suited to transatlantic routes and will allow airlines to tap into new long haul markets which were not previously accessible with current single aisle aircraft.”
However, deliveries for the long range A321NEO are expected in second half of 2018, which means IndiGo will have to do with the A320NEO till then.
Aditya Ghosh told AIN that the airline will increase its operating fleet to 111, 134 and 154 aircraft, by the end of March 2016, 2017 and 2018, respectively.
This means that IndiGo will need to induct:
13 A320NEOs by end March 2016, or 4 – 5 airplanes a month assuming deliveries for IndiGo start in January 2016.
23 A320NEOs between March 2016-March 2017, or 2 airplanes a month in FY2016-17.
20 A320NEOs between March 2017-March 2018, or 1-2 airplanes a month in FY2017-18.
This will total to 56 A320NEOs, which will represent 36% of the airline’s fleet by end 2018, in line with what Aditya Ghosh told AIN in October: “We will, within two and a half years, have two-thirds of our fleet with Neos and in five to six years, have an all-Neo fleet”.
With such a plan, all the airplanes presently in IndiGo’s fleet will stay atleast till end March 2018, after which aircraft may be replaced by A320NEOs.
Assuming that IndiGo starts replacing the A320CEOs in its fleet with A320NEOs in its fleet from FY2018-19 to FY 2020-21 (to have an all NEO fleet in 5-6 years), that will involve replacements at an average rate of 2-3 airplanes a month. IndiGo has historically inducted on average 1 airplane a month, but in March 2012 it inducted 3 airplanes in a month. IndiGo will be able to handle 2-3 replacements a month, and perhaps 2 additions each month, taking the induction to a total to 4-5 airplanes a month, perhaps at maximum. At such a rate, the fleet at maximum may rise to around 220 airplanes in FY2021-22. A ball-park figure of 200, if achieved, will translate to IndiGo doubling its fleet in the next 5-6 years, amounting to a net CAGR of 12% – a very reasonable growth rate.
The initial hiccup, however, may still be with the A320NEO program. If IndiGo is to achieve its target of 111 airplanes by end March 2016, and if the NEO certification further pushes back timelines, the airline may have to induct more, previously-operated and old CEO aircraft, though that seems somewhat unlikely.
One of IndiGo’s A320NEOs, a Toulouse assembled frame, which is also the 6th NEO to be built (MSN6720), has been flying since 25th September 2015 to help with the certification program. The second A320NEO (MSN6744), which unlike the other initial NEOs for IndiGo has been assembled at Hamburg, and fully painted in the airline’s colors, but missing engines. It may be that the latter MSN (the Hamburg build) will be delivered first to IndiGo.
Thanks to Ameya for heads-up on the 99th aircraft.
In the light of Ajay Singh taking over SpiceJet, media reports and general speculation had pointed that the revival plan of Ajay’s ‘include culling the 15 Bombardier Q400 regional aircraft from the airline’s fleet’. On the contrary, The Flying Engineer has learnt that SpiceJet’s Q400s are here to stay.
While the industry in general is led to believe that a single fleet strategy is best suited for a low cost carrier, based on the success of Southwest, Ryanair, AirAsia, and IndiGo, The Flying Engineer has firmly believed in a dual fleet strategy to effectively penetrate the Indian market. This is based on the Indian market which falls into three broad categories:
Thick, long and short routes – markets which are mature and overcrowded, such as Bangalore- Delhi (long), and Bangalore -Goa (short).
Thin, long and short routes – markets which are evolving (underserved, and unserved), such as Bangalore – Chandigarh, Bangalore- Vishakapatnam.
Thinner, short routes – markets which will not mature easily – such as Vijayawada- Hyderabad, Bangalore-Belgaum.
The reason for the last market to not mature easily is the fairly good rail and road connectivity that is present between such city pairs. Yet, there is a segment (albeit small) of travellers who will pay for the time and convenience of air travel, which reduces an overnight journey to around an hour or so. Further, at many such destinations, the runways haven’t been upgraded to allow bigger jets to land, making them fit almost exclusively for turboprop operations with ATR72 (typ. 72 seats) and Q400 (typ. 78 seats). Since most travellers on this segment are those who value time and convenience, and because there is insufficient competition, an airline like SpiceJet enjoys good pricing power.
To support this, SpiceJet, in Q2 FY’15, realised a passenger-only RASK (excludes ancillary revenues) of INR 2.74/ASK, while the Q400s delivered INR 4.99/ASK. This passenger only RASK of the Q400 was higher than the average RASK (including ancillary revenues) of INR 3.26/ASK.
In Q2, the Q400 flew only 8.13% of the airline’s total deployed capacity, yet contributed to nearly 14% of the airline’s total passenger revenue. Interestingly however, the Q400 made up 30% of the airline’s fleet in Q2, but had only 14% of the airline’s total aircraft seats.
What worked the most against the Q400 was the maintenance costs, which The Flying Engineer has been led to believe is a problem of the past, when maintenance facilities were not available in the sub-continent. Perhaps the selection of the aircraft wasn’t right, but the dual fleet concept wasn’t wrong.
Should SpiceJet bounce back with the infusion of funds, the airline may have to redo the Q400 network a bit and play the aircraft to its strength, better feeding into the mainline network with traffic from Tier III routes. This is one of the ways a smaller player in the market can hope to survive through differentiation, and monopoly / duopoly, especially when established routes are crowded with very low margins.
The days of a dual fleet jet – a mainline narrow body complimented by a regional jet, are not far off, either.
Air India Regional, better known as Alliance Air, received its first ATR 72-600 at Toulouse. The ATR 72,600 with MSN 1197 is registered VT-AII, and becomes the first ATR 72 for Air India and the fourth ATR 72-600 after VT-JCX/Y/Z that fly for Jet Airways. The aircraft, leased from Singapore-based leasing firm Avation, is the first out of five that the airline will receive until July 2015.
Air India Regional presently has about four ATR 42-320s (see photo on the left), which are all about 20 years old. The brand new and longer fuselage ATR 72-600 brings to Air India’s passengers a leap in cabin noise and comfort. The -320s have a four bladed propeller, while the -500s and -600s have a six bladed propeller.
The new ATR 72-600 is configured with 70 seats, compared to 48 that are fitted in the shorter ATR 42. This will allow Air India to either stimulate the markets which it caters to with this aircraft, or cater to those that have grown beyond 50 seats.
Mr. Rohit Nandan, Chairman, Alliance Air stated that “We are pleased to introduce into our fleet an aircraft which has clearly become the new reference among all regional planes. The ATRs have proven for years their reliability and their ability to bring our passengers to every destination of our regional network".
Patrick de Castelbajac, ATR Chief Executive Officer, said that “We have partnered with Alliance Air for more than 10 years, and we are honored by this new proof of confidence in the ATR aircraft family. The new ATR 72-600 perfectly fit with the aim of the airline to progressively renew their fleet with more fuel-efficient aircraft, while adding seat-capacity into their main routes."
According to ATR, the 72-600 has a maximum take-off weight of 23,000kg, and can carry a max payload of 7,500kg over 900NM.
Air India regional joins Jet Airways and Air Pegasus as operators of the ATR 72. Turbo Megha is soon expected to become the 4th operator.
AirAsia India received its second aircraft, which landed at Hyderabad at around 13:30 IST (UTC + 5:30) on the 26th of August, 2014. The aircraft flew in from Kuala Lumpur.
The second aircraft is an A320-216SL, but not brand new like the previous aircraft. This A320, MSN 6034, was delivered on 24th March 2014 to AirAsia Malaysia, and registered 9M-AJF. The aircraft has been with AirAsia Malaysia for almost five months.
The aircraft sports the same livery as AirAsia India’s first aircraft, registered VT-ATF. The only changes to the exterior will be the replacement of the Malaysian flag with the Indian flag, and a change of registration from 9M- to VT-. The registration is expected to be VT-ATB.
The Flying Engineer had, on 19th August, guessed 9M-AJF as one of two aircraft to likely join the AirAsia India fleet.
The second aircraft is almost as new as the first aircraft. With AirAsia Malaysia contracting its operations, many of its aircraft are underutilized, enabling the parent airline to offload one aircraft to its Indian associate.
With the second aircraft joining the fleet, AirAsia India will fly an additional pattern September 5th onwards. The pattern will include flights to Goa, Chandigarh, and Jaipur from Bangalore.
AirAsia India was to have launched the virgin Bangalore-Chandigarh route. IndiGo, however, stole that opportunity from AirAsia India, by introducing a Bangalore-Chandigarh service September 1st onwards.
The communication between air traffic controllers and pilots is key to efficiency and safety in the air traffic system (ATS). Air Traffic Control Officers (ATCOs) are looked upon as managers : managing the flow of air traffic, and relaying crisp, and necessary messages to pilots.
Effective management is only possible when there is a deep understanding of the technicalities of the lower levels. A manager is always at a ‘higher level’, and decisions are based on a ‘lower levels’ of understanding. Effective management of air traffic is possible only when an ATCO understands, and not just communicates to, a pilot.
Accidents in the past have been due to gaps in understanding between ATCOs and pilots. Fuel burn and on time performance (OTP) are heavily dependent on the decisions taken by an ATCO. Once ATCOs understand aircraft, and aircraft performance, and fuel burn for every extra nautical mile and minute they make airplanes fly, things fall better in place: airline economics, better airport efficiency, and enhanced flight safety.
TATA-SIA’s A320-232SL (SL=sharklets), was spotted flying for the first time at Toulouse, France yesterday. The aircraft was flown with a test registration F-WWDT, and the airframe is serial number 6223.
The aircraft is to be registered as VT-TTB. The aircraft will next fly to Hamburg where it will have its cabin fitted in accordance with TATA-SIA’s preferences.
The aircraft is expected in Delhi, India by August 15th, but no later than August 20th.
The airline received its no objection certificate (NOC) from the ministry on April 2nd 2014, and applied for an air operator permit (AOP) on 22nd April 2014. On 9th July 2014, the DGCA decided to consider the AOP application of TATA-SIA, after inviting and reviewing objections and suggestions from the public.
Judging by the pace of developments and clearances at the airline, the AOP is expected by the first half of September. Considering that the Delhi High Court today adjourned the hearing of petitions filed by the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA) and Subramanian Swamy against TATA-SIA and AirAsia India to September 12th, TATA-SIA may secure its AOP before the court hearing.
Once the AOP is secured, the airline may open for sales in September, and begin operations by end September / early October, subject to timely clearance of flight schedules by the DGCA.
Choice of Power.
Although TATAs have a stake in both TATA-SIA and AirAsia India, the engine chosen by the full service airline is the IAE V2527-A5, unlike the CFM56-5B6 flown by AirAsia. This particular IAE engine is similar to what IndiGo uses on its Airbus A320 aircraft, and has a higher thrust but lower bypass ratio when compared to the CFM56-5B6. As a result, the IAE engines are noisier.
Take off Thrust
*Based on FAA data. Quantified comparison omitted here as it’s too exhaustive.
IAE V2527-A5 on an IndiGo A320-232SL
Pratt and Whitney holds majority stake in the IAE venture, which was originally formed between Pratt and Whitney, Rolls Royce, MTU Aero Engines and Japanese Aero Engine Corp now has Pratt and Whitney as the major stakeholder when the United Technologies Corporation engine unit bought out Rolls Royce’s stake in October 2011.
TATA-SIA’s choice of engine was very natural. Singapore Airlines flies Boeing 777s, A380s, and A330s-all powered by Rolls Royce Engines. Singapore Airlines’ subsidiary-Silk Air-flies A320 and A319 aircraft fitted with IAE engines. Tigerair, in which Singapore Airlines has a stake, flies A320s and A319s with IAE engines.
AirAsia’s fleet mostly comprises of the A320-216 (CFM56-5B6 powered).
According to Amit Singh, Director Flight Operations at AirAsia India, the low thrust of the 5B6 translates to maintenance savings. Worldwide, CFM engines have a reputation for reliability and robustness, reportedly better than IAE’s. The CFMs are reported to offer better economics on the A320 and A319.
Although CFM has more than 55% of the classic engine market that powers the A320 aircraft, it has a lower market share in Asia Pacific. In India, presently, 93 Airbus A320 family aircraft are powered by IAE Engines, while 66 are powered by CFM engines. Of the 93 IAE powered A320 aircraft, 78 comprise IndiGo’s fleet.
Edit: Thrust ratings changed to reflect take off thrust as published by EASA.
Boeing yesterday delivered its 8000th 737-a 737-900ER-to United Airlines, marking yet another milestone for the world’s most sold large jetliner, which has cumulative orders for 11,774 Boeing 737 airplanes, since the time the program was conceptualised in 1964, across its airline, business and military offerings.
Boeing, which was initially skeptical about the aircraft’s sales, and reportedly had plans to cancel the program, was convinced by Lufthansa to go ahead with the aircraft type. That decision proved a commercial success for the airframer, encouraging the continuation of the production line, across 12 significant variants spread across 4 sub-families: the Originals (-100,-200), Classics (-300,-400,-500), Next-Generation (-600,-700,800,900), and MAX (MAX 7, MAX 8, MAX 9) families.
Boeing 737 produced
28 Dec 1967
22 Dec 1983
25 Feb 1991
27 Feb 1998
19 Jun 2006 (Silent)
13 Feb 2006
ILFC/ Norwegian Air Shuttle
16 Apr 2009
16 Dec 2011
16 Feb 2014
The first Boeing 737, a 737-100 flew on 9th April, 1967. The first production 737, a 737-100, was delivered to Lufthansa in late 1967.
The 737 family, the smallest among all original Boeing designs, earned itself famous nicknames, including Tin Mouse, Baby Boeing, and Fat Albert.
Boeing’s successful narrowbody airplane started facing stiff competition almost 20 years later, from Airbus, when the European airframer introduced the Airbus A320 family of airplanes. The then significantly more efficient aircraft prompted Boeing to introduce the Next Generation family of the 737, almost a decade later. The biggest change to the 737NG, over the Originals and Classics, is a significantly improved wing, which helped Boeing match the Airbus A320’s operational economics. Other changes included an updated cabin and cockpit. The changes were deemed significant enough to have a new set of manufacturer line numbers for all Boeing 737NGs produced, abruptly interrupting the numbering with the last produced 737-Classic at line number 3132.
The first airline to receive the 4000th 737 – which was the first thousandth 737 delivered after this line number change, and the first such 737NG – was Air Algerie. Unlike other recent thousandth deliveries, this was mysteriously done without any publicity or fanfare.
Stiff competition between the two manufacturers has led to significant continuous product improvements targeting lower operational costs, which include the winglets for the 737NG, the “Sharklets” for the A320 family, “Scimitar” Winglets for the 737NG, and re-engining for the significantly more fuel efficient A320NEO and 737MAX families.
United Airlines, which received the 8000th 737, is also the first airline to fit the “Scimitar” Winglets from Aviation Partners Boeing, making the 737NG series realise close to 1.5% fuel burn reduction. Such winglets will eventually be factory fitted on Boeing 737NG airplanes, making the 737 the only commercial jetliner in production to feature such unique winglets.
737 order Breakup
The highest demand has been for the maximum-189 seat Boeing 737-800, which competes directly with the Airbus A320.
As of 31st March 2014, there are 3794 unfulfilled Boeing 737 orders. Boeing presently produces the 737NG at 42 airplanes a month, or 504 airplanes a year. That rate is scheduled to ramp up to scheduled 47 airplanes a month in 2017-the same year the 737 MAX is expected to enter service. About 1,700 737NG airplanes are expected to be produced at this rate, with the balance 160 737NG and 1934 737MAX produced at 564 airplanes a year, completing the orders as they stand today, only in early year 2021.
In contrast, Airbus has 4,247 unfulfilled Airbus A320 family orders, as of 31st March 2014, which is impressive for a program that started 20 years later, today grabbing the largest market share of the narrowbody airliner market. Airbus produces airplanes at the rate of 42 a month, across its three final assembly lines in France, Germany, and China, with another in the United States set to open, shortly.
One of Air Costa’s two Embraer E170s developed a windshield crack when operating into Bangalore, today, forcing the airplane to stay on ground for a few days till the windshield is replaced. To prevent disruption in operations, one of the E190s will be pulled into commercial service. Air Costa’s E190s seat 112 passengers in a single class, 45 more than their dual-class E170s.
The E190, registered VT-LBR, operated the Air Costa LB649 Hyderabad (ICAO: VOHS, IATA: HYD) – Jaipur (ICAO: VIJP, IATA: JAI) flight, marking the first commercial flight in India involving an Embraer E190. The flight, scheduled to depart at 14:05hrs IST, departed at 15:24hrs IST, picking up a 01:19hr delay due to the unforeseen pull-out of the E190 from parking into line operations, and the pull-out of the E170 from line ops.
The E190s were expected to be inducted into commercial service on 5th April, 2014. This bittersweet incident marks another milestone in Indian regional aviation, while also serving to emphasize how at the start-up phase of an airline, when the fleet is small, the non-availability of one aircraft can have significant operational ramifications.
Air Costa plans to stand out from the competition with its fares, connectivity, and unmatched cabin seating convenience and comfort.
Three jetliner manufacturers, Airbus, Boeing and Embraer, in alphabetical order, rolled out single aisle firsts in March this year.
It started on March 12th, when Embraer rolled out the first production E175 with fuel burn improvements. New winglets, and fuselage wide aerodynamic “cleanups”, and system optimizations have bettered fuel consumption by 6.4%: a good 1.4% better than the technical team had expected to see in fuel savings, on a “typical flight”, which, according to The Flying Engineer estimates, are in the 500-1000NM region. This 6.4% fuel burn reduction is close to double the figure Airbus achieved with its A320 when it strapped on the winglets it calls Sharklets: between 3-4%, and more than 3 times what Boeing achieved with its 737NG when it rolled out the 737 Performance Improvement Package (PIP) in 2012: 2%.
On March 17th, Airbus announced the final assembly of its A320NEO: the next landmark in mainline single aisle airplanes. The A320NEO will be the first single aisle airplane in its class to enter service, with a new type of engine in this thrust class: the Geared Turbofan Engine. The GTF is expected to set the A320NEO apart from the 737MAX; the latter is expected to fly with the CFM LEAP-1B engine that runs hotter, leaving little room for any engine growth in the future.
On March 20, Boeing rolled out the first Boeing 737NG at increased production rate: 42 airplanes a month, matching what Airbus had achieved almost a year ago: which then was the highest commercial aircraft monthly production rate ever. The interesting feat here is that Boeing achieves this at a single facility, while Airbus gets its 42 airplanes a month at its three final assembly lines: Toulouse, Hamburg, and Tianjin.
As for Bombardier, which is going through a very difficult period, the First CS300: the only aircraft variant in the CSeries program that is relevant today and has garnered much attention from customers, almost twice the firm orders as the shorter variant, the CS100, is in final assembly and the systems are being installed. First flight of the CS300 is expected soon, and the entry into service of the CS300 is expected 6 months after the CS100, the latter slated for the second half of 2015, with the hope that no further program delays are announced.
Airbus’ first A320NEO, MSN 6101 (A320-271N) has entered the final assembly line (FAL) at Toulouse, marking yet another milestone in the A320NEO program. The forward fuselage, which arrived from St. Nazaire in France, and the aft fuselage, which arrived from Hamburg in Germany, were mated at the FAL, marking the start of the final assembly.
The next stage is the joining of the wing to the fuselage. Overall, it takes about one month to complete the final assembly of an A320 Family aircraft.
The A320 program crossed a major milestone in November 2013, when the assembly of the first major component- the engine pylon- took place.
First flight is expected in the Autumn of 2014, almost 4 years after the program was launched in December 2010. Airbus took the landmark decision of re-engining the A320 Family after sensing imminent competition from Bombardier’s C-Series airplanes.
Airbus will retain 95% airframe commonality with the present A320, offering the benefit of high dispatch reliability associated with a mature airframe. Airbus has also effected incremental changes to its traditional Airbus A320, thereby eliminating the risks associated with too many modifications in one shot.
In the November of 2011, Airbus flew the first A320 with the version of the sharklets that are now seen on all new production Airbus A320 airplanes, first sharklet-equipped A320 being MSN 5428 delivered in December 2012. The sharklets, which will feature on the A320NEO as well, introduce fuel savings of upto 4% on long flights. Preliminary wing strengthening to handle the aerodynamic loads introduced by the sharklets, and airplane-wide weight reduction to offset the weight due to the strengthening have already been effected.
NEO’s difference from today’s in-production A320 aircraft is the further strengthening of the wing and fuselage to handle the loads associated with the heavier and larger New Engine Option (NEO): The Pratt and Whitney PW1100G and the CFM LEAP-1A. The new more efficient engine together with the sharklets realize a 15% fuel savings on 800nm route lengths, and up to 16%+ on the longer routes, compared to non-sharklet fitted Airbus A320 aircraft.
The Pratt and Whitney Geared Turbofan Engine PW1100G series for the A320, took to the skies in May 2013, on a Pratt and Whitney Boeing 747SP flying test bed.
Changes to the A320 are minimal and the least among other airplanes which are being re-engined and modified to a larger extent, such as the Boeing 737MAX and the Embraer Second Generation E-Jets E2. Historically, all new airplane programs have been met with significant dispatch reliability issues related to technical or maintenance issues associated with an immature airframe. The A320NEO program has the least changes, followed by the MAX and E2 program. The all-new Bombardier C-Series introduces many firsts for Bombardier, making it the program that may likely have the most number of issues, initially atleast: a reason which explains the low number of firm orders: 201, despite having 3 flying airplanes in the test campaign.
In contrast, the Embraer E-Jet E2 program, which airplanes are still “paper” (conceptual), has 200 firm orders. The Boeing 737MAX has 1,807 firm orders and the Airbus A320NEO program has firm orders for 2,667 airplanes.
Least changes with benefits where it matters to an already proven and mature airframe, incremental modifications, early introduction into service (Q4 2015), a dual engine source (all other new/re-engine programs have only one engine supplier), keeping up program development schedule, and the smallest training impact have contributed in large to the sales success of the program.
IndiGo has an order for 180 Airbus A320NEO Family aircraft, which include the A320NEO and A321 NEO. Go Air has 72 airplanes on order, and Air Asia 264 A320NEOs on order. Both IndiGo and GoAir’s A320NEOs will be powered by the Pratt & Whitney PW1100G. IndiGo operates the IAE engines, of which Pratt and Whitney is a part. Go Air which flies CFM powered A320 aircraft, has switched engine suppliers, to Pratt and Whitney. The PW1100G engines offer two advantages: Room for growth, and availability sooner than the CFM LEAP-1A Engines. Air Asia, which flies CFM powered A320s, has opted for the CFM LEAP-1A to power its NEOs.
A350 MSN 2 (F-WWCF) and MSN 4 (F-WZNW) in flight. Photo: Airbus
MSN 2 & MSN 4 take to the skies for the first time; A350 performance penalties on the first few airplanes; Timelines more important than performance; A350 program gets costlier:why; A320 production ramp up.
Today marks four things: The Airbus Group press conference, the first flight of MSN2, the first flight of MSN4, and the Airbus announcement of the Airbus A320 production ramp-up.
On 2nd January, 2014, EADS, which comprised Airbus, Eurocopter, Cassidian, and Astrium, was been rebranded as “Airbus Group". The Airbus Group press conference must not be confused with the Airbus press conference, which was held on 13th January, 2014. But, very obviously, Airbus was discussed today.
Aviation Week today reported that “Airbus Group is taking a €434 million extraordinary charge in its 2013 results for the A350 program" due to “higher than expected recurring costs for the new widebody aircraft". Airbus, unlike Bombardier: the only other airliner airframer to be engaged in a flight test campaign of an all-new aircraft, has ensured that the program has stuck to schedule, at any cost. And that cost, for now, is an added Euro 434M.
A very interesting insight provided in an article in Aviation Week, in August 2012, which was highlighted today by Rupa Haria, quoted Richard Aboulafia, vice president for analysis at the Teal Group, “If you are missing important milestones, you get beaten up by the financial markets or your customers. . . . You want to meet time guarantees more than performance guarantees."
In other words, the first few airplanes won’t be as good as those that will roll out of the line later.
Which also means that the Airbus A350 airplanes that took to the skies today, F-WWCF(MSN2) and F-WZNW(MSN4), could have benefitted from the later roll out at a cost: the cost to Airbus and its suppliers, who have to manufacture different variants of the same part, for the sake of keeping up with the program schedule. Different variants are due to part/product maturity which comes eventually with time. The most important reason for maturing the part is to result in weight savings, which impact the performance guarantees that Richard Aboulafia was talking about. The financial implications arising out of these performance penalties incurred by the first few operators of the A350, will be passed on to Airbus. This also affects the resale value of the first few aircraft, even with modifications that will be effected on the aircraft in service.
Such relatively immature aircraft, very obviously, come cheap to the airlines, but attract higher subsequent costs of ownership.
According to Aviation Week, there will be three batches of Airbus A350s, based on the design changes, and consequently, performance.
F-WWCF is the first of two A350 flight test aircraft to be equipped with a full passenger cabin interior, and features a distinctive “Carbon" signature livery to reflect its primary construction from advanced materials. 53% of the A350 XWB’s airframe is made-up of carbon-fibre reinforced polymer (CFRP) including Airbus’ first carbon-fibre fuselage. Hence the registration, F-WW"CF", for Carbon Fibre.
MSN 2 will be the first A350 to transport passengers when it undertakes the Early Long Flights (ELF) later in the year. The “passengers" will be Airbus employees. The eye-candy A350 will do well for promotions, especially when it lands at airports outside Toulouse, and even Europe.
The other aircraft to be fitted with a cabin will be MSN 5, which is in the final assembly line and is expected to fly in a few months. MSN 4 joins MSN 1 and 3, the first two airplanes to have taken to the skies, in being those three airplanes dedicated to avionics, noise testing, and various other systems work through the flight test program. These three aircraft will not be fitted with a cabin, but rather, equipped with heavy flight test installation. The aircraft has on its fuselage the logo of Qatar Airways, and “A350 XWB Launch Customer".
It will, however, only be MSN 6 which will be delivered to Qatar Airways. MSN 6 is already in the A350 Final Assembly Line (FAL). This aircraft is expected to take to the skies in the October of 2014, and delivered less than a month later.
Composite image generated from Flight Radar 24
Singapore Airlines will receive MSN 8, the third aircraft intended for commercial operations. Vietnam Airlines will receive MSN 14, and Finnair MSN 18. The 21st A350 airframe is expected to be the A350-800, and the 41st A350 airframe is expected to be the A350-1000.
MSN 2 and MSN 4 flew together in formation close to the southern border of France, over the Pyrenees mountains, for a photo shoot.
A320s in production. Photo: Airbus
While one program bleeds the finances, the proven narrowbody family: a proven market that allows airliner manufacturers Boeing and Airbus to not only earn their bread but offset costs from other programs.
The A320 program is ramping up production, as announced today by Airbus, to 46 a month in Q2 2016, up from the current rate 42. The new higher production rate will be achieved gradually, with an intermediate step at 44 aircraft per month in Q1 2016.
“Based on the healthy market outlook for our best-selling A320 Family and following a comprehensive assessment of our supply chain’s readiness to ramp-up, we are ready to go to rate 46 by Q2 2016," said Tom Williams, Executive Vice President Programmes. “With a record backlog of over 4,200 A320 Family aircraft and the growing success of the NEO, we have a solid case to increase our monthly output to satisfy our customers’ requirement for more of our fuel efficient aircraft."
Over the past five years, Airbus has steadily increased A320 Family production, going from rate 36 at the end of 2010 to rate 38 in August 2011, then up to rate 40 in Q1 2012 to reach 42 per month in Q4 of the same year.