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.
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.
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.
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.
This piece covers Boeing’s slipping grip on the low-cost airline market, with a focus on Asia: how, why, and where.
Air Asia, and EasyJet, operators of Airbus A320 airplanes, were once Boeing 737 operators. Airbus has been on a “rampage", trying to trespass Boeing’s narrowbody territory, and plant what is today the world’s best selling airplane family.
Air Asia, which until as recently as 2010 operated Boeing 737-300 aircraft, is now an all Airbus A320 operator: operating 73 of them. Air Asia Indonesia, which also operated Boeing 737-300s, now flies 30 Airbus A320 airplanes. Lion Air of Indonesia, which operates 99 Boeing 737 aircraft, most of which are 737NG airplanes, placed a firm order for 234 Airbus A320 aircraft, including 60 Airbus A320 classic engine option airplanes. Garuda Citilink, established in 2001 as a low-cost subsidiary of Garuda Indonesia, which operated an all Boeing 737-300 and 400 fleet, now flies 24, more efficient Airbus A320s with the callsign “Supergreen".
Jet Airways has evaluated Airbus A320NEOs, and Neil Mills, the then CEO of SpiceJet, publicly announced the evaluation of a fleet switch to the A320NEO.
Boeing’s comeback: an order of 54 Boeing 737s, comprising 23 737-800s and 31 737 Max 8s from SilkAir, the regional wing of Singapore Airlines, which welcomed its first Boeing 737-800 (9V-MGA) at the Singapore Airshow 2014, marking the start of SilkAir’s transition to an all-Boeing fleet, from the existing fleet of 24 Airbus aircraft, comprising 6 A319s and 18 A320s. (see photo on top)
After SilkAir, Boeing is now trying to sway TigerAir to adopt its airplanes.
How: Airbus’s Successes.
Said Dinesh Keshkar, vice president, Asia-Pacific & India Sales for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, in February 2013, after Spicejet and Jet Airways performed financially better, (after the demise of Kingfisher), “Can they sustain these yields, which I think they can because of the balance of capacity in the market. They will continue to do well and aviation will continue to grow profitably. The Indian commercial aviation market is improving with higher yields and stability in fuel charges".
The same Keshkar in February 2014 admitted that Indian carriers are “not doing well” due to the decline in the rupee, high fuel costs, and high capital costs and taxes in India. “Certainly the Indian market is not for the faint-hearted. It’s hard to make money there. Nevertheless, everybody realizes that it’s a great market and that’s why more and more people are trying to get into that market."
Said Kiran Rao, executive vice president for strategy at Airbus, in January 2013, “It’s quite understandable that with the high fuel prices and the Indian taxes, the neo really works in India,” he says. “Jet Airways and Spicejet are predominately Boeing airlines today, but we will give it a good shot.”
Two things make the Airbus A320NEO attractive: Great operating economics, and its availability atleast 2 years before the Boeing 737MAX. That gives operators the chance to start reaping the benefits of an economical airplane two years before its competition, and that amounts to saving big money.
To put things in perspective, final assembly for the first Airbus A320NEO will start in March 2014, for the planned maiden flight in autumn, kicking off a flight-test campaign with 8 Airbus A320NEO airplanes, all flying with PW1100G Geared Turbofan Engines. In contrast, the engine that will power the 737MAX, the GE-SNECMA CFM LEAP-1B variant may not take to the skies this year, as the engine manufacturer plans to begin flight tests of the A320NEO’s alternate engine, LEAP-1A, on GE’s Boeing 747 flying testbed in September 2014.
The A320NEO is expected to enter service in late 2015, while the Boeing 737MAX is expected to enter service in late 2017.
“In a high fuel cost environment, it only makes sense to consider all of the available options. We must look at the aircraft that will have the lowest operating costs and see how it fits into our fleet,” said Neil Mills in March 2013, talking about the possible switch to the Airbus A30NEO, to meet medium term fleet requirements.”We will switch from one aircraft type to another if needed. I was with Easyjet when we switched from Boeing to Airbus and we can do the same here.”
The Boeing 737-800, which compares & competes directly with the Airbus A320, burns more fuel for the same payload. The Boeing 737-800 with winglets burns as much fuel as the A320 for the same range, payload, and cruise altitude. The A320 with “sharklets”, however, beats the Boeing 737-800W, and the A320NEO, goes unmatched.
But getting efficient airplanes two years earlier isn’t everything.
A continuing fight in the World Trade Organization is between the U.S. and the European Union over government support to Boeing and Airbus. The U.S. charges that European government subsidies have allowed Airbus to undercut Boeing prices, giving Airbus an unfair advantage in the marketplace and harming the U.S. aerospace industry: Boeing has significantly streamlined its 737 production during the past two years, but company officials said their cost improvements still don’t enable them to break even at the prices Airbus is quoting for the A320.
Although Keskar says that he is “not even going to try” reaching out to AirAsia because of the large number of A320s the carrier has on its order books, Boeing apparently hasn’t stopped trying to sway the airline in its favour. However, Boeing isn’t willing to sell at any price, even though Airbus is charging far less than Boeing is willing to accept. Boeing marketing Vice President Randy Baseler said “the only standard Airbus is setting is with price” on the 2004 Air Berlin deal, in which the German carrier ordered 70 Airbus A320 aircraft . “If you cut your prices enough, anybody will take them,” he said.
Few analysts feel Airbus offers a discount of as much as 60% to sway orders in their favour, while Airbus plays down the discount.
The matter only worsens with the projected 737MAX development costs expected at twice that for the A320NEO. The 737MAX is undergoing far more changes than the famous Airbus narrowbody family.
Boeing has lost out the no-frills, low cost airline segment to Airbus. Boeing once had monopolized this segment, especially with Southwest operating 588 Boeing 737 airplanes, and RyanAir operating 298 airplanes. Now, almost all start up low cost airlines fly the Airbus A320.
India’s “model" airline, IndiGo, and other start-ups: Air Deccan, Go Air, and Kingfisher Airlines (which eventually added the low cost arm Kingfisher RED) either fly or flew Airbus A320s. New airlines on the Indian horizon, whether credible or not, plan an A320 fleet: Skyjet Airways, and Volk Air.
TATA-SIA, the most talked about airline, will have an A320 fleet of 20, all leased, and AirAsia India, in line with the other AirAsias, will also fly with Airbus A320 aircraft.
SilkAir, with a brand that is not low cost but rather full service, will feature a cabin layout of 12 Business Class and 150 Economy class seats, representing an eight percent increase on SilkAir’s current seating capacity on the dual class A320s.
The only advantage in switching to a 737NG, for SilkAir, is increasing capacity without compromising on comfort through seat pitch. But it takes a lot to convince an airline to switch; especially when they could have flown more economical with the A320 sharklets, and saved on fleet transition costs. The real reason lies behind closed, motionless lips.
Stating a SilkAir press release, “A full-service carrier that is committed to creating enjoyable and reliable travel experiences, enhancements that customers can look forward to on the new aircraft include features such as the Boeing Sky Interior, which highlights new modern sculpted sidewalls and window reveals, LED lighting that enhances the sense of spaciousness, larger pivoting overhead stowage bins as well as in-seat audio and power supply for added convenience."
Then why was Spicejet, a low cost, missed by Airbus? SpiceJet began services in May 2005, when Air Asia was still flying an all Boeing 737 fleet, and just one year after EasyJet began transitioning to a predominantly Airbus A319 fleet. It was only in the December of 2005 that AirAsia received its first Airbus A320.
Said Kiran Rao, “We should have won the SpiceJet order the first time around, but it is just that at the time we had so many orders and took our eye off the ball,”.
But TATA-SIA, a full service carrier, should have been the target of Boeing. Dinesh Keshkar said that with the huge backlog for the 737, it was not able to provide narrowbodies to Tata SIA in line with its target to start operations in 2014.
The Indian MAX announcement that never came
Boeing in late 2012 had hoped to take its first order for the 737 MAX from an Indian airline. This hope was rekindled when Boeing had mentioned revealing a “sizable order” for the MAX from an Indian carrier, during the 2014 Singapore Airshow.
Twice, Boeing’s announcements never came, although media reports Jet and SpiceJet have signed for Boeing 737MAX airplanes, in the double digit range.
This is in sharp contrast to Airbus A320NEO orders placed by IndiGo and GoAir. Further widening the Airbus-Boeing gap are reports of the likelihood of IndiGo placing an order for 200-250 “more" aircraft.
Recording the largest aviation growth, Asia is where all airplane manufacturers have trained their guns. But Asia is a cost conscious market, where the likes of low cost airlines sprout often and thrive. That makes, statistically, a great market for Airbus, and a bleak outlook for Boeing, for now atleast. Few orders for Boeing 737 airplanes are overshadowed by Airbus’ wins.
Embraer has signed a definitive agreement with Air Costa for a firm order for 50 E-Jets E2s with an additional 50 purchase rights. The acquisition is a mix of 25 E190-E2s and 25 E195-E2s and has an estimated value of USD 2.94 billion based on 2014 list prices.
Air Costa has become the first customer of E-Jet E2s in the Indian market and will take delivery of the E190-E2 in 2018. The E195-E2 is scheduled to enter service in 2019. Today, the airline flies four E-Jets: two E170s (VT-LNR, VT-LSR) and two E190s (VT-LBR, VT-LVR).
According to an Embraer press release, “The three new airplanes (E175-E2, E190-E2, and E195-E2) have geared turbofan engines from Pratt & Whitney, new aerodynamically advanced wings, full fly-by-wire flight controls, and advancements in other systems that will deliver double-digit improvements in fuel burn, maintenance costs, emissions, and external noise compared to current-generation E-Jets."
The A-A-B-B-E aircraft manufacturers, namely, Airbus-ATR-Boeing-Bombardier-Embraer, have all announce their 2013 orders and deliveries.
Boeing announced its tally on 6th, Airbus on 13th, Embraer on 15th, Bombardier on 20th, and ATR on 23rd January, 2014. (today).
The results get sorted as: Medium-Long Haul Jetliners: Airbus v/s Boeing, Regional Jet: Embraer v/s Bombardier, and Turboprops: Bombardier v/s ATR.
Medium-Long Haul Jetliners: Airbus v/s Boeing
Boeing made more airplanes and sold and retained more airplane orders (based on NET orders) than Airbus. The single aisle family is the best performing airplanes for both manufacturers. The Quad Jet programs aren’t doing well. Lufthansa is the only operator of the 747-8 intercontinental: the passenger version of the 747-8.
Regional Jet: Embraer v/s Bombardier
Embraer seems to be steaming ahead of Bombardier’s regional jet programs. 5 orders of the E170 were cancelled, while 100 E175E2, 25 E190E2, and 25 E195E2 orders were placed. 3 CS100 orders were cancelled, while 37 CS300 orders were booked.
Embraer has emerged as the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial jets up to 130 seats.
Turboprops: Bombardier v/s ATR.
The Bombardier Q400 Turboprop program is nowhere close to the performance of the ATR 72/42 program. The above figures include 10 ATR42-600 sales and 7 ATR42-600 deliveries.
The first CS100 intended for commercial service being assembled.
Bombardier’s announcement: revising the entry into service (EIS) of the CSeries: came as a surprise to noone. You didn’t even need company insiders to leak information about the slow progress of the test flight campaign. The media front-ending is clue enough: the lack of updates, and the general lowly feeling : gave away a test flight campaign with nothing much to talk about.
Bombardier isn’t the first manufacturer to declare intensive test flight campaigns and program milestones, only to show the world that their program management planning wasn’t planned at all. The trend has been in alphabetical order: Airbus – Boeing – Bombardier. The Airbus A380 and the Boeing 787 programs talked of entry into service dates that were too good, only to be found later that that they were too good to be true.
For Airbus, the A380 was a first: in terms of size, wiring, and a level of coordination in design that was not well coordinated. For Boeing, the airplane was, technically, a new design, with many firsts: technical and production, leading to software issues, and supply issues.
The graph below shows how unique, technically challenging, and possibly operationally “disruptive” airplane programs, show longer periods between the first flight & entry into service (EIS). The A300 was Airbus’ first airplane; the A340 was Airbus’ first quad-jet. The A350 has nothing special about it: it builds upon the A380’s avionics & software; the only thing new is the extent of use of composites. 12 months for the program should be doable.
Legend: Blue: Past programs, Red: programs with significant gap between FF & EIS, Orange: Programs in progress.
In comparison to the A380 and the 787 programs, the CSeries is a “stranger” airplane for Bombardier. It is Bombardier’s first all new airliner design (the CRJ series is a derivative of the Challenger from Canadair, the Q400 is a modification of De-Havilland’s turboprop offering), the manufacturer’s first airplane so big, the first airplane in the world to fly with the PW1000G Geared Turbofan Engine (never before has such a large GTF ever flown), the companies first fly-by-wire aircraft, Bombardier’s first foray into designing an all composite wing for a commercial aircraft, and the first use of Al-Li on such scale on a narrowbody aircraft.
It is so new, that it is to Bombardier what the 787 is to Boeing. A great airplane, promising excellent fuel savings, but exhibiting a huge leap in technology & process: a toxic combination that introduces too many variables in one go.
The CSeries program has pushed the first deliverers by nine months to the second half of 2015, taking the time between first flight and EIS to a projected 21 months. The CS300, is expected to enter service 6 months later.
That is terrible news for Bombardier: The CS300 is expected to enter service in early 2016.
The CSeries was the very aircraft that made Airbus and Boeing reengine their airplane. But with the A320NEO planned to enter service in 2015, the popular single aisle family, which members A319NEO and A320NEO compete directly & indirectly with the CS300, will be available earlier, and with a better appeal: thanks to a proven airframe: the A320 family’s. Considering that Airbus can afford upto 25% off on the list prices, the A319NEO can be sold for for US$70.8M, about US$7M costlier than the CS300’s list price. The CS300 burns lesser fuel than the A319NEO, and is expected to have the same operating cost per seat as the A320NEO. The CS300 still has an appeal: massive appeal. Technically that is, operationally: uncertain.
“We are taking the required time to ensure a flawless entry-into-service. We are very pleased that no major design changes have been identified, this gives us confidence that we will meet our performance targets," said Mike Arcamone, President, Bombardier Commercial Aircraft.
But questions still linger in the minds of most: with so much so new to Bombardier, how reliable will the airplane be? Will the CSeries become the narrowbody “Dreamliner”?
Left: Subsonic wind tunnel testing at QinetiQ’s facility in Farnborough, U.K, Right: Trans-sonic wind tunnel testing at Boeing’s Transonic Wind Tunnel in Seattle
Boeing announced that testing has begun at the Boeing Transonic Wind Tunnel in Seattle to further validate 777X high-speed performance projections. Data from the high-speed tests will help engineers with the configuration development of the airplane, validate computational fluid dynamics (CFD) predictions and support preliminary loads cycle development.
Subsonic wind tunnel testing on the 777X started on Dec. 5, 2013 at QinetiQ’s test facility in Farnborough, U.K., to test the airplane models’ performance at low speeds such as those experienced at takeoff and landing, and at different non-clean configurations, notably with the high lift devices such as flaps and slats.
“We are on track to complete our top-level design in 2014 and reach firm configuration in 2015,”, Terry Beezhold, vice president and chief project engineer of the 777X program, said, back in Dec 2013. “Wind tunnel testing will validate our performance models and generate a vast amount of data that our engineering teams will use to design the airplane in this phase of development.”
The Boeing 777X program, which includes the 777-8X and 777-9X aircraft, is yet to be formally christened.
“I remember when we had very strong demand for A319s, then it shifted to the larger capacity A320 version…and we’re now seeing very, very strong demand for A321s", explained John Leahy, Airbus’ Chief Operating Officer – Customers, during the 2013-2032 Global Market Forecast press briefing in September, 2013.
Almost a month later, the US Based carrier JetBlue Airways, deferred deliveries of its 100 seat Embraer 190 aircraft, ordering instead 35 Airbus A320 family aircraft: 20 A321NEO and 15 A320CEO aircraft. The airline seeks to reduce costs with the Airbus A320 aircraft which burn less fuel per seat, but with a largr capacity: 150 passengers for the A320 and 190 passengers for the A321.
Back home, and one month before JetBlue’s decision to focus on larger capacity aircraft, the “JetBlue of India”, IndiGo, opted for 20 Airbus A321NEO aircraft, of its 180 all A320 order back in 2011, exercising the option that was inked in the deal.
Airlines, which stayed away from the A321, which accounts for 20% of all Airbus A320 family (A318, A319 CEO+NEO ,A320CEO+NEO, A321CEO+NEO) orders, are now leaning toward the A321NEO because it promises the affordable operating costs that otherwise kept airlines at bay: different aircraft sub-type, and higher operating cost. Suddenly, the A321NEO’s reduced operating costs, thanks to the fuel saving sharklets and the PW1100G Geared Turbofan Engine, make the added 20-30seats affordably attractive.
To the airlines, higher seat capacity at reduced operating costs means higher profit potential. Note potential.
Statistically, the best performing airline in the country, IndiGo, has the best load factors,: an average of 81.4% over 5 years from 2009-2013, with the highest being 83.8% in 2010. IndiGo’s added capacity, and demand has grown, but the effect on load factors has been nil; the average load factors remain more or less constant. So getting larger airplanes will not have a significant impact on load factors, but may slightly increase profits per flight on account of the reduced operating cost per seat.
Indigo’s single-type fleet of Airbus A320 aircraft can accommodate 180 passengers. 83.8% load factor corresponds to 150 seats. So why not replace the fleet with A319s?
A 150 seat airplane like the Airbus A319, or its direct competitor, the Boeing 737-700 is costlier to operate, per seat, as a shorter aircraft isn’t as optimized as the longer aircraft it was derived from. But what if you had an aircraft with a cost per seat as much as that of the A320NEO (which is claimed to be 15% more efficient than the A320 CEO), but with 150 seats? This would make the aircraft cheaper to operate, have lower capacity but push load factors closer to 100%, while keeping the fares low, or possibly lower than the competition.
The smaller, efficient aircraft, like what Bombardier claims of its CSeries CS300, has lesser seats to sell to break even, has the same cost per seat as the A320NEO, costs lesser to operate, but doesn’t have to fly with many empty seats if the tickets are priced low, or lower than the competition, and the brand marketed well.
Assuming that the breakeven load factor (BELF) for a particular, fixed operating environment is 70% for the Airbus A320NEO, and assuming that the CSeries CS300 fitted with 150 seats has a similar BELF, then with the A320NEO, the airline must sell 126 seats to break even, while sell only 105 seats on the CS300 to break even. Considering the average of 150 seats occupied, per flight, on average, the A320NEO flies 24 passengers contributing to the airline’s profits, while the CSeries CS300 flies 45 passengers contributing to the airline’s profits. Of course, if both aircraft flew with 100% load factors, on a dense route, the A320 gets 54 passengers contributing to profits, but that is only a potential, not a guarantee.
Unfortunately, airline pricing and BELF aren’t so simple, but this gives you a rough idea of what is possible with the CSeries CS300 in the Indian market.
For those who didn’t get it: What’s possible is an all CS300-fleet airline, that shoots right into profitability, defeating the competition. Is it this simple? Only IF Bombardier delivers its promise of meeting the projected costs per seat, and if Bombardier’s not-that-great image relating to aircraft dispatch reliability and maintenance issues are sorted: something that will be a challenge considering that almost everything about the aircraft, including the very design, is new, and without decades of airframe maturity like that of Airbus’s or Boeing’s narrowbody market leaders.
The conundrum: Increase capacity and increase both the profit potential as well as the risk of a loss on a route, should the loads go either ways. Decrease capacity and introduce a stronger element of predictability and control, but lowering the profit potential.
The Airbus A350 program achieved another milestone with the successful completion of the ultimate load wing test in December 2013. The ultimate load wing test is a test in which the wing is deflected to simulate the “ultimate” load, beyond or at which the wing is expected to fail.
The ultimate load is calculated as 2.5 times the maximum expected G load that the aircraft would ever encounter in its service life. For the Airbus A350, which is limited in the G loads that it may experience, by the Fly By Wire system to +2.5G, or with the FBW system deactivated, as is the case with a reversion to direct law, approximately between 3-3.5G with the aerodynamic limitations of the flight control surfaces. The ultimate load is then possibly between 7.5 – 8.75G.
Based on this G force, the expected wing flex due to aerodynamic loading is computed, and the wing of a static test airframe flexed (loaded) to the corresponding load. The wing is expected not to fail at this “ultimate” load equivalent flex. At this loading, the A350’s wings flexed in excess of 5 meters, while at a similarly scaled G loading, the A380’s wings flexed to close to 7.5 meters. The 787’s wing flexed up to 7.6 meters in a similar test, mandatory for certification.
In February 2006, the A380’s wing gave way just before the 1.5 times greater G load limit was reached.
Unlike in the past, aircraft manufacturers don’t seem to be stressing the wing beyond 1.5 times greater load, to the point of wing failure. The actual failure load may not be known.
According to Airbus, “This test was performed on the A350 XWB static test airframe that was built specifically to demonstrate the structural integrity of the airframe. The strains induced into the airframe were measured and monitored in real time using more than ten thousand measurement channels. The huge volume of data recorded was analysed and correlated to the structural computer models which have been used to design the airframe.”
With the comforting thought of a safe-enough wing, the first A350 airframe intended for commercial service, MSN6, is being assembled for launch customer Qatar Airways.
Airbus’ marketing seems to have gone on a slightly unrealistic overdrive, with its “Felt squashed on a recent flight? It’s not you, it’s the seat" campaign, which states:
“Airbus offers an entire product line of modern, efficient jetliners designed for today’s standard of passenger comfort: at least an 18-inch wide seat in economy class."
That statement isn’t true. Data published by Airbus shows that the A320 family’s cabin can have either 18 inch wide seats and a 19 inch aisle, or 17 inch wide seats and a 25 inch aisle. Indigo Airlines has the 17 inch seat option. The campaign doesn’t explicitly mention the “long haul economy standard” set by Airbus, and slyly brings the A320 into the picture as well.
“The company’s entire product line is designed for modern comfort standards, ranging from the single-aisle A320 Family to the widebody A330 and A350 XWB families and the 21st century flagship A380 jetliner – which has a standard 18.5-inch seat in economy class.“
“Seat width is one of the most important – yet often overlooked – factors for passenger comfort. With an extra inch, compared to the 17-inch industry norm set in the 1950s that is still used by other aircraft manufacturers, Airbus jetliners offers travellers more personal space and room for lateral movement."
Embraer offers 18.25 inch wide seats (though another technical documentation points to 18 inch wide seats) in the economy, across the E Jet series (as per company published data). The C-Series, which has threatened the A318, A319, and in part the A320 members of the A320 family, has seats that (claimed by Bombardier) are a mix of 18.5 inch wise seats and 19 inch seats (see image above). These are far wider, and more comfortable than the seats on the A320, and even the A380 in economy (claimed to be 18.5 inch wide). So, “Airbus cabins are designed to offer passengers and airlines the highest levels of comfort, services and efficiency.“?
Airbus’ inadequate and improper “research", states “It’s not you, it’s the seat" and “the 17-inch industry norm set in the 1950s" in the same page (CLICK HERE). Truth be told, Rebecca Utz, from the University of Utah, presented a paper, “Obesity in America, 1960-2000: Is it an Age, Period, or Cohort Phenomenon?", which shows how its “You" and not the “Seat" that has grown too big to fit in a 17 inch wide seat.
With its unwavering focus on meeting its certification program goal of 2,500 hours within 12 months since its first flight on June 14th 2013, Airbus has sent its second A350, MSN 3 (F-WGZZ) to Bolivia, South America, where high altitude tests will be conducted. The tests will be conducted at El Alto International Airport (IATA: LPB, ICAO: SLLP) at La Paz, which is at 13,325ft MSL and has a 13,123ft long east to west runway, and at Jorge Wilstermann International Airport (IATA: CBB, ICAO: SLCB) at Cochabamba, which is at 8,360ft MSL and has a 12,460 ft long south-east to north-west facing runway.
The aircraft landed in Bolivia on 7th January, 2014.
This is the first time that the A350 has crossed the boundaries of Europe, and for the first time undertaken a trans-Atlantic flight, flying for the first time into South America.
According to Airbus, “Operations at such high altitude airfields are particularly demanding on aircraft engines, Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) and systems. The aim of these trials is to demonstrate and validate the full functionality of engines, systems, materials as well as to assess the overall aircraft behaviour under these extreme conditions. A number of take-offs with all engines operating and with simulated engine failures are being performed at each of the airfields to collect data on engine operating characteristics and validate the aircraft take-off performance. The autopilot behaviour will also be evaluated during automatic landings and go-arounds."
MSN-3 is planned to spend around a week at Bolivia.
Till date, the A350 program has accumulated 800 flight test hours in about 200 flights flown by MSN 1 (F-WXWB) and MSN 3 (F-WGZZ), resulting in an average of 4 hours of testing per test flight. The third A350, MSN- 2, F-WWCF, is assembled and painted, will soon take to the skies, and will be later joined by MSN 4 and MSN 5, to fly test flights in parallel to meet the goal of a 12 month certification program.MSN4 and MSN 5 are being assembled.