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.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. It’s the day of hearts, and the evening prior, FirstFlight delivered am almost 2 foot long box that had a photo of a SpiceJet aircraft on the side. The wait was over – VT-SZK ‘With all our heart’ was finally home, from SpiceShop, manufactured by Skymarks to a 1:100 scale.
Inside the box were layers of black foam that carefully housed in all eight parts – The 15 inch long fuselage with the nose gear pre-fitted, both wings with the engines and min gears pre-fitted, the two horizontal stabilizer pieces, the vertical tail, a wooden base stand, and a securing screw. It couldn’t get simpler. All pieces were were packed in plastic save the rudder and the horizontal stabs, which had made their way to the bottom of the box, where it may be prone to damage.
Assembly took just a minute, as all parts are snap fit and firmly stay in place.
From the stand, up!
The stand for the model is made of two parts – a wooden base with a polished metallic plaque bearing the SpiceJet logo, the aircraft name ‘Red Chilli’, the aircraft model, registration, and the month and year it was delivered to SpiceJet. A matt finished aluminum support is secured to the wooden base via to screws, which were loose. You’d need a star (~ez_lsquo+ez_rsquo~) screwdriver to tighten the screws, to prevent your model from wobbling with fake turbulence on the table. The support is keyed to align the hole on the support with the threaded hole at the bottom of the model’s fuselage. Slight alignment is necessary before the securing screw can be inserted.
VT-SZK was delivered to SpiceJet in May 2014, is leased from BOC Aviation, and is the airline’s prized airplane for many reasons. It finds a special place in the heart of perhaps all its employees for the singluar reason that it is the only airplane in the fleet to have an off-beat livery. The forward fuselage features three crew on either side. On the left is a lady captain flanked by two lady cabin crew, and on the right is a male captain flanked by two other lady cabin crew. The featured crew are: Capt. K. Rangarajan, Captain and Examiner, Boeing 737. Capt. Anushree Varma, Captain, Boeing 737, CCIC Roshika Chettri, CCIC Rashmani Singh, CCIC Prexa Kaushik, CC Lavi Choudhary.
The aft fuselage of the real aircraft is stickered ‘SpiceJet’ on the left, and ‘With All Our Heart’ on the right. Perfect for valentine’s?
1:100 – How scale is the model?
The measuring tape determined the length of the fuselage to be approximately 15 inches. We say approximately because a collector would never get a hard surface to contact the fuselage, for fear fo damage to the decals. The real 737-800 has an overall length (nose to the trailing tip of the horizontal stabilizers) of 1,554 inches. 1,544 / 100 (scale) = 15.44 inches. Yup, the model passes the scale test. Since the wings, engines, and tails appeared proportional, we took the scale on all axes for granted.
The most important aspect of any model airplane is the nose. Just as a human is identified by the face, and not the body, an airplane is only a scale model is its nose appears exactly like the real aircraft. Skymarks has got it right here. The model passes the major tests.
We shall progress from the nose to the tail, and examine every aspect.
The nose is simply great – it couldn’t have been more ‘737’ like. The nose bay doors’ lower edge are curved, which is unlike the real aircraft (straight). The wheels are proportional, but do not move easily.
The faces on the fuselage are a little bigger than what they should have been. This can be identified by the location of the face of the first cabin crew relative to the static port (the oval under the third passenger window). The ‘missing windows’ on the 737-8000 are reproduced here – two missing on the left, one on the right (to accommodate air conditioning ducts).
The fuselage very clearly shows the line where the ‘double bubbles’ meet (the 737’s fuselage cross section is comprised of two intersecting circles)- see the image on the left with the red arrow, pointing to a visible dent line. Although nowhere this pronounced on the real 737, it allows one to appreciate the 737’s fuselage design.
As we progress to the engines, we hit a pocket of disappointment. The engines that Skymarks has used are the Boeing 737- classic (300/400/500) engines, which have the ‘hamster pouch’ look – flattened bottom with a non-circular nacelle. The Boeing 737NGs have an almost circular nacelle. The engine fails the scale test big time. Further, the exhaust nozzle is also long. VT-SZK uses CFM 56-7BE engines, which have a shorter nozzle.
The detailing on the wing is good, complete with the walk zones, flap track fairings, and emergency exit markings. The double slotted flaps, spoilers, and ailerons with aileron tabs are marked on the upper surface. The fuel tank access panels are also marked on the lower surface.
The red ‘paint’ on the outer portion of the winglet should have run further under the surface of the winglet.
The main landing gears are simple, but the tyres are good. The model would have been more of a scale had they the white wheel caps as found on SZK. The wheel wells could have been painted black for higher level of detailing.
The stabilizer and the vertical tail plane are both well detailed, complete with the trim markings (trim markings are not symmetric and so it should have been on the model). The APU inlet door, and APU exhaust are marked.
SpiceJet is the only airline in India to sell 1:100 models of its aircraft (though not on board their flights, but through their website), which is a big plus. The finish of the Skymarks 737-800 is overall good, but could be better with more detailing, such as fine print text near the statics. It is definitely a model for the collector, but does disappoint a bit when it comes to certain details. Hogan’s eye for detail is much better (Example: IndiGo’s A320 ‘Premium model’ sold on board), but then, they do not offer this large a scale.
On the pricing front, the Boeing 737 1:100 is available for INR 9,499 + 13.125% tax + INR 500 shipping = INR 11,246. On airlinemuseum, Skymarks 737-800s are available or US$95, which translates to INR 5,900. Add customs and freight, and the model’s price comes close to SpiceJet’s price, perhaps cheaper by a thousand or two (or three?). But SpiceJet’s price is justified by the limited edition of its infamous aircraft.
In short – a lovely airplane model, largely faithful to the 1:100 scale, and with a finish and color accuracy that is bound to catch eyes and make you stare speechlessly – with all (y)our heart! Must have for a serious model collector.
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.
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.
Another 300ft, and the Boeing 737-700 N272WN would have rolled 60ft down the embankment, resulting in an accident
A Southwest Boeing 737-700 registered N272WN, operating as Southwest Airlines flight 1403 scheduled to land at Branson Airport (KBBG) from Chicago Midway (KMDW), landed instead at M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport (KPLK), about 5NM to the north of the intended destination airport.
The incident happened on 13th Jan 2014 at ~00:11 UTC (12th Jan 2014 18:11 CST).
The 737 landed on Runway 12 at KPLK (3738ft long x 100 ft wide), and stopped right on the piano keys of runway 30, leaving just 300ft to the edge of the 60 ft embankment on which the ends of the runway sit. The tires were reportedly “smoking" with the intensity with which they were applied.
The runway at KBBG is oriented 14-32 (7140ft long x 150 ft wide). It is difficult to understand how the pilot may have landed at KPLK instead of KBBG. Pilot error seems unlikely, as the pilot may have initiated a go-around seeing runway “12" instead of “14" or “32" that may have been expected at KBBG. KBBG has an ILS approach for runway 32 and two RNAV GPS Approaches for 14 and 32, either of which may have been strung into the FMS.
Sunset in the area was 17:18 local time, and civil twilight till 17:46 local. The aircraft landed in the absence of natural light. KBBG and KPLK both have runway edge lights, but Runway 14 and 32 at KBBG have PAPIs (Precision Approach Path Indicator), while KPLK has no visual approach aids for runway 12. Further, the hangars and terminal building for KBBG are on the left (when approaching runway 14), while those at KPLK are on the right (when approaching runway 12).
Based on Flightaware’s track of Southwest 4013, the aircraft deviated from its intended flight path 111 NM away: possibly indicating an intentional deviation from the flight path at or close to the top of descent. The airplane’s track seems to have drifted to the north-northwest, while winds generally blew from south-southeast. This track shift can occur if the airplane’s flying on the heading mode, but may easily get noticed as a deviation from the active flight plan route on the navigation display in the cockpit.
SW1403 started deviating from its track close to its TOD, 111NM away from KBBG
So, we have 2 pilots in a 737-700 that has an INS (Inertial Navigation System) with periodic VOR-DME / DME-DME position updates, augmented by a GPS, that together can compute the aircraft’s position with great accuracy, and displays the planned route from Chicago Midway (KMDW) to Branson Airport (KBBG). This combination of man-machine seems unlikely to land at the wrong airport. Or did the crew enter the wrong destination? Highly unlikely, considering that pilots usually select the company route rather than punching in the route manually. Further, the route is usually cross checked with the filed flight plan. And yes, Southwest does not fly its Boeings into KPLK: the runway is, evidently, too short; choosing a wrong route seems unlikely.
Did the pilots get the automation mode wrong, and fly a heading rather than LNAV? Even if they did, the aircraft’s position would have clearly shown a deviation from the active flight plan. Did the pilots miss the building and hangar lights that somehow was on the right instead of the left? possible. Did the pilots notice the absence of the PAPI? unlikely. It was dark, and they would have very much noticed the PAPIs absence, or relied on the GPS approach to KBBG, which would have shown them that they were far off the field.
In short, everything about this approach somehow does not seem to point solely towards pilot error.
Though not officially acknowledged by the airline, SpiceJet has reportedly placed an order for 42 Boeing 737 MAX Aircraft. Considering the airline’s fleet to be comprised mostly of Boeing 737-800s, the order may very well be entirely made of Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplanes.
The Boeing 737 MAX 8 is expected to enter service in the third quarter of 2017, almost 4 years from now. With already 1,763 orders for the 737 MAX airplanes, it may be easily close to 2-3 years after the 737 MAX 8 enters service that SpiceJet receives its first 737 MAX, assuming that Boeing will up the production rate of the 737 jets to 47 a month, or higher to 60, from the present 42.
SpiceJet is now one of 298 yet “Unidentified” Customers who have ordered 737 MAX airplanes. The airline is yet to receive 18 Boeing 737-800 airplanes from the US airplane manufacturer. In 2013, SpiceJet received 10 Boeing 737NG airplanes, its highest ever in a calendar year.
This order that speaks of an airline poised for growth 5 years down the road, is a precursor to “something” big in the airline. Note the 737NG delivery trend for SpcieJet, below, and you’ll notice that 2013 was a very happening year, for an airline about to make a big announcement in 2014: the news of the much awaited investor.
Quarters are Calendar Quarters, not Financial Quarters.
Just when the 747-8’s production rate was ramped down at its Everett facility (state of Washington), Boeing announced that the 737’s production rate will be ramped up at its Renton, Washington facility , from its existing 38 airplanes per month, to 42 per month in the first half of 2014, and next 47 airplanes per month in 2017, the highest rate ever for its best-selling airliner. Boeing currently has more than 3,400 unfilled orders across the 737 family, which includes the 737Max.
Airbus, in contrast, has 4,223 unfilled orders across the Airbus A320 family, which includes the A320NEO. Across its global production facilities, Airbus already produces 42 airplanes a month since 2012, the highest-ever rate for any commercial aircraft, and has no immediate plans for a production ramp up over concerns of supply chain fragility.
The A320 Family is produced on two Airbus assembly lines in Europe: Toulouse, France and Hamburg, Germany; which have been complemented by an additional facility in China. Toulouse is home to the initial assembly line, building A320s; Hamburg has responsibility for the A318, A319 and A321; while Tianjin assembles A319s and A320s.
Tianjin is Airbus’ first assembly facility located outside of Europe, resulting from a joint venture involving Airbus with a Chinese consortium comprising the Tianjin Free Trade Zone (TJFTZ) and China Aviation Industry Corporation (AVIC).
Joining this network will be a new A320 Family production facility in Mobile, Alabama USA, which is to build A319, A320 and A321 jetliners beginning in 2015.
Boeing, however, produces the Boeing 737 only at its Renton facility.
Spicejet launched its Bangalore-Bangkok and Pune-Bangkok services on the 27th of October, 2013. The Flying Engineer was invited, along with 12 others from the media.
Here is a detailed trip report that you will not want to miss. Get to know a bit about operations, the seat comfort,about the men and women making the airline fly, and a bit about the airline’s plans and history. Everything that you’d want to know, with just the right amount of depth.
Bombardier’s success with the CRJ 100/200 airplanes, which eventually sold 935 units, made it explore significantly larger capacity airplanes, in the 100 seat segment. According to Bombardier’s study in 1998, there was a growing requirement for larger aircraft in the fleets of the world’s regional airlines. To keep up with the growth in mainline fleets, Bombardier felt that regional fleet must grow in both size and capacity. The company felt that if the regional fleet did not grown beyond 50 seats, the number of 50-seaters required to satisfy demand would quadruple.
Bombardier identified a gap between its 50-70 seat CRJ series, and the smallest of the Airbus and Boeing single aisle offering: the Airbus A318 and the Being 737-600, both with typical single class capacity of around 120 passengers. Even before a formal launch, Bombardier had unveiled during the Farnborough Air show in 1998 the 88 seat BRJ-X-90 and the 110 seat BRJ-X-110, the “BRJ" short for Bombardier Regional Jet.
The BRJ-X-110 was applauded by airlines as a true 100 seat airplane, unlike attempts by Airbus and Boeing to scale down much larger airplanes. Although during that time, the first of the Brazilian Embraer E-Jets, the 80 seat ERJ 170, competitor to the CRJ700, hadn’t yet taken to the skies, published drawings of the BRJ-X airplanes bore an external resemblance to the new Embraer jets. But the cabin was wider, with a 5 abreast seating.
Threats from the new Embraer jets, which had a significant head start, and the then Fairchild-Dornier’s 50-110 seat regional jetliners, forced Bombardier to rethink the BRJ program. Late 1999, despite having further matured the design of its “paper airplanes", Bombardier switched focus from the BRJ-X-90 to the stretched CRJ700: the 90 seat CRJ 900. According to Michael Graff, the then President of Bombardier Aerospace, “ They (airlines) have told us that a simple stretch of the CRJ 700series rather than an all new aircraft in the 90 seat category will meet their requirements for increased capacity at reduced acquisition and operating costs"
Mid 2000, although the BRJ-X-90 was killed, the entire BRJ program was suspended, but never cancelled. In the March of 2004, the 114 seat Embraer 190 took to the skies on its first flight, and Bombardier had no airplane to compete in that class. In July of the same year, Bombardier announced the development of the C Series as a replacement for the shelved BRJ-X project.
The C Series then had two variants: the 125 seat CS110 and the 145 seat CS130. But after failing to secure significant orders, and in the light of the certification of the Embraer 190 in 2005, the program was shelved in early 2006, and the focus again shifted to lengthening the CRJ series, to a 100 seat CRJ1000.
In the July of 2006, EASA certified the 124 passenger Embraer 195, competing directly with the shelved CS110. Bombardier was trailing its only significant regional jet competitor, Embraer, with no competing airplane.
Early 2007, Bombardier re-commenced work on the C Series program. In the July of 2008, Bombardier officially launched the C Series, with a letter of interest for 60 aircraft and 30 options from Lufthansa.
Having the right product at the right time bode well for the Brazilian airframer. The CRJ 700, 900 and 1000 combined have orders (as of 30 June 2013) of 723 airplanes, of which 91 are unfulfilled. On the other hand, the Brazilian Embraer E-Jets, comprising the E-170/175 and 190/195 families, have total firm orders of 1213, of which 266 are unfulfilled. Bombardier had to stop trailing and start leading, and focus on the clean sheet C Series was the only way out.
*This section is part of a much bigger, comprehensive article on the C-Series by The Flying Engineer.
There is a buzz about the PW1100G Geared Turbofan Engine from Pratt and Whitney, that will power the first A320NEO. The PW1100G is a family of ultra-high bypass engines, part of the PW1000 series. The Flying Engineer welcomes you to enjoy the most technical take on the engine, that will leave you either educated, or snoring on your chair. Grab that coffee, and appreciate the next big thing in jet transport as we know today: Geared Turbofan Engines.
In this article, we explore, at a high level, the design of the PW1100G family, how it compares with existing A320 engines, the differences, on a high level, of this family with the competitor’s offering: the LEAP 1A, why the Boeing 737MAX family doesn’t need such a large turbofan engine, and finally, before concluding, the pros and cons of such an engine.
737NG #4000 waiting to be assembled! Photo by Boeing, of Boeing.
Its really hard to believe that a tube of metal, sitting on a transport dolly, can ever fly. The rivets are clearly seen, the skin in protective paint, and covers for where the windshields should be. This time however, the common sight of a 737 fuelage rolling into Boeing’s Renton plant, is not just another body.
The only thing separating it from the rest is its number. It is 737 NG # 4000, a milestone for the 737NG program. With 2,674 737NG orders still unfulfilled, looks like the #4000 bird is going to eventually lose the limelight to # 5000, #6000, and maybe, #7000.
Four celebrations to look forward to. Well done, Boeing, for a cumulative 6613 civil Boeing 737NG variant orders as of Feb end, 2012, of which 59.5% have been delivered.
With the October 2011 announcement by Boeing of the 737NG production rate having been ramped up to 35 airplanes a month (“Rate 35”), 737NG #4000 should be completely assembled by the 3rd week of April, 2012. #5000 should be ready in the September of 2014; #6000 in the January of 2017, and #7000 in the June of 2019.
That’s a terrible wait!
Which is why Boeing CA CEO Jim Albaugh, in July 2011, asked his product development team to evaluate the feasibility of further ramping up production to 60 airplanes a month. As of today, the 737NG production will hit “Rate 42” by mid 2014, witnessing “Rate 38” from “Rate 35” somewhere between then and today.
Assuming Rate 38 hits in January 2013, And Rate 42 in mid 2014, #5000 should be out in July 2014; #6000 in July 2016; and #7000 in July 2018, advancing the earlier projected 7000th airframe’s delivery by one solid year.
Boeing badly needs Rate 60, keeping in mind that the Boeing 737 MAX is expected to enter service in 2017.
Disclaimer: Author estimated/assumed production rates. An estimate is an estimate, and an assumption always an assumption. Just for you to get a feel of when you’ll expect the 737NG that you order, today.