IndiGo, India’s largest airline by domestic market share, today accepted its first Airbus A320neo at Toulouse, France. The aircraft, serial number (MSN) 6799, and registered VT-ITC will be the world’s first Airbus A320neo to enter service outside Germany. IndiGo is the second airline to accept the A320neo after Lufthansa.
The A320-271N is powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW1127G-JM engines. Technical issues with the engines had delayed the delivery of these aircraft. At this stage, it is not clear if either the issues have been fully resolved, or IndiGo has benefitted from some sort of compensation from either Airbus or the engine maker Pratt & Whitey. The aircraft is expected to commence commercial operations on on before 15th March 2016.
The first flight for MSN 6799 was on 15th December 2015, nearly 3 months ago. The aircraft is fitted with 186 seats, six more (one row) than the other 101 A320s in the fleet, today. VT-ITC have 31 rows in the cabin, with no windows on the 31st row.
The geared turbofan (GTF) engines fitted on the A320-271N are expected to be quieter than the IAE V2527-A5 engines that power the current fleet of 101 aircraft. The engines are also expected to be more fuel efficient, delivering over 11% fuel burn advantage over the current engines.
The current engines (with the external casing) has a horizontal diameter of 2 meters. The neo engines, with the casing, have a horizontal diameter of 2.67 meters.
It is learnt that technical crew trained on the A320neo are for now based only at Delhi, Kolkata and Bengaluru. The aircraft will be based at Delhi, and initial routes may include DEL-CCU vv and DEL-BLR vv.
Japan’s first commercial jetliner, the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) 90 took to the skies at 8:30 in the morning from Japan’s Nagoya airfield, for a flight that lasted nearly 85 minutes long. The flight was conducted by a MRJ 90 STD, registered JA21MJ, with construction (serial) number 10001. The aircraft flew with a constant flap setting, landing gear down and locked, and thrust reversers de-activated.
The first flight marks a major milestone for a program that is significantly delayed. The first flight was planned for 2012.
The 92 seat MRJ 90 has a seating capacity that directly competes with the 88 seat Embraer E175, and the 90 seat Bombardier CRJ 900. However, the aircraft is fitted with Pratt & Whitney’s high bypass Geared Turbofan Engines (GTF), which allow the aircraft superior fuel economics than any sub-100 seat regional jet, today. This is the MRJ 90’s USP.
Below is a comparison of key performance, weights and dimensions between the Bombardier CRJ900, Embraer E175, and the Mitsubishi MRJ 90:
Below is the comparison of ranges between all three aircraft and their sub variants:
The last Japanese commercial airliner program was the YS-11 turboprop airliner, in 1960. The MRJ program, which marks a comeback of the Japanese airliner market after a gap of nearly 60 years, adds an additional player in the regional jet market.
The regional jetliner market today is dominated largely by Embraer and Bombardier, with Embraer grabbing a larger share of the pie. Sukhoi’s Superjet International SSJ 100, a 100 seat regional jetliner, is so far an insignificant player. China’s regional jet, the ARJ 21, hasn’t yet entered service. Mitsubishi becomes the fifth player.
However, Mitsubishi will be the third aircraft program to penetrate the United States Market. 76% of the MRJ 90’s firm orders are from airlines in the United States. 170 aircraft are ordered by three US regional airlines: Trans States Holdings (a holding company for three regional airlines), Sky West, and Eastern Airlines.
A new aircraft brings with it two key questions that affect sales : How reliable will the aircraft be, and how good with the customer support be?
A new aircraft will almost always have issues with reliability before the aircraft ‘matures’ and corrections are made to the production aircraft. This has been seen with the Boeing 787, the Embraer E190 (when it entered service with JetBlue), the Airbus A380 – all new airplanes have their fair share of troubles till the product matures. The MRJ 90 will be no exception.
Customer support, which can sway market shares, has been carefully dealt with, by MRJ. Boeing Commercial Aviation Services, which today is one of the best, will provide Mitsubishi Aircraft with 24/7 customer support including spare parts provisioning, service operations and field services, until Mitsubishi takes service in-house.
Another important aspect for an airplane is the residual value of the aircraft – data that is yet unavailable. Lessors prefer to bet on airplanes that they know for certain will have a good enough market residual value to capitalise on.
Is the MRJ 90 in a good segment?
The MRJ 90 is an airplane with better market prospects than the MRJ 70. Since the beginning of 2009, Embraer has recorded 0 net orders for the 78 seat EMB170 regional jet, and Bombardier has recorded just 28 net orders for the 78 seat CRJ 700. On the other hand, since beginning 2009, Embraer has recorded a net 443 orders for the 88 seat E175 and E175E2 together, and Bombardier has recorded 139 net orders for the 90 seat CRJ 900. The 90 aircraft market has had better prospects over 27 quarters than any other size of regional jets. Below are the order graphs:
The MRJ 90 is in a very hot segment, which can get hotter if scope clauses in the United States are upward revised. The clause today limits US regional airlines to an aircraft weighing no more than 39 tonnes and limited to 76 seats. Unfortunately, the MRJ 90’s minimum maximum takeoff weight is 39.6 tonnes, while the lighter variants of the CRJ 900 and EMB 175 are within this specification.
The MRJ 90 is in a very unique position. Bombardier is not neither developing nor re-engining aircraft that are below 100 seats. The CRJ 700, 900 and 1000 aircraft will soon fade away as Embraer re-engines its aircraft and revises the wings to offer the market better versions (second generation) of the present E175, E190, and E195 regional jet models. Bombardier’s customer support history also works against the manufacturer. This effectively reduces notable competition to just Embraer and Mitsubishi in the sub-100 seat regional aircraft space.
The second generation of the Embraer E175, renamed the E175 E2, will be fitted with engines similar to the MRJ90, matching the MRJ 90’s fuel economics. However, the E175 E2 is expected to enter service only in 2020.
The MRJ 90 on the other hand is expected to enter service in 2017. However, uncertainty looms about the manufacturer sticking to its timeline, as it has not had any proven track record of dealing with jetliner programs in the recent past. Bombardier, an experienced manuafcturer, has slipped the CSeries’ timelines. It will not be surprising if Mitsubishi does the same. But even if the timelines slip by a year, to 2018, Mitsubishi will have atleast a 2 years head start over Embraer in the sub-100 seat regional jet space.
Bangalore based Air Pegasus today received its first aircraft – an ATR 72-500, MSN 699 – from its lessor, after successfully completing its acceptance flight. Minor glitches in the aircraft’s auto flight system had delayed the ferry.
The aircraft, sporting an all white body (much like Vistara’s first Airbus A320), was ferried from its storage at Kuala Lumpur, and flown to Bangalore via Dhaka, where it had a tech stop. The aircraft departed Kuala Lumpur at around 0340Z/0910IST, and landed at Dhaka at 1020Z/1550IST, after flying for almost 6hrs40min. The aircraft departed almost an hour later at 1120Z/1650IST, and landed at Kempegowda International Airport (Bangalore) at 1530Z/2100IST, after 4hrs10minutes.
The first leg – Kuala Lumpur (WMKK), Malaysia to Dhaka (VGHS) was 1,550NM long, and the second leg- Dhaka(VGHA) to Bangalore (VOBL), India was 1,047NM long. Cruise was at flight level (FL) 240. Below is the routing.
The aircraft was piloted by two captains- Sipsas and Brilakis – the only two expats on contract with Air Pegasus, as of today. The aircraft ferried flew in with a registration M-ABFC, and was formerly operating for Kingfisher Airlines with the registration VT-KAA. The aircraft went into storage in the April of 2012, and has not operated since.
Air Pegasus becomes ATR’s newest operator in the country.
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.
AirAsia India (AAI) took to the skies yesterday, on its first revenue flight, and marks a new chapter in Indian air transport history. The inaugural flight, i5 1320, flew from Bangalore to Goa, with almost all seats filled with excited passengers, guests, and staff.
To the paying customer, who after all is the target of every airline, four things are important, one of which is the in-flight experience, which includes aircraft cleanliness, comfort, in-flight service, and food & beverage options. AirAsia India has got it right from day one; being part of the AirAsia Group really does make all the difference.
Today, AirAsia India is a small player, but with a huge backing. It enjoys the economies of scale, and is set to take on the Indian market by storm.
In this piece, we look into what could make AAI appeal to the passenger, and why it may emerge as the preferred airline.
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.
TheFlyingEnginner is proud to present the first good photograph of Air Asia India’s new A320, in Indian skies, that landed today at Chennai. Registered VT-ATF, and the 6015th A320 family aircraft to be produced, the A320-216SL is a slightly underpowered A320, but one that may fit in the scheme of operations envisaged by Air Asia India.
The photographer, Praveen “PhotoYogi” Sundaram, traveled all the way by road from Bangalore to Chennai just to catch the picture of her. He was directly invited by Air Asia India to come click the aircraft on short finals, as DGCA had not given the airline permission for any media coverage in the airport.
Praveen has permitted The Flying Engineer to be the first to upload his image. We thank you, Praveen.
Praveen is an established photographer, and has mentored some other well known aircraft/aviation photographers in the country. You may view his photos on Airliners.net, Jetphotos.net, and his website, by clicking on the links in this sentence.
Air Asia India’s first aircraft, Airbus A320-216SL, registered VT-ATF (MSN 6015), has finally departed Toulouse (ICAO: LFBO, IATA: TLS) for its final destination Chennai (ICAO: VOMM, IATA: MAA). The ferry flight will however make one stop at Ankara’s (Turkey) Esenboğa International Airport (LTAC).
The aircraft is expected at Chennai at 09:30hrs IST (UTC+05:30) on 22nd March 2014. The callsign is the aircraft’s registration, VT-ATF.
The ferry flight is finally taking place after 9 days, due to issues the airline had with the DGCA that prevented it from ferrying it on the 12th of March 2014, as covered earlier here.
The 9 day delay will have an effect on the start of operations. With this aircraft, the airline can undertake the last hurdle in the grant of the AOP: Route proving flights. With the AOP expected in April, operations may start either late May or early June. The airline can start selling tickets only after the AOP is granted and flight schedules approved. No information is yet available on the second aircraft, which is reportedly planned to be registered as VT-ATB.
The aircraft taxied out at 16:15 hrs UTC, line up on runway 14R at Toulouse at 16:19hrs UTC, started take off roll and was airborne at 16:26 hrs UTC. (21:56hrs IST)
The aircraft’s MODE-S transponder’s ICAO 24 bit unique aircraft address’ Hexadecimal code is 800B09. The ferry flight was assigned a squawk (transponder) code of 4041 by Toulouse, which is subject to change as it passes through different flight information regions.
Update18: Aircraft landed at 0400hrs UTC (09:30hrs IST), with a 0 minute delay, on runway 25, Chennai. Exited via taxiway F. Water cannon salute to be followed by flag waiving. Flight time LTAC-VOMM 06:43hrs.
Update17: Aircraft begins descent from FL390 at 140NM from MMV, at 0316hrs UTC
Update16: Aircraft leaves Mumbai flight information region and enters Chennai FIR at 0243hrs UTC.
Update15: Aircraft enters Indian mainland over the western Indian coast, over the coastal town of Guhagar, 215km south of Mumbai, Ratnagiri district of Maharastra, at 0231hrs UTC.
Update14: Aircraft is in Mumbai FIR, waypoint PARAR, at ~0115hrs UTC. Another 1.5hrs to the Indian coast. Squawk is 1101.
Update13: Aircraft refuels, and departs Ankara’s Esenboğa International Airport, airborne at 2117hrs UTC. Spends total 01:19hrs on ground including taxi in/out. Squawk 2514.
Update12: Established ILS for 03R at 1955hrs UTC. Aircraft landed on runway 03R at Ankara’s Esenboğa International Airport (IATA: ESB, ICAO: LTAC) at 1958hrs UTC. Expected time on ground 30 minutes. 03:32hr flight concludes stage one of the ferry. Route is shown in image above.
Update11: Aircraft begins descent from FL390 at 1935hrs UTC, ~100NM from Ankara.
Update10: Aircraft enters Turkish Airspace at waypoint RIXEN at 1918hrs UTC!
Update09: Aircraft enters Bugarian airspace at 1839hrs UTC.
Update08: Aircraft brushes past the northern tip of Montenegro, and enters Serbian Airspace at 1817hrs UTC.
Update07: Aircraft enters Bosnia and Herzegovina at 1803hrs UTC
Update06: Aircraft crosses over into Croatian Airspace at 1747hrs UTC.
Update05: Aircraft leaves Italian Coast at 1742hrs UTC. Winds slow acft down to 438kts G/S.
Update04: Crew witness twilight over San Marino, Italy, at 1736hrs UTC.
Update03: Aircraft crossed into Italian Airspace at 1702UTC, 466kts, FL390. Squawk changed to 1212.
Update02: Aircraft step climbed and reached FL390 at 1649hrs UTC.
Update01: Aircraft is cruising at FL340 and maintaining a ground speed of 466kts.
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.
First Air Asia India A320 arriving at Chennai tomorrow: landmark event in Indian regional aviation; Air Asia set to clear last hurdle in grant of AOP: Route Proving Flights.
Sources in Toulouse have confirmed that VT-ATF, Air Asia India’s first A320, will depart Toulouse today evening (12th March 2014) to reach Chennai on the morning of the 13th at 09:30hrs local (IST).
Air Asia’s flight crew are already at Toulouse.
This is in agreement with an earlier estimate by the Flying Engineer, on when the aircraft will be delivered (click here).
The great circle direct distance between Toulouse (LFBO) and Chennai (VOMM) is 4,390NM. The ferry flight will however make one stop at Ankara’s (Turkey) Esenboğa International Airport (LTAC).
The aircraft is an A320-216SL (A320 airframe powered by the CFM56-5B6 engine and featuring the Sharklets (Airbus’ term for Winglets). The 56-5B engine delivers 23,500 lbf (100 kN) of thrust, per engine.
In comparison, Go Air flies the A320-214SL, which features the more expensive CFM-56-5B4, which delivers 27,000 lbf (120 kN) of thrust, per engine, and consequently allows for a higher maximum take off weight.
Air Asia India’s A320 will allow the airline to finish off its last formality: route proving flights, which essentially are dummy flights (real flight, but with no paying passengers) to either one or more of its destinations from its base, to prove to the DGCA that it can smoothly handle and meet operational requirements. Once done, and if the DGCA is satisfied, the airline will be granted its AOP, paving the way for operations to start.
The airline is expected to commence commercial operations in May 2014.
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.
Airbus has assembled the first major airframe component assembly: the engine pylon for the first A320neo to fly. The pylon was assembled at the dedicated pylon facility in St Eloi in Toulouse.
In parallel with this pylon construction, other major NEO components and subassemblies will shortly be taking shape in factories across various countries. For example, in Hamburg the centre wing-box will soon arrive from Nantes to be integrated in the fuselage, and also the rear fuselage will begin assembly there. In St. Nazaire, the forward fuselage will start assembly in January 2014.
Tigerair of Singapore, in which Singapore Airlines has a stake of 32.8%, unveiled the first A320 aircraft to be retrofitted in Asia with Sharklets. Five A320s have already been delivered to Tigerair with Sharklet-ready wings, with the retrofit work being undertaken by Sepang Aircraft Engineering in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Sharklet-ready wings are already strengthened to the necessary levels to handle the bending and twisting forces introduced by the additional aerodynamic surface. The retrofit takes just 2 days for such ready wings. Non-sharklet ready wings will need at least 13 days of work with the sharklet-retrofit kit, which will be available only in 2015.
Jet Blue made “history" in the February of 2013 by being the first operator to perform a production retrofit, on its aircraft N821JB (MSN 5417 which first flew on the 1st of December, 2012). This aircraft was produced before MSN 5428, which is now registered as 9M-AQQ, flying for Air Asia, that had made “history" as the first Sharklet Equipped A320 to be delivered.
Factory fit and production retrofit can be better understood here.
In addition to its retrofitted aircraft, 9V-TRK (MSN 5697 delivered on the 26th of July 2013 to Tigerair), Tigerair will start taking delivery of production-fitted Sharklet aircraft later this year.
Air Costa has inaugurated their flight services by landing at Bangalore (BLR, VOBL) at 07:45IST, operating as flight LB601 from Vijayawada (VGA, VOBZ). This marks a new chapter in the history of Indian Regional Aviation.
The flight was operated by VT-LNR, An Embraer 170AR, with manufacturer serial number MSN 293. Reportedly, LB601 did not operate with an airline call-sign, but rather the registration itself. Radio calls were made as “Victor Tango Lima November Romeo”, not the shortened “Victor November Romeo”. Bangalore International Airport (Kempegowda International Airport) does not yet list the flight or the airline on their website.
We congratulate Air Costa on inaugurating their scheduled regional services. This marks the beginning of a new chapter in Indian regional aviation.
Note to spotters:Not being visible on FR24, Tracking MSN 293 may be difficult as the aircraft does not seem to have an ADS-B out enabled Mode-S transponder.
An Air Costa EMB 170 prepares for its test flight at Chennai (14th October 2013)
This article talks of Air Costa’s peculiarities, as well as the costs on a particular sector and the market potential associated with that sector.
Peculiarities and Image-damage
Air Costa’s newspaper advertisement that appeared in leading dailies, on October 13th
Air Costa, which has been making the waves as a regional carrier with many peculiarities, including first class seats, added one more today, by achieving a 0% on time performance, on it’s launch date.
As was conveyed to the media a week ago, and published on their website, Air Costa was to have both launched and inaugurated its services today, by flying the Vijayawada-Bangalore sector. All other sectors have been mentioned as starting from 15th October, 2013.
Air Costa planned to inaugurate its regional air connectivity on the 14th of October, 2013, to coincide with the supposedly auspicious day of Dussehra. The usual 06:45IST departure and 07:45IST arrival was changed to a 10:30IST departure and a 11:30IST arrival to stay clear of a particular inauspicious time of the day.
But to the dismay of many spotters, who made their way to BIAL to catch the Embraer through their lens, it didn’t turn up. Bangalore briefing was contacted, and a spotter was told that there was no flight plan received for an “Air Costa flight 601”.
While start-up hiccups are understandable, calling for a press-meet and then changing plans without notification is operationally acceptable but image-damaging.
We do sincerely hope that this doesn’t reflect the future of an airline that had initially planned for turboprop Q400s and then switched to turbofan Embraer E-Jets (nothing wrong with a switch, as the E-jets opens up much longer routes, but reflects poor homework on the part of the airline), wants to offer low fares but doesn’t have the cabin of a low cost carrier (dual class cabin), publishes routes on its timetable, while the route map misses out those very routes, has been pushing the launch date far too many times, and promises the first flight only to revise that as well.
Sector Costs and Market Potential
How Air Costa is going to manage their costs is uncertain. The Embraer 170 on a 60 minute flight (Vijayawada-Bangalore) consumes, on average, approximately 900 liters of ATF. At the present ATF prices at Bengaluru, and 4% sales tax, this translates to INR 60,000. Including fuel, the operational cost is estimated at a very conservative INR 300,000 – 400,000, which will actually be much higher for a start-up airline. If we are to divide this by the 66 seats on board the airplane (60 economy + 6 first class), this translates to about INR 4,600 – 6,000 per seat, or INR 5,000 – 6,700 per seat neglecting the first class seats. Being regional, seldom will their aircraft fly with a 100% load factor, which further pushes up the cost per seat. It is further unlikely that there will be many takers for the expensive “Economy Plus” seats: the economy seats on an Embrarer are very comfortable, both in pitch and width, and upgrading to a first class seat on a 60-minute flight does not make much sense.
For a flight one month from today, Spicejet’s direct flight from Vijayawada to Bangalore is priced at INR 3,172, all-inclusive, per person. Air India, with an inconvenient stop, offers seats for 3,671 per person, and Jet Airways’ direct flight INR 5,187 per person. However, based on the fact that the Jet Airways’ 08:15 departure is the most convenient, there is a higher demand for that flight. If a person from Vijayawada wishes to wrap up business at Bangalore, in a day, he may pick Air Costa’s early morning 06:45 departure, reach Bangalore at 07:45, reach the heart of the city by 10:00am, wrap up business by 13:30, and pick the only convenient return flight at 16:40. But Air Costa will have to price economy at no less than INR 6,000 per economy seat, to break even at 90% economy-cabin load factor (54 seats), to prevent themselves from bleeding.
Air Costa’s Vijayawada-Bangalore economy all-inclusive fares start at INR 2,284 and progresses through 2,798, 3,323, 6,314 and upward based on demand, but still staying lower than the competition. How this pricing pattern covers operational costs, if ever, will be interesting to observe, as these are inaugural fares priced at INR 9, adding up to the above mentioned figures due to surcharges, fees and taxes.
Air Costa’s Bangalore-Vijayawada and Vijayawada-Bangalore may have the highest passenger loads among all carriers, simply because of the convenient timing, and pricing, if the fares continue to be priced the way they are.
It will be interesting to watch the growth of this regional airline, in the hands of an aviation first timer. You may notice a stark difference between the way Air Costa handles things and the way in which Air Asia India will manage their show.
Airbus has hosted a dedicated website, http://www.a350xwbfirstflight.com, which will webcast live the first flight of the A350XWB. According to Airbus, the “Live Webcast will begin approximately one hour before take-off and continue past landing.”
As mentioned in the previous post, the first flight is scheduled for 13:30hrs IST (0800UTC) on 14th June, 2013, with the webcast starting at 12:30 IST (0700 UTC). The first flight is a once in a lifetime experience, both for a spectator, and the aircraft!
Set your calendars, and enjoy the first flight! Click on the image on the left to lead you to the webpage!
Airbus has planned the first flight of the A350 on the 14th of June, 2013: 2 days from now. The scheduled time of A350 MSN001’s first flight is 0800hrs UTC (1000hrs Toulouse 1330hrs IST). Airbus claims, with this announcement, that the A350 program is on schedule, with entry-into-service expected in the second half of 2014. This is an interesting statement, considering that in the September of 2010, Airbus had expected the delivery of the first A350 in 2013.
The Airbus A350 is a result of the pressure exerted by airlines on Airbus, in the face of the Boeing 787’s “threat” to the Airbus A330. The A350 program was formally announced towards the end of the end of 2004, but it was only in mid 2006 that Airbus, after facing criticism for a derivative of the A330 rather than a whole new clean sheet design, announced the A350XWB: an all new airplane. In essence, the A350XWB project is a forced response from Airbus to Boeing’s 787 program.
MSN001 is an A350-941, bearing registration F-WXWB. The A350-900’s Rolls Royce Trent XWB Engines are the largest that will be fitted on an Airbus airliner, producing 374kN (almost 37,500kg force) of thrust, each. The A350-900 has the typical seating capacity of the Boeing 777-200 (314 pax in a 3 class layout), and the range of the 787-9 (~8100NM), serving as, what seems now to be the plug between the two. Observed Lufthansa’s CEO Christoph Franz, “Because of pressure mainly by the fast growing Gulf carriers, both Airbus and Boeing are being pushed to design aircraft with more range capabilities and engine power than needed by most other operators. European airlines therefore have to deal with over designed aircraft that carry additional unneeded weight”.
Here is the timeline of major developments in the life of MSN001:
January 2009: A350 XWB Design is “frozen".
November 2010: The longest fuselage panel for Airbus’ A350 XWB completes its curing process.
March 2011: The largest composite fuselage panel for Airbus’ A350 XWB completes its curing process.
July 2011: Production on a key component in the A350 XWB’s initial horizontal tail plane begins, at Airbus’ centre of excellence in Puerto Real, Spain.
August 2011: The first A350 XWB centre wing box is delivered from Airbus’ site in Nantes, France to Airbus’ St Nazaire, France facility where it eventually is assembled into the first A350 XWB fuselage.
September 2011: Wing upper cover manufactured at Airbus’ Stade, Germany is transported to Airbus’ wing assembly site in Broughton, UK. The lower wing cover made in Illescas, Spain arrives in Broughton. The first A350 XWB nose section is transported to Airbus in St Nazaire from partner company Aerolia’s site in Méaulte. Airbus aerostructures partner Premium Aerotec puts together the first forward fuselage for the A350 XWB at Nordenham, Germany.
October 2011: Airbus completes installation of the first Rolls-Royce Trent XWB flight test engine on the A380 “flying-testbed" aircraft. Airbus starts the assembly of the first A350 XWB’s horizontal tailplane (HTP) in Getafe, Spain.
November 2011: Assembly of the first A350 XWB’s 32-metre-long carbon fibre wings begins at Airbus’ recently-opened North Factory in Broughton, UK. Pre-assembly of ribs, upper and lower covers and fixed leading and trailing edges already has taken place.
December 2011: Airbus starts joining the first 21-metre long front fuselage section for the A350 XWB in Saint-Nazaire, France.
February 2012: The A350 XWB’s Rolls-Royce Trent XWB successfully makes its maiden flight aboard Airbus’ dedicated A380 “Flying-Test-Bed" aircraft.