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.
ATR received EASA certification for its high-density cabin layout which fits 78 seats, using the existing airframe which was until recently certified for a maximum of 74 seats. Cebu Pacific, the leading Phillipines low cost airline, is the launch customer of this new configuration of the ATR 72-600. The airline had formally announced an order for 16 ATR72-600s during the Paris Air Show with options to acquire an additional 10 ATR 72-600, worth US$673 million at list prices.
Cebu Pacific will receive its 78 seat aircraft in August 2016. According to ATR, ” The additional seats are very valuable for airlines operating in the regions where traffic grows rapidly and the demand is highly sensitive to fare”. According to Thierry Casale, ATR Senior Vice President Programmes, “The demand comes from airlines, especially in the Southeast Asian market, requesting to further optimize the cabin space and to increase the number of available seats for regional flights".
In August 2014, Thailand’s Nok Air took delivery of an 86 seat Bombardier Q400, becoming the launch operator for the extra capacity seating configuration. Bombardier was able to squeeze in 86 seats at 29 inches seat pitch by shifting the aft galley into the aft cargo hold, thereby reducing aft cargo space by 20%. Forward baggage hold is done away with.
ATR can pack in 78 seats by reducing seat pitch to 28 inches, downsizing and moving the aft galley into the rear cargo compartment, and by placing two rear facing seats in the first row, which take up a part of the otherwise forward right cargo hold, thereby reducing forward cargo space. ATR’s target is an 80 seat ATR 72, which will be possible only with four, rear facing seats on the first row. Such seats do not recline.
The configuration is built with the current SFE Geven Classic seats, requiring no special or different seats.
Interestingly, demand for these configurations have come exclusively from South East Asian low cost operators. According to a study that the ‘Association of Southeast Asian Nations DNA’ conducted, Filipinos are the second shortest race in the South East Asian region, with males measuring 5 feet 3.7 inches. Thailand’s males are the second tallest, at an average 5 feet 6.9 inches. This makes Filipino men 4.8% shorter than the average Thai man, while a 28 inch seat pitch is only 3.4% lesser than a 29 inch seat pitch. Assuming similar thin seats on both aircraft, Filipinos, due to their height, may feel as comfortable, if not more comfortable, than Thai men flying in the high density Q400.
Indonesian males are the shortest in the South East Asian region, at 5 feet 2 inches, which makes the 78 seat variant well suited for the Indonesian market. If airlines are scientifically driven, airlines in other countries may not opt for the 78 seat variant, unless the business model decides otherwise.
The 78 seat ATR 72 seats 4 more than the until-recent maximum of 74. Assuming a 100% seat factor, 4 extra passengers will burn around 11 kg additional fuel on a 250NM sector, assuming ancillary cargo remains unchanged. This results in a 1.3% fuel burn increase on a 250NM sector, or a 0.65% increase in costs assuming fuel is 50% of the total operating expenses. Yet, due to the four additional seats, the cost per seat, after including the fuel increase, drops by 4.5% on a 250NM sector. We ignore possible increased maintenance costs due to slightly higher stressed operations.
This allows an airline to drop average fares by down to 4.5% to remain competitive in the market at unchanged margins.
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.
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.
An apparently “lesser known” fact about the Airbus A320 is the dive speed, its significance, and the associated consequences.
A Flight Crew Bulletin detailing the dive speeds and other speeds above VMO/MMO. (Click to enlarge)
The dive speed is the absolute maximum speed above which the aircraft must not fly. Typically, to achieve this speed, the aircraft must enter a dive (steep descent), as the engines cannot produce sufficient thrust to overcome aerodynamic drag in level flight. At the dive speed, excessive aircraft vibrations develop which put the aircraft structural integrity at stake.
On the Airbus fly by wire aircraft, it is not possible to reach the dive speed, due to the flight envelope protections available in normal law. If the sidestick is maintained full forward, and the airspeed crosses VMO/MMO, the pitch nose-down authority smoothly reduces to zero at approximately VMO +16 / MMO + 0.04. This however, does not guarantee the airspeed stabilizing at this speed.
If MMO + 0.04 / VMO + 20kts is reached or exceeded, then a structural inspection is necessary. Beyond MD (= MMO+0.07) / VD (= VMO + 31kts) (A320 family), structural disintegration can occur.
Here are the speeds for the A320, in Mach number and Kts. The lesser value must always be respected, at all times:
Graphical representation of the speeds, their significance & consequences. HSP is High Speed protection range.
MD/VD = M0.89/381kts
Maximum Operating Speeds:
MMO/VMO = M0.82/350kts.
Expedite Descent (as on FCU, if available)
The graphical representation of speeds above VMO/MMO, on the left (made by The Flying Engineer), gives you a clearer picture of the speeds, their significance for the FBW system, and the consequences.
To understand the seriousness of the VD/MD, take a look at the video below, which involves the VD/MD testing of the Airbus A380. The MD for the A380 is Mach 0.96, and the test crew dread taking the airplane that far.