Airbus last week announced additional gross weight upgrades and improvements to the A330-200/300 that increase range and reduce fuel burn. Aviation Week has this story about the enhancements.
This is the latest in a series of improvements taking advantage of the four year delay in the Boeing 787 program that Airbus believes will enable the airplane, which first entered service in 1994, to remain viable well into the 2020 decade.
Boeing launched the 787 in December 2003 and promptly claimed the aircraft would kill the A330. Had the aircraft entered service in May 2008 as originally planned, Boeing might have been able to make strides to do so. But delays allowed Airbus time to incorporate several Performance Improvement Packages (PIPs). The European company has sold more A330s post-787 launch than it did before.
The latest improvements give the A330-300 an anticipated range of more than 6,000nm, compared with less than 4,000nm when the airplane entered service.
There appears to be a lot of focus on delays in delivering the next Boeing 787s to United Airlines–which has received one–but neither Boeing or United is saying what’s behind the delays. (Update, Dec. 1: one of the three was delivered yesterday.)
According to the Ascend data base, line numbers 45, 50 and 52 are supposed to be delivered this year and 55 and 77 are supposed to be delivered in January. All are with GEnx engines.
Here are some possible reasons for the delay:
- Rework is the obvious one. The first “clean” airplane to come off the Boeing assembly line in Everett was around line #66. The lower the line number, the more rework. UAL’s line numbers are higher, but rework is still necessary.
- GEnx engines. The failures on the 787 and 747-8 GEnx engines were unrelated and, as these things go, not especially severe, but fixing them is, we are told, complex for engines already assembled. Qatar refused delivery of its first 787 because of the GEnx issue. Contractually delivery has been accepted but the airline also wanted additional IFE (inflight entertainment equipment) installed and physically hasn’t accepted delivery. So…
- IFE upgrades: These UAL 787s were ordered by Continental Airlines prior to the merger and it’s been reported in the press that the delays in Boeing’s delivery left UA/CO will older, less sophisticated Buyer Furnished Equipment (the IFE). Maybe UAL wants more current IFE?
We were asked by media if this is another blow to the 787 program. We don’t think so. At this point, we haven’t heard of anything about the reason for the delay and pretty well shrugged it off anyway.
Meanwhile, Airbus is in talks with at least some of its A380 customers seeking compensation for the operational interruptions resulting from required inspections related to wing rub brace cracking. Compensation could amount to millions of Euros per customer.
Here are our closing views of the PAS:
Boeing did very well at the show. We know the headlines almost universally say Boeing had a bad show (which it didn’t) and was trounced by Airbus (which it was), but people easily overlook comparing Boeing’s performance vs. previous air shows.
Boeing announced more than 140 orders worth some $22bn–about equal to the 2009 Paris Air Show. By anyone’s standards, this ain’t shabby. Boeing often announces low numbers at air shows, claiming it doesn’t hold orders for the shows and Airbus does. We regard this as so much poppycock, because we know customers drive announcements and both Airbus and Boeing hold announcements for air shows at customer requests.
London, England: GE Aviation, CFM International and Safran, all partners in the CFM group that makes the CFM56 engine that’s on the Boeing 737-300 through 900 and about half of the Airbus A320 family and some A340 models, said Sunday it is formally proceeding with what was the R&D LEAP 56 project, committing to the renamed LEAP-X.
Certification is aimed for 2016, two years before Airbus recently said it plans to have a replacement for the A320 family enter service and four years before Boeing’s latest plans to have a successor to the 737.
GE officials declined to speculate whether the 2016 certification will cause Airbus and Boeing to accelerate the own development plans.
The LEAP-X promises 16% lower fuel burn than the CFM56. The GE group expects airframe improvements to further lower operating costs.
Bombardier launches CSeries
Also on Sunday Bombardier launched the 110-130 seat CSeries (it can also seat up to 149 in maximum configuration) following a provisional order from Lufthansa German Airlines for 30+30. The Reuters story may be found here. The plane will compete with the smallest A318/A319 and Boeing 737-600/700 airplanes. Bombardier says fuel burn for its new plane will be at least 20% less than the Airbus or Boeing products.
Bombardier also will tap launch aid from the governments of Canada, Northern Ireland and the Canadian Province of Quebec.
It will be interesting to see whether Boeing objects, as it has over launch aid for Airbus.
Dominic Gates of The Seattle Times took a pre-announcement look at the CSeries within this larger topic and in this specific story in Sunday’s paper. He also profiles Pat Shanahan, the head of Boeing’s 787 program, who will give his quarterly update Tuesday of the 787 at the Farnborough Air Show.
The London Sunday Telegraph published this full page article about Boeing, the 787 and an interview with Boeing CEO James McNerney.