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.
Odds and Ends: Air France v Rolls-Royce for A350; Virgin America rejigs; Last A340s sold; Heading South with SPEEA
Air France v Rollsr-Royce: The saga continues-see this Bloomberg story. We understand there is more to it than just maintenance. Rolls wants AF to order the Trent 1000 for the 787 order, too.
Virgin America: This airline, headquartered in San Francisco, has been an airline in search of a business plan. Its operations don’t have a niche and didn’t fill a void (like jetBlue created and filled at NY-JFK). It’s lost hundreds of millions of dollars. And, finally, the losses have caught up. Bloomberg has this story about aircraft order deferrals and cancellations. The deferrals are Airbus A320neos (note to Alabama: VA was going to take the first neos from the new Airbus Mobile plant in 2016).
Virgin is seeking to restructure aircraft leases, according to two industry sources. Failing to do so could lead to a Chapter 11 filing, the sources say.
Last A340s Sold: The remaining two Airbus A340-500s, originally destined for ailing Kingfisher Airlines, have been sold.
SPEEA and Boeing: Things appear to be heading south with SPEEA. This could affect Boeing’s year-end push to deliver as many as 50 787s as well as the other 7-Series.
Boeing’s Board is expected to be asked very soon, perhaps at its meeting in October, to grant Authority to Offer the 787-10 to customers, according to two sources.
A Boeing spokeswoman said that ATO for the 787-10 is expected to occur before the ATO for the 777X, since the -10 is a more straight-forward project than the X, but could not confirm the October timeline.
The straight-forward stretch of the 787-9 will have less range (about 6,900nm) than either the -8 or -9 models, which comfortably top 8,000 nm but it is expected to carry around 323 passengers, putting it squarely in the class of the 777-200ER and the A350-900.
At 6,900nm, the airplane will cover most missions required by airlines. By foregoing a new wing and added fuel tankage, the operating weight of the airplane is expected to be roughly equal to the 787-9. A slightly higher-thrust engine will be required. Rolls-Royce announced a higher thrust version of the Trent 1000 now powering the 787 at the Farnborough Air Show, and insiders said this engine is specifically intended for the 787-10.
The 787-10 is billed by Boeing as the airplane that will “kill” the Airbus A330-300, but the 787 was also billed as the airplane that would kill the A330-200. The delays in the 787 program have given Airbus time to enhance the A330 family and the rival announced gross weight, range and engine Performance Improvement Packages to the 300 (and which are anticipated for the 200) at the Farnborough Air Show.
Airbus is also selling the A330 family at discounts to the 787 family today and this will continue in the future. The lower capital costs, Airbus believes, allows the A330 to remain competitive. Airbus COO-Customers John Leahy told us that Airbus expects to sell the A330 beyond 2020.
The 787-10 would replace the 777-200ER, which has largely been killed by the A350-900.
Bloomberg News has this report that the Air France-KLM talks for 25 Airbus A350s remain stalled over the long-running dispute between the company and Rolls-Royce over AF’s desire to overhaul the Trent XWB engines.
The Air France-KLM group offers its own maintenance, repair and overhaul services and wants the ability to provide MRO to others as well as perform the work itself.
Engine suppliers are loath to grant MRO rights to others. Engines are often sold at deep discounts, and in extreme cases, even given to airlines in exchange for the exclusive parts and MRO contracts. This is where the engine makers truly make their profits.
Rolls-Royce is known to be particularly hard-nosed in this regard.
So how will the log-jam be broken?
Rolls wants Air France to order the Trent 1000 for the 25 Boeing 787 orders announced last year. Given the long relationship between Air France and GE, the supplier on AF’s current fleet of a variety of aircraft, this will be a tough pill to swallow. But don’t count it out.
Plane Talking has an interesting think piece about the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine that powers the Qantas Airbus A380.
As readers know, a Trent 900 had an uncontained failure on QF32 that severely damaged the A380. Qantas still hasn’t returned the A380 fleet to full service while questions about the Trent 900 remain unresolved.
Rolls-Royce has been uncommunicative to Qantas, and to Airbus, according to both companies, adding difficulties to the recovery of the program.
This portends something that has greater implications.