Boeing has completed certification flight testing on its 747-8 Intercontinental test fleet, the company confirms, setting the jumbo on a path to US Federal Aviation Administration approval later this quarter.
After flying from Barbados to Houston today, the aircraft marked the completion of its systems functionality and reliability (F&R) flight testing, the final phase of its evaluations. RC003, flying as BOE440, signifying the 1440th 747 built, is currently enroute to Paine Field. The aircraft was non-instrumented for the trials.
The airframer quietly announced in its 10Q US Securities and Exchange Commission last week that the first delivery of a VIP configured "green" 747-8I would slip to 2012, citing "a delay in flight testing and the time required to incorporate all flight test driven changes."
While flying for FAA certification credit is complete, the test fleet of three aircraft will continue post-certification testing and additional validation of the VIP and airline interiors.
Further, with the completion of extended operations (ETOPS) and F&R trials, the 747-8I becomes the first four-engine passenger aircraft to complete ETOPS evaluations. ETOPS rules were updated in 2007 to include four-engine aircraft starting in 2015, though Boeing opted to include it in the Intercontinental's certification ahead of the requirement.
UPDATE: Boeing clarified the status of ETOPS certification for the 747-8I, saying that because it was not required by the initial FAA requirements it was not completed as part of the certification trials that wrapped up on October 31. Continued flying of the test fleet will include completion of the ETOPS validation on the 747-8I in the coming days, says Boeing.
Because of overlapping certification efforts, the -8F will also be certified under ETOPS rules. The freighter did not undergo ETOPS testing because its customers did not require it for its shorter missions.
Boeing began the 747-8I's flight test campaign on March 20 with RC001's first flight from Paine Field.
Delivery to Lufthansa, whose RC021 served as test aircraft, will eventually become D-ABYE, is expected in the first quarter of 2012.
I'm back stateside recovering from jetlag after last week's five day tour of Asia, and I've decided to start Movie Monday a bit earlier than usual. Typically I post Movie Monday around 6:30 AM ET, but as it's just a few hours into Monday in Tokyo and Hong Kong, it was only right to post a bit a head of schedule. Today's Movie Monday is also the second installment (see the first) of the 787's entry into service. Running just over 12 minutes, we take you through the day and on board JA801A for All Nippon Airways first commercial service, it's special charter to Hong Kong. Another post will follow later this week covering observations and impressions from the new jet. Enjoy!
TOKYO -- What a whirlwind week. This 777-300ER, JA787A (also my inbound aircraft) will be my home for the next 13 hours as I cross the International Date Line and have one very, very long Friday. Needless to say, there's a significant contrast going from a 787 back to the 777 cabin.
The flight will give me an opportunity to finish the first flight video, as well as dig into a look at what it's like to fly on 787. Additionally, it will be my first chance to look at the transcript of third quarter Boeing earnings call and the company's 10Q filing which quietly announced fresh slips on the 787-9 and 747-8I programs.
I may just try and catch a bit of shuteye too. Catch you on the other side of the world.
HONG KONG -- Safe to say my body clock has no clue which way is up at the moment, but before I retire for the night, I wanted to make sure the photos from today's flight were shared. The video blog will follow tomorrow (most likely) but this set of 144 should give you a still sense of what the day was during today's All Nippon's first 787 flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong.
HONG KONG - Quick take: Boeing third quarter earnings are just out now and a quick glance puts deliveries of 747-8s and 787s between 15 and 20 down from 25 to 30, which was lowered in July from 25 to 40. Notably absent from today's 787 service entry events was an explicit message by Boeing 787 vice president and general manager Scott Fancher that 10 787s a month by the end of 2013 was the plan. Reading between the lines, it was just never said, but saying the company was "confident" in the plan it had come up with to increase 787 output.
More importantly, Boeing has set the initial 787 accounting block at 1,100 a very, very large figure and higher than the estimates last week of around 1,000 deliveries. That number began nudging up as company contacts indicated to analysts that the accounting figure could rise as high as 1,200 before today's disclosure. This figure places the achievement of 787 profitability prospects over a production landscape of more than a decade, presuming the company meets 120 per year at the end of 2013.
TOKYO -- I've done what feels like dozens of these travel day posts over the last four years, but needless to say, this one is different. This is JA801A, Airplane Eight, ZA101, and today by a different name: All Nippon Flight 7871. It will be a four-and-a-half hour flight aboard this month-old Boeing 787-881 Dreamliner to Chek Lap Kok airport in Hong Kong, filled to capacity with 264 aboard. I'm in seat 12C with a view of the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries wing made southwest of here in Nagoya and joined to the Fuji Heavy Industries center wing box by Boeing in Everett, Washington for final assembly. Today, the Dreamliner begins its service life.
TOKYO -- It's quite early in the morning (late at night) here in Japan and jetlag is right on time. With checkout from the hotel literally hours away to go back to the airport, I felt rather than tossing and turning, it was better to publish part one of the video journal from this week's 787 service entry with All Nippon Airways. Part one - "Getting There" - takes you onboard ANA flight 9 from JFK to NRT and inside the cabin with the airline's new long-haul product. Follow Twitter updates from me and newly-minted Singapore-based Flightglobal journo Mavis Toh for all the latest on the 787's maiden service from Narita to Hong Kong.
NEW YORK -- The Boeing 787 is less than two days away from entering service with All Nippon Airways. I'm bound for Japan to cover the first journey - flight 7871 - from Tokyo to Hong Kong. Before that flight gets underway, I first have to get to Japan. I started the journey yesterday evening with a quick hop from DC on a CRJ and I've transitioned to something slightly larger for the next leg. This Boeing 777-300ER will be my home for the next 14 hours. As luck (coincidence) would have it, this 16 month old 777 is registered JA787A. Fitted with the new Inspiration of Japan interior, it is a preview of what the 787's long haul seating will be when is delivered later this year. Time for me to sign off. Next stop Japan.
NEW YORK -- I'm waiting for my flight to Tokyo at John F. Kennedy International Airport and I wanted to share Flightglobal's 787 service entry special report. The package, but together by Flight journalists John Croft, Siva Govindasamy, Michael Gubisch, Max Kingsley-Jones, Mary Kirby, Steve Trimble, Niall O'Keeffe and myself, covers many elements of the program. The supplement, which was published last week, looks both forward and backward at how Boeing arrived at this moment, tracing the origins of the aircraft and its supply chain and examining what the future holds for the first majority composite jetliner in the cabin, the market and in operation.
There's also a companion website that goes with the package, that includes even more content, as well as an interactive cutaway of ANA's first 264-seat 787-8, which enters service on Wednesday between Tokyo Narita and Hong Kong.
Video 1 Spirit AeroSystems St. Nazaire site vice president and general manager Dan Wheeler. Video 2 Spirit AeroSystems senior manager Jeff Russell
An Antonov An-124 landed at Kinston Regional Airport in North Carolina yesterday, preparing for a special delivery from Spirit AeroSystems. The massive Russian cargo jet will transport composite panels that will make up the first center fuselage of the A350-900 as early as today, says a source familiar with the plan. The panels will be flown to the company's new St. Nazaire, France facility, where they will be built-up to create the aircraft's Section 15 barrel of MSN1.
UPDATE 10/24: The first panels from Spirit were delivered on Sunday. Operating as Polet Flight 4478, the An-124 departed from Kinston enroute to Bangor on Saturday for a fuel stop before crossing the Atlantic for St. Nazaire. The Wichita Eagle reported the shipment included the two side and crown panels (shown in blue and green), while the lower panels (shown in purple) will be delivered by the end of the year. Final build-up of the center fuselage is set to begin in early 2012, pushing the Airbus final assembly target for MSN001 MSN5000 into next year.
The An-124 will likely be a rare sight in Kinston as
Spirit plans to typically deliver its fuselage panels by boat to France, while its wing spars, also built in North Carolina, will be dispatched to Prestwick,
Scotland on their way to Broughton in the UK. The shipment will include the 65 ft-long upper crown panel, twin side panels that include door three, and lower shells, weighing nearly 9,000lbs.
Already awaiting the arrival of the panels is the aircraft's center wing box, which was delivered to the Airbus St. Nazaire site on August 9. Once complete, Section 15 will move to Airbus next door for mating with the lower shell, center wing box and keel beam.
While no less of a complex supply chain compared to Boeing's 787
operations, St. Nazaire serves an
integration supersite, that will bring together the completed center
section components before being flown to Toulouse aboard the A300-600ST Beluga.
Despite being completely separate entities, Airbus has opted for a supersite model that places its supplier's operation in the same
area as its own activities. Notably, Spirit is the only major
structural supplier on the A350 that is not either Airbus itself or one of its
St. Nazaire is also responsible for bringing together the nose Sections 11 and 12, which were delivered last month from Aerolia in Méaulte, France where they will be mated with Sections 13 and 14, the forward fuselage structure fabricated in Nordenham, Germany by Premium Aerotec, another wholly-owned Airbus subsidiary. The integration and equipping of those sections will eventually create the entire flight deck and forward fuselage of the A350 before it is flown to Toulouse for final assembly.
On the same day as All Nippon Airways will fly its maiden commercial service aboard the 787, Boeing will report its third quarter earnings. The October 26 call with analysts and media will provide the first concrete details about the company's expectations on the 787's long-term financial health and will see the disclosure of the initial accounting quantity, widely expected to spread its investment over as many as 1,000 deliveries to maintain a position of profitability.
UPDATE 10/21: Boeing emphasizes its selection of its initial accounting quantity is not determined in an effort to "maintain a position of profitability", but rather is determined through a "multi-diciplinary process"..."independently of the profitability calculation in accordance with GAAP and rigorous, externally audited procedures." The company says the figure, which will be disclosed on Wednesday, "is our estimate of the quantity of airplanes that will be produced for delivery under existing and anticipated contracts. It is bounded by our ability to make reasonably dependable estimates of both revenue and cost."
Large aerospace projects use an accounting method known as program accounting, which allows Boeing to take the total sum of its upfront investment and spread it across a block of deliveries. As Boeing explained in its 1998 Annual Report (PDF):
Commercial aircraft programs are planned, committed and facilitized based on long-term delivery forecasts, normally for quantities in excess of contractually firm orders. Cost of sales for the 737, 747, 757, 767 and 777 commercial aircraft programs is determined under the program method of accounting based on estimated average total cost and revenue for the current program quantity.
The program method of accounting effectively amortizes or averages tooling and special equipment costs, as well as unit production costs, over the program quantity. Because of the higher unit production costs experienced at the beginning of a new program and the substantial investment required for initial tooling and special equipment, new commercial jet aircraft programs normally have lower operating profit margins than established programs.
While the final figure will not be known until next week, Boeing CFO
James Bell said on the company's second quarter earnings call on July 27: "Given the tremendous success of this
product in the marketplace with
over 820 airplanes in backlog. The initial accounting quantity will be
substantially higher than previous new program initial quantities."
This represents a significant shift in Boeing's historical accounting behavior, according to that same 1998 report:
"The initial program quantities for the 777 program and the 737-600/700/800/900 (Next-Generation 737) programs had been established at 400 units, the same initial program quantity as used for the 747, 757 and 767 programs."
Bell's justification for raising the initial accounting quantity due to the 787's "the tremendous success of this product in the marketplace" - whose orders now stand at 797 - only further illustrates the break with the company's past accounting practices. The Next Generation 737 had accumulated around 700 orders at the time of the 737-700's first delivery to Southwest in December 1997, breaking 800 in March 1998, 900 in May and 1,000 by August. At the time, it was the fastest selling aircraft in commercial aviation history.
Despite the unprecedented sales success, after its late 1997 production debacle that significantly slowed the company's production ramp up, Boeing declared it wouldn't make a penny on any of its first 400 Next Generation 737 deliveries, and in fact, it would lose $1.05 billion across all 400.
Boeing CEO Jim McNerney said at the 787's first delivery he expected the
program to breakeven before the end of the decade. The "breakeven"
was not on its entire investment, but rather on a recurring basis,
meaning that by sometime before 2020 each 787 that is delivered will sell
for a price higher than it cost to build the aircraft.
McNerney's statement indicates that each 787 delivery between now and 2015 - at the earliest - will lose money, before revenue can even begin to pay off the initial investment, let alone the lost cash on each of the deliveries that preceded. Boeing holds $16.2 billion in inventory on 787s spread across some 40-plus aircraft as of June 30, averaging $300 to $400 million per aircraft.
Though McNerney - referring to the company's method of program accounting - assured reporters: "In the way these planes are accounted for, we will be profitable from day one."
With three and a half years of delays and billions in cost overruns and supplier acquisitions, Boeing is facing a precarious accounting question for how it manages its astronomical investment, especially in the face of hundreds of poorly priced orders that are weighing on its backlog. The disclosure that takes place next week may shape Boeing's fortunes for decades to come.
A well-worn A380 MSN001 rolled out a hangar in Toulouse, France yesterday sporting a newly installed Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine. The powerplant, rated at 84,000lbs of thrust, will continue to advance Rolls-Royce's certification program for the new engine, which will eventually power the Airbus A350 XWB. The 118in (300cm) diameter fan of the Trent XWB-84 is only slightly larger than that of the three 116in (294cm) Trent 900s that are flying along side the XWB-84.
A shrunken A350-800, whose service entry has slipped to mid-2016, will be powered by a 75,000lb Trent-75, though the type has seen a steady flow of customers away from the variant.
For the A350-1000, a first engine run of its 97,000lb thrust fan is expected in mid-2014, with entry into service to follow three years later. The 2017 availability allows Rolls to incorporate technology from its three-shaft Advance3 engine design into the enhanced Trent XWB, though the improvement in performance on the A350-1000 has also drawn the ire of some customers.
Enders, by his own acknowledgement, has made a "big jump" in technology with "a lot of unknowns" on the A350, which, at the insistence of customers, was required in 2006 to abandon its original composite wing and A330 metallic fuselage design. Enders' attitude about the -1000 is illustrative of the balancing act
the airframer must walk between not increasing the complexity of its own
engineering and production operations - thus driving up its cost -
while managing the high expectations of its biggest customers.
Though Enders has drawn a line in the sand, telling Flight International the A350-1000 will not be changed to appease individual customers: "For us, that is the solution," he said. "We're not going to redesign it every half-year."
Without the prospect of a clean-sheet design from Western manufacturers seating 150 to 210 passengers for at least a decade and a half, improving the current and future generations of 737s and A320s has put incremental improvement at the forefront of aircraft design. From in-flight entertainment and lightweight seats to wingtip treatments, the opportunities for suppliers to exploit the airframe status quo will mean big business for those trying to wring every ounce of performance from existing designs.
Joe Clark, CEO of Aviation Partners, redefined improvement in incremental efficiency a decade ago, transforming our visual expectations of what an efficient aircraft should look like, and now he's trying to do it again.
This time, Clark and his team of aerodynamicists have taken the blended winglet concept and turned it on its head. Literally. Seattle-based Aviation Partners unveiled for the first time at NBAA in Las Vegas last week its blended split winglet concept. Building on the blended winglet that is fitted more than 4,500 aircraft and nearly every Next Generation 737 that exits Boeing's Renton line, Aviation Partners has added a ventral strake and scimitar tips to the now-familiar design.
"The concept works for any airplane," says Clark, whose enthusiasm for his product is almost contagious. "It puts very little load increase into the wing, which is good. It's retrofittable on most winglets, both the scimitar tips and the ventral strake. We've done a lot of [computational fluid dynamics] work combining these all together to get us a performance of about 40% better than a normal winglet. So with winglets you'd get 5-7%, this you'll get 7-9.5%."
"For 2-3%, that's a huge number" for airlines whose biggest single cost is fuel, says Clark.
The retrofit package, he estimates, would see the skins removed from the airplane, installing a clevis fitting and some local beef up of the winglet, and would cost roughly $240,000 for operators, or about 40% more than the $600,000 for an existing set of winglets.
For airframers, the cost of developing a new aircraft, achieving a 20% improvement in fuel efficiency can run $7-10 billion, a conservative estimate as illustrated by the A380 and 787. To achieve an improvement of 2%, estimates Clark, runs at $30 to 40 million for a flight test and certification campaign, just 3% of the cost compared to an all-new clean sheet development program.
That exponential growth in the cost of an all-at-once leap in efficiency underscores the challenge of building all-new aircraft in the 21st century. Applying Red-Blue and London School of Economics academic Dr. Theodore Piepenbrock's Theory of the Evolution of Business Ecosystems, fewer options exist for major leaps in improvement. The mature "Red" environment of jetliner manufacturing likens steady incremental improvement to designing a better camel, a system built for long-term resilience not short-term speed, explains Piepenbrock's work.
"I've always told people that we're like what AMG is to Mercedes," says Clark of Aviation Partners' work. "They build fabulous cars, we just improve the performance of them. We're the refiners. As long as these big companies look at us that way, we can be very helpful to them."
Airbus plans to introduce its own "sharklet" winglet design on the A320 family next year, which will carry over to the A320neo, while Boeing will continue its current Aviation Partners Boeing winglet - a joint venture with Aviation Partners on the 737 MAX. Boeing, in the hunt for more efficiency improvement on the MAX, could find itself looking to the blended split winglet for its extra push.
The new patented scimitar tips, says Clark, are airfoils in themselves, contributing a half-percent to the overall drag improvement: "The scimitar adds quite a bit. Our CFD analysis shows the more careful you are with these tip vortexes, the better the performance is, so we've refined it to quite a good level in studying this area."
The company's experience developing and proving the efficiency gains with winglets has been significantly refined with its proprietary CFD models, each of which is tailored to a given airframe before they're even flown.
"When we did the 767 winglets, we never did a prototype and we hit the performance within one-tenth of one percent," said Clark, who also completed 75h of flight testing of a spiroid winglet design aboard his Falcon 50 earlier this year, validating an 11% improvement in drag.
Clark acknowledges that the new split design may not be right for all aircraft configurations: "Certain airplanes it's more difficult because their wings are lower, but we may use part of it, for example on a Falcon, we may use the scimitar tip and not have the ventral strake. You wouldn't get as much performance, but you'd get more. On a higher-wing airplane, one that's got a high wings, engine pods below like a Boeing or and Airbus, it's a lot easier."
No decision has been made about an aircraft as a platform for flight testing the blended split winglet concept, though Clark hopes to begin flight testing in the next six months.
Today's Movie Monday is about commercial aerospace, but from a slightly higher altitude. This National Geographic documentary takes you inside the development of Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites' White Knight Two and Spaceship Two for Virgin Galactic. If this is your first introduction to VG, the company's goal is to achieve regular commercial space tourism and science missions with suborbital flights.
The intimate look at the development of these commercial spacecraft takes you from 2008 up to about a year ago when SS2 made its first glide flight in the skies over the Mojave Desert. NatGeo had a view from virtually every angle from inside the hangar to SpaceShipTwo's cockpit. Virgin Galactic Will it Fly? runs just over 45 minutes. Enjoy!
This video, posted yesterday, on YouTube by Clay Lacy Aviation, a major Fixed-Base Operator (FBO) based out of Boeing Field, captured an extended air-to-air photo shoot with ZA002. The nearly five-minute video was shot on the sunny side of the cloudy skies in the Pacific Northwest. Make sure to watch this one at full screen at 1080p resolution. Call it a short Movie Saturday, if you will.
Quick item from the Department of Things That Probably Weren't Meant to be Posted on the Internet: WSJ.com inexplicably posted an announcement from Nimrod Capital LLC, which today bought the first of three A380s it is leasing to Emirates, each for 12 years.
All the headlines have been focused on China Southern's first A380 delivery today, but for Doric Nimrod Air Two Limited, MSN077 is their first aircraft, and the 16th of 90 that the Dubai-based carrier has on order.
Doric Nimrod Air Two Limited (the "Company") is pleased to announce that its wholly owned subsidiary, MSN 077 Limited (the "Subsidiary"), has today acquired an Airbus A380-800 aircraft bearing manufacturer's serial number 077 (the "Aircraft") for the sum of US$234,000,000. The Aircraft was delivered to the Subsidiary today at the Airbus delivery centre in Hamburg, Germany.
The Airbus list price of an A380 currently stands at $375.3 million, providing an interesting glimpse into what Airbus' largest superjumbo customer is paying for its new aircraft. At $234 million, Emirates is receiving a 38% discount off list price, which is not far off the industry standard for the magnitude of the carrier's order.
What's not clear from this figure is if the price of the Engine Alliance GP7200 engines, which list for $16.6 million each, is included in that price. Further, what share of the price includes the extensive interior customization and in-flight entertainment is also not known, but at the price Nimrod is paying, you begin to get a rough sense of the share that revenue that actually goes back to Airbus.
With yesterday's delivery of the first 747-8F to Cargolux, the type's launch customer has taken a second jumbo freighter today. RC504 is currently enroute to Luxembourg after departing Paine Field shortly before 1 PM PT.
Also taking place today, the second 787 has been delivered to All Nippon Airways and a flyaway to Japan is expected in the days to come, several sources tell FlightBlogger.
Airplane 24, ZA103, will join Airplane Eight in Tokyo ahead of the formal service entry of the new majority-composite jetliner on October 26 on a special charter between Tokyo-Narita and Hong Kong. The two aircraft, each painted in special ANA livery, will enter scheduled revenue on November 1 connecting Tokyo-Haneda and Hiroshima and Okayama.
Airplane 45, the first 787 for United Airlines, departed Building 40-26 last night headed for the paint hangar. The aircraft, will be delivered to United in the second half of 2012, now accounting for more than eight months of additional delay beyond the airline's assessment from the middle of last year.
The aircraft was to have inaugurated service to Auckland, New Zealand next month, but is now not scheduled to arrive in the airline's fleet until sometime after July 1, 2012, at the earliest, said CEO Jeff Smisek. The carrier now expects to see five 787s in 2012, instead of six.
United did not respond to a request for explanation by Flightglobal.
Boeing will deliver its first 747-8 freighter today to Cargolux, breaking an impasse over a contractual dispute, sources confirm.
The first 747-8F LC-VCB will be handed over to the carrier today with a second, LC-VCD, to be delivered October 13.
Cargolux, Boeing, General Electric, which supplies the GEnx-2B engines for the new jumbo freighter, have been wrangling over a contractual dispute surrounding the performance of the aircraft, which stalled the planned first delivery on September 19.
Boeing declined to confirm it plans to deliver the first 747-8F today.
Though Akbar Al-Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, a 35% stakeholder in Cargolux, told reporters at the delivery of Qatar's 100th aircraft the cargo carrier planned to take delivery on October 12 after approving the order at a planned October 7 board meeting.
On October 7, Cargolux announced that it had made progress with Boeing and GE, but a final resolution had not been secured.
Further, a flight plan has been filed for today under a Cargolux flight number for a 747-8F from Paine Field to Seattle-Tacoma International airport, indicating an imminent delivery to the carrier.
LAS VEGAS -- Citing change incorporation stemming from flight test, Boeing Business Jets president Steve Taylor says the first and only delivery of the 747-8I in 2011 will be "right at the end of the year".
"There's not a lot of margin", says Taylor of the 747-8I, which is expected to be certified late in the fourth quarter.
"We won't get three to five, the plan is to get one. And it's challenging," said Taylor today of the 2011 747-8I deliveries.
Almost exactly one year ago at NBAA 2010, Taylor said Boeing planned to begin 747-8I flight testing in March, which it achieved, and anticipated a four month flight test program.
At the time Boeing aimed to deliver the first five 747-8Is to VIP customers before the end of 2011.
"I lay awake at night trying to figure out how I'm going to deliver five of them in the compressed period we have," said Taylor in 2010.
Further putting pressure on flight test, weeks after that October 2010 estimate, Boeing suffered a fire aboard one of its 787 flight test aircraft, extending the majority-composite jetliner's certification effort by approximately seven months.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh said in July the company planned to deliver its first green 747-8I to a completion center in early-December.
Boeing forecasts delivering 25 to 30 747-8 and 787 aircraft in 2011 and Taylor declined to discuss any potential impact on that estimate, citing the US Securities and Exchange Commission quiet period ahead of the company's quarterly earnings call on October 26.
Though, Taylor did say that the 25 to 30 estimate, which was revised downward in July, was developed when the company had already accepted that reality" of a single 747-8I delivery "before that plan came along".
Boeing reduced its overall 2011 forecast for its new program deliveries from 25 to 40 down to 25 to 30.
The airframer plans to deliver its first passenger configured 747-8I to Lufthansa in Spring 2012, and Taylor says the company has been in close communication with its customers about its delivery schedule.
"All of our customers are aware exactly where we are. We're talking directly with them, they know what's going on, there's no surprise that's happening behind the scenes here."
At Sunday's NBAA press day, Switzerland-based Comlux ordered two green SSJ100s which will be converted to an SBJ at the VIP charter company's Indianapolis, Indiana facility starting in 2014. The aircraft will be fitted with auxiliary fuel tanks in the factory in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Russia to achieve non-stop London-New York and Moscow-Dubai flights.
The name Comlux may be unfamiliar in commercial aviation,
but the Zurich-based company operates a fleet of 19 aircraft, including
five A320 ACJ family aircraft, seven Bombardier Global and three
Challenger family aircraft, as well as a Dassault Falcon 900LX and
While it remains a modest order, Comlux, which has become a staple at NBAA and MEBA shows in past years, bringing
its Airbus ACJs to the static display, has thrown its weight behind the Russian regional jet, providing an unexpected Western stamp of approval from a major industry player.
Ahead of the 2011 National Business Aviation Association conference in Las Vegas, which begins on Sunday, Pratt & Whitney Canada invited me to take a closer look at the Pacific Aerospace P-750 XSTOL and the engine that powers it, the PT6A.
The XSTOL, which stands for extreme short take off and landing, is a designation given by the New Zealand-based airframer when an aircraft can take-off with a payload in excess of its empty weight in under 800ft. At its core, the P-750's missions include a 4,000lb payload on short field takeoff capability on semi-prepared runways, aerial survey, crop dusting, fire fighting or carrying up to 17 skydivers to dump at altitude. We'll talk about that last mission a bit more later on.
That performance is due, in part, to the Cresco's thick wing and a span of 42ft (12.8m), 305sq ft (28.34 sq m) wing area and pronounced outboard dihedral. The design of the P-750 was derived by combining the engine and wings of the older Pacific Aerospace Cresco crop duster with a new large fuselage design and modified empennage. The type made its first flight in 2001 and was certified in 2004.
The other part is the 750hp (560kW) PT6A-34 engine selected by Pacific to power the P-750, which is significant for an aircraft whose empty weight is only 3,100lbs.
Pratt & Whitney Canada started mass production of the PT6 in 1963, and is arguably aviation's most resilient turbine engine design, evolving incrementally over time with each new application. The P-750 is one of 130 different aircraft that have been powered by the PT6.
The engine's first application, the Beechcraft Model 18, first flew in May 1961 and was intended as a replacement of the P&W Wasp radial engine. To date, PWC has delivered 46,000 PT6 engines, 26,000 of which are still flying today having accumulated 350 million hours in service.
With its 1961 first flight, the PT6 architecture is only eight years shy of having as many years removed from its first flight, as its own first flight was from Orville & Wilbur at Kitty Hawk.
The engine, which can provide power from 500shp up to 2,000shp - depending on the application - and is principally made up of three major components, a gas generator comprising the compressor and combustor, the power section made up of the turbine which is spun by the combusted fuel and air, and a gearbox that connects directly to a propeller or rotor.
Those three elements have been scaled and customized over the years to create a modular system that can be tailored depending on the application.
"We can mix and match these to get better thermal ratings, better flat ratings, make the PT6 a sort of tailored engine to the aircraft these people are trying to make," said John Saabas, PWC President in a Friday interview. "When you're a small aircraft maker we can give you choice. We can give you a power range, thermal range, mechanical range.
"Socatas need lots of thermal power because they want to go fast at altitude, not so much mechanical power. King Airs want to take off with heavy loads and don't go quite as fast need more mechanical power. So a different gear box for those two even those it may be the same basic engine behind it. It just depends on how its rated."
"From a first-cost perspective, we also bring an advantage over some other technologies, some of the other choices that are out there," he says, citing higher SFC but a lower acquisition cost of the PT6 than the GE T700 that powers civilian and military rotorcraft.
For Saabas the extended investment over decades and pressure to deliver another another major leap in fuel burn improvement is tempered by the cost competitiveness and market establishment of the existing engine.
To look at the engine through Red-Blue, London School of Economics academic Dr. Theodore Piepenbrock's work on business evolution, the PT6 serves as a prime example of incremental, scalable development that has benefitted from continuous product evolution to drive out cost and improve efficiency and fuel performance over its extended lifetime.
Though even with its modular design, Saabas cautions that the PT6 is not focused as an off-the-shelf engine as it appears: "You don't want to get to a point where you're a commodity, we're always trying to decomoditize ourselves."
Though he acknowledges, the mix-and-match capability of the PT6 allows airframers small and large flexibility, but the scale of the complexity is the differentiator from project to project.
"There are some applications that some people want to take a [PT6A-42] and they want to adapt it, but we're developing for the Eurocopter, right now, the [PT6C-67E] which is a brand new version of the PT6 for the EC175, we're putting a FADEC on to that."
Overall, Saabas attributes the success of the platform to its overall reliability, achieving an in-flight shutdown rate of two per every million flight hours. Though, he also acknowledges market pressures by relative new-comers in the market, General Electric and its M601 and H-80 engine, which grew out of its 2008 Walter Aircraft Engines acquisition.
The engine, says PWC, has improved in line with the industry standard, delivering an extra percent of specific fuel consumption improvement every year, translating into a 20% improvement over the last two decades.
In a 2010 interview, Saabas said its plans for the introduction of new technologies into the PT6 remained a higher priority that its plans for a replacement, calling it an "advanced design study", though he says in Friday's interview that the PT6 replacement will evolve from the PT6 itself: "We're doing a couple of neat technologies to see if we can't improve the efficiency of the PT6 by double digits, and some of them use PT6 architectures, some don't. So let's call them a general aviation engine replacement if you will."
Yet Saabas, who has been PWC's president since 2009, says the company has stuck with the PT6 for as long as it has because there have been "a lot of generations of leaders at Pratt Canada who have been customer focused and out there trying to adapt the product to different marketplaces and aggressively looking for these applications for the engine and spending the money to develop it with the confidence that there was a marketplace."
People have suggested all kinds of solutions from email filters to cleaning the spam filter daily, but each solution left too much room for good comments to get lost among the crush. Further, the spam filter built in to Movable Type would often keep comments from ever making it to a place where they could even be seen, just lost to oblivion. With the wave of valid and spam comments coming in, those that weren't deemed spam the filter (which couldn't really tell spam from non-spam) would be delivered to my inbox at a rate of dozens per day (sometimes per hour). It was an unsustainable situation.
Well, today we have - what I hope - is a final solution to the problem. We have installed Disqus as the new platform for our comments and enable people to use different logins to post comments. You can use your Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo, OpenID and/or Google accounts to log-in to the new system.
Most importantly, you can still comment anonymously on posts using a Guest or Disqus login, which will require you to supply a username, password and email address. Most importantly, the email address does not need to be verified, so you can be creative with that field.
Disqus enhances your ability to comment by allowing you to subscribe to a comment thread, upload and attach photos locally or from flickr and videos from Youtube. The full social media integration across Facebook and Twitter also allows you to easily share the posts here across networks.
A very, very special thanks to Adam Tinworth and Stuart Clarke for making Disqus a reality.
At last week's 787 first delivery, Satoru Fujiki, an All Nippon Airways senior vice president, told reporters that the performance shortfall on the early deliveries would slot the aircraft into a role of regional missions, rather than long-range international flights, which will be flown with later built aircraft.
"The early 787s are actually much heavier than later-coming deliveries," he said. "So, for those aircraft we have taken an option to introduce those aircraft for domestic short haul and regional operations."
The comment was the first direct acknowledgement by ANA about the impact of excess structural weight the early 787s on the mission profile identified for the aircraft. Boeing has always maintained it would meet customer performance guarantees, though it was the clearest indication that weight gain would define the mission of the early aircraft.
The early deliveries, including Airplanes Eight and 24, are configured with twin Package A Rolls-Royce Trent 1000s with 64,000lbs of thrust and 264 seats for early domestic operations and will be updated to 222 seats when the missions expand regionally.
With the certified MTOW capped for each airframe, the growth in the operating empty weight (OEW) of the aircraft eats into the possible traffic load for each flight, however, with a smaller requirement for items such as catering and fuel in short-medium haul operations, the required fuel for a long-range mission is traded for increased payload and a higher passenger capacity. For ANA, a shorter cruise phase in domestic and regional operations lessens the impact of carrying the excess structural weight over long distances.
A recent report now provides some hard figures about the current weight of the aircraft. Aspire Aviation, which published a comprehensive report on the 787's performance Monday, writes:
According to Aspire Aviation's two sources at the US airframer, the first 787 prototype, dubbed ZA001 which carries the registration N787BA, is 9.8 tonnes (21,500 lbs) overweight, a significant figure when considering the aircraft's specific maximum zero fuel weight (MZFW) of 161,025 kg (355,000 lbs).
Line number 7 to 19 (LN7-LN19), the same sources confirm, are considerably less overweight at 6.1 tonnes (13,500 lbs). Line number 20 (LN20), the first 787 to feature increased maximum take-off weight (MTOW) from 219,539 kg (484,000 lbs) to 227,930 kg (502,500 lbs) to recover some of the payload/range capabilities lost owing to the overweight issue, is around 4 tonnes (8,800 lbs) overweight.
Line number 34 (LN34), dubbed ZA380 and the first 787 earmarked for China Southern Airlines, along with LN50 for Ethiopian Airlines, are block points for further weight reductions.
Line number 90 (LN90) will be the first 787-8 meeting the aircraft's original weight target with no overweight issue, the sources say.
The 21,500lb figure for ZA001 further confirms the same figure published in the Airbus 787 Dossier in December 2008, but the 13,500 and 8,800lb figures are the first public concrete estimates of the aircraft's structural weight gain. The figures also point to progress being made in the operating empty weight reduction of the aircraft, however the increased maximum takeoff weight is intended, in part, to regain the lost performance.
ANA announced today it would begin long-range 787 operations connecting Tokyo's Haneda Airport and Frankfurt, Germany on January 21, 2012 with its staggered business and economy 158-seat configuration. The airline's first long-range aircraft, which is expected by year's end will feature the higher thrust Package B engines, and is likely to be either Airplane 40 or 41, which will benefit from Boeing's third block point improvement planned for implementation starting with Airplane 34.
The increase in MTOW, allows for a higher structural payload to be carried, which can be accomplished by reinforcing the structure of the aircraft or adding load allieviation technologies that move lift across the wing to accommodate higher weight. Though it remains unclear how much the increase in operating empty weight is contained in the increased in MTOW.
Air Lease CEO Steven Udvar-Hazy told this page in March at ISTAT: "My gut feeling is that the airplanes will always be heavier, and they'll just have more power and they'll just increase the max takeoff weight and say we still meet the spec. It's just going to become a heavier more powerful animal."
It took until the second question at today's Qatar Airways 100th airplane delivery event for CEO Akbar Al-Baker to be asked about the contract dispute between Cargolux, of which Qatar is a 35% stakeholder, and General Electric that abruptly cancelled delivery of the cargo carrier's first two 747-8Fs.
Al-Baker declared the dispute between Cargolux, Boeing and GE resolved over the 2.7% fuel burn shortfall on the freighters, and that the launch customer for the type will take delivery on October 12, pending an October 6-7 Cargolux board meeting.
However, sources indicate that there is no dispute between Qatar Airways and Boeing in respect of 787 delay compensation. Sources point to a more likely influence being Qatar Airways' knowledge of the 747-8 performance shortfall and related compensation terms as a result of managing the purchase of two 747-8I VIP aircraft for the Qatar government. GE and Boeing are developing a performance improvement package (PIP) to address just over half of the 2.7% fuel burn shortfall suffered by the 747-8's GEnx-2B67.
However, service-entry of the PIP is believed to be at least two years away - with customers being asked to pay for the upgrade. The engine will need additional upgrades to redress the balance of the performance deficit, and there is the prospect of an additional charge being made for this PIP.
At the time of its publication early Friday, the Flightglobal report (excerpted above) called the negotiations ongoing and there was a "constructive dialogue" between the parties. Clearly, the gap was closed in the hours before Qatar took its100th aircraft, a new 777-200LR.
Industry sources say that Cargolux will remain the launch customer for the type, with Boeing very likely to make its first deliveries to Atlas Air and Cathay Pacific Cargo following its belated handover to the European cargo-hauler.