Features of Boeing's proposed low-noise long-range model could appeal to carrier

Air France is pushing Boeing to offer elements of its proposed 747-400X Quiet Longer Range (QLR) model for retrofit to the in-service fleet, as it discusses a potential order for the new variant.

Boeing unveiled plans for the 747-400XQLR at Asian Aerospace in February and is offering the version to customers in an effort to launch it in June with a minimum of eight orders, for service entry in the second quarter of 2004. The new model incorporates aerodynamic changes - including a raked wingtip and a trailing-edge wedge - plus increased weights, more powerful, acoustically treated engines and a new interior (Flight International, 5-12 March). The aerodynamic changes provide a 1-2% reduction in fuel consumption.

Air France operates 26 General Electric CF6-powered 747 passenger aircraft: 13 -200/300 Classics and 13 -400s. It will need to replace its older 747s gradually. It recently ordered two extra -400s and specified the extended range -400ER, with a 413t maximum take-off weight (MTOW). Pierre Vellay, the airline's vice-president for new aircraft and corporate fleet planning, says however that Air France could specify the QLR for future incremental orders.

"We may be interested in the -400XQLR and are discussing with Boeing whether the changes would be retrofittable to our existing fleet," says Vellay. He adds that Air France wants a standardised 747-400 fleet and, if the modifications can be retrofitted, the airline may order the new model: "If not, then no [we're not interested]."

Meanwhile GE, lead powerplant supplier on the QLR project, has revealed new details of a quieter CF6-80C2B9F/B10 engine package it is developing. The major changes include the introduction of the chevron nozzle feature first outlined as part of the CFM56's Tech56 technology drive, as well as advanced acoustic treatment to the fan casing, thrust reverser and transcowl. The reverser will be lined with extra acoustic treatment on the bifurcations and internal surfaces and will be fitted with a 0.25m fan duct.

The 58,000lb (258kN) thrust -9F will power the 397t MTOW version, while the 60,800lb thrust-B10F is aimed at heavier variants of the -400XQLR up to 418t MTOW.

Source: Flight International