Replacing the 747-400

Replacing the venerable Boeing 747-400s remaining in passenger service is a prime objective of Boeing and of Airbus. The business case for their respective 747-8Is and A380s rests in large part on this approach, though for Airbus the A380 business case also rests on passenger traffic doubling every 15 years and restricted airport slots.

Replacing the 747-400, in fact, doesn’t leave a lot of room. There are just 306 passenger models remaining in service, including VIPs and government uses, according to data provided Leeham News. There are another 23 747-400C (Combis) remaining in service.

747 In Service Chart

Data at July 2013.

Fully 42 747-400 passenger models are in storage. Many 744 “Ps” have been converted to cargo airplanes, supplementing new-build 747-400Fs (above). The 744Ps in storage and in service are obvious candidates for conversion to freighters, and there are a number of 744Fs in storage ready to return to service when the slow-moving global cargo demand recovers–which has proved to be a maddening slow process.

747 Stored Chart

Date as of July 2013

Airbus has been more successful selling its A380 to 747-400 operators than Boeing has in selling its 747-8I. Airbus has likewise been more successful at selling the aircraft to non-747-400 operators, though the customer quality in several cases was dodgy. Kingfisher Airlines has collapsed and it’s unlikely Hong Kong Airlines will take delivery of the A380, openly talking about swapping these orders for smaller aircraft.

And therein lies the rub.

747 A380 Fleets

Sources: Airbus, Boeing, Ascend at July 2013

Update: Typo on the Lufthansa remaining orders for A380s: 7, not 17.

Continue reading

Odds and Ends: Airbus’ frustration over A350 fallout–blame yourself; DC-10 grounding retrospective

Airbus’ frustration: Airbus says it has a Plan B for its lithium ion battery design and the CEO says he’s frustrated over the attention the A350 is getting as a result of the Boeing 787 issues.

Airbus has only itself to blame for any frustration: it’s stonewalling all questions about the design and fire protections of its lithium-ion batteries. The absence of answers from Airbus leads to the conclusions that it doesn’t have fire suppression as it’s commonly thought of.

Boeing remarked after the JAL fire that thermal runaway can’t be suppressed with in-flight fire fighting techniques. The presentation we detailed from Airbus makes it clear Airbus has the same conclusion. Although Halon can be used to suppress small fires, a thermal runaway can only be suppressed by water, and plenty of it. It took firefighters more than an hour to put out the blaze on the JAL airplane, according to the NTSB timeline.

The Airbus slides suggest there is Halon designed into the A350 and we are told the design has venting that the Boeing design does not. But Airbus won’t say what its design is. Does it take the containment approach The Seattle Times wrote about in connection with Cessna? Airbus won’t say. But we know from a well-placed source that venting overboard is part of the Airbus design.

See KING 5′s report below-Boeing is working on its own Plan B.

“We have a robust design,” Reuters quotes Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier. “I’m not going to give any lessons to Boeing. At the same time, I don’t have to take any either, when I think we have done well and have a plan which allows me to have aircraft flying with batteries that don’t catch fire,” he said, according to Reuters.

We find this second statement to be a load of crap. Where safety begins, rivalry should end. For the good of the industry, Airbus ought to share its thoughts with Boeing. The rivalry perpetrated between the two companies is often childish (both sides are guilty of this) and unworthy of two world-class companies. We find the statement above to be appalling.

Airbus has told us its battery-from a different supplier than that of Boeing’s-meets FAA standards, something that weren’t in place when Boeing selected the lithium-ion batteries in 2007. The FAA issued Special Conditions for Boeing’s use of the new technology batteries.

Aviation writer Christine Negroni has a post that expresses a great deal of frustration with Boeing’s corporate attitude toward the lithium ion issue. Frustration seems to be catching. But Airbus has the opportunity here to take the high road for safety and share its approach with Boeing–and to assure the aviation world publicly that its airplane will be safe.

Bregier says his design is safe and there’s a Plan B if regulators say more is needed. Tell us what is safe about the design and tell us what Plan B is.

Meanwhile, KING 5 (NBC-Seattle) has further information on Boeing’s Plan B, which is to build a containment box around the battery (similar to the Cessna approach).

DC-10 Grounding: The last time the FAA grounded a commercial airliner was in 1979, when American Airlines lost a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-10 at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. Aviation Week linked its report at the time and we link this article here.

Space Shuttle: The Seattle Times has a story about the space shuttle Columbia, which broke apart 10 years ago. It’s interesting reading.

Why US transport producers failed

Defense analyst Loren Thompson picks up the old refrain about Airbus subsidies running McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed out of the commercial airliner business. We add our thoughts at the end of his article.

By Loren Thompson

Airbus subsidies have destroyed thousands of US jobs

Monday, December 21, 2009

In a few days, the world’s two major producers of commercial transports (jet airliners) will release their order and delivery results for 2009. The results will show that European champion Airbus delivered slightly over 50% of all planes built, while greatly exceeding American champion Boeing in the number of new planes ordered. It’s been going this way pretty much since the decade began, because after 40 years of subsidies from European governments, Airbus now has a complete family of transports that can aggressively compete in virtually any capacity/range category with Boeing.

Continue reading