Irkut makes 10% fuel advantage claim over NEO, MAX for MC-21

Russia’s Irkurt claims its MC-21 mainline jet, a direct competitor to the Airbus A320/321neo and Boeing 737-8/9 MAX, will be some 10% more economical. Irkut claims the MC-21 will be up to 23% more efficient than the current engine-powered Airbus and Boeing products.

Thanks to a reader who is at the MAKS air show, we received this photo from a slide presentation. Although others may have seen this information before, this is the first time we have.


Other MAKS news:

  • Sukhoi inked orders for some more Superjet 100s.
  • Still no announcements from Airbus, Boeing or Embraer.
  • Ilyushin Finance Corp and Bombardier announced that the first Russian operator of the CSeries CS300 will Vim Airlines. IFC ordered 32 with 10 more options at the Paris Air Show.

In other news, Boeing and Canada’s WestJet announced a letter of intent for 65 737 MAXes: 25 MAX 7s and 40 MAX 8s. This will enable WestJet to expand and replace its 737 NG fleet. Delivery begins in September 2017, making WestJet one of the first operators.

Bombardier scores huge deal at Russian air show

Bombardier scored a huge deal at the Russian air show, MAKS, with a letter of intent for an order for up to 100 Q400 turbo-props.

The Q400 has been trailing rival ATR, which is half owned by Airbus parent EADS, for the ATR-72 turbo-prop, by a wide margin in recent sales. ATR recently obtained third-world, gravel runway certification for its airplane.

The BBD deal includes the potential of establishing a second Q400 assembly line in Russia. The BBD deal is for 50+50 and isn’t expected to be completed until next year.

Bombardier has been making a major effort in Russia, placing used CRJ regional jets there, previous orders for the Q400 and an order for 32 CSeries. It’s also signed an agreement to explore customer support services for the Irkut MC-21 150-212 seat mainline jet.

Other MAKS news:

  • Russia’s own Sukhoi announced orders for the Superjet, with 100 going to home-grown lessor Ilyushin Finance Corp.
  • Russia’s VEB Leasing converted an MOU for 20 MC-21s to a firm order. These are for lease to UTAir and Transaero.
  • Airbus, Boeing and Embraer have yet to announce any deals.
  • This is the first air show since the Soviet Union collapsed.

Odds and Ends: New upgrades for the B-52; MRJ delay confirmed; EIS estimates for new airplane programs

Upgrades for the B-52: The USAF and Boeing are upgrading the Boeing B-52 bomber to further extend the service life. The LA Times via the Seattle Times has this story. This is remarkable; the B-52 was designed in 1948 to be the USA’s aerial backbone against the Soviet Union in the Cold War. It bombed Iraq in the 1991 Gulf War and continues to out-perform the B-1B bomber, which was supposed to replace the old gal, nicknamed by some as BUFF.

More on MRJ Delay: Mitsubishi made it official: the MRJ 90 passenger regional jet will be delayed another year. There are several stories via Google News; this Reuters piece is typical. Aviation Week has a good timeline recap.

Here’s how pending new airplane programs now appear to line up for Entry into Service:

Original Current
CS100        Dec-13        e4Q2014*
MRJ       4Q2013           2Q2017
ARJ21           2006  Good Question
C919           2016           2018–>
A320neo Oct-15 Oct-15
737-8 Jul-17 Jul-17
777X e12-2019**
EJet E2           2018               2018
* One analyst suggests early 2015
** Market Intelligence estimate.

We don’t have enough visibility on the Irkut MS-21 for inclusion in the Table.

Here’s a real oddity: A man in underwear broke into the German Chancellor’s airplane.

American-US Airways: Airchive has this long analysis (and it’s only Part 1 of 2), taking a look at the DOJ complaint. It’s 15 pages even after copy-and-paste into Word and re-sized to 10 point type.

Embraer selects PW GTF for E-Jet RE; concept clarity comes at last

It’s official: Embraer selected the PW GTF to re-engine the E-175, E-190 and E-195.

In doing so, it looks like the E-170 will be allowed to wither on the vine.

This is a huge win for PW and setbacks for Rolls-Royce, which sorely wanted to win the E-Jet RE for its Advance 2 RR development; and for GE, the incumbent supplier of the CF34 and which was developing the Next Generation variant for the E-Jet.


It’s yet another validation for the GTF. Versions of this engine will power the Mitsubishi MRJ, the Bombardier CSeries, the Irkut MS-21, the Airbus A320neo family and now the E-Jet RE.

It’s a huge comeback for PW, which made a major strategic error in not competing to power the Boeing 737 300/400/500. Boeing continues to use the GE/CFM LEAP engine as its sole-source supply for the 737 MAX, though Boeing seriously evaluated the GTF as well.

Below is EMB’s press release:

Embraer Selects Pratt & Whitney’s PurePower Engines for Second Generation of E-Jets

São José dos Campos, January 8, 2013 – Embraer SA (NYSE: ERJ; BM&FBOVESPA: EMBR3) announced today that Pratt & Whitney´s PurePower® Geared TurbofanTM engines have been selected for its future, second generation of E-Jets, with entry into service planned for 2018. The decision is an important milestone in the program, which is expected to be officially launched later this year.

The new engines – the PW1700G and PW1900G – range in thrust from 15,000 to 22,000 pounds. In combination with new aerodynamically advanced wings, state-of-the-art full fly-by-wire flight controls and other systems evolutions, they will result in double digit improvements in fuel burn, maintenance costs, emissions and external noise.

“We are very happy to expand our partnership with Pratt & Whitney, keeping the E-Jets family as the best solution for our customers, today and in the future”, said Frederico Fleury Curado, President & CEO of Embraer. “The PurePower GTF engines are a great fit to the next generation of our E-Jets and we look forward to another long lasting and successful program with Pratt & Whitney”.

“We are proud that Embraer has recognized the unmatched value of the PurePower engine, and we are committed to supporting a successful launch of the new E-Jet aircraft family,” said Pratt & Whitney President David Hess. “To date, Pratt & Whitney has completed more than 4,200 hours and 12,400 cycles of full engine testing for the PurePower engine family, demonstrating the benefits and reliability of the engine architecture.” Pratt & Whitney is a division of United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX).

The second generation of E-Jets will be a significant step in Embraer´s commitment to continuously invest in this line of commercial jets, complementing a series of ongoing improvements currently being implemented in the existing family, with great benefits to its customers. Embraer´s objective is to offer the best product and maintain its leadership in the 70 to 120 seat market.

Odds and Ends: Random thoughts, Seinfeld style (i.e., about nothing)

We’re feeling irreverent today….

From Twitter: Boeing Defense@BoeingDefense In Sept issue of #Boeing Frontiers: With #Apollo roots, Boeing has grown to be largest #aerospace employer in #Alabama

Comment: We remember when Boeing said Alabamans couldn’t build a tricycle (during the bitter competition for the KC-X tanker).

Hunker Down: We’re going into the bunker on this one–Washington should become a right-to-work state. In 2008, IAM 751 (during its strike) boasted WA is the fourth most-unionized state in the country. We know this inhibits expanding aerospace here. We’ve heard it from companies. We’ve heard it from the head of one of the Economic Development Commissions here that unions are the first topic to come up when he is recruiting companies to expand here. We don’t object to unions per se but we don’t think someone should be forced to join one. (That’s how we feel about Republicans, too….)

Take two Viagra and try again: The refueling boom was being extended when it fell off an Airbus KC-30 during a test flight.

Thank you for smoking: Airbus is really pushing Europe to delay implementation of its emissions trading scheme, which jeaopardizes orders from China. Despite the sarcasm, we agree with Airbus–any regulations through be through ICAO, not on Europe’s own, ill-advised hook.

Macht nichts: No AirAsia order at the Berlin Air Show after all. The airline will be the first to operate the A320neo and the airplane with sharklets.

Macht nichts, II: MTU is a partner with Pratt & Whitney on the Geared Turbo Fan for the Mistubishi MRJ, the Bombardier CSeries, Irkut MS-21 and the A320neo but looks to join GE for the new engine for the Boeing 777X.


Odds and Ends: Why aircraft are late; catching up to Boeing

Why Aircraft Are Late: Boeing 747-8, 787, Airbus A380, A400M, A350, Mitsubishi MRJ, Comac ARJ-21, Sukhoi Superjet and probably Comac C919, Bombardier CSeries and Irkut MS-21–all late. It’s the new normal. Ernie Arvai at AirInsight takes a look at why.

Catching Boeing: Airbus may well have trailed Boeing through the Farnborough Air Show in terms of orders, but it may also be on the way toward catching up. The big PAL order for 54 aircraft was announced this week. A 100-airplane order out of China is due to be announced shortly. Another 100 airplane order from AirAsia appears to be pending. Year-to-date, Boeing has 701 net orders and Airbus has 270 net orders. These three orders still leaves Airbus well short of Boeing, and Boeing has more 737 MAX commitments to convert this year. We expect Boeing to finish the year in first place. It will be interesting to see how close Airbus can come.

NEO firm order wrap: Aviation Week has this detailed recap of NEO firm orders. We expect some of the A320neos to be converted to A321neos as time goes on, just as we expect 737-8 MAX orders to be swapped with 737-9 MAX positions.

Future materials: aluminum lithium, standard metals or composities

The Farnborough Air Show isn’t just about orders, though these get all the sex and headlines.

While we weren’t at the show, we had a telephone interview with a company called Constellium, previously known as Alcan. Constellium spoke at the February conference of the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance, with which we are involved. We were particularly interested in talking with Constellium because it is a major supplier of Aluminum-Lithium, an alternative material to standard aluminum and a competing material to composites.

Constellium’s Al-Li combines other processes, including a design for recycling, and is named AirWare. Airbus, Boeing and Bombardier are among their key customers, and it is Constellium that is providing the materials for the CSeries. It’s also a supplier on the Airbus A350 (internal components, not the fuselage).

As Airbus and Boeing looked at the A320neo and 737 MAX, and as Boeing is looking at the 777X, we asked them about the prospect of using Al-Li. This is lighter than standard aluminum, more durable, less susceptible to corrosion and enabled 12 years between major maintenance overhauls compared with the 6-8 years now.

But Al-Li is more difficult to work with than standard aluminum. Boeing’s Mike Bair told us in an interview that Boeing considered Al-Li back in the 1990s when designing the 777 but it was too difficult and costly to manufacture. Since then, he praised the producers for strides. There are mixed reports what material will be used for the 777X fuselage: standard metal or Al-Li. The Seattle Times reported the airplane will have Al-Li. We’ve been told it won’t. But with the airplane still months and perhaps a year from launch, there is plenty of time to decide.

Airbus, in an interview at the Paris Air Show last year, said it was evaluating Al-Li for the A320neo. The A320ceo is heavier than the competing Boeing 737 and the re-engine adds about 4,000 lbs. Using Al-Li would mitigate some of this weight. We haven’t heard if Airbus might go ahead with Al-Li, but we’re leaning toward concluding that it won’t.

Boeing told us it will not switch to Al-Li for the MAX because the manufacturing process is just enough different that it would add complexity and cost to the current tooling and procedures.

Al-Li vs composites is a competition that will likely be fierce when it comes time for Airbus and Boeing to design the next clean-sheet airplanes, presumed to be the New Small Airplane, or replacement for the current 737/A320 class. (Boeing may have a new clean-sheet for the 757 class; it has a New Airplane Study underway for this, but the market may be too narrow when one considers the 737-9 MAX and A321neo will do 95% of what a 757 can do.)

Composites, selected for the 787 and A350 XWB fuselages and wings, offer advantages over standard metal fuselages that have been well documented and need not be repeated here. But Airbus and Boeing question the efficiency and benefits of down-scaling composites to 737/A320 category airplanes. Boeing apparently became convinced: Jim Albaugh, former CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said the New Small Airplane would have been composite, but the ability to produce it at a rate of 60 per month remained a challenge. Boeing went with the MAX instead.

Vistagy, a composite manufacturer near Boston, told us nearly two years ago, that the down-scaling challenges were met and that production rates were the issue. Autoclaves are very costly and so is the manufacturing process. There is actually less industrial waste than traditional aluminum manufacturing, but the materials are generally more hazardous—though there have been strides on this score.

This is the background that intrigued us when we had the opportunity to speak with Constellium’s Simon Laddychuk, VP of Manufacturing Global Aerospace and Director of Technology. Continue reading

Airbus Innovation Days: synopsis of a lot of stuff

We’ve been at the Airbus Innovation Days in Toulouse, with about 200 others from around the globe. Here are some highlights:

A380 wing rib issues: As reported previously in various media, Tom Williams, EVP-programs, outlined the issues with the wing rib cracks. A new metal alloy was used, intended to save weight, that cracked in operations despite fatigue testing failing to discover the issue on a test airplane. Williams attributed the failure to detect the cracks to inadequate instrumentation on the test plane. The new alloy saved about 300kg. There are 60 L-brackets out of 4,000 that require inspection and only 20 are affected. The issue does not affect flight safety and the ribs can be replaced either during a C Check or during a nose-to-tail maintenance check. The “Type 2” cracks, the most serious of two types found, have to be replaced by 1,300 cycles.

A350-800/1000 sales: Boeing has been aggressively casting doubts on these two sub-types, pointing out that there have been no sales since 2008. John Leahy, COO Customers, said there haven’t been sales because he doesn’t have any delivery slots available until the end of the decade. He’s been switching some customers from the 800 to the 900, which is more profitable to Airbus. Where did he get the slots? He won’t say but in a press gaggle after his presentation, he acknowledged to an Indian journalist that Kingfisher Airlines—an A350, A320 and A380 customer—deferred all its deliveries to relieve the need for pre-delivery payments. We asked Leahy if he was re-selling the Kingfisher slots and he demurred, saying that was “confidential.”

(We note that Boeing had a long dry spell in sales of the 787 during the depths of the problems with the airplane and the backlog stretching to late this decade.)

Leahy also said Boeing’s claims that he, Leahy, doesn’t know what the -1000 “is” are false.

A320 v 737: If the war of words over the A350 wasn’t enough, Leahy—and to a lesser extent, Williams, whose focus was principally the A380—repeated the Airbus messaging begun last November at the Credit Suisse conference in New York that fan size does matter and the 737 MAX comes up short. Airbus figures the MAX at best (pre-dating the recent Boeing changes) will gain 8% over the 737NG. We asked Leahy later about the move by Boeing to take the CFM LEAP-1B fan size to 69.4 inches and to add the “Boeing Advanced Technology Winglets” (BATW) to the MAX. Boeing now claims the MAX will be a 13% improvement over the NG. Leahy, who compared the BATW with the MD-11 winglets, said Boeing will get only about one-half percent improvement from this. The 69.4 inch fan still falls short, he said.

Williams, a former engine engineer, said the hotter temperatures and ceramics technology required of the LEAP-1B, will present maintenance challenges.

Continue reading

Boeing skeptical of CSeries, C919, MS-21 EIS

We wrote the following article for Commercial Aviation Online, which appeared yesterday. In case anyone wonders, there is no relation between John Hamilton and us.


The chief engineer of the 737 program is skeptical of the emerging competitors’ airplanes and the announced entry-into-service (EIS) dates, and this has a clear influence on what Boeing will do to enhance, re-engine or replace the 737 in the coming years.

John Hamilton, in a media briefing on the roll-out 26 October of the 737’s Boeing Sky Interior and a refresher course on the technical enhancements that will be in place next year, said Bombardier is facing new technologies it hasn’t worked with before that places in doubt the promised 2013 EIS of the 110-130 seat CS100. This is a potential replacement for the Boeing 737-500 Classic and the 737-600 Next Generation aircraft.

Continue reading

COMAC chooses LEAP-X, Russians pick GTF

China’s COMAC selected the CFM International LEAP-X engine to power its new challenge to Airbus and Boeing, the C919 150-200 seat jet, two sources tell us.

Now comes news that Russia’s Irkut selected the Pratt & Whitney P1000G Geared Turbo Fan (GTF) to power its 150-200 seat jet, the MS-21. Both planes have a projected EIS of 2016.

This has implications for Airbus and Boeing. Both companies are pondering whether to re-engine the A320 and 737 families and are holding talks with CFM (Airbus and Boeing), PW (Airbus and Boeing), International Aero Engines (Airbus) and Rolls-Royce (Airbus). We firmly believe Airbus and Boeing will decide next year to re-engine the airplanes.

AirInsight is about to release a report on the re-engine prospect.

Continue reading