A330 vs 787

Another in the continuing reports from the Airbus Innovation Days….

Airbus provided an A330/A340 market update during its Innovation Days presentations in Hamburg earlier in May.

The A340 has become irrelevant to the new airplane market, with only a handful of new orders remaining and virtually none forthcoming in the last several years. Airbus is tweaking the A340 with some aerodymic improvements designed to reduce fuel burn by 1%. Along with maintenance procedure changes to the A330, the A340 increases the interval on the A Check to 800 flight hours from the current 600; C Check intervals go from 18 months to 21-24 months; Intermediate Checks increased from five years at EIS to the current six years and remains unchanged; and Structural Checks increase from 10 years to 12 years.

We resisted asking whether the A340’s Product Improvement Package includes a large Parking Brake sign in the cockpit.

With respect to the A330, Airbus is practically bursting at the seams with satisfaction about the sales of this aircraft since the launch of the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350. The conventional wisdom was that sales of the A330 would dry up, similarly to that of the Boeing 767 via-a-vis the A330. Instead, Airbus has sold nearly 500 A330s since 2004.

The numbers speak for themselves, but these also include many sold as some form of compensation to customers facing delays in receipt of the A380 super jumbo, which is fully two years or more late. It was widely reported at the time that A330s provided Singapore Airlines and Qantas Airways were tied to the A330 delays.

These compensatory sales are a small part of the story. Airbus makes the argument that the A330-200/300 are great “regional” aircraft of 5,000-6,000nm range for which the long-range capabilities of the 787 and A350 are not required. Airbus also suggests that the A330 compared with the 787-8 may cost more to operate but it carries more passengers and cargo, providing greater revenue opportunities.

This is true, of course, only on the assumption that payloads match the Airbus assumptions on the A330; otherwise the A330 carries around a lot of empty weight and the revenue comparisons fall short.

There is no question that the long-range capabilities of more than 8,000nm are well beyond the needs of many routes and that the A330 is perhaps more suited for them. But Airbus isn’t satisfied with letting it go at that. In developing a HGW version, and considering range short-falls of the overweight and under-performing early 787-8 models, Airbus now claims the A330-200HGW at 7,200nm range has more range than the 787-8.

We’re not so sure. This is based on the Airbus assessment that the early 787-8s will have a range of about 6,900nm. This figure emerged with Flightblogger’s Jon Ostrower obtained an Airbus-created 787 Lessons Learnt document that include the range analysis.

Boeing quickly denied that the 787 would be limited to a range of 6,900nm; the advertised range remains 7,650-8,200nm, at least 450nm beyond that of the A330HGW. Only once the early 787s are in flight testing and operation will the true range be known. In the meantime, the definitive Airbus claims that the A330HGW betters the 787 range is a bit cheeky. But it may not be wrong.

Piano-X, an analytic tool created by an independent company, performed an analysis for us using a variety of parameters that included overweight and fuel-burn assumptions. At the promised fuel burn, but with an overweight of 10,000 to 15,000–the figure we hear most frequently–the 787-8 range is below that of the A330HGW’s advertised range. If fuel burn falls short of the promised target, the 787-8’s range shortfall is worse. The analysis may be found here.

1 Comments on “A330 vs 787

  1. Scott,

    what are the implications if the Airbus analysis/speculation is correct?

    Boeing should already have a good idea of the weight and fuel burn by now and should from that data, have a good idea of the range to be expected. After all, as so many like to point out, Boeing has been in the commercial aircraft business for years and knows a thing or two.

    If the range is much lower than advertised, would not the customers feel that they have been misled (some might even go so far as to say, lied to)?

    What would or could their (the customers) reaction be?


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