A320 upgrades on the way

Airbus has decided to proceed with a winglet program for the A320 family and will decide by the end of 2010 whether to re-engine the family. Also: CFM International is ready to advance its schedule for the LEAP-X program to meet a requirement by China’s Comac for the C919. This also opens the way to potentially re-engine the Boeing 737.

Below are stories we did for Commercial Aviation Online.

Airbus to proceed with winglet program for A320s

September 29, 2009

NOTE: since writing this story, we learned that the winglets will be offered in 2012 or 2013 as an option. Whether these will be offered as retrofits depends on which solution is chosen. Airbus will concentrate on forward fits, however.

Airbus will announce “within weeks” its decision to proceed with winglet programme for the Airbus A320 family.

A senior company official told CAO that a final decision whether to go forward with an Aviation Partners blended winglet design or one called charlets sharklets designed by Airbus hasn’t been made.

Charlets Sharklets are a different shape than winglets but Airbus has not released any images.

“We’re going to do the programme,” the official tells CAO. The question outstanding is which design. Entry into service dates and production issues depend on which design is selected.

Fuel burn will be reduced by 2%-4%, depending on which design is chosen.

The Airbus A321 will be the first family member to receive the upgrade, increasing the US transcontinental range to be more competitive with the Boeing 737-900 and to target the Boeing 757 fleet, a prevalent aircraft in the US legacy carrier operation. American, Continental, Delta, Northwest and United airlines all have large 757 fleets.

Continental’s fleet is relatively young while the other carriers have aging fleets.

Airbus to decide on A320 re-engine YE2010

September 28, 2009

Airbus expects to decide by the end of next year whether to re-engine the A320 family, CAO has learned.

A senior Airbus executive said the manufacturer is in discussions with Pratt & Whitney, CFM International, Rolls-Royce and the PW-RR partnership International Aero Engines.

Re-engining the A320 family is part of a shifting strategy to meet emerging competitors and a determination that a replacement airplane with required technological advancements needed to meet growing airline demands won’t be ready until the early part of the 2020 decade.

Boeing is also considering a re-engined 737, something that is more challenging given the “737 squat” much closer to the ground than the A320. This dramatically reduces the options for a new engine because of the diameter constraints.

John Leahy, Airbus COO-Customers, hinted at re-engined 737s and A320s being delivered to 2024, the new Airbus target date, in an interview with Flight International.

CAO not only confirmed the active Airbus study but learned the strategic thinking behind it. CAO has also learned that CFM International is prepared to accelerate its LEAP-X program, originally planned for a 2016 engine certification, followed by an EIS that was timed to coincide with a new 2018-2020 airframe.

China’s Comac wants to begin flight testing with its proposed 919 in 2014 with a 2016 EIS. CFM submitted proposals to Comac to power the airplane, including the LEAP-X engine. “If we are selected, we will absolutely meet the aircraft schedule requirements,” a CFM spokesperson told CAO on 24 September.

Airbus believes technology won’t converge until the 2020 decade to produce a 40% all-in gain in operating costs desired by airlines. At its Airbus Innovation Days in May, officials described these technologies as the open rotor engine’ goal of 25%-26% better fuel burn compared with today’s engines; significant advances in airframe design, better fuels and sharp improvements in navigation/air traffic control systems.

In the meantime, airlines want 10%-15% better fuel burn within the next five years or so. This can only be accomplished by re-engining the 737 and A320. Comac’s 919 and Bombardier’s CSeries propose airplanes that will have about a 16% improvement. The CSeries has Pratt & Whitney’s P1000G GTF engine and will compete with the 737-700 and A319. Comac’s 919 proposes a 150-200 seat airplane-directly competitive with the 737-800/900 and A320/321-also with a 16% better fuel burn compared with today’s aircraft.

Airbus is known to believe that re-engining the A320 family with a the PW GTF, the CFM LEAP-X or the Rolls-Royce three-stage engine will maintain competitiveness with emerging airplanes and meet airline demands for a step-improvement now rather than being forced to wait until the 2020 decade for game-changers. Entry-into-service (EIS) for a re-engined A320, if a go-ahead is achieved by year-end 2010, would be around 2015. Airbus believes a re-engined aircraft must be saleable for 7-8 years to amortise the development costs.

In the fourth quarter last year, PW said its research and development costs to develop a GTF engine big enough for the 737/A320 was $1 billion, and a four-year lead time was needed for EIS.

CFM ready to advance LEAP-X schedule; opens way for 737RE

September 28, 2009

CFM International is ready to advance the schedule of its LEAP-X program if it wins an order to power the Comac 919, the 150-200 seat jetliner proposed by China’s emerging civil aerospace industry, a company official revealed to CAO.

Comac wants to begin flight testing in 2014 and targets a 2016 entry into service (EIS). Jamie Jewell, spokesperson for CFM, told CAO that the engine maker submitted a proposal to Comac that includes a version of the LEAP-X and that if selected, CFM will deliver the LEAP-X on the Comac timeline.

CFM’s original timeline called for engine certification in 2016 and EIS with a replacement for the Boeing 737 or A320 in the 2018-2020 period. Boeing now talks about a 2020 replacement at the earliest, and Airbus now sets the date at 2024.

The new LEAP-X schedule makes it possible for Boeing to develop a “737RE” with an EIS around 2015-16, about the same time an A320RE might be available (see separate story).

Boeing has been cool to the prospect of re-engining the 737 because the Pratt & Whitney P1000G GTF diameter is too big. Boeing also has an exclusive supplier contract with CFM to power the 737, making selecting PW problematic in any case.

But with the news that CFM can meet a 2014 target date for a Comac test flight program and a 2016 EIS, this opens the door for a 737RE. The LEAP-X engine diameter is very close to the CFM56 now on the 737.

During the Morgan Stanley Industrial Unplugged conference 2 September, Boeing CEO James McNerney said the business case for re-engining the 737 is now better than it was previously. He made no mention of engine types but said development cost of a derivative 737 is 20%-40% that of a new aircraft.

3 Comments on “A320 upgrades on the way

  1. This was on the cards for quite some time, the decision is already made what to go for… New engines will follow soon after. Airbus has made a derision to extend the A320 life, looks like Boeing is leaning in the same direction. No new NB from them for at least a decade.

  2. Airbus has had a winglet project in situ for as long as the WTO has been running. I think two types of winglet in three trials that amounted to nothing because the A320 outboard wing requires significant structural strengthening (and that adds weight!).

    What you’ll see is a modified wingtip fence and nothing more – rather hogwash story since Airbus has had years to evaluate this and come up with nothing – nothing new here we dont already know.

    As for the joke of an engine in the GTF, Boeing and investors in UTX know that the engine is probably further away from reaching the touted efficiency gains marketed than man is from reaching the surface of Mars.

    Again, Airbus has had enough time to commit to a new engine, the real worry is that it has finally learnt teh hard way through tests on the A340-600 that the GTF is a gimmick that doesnt yield what P&W says it does otherwise why the delay?

    Im sure A320 customers would be in line for this if it were true.

    All trivial content here that isnt worth debating frankly until Airbus commits or otherwise.

  3. A version of LEAP-X eh? Hmmm. So not necessarily including ALL the LEAP-X technologies originally envisaged perhaps? COMAC’s eagerness to get in ahead of Airbus and Boeing seems ill-considered if the big two are going to benefit from the reliability of matured technology while COMAC acts as “lab rat”.

    As for A320 winglets – that’s one hell of a “modified wing-tip fence” – never say never!

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