Airbus Innovation Days-Day 1/2

Day 2 summary after the jump.

We’re at the Airbus Innovation Days and here are some highlights:

  • Tom Williams, EVP Programmes, believes that a re-engined A320 family will eliminate the business case for the CSeries. The concern is that the CS100/300, which competes with the A319, will establish a “beachhead” from which competitors to the +150-seat airplane will be launched. (No kidding–we’ve been saying this for a couple of years now.)
  • Williams believes Boeing will make a mistake to proceed with a replacement for the 737 in this decade because engine technology won’t be ready until the next decade to get the gains desired by the airlines.
  • He does not believe Airbus should respond immediately with a replacement for the A320 if Boeing goes with a new plane because anything before 2024 won’t have enough fuel/operating cost reduction to justify the investment.
  • Williams says the PW P1000G GTF is more technologically advanced than the CFM LEAP-X.

  • Williams said it isn’t “feasible” to do nothing with the A320, which is why a re-engining is getting so much attention–but he adds that this isn’t a “done deal,” a decision whether to re-engine will come when the business case for Airbus and the airlines is made.
  • The A340 is only a build-to-order airplane now.
  • As previously announced, Airbus will take A320 production back to 36/mo from December. In connection with this, Williams remarked that the financial markets are coming back, which will make financing less reliant on export credit and Airbs customer financing.
  • Although Airbus previously planned to take A380 production to four per month (prior to the industrial meltdown in this program), Williams now says three a month is “sensible.”
  • Williams needs a lot of “convincing” to support an A380 freighter. Focus now has to be on the A380P, the A350 and the A320RE programs.

John Leahy:

  • Predicts 20 A380 orders this year vs 10 previously predicted.
  • Reminds us that Airbus’ forecast for A380 is based on the point-to-point/hub-to-hub traffic of mega-cities which will grow from some 30 today to more than 80 over 20 years, requiring 1,000 A380s.
  • Says conclusions by aerospace analysts that there are 852 surplus airplanes–which are the basis for forecasts that production reductions are necessary–is wrong. The number is closer to 450-500 and more at the lower end of this range.
  • Believes Boeing is bluffing about a replacement 737 at this time, noting Boeing said the 7J7, Sonic Cruiser were false starts. (He omitted the seveal false starts on the 747 derivatives and his own missed forecast that the 7E7 would be another false start.)
  • He’s adament that new engine technology is worth waiting for and that a re-engine program is a reasonable interim step but underscored that Airbus has not made a decision to procede with what he is now calling the A320 “Neo.” He also believes Boeing will follow with a 737 “Neo.” But if Airbus does nothing, neither will Boeing. Says Airbus could launch the program without customers rather than requiring a customer launch.
  • Says a Blended Wing Body doesn’t work with fewer than 400 passengers.

Day 2 Summary:

Day 2 wasn’t as newsy as Day 1, largely because John Leahy and Tom Williams covered some of the ground that was to be covered by Day 2 presenters. This is a result of their presentations duplicating info and questions posed to them. Also, Day 2 was a bit more technical than normally covered by this column. With this in mind, here are a few highlights.

Andrew Shankland, VP Marketing:

  • Airbus expects the A330 passenger to sell at least to 2018 if not beyond, filling the range niche of up to 5,000 miles in a manner that the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 proves to be too long-legged.
  • Shankland presented a direct comparison between the A330-300 and the Boeing 777-200ER (since these are virtually identical in capacity). While the 777 has more range, Shankland made an interesting comparison about the weight and operating costs advantages held by the A333 over the 772ER. We immediately thought that he made Boeing’s argument in the tanker competition when comparing the KC-767-200ERF with the KC-45 (A330-200). We will discuss this in a future column in detail.
  • Airbus made the point, as it has in the past, that its new A330-200HGW (High Gross Weight, an unofficial designation since Airbus isn’t using it), will have almost the same range as the early models of the 787-8, in its assessment. Airbus believes that the early 787s will have a range of just under 7,000nm due to weight and fuel burn issues. The A332HGW has a range slightly below the assumed 787 shortfall range, while carrying more passengers and more cargo.

Sadly, Shankland announced that Stuart Mann, the long-time A320 program chief, died a month ago following a long, long illness. The visibily moved Shankland paid tribute to Mann, a gregarious, funny individual whom we got to know during our various trips to see Airbus. Anyone who knew Stuart knows exactly what we mean. Shankland noted that no matter how dire things seemed about whatever was going on, Mann always saw the light in the dark. Andy said he will miss Stuart, and so will we–as well as anyone who knew Stuart.

On to other things:

  • The A400M program is proceeding in its flight testing, after a very difficult birthing. Airbus Military is optimistic about progress.
  • Airbus Military has a trade press briefing next week on the KC-30 MRTT and A400M. It won’t be webcast and we won’t be there, but watch trade reports for stories coming out of this.

20 Comments on “Airbus Innovation Days-Day 1/2

  1. “The A340 is only a build-to-order airplane now.”

    That’s a good one.

    I’m anxiously waiting to read what [deleted] Leahy has to say…..

    No name-calling. You know the rules on this blog.–Leehamnet.

  2. Contrary to William’s statement, Boeing will not proceed with a new 737 replacement until the technologies and engine have matured to assure its success. There is no need to rush.

    If there is an announcement that Boeing will proceed, it is really a statement that they will do nothing but continue to research for the correct time when the decision to design and produce is
    compelling.

  3. Leahy is right on the BWB. Even at 400 seats the gain made through usage of BWB-concept is not granted. The BWB is truly useful for an aircraft of the size of an A380 or bigger.

    The changing Boeing statements concerning Single Aisle replacement implies the B737 is not that easy to re-engine.

    I am not sure if a re-engined A319 is that attractive. The new engines will give it a range-boost, which many operators actually don’t need. A 130-seat CSeries should be quite a good solution for many operators.

  4. Very interesting update, thank you Scott. I hope you are enjoying Chester. :o)
    Some good info regarding the SA re-engine. To add to the debate going on another thread, my feeling is that if Boeing do indeed decide to go for a replacement programme, I am guessing they couldn’t close the business case to re engine. Maybe they concluded that the cost of the engineering activities cannot be amortised over a given period without compromising the price of a 737. I have long thought Airbus will re engine could they launch, perhaps at Farnborough? By the way, did they mention what percentage improvement they are targeting?
    If Boeing will not re engine, when do they launch a new one? I find this subject of a new SA very interesting indeed, having many variables in that equation…
    I really do hope the future is Open Rotor. With many problems like noise, vibration and ‘blade out’ to consider (both have plenty of time to sort them out), A & B have at least considered this configuration. RR said that this engine will not be ready until 2017-2018. Numerous additional technologies will also be available towards the end of the decade, hence I do think that Boeing will be wise to wait, especially given their huge backlog.

    Just to pick up on some of your points…

    “The A340 is only a build-to-order airplane now.”
    So what will happen to the wing jigs? Will they just stand idle?

    “Williams needs a lot of “convincing” to support an A380 freighter. Focus now has to be on the A380P, the A350 and the A320RE programs.”
    Well, looks like they have their priorities straight.

    “Predicts 20 A380 orders this year vs 10 previously predicted.”
    That would certainly be welcome but slightly contradicts Galois, who said he doesn’t expect many orders in 2010. Has a position changed so quickly?

    “…Airbus has not made a decision to procede with what he is now calling the A320 “Neo.””
    Ohh Lord, what’s next? A330 “Terminator”? :o)

    • “So what will happen to the wing jigs? Will they just stand idle?”

      my assumption is that all wings are done on the same jig.
      Initially due to the wings being the same, later ( with the -500 and -600 )
      due to a new universal jig.

      refs:
      http://www.kinematics.com/media/GeraintJones_Airbus_LVMC06_LargeJigVerification-final_000.ppt?phpMyAdmin=69ec4ae0b5ddtf17d599

      http://www.electroimpact.com/.%5Cresearch%5C2000-01-3015.pdf
      (wordpress SW seems to have eaten my initial post?)

      • Imho Airbus had very good reason to go for
        the twin/quad duality as they did.

        The future was definitely twins ( Airbus was very
        early into ETOPS like operations ) but without
        a specimen from home turf the FAA would not
        have moved into certifying what developed into
        ETOPS ( now LROPS ) Airbus needed a four-holer
        to enter the long range market and to some degree
        pressure Boeing into producing a LR twin that would
        push the ETOPS envelope that would produce a market
        for Aribus twins ..

        For Airbus the _summ_ of A330 and A340 sales mattered,
        not the individual numbers of twins and quads.

    • UK Air, Leahy would like to announce decision on RE at Farnborough but he and Williams say year-end is the commitment and they won’t be rushed.

      Percentage gains were provided, and our plan is to digest the presentations in a more coherant form over the next week or so after we are back. We’ll include this info then.

      Uwe, remember that Lufthansa demanded a 4-engine airplane and the A340 was supposed to be with “Super Fan” highly efficient engines. When the maker (PW?) couldn’t produce them, Airbus had to punt with the CFM56 and later RR. The A340 was never supposed to be just another 4-engine plane but a super-efficient engine power.

      As for the wings, remember the A330 uses the same wings (hence the pre-existing hard points for the refueling wing pods on the tanker–the pods go where the outboard engines would otherwise be on the A340).

      • I didn’t know about the LH order.

        The super fan bruhaha is known
        as is the same wing for 330/340 issue.
        see my other post on wing jigs elsewhere.

        Any good idea why the “super fan” fizzled?
        hubris or enemy action;-)

        Thanks for the info, anyway.

      • Scott,

        The A340-200 and A340-300 shared the same wing as the A330 but the A340NG wing was upgraded substantially and its dimensions are quite different from the A340-200/300 wing. The A340NG wingspan is about 10ft greater and even the wing sweepback is different; 31.1 degrees vs. 30 degrees for the A340-200/300 and A330. The fuel capacity is quite a bit greater for the A340NG as well. My understanding was that Airbus started with the A340-200/300 wing but added inboard wing plugs for more fuel capacity, changed the sweep and made enough changes that the A340NG wing can be considered to be essentially a different wing. It may be semantics to some degree but to me the A340NG wing looks different enough from the A330 wing that different jigs and other production equipment would be needed.

      • “UK Air, Leahy would like to announce decision on RE at Farnborough but he and Williams say year-end is the commitment and they won’t be rushed.”

        How can Leahy resist the limelight of an airshow? 🙂 I still think Farnborough is not a bad bet.

        “Percentage gains were provided, and our plan is to digest the presentations in a more coherant form over the next week or so after we are back. We’ll include this info then.”

        It would be interesting to see the percentage due to the engines independent of the new sharklet and the aero improvements.

        “As for the wings, remember the A330 uses the same wings (hence the pre-existing hard points for the refueling wing pods on the tanker–the pods go where the outboard engines would otherwise be on the A340).”

        No, it’s not as simple, as John pointed out. The -500/600 series wing (and this is the one I mean, really) has a 3 frame tapered insert in the wing box (resulting in a 1.7m greater root chord) and a 1.6m tip extension. Uwe linked interesting presentations, showing what happens at stage 01, where stringers are riveted to the skins but I was more thinking about the wing assembly jigs, which, I am pretty sure, are specific to the -500/600 series. Hence, my original question. They used to have at least 2 wing assembly jigs but even with one… it will be idle? The A340-200/300 wings are, indeed, assembled on the same jigs as the A330 series.

  5. A re-engine would aim at the higher end of Airbus single aisle, A320 and A321. On the lower end the position of the A319 is weakening due to the inherent disadvantages of a shrink (weight).
    If you expect a 15% better SFC of a GTF versus a standard CFM56-5B, you could translate that into a perhaps 10% better fuel burn per seat as the GTF (including pylon) weights more and has more drag.

    On very short missions with A319 the GTF might even come out at the same fuel burn. Also, Airbus will most likely introduce wing tip devices with the re-engine, which are much more attractive for the higher weight A320-Fam.

    One market both aim at is the B757 replacement. A true replacement of the B757-200 with current single aisle is not feasible, but an “80% solution” using updated engines and wing tip devices on an A321 is thinkable.

    • the downsized 320 family airbusses have
      a lot of improved materials/technique incorporated.
      Would it make sense to bump these up to the
      320/321 models? ( welded frames, … )

  6. I would be surprised if the current A321 or Boeing 737-900 is not already the 80% solution.

    @Uwe
    I think that’s 20-20 hindsight and a bit of a rose-tinted view of history combining. If that was Airbus’ view, why sink money into the A340-500/600 instead of spending it on upgrading the A330 to higher capacity?

    All the best

    Andreas

    • Certainly, nothing like a nice tint of rose ( in my wineglass ;-).
      The -500 and -600 variant do strain my theory a bit.
      on the third hand:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ETOPS#Early_ETOPS
      Airbus would never have been able to achieve a similar concession
      in preceedence over Boeing from the FAA.

      The ETOPS timeline certainly is only one (minor?) decisive element
      in product developement.

  7. To: UKair on May 11, 2010 at 10:06 pm
    Re: A330/A340 wing jig.

    see the electroimpact.com link in my post further up. the industrialisation for the -500 -600 versions
    included a completely new “universal” jig and ( some other new tech ).

    The setup for this CNC jig seems to be flexible enough to accomodate some variation in wing dimensions.
    Airbus could probably build the complete range on this one (or complementary pair?) jig.

    Obs: I didn’t find anything explicitly mentioning
    this as fact., but nothing in the other direction either.
    I would be very surprised if Airbus would leave an
    expensive but very flexible jig unused.
    ( I have no idea how this compares to Boeings manufacturing processes, though it looks like the car manufacturers have about ignored any progress made elsehwere 😉

    Scott had hinted earlier that processes at Airbus and Boeing differ distinctly. Would be nice to have that fleshed out some on occasion.

    • Uwe, the Stage 01 jigs are not, what I am talking about. I was talking about are the wing assembly jigs. Stage 01 jigs are to rivet the stringers onto the skin panels. One panel is then loaded into the wing assembley jig, where the spars are perpositioned, then ribs are added etc….
      I can post here, probably next week, a quick process if you are interested.

      “I would be very surprised if Airbus would leave an expensive but very flexible jig unused.”
      Well, hence the original question… 🙂

      • “I can post here, probably next week, a quick process if you are interested.”

        Yes, Please.
        G!
        uwe

  8. Leeham wrote:

    “was supposed to be with “Super Fan” highly efficient engines.”

    The fuel delta between the B77W and A346 alone (and the capabilities of the B77L and A345) are nothing short of “shocking”-hence the precipitous fall in sales of both frames. That was a >$4-$5 billion plus fiasco.

    Regarding Leahy’s comments about the A380?

    1)He probably knows something about the A380 order book so he’s quite confident about 20.
    2)If the market was so strong for A380-sized plane, during the greatest boom in aviation sales history, one would have seen more than a scant 200 or so sales. We are in the 10 official year (and 11 unofficial) of sales and gathering 200-220 sales, with a bulk of that coming from one carrier isn’t what one can call “successful”.

    Airbus has to sell a staggering 750+ frames in the next 10-15 years to hit the 1,000 frame market. I’ll be surprised if they even sell 400 frames-probably around 300.

    Yes, the A333 (and A332) has been beating the B77E for quite some time..but Boeing’s major sellers haven’t been the B77E anyway so its a moot point.

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