Note: Jon Ostrower at Flight Global has this update.
The underlying cause for the Cargolux rejection (the airline’s word) of the delivery of the first two Boeing 747-8Fs is performance.
Performance is based, generally, on two things: weight of the airplane and specific fuel consumption (SFC). If the airplane is too heavy, it may not meet the payload and/or range guarantees. If SFC is below specifications, range/payload may be affected. If you combine the two issues, a larger problem exists.
It’s been well known for more than a year that the 747-8 was “heavy” and the GEnx engines burned too much fuel. Despite the two year delay, GE hasn’t developed a performance improvement package (PIP) for the 747-8 that will be ready before the end of 2013, according to sources familiar with the situation. GE’s priority has been the 787 program.
We asked Boeing about the weight and SFC issues. Here is its response:
Q — 748F is about 8pc overweight, more or less.
Boeing: It’s misleading to say we missed our specifications. After we set our original specification, we completely redesigned the wing, which is significantly heavier, but more than makes up for that in increased aerodynamic efficiency and lower fuel burn. Our flight loads survey testing presented us opportunities to further enhance the airplane’s performance through further weight savings as well as to improve our payload range capability by increasing our maximum taxi weight, maximum takeoff weight, maximum landing weight and maximum zero fuel weight. As with all our airplanes, Boeing will continue to seek further improvements in weight throughout the life of the program.
Additional information from us: We understand the 747-8F is 5,000-6,000 pounds heavier than the revised design.
Q — Airplane is 6 to 8 percent short on fuel burn specs.
Boeing: While the first airplanes we deliver will be somewhat short of initial specifications for fuel burn, your estimate is much too high. Even at entry into service, the 747-8 will be a great airplane for our customers, and give them unparalleled efficiency and low cost, including double-digit improvements in fuel burn and lowered emissions. And with the GE Performance Improvement Package in work for the GEnx-2B engine, coupled with a number of aerodynamic improvements we have identified for implementation, we are confident that the airplanes we are selling today will meet our customer specifications. As with all development programs, we continue to focus on performance improvement for future line numbers and retrofitable kits for all delivered aircraft to further improve the performance of each airplane.
Additional information: subsequent to our posing the original question to Boeing, we were informed the SFC shortfall is closer to about 2.5%, which actually tracks with information we received last year.
Q — Cargolux isn’t the only airline unhappy with the airplane.
Boeing: Cargolux has said that it has refused delivery because of unresolved contractual issues, not because it is disappointed in the airplane. The 747-8, whether Freighter or Intercontinental, is a great product, carrying more payload farther and with greatly reduced fuel burn over the very successful 747-400 that it replaces. Our customers realize the value this airplane will bring to their operations, and will be pleased to have the airplanes in service.
The first 747-8 Freighters to be delivered meet or exceed customer expectations for maximum payload capability, community noise, common pilot ratings, airport compatibility — including takeoff and landing-separation distances — and all low-speed takeoff and landing requirements. In addition, the 747-8 delivers greater that a double digit fuel burn improvement over the highly successful 747-400. The airplanes are better than promised in community noise reduction, achieving QC2 on departure and QC1 on approach — putting the 747-8 in one of the quietest noise categories for large airplanes.
Additional information: That being said, we reliably understand (as we reported in our previous post) that another customer is negotiating to bypass early, overweight freighters that require rework in favor of later production models that have in-line modifications.