Odds and Ends: AirAsia on A330neo, A380; 777X specificiations; A380 engine PIPs

AirAsia on Airbus: AirAsia Group is one of Airbus’ largest customers, and its CEO Tony Fernandes is increasingly influential in the Asian sector. He’s also into car racing, often betting Virgin Group’s Richard Branson. This short interview details Fernandes’ view on the prospective A330neo–something Fernandes has been pushing for some time–and what he thinks Airbus should do with the A380.

Looking at the 777X: Aviation Week has a detailed look at the Boeing 777X “under the skin.” Fuel burn, engine thrust and general specifications are in the article. Aviation Week also has a series of videos from the Dubai Air Show here. Topics: 777X, Qatar Airways and A380 engines. On the latter, Emirates CEO Tim Clark suggests putting the new GE9X or Rolls-Royce Trent on the A380 to reduce fuel burn by 10%.

50 Comments on “Odds and Ends: AirAsia on A330neo, A380; 777X specificiations; A380 engine PIPs

  1. Except that the GE9X is too big for the A380. The thrust is 25% more than needed so much unnecessary weight would be carried (and begs the question: what engine weights can the wing handle).

    The latest Trent (XWB) is also too big, but not as much.

    Best option could be to start a PIP for the Trent900 and GP7000 (using tech from TXWB and GE9X respectively).

    • Or just possibly a shared engine with a 330 NEO, as Tony Fernandes is asking for in the article linked above, and/or a designed (as opposed to derated) regional A350

      • The T900 and GP7200 go up to 78 klbf. This is too high I think for an A330neo, which would do nicely with around 70 klbf I think.

        Possibly the A380 can do with less if range is capped or -900 permanently shelved.

    • Clark wants an engine that’s at least 10 percent better than the Trent-900 and GP7200 engines. That means an engine at least as advanced as the new Rolls Royce RB3039 engine. PIPs for the current engines won’t cut it.

      Add some 20 tonnes of weight savings on the current A388 if Airbus would decide to switch to CFRP on the fuselage and the outer wing box, and you would have a VLA that would be seriously more efficient than the new twins — and that’s even before the airframe is stretched further.

      • Addendum.

        Most, if not all of the A380s just ordered by Emirates will be delivered before any new engine is available for a 2nd generation A380.

        Hence this latest EK order for 50 more A380s is a top-up order; just like EK’s order for 50 more 777-300ERs at the 2011 Dubai Air Show.

        Can we expect a massive EK order for 2nd generation A380s at the Dubai Air Show in 2015? What about 100 A380-900s and 100 A350-1000s for delivery between 2021 and 2031. 😉

      • That last sentence should read:

        What about 100 A380-900s and 100 A380-1000s for delivery between 2021 and 2031

  2. The TXWB is about 10% better then the T900, no need for a new engine (which takes 7 years to get into service), it is 1 tonne heavier though. The T1000TEN is i the right weight class, a bit smaller fan wise and is burning 6% less.

    • The TXWB is a little large (both in thrust and in weight) for an A330neo (as I wrote up-thread). The T1000TEN is the right size, as is the GEnx-1. Both were considered for the original A350.

      However, both are bleed-less engines (meaning: no customer bleed, still bleed for turbine cooling). The GEnx-1A was never developed, only the GEnx-1B. Same goes for the T1000. In addition: the engine mounts to the a/c were likely different between the 787 and the A350. The 787 has mounts on the fan case and the turbine rear frame and the thrust lugs connect to the fan frame. Airbus likes to use a “greyhound” mount for the engine mounts. Thrust mounts about the same. So it is quite a lot of work to make A330neo version of either of these. Considerably less than a new engine though…

      The frames for the engine mounts are long lead time items. With a new wing (unlikely) Airbus could mitigate some of the work mods from the 787. With the same wing I expect about three years development time (1-1.5 until first engine to test hardware, then testing and development for compliance and serial hardware). Compressor lead times abou the same.

      Big thing is that if the fan module is kept intact (and fan speeds are unchanged) no new fan blade off test is needed. This is a huge cost saver.

      • Oh, and while suitable for an A330neo, neither the GEnx-1B nor the Trent1000TEN are big enough for the A380 (it currently has engines of 78 klbf thrust). The TrentXWB is too big for the A380 as well.

  3. As I said, Clarke is talking about 2020, not now (i.e. please check out the video below) — and it looks as if he doesn’t want a heavier engine than necessary.

    Why shouldn’t Airbus go for an engine that’s at least 5 percent better than the TXWB in TSFC? Also, the new engine could also be used on an A330 replacement aircraft.


    Rolls says “it continues to study all options and is constantly working with Airbus” on prospective engine solutions. However program sources indicate a variety of options are under evaluation ranging from scaled ‘light’ derivatives of the Trent XWB, to an adapted variant of the Trent 1000TEN in early development for the Boeing 787-10. The manufacturer is also believed to be reviewing designs based on the RB.3025, an all-new engine configuration which lost out to the GE9X in the contest to power the newly-launched 777X.


    • Addendum

      RR, apparently, is not offering the TXWB, but a scaled light derivative of the TXWB engine. The Trent 1000TEN is just not good enough — that is if a 10 percent improvement in TSFC is the minimum amount required — and the TXWB is too heavy.

      Hence, an engine based upon the new 3039 concept engine seems to be the best option, by far.

      • May be too late for the RR3039 … 2020 at least !
        The A330 may be dead, and the A380 in a bad shape !
        A scaled light derivatve of the TXWB may be disponible in 2017-18 …

      • At current production levels, the A380 backlog will last through 2019. Emirates is not demanding new tech before 2020, so what’s the problem?

        IMO, the RR3039 will be perfect for the A380-800 and A380-900X and/or an A380-1000X

        The A330 should IMHO be replaced by an all new aircraft that would have a fuselage based upon that of the A350, and a RR3039-type engine.

        The A330-300 is good enough for the time being. The new regional version looks to be a best seller in Asia.

      • I’ve come across postings that posited that RR has to prove a complete fanblade off containment while GE only has to show containment of a CFRP fanblade fragment ( ~50% of a single blade ).
        While TI blades appear to be weightwise competitive with CFRP blades the containment requirements should transform into quite a weight difference.
        ( and obs: noteworthy that select manufacturer advantages regularly stem from easements in certification requirements.)

  4. The Aviation Week article on the 777X says this is Boeing’s fourth composite wing. Boeing did a composite wing on the 787. What are the other two? Military planes?

    • It may look as if Boeing is playing fast and loose with the terms first, second, third and fourth generation.

      The 777X introduces what Boeing defines as a “fourth generation” composite wing. The first two were developed for the 787-8, and the third for the stretched -9, incorporating “structural improvements, in the way stringers and panels are designed and built, plus techniques to deal with electromagnetic effects”, says Feldmann. “The 777X wing… is not a new design – it is taking the learnings from the 787-9 wing from a producability, quality and performance point of view.”


      • What caught my eye was this sentence:

        “We are confident in the wing design. It produces incredible increases in lift and decreases in drag,” despite weighing more than the current metallic wing, adds Feldmann”

        Shouldn’t it be lighter? And if it is a bigger wing it isn’t surprising that it is producing more lift, surely?

  5. Unless RR is able to downsize the TXWB (For the A358 too , it would be wise , hum ?), the T1000 “Ten” is the best compromise for A330 and A380 !
    May need more Bleed Air and less KW !
    Not an immediate solution, but with a 3 years lead time … may be !

    Otherwise, the GEnx2B, if GE is OK, is the best quick solution for the A330, Tony Fernandez is right ! Add Sharklets, and the A330 will become very decent in a short timing ! The big “If” is GE !

    The GEnx 1B may be of interest for the A380 with the same handicap seen with the T1000 ! Not an immédiate solution, and some tuning to perform !

    Lost in the woods …. P&W and a more powerfull GTF !

    • As I indicated up-thread, why should Airbus choose to with engines that are less efficient than the GE9X? 😉

    • I wrote quite a lengthy comment to an earlier post on just this topic…

      The GEnx-2B is a bleed engine, contrary to its larger sibling the GEnx-1B, but it is rated at maximum 64 klbf. I believe this to be too little for an A330neo.

      Also, the GEnx-2B is considered to be less efficient than the -1B and the Trent 1000 (as these are improved through sparring each other). The volume of 747-8 is also too low to support much PIP work (although Boeing undoubtly pressures GE on this).

      If Airbus gives an A330neo a short range, they might be able to live with less thrust.

      • If there is to be an A330neo, Airbus should send out a RFP to P&W and RR for a 2020 state-of-the-art engine, not a 2010 state-of-the-art engine made by GE — and BTW, Airbus is not interested in the GEnx engine.

        On the A350-XWB-1000, Seager said: “We’re protecting our investment. Why would we want to go and participate with another product that would compete directly?”

        That position has turned into a public spat, with Airbus COO Customer John Leahy declaring at the IATA AGM in Vancouver in June 2007 that “GEnx engines don’t work for us at all”. He added: “We have no intention of putting their GEnx engine (which was designed specifically for the 787 platform) on the A350XWB at all. It has to be a generation beyond.”

        After an Airbus/GE meeting at the Paris Air Show, Leahy accused GE of playing favourites. “The problem we have with GE is they go to Seattle and say, ‘What kind of engine should we design for your airframe?’ Then they come to Toulouse and say, ‘Here is the kind of airframe you need to build to fit our engine’,” he told the Seattle PI.

        “They (GE) do not want to compete with their own cash cow.”

        However, GE Engine Division president Scott Donnelly points out that it was Airbus that changed the design of the A350, stating: “We were the guys with Airbus (on the first A350).”


      • An the A330 GE would replace their own CF6-80E1. On the Boeing 787 the RR was the lead engine. Loyalty will play little role. This is no 777 competitor & GE want to make money, also at Airbus. It’s half the market..

      • If Airbus was to offer an A330neo, why should they choose GE over Pratt?

        The GEnx is old tech, at least GE should offer a scaled down engine of the GE9X – something they likely won’t do. Has GE as a single-entity business ever offered an all new engine to Airbus? You know, an engine not first developed for a Boeing or a MacDac. 😉

        Pratt seems to be eager to rejoin the WB engine business. It seems to me that a GTF-derived engine and a RR3039-type engine would be the best solution. Both engines could be used on the A380 as well.

        For P&W, the 777X represents the first realistic opportunity to deploy geared-turbofan technology – with which it is enjoying considerable success in the single-aisle market – for a widebody application.

        “For probably 12-18 months we’ve been looking at the geared architecture in the 70-100,000lb-thrust class,” says P&W vice-president, next-generation product family, Bob Saia.

        He says a GTF for the 100,000lb-thrust requirement of the 777X would feature a fan diameter of 130-140in.

        “It seems that fits pretty well onto the aircraft as we’ve studied it. We believe that as our engine is a lot shorter, because of the geared architecture, the engine and aircraft weight characteristics and how we would install the engine look pretty attractive.”

        In terms of overall pressure ratio, P&W envisages its engine coming in at the “50-55-ish level”, says Saia.

        “I know the competitors have said as high as 60. We don’t really think we need to go to that high a pressure because of the ability of our gear and how we manage efficiency in the engine.

        “Today we have two-stage HPT and eight stage-HPC [on the GTF]. We will definitely stay with a two-stage HPT, but as we go up in thrust, the HPC may not change in stage count but the LPC and LPT stage count will change,” he says.

        “We can either add a stage to the HPC, or we can add a stage to the LPC to provide the pressure rise. Those are the studies that we’ve been doing.”

        The bypass ratio would “probably be a little bit larger than where we are today with the [Bombardier] CSeries and [Airbus A320] Neo, so something a little bit larger than 13 is where we would target”, he says.


  6. An A330 NEO will also need a power range. A -200 Regional needs less then e.g
    an A330-300F or HGW MRTT with center gear. A power range of 65 up to 82k lbs seems enough. No doubt GE and RR can come up with something decent. The F nose gear (rest value), Sharklets and more composites (low hanging fruit) would no doubt be part of the deal, maybe little stretches to lower seat costs. IMO Airbus will launch it if the backlog goes below a certain threshold. Or e.g. GE+big launch customer do an if-then proposal.

  7. This comment seems like sort of an indirect reference to the pending 2016 strike/777x site selection;

    “In an effort to address industrial issues that led to long delays on the 787, Boeing late last year appointed Scott Fancher – Feldmann’s immediate predecessor as 777X general manager – to head up a new Airplane Development organisation within its Commercial Airplanes division.

    “It is all about driving dependability and process into how we develop airplanes so that our customers can depend on us to deliver what we said we would deliver, when we said we’d deliver it, at the quality and reliability that we set,” says Feldmann. “Our whole focus is around that.””

  8. “We are confident in the wing design. It produces incredible increases in lift and decreases in drag,” despite weighing more than the current metallic wing, adds Feldmann”

    What will be the empty weight of the 777-9X? I see the GE9X thrust level creeping up to GE90-11X levels and its 7 years before EIS.. Water injection anyone?

  9. mneja, Ferpe, OV-099

    Does it make sense to wonder whether the TXWB could be fitted with a CFRP fan, both for use on the A380 (to address the engine weight issue), and to further improve the A350 (spreading the investment on a much larger number of engines) ? If feasible, what would be the likely time frame ?

      • Keesje, thank you for the instructive link.

        If I understood correctly, RR is making headway with CFRP fans (and fan cases), but the new features cannot be retrofitted to existing engines. Unfortunately, the answer to my question seems to be negative.

        “The composite fan and casing will be available to become [parts] of a new engine “before the end of the decade” …. However, a retrofit to current models, including the Trent XWB, will not be possible because the existing engine cores have been optimised for their dedicated fan blade and case systems.”

      • That sound kind of dubious, considering that Aviadvigatel is exactly planning to transition from a titanium fan PD-14 to a composite fan uprated PD-14M. I mean, RR may have it’s own financial reasons for not doing a more serious retrofit like that, but I don’t see why it shouldn’t be possible… And sharing it with another aircraft project should justify it even more.

  10. A330NEO is still a bad idea when thought to the end.
    I think Tony Fernandes has shown quite nicely that he is a great airline CEO and would be a bad aircraft manufacturer CEO. Both of his ideas (dropping the A380 and NEOing the A330) are terrible.

    An A380 update needs to be more than just engines. Overall, a 10% reduction in seat-mile cost may do the job.

    The hugh improvement of the B777 wing just shows how bad the current one is.
    The savings compared to the A350 are seat-based numbers, so the usual care towards the percentage values is advised.

    • I concur on all accounts. 🙂

      An A330neo will never equal the 787 in performance, nor will it surpass it. Hence. the A330 should IMO be replaced by a whole new family of aircraft that would be derived from the A350 (i.e. same fuselage, new wing etc.). Since such a new family of aircraft would be optimised for intermediate ranged routes, and coupled with new engines using technologies that would be at least a decade more advanced than what’s on the 787, the 787 should easily be surpassed in efficiency by such a new intermediate ranged twin-aisle family.

      As for the A380, IMJ the outer wing box could be made using CFRP. What is important is to retain the most expensive parts of the wing; namely the leading and trailing edges as they are (i.e. all of the movable surfaces). In addition, the wing span should be increased to 90m thanks to 5m long folding wingtips. Each A380 wing weighs 45 tonnes. Switching to CFRP on the wingbox should result in weight savings of at least 5 tonnes (per wing).

      IMJ — and as I’ve mentioned earlier — an A380-type fuselage with two full passenger decks will see even higher weight-savings if the fuselage is built out of CFRP, than what’s the case for a twin aisle aircraft. Hence, it makes a lot of sense now for Airbus to future proof the A380 and future twin-engined A380 derivative VLAs (i.e. A370X) as well.

      The way the A350 is built architecturally quite similar to the A380, demonstrates how Airbus could re-make the A380 in quite a similar fashion to that of the A350. For example, the metallic cockpit (Section-11) on the A380 would remain the same. Same goes for the empennage (Section-19m) and everything below the main deck on the centre fuselage (Section-15). However, fuselage sections 12, 13-14,16-18 could become all composite like the way it’s done on the A350. In addition, the frames around the windows on the lower deck should be re-contoured in order to allow for 11 abreast with 18-inch seats (i.e. floor outboard of the aisles raised by about 20 cm as well).

      In short, the A380NG should be made as advanced as possible.

      • Addendum

        A380NG cabin installation should copy the A350 new way of doing things. Also, Airbus should offer premium cabins only on the upper deck, not on the main deck, which BTW should have an 11 abreast economy class configuration as previously mentioned. The aft cabin on the upper deck — or the whole upper deck for that matter — should still be able to be outfitted with economy class seats at 8 abreast.

    • The current 777 wing is terrible you say? Are you being inflammatory or just stupid? Tim Clark said a few years ago that when he approached Boeing about a 777 upgrade, he said he didn’t know “what they could do with the wing because it was already very good.”

      What are you talking about? Perhaps you and OV-099 fail to realise that technology moves ahead in 20 years, so, yeah, a new wing now would make the old one look old hat.

      Come on.

    • The A330 is successful because it is very cheap to buy and readily available. Airbus used this advantage to the utmost. Any investment is a loss. Even new engines.

      • Are you so sure about that?
        If you revamp the plane, give it new engines and maybe new wingtips, you could probably raise the average price a good bit – and extend the life of a final assembly line that has already paid for itself many times over.
        A problem might be that you may need to stretch the A330 for a NEO variant to make it competitive – and that would mean eating into A350 territory, while still not covering 787-8 territory.

      • Airbus had that market to itself for quite some time, so the number of orders is no surprise. The A330 sold so well partly because Boeing’s failure to have the 787 EIS on time and the 767 was too small.

      • an A330 update, as you say, is throwing good money after bad. An A330NEO doesn’t make sense from an investment or technological standpoint. Airbus would be better off spending that cash on the A380 update or somehow convincing customers to upgrade to the A350.

        • You are completely missing out on reality.
          Why should Airbus increase pressure on A350 ( cheap regional at that ) demand when a fully working 10/month line is available to satisfy that interest.
          A350 production will be unable to satisfy further demand before 2019 or there abouts.
          Looks like Airbus will have a nicer interregnum period than what is ahead for Boeing’s 77-300ER.

  11. Switching from Aluminum to Composite requires a new build process. That comes with huge investments and new learning curve, ramp-up issues and possible quality problems. I would opt for the 80-20 solution. That is: new engine, larger wing tips, weight savings at some points. The investment needs to be sufficiently small, otherwise it doesn’t pay for the company.

    • ROI depends, of course, on how you look at how both the market and technological developments will evolve post 2020. I believe that come 2025-2030, there will be a large market for super efficient, fully optimised, intermediate range VLAs. An A380 derived aircraft featuring a new wing and two engines would fit that bill. Heck, you could even put the A350 wing and engines on an A380 derived twin-engined aircraft, making it a super efficient short range VLA. Hence, switching to composites on the scale that I’ve previously outlined, would IMO fully future proof not only the A380, but an A370X-series as well. I would agree, therefore, that if you’re only looking at the A380 quad-jet in isolation, and not any future twin-engined derivative of the double-decker platform, then these extensive upgrades wouldn’t likely payback the added ROI.

  12. Schorsch, the current A330 fuel efficiency disadvantage vs the 787 is just a small part of the story from an airline perspective. And bridgeable.

    Scott talked to a fleet planner recently that said the 787 is about 10% better then the A330. Maybe he’s a few percent off..

    GE says the GENX is about 15% better then the CF6-80 (that is on the A330).

    ..we won’t jump to conclusions here.. but the A330 has other advantages too over the 787.
    – 1000+ Aircraft in service with 120 satisfied operators, thousands of certified pilots
    – dozens of qualified maintenance facilities, training centers and MRO providers
    – A capable dedicated medium freighter version
    – an cargo conversion idle only because of lack of cheap used A330s (rest value)
    – lower prices based on a smooth running 9 a/c a month paid for production line
    – availability from Airbus / Lessors within 2 years.
    – 18 inch seats 8 abreast, 16.7 9 abreast,
    – no unknown future composites repair and electric maintenance costs
    – a leading military tanker transport version

    If Airbus equips the A330 NEO with the higher nose gear (-> bigger fans), sharklets and the latest iteration of RR, GE engines, adopts some A350XWB cockpit and cabin innovations and enhances wings and tail, well, folks in Chicago will keep seeing an A330 on the ceiling when they wake up sweaty at night. After hurting the M11, 767, 772, 787 she might very well still be around for another 15 years.

  13. I agree 100% with Keesje! The A330 is a phenomenally capable aircraft. She has proven that she deserves another 15+ years in production and any investment that will ensure it. I am sure any investment in the airframe will reap handsome returns! If I were Airbus I would not want to close the door on such a tremendous achievement!

    • That will only eat into A350 sales and take a longer time for the A350 program to turn a profit. A waste of money for Airbus only to compete with itself.

      • More A330 sales may not necessarily hurt A350 sales. Airbus can position the A330 in the short to medium range and the A350 in medium to long range. What Boeing has to offer? Can Boeing offer any free slots soon?

        Why should Airbus care about making any profit with A350 if Airbus can make more profit by selling cheap A330?

  14. When Boeing promoted the Dreamliner they claimed a 20 % efficiency advantage over the previous generation aircraft. Not over the A330.

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