Odds and Ends: A330neo decision could be near; KC-46A; Countdown to Superbowl; A400M

A330neo decision: Aviation Week reports that a decision to proceed with the Airbus A330neo could be “imminent.” The report also discusses the advocacy by Tim Clark, COO of Emirates Airlines, to re-engine the Airbus A380. As with the Reuters and Bloomberg articles we previously linked, the Aviation Week piece also confirms much of what we were the first news outlet to report in December. We have a launch in 2014 rather than 2015 reported in Aviation Week, although we both have a decision to proceed for this year. Aviation Week and Bloomberg report that the decision could come as early as March.

Aviation Week confirms our report that Pratt & Whitney would be unlikely to bid on the project because the short time lime precludes development of the big engine version of the Geared Turbo Fan.

KC-46A at ‘high risk’ for delay: A US government report suggests the Boeing KC-46A tanker is at ‘high risk’ of a six month delay.

These are not unusual for military programs, nor, it seems, is it any longer unusual for new or derivative aircraft programs. Boeing believes the program is on time, but even if a six or 12 month delay does emerge, by today’s standards, this indeed is “on time.”

Countdown to Super Bowl: Boeing painted a Boeing 747-8F test plane in the Seattle Seahawks livery and this week “skywrote” the number 12 on a flight. The Seahawks play the Denver Broncos Sunday in New Jersey for the Super Bowl. The number “12” represents “the 12th man,” of the collective Seahawks fan base.

We think it would be super for the 747 to overfly the game Sunday, the ultimate 12th man appearance. Alas, Boeing says there are no plans to do so.

A400M: Cool picture. No other words needed.

25 Comments on “Odds and Ends: A330neo decision could be near; KC-46A; Countdown to Superbowl; A400M

  1. The KC-46 is still being reported as ‘on time’ by Boeing and the USAF. IOT&E is only one part of the flight testing process.

    • Scott did note that Boeing says it’s still on schedule. That doesn’t necessarily conflict with the congressional report’s conclusion of high risk, though.

        • Lexington Institute (a noted aerospace expert?) makes no claim about the risks of the KC-46A program. But of course we can all choose what to believe; for me, Scott’s analysis is credible.

      • It was even obvious in 2008 that the Boeing offer had a “moderate risk” during SDD Phase. “Moderate risk” defined as follows:
        “A “moderate” risk rating reflected a proposal that can potentially cause disruption of schedule, increased cost, or degradation of performance. Special contractor emphasis and close Government monitoring will likely be able to overcome difficulties.”
        The offer by Northrop Grumman was rated “low risk”.

        I told KC that there is low probability of any 767 enhancements due to commercial progress but higher probability for A330 enhancements. E.g. A330 MTOW was increased from 230 t to 242 t. With new engines an A330 might burn even less fuel than a 767.

        For sure the USAF can put new engines on a tanker aircraft but who pays $1b? The CFM56 was intended for civil 707-700 but the project was canceled for the 767. A few years later KC-135 received CFM56.

        Today there is a business case for an A330NEO. Which wide-body aircraft could an emerging airline buy within the next years? Ten years ago a new engine option was not so well and the 787 mania was around. How many times Boeing said the 787 is on schedule. How many times Boeing will say the KC-46 is on schedule?

  2. If the A330neo comes to pass, Leehamnews would deserve considerable credit for having broken the story. However, I think Keesje would also be due for a pad on the back for having seen it as a potential offering all those months (perhaps years) ago.

    Only time, albeit short, will tell.

    • Actually there was an “A-330NEO” program years ago. Back then it was commonly called the A-350 Mk.I which was a warmed over A-330.

      • …hey KCTB… the so called warmed over 330, the A350 MK1 had completely new CFRP wings, a new cockpit, new empennage, new pylons, new engines, different fuselage length… what is ,in your opinion, the difference to the 777-8/9X ? The Mk1 was as warmed over as is the 777-X nowadays.

        • Please stop bringing reality into the discussion, some people would like to stay in their own vertual world! 🙂

        • The A-350 Mk. I used the same A-300/A-330 cross section fuselage, landing gear, and many systems and subsystems. It was rejected by many airlines and leasing companies that called it a ‘warmed over A-330’. There was also the so called A-330-200Lite project that was still born. The Mk.I design would have had GEnx-1B-72 engines, a higher thrust variant of the GEnx-1B-67 engines of the B-747-8. Even ILFC President Steven F. Udvar-Hazy called it “a band-aid solution to the B-787”. Many other leasing and airline executives would echo that sentiment before Airbus got the message. The A-350 program would go through 4 more iterations before it finally emerged as the A-350XWB (what I call the Mk. VI version).
          The B-777-8/-9 are still called B-777s. They are not called something they are not (re: A-350 when it was still really just an A-330). They are both upgraded models of the B-777. Boeing has not hidden that fact from anyone. There is no attempt to call the B-777-8/-9 a “B-797”.

        • You are plane (pun intended ) wrong. While it was Versions 1.0 through about 4.0 (with some sub versions in between) the originally A330 response was a derivative A330, not the A350.

          Someplace around version 4.0 it had morphed into the a. new A350 (please note that there are NO common systems). Engines, wings, fuselage, exploding batteries (initially ) were all different.

          One man’s derivative vs upgraded vs warmed over tends to be a matter of how successful it is (or trying to put negative spin on it and Airbus and Boeing PR do a fine job so the rest of use don’t need to.

          Keep in mind that the A330 is 70s technology that has been upgraded from the A300/310 into the A330 of today. 737 did the same thing.

          At some point (737) you need to replace. A re-winged and re-engined A330 vs 787 would have been extremely competitive at a relatively low cost (nice engine choices available directly from GE and re-vamp from RR) .

          It would not have been a market winner (30 – 40% at a guess). But they also would not have found the A350-900/1000 niche (I did not think it existed but sales say otherwise though the 800 is clearly a dog)

          Youse buy your tickets and youse takes your chances. Airbus gave up one market for another by “up-sizing” and will see how much of that market they can keep that the originally gave up.

          The 787-10 is a prime example in that it was recognized that a lot of airlines do not one needs that needs that planet spanning range and you can do 80% + of the missions with shorter range and more people on the thicker regional routes

          I neither endorse nor condemn the A330 move. I think its interesing and will be interested in the engine choice (RR or GE obviously depending on who wants it the worst for a probably smaller and uncertain market).

          It may keep Airbus in that market segment and for Airbus that would not be a bad thing as it’s a low cost derivative solution.

        • “The A-350 Mk. I used the same A-300/A-330 cross section fuselage, landing gear, and many systems and subsystems. It was rejected by many airlines and leasing companies that called it a ‘warmed over A-330′”

          KC, what’s the issue here?

          The A350-Mk1, apparently, was only going to have a little more than 5 percent commonality with the A330***; or much less than the parts commonalty between the initial versions of the A333 and the A343. Hence, it was not unreasonable, IMO, to give it a new -300 series number. It remains to be seen, though, how much commonality there will be between the 777X-series and the current triple seven.

          BTW, how much commonality is there between the 737-100 and the upcoming 737MAX? Not a whole lot, I’d reckon. 😉

          ***It is more than a year since Airbus showed its hand in the battle for the mid-size widebody market, unveiling the A350 as a major derivative of the A330 – then powered solely by General Electric GEnx engines – to compete against the all-new Boeing 787. Over the past 12 months, the new Airbus has undergone several significant design refinements. In its latest guise – shown to customers in November – the twinjet shares little more than 5% commonality with its predecessor.


        • Smokerr, there’s no point in muddying the waters on this. 😉

          1.) Airbus’ initial response to the 7E7 was to talk about the possibility of re-engining the A330 with the same engines that were going to be put on the 787. Now, a decade on, Airbus apparently is talking about re-engining the A330 with engines that are much improved over those that were going to enter into service with the 787 in May, 2008.

          2.) The first iteration of the A350 would use the same 222-inch diameter fuselage as that of the A300, A310, A330 and A340, but it would be mated to an all new composite wing; albeit legacy constrained by the A330/A340 design.

          3.) In its last iteration – as shown in the Flightglobal link above – the A330-derived A350 would share as little as 5 percent in commonality with the A330. From that point onwards, going fro an all new aircraft seemed to be the wiser course of action.


          4.) The all new A350XWB was presented at Farnborough in 2006, with the industrial launch occurring on the first of December that year.

          • There are a couple of points we can condense this to:
            * It is difficult to beat an overhyped PR monster with a “real” product
            until the hype for that thing has fizzled.
            * What people miss is that the for the time final step in Airbus’s answer to the 787
            was the A330. Good enough. The A350XWB mostly targets a different market.
            * beware of orchestrated campaigns. Most of the allegedly neutral opinion sources are anything but neutral ( compare to the strongly partisan rating agencies in the financial market ).

      • Compared to the Lexington institute’s political and national preferences, KC135Topboom is a hippie, IMO 😉

      • I’ve got a quiz question for you TopBoom:
        “How many times has Boeing warmed over the 737 aircraft?”

      • kc135topboom,

        You are right, the original A350 was a “warmed-over” A330, and the airlines didn’t want it – they wanted the “new-tech” 787. Now…airlines are crying out for “warmed-over” A330s because they know they can make more money with them than the relatively expensive 787-9s.

        As a result, there is now reason to believe that the A330 NEO will take a lot of business away from the 787.

        As far as the 777x goes….well, what can really be said? I mean, it’s a half-hearted answer to the A350-1000 and it’s got silly wings. Seriously, not only do I think Boeing won’t get many orders for the 777x, i don’t even think its final configuration will have those silly, folding wings. Just like the Sonic Cruiser drew attention away from the A380, I think the 777x is just an attempt to draw attention away from the A350-1000.

  3. AvWeek’s discussion of near term engine options really sound like Rolls has a lead-in advantage,
    both in mature tech that is immediately applicable, and just the fact that they have a strong presence in the rest of Airbus’ widebody range.
    A330NEO would fit well into a fleet of A350, possibly with A380 as well. Combined fleet maintenance agreements should save $$$, and that dynamic seemed to play a part in A320NEO’s Pratt vs. IAE market.


    Off topic: Anybody know what Superjet’s delivery slots look like in the remainder of this decade? With talk of MRJ delay, and Embraer E2 likely to be sold out when introduced, it seems a window of opportunity for SJ, if only they have the available slots… Their production has never been high, although they may have the ability to raise production if orders materialize…?

  4. Another question: If Airbus goes with an A330NEO, would the current production rate of 10/month be sufficient?
    Raising that might be part and parcel of a NEO program.

  5. The KC135 can fly another year, 50 or 51 yrs. Maybe they should take another two years and do KC46 NEO 😉 Putting on a 30-40 year old engine design for the next 40 years. Maybe not the Mother of all Engine selections.. It $ecure$ an expensive engine upgrade within years though.

    I think the GENX does about 13% better then the CF6. GE too.

    Bigger better Sharklets or A350 style wing tip can improve fuel efficiency by 1-2% over the existing winglets.

    An aerodynamic cleanup of the belly (new cowlings) and other refinementms probably also 1-2%.

    The weight increase of a bigger engine can IMO be compensated by weight savings that didn’t make it sofar but become feasible if you have 3 years time.

    A higher A330F style nose gear will enable a bigger better fan and improve rest value (level cargo deck).

    All in all a 13-15% fuel efficiency improvement off an A330NEO over the current A330 is a likely outcome.

    An A330F NEO (200 & 300) would be the only LD3 capable, quiet and efficient ~70t twin for a long time. Still lots of DC10s, MD10s, MD11s, A300s up for replacement. Maybe a 50 a/c launch customer will come from there.

  6. “Still lots of DC10s, MD10s, MD11s, A300s up for replacement.”

    Really? I thought there were very pax examples of these types in service now, most of what are still flying seem to be freighters

  7. The middle four seats of the A330 would make a good space-bed like on Air NZ.
    How much will they work on optimizing the aluminum wing of the A330? Maybe keep the shape but shave some weight. The A350 wingtips look state of the art, I would imagine something similar will appear on the A330.

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