Richard Aboulafia analyzes state of industry, opines on A380neo, what it works for Emirates and other stuff

Richard Aboulafia, an analyst for The Teal Group, is a headline speaker at the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance every year. Below are a series of videos of his presentation this year.

He provides an overview of the commercial airline industry in one, and addresses specific issues in others, such as the prospect of an Airbus A380neo. Aboulafia has been a long-time critic of the A380 but he also remarks why this airplane works for Emirates Airlines, its biggest user.

Aboulafia also talks about a variety of other issues, including remarking on Boeing’s cost-cutting Partnership for Success program, which has resulted in a ” no fly” list of Boeing suppliers unwilling (or unable) to cut costs to Boeing’s liking.










83 Comments on “Richard Aboulafia analyzes state of industry, opines on A380neo, what it works for Emirates and other stuff

  1. That’s funny, Mr Aboulafia is talking about a supposedly “massive rip in the fabric of the universe”(i.e. cost of cash and cost of fuel etc.), while seemingly being unable to think outside the fabric of the fragmented domestic American airliner market place. Clearly, he can’t figure out Emirates, nor the fact that outside the United States, point to point is really more often point to hub and hub to hub. Trying to take Emirates out of the equation in regard to the A380 is a nice try though, and very predictable. As for Boeing dominating the wide-body market if Airbus doesn’t launch a direct 777-9X competitor, has it occurred to him that if Airbus indeed will go ahead and launch an all new, 2nd generation composite aircraft, the 777-9X risks being eclipsed by an aircraft that could have the same MTOW and similar OEW, but that would have 11 across seating in economy class and 18 inch wide seats as well. IMO, that’s the risk Boeing is facing in not going the full monty and developing an all new triple seven replacement aircraft, instead of spending $10 billion on something that might look good now, but perhaps not so good, half a decade hence.

    • Addendum

      Let me just clarify that my point about point to hub and hub to hub, was for wide-body aircraft and not single aisles aircraft.

    • Isn’t “eclipsing” in any industry common? Like in this industry, the A330 eclipsed three engined wide bodies and others like the 767? The A320NEO could have been eclipsed by an NSA, the 747 was eclipsed by the A380. And, the original A350 design eclipsed by the 787? …and so on back in history.

      So, IMHO Airbus, in true 20-20 hindsight, should have built the original A350 design and then come up with a true 777 “killer” instead of the homogenized XWB. Now they have to decide on, one again, upgrading the A330 to replace the A350XWB-800 and countering the 777X with an all new design and/or stretching their already stretched -1000. So it seems they put themselves in a pickle.

      • “Isn’t “eclipsing” in any industry common.”

        That’s true. Perhaps I used the wrong word. Would “making the 777-9X uncompetitive” be better?

        So, IMHO Airbus, in true 20-20 hindsight, should have built the original A350 design and then come up with a true 777 “killer” instead of the homogenized XWB.

        I don’t think so. Airbus has sold more than 800 A330s since the launch of the 787. So, in hindsight, going for the XWB was IMO absolutely the right decision. An upgraded and re-engined A330 now looks to be low-hanging fruit and could help ensure another 1000 sales post 2020. In fact, a re-engined A330-300 would have a range approaching 7000nm (i.e pax and bags only), while a slightly stretched A350-800 would have at least 1000nm additional range over that of the A333. So, what’s the problem?

        The LCA business is very much like a game of chess in which either Airbus or Boeing must anticipate a whole sequence of moves and countermoves in order to determine how to achieve their objectives. If Airbus would have built the original A350-MK1 first, and then soon after A350-MK1 EIS, subsequently gone ahead with the first move and done a true 777 “killer” — as you put it — Boeing would have been forced to go for an all new 777 replacement aircraft. IMJ, due to the A350-1000 and the botched 787 development, Boeing’s board knew they had to act, but wanted to play safe instead and chose to go for a 777-300ER derivative instead of an all new airframe, however expensive. IMO, the A350-900 is perfectly placed in the target market while the advent of the A350-1000 is now forcing Boeing to spend some $10 billion on what could turn out to be a half-baked response. When the 777-9X design has been frozen and early production has commenced, Airbus can launch an all new super twin that would be superior in performance to the 777-9X. Hence, Airbus would obviously see a better ROI than if they had moved first. In fact, if the 777-9X will be outcompeted by a more efficient Airbus super twin a few years after EIS, then Boeing would find themselves in the uncomfortable position of only having the 787 as a contender in the wide-body market.

    • i am sure Boeing is shaking in its boots about what Airbus may or may not do in 2035.

      • 2035?

        Try 2025 instead. That’s just a few short years after the EIS of the 777X.

        • 2025 – Keep Dreaming. We saw how quickly Airbus launches new products with the A350. I lost track of how many times it had to be redefined.

  2. I enjoy reading Richard Aboulafia but as OV opined, he can be a bit parochial.

  3. The 777X was launched after 5 years of doubts and now lets take EK out of the equation…. Hell No!

    If EK hadn’t ordered that many A380s they be flying with a different tail. EK didn’t invent its passengers.. and there are 15 other customers. Major brands that re-order.

    It think the epic need for Airbus to match the 777-9X is invented by Boeing Marketing, to boost itself. I do not hear the airlines begging for it. Nor do I see airlines stumbling over each other ordering the 777X.

    I have seen the biggest 777 operators stumbling over each other ordering XWB-1000s fleets though. Money talks Richard 😉

    • Wait before you make that statement!!! This sounds like the first comments made about the 787; “nothing here to see folks”. Keesje- let’s be honest about the A380, airlines are having issue when they can’t keep the passenger numbers up. AF and others have expressed concern about the a/c. Not about performance but about being able to keep the needed support to make the /ac effective for their networks. EK has made it work and they have developed a strategy which makes the a/c effective. Yes some may have been taken but not all that EK currently uses. As for the 777X, I think the story for that a/c will be written in the next 18 to 24 months. It also appears the airlines are trying to get deals on the 7-300ERs and not doing as much buying of the -1000 as you say. The -300ERs

    • “I have seen the biggest 777 operators stumbling over each other ordering XWB-1000s ”

      There have been 8 airline customers over the last 8 years. They are stumbling over each other at a pretty slow pace.

  4. Taking Emirates out of the A380 equation, makes the A380 look bad indeed. But, ummm… Er,, hang on: How does the 777X launch look like, if you take Emirates out of the equation there too? As usual, Richard is a bit biased here…

  5. Richards says the market has spoken about point to point and hub-hub.

    IATA (the airlines) agree.
    Chart 4.

    “Majority of network growth has been between large hub cities.”

    It would have been informative if Richard had copied that exact conclusion in his presentation & pick it up from there. Growth between secondairy city pairs (point-point) has been relatively low.

  6. Next waiting for presentations from other accomplished and impartial airplane analysts like Fleetbust and Aspirin Aviation.

  7. Aboulafia has been pretty even handed in his observations of both Boeing and Airbus. It’s not as though either has been perfect and both have certainly made mistakes/missteps. Shooting the messenger is entertaining but he clearly has some reputation and is listened to by people in the industry (as opposed to us who pontificate on the side lines…). At least he gets invited to talk ;0)

    I think that if A does launch a “370” that would seat 11 across and be a mega twin, thenit would do two things: challenge the 777-9x, severely crimp the 380.

    • Aboulafia has been pretty even handed in his observations of both Boeing and Airbus.

      No, he hasn’t
      He was one of the main opponents of the original A350 based on the fact it was just warmed-over, while he is now one of the main proponents of the 777X, which takes exactly the same approach as the original A350.
      Also, with a few weeks in 2006 or 2007, he constantly raised the bar on the A350XWB, continuing to declare it an imminent failure whenever his last “condition for success” had been met.

      First up, it had to sell 100 frames, which it did, easily. So raised the bar – it had no sales to a “blue chip” customer, quite ignoring – or forgetting – the Singapore order.

      So then he raised the “GE problem”:

      “The A350 badly needs GE’s backing, he said”

      Which didn’t stop Singapore from ordering it, so then he raised the ILFC problem:

      “Unless ILFC orders the A350 quickly it will not have that official stamp of approval by the most important financier of aircraft in that class,” he said.” – which ILFC promptly did, having suggested it would at the start of the show. Its just that Mr. Aboulafia didn’t take the many hints.

      (I posted exactly the same thing as it was happening, but in a German forum, so I’m quoting mariner from here.)

      As for his assessment of the A380 – it is curious how he discounts EK when looking at that plane, while of course leaving EK very much in the game when looking at the 777-9X.
      In other words – he’s being very picky about which facts/factors he cares to take into account/make mention of. Which means I find it very hard to take him seriously.

      • Is this coming from someone who can honestly say that they are not biased in what the read from Richard?

        • If you want to re-read what I wrote there:

          I find it very hard to take [Aboulafia] seriously.

          That should answer your question whether I’m biased in my opinion about what Mr Aboulafia says and writes.
          If you go up one or two paragraphs in my post, you can even see one example (of the many examples out there) of why I cannot take Aboulafia seriously any more. (Hint: It’s his own evident bias.)

          Contrast this with our own Scott Hamilton right here, whom I can heartily disagree with at times, but whom I would not call biased towards/against one manufacturer or the other.

    • I think that if A does launch a “370″ that would seat 11 across and be a mega twin, thenit would do two things: challenge the 777-9x, severely crimp the 380.

      IMO, the biggest problem with the 777-9X is its empty weight. Apparently, it’s more than 30 metric tonnes higher than the empty weight of the A350-1000. In a first order approximation, if you just scale up the A350-1000 by an increase of 1 meter in cross section, and using a same-sized wing, you’d get about the same empty weight as that of the 777-9X. For that 1 meter extra, you’d get two extra 19-inch-wide seats in economy class, for a total of 11 across. Hence, it wouldn’t just challenge the 777-9X, but it would, in all likelihood, do to the 777-9X what the 777-300ER did to the A340-600.

      As for the A380 supposedly being “crimped” by an A360-900X super twin, that would definately not occure if the A380 evolved into an A390X monster twin post 2025.

      Incidentally, if the fuselage of this new super twin would be identical in shape as the A380 below the main deck, Airbus could kill two birds with one stone. To get 11 across on the A380, the side walls should be slightly recontoured, while the floor underneath the seats should be raised by some 0.2m in order to achieve an effective main deck internal width of 6.7m, instead of the current 6.3m (i.e.the floor level of the aisles would remain the same). If you do the same on the super twin, by having a 6.7m effective internal width, and raising the floor underneath the seats by 0.2m as well, the main deck floor cross beams on both the A380 and the super twin could be similar, if not identical in design. On the super twin, the contour of the outer fuselage would start to deviate from the ovoid cross section of the A380 just above the level of main deck. As with the A380, the super twin would have a continuously varying radius from about 0.7m below the main deck, but would become one with a constant radius starting around the 2 meter level above the main deck. (i.e >3m on the A380).

      Now, this would mean that a super twin could share a common wing, main landing gir etc, with an intermediate range twin-engined derivative of the A380. This arrangment would also make it possible for the super twin to use a slightly modified A380 cockpit section — i.e. same elevated cockpit position, different contour right above and beyond the cockpit windshield) — but it would have the same nose landing gear bay, lower forward avionics bay etc.

      So, how would all this look:

      1.)Airbus super twin

      A360-900X: MTOW 350 tonnes; ( across in business class (1/1-2-2-1/1*) but with three aisles and with all seats having direct aisle access; 11 across in economy. For about the the samefuselage length, similar MTOW and OEW, and more efficient engines, the Airbus mega twin could carry more than 40 extra passengers than that of the 777-9X.

      * NB: The seats outboard of the main aisles in business class would be staggered.

      2.) Intermediate ranged twin-engined VLA
      A370-900X: MTOW 350 tonnes, Double Decker with about 30 percent more floor area than that of the A360-900X.

      As for the A380; post 2025, Airbus could choose to forego any further upgrade and stretch of the A380-800neo (assuming a neo version enters into service in 2018/2019), and go straight for a twin-engined A390X family that would completely replace the A380-800. An A390 would , of course, have the same fuselage mold line as that of the A380-800 and use many of its internal systems and architecture etc., but would use the 2nd generation composite fuselage panels developed for the shorter ranged A370X (i.e deveoped in synch with the A360 fuselage).

      3.) A380-800 replacement:

      A390-800X (2028)
      A390-900X (2026)
      A390-1000X (2030)

      First model: Twin engined A390-900X monster twin!

      Length overrall: 82m. (i.e. LD3 capability = 50 units)
      MTOW: 480 metric tonnes.
      Wing span: 95m (i.e. 2 x 7.5m folding wingtips).
      Engines***: 2 x 140,000 lbs of thrust

      *** NB: Fan diameter in excess of 140 inches if not a counter-rotating fan would be used in order to signifcantly increase the bypass ratio.

      • Whoa, too much time on your hands!!! While you’re typing why not re-write the history of Airbus too!! Wave a wand and all the right changes will be made to the current horse they brought to the race.

        • Nope, I wrote it on the go! 🙂

          What I’m talking about is about some of the options Airbus is having going forward, and in that sense why the 777-9X might be vulnerable to an all new Airbus super twin. Simple as that.

          As for the history of Airbus you might check out this piece by Bill Sweetman from 2003:

          The Contender
          How Airbus got to be number one

        • Addendum

          Please keep in mind that the 777-9X needs an engine that is speced to be some 5 percent more efficent than the Trent-XWB-97 engine on the A350-1000, in order just about to achieve the same fuel burn per seat. Now, imagine the A350-1000 being re-engined 10 years hence, with the same engine that would go on an A360X super twin. An engine that could be at least some 3-5 percent more efficient than the GE9X. That would mean that the 777-9X would not only be squeezed from above, but from below as well.

      • Interesting forecast, but by the 2028-30 time frame I’m hoping for the Star Trek transporter.

        • The Star Trek transporter would depend on the breaking apart of the occupant into individual subatomic particles. I’m not sure if a living creature could survive such an ordeal. 😉

          Much easier then to just go ahead with an A390 monster twin. However, due to the rumoured decision of the A380-800 seemingly being set to be re-engined for an EIS in 2020, perhaps the monster twin can be delayed to 2030. 🙂

      • Cool ideas! Now about that business plan, resource allocation estimate, financial analysis, evaluation of airline needs study… ;0).
        The guesstimates are that there will be a 350-1100, 330 neo, or 380-800 neo after the 350-900 and 1000 are launched (2018-2020). (and the 320 neo series). Will it be all? Some? Or the 360-900 and 380-900 or 390-800? What about a NSA replacement? That would seem to be the oldest technology out there (except the engines). Interesting times and choices to be made…

        • No point IMO in doing an A350-1100 if there’s going to be an A360X mega twin. Let’s say, the A360X mega twin would EIS in 2024/2025, the A370X in 2026/2027 (i.e. A380 derived intermediate ranged VLA) and the A390X monster twin in 2030 (i.e. delayed by four years due to the A380-800neo now seemingly going to EIS in 2020 rather than in 2018, as Scott suggested). However, there would, in all likelihood, be no A380-900 nor A380-1000 if the game plan would include doing a monster twin instead. By 2030, the A390X monster twin could be using some pretty advanced engines. As for the A320neo, IMJ it will be fine until 2030. If Boeing launches a direct 757 replacement, Airbus could respond with a stretched A321 featuring an all new wing. Post 2030, I’d like to see short ranged, singles aisles aircraft being replaced by ones having some sort of electrically-driven propulsion.

          IMJ, there will be an increased demand for ever larger aircraft. An A390X monster twin would have such a low fuel burn per seat compared to smaller twins of the same generation, that many more airlines would have to jump on board than what’s the case today with the A380 vs. smaller aircraft. As for resources, financial as well as corporate, please keep in mind that the business is seemingly doubling every 15 years and that the intense competition between Airbus and Boeing has forced these two OEMs to develop new, higher quality products at an increasingly rapid pace compared to the time before Airbus became a major player in the industry. Also, Airbus in the 2020s will be far more capable of undertaking more than just one major programme than what was the case during the last decade when they did the A380, then the A400M, while the A380 was still under development; and finally the A350, while the A400M programme was going through some major structural problems. They even launched the A350 during the time when the A380 production snafus became apparent.

      • ” the Airbus mega twin could carry more than 40 extra passengers than that of the 777-9X.”

        If there is a need for such an aircraft why won’t Boeing just do a simple stretch of the 779 for a 777-10 like the 787-10? It would be a lot cheaper and quicker to market. ~82m should be about 460 seats, same wing, same engine, slightly different MLG for take off angle but nearly identical MTOW. Average A380 route is 3,900 and 90% of all A380 routes (71/79 routes in total) are less then 6knm and only 3 airlines (QF, EK, KE) fly the longer ones.. If you are suggesting only 40 seats more then Boeing may not even have to go past the 80m barrier to accomplish that and should still have ~7,500nm range.

        CEO says Airbus isn’t launching anything new for 10 years and I believe him.

        • If there is a need for such an aircraft why won’t Boeing just do a simple stretch of the 779 for a 777-10 like the 787-10? It would be a lot cheaper and quicker to market.

          Bear in mind that the 777-9X won’t EIS until 2020, followed by the -8X a year or two later. Which means that your proposed -10X wouldn’t EIS until 2023 at the earliest. About nine years from now – not exactly quick to market.

          CEO says Airbus isn’t launching anything new for 10 years and I believe him.

          Never mind that plans can change (remember how resolutely Boeing said they would not re-engine the 737?), I also think they won’t launch an all-new programme before ~2025 (give or take 2 years). They’ll be busy enough revamping the A330 and A380, and possibly substituting the A350-800 with a -1100.

    • Wait, there will be a new A350F program and those orders will dry up too!!! No way a German company will buy another Boeing a/c once Airbus gets its act together and gets that Super Mega F and A350F program running over the nexet 3 years!!!

      • It takes years of practise, as well as many failures, bruises and cuts, to be able to professionally handle that most dangerous of swords called “Irony”.

  8. All this back and forth about hubs and spokes and whether the mkt has justified A’s decision to build the A380 is IMHO a waste of time. All it does is produce the usual defensive responses from those defending the program, such as Keesje’s in this thread.
    It also ignores what I believe is the main question, which is what is the largest twin aisle that the mkt will profitably support? I believe B is saying that size is about the same as the 744 (eg the -9X’s 410 pax), AND that the mkt will be very large. B has pitched the -9X by arguing that the new “sweet spot” is 410 pax in three classes, and will rival the mkt of nearly a 1000 planes now occupied by the -300ER/A346. They are certainly planning a rapidly built production system that will be in place for many years. Aboulafia seems to agree with this because of how strongly he touted it. I wonder Keesje if you believe he is part of a B led conspiracy to inflate the -9X’s real mkt? You certainly implied that. If RA is wrong, what do you claim the pax size “sweet spot” will be, and what is the mkt size?
    That said, I remain skeptical of B’s mkt size claims for the -9X. I certainly would not be surprised by 400 or even 600, which would mean B would make good money if it has a monopoly, but neither would make much if A competes. But it seems to me that the mkt has spoken that the core of the wide body is 290-365 pax. A has acknowledged this by not building the A358 as originally planned and enlarging it to 300 pax, and by revamping the -1000 (Keesje, it is also hypocritical to attack B for taking too much time to decide on the 777X when A , after 6 long years, has still not finalized the -1000), and neoing the 330.

    • Christopher, the A350-1000 was defined 4 years ago.

      That didn’t stop the Boeing marketing team creating doubts because they had to buy time for their own portfolio. I think that marketing trick of the A350-1000 not being ready had died by now, after JAL, BA, UA, QR and CX decided otherwise. But apparently it still sticks in some places.

      The “Airbus needs a big Twin” is a similar marketing trick, maybe coming from the same marketing specialists. The goals seems to hype the 777-9X as being something in a class of its own, right around the corner. Instead of an expensive heavy 2 row stretch 6 yrs down the line & pretty undefined. Has EK signed now?

      The top 7 largest 777 operators already ordered XWB’s. Plus JAL & QR.
      Airbus will deliver -1000s ASAP and consider a -1100 later on.

      I am waiting for the announcement the 777X new wing & engines will be so good, the hinges in the wing aren’t even needed! Saving weight and costs! And the airports will be able to easily handle the span. Brought to you as another sign of brilliance, instead of killing a bad idea.

      • Come on Keesje, in June 2011, A changed the -1000’s performance to make it competitive with the -300ER at the request of ,Qatar, Emirates, and others, and delayed it two years to make these significant alterations. The changes were higher power, lighter weight, a revised wing and winglets, and a 400nm range increase. Even then, Qatar was not satisfied and threatened to cancel their order for the -1000, while both Tim Clark and Steven U-H questioned it, and Eithad subsequently abandoned their order. Even now, I believe A has not frozen final design, but if they have it was recent.
        I am not saying the -1000 in it’s present form will not sell. If you had spent your energy digesting my point that the flash point of the twin aisle mkt is the 290-365 pax, you might have seen that, and perhaps responded with your usual cogency, instead of embarrassing yourself with the obvious false hood that the design was final in 2004.

      • “embarrassing yourself with the obvious false hood that the design was final in 2004.”

        Christopher, I have no idea what you are talking about.

        • My apologies for going a little bit overboard at the end of my comment. Also I should have said that your claimed design freeze year was 2009, not 2004. Even so my point remains valid: A did revise the -1000 in June 2011 and there has been no final design freeze yet, or if there was one it was recent.

          Also, it is true that numerous 777 users have bought the 359 and -1000. But those are as 772/343 replacements, not replacements for the -300ERs that are in service or on order, and so have little bearing on the question whether the -9X will be successful. These -1000 orders, and future ones, are more likely to be competing against the 789/10 and -8X, altho it is true I think that the -1000 will win some future orders that would have gone to the -300ER from customers for which it is too large, as CM has suggested in this blog some time ago.

          I am also puzzled by your claim that B is trying to induce A to build a new big twin. Why would B do this? It’s main interest is just the opposite – to monopolize that mkt segment. A understands this because they are talking about doing -1100.

  9. I don’t think Aboulafia (or Scott for that matter) feel they are right all the time. I would guess they would not have any credibility (or career) if they were just considered a mouthpiece for either A or B. The job of an analyst is to analyze and then draw their conclusions. I for one enjoy the discussions and insights they bring. It seems a little silly to me for “experts” on the web who are primarily amateurs calling out analysts on every point. If we take the analysis and discuss it, fine. But to sink to the level of discrediting everythig someone says because they made a wrong prediction 4 yrars ago…
    It reminds of the political blogosphere…

    • But to sink to the level of discrediting everythig someone says because they made a wrong prediction 4 yrars ago…

      It’s not just “a” wrong prediction 4 years ago. But that example is the most blatant one you could possibly find for somebody showing a very obvious bias. You’ll still find it in his statements today, e.g. in his discounting the largest customer (EK) when it comes to the A380, while not discounting the very same largest customer when it comes to the 777X. Or in his not giving any credit to the A350 itself in winning JAL’s and IAG’s business (among others), while solely blaming Boeing for losing these customers, based on the assumption that the 777X is going to beat the A350 hands-down.
      Aboulafia blatantly said that in his mind, Boeing’s widebody offerings are “clearly superior to Airbus’. We’re not talking A340 vs. 777 here, we’re talking A350 vs. 787/777.
      No grey zone there, no differentiation… in his mind, an A350 sold didn’t sell on its on merits, but because Boeing screwed up.

      And that is why I find it completely irrelevant what Aboulafia has to say. Not because I disagree with certain things he says, but because when it comes to Boeing versus Airbus, you’ll always know what he’s going to say. It’s the “Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?” phenomenon. The very definition of bias. It’s a bit like asking the biggest German automotive club whether they think a Chrysler is as good as an Audi, or an Opel/Vauxhall as good as a VW. You know what the answer is going to be, which renders it completely useless.

      I’m not even saying Aboulafia is 100% wrong 100% of the time. In all honesty, he actually saw the virtues of the A320neo before Scott did. ( Yet, even then he also completely misjudged what Boeing would do against the neo, and said the A350 “will likely be a poorly executed and disastrously delayed composite mid-market twinjet”.

      Which illustrates perfectly that filtering through the nonsense to get to the points that are actually worth considering is just too much work for my taste.

  10. Reuters) – Airbus (AIR.PA) is exploring fresh ways to improving sales of the world’s largest passenger jet after receiving a potentially key signal of support from at least one of its engine makers, industry sources said.

    Faced with patchy demand for the A380 superjumbo, Britain’s Rolls-Royce (RR.L) has indicated it may be willing to upgrade its Trent 900 engines to help Airbus dig its way out of a recent sales trough, the sources said, asking not to be named.

    However, no decision has yet been taken and Airbus has said its first priority is to keep carrying out other gradual improvements to the 525-seat aircraft, which entered service in 2007.

    Rolls-Royce declined to comment on the potential engine move, which emerged ahead of next week’s Singapore Airshow.

    It looks like Rolls Royce is serious about getting the engine contract for the 50 additional A380 frames ordered by Emirates last year.

    • 200 engines!!! Nice deal, so they do 50 for EK, the program extends for what 3 years and then what? Maybe 5 or 10 more from currnet owners who don’t seem to be knocking at the Airbus door for major reups. Couple those 200 engines with a A330NEO engine and the boys and girls in Bristol will be singing a major tune.

      • Yeah, maybe 10 or so top-up orders from current customers and another 60 to a hundred frames or so from Emirates. Then on with the A390 monster twin. 🙂

    • Airbus Group NV is nearing a decision to offer its A380 superjumbo jet with new engines for delivery around 2020 and is moving toward an exclusive deal with a single engine maker to provide them, according to people briefed on the talks.

      The potential move by Airbus would be aimed at providing a more efficient engine option to make the A380 more attractive to buyers. It would deal a blow to one of its two current engine suppliers for the A380, Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC and Engine Alliance, a joint venture between United Technologies Corp. and General Electric Co.

      A GE spokeswoman, speaking for Engine Alliance, declined to comment specifically on a possible change in A380 engine suppliers but said it is “looking into possible enhancements to continually improve the performance and reliability” of its A380 engines. Rolls-Royce referred questions to Airbus

  11. If you create a twin with 11 or 12 abreast it automatically becomes a twin deck. Why leave it empty? 😉 Same in the belly, lots of free space, even with LD3s in it..

    Not a problem at all, if fuel is for free.

    • Because Schorsch doesn’t like twin decks, or one-and-a-half-decks, that are smaller than the A380-800. 😉

      As for the conceptual super twin mentioned above; true, it would have more empty space than the aft portion of the 747. It would not have a circular cross section, however, and thus it would have enough space in the attic — in addition to the standard areas set aside for crew rest — to accommodate on the “upper deck”, one or two compartments set aside for toilets and galleys as well**. Also, due to the added internal height on this “upper deck”, you wouldn’t have to encroach on the overhead bins down below.

      **I.e. in the area above doors 2 and 4 — NB: Assuming 5 doors overall.

      • If you can have a crew rest in the upper deck, why not a passenger rest charged by the hour?

        • Passenger revenue space in the attic would significantly increase weight. By just putting toilets and galleys in the area directly over doors 2 and 4, you’d minimise the extra weight required while opening up additional revenue space on the main deck.

      • I like it, but physics don’t like it!
        Seriously, empty space is for free. Flattening the fuselage (egg-shaped) will not decrease wetted area by any meaningful amount but blow up structural weight.
        It is an open question if you can build an aircraft between the B777-9 and A380 in terms of capacity that has equivalent efficiency.
        There is an ideal fuselage for each capacity, but there are capacities at which you achieve a global minimum in terms of structural weight per Pax.

        These are roughly (all single class equivalent seating):
        180-230 for single aisle.
        330-500 for twin aisle.
        >700 for twin deck.

        • An all composte 7m diameter composite fuselage having the same length as that of the 777-9X would have a significantly more optimal fineness ratio.

          The OEW/MTOW fraction for the 777-9X is quite high, wouldn’t you agree?

        • “Seriously, empty space is for free.”

          I’m not sure it is for free. It might create frontal area and wetted area increasing drag and fuel consumption. But my aerodynamic classes are a while ago 😉

        • Ideal fitness ratio is north of 11, and hence the 80m limit becomes the decisive factor. The OEW/MTOW ratio of the B777-9X is bad because Boeing goes for a low wing loading. That is 21st century. It doesn’t necessarily point at a defective design. The weight growth will be substantial though.
          Hint: compare B737-300 and B737-700 in terms of OEW/MTOW.

          “I’m not sure it is for free. It might create frontal area and wetted area increasing drag and fuel consumption.”
          Yes and no. Frontal area by itself is only a proxy, as is wetted area. The fuselage produces ~40% of friction drag, which is usually 50% of overall drag. Structural weight beats aerodynamics in priority for fuselage layout.

        • Well, the fineness ratio is 12.21 for the 777-9X and 12.12 for the A350-1000. The latter has the added advantage of built-in, added stiffness due to the composite fuselage and slightly larger fuselage height than fuselage width. It seems to me that the 777-9X is “borderline” and the fineness ratio partly explains the OEW/MTOW ratio. Any further stretch of the 777-9X will IMO not be competitive with, say, a 7m diameter fuselage.

          As for wing loading, I’ve got 703 kg/m2 for the 777-9X (i.e. 351500kg/500m2), 668 kg/m2 for the A350-1000 (i.e. 308000kg/461m2), 605 kg/m2 for the A350-900 (i.e. 268000kg/443m2) and 682 kg/m2 for the A380-800 (i.e 576 metric tonne version: 576000kg/845m2). Hence, the wing loading for the 777-9X is less “21st century” than what’s the case for the A359, A35X and A388.

  12. Crew rests are ok. But if you put passengers there it has to be revenue space. They can sleep in there business seat. Climbing on your socks to a (heavy) sleeping / working/ realaxing place proved a bad idea on the 747-8.

    A few yrs ago I sketched a circular real 10 abreast (18 inch width) circular cross section. Slightly wider then the 777, a 500 seater.

    Cargo would be limited to LD3-45 and flat pallets. But passengers are more profitable then Cargo.

    • IMJ, the attic revenue space of your 10 abreast cross section have the same problem as that of the 747 in that it encroaches on the overhead bins down below. That doesn’t seem viable to me.

    • Dropping the main floor is an interesting idea which seems to make sense. Nice concept plans.

    • The issue: those willing to afford a sleeping bed fly business. Those who want to get from A to B cheapest won’t buy. While the idea has merrits it is difficult to sell. It further should be said that
      – a floor above the main deck requires floor beams
      – you would need all sorts of piping, electrics
      – overhead bin volume at main deck restricted
      – the shown cross section would have trmenduous difficulties getting all the systems in

  13. Why not capitalise on mature existing programme sub-assemblies as Lego building blocks (with the corresponding CATIA-seized numerical protocols = 3 years shorter programme planning) to offer ‘dual BWB’ (for ‘Blended Wing-Body’ = 333″-wide maindeck plus for ‘Best Wing-Box’ (Prandtl theory) twin, with a quadri companion-F SuperFreighter ? … see A350-based example here : , for reasonable TO/L perfo and current airport-acceptable – realistic – overall measurements/PCN ?

  14. Just in: Libyan and ILFC convert their remaining A350-800 to -900s.
    That just leaves 46 -800s on the books:
    Aeroflot – 8
    APF – 12
    Asiana – 8
    AWAS – 2
    Hawaiian – 6
    Yemenia – 10

    I’d expect these to get converted before long, and an A330NEO announced at around the same time. Airbus can then do either a revamp of the -800, or put resources into an -1100, while the A330NEO covers the -800’s segment.

  15. Aboulafia is very entertaining, that’s probably why he is often booked as keynote speaker (I saw him and we actually had a conversation on a conference in August in Los Angeles (AVIATION 2013)).
    However, his conclusions in the civil sector are sometimes debatable. He pulls in information from other sectors (like finance, energy, politics), which I think seperates him from many more aircraft-centric and sometimes aircraft-blinded folks (like me).

  16. If all other options are bad all Airbus needs to do is to launch a simple stretch A350-1100 which will kill the so-called 779X. It will still do most 779x missions with better comfort and superior economics. Slam dunk.

  17. tortugamon: If there is a need for such an aircraft why won’t Boeing just do a simple stretch of the 779 for a 777-10 like the 787-10? It would be a lot cheaper and quicker to market. ~82m should be about 460 seats, same wing, same engine, slightly different MLG for take off angle but nearly identical MTOW. Average A380 route is 3,900 and 90% of all A380 routes (71/79 routes in total) are less then 6knm and only 3 airlines (QF, EK, KE) fly the longer ones.. If you are suggesting only 40 seats more then Boeing may not even have to go past the 80m barrier to accomplish that and should still have ~7,500nm range.

    A further stretched 777-10X would not have a favourable fineness ratio. Slender fuselages in large aircraft with a fineness ratio of 12-15, may well involve stiffness problems.

    Please take a look at this paper:

    2.7 The Slenderness Parameter

    The slenderness parameter (also called fineness ratio) is given by the length of the fuselage divided by the fuselage diameter

    (13) Lambda F = length-F / diameter-F (l-F/d-F)

    According to own statistics, the value of the slenderness for today’s aircraft is about 10.3. This parameter is a key parameter in aircraft design, respectively aircraft cabin design. If the aircraft is too short (with a small slenderness), then the empennage surface increases, due to the short lever arm. On the contrary, a long fuselage means a high wetted area and, accordingly, high drag. This interdependency represents for this paper the core of the optimization problem.

    Here are the fineness ratios for a selected number of aircraft (i.e real and conceptual):

    NB: Fuselage length is not identical to overall length.

    _______________l-F/d-F_______Fineness Ratio


    * 9 frame stretch of the A350-1000 (i.e. 9 x 25 inches)
    ** 10 frame stretch of the 777-9X (i.e. 10 x 21 inches)
    *** 10 frame stretch of an A350-800X (i.e. 10 x 25 inches)
    **** 20 frame stretch of an A360-800X (i.e. 20 x 25 inches)

    As you can see, the fineness ratio of the 777-9X is quite close to that of the A350-1000, none of which are ideal. However, it’s easier to circumvent a less than optimal fineness ratio on a composite fuselage in order to avoid unfavorable weight creep, due to the extra stiffnes of the composite materials. Still, an A350-1100X would have an even worse fineness ratio than that of the A340-600; or about the same as a 777-10X. Now, look at the conceptual A360-800X. It would have a fuselage diameter of 7m and an identical fuselage length to that of the 777-9X. It would have a very favourable fineness ratio of 10.82. Hence, a further stretch of the 777-9X doesn’t look very viable to me. It’s already got a fineness ratio that is borderline, which helps explain why it is so heavy.

    As for an A360-800X having the same fuselage length as that of the 777-9X; these would be the differentiators:


    Y Class________10 abreast____11 abreast
    Seat width_______17.2″__________18″

    J Class_________7 abreast_____8 abreast
    # of aisles__________2___________3

    *****# of seats
    in three classes____395________435

    MTOW (t)_________350_________350

    OEW (t)__________185_________185

    *****per Scott’s definitions and Charts

    • Great response. I was thinking a 9 frame stretch for the 779 personally. That should get them pretty close to 6 additional rows of coach and gets them under the A346 ratio-wise. Certainly repeating the weight implications of the A346 should be avoided but it wasn’t terribly noncompetitive with the 77W if you took away the maintenance and weight of the additional engines. I only see the 777-10 as possible if the ME3 support it and if it could be done cheaply. Excellent points.

      I like your A360 idea and I think a bigger twin is likely from Airbus in the future. I think it will depend on just how bad the A380neo does. Obviously its hard to see them selling well together. Adding a third aisle just to gain 1 seat in Y and 1 in J seems expensive.

      I think an A350-1100 as more likely. Once the A350 backlog is low and if the 779 is selling well they will use the A350 to match the 779 as it is the lighter frame. Its the 77W model after the 77E and 773 had been executed: new wing, new engines, and a refresh and it would be hard for the 779 to match that.

      If I were Airbus I would want to wait for the dust to settle on these efficient long range twins before doing anything expensive. We really could be seeing a shift in how people travel and if the next 10 years is anything like the last 10 years the only constant we can expect is change and launching something prematurely is not a good idea. Lets see how airlines use the 787 and the A350s and just how bad will the A380 do.

      • Sure, a 777-10X is probably doable, but it would have almost as large a wetted area as that of an A360-800X. Due to its unfavourable fineness ratio (i.e the fineness delta between a 777-10X and an A368X would be significantly larger than what’s the case between the fineness delta between the 77W and the A346), you’d have to add a significant amount of structure to a dash-10 over that of an fully composite fuselage and structurally efficient A360-800X, rendering a dash-10 hopelessly uncompetitive.

        The third aisle would be for business class only on an A360X. The 6.7m internal width at the raised floor level (i.e. same as for a raised floor on the A380) would mean direct aisle access from every seat and 8 abreast (2*-aisle-2-aisle-2-aisle-2*).

        *Staggered seats

        The 777 offers 7 abreast in business class today, but the trend is unequivocally moving towards direct aisle access for every seat in business class, which means that most 777-9X operators would only put a maximum of 6 abreast in business class. Hence, an A360-800X would be able to accommodate not only one extra seat in business class, but two; in addition to, of course, one extra seat in economy class.

        As with a 777-10X an A350-1100 is probably doable, especially if you keep it at the same MTOW level as that of the A350-1000. If, however, the payload/range capability would be set to equal that of the 777-9X, more fundamental changes would have to be done to the airframe — and you’d have no further development potential. With an A360-800X, however, you’d be able to stretch it at least once if a centre main landing gear bogie would be added, and its fuselage could be designed to have a significant amount of commonality with the A380 fuselage.

        I agree that Airbus doesn’t have to act now and that they, in all likelihood, will wait a couple of years before making anything public. An EIS in, say, 2025 would probably require an official launch in 2017, which would be perfect timing due to the planned EIS of the A350-1000 at that time.

        • I have no doubt that a clean sheet A360 program set around 460 seats would stop the 779 in its tracks; I do doubt Airbus’ fortitude to launch another $15B program when its last two aren’t paid off.

        • I do doubt Airbus’ fortitude to launch another $15B program when its last two aren’t paid off.

          Well, they should be cash positive on the A380 from 2015 and onwards. As for the A350, I would expect that it will reach the break-even point by early next decade.

          If you start to develop new things only after your last ones have been fully paid off, in all likelihood, you won’t go anywhere.

          That size has worked so well for the 747-8i.

          That’s because the 747-8I apparently couldn’t even beat the CASM of the 777-300ER by much, if any. What I’m talking about is a conceptual 748I-sized twin having upwards of 15 percent lower fuel burn per seat than the 777-9X.

          “What Boeing is up against is not the A380, it is their own machine – the 777-300ER,” Clark says.

          “The ER has proven to be one of the most popular aircraft ever produced, which is why we bought 100 of them. Even American is buying them. Not many but ,when they start flying it, they will realise how good it is.”

          Clark points out that Emirates carries 420 passengers on its 777-300ERs in a two-class configuration. He believes the 747-8I will only be able to carry slightly more passengers.

          “Now look at the economics. We can get the ER to operate 17.5h with that kind of payload. It’s cheap to operate. The engines are hugely fuel efficient,” he says. “You’ve an amazing capability.”

          He also thinks the 747-8I will be “a fuel-efficient machine” as it has new wings and a new propulsion system.

          However, Emirates has absolutely no interest in the aircraft and Clark does not see how many carriers can justify acquiring the 747-8I given the operating economics of the 777-300ER.

  18. Everyone: I will remind you that personalizing comments is not permitted. Aboulafia has been wrong, and he has been right–and so have I; it’s the nature of the beast, and I suspect that there isn’t a single one of you who hasn’t been wrong in your life.

    As for personalizing comments directed at other Readers, I remind you that this isn’t allowed.


  19. Any forecasts on the 777-x is premature. Remember that the market share of the smaller 300 ER is mostly Asia and the Middle East. So it is likely, that the larger 9-x will have the same market share. The A350-1000 will be less risky and a more balanced aircraft and should appeal to may more airlines in South America, Europe, and even the US. Not many airlines/countries can or want to load their fleet with heavy monster twin jets and fly 400 + crammed passengers around through mega hubs. Customers (passengers) will eventually catch on to this high volume-low service level strategy.

    • The A351 has 8 customers over 8 years and the 777x has an existing base of 40+ 777 operators where the 777x is a logical next step. The A351 is bound to be a terrific machine and I think it will be popular but I don’t think it will impact the 779x in significant degree but it will keep a stranglehold on the 778. I don’t think operators see the 77W is too risky so expecting them to downsize to the A351 may not be an easy sell.

  20. “The A351 has 8 customers over 8 years and the 777x has an existing base of 40+ 777 operators where the 777x is a logical next step.”

    And that wouldn’t be impressive if it weren’t the biggest most loyal 777 operators. EK, AF/KL, UA, AA, JAL, BA, CX. LH and SQ saying they will order-1000 later on. QR also ordered them. For 10 abreast operators the 777X is an expensive heavy 2 row stretch from 2020. And update on the EK LOI?

    • Your usage of scissors and glue demands respect! Any comment above that would probably get me in conflict with the rules.

      • Thanks for the compliment, Schorsch … the challenge was to offer a TEU-liner (AGA-liner) with following Cahier de Charges :
        – range 6,200 nm
        – payload : 26 AGA = 350 metric tonnes
        – make use of existing (proven) sub-assemblies (CATIA.seized numerical protocols)
        – classical apron PCN tolerances
        – TO/L perfo no worse than for current WB aircraft
        – ground turn-around 0.40
        – cost $/FTK < ditto for belly-freight with the market's best WB (@ marginal costing)

        Maybe you could show us how best to crack this nut ?

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