Hot competition in Middle East, Airframe analysis.

By Bjorn Fehrm


June 15, 2015, C. Leeham Co: We have previously written about the interview with Emirates Airline President and COO, Tim Clark, where he says that in the present competition for Emirates’ medium haul 330 seaters, one can see that the extreme hot conditions for Dubai International Airport can cause trouble for aircraft which are dimensioned for normal airport conditions. This will hit a dedicated medium-haul aircraft like the Boeing 787-10 harder than a long-haul aircraft turned medium-haul like the Airbus A350-900.

The latter is designed to take-off with higher weights and has therefore a larger wing and stronger engines; it has more margins in a medium-haul mission. We looked at how the engines react to hot conditions last week and will now look at the airframes.


  • The airframes have in principal three limitations for hot takeoffs:
    • Balanced field length (includes the safety precautions for losing an engine)
    • Brake energy absorption restrictions for an aborted take-off
    • Tire speed restrictions
  • The 787-10 is an optimized mid-range design. In the hot climate of Dubai it has less margins for a take-off with a large payload for a typical flight than a long range design like A350-900.
  • We explore where those limits are and how they can affect daily operations.

Aircraft and hot conditions

To understand how aircraft react to hot conditions, one needs to understand how the airframe and the engines are affected. We covered the engine last week. Here is a summary of our findings:

  • The engines lose a lot of power in a hot take-off. For the ground roll, it will lose more than 20% and at the critical climb after lift-off on one engine, should an engine problem occur, the remaining engine would have lost 30% of its normal take-off thrust.
  • These losses are attributed to the air being 10% thinner due to the higher temperatures decreasing the air density (engines give thrust by pushing air out the back faster then it entered the engine) and due to the engine computer throttling back thrust to not toast the engine’s hot parts.

The result of losing thrust during the take-off roll and initial climb is that speed margins of the airframe shrinks until they go negative, whereby the remedy is to lower the aircraft’s take-off weight.

We will now look at what happens with a practical example which we ran through our aircraft performance model. The engines performance were modeled with GasTurb.

Flight Dubai-Madrid

Our airline like to start from Dubai International Airport with a load consisting of passengers + bags and cargo, in all, 50 tonnes. It is a typical hot day at Dubai, where we plan the take-off with 45°C (113F) temperature at the runway. Our great circle distance to Madrid is 3055nm, Figure 1.

Dubai-Madrid flight

Figure 1. Great circle distance between Dubai and Madrid. Source: Great Circle mapper.

We are flying west so we must plan with prevailing winds and there is not perfect weather around Madrid, in all we need 3,800nm still air distance for our planning. We don’t take into account any flight paths to divert over war zones in this example.

We now look at how the aircraft cope with 45°C and our payload. The engines of the 787-10 delivers an average of around 60.000lbf thrust during the ground roll at these temperatures; the engines of the A350-900 deliver around 65.000lbf.

Once airborne, this reduces due to speed to 55.000lbf and 60.000lbf. For the 787-10, which has a higher wing loading and shorter span, this means we will reach the runway limit of 12.000 ft and break energy absorption limits at a take-off weight of around 230 tonnes. To fly 50 tonnes of payload to Madrid, we need a take-off weight of 240 tonnes, i.e., we are below the limit of what the aircraft can do on a summer day from Dubai. Solution is to off-load 7 tonnes of cargo.

For the A350-900 the situation is a bit different. The large wing with a low wing-loading enables us to lift off at 255 tonnes. For the trip we would have needed a take-off weight of 245 tonnes. It means there is 10 tonnes margin for longer trips, more payload or more difficult weather/winds.


The example has shown a glimpse of the planning scenario an airline like Emirates has with its extreme weather conditions and why they might come to other conclusions than airlines with more normal planning scenarios. If we did not have the take-off weight restriction on the 787-10, it can take more cargo than an A350-900. It has four more LD3 positions and a higher maximum payload limit. The question for Emirates is how often this can be used.

8 Comments on “Hot competition in Middle East, Airframe analysis.

  1. Hello Bjorn

    Very very interesting

    What level of thrust is needed for the 787-10 to match the requirement ?
    What an A330-900NEO can do on the same day ?

    • It seems that another 5klbf would make the 787-10 also perform on really hot days. The real answer is that it is a sliding scale, when would Emirates deem that 787-10 is having acceptable performance on such a number of days that it would be the preferd solution. As I have pointed out before, we don’t know where this thing stand. It can be Clark is negotiating through the press but it could equally well be a real issue for them.

      What we have done is explain the problem and given example of typical effects. Take-Off performance is a science in it-selves, even the OEMs rely on flight tests to finally settle the data.

      Re 330neo, at Paris Airshow now, need to come back to you on that.

  2. The remaining part of this analysis is the answer to the question of How many flights per year will be restricted by air temperature? How often is the temperature in the restricted range? And what is the departure profile during a day which has a peak temp of 45C ?

    Bjorn, can you help us with the actual departure profile?

    • I’ve lived in Dubai and you can expect temps up to 50c VERY regularly during summer. 45c is quite mild for the summer in the gulf.

  3. In the industry, EK is known to demand takeoff performance for 114F and a 600 ft barometric altitude. They wouldn’t give away their spreadsheet of the number of flights expected at any given time. But they must be able to operate during hot days.

    Average temperature for June (mean) is 36C

    Playing around with that weather history, I’d say that EK must plan for 42C with hotter excursions.


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