Bjorn’s Corner: What Paris Air Show taught us about East and West.


By Bjorn Fehrm

By Bjorn Fehrm

25 June 2015, © Leeham Co: With a few days in the office one can look back at Paris Air Show with a bit of perspective. So what are the impressions?

It was surprising how many orders Airbus and Boeing landed. Both had played down the expectations, telling that it will be a decent show but nothing close to record. Yet both were booking orders or commitments which were better than expected going into the PAS.

For both, the single aisle market is still the motor. The need for single aisle 150 to 200+ seat aircraft seems to be inexhaustible. At the same time, Bombardier, which has fine aircraft just below this size, did not book a single order for the CSeries, despite showing and flying them at Paris Air Show for the first time. BBD went to pains in advance of the Air Show to indicate no orders were expected in the wake of executive management changes in the weeks and few months before the PAS. Nonetheless, barriers to entry into new market segments are really high in this business.

This will also bear on Russian and Chinese projects.  Russia and Italy had just started to get really good references for their Superjet. Then the Russian leadership decided that political gamesmanship is more important than to build on the inroads they have made over the last 10 years for integration of their countries companies with the business in the western world.

I passed the Russian stands for United Aircraft in Hall 2. It was sad to see that there were qualified people standing there waiting for interested customers. But there were none; the stands were empty. In one year, what was built up during 10 years was destroyed, things have gone cold. Really sad. Russian aeronautical and aerospace industry has a lot of knowledge and tradition that could quickly lead them to being a viable alternative to western technology. Now they hand that alternative choice on a plate to China.

The Russians I have talked to during the years would love to be given a chance to come back and show what they can achieve on an open aeronautical market. The market is there and booming, but their political leadership has made sure they miss this chance of a century.

The Chinese aeronautical industry was less present. It seems to be building strength on a large home market before entering the world scene. China and Russia have agreed to make a new twin aisle aircraft together with, as I understand it, around 250-300 seats, competing with Boeing’s Dreamliner and Airbus’ A330neo. Request for information is out and request for bids to participate will be issued and awarded during 2015.

It is the only new twin aisle aircraft on the horizon. All other projects, and they are only two, 777X and A330neo, are further developments of old platforms. The finishing on the 787-10 and A350-1000 developments are going on but these projects are in their last years of development. New engines, systems and avionics have only the Russian-Chinese project to aim for after the derivatives are done.

It will be especially interesting on the engine front. The only new engine in development which seems to have the right characteristics is Rolls-Royce Advance.  GE has several times declared they are full with projects and are not aiming for any new ones and Pratt & Whitney have declared they better finish up what they have as projects already before venturing on anything new.

This leaves Rolls-Royce of the western engine makers. There will for sure also be a Russian alternative but the question is how serious will that be, when cooperation with Western technology companies has become difficult due to politics. Russia lacks manufacturing means for the advanced materials and techniques required for a modern engine. They might have the technology on a research scale in many corners, but the Sam146 project with Snecma shows that the Russian partner struggles to ramp the production due to lack of advanced machines for the production of their part of the engine.

I can’t think things have improved for a cooperation or sale of technology to Russia given the last year’s tension and increased uncertainties . Does a company do all the up front efforts to then see the production contracts being stopped due to sanctions or other problems?

World peace can only come one way, that the world’s economies get so integrated that any conflict means huge negatives for the party that wants to play hard-ball for political gains. We never got there with Russia before things turned south. Let’s hope that this changes and that we get so integrated with the Chinese so that we don’t have to see empty stands in their expositions in future Air Shows.

The chances are good that we will reach a high level of integration before the military might of China has reached levels where the incitement to flex those muscles becomes too large. As a former fighter pilot and developer of fighters (the Gripen), I discussed the Chinese-Pakistani JF17 Thunder at length with the pilots that flew the demonstrations. I was surprised by how good the aircraft flew and the level of its systems. They are not far behind the fourth generations fighters that the West has.

It’s time to get the new Russian-Chinese dual aisle project to where bridges are starting to be built again with the West. If that opportunity is lost, it will take a very long time before the next one comes.

44 Comments on “Bjorn’s Corner: What Paris Air Show taught us about East and West.

  1. Hi Bjorn

    I must admit to a close interest in the Russian aero industry. Just to clarify a point if I may. Are you discussing the loss of component makers especially engines or are you talking about loss of customers due to sanctions?

    Having spent time in eastern CIS countries I am always struck by their different geo political outlook. In that context both Russia and China will benefit from a substantial domestic or near domestic market at a cost to Airbus and Boeing.

    To me the issue that Russia has always suffered from is the fragmentation of the industry because originally the design bureaux were separate to the assembly process. Also the concept of organised ramp up seems to be missing. I was in Samara region in the late 90s and if my memory serves me right I went to a facility that managed to turn out 1/2 frames a year of T154 (??) in the most dilatory manner.

    A Sino Russian conglomerate is something to take seriously in my opinion, Russian know how, + Chinese ambition = future trouble for the incumbents

    • I am talking about the loss of Western customers but also the loss of possible partners for joint ventures like the Sam146. I can’t see that any western engine maker would be to enticed in helping Russia develop a modern 70-80klbf engine right now.

      And there is the loss of the tight cooperation with the Ukrainian engine industry, both high tech components (blades etc) and complete engines. I don’t know how interested Motor Sich is in working with the Russians right now, they have established programs that I guess they honor but how enticed are they in agreeing to work on a 70-80klbf engine?

      • Mr bjorn i have the following questions for you :

        First queation :has russia the technological expertise to launch and build a future middle of the market aircraft. Would it be able to challenge boeing and airbus or the oportunity is gone?

        Second question: How much fuel efficient a 767X with a 787 wing and ultrafan engines ? Also would it be able to be a viable option against an all new design ?

        Final question: Can the ultrafan accomplish the targets advertised by rolls royce or their goals are over ambigious ?

        Thank you for your time

        • Answers.

          First question: After having done the Superjet and YAK MS21 they should have the expertise to do a good 250-300 seater. Weather it will beat the 787 on technology can be questioned. The A330neo is a good upgrade of a by 2025 when the aircraft would EIS a 30 year old design and the Advance engines will be ahead of the Trent 7000 and Trent 1000/GEnx-1 so it should be competitive with both in my view.

          Second question: I don’t think the Ultrafan would be ready for this aircraft, it will be the tri spool Adavance. As said it will be 5% better than the Trent 1000 and 7000 so it should be interesting.

          Re Ultrafan being overambitious, with a timeplan of 10 years from now and probable target aircraft Boeing’s MOM I think they can achieve what they say, as can CFM and PW with competing engines for that Aircraft. But we are talking an engine size of 40+ klbf then, not the 70-80klbf Russian-Chinese twin aisle.

          • “Ultrafan being overambitious, with a timeplan of 10 years from now and probable target aircraft Boeing’s MOM I think they can achieve what they say, as can CFM and PW with competing engines for that Aircraft.”

            If I read you correctly Bjorn, what you are saying is that the Boeing MOM won’t be launched for another 10 years, is that correct? If not, when do you think would be the earliest date?

          • A MOM will take at least 7 years to develop, ie we are talking at best EIS 2023.

          • Thank you mr bjorn. Your opinion are very helpfull.
            I will ask for two more question
            Question number 1 : could you please give me a more definitive answer about if the 767X is viable and competitive against an all new design.
            Question number 2: I want to become an airline pilot. What are the fitness requirements for becoming a pilot

            Thank you again for your time

          • A 767X will not be competitive, the wing is to old in its design. You only need normal fitness to be an airline pilot.

      • Thank you

        I can certainly see a Ukrainian issue. Beyond engines it would be interesting to see the extent to which UAC/Comac has to lean on western technology. I am assuming the realistic timeframe for the WB is 10 years away to EIS even without geo political factors intervening. Otherwise they will end up with a Y10/IL86 issue

  2. “World peace can only come one way, that the world’s economies get so integrated that any conflict means huge negatives for the party that wants to play hard-ball for political gains.”

    Airbus is a good exemple of this. Germany and France can no longer fight each other because they are equal partners in this wonderful enterprise. Unfortunately the UK has still not decided if they want to join forces with their neighbours or if they want to isolate themselves further. The United States have become a powerful nation because they united fifty states, starting with thirteen. The EU started with only six. Perhaps one day Russia will join them.

    • Absolutely! The GTF is scalable and actually benefits from an increase in size. But unfortunately P&W is unwilling at the moment to invest in the development of larger variants.

    • The concept or the PW1000G family?

      45k lbf is a long step from 35k. The family probably couldn’t (at least, in the near term), the concept can no problem.

      • The Pw1100G could be taken to 42k but that needs some work. You could destages the HPC to increase core flow and hence increase the number of LPT stages , split the workload between the turbines differently and modify the gearbox to a new gear ratio. The hard part of designing 42k engines are that customers require +10 000 cycles on wing. That is not an easy task. RR did it with the RB211-535 by putting in a lage core engine from the RB211-524 family. That is an expensive option. Problems are several as you would not like to get into the Lycoming ALF502 geared engine problems. Just having a LPT designed to rotate at high rpm when taxing around at idle low rpm can easily give high exhast temperatures as the LPT does not suck enough energy out of the gases.

    • Key segments of the current PW1400 are dimensioned for up to 40k lbs. So there is e.g. some room for MTOW growth left on the NEO and MS21. Creeping into MoM territory.

      • The core engine and fan would be scalable, but the reduction gearbox is the pacing issue.
        Now that GE owns Avio ( formerly FiatAvio, designed and built the gearbox) cant see them working the midnight oil on that one for P&W

        • The gearbox was designed by PW, Avio only manufactures to PW drawings.

          • It seems to be more than just outsourced production.

            “Avio Aero will retain headquarters in Turin, Italy. The acquisition furthers GE’s participation and expertise in the areas of mechanical transmission systems, low-pressure turbines, combustion technology, and automation systems.” -GE
            And this for the TP400 for A400m:
            “The speed reducer created for the TP 400 engine is the biggest ever to be developed in the western world, for a 5.5 m diameter propeller. “A technological challenge, in which the component designed by Avio plays an essential role .”- Avio

            You could look at patents as well , such as this
            “Face-gear transmission assembly with floating balance pinions ”

            I dont know how much was “P&W drawings”, but if you are thinking of a partner who is a center of excellence in gearboxes and mechanical transmissions design in the aviation engine business, it would be Avio.

  3. I have a somewhat different take on this.

    Ewe: Germany and France were not going to fight again anyway, so
    Airbus is not a glue that binds them to not fighting, it does bring economic benefits. It may be somewhat destabilizing due to the nature of the EU and countries like Greece that are not on par with the other two.

    However, when dealing with dictatorships and democracies, the dictatorships always benefit vastly more from the process than the democracies and as has been demonstrated, they can force that sacrifice onto their countries.

    Said trade and transfer of wealth to China has allowed them to become a threat they never were before (South China sea claims 800 miles from the nearest Chinese land mass.

    So now they have the technology to pursue those goals.

    I don’t have any answers but I don’t think high technology transfer into China and Russia is anything other than disastrous.

  4. Bjorn Fehrm
    thanx for ur praise of JF17…the planes at paris were block 1…block 3 planed to be introducced in 2017 will close gap with western counterparts even further

  5. At what point in GTF development does the integrated nacelle and variable area fan nozzle reappear with its attendant certification concerns? Also, I read somewhere that any gear ratio above 3.3 will require a planetary gear configuration, rather than the current star arrangement (sorry, I don’t remember the source). If true, is it significant and relevant to this particular growth discussion?

  6. Rolls Royce because of their 3 shaft architecture can delay the need for a gearing solution for the fan until they get BPR over 13:1 and maybe as much as 15:1.
    As well RR are thinking of gearbox transmitting 50MW, which is right at the top of the power range. P&W is doing 25MW at a very high efficiency of 99%.
    Rolls Royces gearbox for the F35 liftfan transmits 21MW

  7. Bjorn,

    Excellent column. However, even if Russia and China, whether individually or together, can bring the necessary technology to the table, and even if the political obstacles you mentioned could somehow be resolved, do you think either country could provide the necessary level of consistent, customer focused global in-service support that western airlines would of course demand?

    • They can learn, China is a country that learn faster than any other country I have experienced. I was in the computer industry for some time, they took over that industry in 10 years from USA and Europe.

      • Thats surprising since they have had access to the technology for the MD90 series and are struggling to make a viable product , even with Antonov designing a new wing for them.
        Access to russian aircraft technology hasnt even allowed them to catch up with Russias latest designs. Being a partner with Bombardier on the CS series has caused much grief , and its only at the level of a straightforward AL fuselage.
        Their cars are nothing near even average western technology.

        Computer technology is a different category as they have become a major source of western computer components. It would have been impossible to create something like an Ipad without Apple doing it all for them on the industrial side.

        • Ten years ago China were assembling Russian aircraft on license. Today they are certifying an own copy design and developing their own 100% Single Aisle design from scratch. Together with Russia they will do their first Twin Aisle. In 10 years we are at 2025, then they have learned the ropes and will start to compete in earnest.

          Education for the children is the top priority in a Chinese family and the Chinese mentality does not contain any “non invented here” limitations. They assimilate good ideas like sponges, they like to work hard and they have a competitive mind. Now you tell me western countries which are similar.

          • I think certain products do not lend themselves to the try, fail, try again until you succeed methods. Rapid cycle product like computers do, aircraft with their 20-40 year life cycle do not.

            As what has been seen from the C9191 (and the previous ARJ) their base of start is existing technology, not the more advanced composites (yes some but not all).

            They also tried to leverage a lot of tech transfer for being involved in that program. The high tech companies I believe saw the trap and are not going to do that as it does nothing but build a government supported competitor.

            As its government run, the programs have their inefficiencies and decisions not made on commercial basis. Upshot is that the C919 is an updated copy (my opinion) of the MD series. Both that and the ARJ are way behind and the question is did they learn or will just repeat?

            It may or may not be a decent enough aircraft, but the heart of the systems is western. Its not going to be in service for another two or three years at best.

            The Max is going to be a better aircraft despite it being 40+ years old design as its been constantly updated. C919 will probably at best match the existing 737 (maybe not as good)

            That also ignores the world wide support structure for an aircraft product.

            So in my view they do not match existing let alone current.

            Boeing and Airbus will come out with an all new with a lot of composites (or all if it works) and that leaves the C919 behind.

            China then copies it and come out with an all new C919 that matches existing but does not have the jump on things.

            Airbus was an anomaly in that Boeing, Lockheed and MD did not take it seriously and it got in a gap (particularly the A300 initially in Asia where it was the only time I flew one and the twin over ocean flights was not the issue it was in US and Europe). It also was an age of at rest tech materials wise.

            A collaborating between the Chinese and Russians would have one goal only by the Chinese and that would be to control the whole process (pirate it and the tech). The infighting that will go on for control is only going to delay it and collaboration issues.

            If they manage to pull it off it will be outdated and they still have not proven they can manage a world wide support effort.

            With Airbus and Boeing going at it tooth and nail I don’t see Russia and China alone or in combo getting ahead in a tech design cycle that makes them competitive that achieves the breakout they want. They may make sales inside the countries but at a cost and in China’s case still competing against more efficient and well supported imported aircraft.

            I think Airbus formation was different as it brought together entities that knew how to do aircraft and they were allowed to do it with support but not government direction.

            If Boeing in particularly had taken them seriously they never would have succeeded.

            And this all assumes China does not initiate some kind of regional crisis with the expansion well beyond any rational Chinese territory.

            It will be interesting to watch and see what happens.

          • MD82, which had been assembled from components since November 86, 35 planes were produced.
            From 92 an agreement was made to co-produce the MD92 with China being responsible for 75% of airframe structure. Export of advanced machine tools was authorised after some difficulty. When Boeing took over MD the agreement lapsed and very few planes were ‘co-produced’ along with the usual situation in China of signing an agreement is just the start of negotiations.
            Yet in 2002 the ARJ21 was launched which was clearly a MD82 derivative, along with a new wing design from Antonov.

            I would adjust your comment about assembly of Russian designs 1o years ago , to western design 27 years ago. Co-production was initiated 20 years ago which did not progress far and 12 years ago a derivate was launched with first flight 6 years ago. It has yet to reach production and when it does will it have the confidence of chinese travellers ?
            This is an fairly accurate timeline of an updated version of obsolete western design which has failed to have EIS 12 years after it was launched. The reference to building russian designs is irrelevant as I have shown.
            The C919 is considered to be very close to being a copy of the A320 as well.
            Repeating the superlatives the Chinese spout which ignores the actual circumstances doesn’t do anyone any good. Its like a throwback to the Soviet Union in the late 50s and early 60s and the era of Sputnik and the technical strides they were making . A broken political- economic system doesnt overcome the education of the younger generation

          • I am including military aircraft in the build up of knowledge, there the license production was prevalent (Su27, transports etc) which then turned into own copies and ultimately own designs.

          • It think this doesn’t do justice to the often innovative and groundbreaking Russian aerospace. During the cold war we weren’t able to accept. Dozens of unique designs, firsts and records.

          • I think it is a little more complicated. Yes their cognitve capabilities are very high as measured by international student assessments.
            They learn very fast and if the task is to do something very effective 1 million times with high quality they are undisputed.

            Nevertheless they aren’t especially creative or innovative. They still aren’t very strong E.g. in Software design. They aren’t strong in making very customized products like special machine tools, special sensor only build a few hundred times, special solutions etc. This stuff is mostly based in Europe (Swiss, southern Germany, Austria, some UK) or US.

            Overall they are similar to Japan but on a larger scale. Don’t get me wrong. I expect them to be number one soon, especially all things manufacturing beside very special things. But I don’t expect things like strong K.I. from them.

          • Hi,

            I have worked over 15 years with both countries, I can’t agree. You are describing the Japanese mentality, not the Chinese. When given the means and a free market the Chinese are highly innovative. BTW, I include Taiwan and Greater China when I talk about the Chinese, same people with different recent history. On the business side they work as one country, not politically though.

  8. I estimate EIS of the C919 in 5 or 6 years, a big twin 2030? The ARJ will probably have an EIS with restricted operation 8 years after first flight. And has lots of existing/ proved content.

    Chinese society has lots of strenghts, energy and weaknesses too.

  9. True, and the C919 at 174 seats misses the upper market.

    So, also a decision on a stretch or go for the twin aisle and exactly which segment?

    Could be part of Boeings MOM thinking.

    Also the Bombardier C series looks to be more than competitive with the C919

    More delays keep stacking up for in service date, 2020 may be generous.

  10. We only have to look at Brasil.
    Maiden flight of ERJ145 took place in 1995, and nearly 1000 built since ( including a assembly line in Harbin which produced 40 over 10 years from 2004)
    E175 first flew in 2003 and over 1100 E jets delivered since with a further upgrade on the way and continued strong orders.
    Yes the Brazilians have used the major western companies for engines and other important subsystems, but the Chinese are doing the same.
    At least we can be pretty sure Embraer has used the own airframe design and technology and it shows as they have made a very successful leap to the tier just below the big 2 against a very strong competitor.

  11. Look at all the heartache that I b787 cost overruns are causing (a350 came in massively over budget as well.)Cash is just not a problem for the Chinese and Russians when you look at what they have spent on Olympics and World Cup. The temporary problems of Russia just make their technology cheaper for the Chinese.Back in the 1990s all sorts of projects where shipped out to Russia to take advantage of the cheap labor and frankly over qualified engineering workforce.I can’t think of one that worked out well,despite very enthusiastic workers. The problem is social and political,in particular massive corruption.If something looks profitable,everyone wants a piece of the pie until the project is ruined.Management isn’t selected for competence and couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery.It is going to happen,but it will take a while.I expect the Chinese to overtake the Russians despite their huge head start.What if the current technical avenues turn out to be cul-de-sacs and something better and much cheaper to produce comes along?This could be their chance to catch up.

    • Grubbie

      You mention massive cost overruns for the A350, can you substantiate this please as I understood the programme has come in broadly on budget with the exception of a couple of relatively (relatively!) small write downs.

      I believe that the Chinese have three massive benefits which will lever them into a competitive position.

      1. A willingness to take the long view, something that both Boeing and increasingly Airbus are unable to do.

      2. Massive state subsidy associated with achieving a prestige project.

      3. A substantial domestic market together with a wider market that will increasingly have large reciprocal trade with China

      • Ok,that was off the top of my head. I seem to remember a figure of $17 billion being mentioned.A quick bit of research on the web suggests the following
        A350 mk1 initial budget $3.5billion rising to $5.3 billion as it got more complicated.
        A350 xwb initial budget $10 billion.Airbus states in 2014 that it expects it to come in at $15billion.It would be possible to do several of these for the reputed cost of the Sotchi Winter Olympics

        • The Beijing Olympics full cost is an inflation adjusted to 2013, $40-$47 bill. And that was for the countrys capital and a world city, not the provincial town that was Soichi. The russians had to upgrade the port first as that was inadequate for what was to come and it went up the chain from there, power stations, rail access, airport , hotels.

        • I think we can safely ignore Mk 1 as that was not built. I understood that Airbus had a budget of approx. 11 -12 bn euro (substantiation welcome) which depending on exchange rate equated to 13-16 bn dollars. Yes they came in over budget but the airbus policy of writing off development cost overruns as they go makes it relatively transparent what they have been. I understand that the a350 programme has been very well managed so far in direct response to the a380 problems.I stand to be corrected however

        • I think it will ease the Dreamliner pain if the A350 is a mess too. However it seems we better keep referring to the A380, although even that drama wasn’t close to the 787.

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