Is the A330neo engine Rolls Royce’s first carbon fan model?

The Airbus A330neo program has come a long way since our 29th of December article  “A330neo prospect gains traction.” With the Farnborough Air Show days away, we understand there are now Airbus internal job postings for engineers to join the program. The speculation then reduces to “when” the program will be announced, not “if.” Another would be what improvements are foreseen for the Boeing 787-derived engines that may power the neo.

Rolls Royce reportedly gains exclusivity

Reuters recently reported that Rolls Royce might get an exclusive engine deal for the A330neo. There are many reasons Airbus might give Rolls Royce or General Electric exclusivity on an engine for the A330neo, especially if Airbus sees the likely sales of the updated aircraft to stay below 500 units. The reasons can range from how much of the $2B estimated program cost the engine manufacturer would pay to what efficiency improvements they would undertake on top of what is already on the way for their 787 engines. There is every reason to believe the GEnx-1B can match the fuel consumption performance of a further developed Trent T1000-TEN. We understand Rolls Royce will leverage developments from the A350 TXWB engines but GE can just as easily leverage developments from the LEAP program.

T1000 ALPS demonstratorThe picture shows the Rolls Royce Trent 1000 carbon fibre fan demonstrator engine from the companies ALPS (Advanced Low Pressure System) program.  Is this also the looks of the Rolls Royce A330neo engine?

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Farnborough Air Show preview

The Farnborough Air Show is just around the corner, and we don’t expect the event to be especially newsworthy.

Here are our expectations for the show:

Airbus
Market expectations are that Airbus will launch the A330neo at the air show, and we know John Leahy, COO of Customers, would like to do so at this event. His bosses, Fabrice Bregier and Tom Enders, have been less than encouraging that this announcement could come at the show.

Although news stories last week indicated Airbus’ board may green light the program in advance of the FAS, it was nonetheless reported that a formal public launch may not be made at the show. So what might happen? An “Authority to Offer,” or ATO, might be how Airbus proceeds. We don’t think there will be firm orders ready to go when the FAS begins July 14—although certainly Airbus could also take Boeing’s 777X approach and announce “commitments” as was done at the Dubai Air Show.

We are skeptical whether there might be any A330 Classic orders announced, as customers await the neo. We certainly expect the usual orders for the A320 Family. We expect A350 orders. We’re doubtful of A380 orders.

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New airplanes nearing fruition? A330neo, 757RS buzz increasing

Development of two airplanes–the Airbus A330neo and a replacement for the Boeing 757–may be pushing to the forefront, according to two news articles yesterday.

Reuters reports that a decision whether to proceed with the Airbus A330neo could come before the Farnborough Air Show, even if a formal launch isn’t announced at the international event next month.

Bloomberg reports that Boeing may be nearing the launch of a 757 replacement sooner than expected.

A330neo

We’ve written extensively about both prospective airplanes, with the A330neo concept one of many subjects from the Airbus Innovation Days. The Reuters article reports what we have been hearing for some time: the airplane could be announced at Farnborough–but it might not be, either. What is new is the increasing likelihood Rolls-Royce will become the sole-source supplier. Aviation Week originally reported this prospect.

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Airbus Innovation Days, Part 2: No order bubble and a lot more

Airbus lifted the embargo on John Leahy’s presentation, allowing immediate publication.

There is no aircraft order bubble, says John Leahy, COO-Customers of Airbus. Emerging markets and passenger traffic doubling every 15 years, bolstered by GDP growth, means orders will hold up, he said, leading off the Airbus Innovation Days Tuesday.

Highlights of Leahy’s address:

  • There are 42 mega cities accounting for 99% of the long-haul traffic. Aircraft size is moving up and in 15 years, Leahy says RPKs will double, requiring aircraft like the A380.
  • Leahy predicted the A320neo will maintain a greater market share than the Boeing 737 MAX of about 60%-40%.
  • He claims the A320neo is 1.6 tons lighter than the 737 MAX.
  • Leahy said the A320neo and A321neo now seat 189 and 240 seats respectively (in maximum capacity configuration). The former matches the 737 MAX and the latter has 25 more seats than the 737-9.
  • He predicts China will become a competitor in 25 years.
  • The competitor to the 787-10 is the A350-900 at 331 pax vs 315 pax with more range and cargo capability or derating the A359 gives a lighter aircraft at the same range.
  • The 35 more seats of the 777X means the larger airplane than the A350-1000 is 35t heavier than the latter aircraft.
  • The A380 hasn’t been fully optimized by many airlines; it could easily take 50 more seats.
  • The A330neo is an interesting idea; we have to look at the money we have to spend and cannibalizing our A350 program. It will be the same size as the 787-9, which will have 1,000 mi more range. We could cover 92% of the routes with a wider seat and much lower capital cost. We have to look at the resources. It may not happen by Farnborough.
  • No A350 slots are available until 2019-2020. Effectively sold out through 2019 though could move some positions around.
  • In a walking press “scrum,” we asked Leahy, “if there is a potential market for 1,100-1,200 A330neos, why wouldn’t you do the airplane?” Leahy replied that the answer may be self-evident but once more noted that cost and resources will be important considerations. Talks with the engine makers, Rolls-Royce and GE, continue to determine the potential cost split between Airbus and them.

Low pressure turbine failed in CSeries incident: UBS, citing Bombardier

The low pressure turbine failed in the Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbo Fan engine on Bombardier’s CSeries, reports investment bank UBS, citing Bombardier.

Writes UBS:

BBD confirmed that recent GTF engine failure was in the low-pressure turbine and that the airframe (FTV1) was damaged in the incident, but downplayed the impact to the program schedule. While root cause analysis is ongoing, BBD emphasized that the failure was unrelated to the gearbox, and also suggested that a manufacturing defect (rather than a design flaw) may have been the cause. The subject engine was known to have problems, and BBD had considered sending it back to Pratt prior to incident on 5/29. Engine was instead repaired at BBD and the failure occurred during subsequent ground-testing. Root cause expected by end of week, corroborating message from our meetings with UTX on Monday.

The LPT is at the rear of the engine. A BBD official told us previously that FTV 1 was equipped with prototype engines, and that the production engines are first installed on FTV 4, the airplane that is designated to validate engine performance.

Engine failures during test programs are rare but not unknown. Rolls-Royce experienced a test-stand engine failure of the Trent 1000 for the Boeing 787 in which components blew apart.

Separately, a GEnx engine spit parts out of the back of the engine while a 787 was taxiing at Boeing’s Charleston 787 plant. Neither incident has serious impact on the program.

War of Words between Airbus and Boeing over A330neo, 787

By Leeham Co EU

We’ve seen it for decades: the War of Words between Airbus and Boeing around their competing aircraft. It hasn’t taken long for the WOW to emerge over the prospective A330neo. Only a few months ago, Boeing was muted in its assessment about the NEO and its response. No longer.

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For the 200- to 300-seat segment the WOW warning was raised Sunday at Doha, Qatar, in advance of the IATA Annual General Meeting, and no doubt it will stay aloft until this year’s Farnborough Air Show, where the formal launch of the A330neo is expected (as if anyone is doubting after Sunday).

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The start
As Aviation Week reports from the eve of the IATA AGM, John Leahy, Airbus’ chief operating office-customers, threw down the gauntlet by claiming an A330neo economics would be “unbeatable” and its “cash operating cost would equal 787-9.” Boeings counterpart John Wojick countered “at no price can it compete with the 787-10”.

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Of course, that’s not what Leahy claimed. Comparisons have been between the A330-300 and 787-9, not the 787-10.

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What it is all about
After our New Year’s analysis showed that there was a real case for an A330neo (A330neo prospect gains traction) we spent a further four months on the case, digging deeper and deeper. The result was put in our report The Business Case about the A330neo, a 60-page study which took a deep dive into the economics of the A330neo vs the A330 Classic and the Boeing 787-8/9. We did not examine the neo vs the 787-10 because these are different category airplanes, as Boeing’s Wojick should know full well.

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In an apples-to-apples comparison, we found the A330neo significantly narrows, but does not entirely close, the operating cost gap between the A330 Classic and Boeing’s new airplane. Airbus can close the gap and achieve an advantage, however, if it lowers the price of the A330neo to a level the 787 can‘t give. This is central to Leahy’s argument, which is used for the A330 Classic but achieved only with the most favorable assumptions for the Airbus airplane

To summarize:

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CSeries setback as PW GTF has reported uncontained failure

  • Exclusive interview with Robert Saia, vice president of the Next Generation Product Family at Pratt & Whitney.
  • PW believes it has a “good understanding” of what happened.
  • Flight testing might resume quickly, reducing risk of program delay.
  • Customers coming to previously scheduled Bombardier meeting, will be permitted to see the airplane.
  • CSeries EIS delay not expected.

Bombardier, already facing an 18-24 month delay for its CSeries, may face another delay, some fear, following Friday’s reported uncontained engine failure of the Pratt & Whitney P1500G Geared Turbo Fan engine.

BBD grounded its four test airplanes while an investigation gets underway. The engine failure also damaged the fuselage of FTV 1. FTV 4, the airplane in airline configuration that is to validate economic promises of the GTF, had only been on three or four test flights in the slow-moving testing program. FTVs 2 and 3 have been flying for some time. FTV 5, 6 and 7 had not yet taken to the air.

There was a reported fire associated with the failure, but this is unconfirmed. Smoke was filmed during the event, but based on information Saturday, it’s unclear if a fire actually occurred, according to a person close to the investigation. The airplane was on the ground in Montreal at the time, and the four crew members were uninjured.

BBD, PW and Transport Canada are all investigating.

Engine failures during testing are rare but not unknown.

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OEMs are ramping up services as profit centers

Original Equipment Manufacturers are ramping up their focus on services to increase these as profit centers for company financial performance.

The news April 10 that Boeing will relocate its Commercial Aviation Services unit from Seattle to its fading facility in Long Beach (CA) is another example. After-market support services for all DC- and MD- models and the out-of-production 7 Series airplanes previously were relocated to Southern California. Now, support for the in-production 7 Series (except the 787), the 737-based P-8A Poseidon and the forthcoming KC-46A will shift to SoCal. The 787, 737 MAX and forthcoming 777X support will be in Seattle.

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GE engines faces challenge from PW, RR GTF technology

The recent announcement by Rolls-Royce that their future engines will contain gearboxes has put GE and its CFM partner SAFRAN under considerable pressure.

GE/SAFRAN were together with Rolls-Royce proponents to go directly from Direct-Drive turbofans to Open Rotor designs for the next generation aircrafts. This left Pratt & Whitney as the only major engine manufacturer promoting high by-pass ratio geared turbofans as a better alternative for these aircrafts. With the Rolls-Royce announcement of Advance for 2020 (Carbon fanned tri-shaft) and Ultrafan (Geared big fan) for 2025, this has all changed. Suddenly Pratt & Whitney has strong support in their strategy and GE/SAFRAN stand out as loners.
By honing key technologies in their traditional two shaft turbofans GE, and GE/SAFRAN in CFM, have built a market leading position in all thrust classes, Regional (CF34), Single Aisle (CFM56) and Dual Aisle (CF6, GEnx, GE90). Their declared next step was Open Rotor for future Single Aisle while keeping Direct-Drive for larger engines.

Airbus and Snecma continue to research open rotor technology. Aviation Week has this story.
Now this solid position is threatened. The geared architecture has won the future regional market (CSeries, MRJ, E-Jet E2 goes PW GTF), market parity on the A320neo family and the 757 replacement studies by Boeing (dubbed NAS, New Airplane Study) will not go Open Rotor as Open Rotor only works up to M 0.75 and the 757 replacement will likely fly over 4,000nm, necessitating higher cruise speed. The NAS will thereby favor a geared turbofan instead of Open Rotor. Why not Direct-Drive? There are two major reasons:

  •  A geared design allows higher by-pass ratios and thereby higher propulsive efficiency without the engine being too heavy from its large low pressure turbine needed to drive a high BPR fan.
  • A geared design can allow the big fan to rotate slowly and with a low pressure ratio. This creates a low noise engine, a very important feature for aircrafts operating out of noise troubled airports.

GE/SAFRAN has shown with their CFM LEAP project that they can match the efficiency levels of a geared engine like Pratt & Whitney’s GTF, using its superior hot section technology to achieve the high efficiency. It cannot achieve the low noise levels of a geared fan however; engine noise stands in direct relation to fan rotational speed and pressure ratio.
It will thereby be the environmental factors that will put the most stress on GE/SAFRAN’s present strategy. Having lost the regionals to the geared camp, will it also lose the next generation short/medium haul? It will be interesting to watch the GE/SAFRAN over the next 18 months: does it change strategy or not? If one goes by the recent words of GE Aviation President David Joyce (who spoke at last week’s opening of their Indiana LEAP factory), he thinks his present line-up is fine for a 757 replacement, and he sees no urgent need for new developments.

By Leeham Co EU

More A350-800 orders vanish

Twelve more Airbus A350-800 orders vanished as Aircraft Purchase Fleet canceled, according to the latest tally from Airbus. APF is the special purpose company set up for Alitalia Airlines, which is a financial basket case and probably couldn’t finance a Piper Cub, let alone an A350. In this case, the -800s were not upgraded to -900s or -1000s, according to the monthly Airbus Orders and Deliveries tally. There are now just 34 A358s in backlog.

The shrinking backlog further suggests the need for a refresh of the A330 with a re-engine, in our view. Without the A350-800, Airbus won’t have a competitor in the 250 seat sector that has any current technology. An A330neo with new engines would at least fill some of this void.

Meantime, Delta Air Lines issued a Request for Proposals for 50 wide-body aircraft to replace its aging Boeing 747-400s and some 767-300ERs. Delta’s CEO has said he could be interested in the A330neo. Delta eschews new technology, preferring “proven” technology, which could work against the Boeing 777X powered by an entirely new engine. By the time Delta would be ready to take delivery of its order, the A350XWB and its new technology will have been in service for many years. Delta has a deferred order for the Boeing 787-8 it inherited from Northwest Airlines, and this technology will be mature by the time Delta would be able to take delivery, so the 787 family could be in the mix. So could an A330neo, which would most likely be powered by one of the 787’s engine options, the GEnx or the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 TEN. Market intelligence tells us Delta is pushing the GEnx, given its strong relationship with GE.