Airbus A350-900ULR enables Singapore Airlines to reopen Singapore-New York

By Scott Hamilton and Bjorn Fehrm

Oct. 13 2015, ©. Leeham Co: Airbus and Singapore Airlines have launched the A350-900 ultra long range, the specifications for which we estimated in July beginning with the first of four articles.

The A350-900ULR enables Singapore Airlines to reopen the Singapore-New York “SQ flight 21” that was closed 23 November 2013. It was the world’s longest flight, using an Airbus A340-500 until SQ discontinued it during the more recent high fuel prices that rendered the flight uneconomic.

Update: Singapore has now released this picture through twitter:Changi Newark non stop SQ ad

It will also enable Singapore to restart direct flights to the US West Coast, something that the main competition, such as Cathay Pacific Airways, has been able to offer because of a better geographical position. The A350-900ULR now closes that competitive gap for Singapore Airlines.

Singapore has converted seven of its A350-900s to the -900ULR version, deliveries will start in 2018. The ULR will be in a custom premium configuration of 170 seats, about 60 more than used on the A340-500.

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Airbus ‘confident’ engine makers can ramp up production

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Sept. 17, 2015, © Leeham Co., Mobile (AL): Tom Enders, the chairman and CEO of Airbus Group, is “confident” engine makers can accommodate single-aisle airplane production ramp-ups being considered by Airbus and Boeing.

CFM makes about 50% of the engines on the A320 Family and has about 50% of the backlog for the New

Tom Enders, CEO of Airbus Group. Airbus photo.

Engine Option version. Pratt & Whitney has about the same market share for the NEO, depending on what month it is, with a large number of orders for which no engine has been selected.

Airbus and Boeing are each studying whether to ramp up production of the A320 and 737 families above the record rates already planned.

In an interview Sunday with Leeham News and Comment in advance of the A320 Final Assembly Line opening here, Enders said studies continue whether to take A320 production rates to 60 a month. Boeing is studying rates of 60-63 a month.


  • Decision whether to go to rate 60/mo should come by year end.
  • Suppliers, engine “partner” key to decision.
  • A380 sales “struggling,” but confidence remains.
  • More export sales for A400M program expected.

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FedEx orders 50+50 767-300Fs (but no 777Fs)

FedEx today announced an order for 50+50 Boeing 767-300ERFs. We previewed this prospect July 8.

But there were no Boeing 777Fs involved, as we reported there “perhaps” might be. FedEx, which also operates the 777F, deferred orders for 11 of these freighters more than a year ago–in 2011.


Airbus A380neo not yet a project

July 21, 2015: The London Sunday Times created a stir over the weekend when it headlined an interview with Airbus Commercial CEO Fabrice Bregier that Airbus “commits” to an A380neo project.

Drilling down into the story and checking with Airbus, as well as going back to Bregier interviews at the Paris Air Show and one we did with him at the IATA AGM in early June, it’s clear the Sunday Times was somewhat exuberant in its headline.

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Bjorn’s Corner: Flying the Airbus A350

By Bjorn Fehrm

By Bjorn Fehrm


22 May 2015, C. Leeham Co: As one of four aeronautical media companies we were asked by Airbus if we wanted to test fly the A350 end of January this year. Airbus was arranging for Media test pilots to come and fly the A350 and we had asked for sampling the A350 through its simulator. Airbus returned with the question if I did not want to try the real thing. They did not have to ask twice!

It was all in the preliminary planning stage at the time but come March things got concrete. I should come to Toulouse on April 22 for a full day in the simulator and then the aircraft. As I did not have previous airline flying experience (mainly military fighters and business aircraft), I started training on the rather different system approach that a civil airliner has to a military fighter for Autopilot and Autothrust. I described this training in a previous Bjorn’s Corner. Publication of this story was embargoed by Airbus to May 22.

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Bjorn’s Corner: China’s civil aviation, from nothing to world’s largest in 2030


By Bjorn Fehrm

By Bjorn Fehrm

14 May 2015, C. Leeham Co: In my ISTAT Asia reports, I wrote about how China will overtake USA as largest civil aviation market in  2030. Airbus China Group chairman, Laurence Barron, and I had a chat after his ISTAT presentation where he described China’s evolution as a civil aviation market and how Airbus gradually worked itself from a late and hesitant start to today’s split of the market with Boeing.

Barron provided his slides, some of which  we will use  to review how China grew from virtually no civil aviation after the Chinese revolution in 1949 to the world’s largest market by 2030. We will also look at what aircraft have made up this growth and finally describe how Airbus progressed from a latecomer in 1985 to sharing the market with Boeing today.

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Pontifications: Jumping on the MOM bandwagon

Hamilton (5)

By Scott Hamilton

March 15, 2015: There was little “real” news coming out of ISTAT this year, which is probably why the topics of the “757 replacement” and the 200-250 seat, 4,500 mile twin-aisle airplane prospect drew so much attention.

Sitting there in the audience, I could not help but have a feeling of “been there, done that.” Leeham News and Comment has been closely examining these two topics since we exclusively revealed October 21 last year that Airbus was showing the long-range A321 concept to airlines. We dubbed the concept the A321neoLR. Airbus formally launched the program in January and shortened the name to the A321LR.

Between our reveal and the launch, LNC’s economic guru, aerodynamic engineer Bjorn Fehrm, took a very close analysis of the A321LR vs the Boeing 757 and the Boeing 737-9. He analyzed the prospect of a long-range Boeing 737-8. He also looked at the prospect of re-starting the 757 in the form of a re-engined 757 Max.

We concluded: Read more

Redefining the 757 replacement: Requirement for the 225/5000 Sector

By Bjorn Fehrm

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25 Feb 2015: Speculation continues to ramp up during the last weeks and months about what Boeing is up to in the 180 to 250 seat sector and what might be Airbus’ response on top of the A321LR. The segment is not well covered today within production aircraft where 737-900ER and the forthcoming MAX 9 cover up to 210 seats and A321-200 and A321neo up to 220 seats. Both fly their passengers up to a realistic mission of 3000nm, i.e. transcontinental USA.

The next in production aircraft are 787-8 and A330-200 at 240 to 280 seats. These are  long range dual aisle aircraft with empty weights more than double of the former pair. The 787-8 and A330-200 per seat economics on shorter missions are therefore in another ball game.

The only aircraft that currently bridges this gap is the out-of-production Boeing 757 and there has been much debate how this shall be replaced. We have covered this question in a number or articles focusing on in turn:

We also covered the study work underway at Boeing to cover this segment. We will now dig deeper into this corner after Boeing has unequivocally stated it does not see a re-engine 757 covering this segment and any aircraft that the airlines want should be a bit larger than the 757.


Over a series of articles we will cover:

  • The market segment and how it is covered today and tomorrow with existing our announced designs
  • What are design parameters that decide whether you go single or dual aisle?
  • 180 to 250 seats and 3000 to 5000nm, will it be covered by single or dual aisle or both? What’s the economics of these alternatives?

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Fundamentals of airliner performance, Part 3

By Bjorn Fehrm

In our first article about how to understand the performance of a modern airliner we defined the main forces that are acting on an aircraft flying in steady state cruise. In our clinic we use the ubiquitous Boeing 737 in its latest form, the 737 MAX 8, to illustrate our case. Leeham logo with Copyright message compactIn the second article we introduced the aircraft’s engines and understood how they function by pumping air backwards faster than the aircraft’s speed and therefore generating thrust as air is in fact quite heavy. We also looked at the influence of flight altitude on the performance of the aircraft.

In short we can conclude our findings so far:

  • For cruise lift is the same force size as weight, only opposite. To understand the cruise phase we can therefore focus on how much drag this lift force and the aircraft’s friction against the air create.
  • When we have this drag we also know the engine thrust and we can calculate the cruise fuel consumption from the engines fuel consumption per unit of thrust and hour.
  • We also found that it is beneficial to fly high as the airs density diminishes and with this the airs friction against our aircraft’s skin.
  • Our lift force is generated by forcing air downwards and this causes drag due to weight as this downwash cost energy to generate and maintain. The air resists being downwashed and slinks up on the side of the wing thus generating large vortice sheds which consumes energy. This drag we call induced drag or drag due to weight.
  • We diminish this re-circulation of the air by spreading our wings as wide as we can, in fact we get double reward for increases our span, it counts twice in induced drag reduction.
  • Our limit to fly high for our cruise is set by the increase in induced drag, we are seeking a flight level where we have a drag minimum when adding the diminishing friction drag and the increasing induced drag.
  • We also have a problem with climbing to a to high cruise flight level, our engines lose power both due to the thin air and due to the aircraft’s forward speed.
  • Finally there are supersonic phenomena which stop high cruise altitudes. As the air gets thinner the wings need to throw the air downwards with higher speed (increase wing canting or alfa angle). This means the air on the top side of the wing has to speed up and is therefore going deeper into supersonic flow on parts of the wings overside. This causes disturbances called buffeting when these supersonic areas grow to strong.

Having covered the most important aspects of cruise we will today look at takeoff, a subject with a lot of aspects. Read more

Boeing 737 MAX 8 as a long and thin aircraft and how it fares in general versus Airbus A320neo.

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By Bjorn Fehrm


Over the last weeks we have looked at Boeing’s 757 replacement possibilities on its long and thin network niche, including a ground breaking launch interview for the A321neoLR with Airbus Head of Strategy and Leeham logo with Copyright message compactMarketing, Kiran Rao. In the series we have seen that the A321neo has the potential to replace the 757-200 on long and thin international routes. Boeing’s equivalent single aisle entry, 737 MAX 9, has problems to extend its range over 3,600nm. It is too limited in the weight increase necessary to cover the longer range.

Many have asked how the less- restricted Boeing 737 MAX 8 would fare, suitably equipped with the necessary extra tanks. This is the subject of this week’s sequel on the theme long and thin. At the same time we look at Airbus entry in this segment, the A320neo, to see how it stacks up to the 737 MAX 8, both in their normal 1,000 to 2,000nm operation and then also in a long and thin scenario.

Let’s first summarize what we found so far in our four articles around the Boeing 757 and its alternatives:

  • The Boeing 757-200 with winglets can serve international routes with city pairs up to 3,500nm. The rest of its range capability (about an additional 500nm) is needed for unfavorable winds and reserves.
  • The A321neo has the capabilities to be extended to cover the range of the 757-200. This was also announced by Airbus during our series. The improvements are an increase in range of 500nm by virtue of three extra center tanks and an increase in max takeoff weight of 3.5 tonnes ( 7,400 lb). The efficiency improvement over 757-200 would be 25% with a small decline in passenger capacity (162 vs. 169 seats) in a typical First, Premium economy and economy cabin.
  • Boeings 737 MAX 9 fares less well. While it has the wing to fly the range, the aircraft’s squat stance hinders the aircraft to cant the wing to generate the necessary lift for an increased takeoff weight. MAX 9 can’t rotate to more than 70% of the angle of an A321neo. Subsequently the take off distances get too long with any weight increase.
  • Boeing’s New Small Airplane study covers from 130 to 240 seats and evaluates both single and dual aisle alternatives. The big question mark is when an entry into service (EIS) is necessary and therefore when a launch decision has to be taken. We think after the 777X has entered flight test in 2018/19 for EIS 2025. Boeing’s CEO, Jim McNerney, says he sees EIS as 2030 for a new small airplane. We argue this risks missing the boat.


  • The 737 MAX 8 is 1.5m (5 feet) longer than A320 with a 2.5m (8.2 feet) longer cabin. This brings a 12 seat higher capacity, everything else being equal. The result is that the MAX 8 beats the A320neo on per seat efficiency while being worse on trip efficiency.
  • The MAX 8 has a range on internal fuel of 3,700nm. This makes it suitable for extending the range up to 4,000nm with smaller changes. It thereby is probably Boeing’s best bet of offering a long and thin aircraft before the New Small Aircraft (NSA) comes to market. Its major drawback is a 33 seats reduction in capacity compared to 757-200 when both are configured for long and thin.
  • A320neo is less ideal to extend to long and thin. It requires several extra fuel tanks to get to 4,000nm nominal range and then there is too little space left for luggage.

737 MAX8 overlaid with A320neo

Figure 1. Boeing 737 MAX 8 overlaid with Airbus A320neo. Source: Leeham Co.

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