Airbus’ A330 improvements aimed at maintaining market position vs 787

Airbus last week announced additional gross weight upgrades and improvements to the A330-200/300 that increase range and reduce fuel burn. Aviation Week has this story about the enhancements.

This is the latest in a series of improvements taking advantage of the four year delay in the Boeing 787 program that Airbus believes will enable the airplane, which first entered service in 1994, to remain viable well into the 2020 decade.

Boeing launched the 787 in December 2003 and promptly claimed the aircraft would kill the A330. Had the aircraft entered service in May 2008 as originally planned, Boeing might have been able to make strides to do so. But delays allowed Airbus time to incorporate several Performance Improvement Packages (PIPs). The European company has sold more A330s post-787 launch than it did before.

The latest improvements give the A330-300 an anticipated range of more than 6,000nm, compared with less than 4,000nm when the airplane entered service.

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Odds and Ends: Air France v Rolls-Royce for A350; Virgin America rejigs; Last A340s sold; Heading South with SPEEA

Air France v Rollsr-Royce: The saga continues-see this Bloomberg story. We understand there is more to it than just maintenance. Rolls wants AF to order the Trent 1000 for the 787 order, too.

Virgin America: This airline, headquartered in San Francisco, has been an airline in search of a business plan. Its operations don’t have a niche and didn’t fill a void (like jetBlue created and filled at NY-JFK). It’s lost hundreds of millions of dollars. And, finally, the losses have caught up. Bloomberg has this story about aircraft order deferrals and cancellations. The deferrals are Airbus A320neos (note to Alabama: VA was going to take the first neos from the new Airbus Mobile plant in 2016).

Virgin is seeking to restructure aircraft leases, according to two industry sources. Failing to do so could lead to a Chapter 11 filing, the sources say.

Last A340s Sold: The remaining two Airbus A340-500s, originally destined for ailing Kingfisher Airlines, have been sold.

SPEEA and Boeing: Things appear to be heading south with SPEEA. This could affect Boeing’s year-end push to deliver as many as 50 787s as well as the other 7-Series.

787-10 decision anticipated very soon, perhaps within days

Boeing’s Board is expected to be asked very soon, perhaps at its meeting in October, to grant Authority to Offer the 787-10 to customers, according to two sources.

A Boeing spokeswoman said that ATO for the 787-10 is expected to occur before the ATO for the 777X, since the -10 is a more straight-forward project than the X, but could not confirm the October timeline.

The straight-forward stretch of the 787-9 will have less range (about 6,900nm) than either the -8 or -9 models, which comfortably top 8,000 nm but it is expected to carry around 323 passengers, putting it squarely in the class of the 777-200ER and the A350-900.

At 6,900nm, the airplane will cover most missions required by airlines. By foregoing a new wing and added fuel tankage, the operating weight of the airplane is expected to be roughly equal to the 787-9. A slightly higher-thrust engine will be required. Rolls-Royce announced a higher thrust version of the Trent 1000 now powering the 787 at the Farnborough Air Show, and insiders said this engine is specifically intended for the 787-10.

The 787-10 is billed by Boeing as the airplane that will “kill” the Airbus A330-300, but the 787 was also billed as the airplane that would kill the A330-200. The delays in the 787 program have given Airbus time to enhance the A330 family and the rival announced gross weight, range and engine Performance Improvement Packages to the 300 (and which are anticipated for the 200) at the Farnborough Air Show.

Airbus is also selling the A330 family at discounts to the 787 family today and this will continue in the future. The lower capital costs, Airbus believes, allows the A330 to remain competitive. Airbus COO-Customers John Leahy told us that Airbus expects to sell the A330 beyond 2020.

The 787-10 would replace the 777-200ER, which has largely been killed by the A350-900.

Air France A350 contract stalled; here’s the way forward

Bloomberg News has this report that the Air France-KLM talks for 25 Airbus A350s remain stalled over the long-running dispute between the company and Rolls-Royce over AF’s desire to overhaul the Trent XWB engines.

The Air France-KLM group offers its own maintenance, repair and overhaul services and wants the ability to provide MRO to others as well as perform the work itself.

Engine suppliers are loath to grant MRO rights to others. Engines are often sold at deep discounts, and in extreme cases, even given to airlines in exchange for the exclusive parts and MRO contracts. This is where the engine makers truly make their profits.

Rolls-Royce is known to be particularly hard-nosed in this regard.

So how will the log-jam be broken?

Rolls wants Air France to order the Trent 1000 for the 25 Boeing 787 orders announced last year. Given the long relationship between Air France and GE, the supplier on AF’s current fleet of a variety of aircraft, this will be a tough pill to swallow. But don’t count it out.

Cash cows at Airbus and Boeing

Eyes are on Boeing over the prospect of a 777X.

Chatter doesn’t cease about the prospect of an Airbus A330neo.

Boeing is in no hurry to proceed with the “7X” and an A330neo is unlikely any time soon, if at all.

Here’s why.

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Odds and Ends: RR vs Air France; Kingfisher Airlines; Phuket

RR vs Air France: We’ve written about this before–Air France wants to maintain the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines on the Airbus A350s it wants to buy, but RR wants to maintain the engines. The dispute has been holding up confirming the order for a year. The Wall Street Journal has this update.

Kingfisher Airlines: The carrier continues its long spiral down. Lessors want airplanes back. The government is holding onto the airplanes in lieu of the airlines’ airport payments which are in default. ATR long ago canceled the orders it had with Kingfisher. Airbus is the other big loser.

Phuket: Emirates Airlines adds Phuket, Thailand, to its route network. We’ve always loved this name. But we’ve always wondered: is it pronounced with a soft U or a hard U? Fokker is a close runner-up.

Update, 1:30 PM PDT: One of the first images from Mars, courtesy of Mr. Sulu (George Takei on Facebook):

Odds and Ends: Designing 737 MAX; RR & PW; CFM

737 MAX: Boeing Frontiers Magazine has a long article with lots of pictures describing the designing process of the Advanced Technology Winglets.

RR-PW on big engines: Aviation Week has this article speculating on the prospect of Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney teaming to offer an engine for the Boeing 777X.

CFM says the use of advanced materials will reduce fuel consumption in the LEAP-1A (Airbus) engine by 1.5%, which happens to be the amount John Leahy of Airbus said that PW’s GTF has an advantage over LEAP.

Farnborough Air Show preview

Overview

This is really expected to be a boring show from the perspective of orders. Airbus has been downplaying expectations following last year’s Paris Air Show blow-out of more than 1,200 A320neo orders. How can you match that? The answer is, Airbus can’t.

Boeing will certainly firm up hundreds of 737 MAX commitments, so this will be Boeing’s show. And there is the buzz that Boeing is partnering with Lockheed Martin and NASA (oh, another government subsidy?) to produce a 2,500 mph SST, with details supposed to come at the Air Show. Then there is the leak that the 787 will fly there, the first time in 28 years Boeing has an aerial flying display.

We’ve talked with several journalists and industry personnel who are skipping the Air Show this year. So are we, and we’ve been at the Farnborough and Paris air shows since 2008. We just don’t expect enough news this year that we can’t get from the press releases.

So here are our expectations for the show:

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Odds and Ends: 787 fuel savings at ANA; Airbus will benefit from Boeing

ANA 787s: Market Watch quotes an ANA official saying the Boeing 787-8 is saving 21% in fuel over eh previous airplanes. The article didn’t ID the previous planes, but they were the Boeing 767-300ER. Note, too, that the initial 787-8s are heavy and with Rolls-Royce engines that don’t initially meet specs.

Airbus to benefit from Boeing: The latter is closing its Wichita operations. The former will likely hire some of Boeing’s soon-to-be-out-of-work engineers. Here’s the article. Note that former Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, who is now governor, was present garbed in Airbus colors. This is the same Brownback who couldn’t diss Airbus enough during the EADS-Boeing tanker competition. Now Airbus seems to be Brownback’s best friend.

China-EU showdown over ETS: China continues to refuse to comply with the European Union’s demand that carbon emissions information be provided. China, which already refused to firm up orders for 45 Airbus A330s, threatened to impound European airplanes if the EU retaliates against China’s refusal to comply.

Air Lease Corp to order MAX: Steve  Udvar-Hazy, CEO of the lessor, plans to order the 737 MAX within the next few weeks. Boeing wants to firm up orders from ALC, CIT Aerospace, ILFC, GECAS and Aviation Capital Group by or at the Farnborough Air Show.

Odds and Ends: 787 ramp up, ISTAT, Airbus, the price of oil in 1968

787 Ramp-Up: UBS Securities issued a research note Monday in which it reports that the 787 rate ramp-up to 10 per month–a goal Boeing’s to be by the end of 2013–has slipped to the first quarter of 2014.

  • More from UBS: Supply chain ahead of Boeing: We believe the supply chain is still ahead of Boeing given significant rework and a high level of component deliveries in 2009-10, although a pick up is expected soon. We understand Boeing now plans to ramp from current 3.5/mo to 5/mo in Q4 (had been Q1), 7/mo in Q2 2013 (had been Q4 2012) and 10/mo in Q1 2014 (had been Q2 2013).

ISTAT: We’re at the annual ISTAT AGM in Phoenix and we’ll be reporting throughout the event odds and ends (adding to this post initially, separate posts later on). So come back often.

From ISTAT:

  • 40% of Airbus 2011 deliveries were via lessors: 115 through direct sale to lessors, 95 via lessor purchase-leaseback
  • Lessor sees overlapping production of 737 NG with MAX, A320neo with CEO due to limited availability of production slots because of massive early neo/MAX commitments.
  • Congressional targeting Ex-Im Bank financing is short-sighted; cutting funding will harm Boeing, GE, Pratt & Whitney.
  • Airbus has delivered 10 A330-200Fs, four operators now.
  • Undercurrent buzz about 737MAX. Watch for developments in the next weeks and months.
  • Airbus about to start final assembly line for A350.
  • Flight tests of Trent XWB going well.
  • Airbus now advertising A350-1000 at 369 passengers, up from 350.

From Twitter, via Phil LeBeau of CNBC: @Boeing says it has NOT changed its goal of building 10 Dreamliners per month by end of 2013.

Back to ISTAT:

  • A321neo gains 600nm, A320neo gains 500nm.
  • Average oil price 1968 non-inflation adjusted was $3.18bbl (that’s per barrel, not per gallon!).
  • Airbus sold 448 A320ceo since launch of neo.
  • Airbus competes 99% of the time against Boeing, not new entrants, for sales. Barriers to entry for a new aircraft type very high rather than changing fleet type.

Side trip to Ex-Im:

Take a read of this column on the Ex-Im Bank financing controversy.

Back to ISTAT:

Boeing….

  • Mike Bair: We are in a march to put Airbus out of business in the twin-aisle space: 777 vs A340, 787 vs A330, 747-8 vs A380.
  • 787-10 will have  50% lower operating costs than A340-600, Boeing’s Bair claims.
  • 747-8I has turned out to be the darling of billionaires who have too much money–Bair.
  • New revenue opportunities for long, thin routes validate the 787 like San Diego to Japan. Opening new markets and opportunities for customers.
  • Boeing uses 162 seats in 737-800/8 vs A320ceo/neo 150 seat comparisons; Airbus uses 157 seats for the Boeing.
  • Every engine/airframe combination has a sweet spot, a bucket’s flat area with 3-4 inches of fan diameter. In MAX’s case, this means the 68.4  inch fan is the sweet spot.
  • Our intent is to build the MAX until the market decides it doesn’t want it any more.