Odds and Ends: RR–We lost 777X; 787 webcast on battery fix

Engine Selection on 777X: Rolls-Royce tells us it’s out as a supplier for the Boeing 777X. Pratt & Whitney earlier withdrew from the competition, deciding there wasn’t a business case to be second fiddle to GE, which was presumed by RR and PW to a sure bet to be a supplier even if Boeing went with a dual source engine option. All this means, of course, that GE and its GE9X will be the sole source engine on the new airplane.

Marc Birtel, in an email statement, neither confirmed or denied the news.

“We are following a disciplined development process for the 777X and will make announcements regarding suppliers at the appropriate time. Our decision regarding engine options will be based on the right technical solutions available at the right time under the right business arrangements to meet our customers’ requirements.”

Boeing webcast on battery fix: Boeing has a webcast open to all at 6pm PDT today about the battery fix for the 787.

Odds and Ends: ICAO says no to lithium batteries;Dendrites and the 787; Deleting Flightblogger

ICAO says no to lithium-ion batteries: The UN organization ICAO apparently will reverse itself and say that lithium-ion batteries should not be shipped as cargo on passenger airliners. This seems like a prudent move, considering the history of fires involving this battery type, even before the Boeing 787 incidents.

Dendrites and the 787: It sounds like something out of your biology class. Microscopic things called Dendrites might be the root cause of the lithium-ion battery fires on the 787, according to the first reporting from The Wall Street Journal. (Subscription required. Here is a Reuters story on the same topic.)

Deleting Flightblogger: Alas, we deleted Flightblogger from our bookmarks. Jon Ostrower created this blog and built it into a major aviation resource. When he departed Flight International for The Wall Street Journal, Flight half-heartedly (if that) continued the column, but there hasn’t been an entry since August.

Rolls-Royce Certifies Trent XWB: Rolls-Royce received certification for the Trent XWB, which will be used for the Airbus A350.

Airbus still ponders battery future: Airbus is still considering what to do about the plans to use the lithium-ion battery in the A350. A Seattle TV station reported Airbus made the decision to drop these batteries in favor of older, proven technology. Airbus told us this isn’t so (yet). Says a spokesman:

We are following the 787 investigation closely and will evaluate whether any recommendation applies to us.
We have a robust design. If this design has to evolve, we have the time to do that before first delivery.
Nothing prevents us from going back to a classical plan that we have been studying in parallel.
We have all options open, which we keep evaluating in pace with the ongoing investigation.

Looking ahead to 2013 in Commercial Aviation

Last year yielded a few surprises in an otherwise predictable year.

Jim Albaugh shocked the aviation world when he retired unexpectedly at age 62. He was expected to remain in his position as CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes until mandatory retirement at 65.

EADS CEO Tom Enders unleashed a surprise merger proposal with BAE Systems. The deal didn’t work due to German government opposition, but he ultimately accomplished a governance restructuring—a key objective of the merger—that will reduce government meddling in the future.

Those were about it. Boeing’s much-anticipated Authority to Offer the 777X didn’t happen. ATO for the 787-10 was stealthily granted. Airbus and Bombardier, to no surprise, delayed the A350 and CSeries by a few months. Boeing came roaring back to become sales leader for the first time in about a decade, on the strength of 737 MAX sales.

What’s ahead for 2013? Here’s what we see.

Overview

With the spurt of 737 MAX sales over, narrow-body sales competition between Airbus and Boeing should return to normalcy. Will twin-aisle sales become the next growth market because of the first flight of the A350 and the program launch of the 7870-10? Will ATO of the 777X evolve into a program launch as well? Will Bombardier’s first flight of the CSeries and subsequent testing validate its claims for the new technology airplane and finally spur a large number of sales of the “show me” crowd?

Here’s our OEM-by-OEM rundown.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.