Asiana 777 crashes in SFO

An Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 crash-landed at San Francisco Airport Saturday, killing at least two. This is the first fatal crash involving a 777.

Investigators will certainly look at whether fuel line icing may be a factor, which was traced to be the cause of the only other 777 accident, British Airways at London several years ago, also a crash-landing situation. Early news reports seem to reflect a similarity in the flight profile between the two flights. As readers know, we’re traveling and we don’t have access to our files to determine if Asiana uses Rolls-Royce engines, which are those used on BA and which were susceptible to icing.

GE engines on the 777-300ER have more recently come under some scrutiny for issues, and we’d expect investigators to consider whether there is any connection if Asiana uses GE on its 777-200s. This would be a natural course of considering all possible factors.

Other factors that will be looked at: human error, mechanical problems and controlled flight into terrain (CFIT).

Update, 5pm GMT: With the knowledge now that the engines are PW, fuel icing as a cause seems pretty unlikely, but CVR and FDR readouts will indicate engine performance parameters. Although weather doesn’t appear to be a factor, it will be evaluated for the prospect of any clear air windshear or other conditions that could be a contributing cause.

Statements by the airline officials at this point that there wasn’t any pilot error or mechanical issues are entirely premature, given when the statements were made the data recorders hadn’t been recovered much less read.

Closely looking at a photo seems to indicate the aft pressure bulkhead in place, meaning the tail severed aft it it.

Following the Paris Air Show by @jetcitystar

Isaac Alexander (@jetcitystar on Twitter) provided us with the following so you can follow the latest at next week’s Paris Air Show. He has his own blog with an addiutional list of companies.

From Isaac: Here is a list of micro-news sites for the 2013 Paris Air Show. This will be the 50th edition of the event. If you know of a company or press website that is not listed below, please contact me by Twitter at @JetCityStar, or by email at  This page will be continually updated during the event. 



Aero Society

AIN Online

Air Recognition

Air Recognition Video

Air Transport World

Aviation Week

Avionics Intelligence


Breaking Defense



Defense News

Economic Times

EIN Newsdesk

First Post

Flight Global

Fly Corporate




NY Times

Paris Air Show News

Shephard News

Take-Off Magazine

Wall Street Journal





ATR Aircraft

BAE Systems





Crane Aerospace & Electronics


GE Aviation



Lockheed Martin

Pratt & Whitney

Rockwell Collins




737 MAX may share NG improvements still to come, which might include more seats

Boeing’s 737 MAX, still weeks away from design configuration freeze and still with lots of detailed design to come, may share improvements still to come on the current 737 NG.

The head of the MAX program, Keith Leverkuhn, vice president and general manager, wouldn’t confirm or deny a report by Aspire Aviation that the MAX family will have 6-9 more seats through interior changes, the use of slim line seats and door changes when asked during Boeing’s MAX briefing yesterday with an international crowd of journalists.

Citing unidentified Boeing sources, Aspire reported:

  • Boeing to modify 737 MAX 8 doors to add around 9 seats;
  • 737 MAX 8 to meet 13% fuel burn reduction per seat target after door modification;
  • Door modification has negligible impact on MEW; and
  • 737 MAX 7 & MAX 9 also likely to have around 9 more seats.

Leverkuhn told the media that Boeing was satisfied with the current configuration of the airframe of the NG and MAX shares this configuration. Although Leverkuhn said Boeing had no intentions of changing, it still would talk with customers–leading to the obvious conclusion that Boeing wasn’t saying a firm “no” to the possibility.

We talked with him a few minutes alone later in which he clarified his earlier comments. Leverkuhn told us that while there will be no changes to the doors on the MAX which would allow more seats, the NG program is considering interior configurations that could lead to more seats and the MAX and NG programs closely follow developments and determine what can be shared between NG improvements still to come and the final MAX design.

Airbus in January announced a space-flex program that includes two new doors, enabling high density capacity to grow to 236 from 220. Airbus previously began offering a revised aft galley/lav combination in the A320 to permit three more seats, to 153 in two-classes. Boeing has been studying similar changes, according to our market intelligence.

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Sizing up engine market share on the A320 family

While competition between Airbus and Boeing snares nearly all the headlines and all the “sex,” competition for engine orders is less sexy and receives less attention.

Part of this is because of the increasing trend toward sole-sourcing. The Boeing 737 has been sole-sourced by CFM International since the creation of what is now called the Classic series: the 737-300/400/500. Pratt & Whitney believed at the time Boeing was upgrading the 737-200 that airplanes were up-gauging and bet its future on the Boeing 757 size. It was one of the classic corporate blunders of all time.

Shut out of the 737, P&W joined with Rolls-Royce and MTU to build the International Aero Engine V2500 for the Airbus A320 family. IAE came to the table late, giving CFM a solid head start on the program with a variant of the CFM 56 that powers the 737 Classic and later the 737 NG.

IAE trails to this day, but has done a remarkable job of coming from behind. CFM tends to be favored on the A319 and A320 while IAE is the preferred engine on the larger A321. IAE offers more thrust and better economics on the A321 while the CFM has better economics for the smaller Airbuses. CFM’s reliability is legendary and tends to be better than the V2500.

The blog PDXlight has done a marvelous job of dissecting the engine market share of the A320 family for the New Engine Option. We asked PDXlight to do the same exclusively for us for the A320ceo family. The results are below the jump.

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Tired of kerosene smell ingested into the cabin on start-up? Hope for this

In the November election, Washington State and Colorado voters approved recreational use of marijuana. As anyone who ever tried MJ knows (except a certain former President, who says he didn’t inhale), MJ has a sweet odor that is very distinctive.

Who has flown an airplane and hasn’t smelled that pungent odor of jet fuel being sucked into the cabin now and then during push-back and start-up (except maybe that former President, if he didn’t inhale then, either)?

Ballard Biofuel in Seattle may have the answer. Let’s all inhale.

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.


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.

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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.