A330 in missing Air France flight

Update, June 2: Here is an interesting piece from the London Daily Mail with graphics of the timeline. The lightning strike was nearly an hour before the electronic signals alerting Air France to a power failure. The news reports yesterday made it sound like these were simultaneous events.

Original post:

An Airbus A330-200 is involved in the missing Air France flight that has surpassed fuel exhaustion time.

The airplane reported an electrical problem in proximity to a storm with heavy turbulence.

The A330 up to now had a perfect safety record with passengers on board (there was a fatal crash involving a test flight carrying only pilots and engineers). But there were recent incidents with Qantas Airways in which it was believed electronic signals from a nearby military installations interfered with electronic systems. In one instance, the plane lost altitude at a rapid rate.

Top on the list of investigative points will be (in no particular order) whether the electrical problem magnified to cause loss of control; whether the storm caused an “upset” and loss of control; whether the storm may have caused turbulence severe enough to prompt a structural failure; and whether a bomb or other terrorist act may have been involved.

The plane was 3-3 1/2 hours into the flight when the problems were reported and said to be near an island. There was no immediate indication whether the island had a landing strip.

Eco-Aviation Conference Report

The Air Transport World-Leeham Co. Eco-Aviation Conference last week produced a great deal of news, most notably the test results from Air New Zealand on its biofuel test flight made in cooperation with Boeing and Rolls-Royce.

ANZ announced at the conference that the test flight had a 1.2% better fuel efficiency than Jet-A fuel but a whopping 60%+ reduction in CO2 emissions.

A listing of news articles that came out of the conference may be found on our Eco-Aviation page here.

A330 vs 787

Another in the continuing reports from the Airbus Innovation Days….

Airbus provided an A330/A340 market update during its Innovation Days presentations in Hamburg earlier in May.

The A340 has become irrelevant to the new airplane market, with only a handful of new orders remaining and virtually none forthcoming in the last several years. Airbus is tweaking the A340 with some aerodymic improvements designed to reduce fuel burn by 1%. Along with maintenance procedure changes to the A330, the A340 increases the interval on the A Check to 800 flight hours from the current 600; C Check intervals go from 18 months to 21-24 months; Intermediate Checks increased from five years at EIS to the current six years and remains unchanged; and Structural Checks increase from 10 years to 12 years.

We resisted asking whether the A340’s Product Improvement Package includes a large Parking Brake sign in the cockpit.

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BWB a big challenge

To some, the Blended Wing Body airplane seems like a great idea. We like it, too. It’s highly fuel efficient–estimated to be up to 30% more so than the Airbus A380. The body acts as lift, providing a lot of the efficiency.

It’s voluminous. It can carry more than 1,000 people and it has great cargo-carrying capability. It’s also been discussed as an aerial refueling tanker for the US Air Force.

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A350 vs 787, 777

Another in a series of the Airbus Innovation Days in Hamburg, Germany, earlier this month….

Airbus predicted that the A350 will capture 50% of the medium twin-aisle market forecast of 5,900 aircraft over the next 2o years, company officials said at the press event.

(As an aside, the same forecast predicts 1,698 Large Aircraft [i.e., A380/747].)

When one considers that the Boeing competition will be the 787, the 777 and its successor, this is a pretty bold forecast.

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787 Update, Week of May 26

Testing continues on the 787 as it prepares for first flight in June.

Speculation is rampant over whether the airplane will be ready to fly before, during or after the Paris Air Show (but for clarity, “during” does not mean “at” the air show).

We believe Boeing would dearly love to be able to talk about first flight at the air show. Tests appear to be moving more quickly than anticipated, as reported by Flightblogger in its running countdown to first flight.

We are hearing widely divergent opinions about whether first flight will happen in time for Boeing to discuss it at the air show or not.

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USAF regains tanker competition

Update, May 28: Three KC-767Js are now operational with the Japanese Defense air force. The fourth and final tanker has yet to be delivered.

Update, May 26: India reportedly has decided to buy the KC-330 MRTT. It’s widely expected France will select the MRTT as well (no surprise there). Boeing apparently didn’t offer the KC-767 to India and probably won’t waste its time with France.

While Boeing in the previous USAF competition touted the fact that it has delivered a tanker (to Japan) and Airbus hasn’t, and that this would be the ‘year of the tanker’ to get Japan’s four tankers delivered and at least the first of the Italian tankers, the company didn’t offer the International tanker to India.

Anyone know why?

Original Post:

According to this article in Reuters, the US Air Force has regained control over the competition for the KC-X tanker that will be re-run after the Government Accountability Office last year found flaws with its process.

Because of that, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was going to re-run the competition from his office. It looks like the USAF has convinced him that it can run the competition.

The Request for Proposals appears headed toward an issuance in the next 30 days or so.

A sole-source, winner-take-all competition looks like what the USAF will plan for. This supports Gates’ position (probably little surprise there) but is at various with some key Members of Congress, who have been advocating a split buy. Some other key members, including Sen. John McCain, favor a sole-source acquisition.

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Oil doubles, it’s good for Airbus and Boeing

The price of oil has doubled off its low of only a few months ago, closing Friday (May 23) at around $61bbl. This is actually good news for Airbus and Boeing (and Bombardier and Embraer) as these companies struggle to protect their skyline (order backlog) over the balance of 2009 and in 2010.

Based on the forecasts that the airline industry will recover in 2010 and 2011, and on the hope that the financial markets will improve next year, Airbus and Boeing have been engaged in high-profile efforts to maintain production rates of the A320 and 737 lines in particular and the A330 and 777 lines as well.

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777 answer to A350

Flight International has a May 14 story we’ve just seen (we were out of town) about Boeing’s possible response to the Airbus A350-1000. This may be found here.

The most interesting thing to us is the timeline: within three-four years after Boeing gains clarity on the A350-1000, or perhaps by around 2018-19. Or, Boeing suggested, three or four years after the A350 EIS, currently forecast by Airbus as 2013 for the -900 model (the -1000 EIS is slated for 2015 and the -800 in 2014).

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787 program update

Boeing today (May 21) gave aerospace analysts an update on the 787 program at the annual investors’ day. Key points:

  • There are now more engineers working on the -9 than on the -8, a major change;
  • Executing the flight test program in 8 1/2 months will be a challenge;
  • Resources from across the Boeing enterprise will be required to meet the flight test timeline;
  • Certification with three regulatory agencies progressing well;
  • There will be “bumps in the road;”
  • The “sun never sets” on the 787 production system (a reference to the global industrial production system);
  • The -9 will speak to the “heart of the economic proposition” of this aircraft;
  • The key to the -9 is not to forget the lessons learned on the -8;
  • As the market conditions solidify, we’ll be moving into the -3 (some time after -9 EIS in 2013);
  • Firm configuration for the -9 later this year. Read more