FLEET WATCH: Orders March 2009

By Antoine Fafard

Airliner net orders came in at 77 for the month of March as 81 new orders were offset by four cancellations.

Lufthansa placed orders for 30 110-seat Bombardier CS100s while Lease Corporation International ordered 17 130-seat CS300s and four CS100s. Aircraft Purchase Fleet ordered six A330s while Royal Air Maroc ordered four ATR42s and two ATR42s. Emirates signed a sale and lease back agreement to transfer 10 747s and eight 777s to DAE Capital.

Bombardier’s officially entered the mainline aircraft market in March with a total of 50 orders for the CSeries, with 33 CS100s and the 17 CS300s. Airbus received a total of 17 orders while Boeing followed with seven. In the regional sector, ATR netted six turboprop orders, its first of 2009.

Narrowbody net orders totalled 66 for the month led by the 50 CSeries orders plus 10 A320s and six 737s. There were only eight orders for widebody aircraft with seven A330s and one 777. Regional orders came in at seven with four ATR42s, two ATR72s and one CRJ.

Overall, the order backlog for airliners ended March at 8,317, down 46 on the previous month.

Note: The analysis is on aircraft type basis and not on the end user application. For example, Boeing 737 figures might include BBJs. The Bombardier CRJ types are classified as part of the CRJ regional jet family.

Airliner current market view – net orders

EBACE: Bombardier confident Learjet 85 is on schedule

By Andrew Doyle

Bombardier (stand 7011) is pulling out all the stops to reassure customers and suppliers for its composite Learjet 85 midsize business jet that the programme is ontrack for first deliveries in 2013.Original fuselage supplier Grob Aerospace went bust last year.

“We have almost 40 vendors working on the programme. Grob was a vendor, and just like any vendor that has difficulty, you have to figure out ways to work around it,” says Learjet vice-president and general manager David Coleal.

An agent used the question and answer session at the end of Bombardier‘s EBACE press conference on Monday to demand the return of a Nigerian customer’s $250,000 deposit, citing concerns over the fuselage plan and the shifting of structural manufacturing to Queretaro in Mexico.

“I think people are putting too much into the Grob issue,” he says. “Bombardier always had the lead design responsibility and we are the ultimate integrator of all the components.

“After the [Grob] bankruptcy we decided to take it all back internally. So we established our composites advisory council and established a relationship with [research institute] NIAR.

“Right now we have a structures design group up in Montreal with 200 folks. We have 200 folks in Wichita and over 50 employees in Queretaro that are working on the main factory side, so this entity is now working very well,” says Coleal.

As part of preparations for Learjet 85 production, Bombardier has produced a composite Global Express nose section test article.

The manufacturer has abandoned Grob’s wet lay technique for the fuselage and switched to a pre-preg concept.

“The team had to basically redesign the fuselage, wing and horizontal stabiliser from a structural standpoint,” says Coleal.

EBACE: Honeywell readies shake-free Phenom engine technology

By John Croft

Honeywell is deep into the design of a novel weight-cutting, fuel-saving, vibration damping engine mounting technology to be used for the first time on Embraer‘s Legacy 450 super-light and Legacy 500 midsize business aircraft.

Set for entry into service in 2013 and 2012, respectively, the 450 and 500 feature fly-by-wire flight controls accessed through a pilot side-stick controller, the first application of a side-stick by Embraer. The company reported here yesterday that it had completed the joint definition phase for both aircraft, a critical milestone leading to the detailed design and certification phase of the programme.

Honeywell’s largest contribution to the new Legacy will be the 7,500lb-thrust (33kN) HTF7500E turbofan engines, derivatives of the company’s HTF7000 family engines that have been flying on the Bombardier Challenger 300 since early 2004.

The HTF7250G was selected by Gulfstream to power the G250, set for first flight by the end of the year. Honeywell designed the HTF7000 propulsion family to be an integrated package featuring the engine, nacelle and reversethruster.

With 500 engines delivered and 500,000h of flight time, Honeywell reports an industry-leading dispatch reliability of 99.96 for the powerplant based on the Challenger 300 fleet.

A major innovation for Embraer over both Gulfstream and Bombardier is the way the engine will mount to the airframe. While engines are traditionally hard-mounted to the pylon at the front of the engine, with the bulk of the engine’s weight cantilevered from that point, Honeywell’s new “structural bypass” mounting method will use a tightly toleranced duct around a larger portion of the engine. This spreads theload over a larger area of pylon and actslike a damper of sorts, says TK Kallenbach, Honeywell’s vice-president of marketing and project management.

While challenging in terms of designing a system that will maintain the tight tolerance, the technology should pay off with lower fuel consumption, lower weight and better balancing. Kallenbach notes that better balancing also means less vibration will be transmitted to the cabin, easing the ride and wear and tear on the aircraft structure.

Airbus to test A350 fuselage/cabin behaviour early in flight-testing

By Max Kingsley-Jones

Airbus has revealed the first details of the A350 XWB’s flight test programme, which will involve five aircraft flying about 3,000h. The airframer intends to begin flight-testing a cabin-equipped aircraft early in the programme to understand the interior’s behaviour in the carbonfibre fuselage.

The -900 is the lead A350 variant and final assembly of the first aircraft is due to start in Toulouse by mid-2011, with first flight scheduled to follow “eight to nine months” later in the first quarter of 2012, says A350 programme chief Didier Evrard. Certification and service entry is due to follow a 15-month flight-test programme of about 3,000h, in mid-2013.

“All five aircraft will run in parallel to achieve a short flight test and certification time,” says Evrard. “We are planning to put them all into the programme very quickly – within a couple of months.”

© Airbus

Although 15 months have been allocated to the flight-test programme, Evrard says the exercise could take as little as 12 months.

Two aircraft, No 2 and 5, will be equipped with a cabin, and No 6 will be the first delivered to a customer, he adds.

“With the second aircraft, we want to use it to rehearse our aircraft definition freeze process.”

Evrard says No 5 will be used for “early long flight” demonstrations, with simulated passenger flights operated with Airbus staff as passengers, along similar lines to the A380 test programme.

The emphasis on flying the cabin early in the test programme is due to the fact that the A350’s carbonfibre fuselage will have “different behaviour” to a conventional metallic aircraft, says Evrard.

Areas to be investigated early in the flight-test programme are cabin noise levels and sound damping, and the satisfactory functioning of the “electrical structure network” developed to conduct current in the carbonfibre fuselage, which is “something you get for free in a metallic aircraft”, he adds.

With the A350, Airbus is trying to achieve an unprecedented level of system maturity before first flight by using the digital mock-up and virtual and actual functionality testing.

“Maturity at first flight is one of the challenges, knowing that at this point we will already have a lot of aircraft and components in our factories,” says Evrard.

“We aim to reduce the number of modifications needed during flight-testing. This will enable the flying programme to focus on the certification effort.”

The rear galley layout, which was the one part of the A350 design not finalised when the detailed definition freeze (dubbed “maturity gate (MG) 5”) was reached last December, has now been agreed with customers. “We had proposed a D-shaped galley, but some customers had concerns about the amount of workspace and turnaround time,” he adds. “The new design is more of a V shape. It has the number of chilled trolleys they want and customers are happier with the serviceability.”

The next key milestone for the A350-900‘s design effort will be reaching “maturity [level] B” mid-year, following maturity A achieved at MG5 last December.

Meanwhile, development of the smaller A350-800 and -1000 stretch continues in parallel, with the former due to reach MG5 at year end and the latter in April 2011. Service entry of these two variants are due to follow one and two years, respectively, after the A350-900.

Airbus revises A350 Trent XWB thrust values following weight increases

By Max Kingsley-Jones

Airbus has slightly bumped up the nominal engine thrust for the A350 XWB’s Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines to counter the empty – and maximum-take-off-weight increases revealed last year.

Before last December’s design freeze, the A350 MTOW was increased by 3t across the family to maintain the payload/range capability after Airbus established that the aircraft’s weight empty would be 2.2t greater than the 113.5t target.

At the time, A350 chief engineer Gordon McConnell said the weight growth would not affect take-off performance or create the need for additional engine thrust except “at some specific airfields where discussions have been held with R-R about where we’ll need a percent or two more”.

© Airbus

However, A350 programme chief Didier Evrard now confirms that the thrusts were tweaked at definition freeze “following the weight increase”. Nominal thrust ratings for the -800, -900 and -1000 variants have each had a 1,000lb (4.5kN) increase to 75,000lb, 84,000lb and 93,000lb, respectively. Evrard says the change has had a “very marginal” impact on fuel burn and operating cost assumptions.

This is the second thrust adjustment for the A350. In 2007, Airbus revealed reductions in nominal thrust values of between 1,000lb and 4,000lb for each variant.

EBACE: ATR enters the business aviation market

By Alan Peaford

European turboprop manufacturer ATR is entering the business aviation market with the launch at EBACE of the ATR Corporate.

“We are working internally on a nickname for the aircraft, but we wanted to come to EBACE to promote the idea of comfort, performance and efficient travel on a platform that is proven,” says ATR sales director Milco Rappuoli.

Several airlines have used the best-selling regional turboprop in a quick-turnaround convertible from VIP to shuttle or medevac, but last year the company took an order from a customer in Azerbaijan to deliver a fully equipped VIP aircraft.

“It really worked,” says Rappuoli. “In a VIP configuration the aircraft has a range of 1,640nm [3,034km]. In addition the short-field performance -we only need a 900m [2,950ft]strip -means we can reach 25% more airports compared to a corporate jet.”


The joint venture between EADS and Alenia has won an order from the Thai air force as a head-of-state aircraft.

“I am astonished at the interest that we are getting at the show,” Rappuoli says. “But in the current environment it makes sense. Any emission trading costs will be a third of those for a jet.”

The basic corporate variantis priced at $17million and can be configured with a forward VIP lounge of eightseats and a number of different seating options at the rear.

ATR is confident there will be good take-up. “It makes economic sense,” says Rappuoli. “Because of the airframe it can be converted back to a passenger or cargo aircraft for relatively little cost to meet the particular needs of the customer, so the asset value remains high.”

The ATR has proven capability on unpaved strips. The aircraft can be configured to allow space for horses or falcons as well as VIP passengers. “We see good opportunities for the Middle East where aircraft are often used to fly from the Gulf for hunting trips in places like Azerbaijan. The ATR Corporate will be able to land right at the hunting site.”