JAL drops 787-3 order in favour of longer-range 787-8

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By Jon Ostrower

Japan Airlines has dropped its 787-3 order in favour of the longer-range 787-8, leaving just one customer for the short- to medium-haul type designed for Japanese airlines requiring a high-density configuration with a trimmed wingspan for use at space-constrained gates.

The backlog for the -3 now stands at 28, with remaining customer All Nippon Airways converting two -3s to -8s as well.

However, Boeing marketing vice-president Randy Tinseth says it remains committed to building the 787-3.

© Boeing

And the Chicago Tribune has reported that United Airlines is considering replacing its 757, 767 and 777 fleets with 787s – including -3s to replace 96 757-200s used on routes of around 4,600km (2,500nm).

Tinseth says that such an aircraft is being explored as a “light twin-aisle” aircraft built into an offering that could cover the upper part of the 737 replacement market. He believes there is market demand for an aircraft around seating around 200 people with a 7,400km range, but says it is not clear if there is enough demand to sell it at an attractive price.

Teal Group analyst Richard Aboulafia says Boeing can feasibly market such an aircraft, although the technical execution is “highly uncertain” as the basic 787 airframe optimised long-range performance, not short-haul routes.

Boeing initially planned for the 787-3 to be the first variant after the -8, but postponed development to refocus resources on resolving design and production issues with the -8 and moving forward with the -9.

According to Steven-Udvar Hazy, chairman and chief executive of International Lease Finance, Boeing has been studying a medium-haul 787 variant for the US transcontinental and intra-Asian markets as either a supplement to, or a further derivation of, the 787-3.

Air Caraibes Atlantique memo details pitot icing incidents

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By Kieran Daly

The most detailed account of previous pitot icing incidents on the A330 comes in a memo written by the flight safety officer of Paris Orly-based Air Caraïbes Atlantique after the carrier suffered two in quick succession.

Hugues Houang describes how A330-200s F-OFDF and F-OPTP encountered severe icing in virtually identical circumstances at FL350 on North Atlantic flights between Paris and Martinique in August and September last year.

Stressing their similarity, he relates how one crew then encountered turbulence followed by what appears to have been pitot icing – identifiable because the detected temperature climbed to the temperature of the ice (-5°C/23°F).

Over a 2min period they then observed grossly incorrect airspeed and Mach indications followed by multiple warnings reminiscent of those experienced on AF447, autopilot disconnect, a period in alternate law, and a stall warning.

Jan Severijns/
© Jan Severijns/

The crew managed to control the aircraft and very quickly the measured temperature returned to normal, speed indications were resumed and they were able to re-engage the autopilot. Houang describes the full sequence of symptoms in great technical detail in his report.

Subsequently the airline called a meeting with Airbus. Houang says: “At the initiative of our training manager we stressed the difficulty encountered by the crew in applying the ‘unreliable speed indication’ checklist.”

He explains how the quick reference handbook includes potentially contradictory guidance about the probable validity of stall warnings in the conditions experienced, particularly in alternate law.

He concludes: “Despite these contradictory aspects, the pilots of [the aircraft] knew how to react to the two inappropriate stall warnings. Furthermore the Airbus engineers understood all the difficulties encountered by the crew in applying rapidly and effectively the ‘unreliable speed indication’ procedure.”

Houang says the Airbus engineers agreed to consider modifying the checklists and at the time of writing the memo, on 1 December last year, he was waiting to see what happened.

Meanwhile, the airline immediately upgraded the pitot tubes on its four-strong A330 fleet to the improved Thales model designed to address the icing issue.

An Air France air safety message to its pilots last November talks of six related incidents on A330/A340s resulting in incorrect airspeed indications, numerous warning messages, and sometimes configuration alerts.

It urges pilots to be vigilant at high altitude when icing and turbulence are encountered, and to fly the aircraft gently if they take manual control.

Boeing forecasts lower demand

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By Max Kingsley-Jones

Boeing has taken the almost unprecedented move of forecasting lower long-term airliner demand than before, after adjusting its outlook for the current economic turmoil and falls in passenger and cargo growth over the next 20 years.

The airframer’s 2009 Current Market Outlook, released today, forecasts 29,000 aircraft will be delivered between now and 2028, more than 1% lower than the 29,400 units forecast last year.

“It’s very rare for the number to be lower, it’s not happened before in the last 10 years,” says Randy Tinseth, who is vice-president marketing at Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

He says that there are various reasons for the decline: “The base we’re starting with is smaller – there are fewer aircraft in the fleet than last year – and growth rates are lower”.

© Boeing

The current fleet in last year’s outlook was 19,000 aircraft, but this has declined to 18,800 this year due to the impact of the downturn and the escalation in retirements and parked aircraft.

Boeing’s assumptions for the long-term growth of the world economy, passengers and airline traffic have declined by a 0.1 percentage point over last year’s to 3.1%, 4.1% and 4.9%, respectively. Cargo growth has taken a bigger hit, declining by 0.4 percentage points to 5.4% over last year.

The result is that the airframer’s estimate for the in-service fleet at the end of its forecast has seen a fall, rather than the usual increase, from 35,800 in the 2008 outlook to 35,600.

The other major adjustment this year is Boeing’s outlook for very large aircraft demand (passenger and freighters), which it has reduced by almost 25% from 980 in the 2008 outlook. “This is largely due to our adjustment to the cargo growth forecast,” says Tinseth.

He says that while the forecast for the demand for new narrowbody and medium widebody freighters is unchanged, the outlook for large freighters (777F, 747-8I, etc) has declined by 150 aircraft to 490. “It’s also the first year we have assumed that our competitor won’t compete with a new large freighter [ie the A380F],” adds Tinseth.

Boeing gears up to produce 787 orders

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By Jon Ostrower

While the type’s flight-test programme is under way, Boeing will begin 787 production to begin filling the huge 866-aircraft, 56-customer backlog already accumulated. But the airframer may get some help from the ailing global economy, which has seen several early customers look for deferrals of 2010 scheduled deliveries.

Boeing has already seen deferrals from early customers Delta Air Lines and five Chinese carriers, and now Qantas is in negotiations with Boeing to delay the delivery of the 65 787s it has on order. Its low-cost Jetstar subsidiary is expected to take delivery of its first 787-8 in May 2010.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce told Flight International’s sister publication Airline Business at the International Air Transport Association annual general meeting in Kuala Lumpur that the troubled economic environment, including the impact of swine flu on Asian travel, is a key motivator for negotiating the deferral: “We don’t feel next year is the right time.”

© Boeing

Bank of America/Merrill Lynch aerospace analyst Ron Epstein says the change in early demand for the 787 provides Boeing a chance to approach its ambitious production ramp-up planning more modestly: “If the market is giving you a reasonable way to ramp up, then why not take it?”

Boeing plans to build 787s at a rate of 10 a month by the close of 2012. First-tier 787 supplier Spirit AeroSystems, which is responsible for the forward fuselage, pylons and leading and trailing edges of the wings, says it plans to deliver two shipsets a month to Boeing for the remainder of 2009 and into 2010 as the company waits for guidance on the coming ramp-up.

Epstein adds that a slower ramp-up allows for the 787 supply chain to build its capability at a more “controlled pace” while giving the company additional time to work in weight reduction and performance enhancements.

“Time is [Boeing’s] friend,” says Epstein. “They didn’t plan it this way, but launching an airplane into a down cycle gives them more flexibility.”

Boeing slashes forecast for large aircraft by 25%

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By David Kaminski-Morrow

Boeing has slashed its forecast for large aircraft by 25% in its latest market outlook, covering the 20-year period to 2028.

The airframer sees demand for 740 aircraft in the Boeing 747 or Airbus A380 category, far fewer than the 980 which featured in its last analysis a year ago.

Speaking during a briefing in London today, Boeing Commercial Airplanes marketing vice-president Randy Tinseth said the cargo sector accounted for most of the difference.

“The majority of large aircraft coming out of the forecast are freighters,” he says.

Boeing foresees an overall demand for 29,000 new aircraft over the next two decades, a reduction of 400 on last year’s figure. But the total market value of these aircraft, it adds, will remain static at $3.2 trillion.

© Boeing

In addition to the 240 fewer large airframes, Boeing predicts the demand in regional aircraft will fall by 410 to 2,100.

The outlook includes a slight rise in single-aisle demand from 19,160 to 19,460 aircraft and a small decline in twin-aisle demand from 6,750 to 6,700.

Fewer new aircraft, 12,200 of the 29,000 total, will be used for replacement while the number of growth aircraft is almost unchanged at 16,800.

Asia-Pacific remains the largest future market. Boeing expects the region to account for 8,960 new aircraft, about 31% of the total, and 36% of the value – some $1.13 trillion.

“The long-term outlook points to the next 20 years as being a time in which we see fundamental underlying factors supporting a strong need for new aircraft,” says Tinseth.

Boeing foresees an overall global fleet of 35,600 aircraft by 2028, with 6,600 aircraft from the current fleet being retained in 20 years’ time.

This global fleet will include 24,230 single-aisle aircraft, 8,080 twin-aisle, 1,070 large jets, and 2,220 regional types.

PARIS AIR SHOW: Your complete guide to the aircraft, technologies and themes at Le Bourget this year

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IF EVER there was a bellwether for the state of the industry it is the Paris air show. This year’s centenary salon takes place at possibly the bottom of the deepest, steepest economic downturn in decades.

Despite the hype and inevitable feelgood factor of a global gathering, it will be difficult to disguise the fact that – with falling airline passenger numbers and tightening government budgets only now feeding through to the supply chain – for many in aerospace the worst is to come. Yet there will be plenty optimism on show with companies behind key programmes from the A400M to the Sukhoi Superjet to the A350 and 787 keen to use Paris to give upbeat progress reports.

In the following features, our writers look at the aircraft, technologies and themes that will be in the spotlight at this landmark Le Bourget.