Qatar to launch Melbourne service

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By Greg Waldron

Qatar Airways will commence service to Melbourne, Australia on 6 December.

The new Qatar-Melbourne service will initially fly three times a week using Boeing 777-200LR aircraft, says Qatar Airways in a statement.

The airline has two 777-200LRs, with the third and fourth to be delivered later this year. The Melbourne service will become daily when the fourth aircraft is delivered.

“I know the travelling public is eager for us to begin serving Australia and I’ve had many people ask me about our direct routes to Melbourne and Sydney,” says Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker at the Paris Air Show. “We’re finalising some details with regulatory authorities in Australia, and once we’ve received the necessary aircraft from Boeing, we will be ready to operate.”

Al Baker says he has been waiting patiently for Boeing to deliver aircraft that Qatar Airways has on order to begin operating the first of its “two planned routes” into Australia.

© Boeing

The 777-200LR aircraft operating on the route will offer a two-class configuration of 259 seats, with 42 Business class seats and 217 economy class seats.

In 2007, Qatar Airways placed orders for 14 Boeing 777-300ERs, six of the 777-200 Long Range variant and seven 777-200 freighters – all for scheduled delivery until mid-2010. There are options for a further five Boeing 777 aircraft. The four 777-200LR aircraft will operate the Melbourne and Sydney routes.

The statement provided no details for the commencement date or frequency of the Sydney route.

Wizz Air agrees to take 50 more A320s

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By David Kaminski-Morrow

Central European budget carrier Wizz Air has tentatively agreed to acquire another 50 Airbus A320 aircraft.

It has signed a memorandum of understanding at the Paris Air Show today.

This agreement, once firmed, will take Wizz’s total orders to 132 of the type.

All Wizz Air A320s are configured with 180 seats and, so far, all have been fitted with International Aero Engines V2500 powerplants.

No engine selection for the additional 50 twin-jets has yet been made.

© Airbus

Eurocopter chief foresees development of new helicopter in Brazil

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By Kieran Daly

Eurocopter’s chief executive expects to see the company’s Brazilian subsidiary Helibras design and build a new helicopter from scratch within the next decade.

Lutz Bertling says the 70%-owned business has the opportunity to build on its ground-breaking deal to produce and support 50 EC725 medium-lift machines for the Latin American market.

Speaking at the show, Bertling said: “Ten years from now Helibras will not only double its workforce and turnover but might have their own product produced and designed in Brazil.

“We need to use the current contract to build our capabilities there. The EC725 will give us the opportunity to build that up.”

He said it was not yet clear what class of machine might be built there, commenting: “It is a few years to go to decide which one it will be.”

Answering questions he stressed that Helibras was “a strategic defence company in Brazil” and there was no question of it becoming a shareholder in Eurocopter alongside EADS.

Asian A380 Plans Bodes Well For GP7200

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Guy Norris/Paris

Untapped opportunities in China, India and Southeast Asia could drive a long-term need for Airbus A380s, which the makers of the GP7200 believe could generate an eventual market for up to 1,500 engines.

Jim Moravecek, president of the joint General Electric Pratt & Whitney Engine Alliance, says, “I see us getting to 1,500 engines. We’re already at 400, and there’s a lot of runway left in this program.”

The GP7200 has so far been selected for 96 of the 186 A380s on firm order from operators with a declared engine choice. Qatar and Kingfisher are yet to make an engine selection, as does Grupo Marsans — a Spanish tour group that placed a memorandum of understanding for four aircraft. “More than likely the Qatar competition won’t start until next year,” says Moravecek, who adds that the timeline for the others remains further out.

The Engine Alliance is credited by Airbus with a 1% specific fuel consumption advantage over the competing Rolls-Royce Trent 900, and in service is producing performance “0.6% better than what we promised,” he adds.

Although a mere 20 engines are now in service on just five operational GP7200-powered A380s with Emirates, the Alliance is already invoking a continuous upgrade program to sustain its claimed lead over the competition. “We’ve seen some places where we could improve, and we have another 1%-2% we can slowly put into the engine over the next few years, says Moravecek. “The Engine Alliance intends to sustain the 1% advantage. That’s significant because, in reality, it means Rolls-Royce is coming from behind every time.” The next operators to introduce the GP7200-powered A380 into service will be Air France later this year and Korean Air Lines at the end of 2010.

Photo credit: Airbus

Dassault Sees Composite Next-Gen Falcons

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Fred George/Paris

Although Dassault’s Super Mid-Size [SMS] jet still is being designed on the firm’s CATIA V workstations, engineers already are brainstorming concepts for a family of aircraft to be introduced in two decades, Bruno Stoufflet, VP scientific strategy, R & D and advance business, said today in Paris. The European Community’s $2.2-billion Clean Sky joint technology initiative is a main driver. By 2015, Clean Sky seeks to develop technologies that will reduce carbon and noise emissions by 50 percent and slash nitrous oxide emissions by 80 percent.

Stoufflet said revolutionary changes will be needed to accomplish such goals. He believes the next generation of Falcon Jets will be built out of carbon fiber and other advanced composites to meet the aggressive weight reduction targets needed to accomplish the desired results. Such aircraft are likely to have wings with less sweep and natural laminar airfoils to improve lift to drag characteristics. Stoufflet didn’t speculate as to whether the new aircraft would cruise as fast as, or faster than, today’s Falcon Jets.

Airframe improvements only will yield a small part of the targeted reductions in noise and exhaust emissions. Most must come from advances in engine technology, Stoufflet said.

“The problem is that business aircraft makers only can design aircraft around what’s available from engine manufacturers” Stoufflet said. In the commercial jetliner industry, the OEMs define the requirements and the engine makers build to suit, he explained.

Stoufflet believes future business jet turbofans will have considerably higher bypass ratios to improve fuel efficiency, thus reducing carbon footprint. He doesn’t believe this necessarily requires use of reduction gear boxes to drive the front fans at lower speeds. But the gas generator cores of such engines will need to be radically redesigned to meet nitrous oxide emissions reduction goals.

Falcon 900DX photo credit: Dassault

777 Replacement May Be All New Model

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By Jens Flottau

Boeing will make a decision on how to improve its 777 in the next one or two years and may opt to go straight for an all-new aircraft, according to Chairman and CEO Jim McNerney.

“Eventually, we will have an all-composite replacement for the 777,” he said on the sidelines of the Paris Air Show. “The question is how long will it take us to get there.”

McNerney said that Boeing will continue to study how competitive the planned Airbus A350-1000 will be and react accordingly. As an alternative to an all-new 777 family, Boeing is also considering rewinging the existing aircraft. In that case, “it looks attractive to us to have one aircraft sitting on top of the 787 family. But eventually we will come up with a new family.”

Airbus plans to introduce the A350-900 in 2013, followed by the smaller A350-800 and the larger -1000 soon after. The -1000 directly competes with the 777-200ER and -300ER, while the smaller versions are targeted against the 787-8 and 787-9 that will already have been in service for a couple of years before the Airbus models become available.

A new family of 777s would be placed slightly above the A350-1000, but would end below the size of the 747-8, McNerney said. According to Boeing’s calculations, the all-composite fuselage aircraft would be 20%-25% lighter than the current 777 and consequently offer “huge savings” in fuel burn.

Airlines have not yet responded openly in any significant numbers to the Boeing plans. But Tim Clark, president of Emirates — one of the biggest 777 operators — isn’t so sure rewinging will be enough for a future 777 to compete with the A350-1000. The wing of the current 777 “is already very good,” Clark says. “I’d be thinking seriously about an all-new aircraft.”

McNerney did not give more details on the possible timing. But a launch decision around 2011 would likely see a major redesign enter service not before 2016 with a completely new family coming even later.

The plans are also significant because they may have large implications for the timeline of a potential 737 replacement. Boeing did not come up with any new guidance on when it might want the aircraft in service. But rival Airbus seems to be looking at delaying the decision even more. Chief Operating Officer of Customers John Leahy indicated that the aircraft may be ready as late as 2022, which is four or five years later than originally planned.

Photo: Boeing