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The airliners of the future from Airbus, Boeing & Comac November 20, 2010

Posted by Arun Rajagopal in Airlines, Aviation, Marketing.
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In a previous post comparing Airbus airliners versus Boeing airplanes, I said we would talk more about airplanes that have been recently launched or currently under development. All of us have heard about the Airbus A380, the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, airliners that are currently generating a lot of media buzz.
Here’s a quick primer into these airliners of the future that you will spot in airports around the world in the years to come.

Airbus A380

The world’s largest passenger airliner, the wide-body, four-engined Airbus A380 is also the world’s first truly double-decker airplane. TheA380 made its first commercial flight on 25 October 2007 from Singapore to Sydney with Singapore Airlines.

The A380 seats 525 people in a typical three-class configuration or up to 853 people in all-economy class configurations. The A380-800 can fly up to 15,200km, sufficient to fly from New York to Hong Kong at a cruising speed of Mach 0.85 (about 900 km/h or 560 mph at cruising altitude).

The Airbus A380 was developed as an alternative to rival the Boeing 747, the historic leader in the ultra-large commercial aircraft sector dominated by Boeing.

There are currently 39 A380-800s flying in the world; operated by 5 major airlines – Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Qantas, Lufthansa and Air France. Emirates is currently the largest operator of the A380 with 14 in service out of its total of 90 on order, the largest amount of any carrier. There are a total of 234 orders for the A380-800. Airbus is expected to start producing an enhanced version A380-900 and a freighter version in the future.

The A380 is one of the most talked-about airplanes in the history of aviation. As the largest passenger carrier, the A380 is expected to be the mainstay of the fleet of hub and spoke airlines such as Emirates who are in the race to be the leading global carrier. The A380 is known for bringing new standards of comfort and luxury to travelers on airlines such as Emirates who offer onboard spas and private suites. The A380 has also brought new operating efficiencies. Airbus promotes the A380 as using 2.9 litres of fuel per passenger per 100 kilometres, against the current airline fleet average of 5 litres, but these figures are argued by rival manufacturers.

By July 2010, the 31 A380s then in service had flown 156,000 hours with passengers in 17,000 flights, transporting 6 million passengers between 20 international destinations. The list price of an Airbus A380 is $346.3 million.

A380s belonging to Singapore Airlines (11), Qantas (6) and Lufthansa (4) are fitted with Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines while those belonging to Emirates (14) and Air France (4) are fitted with Engine Alliance (a joint venture between GE and Pratt & Whitney) GP7000 engines.

The Qantas Saga



On 4 November 2010, Qantas Flight 32 operated by an A380-800 suffered an uncontained engine failure en route from Singapore Changi Airport to Sydney Airport and was forced to return to Singapore for an emergency landing. The engine blowout and fire was blamed on an oil leak resulting from a faulty engine component, leading to wing damage and scattering of engine debris on an Indonesian island. The entire fleet of Qantas A380s was grounded after the incident and the airline has said that over 40 Rolls-Royce engines in the fleet need to be replaced. Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa (with newer versions of Rolls-Royce engines) grounded their fleets for checks and replaced a couple of engines before taking back to the skies.

Airbus is planning to claim financial compensation from Rolls-Royce after revealing that A380 deliveries may suffer next year.

This incident is the first major hiccup in the Airbus A380 success story leading to major publicity woes for Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Qantas.  However, the A380 is expected to continue its reign as the superjumbo of the skies for a long time to come.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner



The Boeing 787 Dreamliner, a long range, mid-sized, wide-body, twin-engine jet airliner is Boeing’s most fuel-efficient airliner and the world’s first major airliner to use composite materials for most of its construction.

The 787 is Boeing’s answer to the A330 family of aircraft produced by Airbus and is designed to replace Boeing’s 767 family of aircraft.

By September 2010, 847 Boeing 787s had been ordered by 56 customers.  The 787, which has been plagued by problems since the program launched in 2004, is currently more than three years behind schedule. Boeing’s plans to deliver the first 787 to Japan’s All Nippon Airways by the end of 2010 has been thrown out of gear following an electrical fire on a test flight on 9 November 2010. A Bloomberg report recently said that “Boeing may not be able to deliver the first plane until 2012.”

The Dreamliner has been touted by Boeing as the most fuel-efficient and eco-friendly aircraft to date. It is also packed with features that aim to give the passenger a more comfortable flight.

In a major shift away from traditional aluminum and titanium, nearly all of the aircraft’s fuselage and wings are made of composites. That allows the wide-body jet to use 20 percent less fuel than similar planes and make less noise. Other features include more room, cleaner cabin air, wider windows with automatic dimming and LED mood lighting. The 787s will come with Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 or General Electric GEnx engines.

The 787, which has a list price of around $161 million for a basic model, is configured in two versions — a 787-8 carrying 210 passengers and a 787-9 carrying almost 300 people. They will carry passengers non-stop on routes between 6,500km and 16,000km at speeds up to Mach 0.85.

The Airbus A350



The Airbus A350 has not received the kind of buzz the Boeing 787 Dreamliner has enjoyed, but has emerged as a serious contender to the Dreamliner.

The A350 will be the first Airbus with both fuselage and wing structures made primarily of carbon fibre-reinforced polymer. The A350 is designed to compete with the Boeing 777 and the Boeing 787.

There are many similarities between the A350 and the B787. The A350 will be made from 53 per cent carbon fiber; the 787 is 50 per cent carbon fiber. However a key difference is that the A350 heavily borrows from the A380 family in terms of technology and will also seat more passengers than the B787. In terms of list prices, the A350 is more expensive than the B787. The A350 costs $225-$285 million; while the Boeing 787 comes at $150-$205 million.

Airbus claims that it will be more fuel-efficient, with up to 8% lower operating cost than the Boeing 787. It is scheduled to enter into airline service during the second half of 2013. The launch customer for the Airbus A350 is Qatar Airways, which ordered 80 of them.

The A350 will be launched in 3 variants (A350-800, -900 and -1000), with a seating capacity of 270, 314 and 350 passengers respectively. As of now, all A350 jets on order will be powered by Rolls-Royce Trent engines.

As of October 2010, 35 customers have placed 573 firm orders for the A350 family of airliners.

The Boeing 747-8

The Boeing 747-8 is the fourth-generation Boeing 747 version, with lengthened fuselage, redesigned wings and improved efficiency. The 747-8 is the largest 747 version and will overtake the A340-600 as the longest passenger aircraft in the world.

The 747-8 first flew on February 8, 2010. Delivery of the first 747-8 freighter has been postponed multiple times and is now expected in mid-2011 with the passenger model delivery to follow.

As of June 2010, 109 Boeing 747-8s were on order, 76 of the freighter version, 32 of the passenger version, and one VIP version. The passenger version of the 747-8, called the Intercontinental has not enjoyed much success in terms of orders, with airlines preferring the larger A380.

Boeing claims that the 747-8 is more than 10 percent lighter per seat and will consume 11 percent less fuel per passenger than the A380, translating into a trip-cost reduction of 21 percent and a seat-mile cost reduction of over 6 percent.

The 747-8 Intercontinental costs between $293 and $308 million while the 747-8F costs between $301.5 and 304.5 million.

A key feature of the 747-8 will be the presence of raked wingtips that are found on the B777 and 787 models that will eliminate the winglets commonly found on the 747-400.


The Comac C919


The Comac C919, China’s first commercial passenger aircraft is vying to be a serious contender to Boeing 737 and Airbus A320, the current world market leaders in narrow body aircraft.

Commercial Aircraft Corp of China Ltd (Comac) recently received 100 orders for the single-aisle C919 at the Zuhai Airshow. Slated for production in 2016, the C919 can seat up to 168 passengers. Many crucial systems in the jet are being developed in partnership with big names in Western aviation such as Honeywell.

China is the world’s fastest-growing aviation market. By one estimate, air passenger traffic in China is projected to expand by nearly 8% annually for the next 20 years. The country plans to build 70 airports by 2020.

To meet demand, China’s domestic airlines will need to buy an estimated 4,330 new aircraft valued at $480 billion over the next two decades. Currently Boeing and Airbus each control about half the Chinese market for big planes. China is hoping to use the C919 to capture a good share of the domestic market. Check out more buzz on the C919 on Flightblogger.

Hope this was useful & till next time, happy flying!

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