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Puckinflight

An all things aviation blog

Tag Archives: Airbus

Sources within Airbus are reporting that their newest plane, the A350 is ready for its first flight. After having successfully completed engine tests yesterday, sources say that the first flight should take place this Friday. Subject to weather the flight should take place around 1000 Friday morning.

The A350 is Airbus’ answer to Boeing’s 787 and 777. Airbus expects to start delivery of the A350 next year.

Happy Travels!
ColPuck

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Airbus has moved their first flying A350 into ground testing. Airbus is still a ways off from first flight and flight testing, easily shown by the lack of engines on the Airbus provided pictures. Looking at the pictures the thing that amazes me are those winglets. They look amazing.

Photos courtesy of Airbus and FlightGlobal

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Aviation Week, is reporting that Lufthansa is looking at acquire 6 777-300’s for subsidiary Swiss Air.

http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/avd_02_21_2013_p03-01-550951.xml

While the order if it happens would be small, six air frames, it would mark a shift from Airbus to Boeing. Currently the Lufthansa Group operates only 4 772ERS and they were acquired in a merger. Lufthansa has shown little interest in Boeing planes outside of a token order of 15 Boeing 747-8is. Between Swiss, Lufthansa, Austrian, and Brussels (all part of the the Lufthansa group) the current fleet plan after retirements is 42 Boeing aircraft, 19 747-400’s 15 747-8is, 4 767’s and 4 772ers. This number is really smaller at the 15 748’s will be replacing the 744s, so it is closer to 25 Boeing frames compared with a current fleet of around 480 frames. So less than 10% of the Lufthansa group’s fleet is made by Boeing.

Aviation week cites available slots as the reason for the Boeing order. That’s believable as the the A350, the closest Airbus equivalent to the 773 will not be online for several years.  These 773s will replace Swiss’ A340 fleet. The A340-300 that Swiss currently operates has largely been replaced by the A330-300, basically a twin engine variant of the A340-300. The cost of moving to two engines resulted in shorter range. So, while Swiss was able to replace their Trans-Atlantic fleet with the A330s, they were not able to do so on their Asia flights. The quest for greater efficiency and lower operating costs has led Lufthansa to at least contemplate ordering 777-300s.

One added benefit for Lufthansa would be preferential pricing from Boeing. Boeing would love to book another order from a long time Airbus customer. Also Lufthansa might be able to leverage future Airbus orders.

 

Happy Travels!

Colpuck

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Airbus publishes their order book on a monthly basis. For the poor much maligned A318 the order book has fallen to one. That frame destined for corporate customers will in all probability mark the end of A318 production.

http://www.airbus.com/fileadmin/backstage/orders_deliveries_table/Airbus_2013_January_OD_.xls

The A318 was never a very popular aircraft. The majority of orders came from Frontier, and the basically retired the type. In fact several years ago, Frontier started scrapping their rather young A318s because no one wanted to buy them.

Current operators are as follows:

British Airways 2 (NYC-LYC service)

Frontier 2 or 3 (depending on who you ask)

Tarom 4

LATAM 5

Avianca 10

Air France 18 (largest type operator)

Oddly enough the A318 was not least popular commercial jet ever made. The Concorde had only 14 in service and the 737-100 had only 15 if I recall correctly. The might be a few more obscure ones but those are the two I can think of off the top of my head.

Have a Great Weekend.

Colpuck.

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On June 1, 2009 Air France flight 447 from Rio to Paris fell from the sky over the Atlantic Ocean killing all 228 passengers and crew. Today July, 5th 2012, the final report on the accident was released by the BEA the French aviation authority. This report containing numerous recommendations represents the final word on what happened.

What happened? Well if you have seen the Nova film on the matter, then you have a good idea. If you haven’t you should. I’ll do my best to explain.

Cruise flight in a modern aircraft occurs at high altitude. Makes sense the higher the altitude the less air, the easier it is to move the aircraft through space. The downside is the aircraft has to be going fast enough to move enough air over the wings to generate lift.

Thus, infinite speed infinite altitude right? No.

At those speeds going though air is like going through soup. The aircraft causes disruptions in air. Too fast and these disruptions break the flow of air over the wings causing a high speed stall. Too slow, it stalls, too fast it stalls. The speed in-between is called the coffin corner. 20-30 knts either way at altitude and the aircraft stalls.

How do you measure speed. Well, at cruise flight speed is a function of pressure. The aircraft needs to know how much pressure is pushing against the front of the aircraft. They use pitot tubes. The measure pressure.

In this case the pitot tubes iced over. Thus the aircraft was unable measure pressure. So AF447’s electronic brain concluded that the pilot should fly the plane.

Ok, so if you don’t know the speed, you eventually stall and then you die.

No. If that were true there would be a lot fewer planes around. Airbus built in a setting where the aircraft will be airworthy. 85% power and 5 degrees nose up and the pilots will be able to control the aircraft.

If this is true why did AF447 crash? Well the pilots didn’t fly the aircraft. Imagine this.

You’re a commercial pilot, you’re 3hrs in to a 10hr flight. The flight is going smoothly, systems seem ok, dinner was just finished, and through a combination of food, stability, and slight tiredness, you’re not as alert. You know the majority of incidents happen on takeoff and landing, so there is not much to worry about. Oh and it is pitch black outside and inside. Then all hell breaks lose. Lights are now flashing on the control panels, audio alarms are going off proclaiming multiple emergencies, and you have no idea why all of this is happening.

The purpose of these alarms were to draw the attention of the pilot. The pilots of AF447 were both fairly junior. The senior pilot was having a rest. This is standard procedure for all international airlines. However, here the situation went from fine to catastrophic in a matter of seconds. The pilots did what anyone would do, panic.

Panic is something good airline crews plan for. It’s called crew resource management. Step one of the plan is secure oxygen. Step two is fly the plane. Step three is assess the situation. Step four is take appropriate steps to remedy the problem. Granted this is an over-simplification but it works here.

The crew on AF447 didn’t fly the plane. They got so caught up in alarms, systems, and other things, they panicked and forgot how to fly the plane. Nova showed what to do, set power and trim, fly the plane, then listen to the alarms.

Wait listen to the alarms is last? Yup, the pilots have to fly the plane. But the pilots are not all to blame here. (Though I think they are ultimately responsible)

Airbus shares a lot of the blame. People talk about the pitot tubes and that it was a parts failure. I call bull on this. Planes are designed to fly after an engine explodes, a pitot tube failure should not bring down a Cessna 152 (Do Cessna 152s have pitot tubes?) much less an Airbus 330.

Let’s take an engine explosion. Qantas Airbus 380 flight from Singapore to Sydney had an engine compressor explosion after leaving Singapore. Plane returns safely to Singapore, no fatalities. In documentary about this flight one comment the pilot made interested me a great deal. He mentioned having to go through an acknowledge pages of alarms on his data screen as well as the rest of his control panel. He stated that he spent a lot of the emergency not dealing with the emergency but acknowledging that there was a problem. As if he didn’t know from the engine explosion.

I think Airbus is overloading pilots in emergencies. Rather then encouraging the pilot to focus on flying the plane they are providing the pilot with too much information about the situation. I want my pilot flying the plane, no acknowledging a system prompt in the first few moments of the emergency.

Where the line is between too much and too little information, nobody knows. However, with fewer alarms would the AF pilots been able to save the flight, I think so.

Whatever happens now and in the future this sad chapter in aviation history closed.

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Today marked the start of Airbus’ A350 production line, with the static test plane. Before I talk too much about the plane itself. I wanted to talk a little about the Airbus v. Boeing debate and the Airbus product line generally. Much virtual ink is spilled about the merits of Airbus v. Boeing aircraft. This is largely a myth, while the companies do compete generally, their products do not compete specifically. What I mean by this is that if you put the two lines next to each other, there are no true equivalent products on seat capacity. For any given seat capacity the buyer wants, there is only product that perfectly fits that need.The same is true for the A350

The A350 is Airbus’ response to the 787, except not really. The A350 relies more on carbon fiber than their previous offerings, but the expected capacity is closer to the 777 then the 787 or A330. Currently there are 561 orders for this plane which is very good. However, recently orders have tailed off. Since 2010 there have only been 53 orders for the aircraft, which shows that that maybe this plane does not have a long term strategy.

Both Boeing and Airbus have made extraordinary promises when it comes to performance not just for their initial frames but for the stretched models of the 787 and 350. It will be interesting to see in the coming years if they can keep those promises.

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Thoughts on gauge

Commercial airplanes range from the very large A380, to the very small, CRJ-200 and smaller. With gas prices and specifically Jet-A hitting record highs, airlines are starting to re-evaluate their fleet plans.

Economists have preached the benefits of economy of size, aka bigger is better. However, this is not always the case. It takes X amount of gas to fly one passenger, and then it takes X+Y gallons of gas to fly two passengers. This proceeds along a U-curve. On the lower end, there are not enough passengers to justify the cost of flying the route. On the higher end, the so much fuel has to go into getting the plane in the air, no amount of passengers can justify the expense.

At the recent PHX aviation conference, Delta Airlines mentioned that are having to re-evaluate the use of the 50 seat regional jets. Delta uses these on regional routes out their hubs to airports where oddly enough there is no equivalent service on other carriers.

What this tells me is that the economics of the 50 seat regional jets just isn’t there. If airlines are in the position of not being able to sustain service on routes where these is no competition, it does not bode well for service to those cities.

On the higher end side, there will always be trunk routes NYC-LHR, for example that will always be able to justify service on the largest of jets. But those routes are fairly limited. The buyers of the A380’s are the larger airlines, that have well established hubs, with a significant amount of long-haul routes. SQ, LH, AF, EK, ect

The extremes show where there are no or limited economics. What is the sweet spot currently? The most popular plane in history is the 737, but this short/medium range plane doesn’t have the range to make full load TATL trips. The current multi-roll plane is the 757-200, developed in the 1980’s it currently flys TATL trips, intra-asia flights, short hops and trans-cons in the US.

The major problem with the 757, is that it is old and not in production. The frames that are in use are starting to come to the end of their useful service lives. Currently, there is no real replacement on the books for the 757. The A321 and 739ER doesn’t have the range of the 757. The 787 and A330-200 are both too big to be an effective replacement for the frame. Both Boeing and Airbus have released their next generation narrow bodies, and neither are designed to replace the 757. Boeing is trying to drive business to the 787, but the buyers are not flocking to the 787 as the repacement.

The market drives the producers. Both Boeing and Airbus look to the airlines for information on what their next set of aircraft that they will develop. The airlines do not seem to be clamoring for a 757 replacement, which begs the question, what plane will fill this niche ten years from now?

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