Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Boeing 747 as Cruise Missile carrier?

After the Carter Administration's cancellation of the B-1A program due to fiscal concerns, the rise of air-launched cruise missiles and the possibility of developing a stealth bomber, Boeing put forward a low-risk, relatively cheap, cruise missile delivery vehicle alternative based on the mighty 747 Jumbo Jet. It was called the Cruise Missile Carrier Aircraft, or CMCA.

It is an idea that still makes sense, according to the website Foxtrot Alpha. The idea was relatively simple: turn the premier long-range commercial hauler into an arsenal ship capable of carrying between 50 and 100 air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs).

The design was based on the 747-200C, a nose-loading cargo derivative of the Jumbo Jet, with nine rotary launchers mounted on tracks inside of the stripped-out cabin. Each rotary launcher would hold eight missiles, and they could be slid back into a launching position at the rear right side of the aircraft via the help of an overhead handling system.

In the end, the 747 CMCA was passed over, with the B-1 being revived by the Reagan Administration as well as the B-2 being procured semi-clandestinely under what would become the Advanced Tactical Bomber program. The B-52 fleet also received some capability upgrades as well.

But: the missile carrying Jumbo Jets could have been operated at much lower cost than the B-1 or B-52 force. The 747 as mobile rocket platform would not be carrying anywhere near the weight that it would with a full load of large air launched cruise missiles, so extra fuel can be carried to provide a longer flight duration and range.

The 747 is far from stealthy, but this wouldn't be a problem, according to Foxtrotalpha: "Who would doubt that in this modern era where stealth technology's tactical edge is eroding, and with the challenges of area denial and anti-access warfare looming in the Pacific, that a 747 CMCA would not be an incredibly powerful and relevant weapon system to possess? When a 747-800 based CMCA packing close to 100 long-range stealthy cruise missiles flies all the way across the Pacific Ocean without the need of tanker gas, and devastates 100 strategic enemy targets in a single volley with minimal risk to its operators lives, stealth really doesn't even matter at all does it?"

Foxtrotalpha asks the question: Why again isn't the USAF knocking on Boeing's door for this thing like yesterday?

It seems an intriguing idea. Read the complete story at Foxtrotalpha.

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Hawaiian wants six Airbus A330-800neo aircraft

US carrier Hawaiian Airlines has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for six Airbus A330-800neo aircraft. The commitment replaces a previous order placed by Hawaiian for six Airbus A350-800s, which still isn't officially cancelled, but that will not take long now. Hawaiian was among the biggest supporters of the smallest version of the A350. There are now only 28 orders left for the A350-800, from Aeroflot (8), Asiana (8), Yemenia (10) and lessor AWAS (2).

"The A330-800neo’s fuel efficiency, additional range and commonality with our existing A330 fleet makes the A330-800neo an elegant solution to our need for growth aircraft toward the end of this decade," said Mark Dunkerley, President and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines.

The A330-800neo will serve the Hawaiian network as the airline continues to expand in Asia and grow its capacity in mature markets. Hawaiian Airlines currently operates a fleet of 18 A330-200 aircraft, with additional orders for 16 A321neo aircraft on backlog.

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A350 performs rejected take-off test

Airbus has achieved a new milestone in the A350 test program. It has successfully performed the ‘Maximum Energy Rejected Take-Off’ (MERTO) test with the A350 MSN001 on the morning of Saturday 19th July at Istres Air Force Base in France. MERTO, which follows on from the previous ‘High Energy Rejected Take-Off’ (HERTO) preparation test conducted by MSN001 two months ago, is a part of the mandatory series of tests for Certification.

The latest test is to confirm the braking system’s ability to safely stop the aircraft following a rejected take-off at high speed and high weight – using a set of worn-out brakes. As these brakes absorb the kinetic energy of the aircraft, they glow bright orange and reach a temperature of around 1,400 degrees centigrade by the time the aircraft has safely come to a standstill, whereupon the tires are deflated by special fuses. According to certification requirements, the aircraft then has to stay put for five minutes unassisted, after which firefighters are allowed to spray the wheels and brakes to cool them.

MERTO is the A350 XWB programme’s final major test before MSN005, one of two cabin-equipped development aircraft, embarks on ‘Route Proving’ in July. The programme has to date achieved more than 2,250 flight hours in around 540 flights, and is on track for certification in Q3. First delivery to Qatar Airways will follow in Q4.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Malaysia Boeing 777 crashes in Ukraine

A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 has crashed in Ukraine. Flight MH17 was enroute from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it went down. There were 295 people onboard; 280 passengers and 15 crew members.

Malaysia Airlines announced via Twitter that Ukranian ATC lost contact with flight MH17 at 14.15 (GMT) not far from the Russia-Ukraine border. The aircraft departed from Amsterdam Airport at 12.15 pm (local time). It was estimated to arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport the next day at 6.10 am (local time). The aircraft crashed in an area with frequent rocket attacks in recent days because of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. It is not clear whether the airliner was shot down.

Malaysia Airlines lost another Boeing 777 on March 8, 2014. This aircraft disappeared over the south Indian Ocean on flight MH370 to China. The wreck still has not been found and all 241 people aboard are presumed to have died.

Malaysia airlines operates thirteen Boeing 777-200ER aircraft. The crashed aircraft, 9M-MRD, was delivered to the airline in July 1997.

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Transaero orders twenty Airbus A330s

Transaero Airlines, Russia’s second largest airline, has signed a Letter of Intent for a total of twenty Airbus A330 aircraft (eight A330ceo and twelve A330neo). The agreement makes Transaero an important launch customer and the first European airline to commit to the A330neo. The A330s will be operated on Transaero's medium and long-haul domestic and international network.

Transaero Airlines launched services in November 1991, and currently serves more than 200 routes all over the world. The airline als has four Airbus A380s on order, the first of which will enter into service at the end of 2015.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Air Mauritius chooses Airbus A350-900

Air Mauritius, the flag carrier of Mauritius, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding for four Airbus A350-900 aircraft. The agreement was announced during the Farnborough Airshow. The airline also announced that it is going to lease two more A350-900s. The six A350 XWBs will be operated on European, Asian and Australian routes.

Air Mauritius currently operates Airbus A330-200 and A340-300 aircraft on its intercontinental network.

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Qatar Airways firms order for 50 Boeing 777-9Xs

Qatar Airways has finalized an order for 50 Boeing 777-9X aircraft. The order was first announced as a commitment at the 2013 Dubai Airshow. In addition, the airline announced a commitment for 50 additional 777-9X purchase rights. If exercised, that would take Qatar's 777X order tally to 100 airplanes. Qatar Airways also announced their intent to order four 777 Freighters and options for four more.

Leasing companu MG Aviation also finalized a 787-9 Dreamliner deal, for two aircraft. The company has a total of four 787-9s on order now.

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Cathay Pacific 'Airline of the World 2014'

Widebody-only operator Cathay Pacific has been announced as the airline of the year 2014. It climbed from the sixth place last year to the top, displacing 2013's number one Qatar Airways. The World Airline Award was announced at the Farnborough Airshow by research firm Skytrax. It is one of the most high-profile awards in the aviation industry.

Cathay is the first airline to have won the award four times. It also won the title in 2003, 2005 and 2009.

Garuda Indonesia won the award for the best cabin crew, ahead of Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines. Singapore Airlines won the award for best first class cabin, Qatar for best business class and Korea's Asiana for best economy class cabin.

The Skytrax awards are based on a survey of 18.85 million airline passengers from around the world. Here follows the list of the top ten:
1 Cathay Pacific Airways. 2 Qatar Airways. 3 Singapore Airlines. 4 Emirates. 5 Turkish Airlines. 6 ANA All Nippon Airways. 7 Garuda Indonesia. 8 Asiana Airlines. 9 Etihad Airways. 10. Lufthansa.

Numbers one, three and four - Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and Emirates - are widebody-only operators. For most of the others widebodies form a big part of their fleets.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

AirAsia X wants 50 A330neo aircraft

AirAsia X is a fan of the Airbus A330neo for some time and now Airbus has launched the new version of its best-selling widebody aircraft, the airline has signed a Memorandum of Understand (MoU) for 50 A330-900neo aircraft. The agreement sees the airline become a launch customer and it will be one of the first operators of the aircraft, with deliveries to the carrier scheduled to begin in 2018. The agreement was signed at the Farnborough Airshow.

"We have been encouraging Airbus to launch this new version of the A330 for some time now," said Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, Co-Founder and Director of AirAsia X at Farnborough. "I am pleased that they are offering this choice and bringing us the aircraft we truly need to develop further our low cost long haul model."

AirAsia X is one of Airbus’s largest customers. In total the Group has ordered 536 Airbus aircraft, excluding the A330neo MoU.

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Passenger must feel in 777X like in 787

Boeing is to build the 777X with basically the "old"' fuselage of the earlier Triple Seven versions. But it also wants to offer passengers the comfort level they experience on the 787 Dreamliner. At Farnborough Boeing announced a number of advances for the 777X interior compared to the current 777.

Among the changes are:
- A cabin pressure like at an altitude of 6,000 feet, what is comparable to the 787 Dreamliner.
- Larger windows, which are located higher on the fuselage so they're at eye level for a larger percentage of passengers.
- Increased ambient light made possible by the larger, newly positioned windows.
- All-new interior design that allows airlines to customize their cabin architectures by class. This innovation includes an adaptable suite of parts that facilitates choices in overhead ceiling and stow bin configurations, allowing airlines to create the feeling of separate and distinct cabins that meet both airline and passenger needs.
- Higher cabin humidity, comparable to the 787 Dreamliner.
- Enhanced air filtration, incorporating the latest filtration technologies.
- Next-generation LED lighting.
- Lower cabin noise, achieved through the new engine nacelle design, new high bypass ratio engines, better insulation and a passenger cabin that doubles the number of air nozzles with lower velocity and less noise.

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Leasing companies buy 22 Boeing widebodies

Boeing has sold a total of 22 widebody airliners to three aircraft lease companies. The contracts were announced at the Farnborough Air Show.

The US aircraft manufacturer sold six 777-300ER (Extended Range) to Air Lease Corporation. The 777-300ER order marks the 100th 777 order from ALC Chairman and CEO Steven Udvar-Hazy during his career in the industry. Air Lease Corporation also ordered 20 737 MAX 8 narrowbodies.

Another leasing company, Intrepid Aviation, signed its first direct Boeing order for six 777-300ERs. Intrepid also took the option to purchase an additional four 777s. Intrepid Aviation is a privately held commercial aircraft lessor, which owns commercial aircraft leased to airline operators worldwide. Intrepid Aviation focuses primarily on twin-engine widebody equipment, such as the Boeing 787 and 777.

The CIT Group Inc., a global leader in transportation finance, announced that CIT Aerospace has placed an order for ten 787-9 Dreamliners. The order brings the leasing company's total 787 orders to 20, including 16 787-9s.

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Robots to build Boeing 777 fuselages

Boeing announced that it is working on a new method for building 777 fuselages. The process is named 'Fuselage Automated Upright Build' (FAUB) and improves workplace safety and increases product quality. Boeing is developing the new technology since 2012.

Fuselage sections will be built using automated, guided robots that will fasten the panels of the fuselage together, drilling and filling the more than approximately 60,000 fasteners that are today installed by hand.

FAUB offers numerous benefits including an improvement in employee safety. The nature of the drilling and filling work makes it ideal for an automated solution. More than half of all injuries on the 777 program have occurred during the phase of production that is being automated. In addition, the automated system is expected to reduce build times and improve first-time quality of the build process.

"This is the first time such technology will be used by Boeing to manufacture widebody commercial airplanes and the 777 program is leading the way," said Elizabeth Lund, vice president and general manager, 777 program and Everett site, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "We're excited to continue improving the production process here and we're positioning ourselves to begin building 777X airplanes in the future."

The 777 program has already begun testing FAUB at a facility in Anacortes, Wash. Production readiness preparations are underway and the system will be installed in Everett in a new portion of the main factory that is under construction now. The technology is expected to be implemented in the next few years.

The robotic system, designed for Boeing by KUKA Systems, is the latest in a series of strategic Advanced Manufacturing moves on the 777 program, which have already included new systems for painting wings and other drilling operations.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Avolon orders six Boeing 787s

Aircraft lease company Avolon, headquartered in Ireland, has ordered six Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners at Farnborough. The commitment marks Avolon's first order for the 787. Avolon provides aircraft leasing and lease management services. Avolon has an owned, managed and committed fleet of 207 aircraft serving 48 customers in 27 countries. Avolon also ordered five additional 737 MAX 9 narrowbodies.

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Second life for Airbus A330

Many aviation people expected it: Airbus officially launched the A330neo (new engine option) at the Farnborough International Airshow.

The A330neo programme comprises two versions: the A330-800neo and A330-900neo. The A330-800neo retains the current-production A330-200's fuselage length, while the A330-900neo uses the longer fuselage of the A330-300.

Airlines get the choice of only one engine, the Rolls-Royce Trent 7000. Airbus promises a 14 per cent lower fuel burn for the new versions and 400 nm of additional range. The neos will get new A350 XWB style winglets, 3.7 metres of additional wingspan and new engine pylons for four per cent aerodynamic improvements.

Airbus is going to optimise the cabin to allow up to ten more seats on the A330-900neo and six additional seats on the A330-800neo, compared to in-production A330 versions. With this increased seating, the A330-900neo will offer seating capacity for up to 310 passengers, with the shorter-fuselage A330-800neo accommodating up to 252 travellers. The cabin will see innovations like full-LED mood lighting and Wifi connectivity. The A330neo shares more than 95 per cent spares commonality with existing A330 jetliners.

Airbus President and Chief Executive Officer Fabrice Brégier expects that Airbus will sell 1,000 A330neos. Airbus plans to deliver the first A330neo in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Air Lease Corporation (ALC), a Los Angeles based aircraft leasing company, announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for 25 A330-900neo aircraft, becoming the first launch customer for the renewed Airbus widebody. The contract was signed at Farnborough by Brégier and Steven F. Udvar-Házy, Air Lease Corporation’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Cathay Pacific selects A350-1000

Cathay Pacific Airways intends to become the first customer for the redesigned version of the Airbus A350-1000, the longest variant of the A350 XWB fleet. It announced an agreement for a new order for 10 aircraft at the Farnborough Airshow. In addition, the Hong Kong-based airline will convert 16 of its existing orders for the A350-900 to the larger A350-1000. The acquisition of the A350-1000 is still subject to the approval of the Board of the airline. Cathay will have 48 A350 XWB aircraft on order (20 -900s and 26 -1000s plus two aircraft via a lease agreement).

The A350-1000 typically seats 350 passengers in a three class layout. The aircraft is capable of flying 8,400 nautical miles non-stop and will be operated by Cathay Pacific on higher density routes, including its longest non-stop flights to Europe and North America. The aircraft will be powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines delivering 97,000lbs of thrust – the most powerful engines ever developed for an Airbus aircraft. The revamped A350-1000 has more range than the earlier design and will be exclusively powered by Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines.

So far Airbus has received 548 firm orders for the A350 XWB from 34 customers worldwide.

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Friday, June 29, 2012

Boeing shows 787 at work, but ... not for all

Boeing is going to show the 787 Dreamliner in the flying display at Farnborough next month. It will be an aircraft in Qatar Airways livery. That is remarkable, because Boeing hasn't taken part in flying displays at air shows for quite a while. Randy Tinseth, vice president, marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes in Seattle, writes on his weblog that the Farnborough show "allows as many people as possible to experience the gracefulness of the 787". But Tinseth also writes: "This airplane will take part in flying demonstrations on the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of the show." This means that only the visitors of the business days will see the aircraft at work, and not the general public visiting the show on Saturday and Sunday. So what does Randy Tinseth mean with "as many people as possible?"

We know that Boeing has a little delay to overcome with the production of Dreamliners, and is in a hurry, but what is two days extra flying at the show on a delay of more than three years...? Come on, Randy! And if you are short of money, why don't you ask Qatar Airways boss Akbar al Baker to pay for the extra flying displays? For him it is even more important to show his newest little toy to the flying public, because he wants to sell tickets. (Photo: Boeing)

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thai Airbus A380 in full colours

The first Airbus A380 for Thai Airways International (THAI) was rolled out of the Airbus paint shop in Hamburg, with the airline’s livery completed. The aircraft will be delivered in the third quarter of the year, when Thai will become the ninth operator of the A380. The airline has firm orders for six A380s and will operate the aircraft on routes from Bangkok to Europe. (Photo: Airbus)

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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Boeing 747-8I makes first commercial flight

On June 1 Lufthansa performed the first commercial flight with the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental, for which the airline is the launch customer. The inaugural flight was from Frankfurt to Washington, DC's Dulles International Airport. Flight LH416 departed Frankfurt at 9:50am.
Lufthansa's 747-8 Intercontinental is equipped with 362 seats in a three-class configuration (8 First Class, 92 Business Class and 262 Economy Class). The business class of the aircraft has a unique seating arrangement in the form of a 'V' whereby two neighbouring seats are angled towards one another along a central axis. This solution enables Lufthansa to fulfill one of the main wishes expressed by customers – to sit or lie facing the direction of travel, while at the same time enjoy virtually double the distance between two neighbouring seats at shoulder level, which now gives Business Class passengers greater privacy and more personal living space. At the push of a button, the seat converts to a full-flat, horizontal sleeping surface measuring 6'6" in length (1.98 m). Ergonomically improved cushioning ensures a high degree of comfort in a sitting or horizontal position, and adjustable armrests provide more space in the shoulder area when lying down.
Lufthansa currently has 20 Boeing 747-8 Intercontinentals on order and is expected to take delivery of five in total this year.

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Atlas Air 747-8F flies for Panalpina

Boeing delivered the 20th 747-8, a freighter, to Atlas Air on May 31. The airline flies the aircraft on behalf of Panalpina, a Swiss-based freight operator. The aircraft has been painted in the colours of Panalpina. Two of the Atlas Air 747-8Fs will operate for Panalpina. Of the 20 747-8s Boeing has delivered so far are 16 747-8 Freighters, three 747-8 Intercontinentals to VIP customers and one 747-8 Intercontinental to Lufthansa.

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First Malaysia Airlines A380 delivered

Malaysia Airlines has taken delivery of the first of six Airbus A380 megajets on May 29. The first aircraft will be used on the Kuala Lumpur-London Heathrow-route from 2 July, followed by a second aircraft in August. The paint scheme of the aircraft is not completely finished yet. In June the aircraft goes back to Toulouse for an additional paint job and other finishing touches. The Malaysia A380 seats up to 494 passengers in a three-class layout. (Photo: Airbus)

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