31 January 2014

Cathay Pacific to focus on the “small details” in the cabin interior of the A350 to assure that “passengers onboard deserve an absolutely premium product”.

Cathay Pacific is considering an upgrade to its current first class and business class seats, timed for the debut of the ‘game-changing’ Airbus A350 XWB as the backbone of its new international fleet.

The Hong Kong flag-carrier is buying 48 of the next-gen Airbus jets and will allow Cathay to retire its current Boeing 747s and Airbus A340s for the advanced and more fuel-efficient airplane.

Toby Smith, Cathay’s General Manager Product said that the first of 22 mid-size Airbus A350-900s “is scheduled for February 2016”, and will sport a 3-class configuration with business, premium economy and economy class.

This will be followed “sometime in 2018, we don’t have an exact month yet” by the larger A350-1000, for which Cathay has 26 on order and will carry a compact first class cabin.

“We’ll have all 48 of the A350s by 2020” Smith forecasted and tipped that they could both see the introduction of all-new seats in first and business class.

“We’re very proud of our new business class, the second-generation flatbed product which we internally call FB2” Smith said. "But it’s going to be just over 2 years before our first A350-900 delivery in early 2016 and a lot can happen in a competitive marketplace.”

“We can’t afford to stand still, and our competitors don’t stand still either. So we’re continuing to look to see whether there are further enhancements, essentially something new we might deliver in FB3.”

While many airlines have moved to fully flat beds, Smith believed that the laggards with sloping sleepers are poised to close the gap.

“There is a risk over the next few years that competitors that (today) have slightly sloped seats are going to catch up, and flatbeds and a 15” screen becomes the minimum expectation.”

“And then for the A350-1000, we will be looking at probably a new first class by that stage. Our first class came in 2007 and while they continue to perform very well, the seat itself has been on the aircraft for some time.”

So how do you make today’s first class suites and business class seats even better?
“I think that’s the challenge for us, what do you do next? I mean, you can’t get flatter than flat!” Smith laughs. “You might make it a little bit wider or a little bit longer, but if you’ve got a bed that takes someone who’s 6’ 2”, 6’ 3”, that’s probably going to be good enough.”

“There are clearly enhancements in IT and connectivity which we’ll be focusing on” he predicts, along with suggestions that the next wave of seats will embrace incredibly fine attention to detail and the overall experience rather than any single killer feature.

“For us it’s (about) some of the smaller details in terms of the finish and really making sure that when passengers get onboard they know they’ve deserved an absolutely premium product” Smith reasons.

“Perhaps it’s trying to think of some of those smaller details that just make that journey that much better.”

Based on the article “Cathay Pacific's Airbus A350 to get new first, business class seats?” published in Australian Business Traveller

30 January 2014

John Leahy: "There is plenty of time to study A350 stretched versions in the future".

Airbus may study a possible stretched version of the A350-1000 but will not rush into a decision, its sales chief said at the annual Airbus news conference.

The European planemaker has not ruled out boosting the capacity of its 350-seat A350-1000 to counter Boeing's revamped 406-seat 777X aircraft.
Sales chief John Leahy said Airbus did not need to rush out a so-called A350-1100 or -1200 model to compete with the 777X, which was launched by its rival last year, but added, "There is plenty of time to study A350 stretched versions in the future".

Leahy said that adjusting the 270-seat A350-800 by adding a couple of seat rows -in order to better compete with the Boeing 787-9- was not an immediate priority. And CEO Fabrice Bregier said a re-engining of the A330 was not the leading option for the wide-body jet.

Based on the article “Airbus says has time to assess any A350 design changes” published in Reuters

29 January 2014

Airbus wants 7 hours on a single engine flight approval for A350 XWB

Airbus has an ambitious goal for its latest model: winning regulatory approval to fly significantly further from emergency landing strips than any other twin-engine jetliner now on the market.

Airbus has told customers and air-safety officials that the A350 is designed to eventually serve super-long-haul overwater or polar routes that take it up to 7 hours away from the nearest diversion airport. That's a 30% longer than the maximum 5 ½-hour limit for current twin-engine Airbus A330s and Boeing777 aircraft.

The proposed change means that in the event of an A350 en route emergency, reaching a runway could require the equivalent of a north Atlantic crossing from New York to London on a single engine. In addition to engine reliability, such a 420-minute diversion limit also requires demonstrating improved dependability or enhancements to electrical supply, fire suppression and other systems.

That would open up some new, nonstop routes for twinjets, such as Australia to Brazil or New Zealand to South Africa probably later this decade, according to industry officials, while giving Airbus a public-relations and marketing edge over its U.S. rival.

Boeing's 787s currently must stay within 180 minutes of emergency strips, and there's no indication that restriction is likely to be eased quickly. One reason is continuing concerns about the 787's cutting-edge lithium batteries. The 787's high-profile battery problems, which caused the fleet to be temporarily grounded last year, have made Airbus officials and the rest of the industry leery of predicting expanded diversion times as soon as new models are introduced.

Longer permitted diversion times generally allow for more direct routes and also mean airlines can save time and fuel during periods when bad weather or other factors make certain emergency strips unavailable.

In case of an engine problem, cabin depressurization or other emergency requiring an A350 to fly at lower than normal altitudes, for example, cockpit computers will provide pilots with optimum and safe descent profiles including escape routes through mountainous terrain.

Based on the article “Airbus Seeks Approval for A350s to Fly Farther From Nearest Emergency Strip” published in The Wall Street Journal

28 January 2014

A350 completes the cold weather tests and returns quickly to Toulouse because it was not enough cold ... and to avoid a winter storm at Iqualit, Canada

Airbus’ A350 XWB MSN3 development aircraft with a team of 48 Airbus specialists has completed cold weather trials at Iqaluit, Canada. Temperatures reached down to -28°C. The scope of the trials included: APU and engine starts after cold soak; verifying system behaviour; low-speed taxi and rejected take-offs.

 It also performed a local flight as planned.

A crew from Airbus cut short their intended 5-day visit the A350-900, on 26/Jan, when temperatures hit a balmy -18 C.

That was more than 7 degrees too warm to continue any further, and the crew of 48 engineers, mechanics and test pilots had to pack up and return to base in Toulouse, France.

Click on the picture to watch a video

“If we stay one night we’re going to lose time,” flight operations manager Pedro Dias said at the start of an unseasonably mild Sunday afternoon.

“We have other flights to perform just after, so if we can save one day, it’s better to save it in Toulouse than in Iqaluit, because we’re not going to work.”

Warnings of an incoming blizzard (wind speed more than 125km/h), expected to hit Iqaluit in the next 12 hours, were not the deciding factor, Dias said.

Flight test engineers decided all mission objectives were covered by day three of the mission, after two full days of work at ideal temperatures measuring -25 and below.

“Things must have gone really well,” said Juan Solano of Honeywell, the principal project engineer for the plane’s air conditioning systems.

With that, the international crew gathered boxes and bag loads of equipment and personal effects at the airport’s forward base operation facility in the afternoon, and reloaded the plane for departure. And off they went, Europe-bound, at around 5:00 p.m.

Based on the press release "A350 XWB MSN3 completes cold weather testing in Iqaluit Canada" and on the article " Airbus crams Iqaluit cold-weather tests into one short weekend" published in Nunatsiaq online.

27 January 2014

“The A350-800 is not selling because we’re not selling it”, Airbus COO Customers, Leahy said.

Airbus has not logged any sales for the -800 since 2009 and it has been encouraging customers for the type to convert to the -900.
Airbus chief operating officer for customers John Leahy insists that the lack of sales for the -800 is due to the company’s opting to extract higher value for initial slots by using them to deliver larger aircraft including the -900 and -1000.

Airbus has been lobbying its customers for years to drop orders for the -800 in favor of commitments for the larger -900 or even the -1000. While progress has been slow and talks have been dragging on for a long time, the manufacturer last month convinced the newly merged American Airlines to change an order for 18 -800s originally placed by US Airways into -900s. The American decision reduces the -800 backlog to 61 aircraft.

Leahy says that Airbus is now “in discussions with Hawaiian Airlines,” which has bought 6 of the smallest A350s and has so far been adamant that it has no requirement for a larger aircraft.

According to Leahy, Airbus is presenting the remaining customers for the type 2 choices. Either the existing version of the aircraft is delivered if airlines are insisting on the specification, or a larger -800 version is developed and that would mean a delay of “a couple of years.”

Over the years, the -800 backlog has reduced by more than half. In addition to Hawaiian, the most important remaining customers are Aircraft Purchase Fleet with 12 orders, Asiana with 8, Yemenia with 10 and Aeroflot with 8.

Based on the article “Airbus considers stretching A350-800” published in Flight International

26 January 2014

How a single pedestrian operator can move heavy components in the A350 XWB manufacturing and assembly process?

Wing assembly plant in Broughton is responsible for manufacturing the wings on nearly all Airbus aircraft, from the company’s popular A320 to the A350 XWB.

The complex manufacturing and assembly process involved in building a wing requires the fast, safe and effective transportation of components and tooling around the factory.
MasterMover has supplied models from its MasterTug range as a solution for moving everything from stringers through to complete wings for the A320. As demands on the Broughton operation have grown, so has the role for the MasterTug. Today, the tugs can be found not only moving wing parts but also moving support equipment, including mobile working platforms, production tooling, kitting trolleys and test equipment.

Designed and manufactured by MasterMover using the principle of weight transfer, electric tugs enable a single pedestrian operator to move heavy components (from 4Tn to 15Tn) with relatively small equipment by generating tractive force from the load itself. As components can be moved in a safe and controlled manner without the need for forklifts or cranes, Airbus is able to organize its assembly layout to suit its specific working practices.

The expansion of MasterMover’s involvement at Airbus Broughton has been a continuous process from A320 wing assembly moving-line to A350 assembly line, as Hugh Freer, sales director at MasterMover explained:   “As one department begins to use the MasterTug, their neighbors decide it will also be ideal for their purposes, and so on. The initial proposition proves itself very quickly.”

Based on the article “Airbus is using pedestrian electric tugs from MasterMover as an integral part of its wing assembly plant in Broughton “ published in Aerospace Manufacturing

25 January 2014

A350 in Canada ready for cold weather testing.

The Airbus A350 MSN3 prototype will spend around 5 days in temperatures as low as -30 degrees Celsius to prove full functionality of its systems under extreme weather conditions. 

Test campaign includes aircraft de-icing, engine start-up and landing gear operations tests in the freezing environment.

The A350 engine manufactured by Rolls-Royce was previuosly tested in the same site -northern Canada at Iqaluit- during the certification test campaign developed for Trent-XWB.

Airbus’s second flight-test A350 aircraft departed Toulouse on a transatlantic sortie to Canada on Friday. 

Based on the article "A350 heads to Canada for cold-weather tests" published in Flight International.

24 January 2014

Singapore Airshow will get the A350's full debut on the ground and in the air display.

Airbus will present the A350 XWB at the Singapore Airshow in February, marking the first full display of the aircraft at an international air show. The flight test aircraft participating in Singapore will be MSN 003, which will be on static display 11th – 12th February and will also take part in the flying display on both days.

This prototype is the same that has been in Bolivia and Martinique last week and will spend this week in Canada.

The aircraft’s participation at Singapore will enable visitors to get a close-up look at the aircraft both on the ground and in the air, with a flying display that will demonstrate its manoeuvrability, sleek design and exceptionally low noise levels.

“I am very pleased to announce that we will bring the A350 XWB to Singapore,” said Fabrice Brégier, Airbus President and Chief Executive Officer. “The Asia-Pacific region is the fastest growing market for the air transport industry and will drive future demand for widebody aircraft in all seat categories. The A350 XWB will set new standards in the mid-size category and will consolidate our position as the provider of the world’s most modern, comprehensive and efficient widebody product line.”

Carriers from the region that have already ordered the aircraft include AirAsia X, Air China, Asiana Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, China Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines, Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines, SriLankan Airlines, Thai Airways International and Vietnam Airlines.

To date, firm orders from the region for the aircraft already total 244, representing 30% of total A350 XWB sales.

Based on the press release “A350 XWB to take centre stage at Singapore Airshow”

23 January 2014

The A350-800 is too small and it has more range than required by most of the market. Larger A350-800 to be considered.

Airbus is quietly moving away from the current design of the A350-800 and is considering changes that would make the aircraft larger and likely more economical to operate.

There is a “distinct possibility” that Airbus might make the smallest of the three A350 versions larger than currently planned, according to Chief Operating Officer Customers John Leahy. The change would lead the aircraft to “sit right on top of the Boeing 787-9.”

Many in the industry have doubted that Airbus will ever build the -800. If the plans are firmed up, the aircraft maker will not build the currently conceived version, but a yet-to-be fully defined aircraft.

Leahy argues that “we are production constrained until beyond 2020” and Airbus wants to use the available slots for the larger versions, which are generating higher revenues.

However, since the last of several fundamental design changes in the A350 program, the -800 has become a shrunken version of the -900, at a size that is not economically optimal. The aircraft also has more range than required by most of the market. Some of its disadvantages could be addressed by shrinking the -800 less.

Airbus is not saying when the current version of the -800 would be available, but Leahy wants to deliver the -1000 before the -800. The -1000 is to enter service in 2017.

The -800, as currently planned, has space for 276 passengers in typical three class layout. It is 60.54m long and has a range of 8,250 nm. By comparison, the A350-900 is 6.3m longer and seats 315 passengers. The baseline A350 has a range of 7,750 nm, according to Airbus.

Leahy makes clear that even if changes are decided, Airbus will not go for an all-new design of the -800 and that it will still be a shrunken version of the -900. The redesigned -800 would likely move close to just under 300 seats while its range would be below the current target, but still above the -900, if no other changes are incorporated. Leahy says that since talks with customers are continuing it has not yet been decided how many rows of seats would be added.

Based on the article “Airbus Considers Larger A350-800” published in Aviation Week

22 January 2014

Airbus thanks the British government´s support … while there is no news from the “new” German government concerning the pending payment of a loan of 623 million € for the A350 XWB development.

The French president of Airbus, Fabrice Brégier has only praise for the British government’s support of the aviation industry.

“The A350 program is progressing well,” he said. “We are on track with our ambitions.”
While the first delivery is on schedule, Brégier maintains a hint of caution and says 2014 will be a “very big challenge” and a “very intense year for the program”.

The president and chief executive of Airbus, Fabrice Brégier actually goes one step further and hails the British government’s support of industry. “I must say the UK has an approach which is to support industry, to support the economy and to be very pragmatic,” he said.

“We would like at times for other parts of Europe to have the same pragmatism and support.”

In fact, so happy is he with the British government, that when asked if there was more the UK could be doing for Airbus, he replies: “No. I’m happy with the support. I have no specific requests.”

“The transformation of our company into a simpler, more agile and faster one is clearly taking shape,” Brégier said.

Airbus is an important employer in the UK; Airbus employs 6,000 people at its factory at Broughton in North Wales and 4,000 people at Filton, near Bristol.

As well as using the cash on its balance sheet to expand its fleet on offer, Airbus is also a key player in investing and developing the aerospace industry and it works closely with the Government in the UK to do this. Brégier explains that the British government “brings very good support to innovation”, in particular noting the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), which he describes as a “recipe for future success”.

The ATI was a key outcome of an unprecedented £2bn, 7-year investment program into UK aerospace, announced by Nick Clegg, the deputy Prime Minister, last August. The money is provided equally by the industry and the Government.

Last December, it opened a £70m state-of-the-art Airbus Aerospace Park at Filton, which focuses on design and manufacturing, as well as support roles such as finance and customer services.

The 700-acre Broughton site, where the wings for all Airbus planes are manufactured, including the ones of the A350, has also been heavily invested in, with nearly £2bn spent on the Welsh facility over the past decade.

The UK is just one of the 4 countries where Airbus has a manufacturing base, the others being Germany, France and Spain.

“One of Airbus’s greatest strengths is the partnership we have from our 4 home countries and other partners in Europe – and the UK is a key part of this partnership,” he says.

“And Airbus is the most successful example of European industrial collaboration and a stronghold for employment.”

What he wants to focus on, he says, is winning the “battle of competitiveness in Europe against the rest of the world”. “This battle is very tough, in particular with Boeing,” he explains.

“But in our market there are also newcomers to watch out for, like the Canadians, the Chinese and the Russians. “So we need to continue to be more innovative and more competitive.”

Meanwhile there is no news from the German government concerning the pending payment of a loan of 623 million € for the A350 XWB development that was discussed one year ago and the French government has lowered its Airbus shares by 1% with 451 million-euro sale.

Based on the article “How Britain lifts Airbus to record sales high” published in The Telegraph

21 January 2014

Airbus studies higher A350 monthly-rate deliveries. “The market would easily justify over 14 a month on the A350,” Leahy said.

Airbus is exploring higher output of A350 wide-body aircraft, following a similar move by Boeing to help shorten the wait time for customers following its highest order intake ever last year.
The 10-a-month rate targeted for A350s in 2018 could go to 14 thereafter, as per information from Airbus mentioned by Bloomberg.

Airbus and Boeing, the biggest makers of commercial jetliners, have order books stretching out years, making it harder for some customers to upgrade their fleets with more fuel-efficient aircraft like the composite-material A350. Airbus’s net order intake last year was 1,503, topping the 1,355 for Boeing, which kept the crown for the deliveries tally.
“We have some homework to do, but we believe there is potential to go higher,” Airbus Chief Executive Officer Fabrice Bregier said in the annual press conference in Toulouse, where the planemaker and its parent company are based. “My problem is to find production slots.”

Output will increase further in 2015 as A350 production ramps up and again in 2016 if Airbus decides to increase A320 build-rates, Tom Williams, Airbus EVP for programs said.
Airbus may trim A330 production around 2016 as more A350s, although Bregier said he doesn’t expect “a sharp drop.”

With Boeing boosting output of 787 Dreamliners to 14 a month by decade’s end, Airbus is considering keeping pace with its A350, which is now undertaking test flights. Airbus is sticking to its goal of delivering at least one A350 before year-end, according to Bregier.
“The market would easily justify over 14 a month on the A350,” Leahy said.
Airbus’s success so far in keeping the A350 on schedule contributed to last year’s 88%increase in the value of the parent company shares. Airbus Group, formerly called EADS, now has a market of 43 billion euros ($59 billion).
“The risks on the A350 are coming down each day,” Bregier said.

Based on the article “Airbus Studies Higher Output to Follow Boeing in Order Glut” published in Bloomberg

20 January 2014

Airbus to decide which aircraft is better to counter the 787 in the 250- to 300-seat sector; A330-300, A330 Neo or A350-800.

The crucial 250- to 300-seat sector is currently being addressed by the A330-300, and COO-Customers Leahy revealed some weeks ago that Airbus is looking at potential modification to the A350-800’s baseline specification.
This includes the “distinct possibility” of enlarging the aircraft, perhaps enough to accommodate an extra couple of seat rows, “to sit on top of the 787-9”, said Leahy. The 787-9, at 63m, is about the same length as the A330-300.

Leahy suggests that the critical battleground is leaning towards the 300-seat sector, rather than the 250-seat category of the smaller 787-8. 
Airbus is still playing down the possibility of re-engining the A330 to compete in the field, although CEO Fabrice Bregier said that re-engining is “always an option for our aircraft”.

He said that Airbus has not put a proposal to airlines to re-engine the type – effectively following the A320neo strategy, to create an A330neo – but acknowledged that “some customers” had put the idea to Airbus.

“That doesn’t mean we implant every idea from our customers,” he said. Bregier added that part of the A330’s attraction is its availability, and that a re-engined version would not be available in the same timeframe.

Leahy added that General Electric, whose GEnx engine could potentially be used to re-engine the A330, was being “very aggressive” in putting proposals to Airbus, but suggested this is because the engine manufacturer is “surprised” that the A330 is “still going” even after the A350’s launch.

GE had been poised to power the original A350 – effectively a re-engined A330, before it was revamped as the current A350 XWB– but has not offered a powerplant for the current A350 range, leaving Rolls-Royce as the only engine option on the family.

Based on the article “Airbus considers stretching A350-800” published in Flight International