|Space assets are becoming ever more important to the the military worldwide, and markets are reflecting this drive|
|Printed headline: Sky Control|
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
|Space tourism market beckons to many design teams, but ‘reusability’ poses significant challenges|
|Printed headline: RLV Hurdles Aplenty|
|Geostationary satellite launch demand underpins ELV market, with some growth likely in low-Earth-orbit missions|
|Printed headline: ELVs Rebound|
HOUSTON – During a NASA Shuttle Program Requirements Control Board meeting on Nov. 24, shuttle program managers decided on another incremental delay in plans for an early December launching of Discovery, giving them more time to assess whether external fuel tank damage found after a Nov. 5 launch scrub has introduced additional risk.
The decision dashed plans to make a second round of attempts to begin Discovery’s 11-day assembly mission to the International Space Station between Dec. 3 and Dec. 7.
Instead, the space agency will look to a launching no earlier than Dec. 17 at 8:51 p.m., EST, if it can work around Russian plans to launch the Soyuz TMA-20 with U.S., Russian and European crewmembers to the orbiting science laboratory on Dec. 15. The Soyuz crew is scheduled to dock on Dec. 17 just after 3 p.m., EST.
However, the space agency will not push to launch Discovery until it understands the underlying cause of four cracks in two adjacent aluminum lithium stringers on the intertank of the 154-ft.-long fuel tank; if a tank flaw escaped detection during the production process; and whether additional undetected damage poses a hazard, said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Space Operations.
“We have to understand what our exposure is to that problem recurring somewhere else on this tank,” said NASA Shuttle Program Manager John Shannon, who joined Gerstenmaier for a news briefing. “So we are very carefully, very methodically going through it. We’re passing up some launch opportunities to do that. We want to make sure we fully understand the problem before we commit to go fly.”
The next launch period extends to Dec. 20, when shuttle managers would pause to prevent the shuttle’s computer timers from rolling over to the New Year on Jan. 1 at a critical time on orbit. Planners are looking at other opportunities to launch after Dec. 20 as well as in January.
On Nov. 18, the control board announced a delay that shifted Discovery’s next launch opportunity from Nov. 30 to Dec. 3, also to permit more time to evaluate the external tank.
During Discovery’s fleet-leading 39th and final mission, a crew of six astronauts will equip the space station with a storage compartment as well as an external spare parts platform, and new research gear.
One and possibly two missions remain as the shuttle fleet nears retirement. STS 134, aboard Endeavour, is tentatively scheduled to lift off for the station on Feb. 27 with the $2 million Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. Though snagged in 2011 budget deliberations, Atlantis could lift off on the program’s final flight, STS 135, in mid-2011 with a cargo of station supplies.
Since Discovery’s Nov. 5 scrub, Kennedy technicians have replaced the leaky Ground Umbilical Carrier Plate that led to the interruption. A fuel tank fixture, the GUCP vents hydrogen vapors to a launch pad flare stack during the final hours of the countdown.
But the damage causing lingering concerns was the stringers cracks found beneath a 20-in. crack in the insulating foam that jackets the 154-ft. tall fuel tank.
Technicians replaced 13 in. of the damaged metal on neighboring stringers and installed structural doublers. While similar repairs have been carried out at NASA’s external tank Michoud Assembly Facility, Discovery’s were the first attempted at the launch pad.
The cracked foam was replaced, as was a cockpit circuit breaker that was blamed for a voltage irregularity that interrupted a previous launch bid.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) this week will issue a preliminary report that is likely to confirm investigators’ suspicions that oil pipe leaks led to the uncontained failure of a Trent 900 engine during a Qantas Airbus A380 flight Nov. 4.
Meanwhile, the carrier plans to resume limited operations of some A380s, although the investigation will remain open.
Flawed welding led to the oil pipe leaks, which caused a fire and the failure of the turbine disk in the intermediate-pressure turbine, industry officials close to the investigation tell Aviation Week. Rolls-Royce declined to confirm the information, but a new airworthiness directive (AD) issued by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) on Nov. 22 appears to confirm it. The AD calls for more detailed inspections of the Rolls-Royce turbofan. The investigation previously identified an oil fire in the high-pressure/intermediate-pressure structure cavity as a possible cause of the failure.
EASA notes that “the incident investigation has progressed, and inspection data from in-service engines have been gathered and analyzed.” The agency adds that “the results of this analysis show the need to amend the inspection procedure, retaining the inspection of the air buffer cavity and focusing on the oil service tubes within the [high-pressure/intermediate pressure] structure.” Such a procedure remains an “interim action,” and further updates are possible as new information is developed, EASA says.
In the Nov. 4 inflight emergency on Flight QF32, the No. 2 engine failed about 4 min. after takeoff from Singapore en route to Sydney. The aircraft returned to Singapore after 110 min. in the air, during which the pilots dumped fuel and tried to determine what had happened. The A380 suffered major damage to engines, important aircraft systems and the fuselage skin at Frames 46/47 in Section 15/21, according to an Airbus overview documentation of major damages obtained by Aviation Week.
All six Qantas A380s have remained grounded since the incident and are only now being phased back into scheduled services. Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines are continuing to operate their Trent 900-powered A380s but have had to change engines on several aircraft.
Following initial findings, EASA ordered frequent checks for the in-service fleet in an AD published Nov. 10. That airworthiness directive is “consistent with the maintenance program we described on Nov. 12,” the engine manufacturer says. “Rolls-Royce has worked closely with Airbus, the airlines and regulators to agree to a regime that will ensure a safe operation.”
While the investigation remains open, conflicting information has emerged about whether Rolls-Royce knew before Nov. 4 about mechanical defects that are suspected to have caused the oil fire. Questions have also been raised about the speed of the manufacturer’s response to the problem.
An industry executive close to the investigation says Rolls-Royce is adamant in its claim that it had no idea about potential oil leaks, even though it had introduced numerous modifications to the engine in the past. The executive points out that Rolls-Royce would have been required to tell the airworthiness authorities of any safety-related findings. The executive further indicates that Rolls-Royce started developing a fix only after the investigation into the Nov. 4 incident yielded preliminary results. The company has no comment on these points.
However, others in the industry say Rolls-Royce was aware of potential problems before Nov. 4, and that it was in the process of implementing a modification to correct the oil leak but had not informed operators.
Lufthansa states that 15 of its 16 Trent 900s were delivered with engine upgrades and have not had any oil leak issues. So far, however, it has not been verifiable if the modifications solved the oil leakage issues on the new engines and if they were done specifically because of that problem. Lufthansa’s aircraft have flown many fewer hours and cycles than those of other carriers, though, since they were just delivered in May. Lufthansa also uses them at a 70,000-lb.-thrust rating, while the Qantas engines have been taken up to 72,000 lb. thrust—a difference that has considerable implications for internal temperature levels.
Rolls-Royce has also pulled some engines that had been delivered to the Airbus final assembly line to replace older standard motors, particularly on Qantas aircraft. For that reason, Airbus confirmed it will claim damages from the engine maker for any financial impact. Airbus does not rule out that future A380 deliveries this year and in 2011 could be delayed for lack of engines. Rolls-Royce is not commenting on why it pulled these engines.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce reportedly said at a Sydney press conference that Rolls-Royce “has modified certain parts of that engine.” He was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that “if this was significant and was known to be significant, we would have liked to have known about it . . . . [But] we and Airbus were not aware of it.” According to the Associated Press, Joyce also said that “it is a modification that indicates whether or not you are going to have a problem with the engine.” Qantas has a power-by-the-hour arrangement with Rolls-Royce for overhaul and maintenance to be performed by the manufacturer.
While much public attention has focused on the engine problems, the Nov. 4 incident also raises some serious questions about the airframe and systems. Among other things, the aircraft lost one of its two hydraulic systems, potentially signaling problems with routing and segregation, since pipes of the two are closely collocated in the wing area. Also, pilots were unable to pump fuel from the aft tanks forward, which could have led to serious center of gravity implications in a longer flight when fuel transfer is required for stability.
But redesigns could turn out to be highly expensive or even impossible when it comes to basic changes such as introducing additional back-up hydraulic and electrical systems.
Meanwhile, Qantas has decided to resume flying some A380s on its London routes, but it is still not putting the aircraft back on its longer Los Angeles flights due to concerns over operating the Trent 900s at maximum thrust.
One of the airline’s A380s was due to begin flying the Sydney-Singapore-London route on Nov. 27, and another was expected to follow soon after on either the Sydney or Melbourne flights to London.
There is no timetable yet for the return to service of the other four Qantas A380s. As more aircraft come online, the emphasis will be on increasing A380 frequency on the London routes, a Qantas spokesman says. The airline will not be operating A380s on its Los Angeles routes until it has performed sufficient inflight analysis on the London flights. It stresses that this is an operational decision in line with its conservative approach to safety, not a manufacturer’s directive. Qantas is “being very circumspect about transpacific flying,” says the spokesman.
Qantas says it is not yet prepared to put the A380s on the routes to the U.S. West Coast because these flights “regularly require” maximum certified thrust due to factors including higher fuel loads and the shorter runway at Los Angeles International Airport. The airline says the suspension will continue “until further operational experience is gained or possible additional changes are made to engines.”
The first aircraft to return to service—VH-OQF—was ferried back to Sydney from Los Angeles after two of its Trent 900 engines were replaced. One is an overhauled engine from Rolls-Royce, and the second is from another of the carrier’s A380s. The second aircraft to return to the air is VH-OQE.
Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) says it has “given a green light to [the] plan developed by Qantas to return its A380 aircraft to service.” This plan describes how the A380s will be operated, together with “additional safety measures and required inspections.”
“Qantas has devoted considerable resources to making sure the return to service of the A380 will meet all relevant safety requirements,” says John McCormick, CASA’s director of aviation safety. The agency will continue to monitor A380 operations, using data supplied by Qantas.
The airline has confirmed that it will still take delivery of two new A380s before the end of this year and another two in early 2011. This means that by the end of December, it should have at least four A380s in service.
The Chinese space officials who NASA Administrator Charles Bolden met in Beijing will not be coming to the U.S. for a reciprocal visit in December, as they had hoped, but there may be a visit in 2011.
Nor is Anatoly Permanov, the head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, likely to get much traction soon with a list of possible cooperative projects he discussed with Bolden in Washington Nov. 18. Like Wang Wenbao, director general of the China Manned Space Engineering Office, Permanov will have to wait until the U.S. political climate becomes more stable.
In a rare one-on-one interview with a U.S. reporter Nov. 23, Bolden tiptoed around a range of sensitive issues as he looks for bipartisan support in the 112th Congress for the new U.S. space program that is still evolving at NASA. Deeper engagement with foreign space powers will have to go through the cumbersome interagency review process, he said, while NASA must complete its own assessment of how far over budget the James Webb Space Telescope has become before deciding how to tackle the problem.
But one thing he made clear, despite some evidence to the contrary. “I have all the support that I want from my higher command, which is the president of the United States.”
After a sometimes-contentious year of wrestling with the White House and his own deputy, Lori Garver, over the direction of space policy (see Aviation Week & Space Technology, Sept. 20, p. 24), Bolden says he has been working Capitol Hill to win support in the next session of Congress for an appropriation to go with the compromise authorization bill President Barack Obama signed in October.
“I have reached out to all the people elected, without regard to party,” he says. “I tried to call everybody the day after the election, and I continue to communicate with people that I missed personally, because space has always been a bipartisan effort and I would like to keep it that way.”
To that end, he is being particularly careful not to alienate Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), the expected chairman of the appropriations subcommittee that funds NASA in the House. Wolf criticized Bolden sharply for meeting with the China Manned Space Engineering Office (Cmseo) during an October visit to the emerging space power, and the NASA administrator was careful to stress that he made no deals. Chinese officials who were expecting a reciprocal visit to U.S. facilities in December will have to wait, he says.
“There is not a delegation coming next month as far as I know,” he says. “A reciprocal visit is something that we continue to work with the interagency organizations, mainly the State Department, trying to figure out the timing for that,” Bolden says. “I wouldn’t even say there is a reciprocal visit planned. I think everyone would like to see one, but everybody’s still in conversations.”
Bolden suggested space cooperation has been subsumed in larger financial issues that will be addressed when Chinese President Hu Jintao visits the U.S. in January, with the Executive Office of the President, the White House science office and the National Security Council working to coordinate a bilateral space meeting through the State Department.
Similarly, Permanov’s list of possible new space ventures with NASA, including development of a nuclear propulsion system, joint missions to low lunar orbit and asteroids, and a robotic landing on Mercury, is going nowhere fast. The Russian space leader presented the list at a Nov. 18 meeting of the bilateral Space Cooperation Working Group, but Bolden says the most substantive work involved protocols for future meetings. The U.S. hopes to use the list of possible bilateral projects as a way to encourage Russia to take a more active role in the multilateral working group coordinating long-term space exploration plans.
“If the international partners think it’s worthwhile, we the United States would be more than happy to do a bilateral effort with the Russians, but we wanted that to be international instead of just the United States and Russia deciding something off on the side.”
Republicans will regain control of the House of Representatives through the Nov. 2 elections in part because of fears over government borrowing, which makes domestic discretionary spending for programs like space exploration vulnerable. Bolden told a staff all-hands meeting at the Marshall Space Flight Center Nov. 16 that even if the agency’s spending levels are rolled back to 2008 levels – as some “budget hawks” have suggested, it “would not be devastating.”
“We’re going to look at it and we’re going to make determinations as to what we think we can realistically do,” he told the NASA employees. “And what we don’t think we can do is going to come off the table.”
One target, however, is the James Webb Space Telescope, recently hit with a finding that it is another year late and $1.5 billion more over budget (AW&ST Nov. 15, p. 50). That report, by an expert panel set up at the direction of Senate appropriations space subcommittee Chair Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), was only “back-of-the-envelope,” Bolden says, and will get more study by a new management organization before NASA decides how to absorb the blow. The authorization bill gives the agency enough flexibility to adjust to the Webb overrun and other issues that arise, he says, and the agency will use it to its advantage.
“[The Webb] management team has been asked to go in and do a bottoms-up review of where we are in terms of cost and schedule so we can go back and present a creditable story to the science community as well as all of our stakeholders,” he says. “I’m hoping we can do that in the new year. So I am cautiously optimistic that the changes I have effected so far will all have a positive effect.”
Takeoff and landing data from FAA shows a continued recovery in business jet traffic in October, with the 11th consecutive year-over-year positive month, up 5.7%, says a Morgan Stanley report. Sequentially, October was up 1.3%, it adds.
“Moving forward, we expect year-over-year traffic growth to decelerate as compares become tougher,” writes analyst Heidi Wood.
“The U.S. business jet traffic recovery appears underway with both Cessna and Bombardier posting 11 consecutive months of positive year-over-year growth versus 12 for Gulfstream, reinforcing our thesis that a recovery in mid-size jet demand would follow the high end.”
Could bad luck be coming in threes for the U.S. Air Force? This month, officials were sacked from the tanker-replacement program, concern grew about another slip in the F-35’s initial operating date, and South Korea is enduring the worst attack by North Korea in more than 50 years.
So far, two heads have rolled in the tanker program after two documents involved in the competition were sent to the wrong company. The unidentified employees—who were members of the program office, but not the program manager—have been replaced.
An investigation has ensured that the competition is still fair and that no “proposed pricing data” were involved, says the Air Force’s chief of staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz. Each single-sheet report involved an efficiency assessment of either the Boeing or EADS candidate aircraft. The study was conducted to determine how many of each tanker were required to fulfill a series of air-refueling scenarios.
“Notwithstanding what was reported [in the press], there was no offer or proposed pricing data on that CD,” Schwartz says. “Both contractors have the same information [about the other].”
During the last two weeks, Air Force and independent teams have reviewed what happened in the document mix-up.
“Over the last 24 hours or so, we’ve endeavored to [ensure] that we have a level playing field between the two offers [from Boeing and EADS] in respect to the information that was disclosed,” Schwartz says. “Clearly this was a profound disappointment. As a result of the inquiries, those individuals responsible will be held accountable. Two [people] have been removed from the program as a result.”
However, the mix-up has had no impact on the delay of a source selection into 2011.
“The key thing is to de-couple the notion that the inadvertent disclosure had anything to do with the timing on making source selection,” Schwartz says. The decision has slid out of 2010 and is now slated for the “early part of January,” he adds. “It’s important that this source selection stand on its own and withstand scrutiny.
Meanwhile, another new-generation aircraft—the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter—is also causing problems. A Defense Acquisition Board (DAB) meeting was held last week and another is due soon. The presentation was the Navy’s preliminary technical baseline review that involved a look at production status and schedules as well as test data and progress on software engineering. Another DAB will finalize inputs for the Fiscal 2012 budget.
“With respect to the A-model [USAF] aircraft, my assessment is that it is ahead on test points and flying hours; software stability has been good, and the structure has experienced no failures or surprises,” says Schwartz.
However, there was a big caveat to his assessment.
“There are some issues with respect to timing on software development,” he says. “We don’t have a complete understanding yet of whether that will affect the new, predicted IOC [initial operating capability] of April 2016. I’m still concerned about the schedule—a little less on technical matters, [but] software appears to be a potential pacing item.”
Program delays could ripple throughout the U.S. military according to a new Government Accountability Office report. Researchers contend that currently projected F-35 production will allow the force of 2,000 fighters mandated by the Quadrennial Defense Review to fall to roughly 1,800 over the next 18 years.
Schwartz disputes the analysis, arguing that there are options and workaround such as structural and avionics upgrades to extend the operational life of Block 40/50 F-16s and thereby ensure that the U.S. can execute the national military strategy.
“A-model F-35 performance has indicated it is the best of the lot,” Schwartz declares. “[But,] if the aircraft aren’t ready to be put on the ramp, we’ll work alternatives. There is a related fighter force structure strategy that will accompany the F-35 production information in the Fiscal 2012 budget plan.”
USAF’s third and perhaps thorniest conundrum is the crisis on the Korean Peninsula: South Korean forces, but not those of the U.S., are on higher alert.
“Clearly we have substantial USAF assets in a number of locations both on the Korean peninsula as well as Kadena [AB on Okinawa], mainland Japan, Guam and farther east,” Schwartz says. “Those assets are ready . . . to be used if required. The North Koreans have undertaken over time a number of provocations. Combined Forces Command in Korea is monitoring the situation carefully and can be augmented as required. It’s significant that the [South Korean air force] is in the lead as we speak, with as many as eight F-15s flying combat air patrol. The U.S. is on a normal alert posture. That’s not necessarily true for [the South Koreans].”
British regional carrier FlyBe has announced plans for an initial public offering.
The airline, which during the summer committed to a major fleet expansion with Embraer, says it is looking to raise about £60 million through the share offering. The airline wants to pull off the IPO next month, although the precise timing could change pending market conditions.
The carrier says the money is intended not just to finance fleet plans, but also other expansion, potentially through acquisition. CEO Jim French recently told Aviation Week he planned to buy a continental carrier soon.
“We’re looking at a range of acquisition opportunities in Continental Europe, some of which we’d like to conclude by the end of this financial year [March 31],” French notes. “We’re looking to create bridgeheads to help us to develop our growth strategy in Continental Europe.”
Rosedale Aviation holds 70% of FlyBe, British Airways 15% and French controls 7%. BA has signalled it will retain its 15% holding by acquiring the required number of shares in the IPO process.
FlyBe took over the British Airways Connect business three years ago and now operates a two-type fleet based around the Bombardier Q400 and Embraer E-Jet after an extensive aircraft replacement program. Any future acquisition would undergo a similar fleet-transition. “We have no desire to be anything other than a regional airline,” according to French.
He believes that Europe’s future regional airline development will be driven by restructuring among the three principle airline groups Air France-KLM, British Airways/Iberia and Lufthansa.
The Air Transport Association has hired the former chief liaison to Congress for both Bush administrations to become its new president and CEO as of Jan. 1.
Nicholas Calio currently leads Global Government Affairs for Citigroup, both in the U.S. and in more than 100 countries in which the company does business, and has been in that lobbyist position since early 2003. But before joining Citigroup he was assistant to the president of legislative affairs for two years for President George W. Bush—the same position he held for his father, President George H.W. Bush.
“I think what I bring to the job is the ability to work with all sorts of different people and different personalities,” having done so with Congress and the Cabinet, Calio says. He notes that he works with Democratic majorities in Congress during the first Bush presidency and has “reached out to people on both sides of the aisle.”
That presidential experience also meant learning to deal with crises, think on your feet and think about how what you say affects different constituencies, he added.
Having experience in both the public and private sectors also helped hone his skills in identifying issues and identifying policy trends, he says, and his experience with Citigroup has helped him learn more not just about politics in other countries but also their cultures.
One thing Calio does not have is an in-depth knowledge of the aviation industry, other than all of the traveling he has done on airlines. In that respect, he is similar to the person he is replacing: James May, who came to ATA from the National Association of Broadcasters, where he served as executive vice president.
May says he is advising Calio to “learn to drink from a fire hose” because there will be so much to take in. He will need to “open wide and get ready for a real learning experience,” May says.
May says he “started feeling comfortable about six months into the process” after joining ATA in February 2003.
Calio will be facing some immediate challenges, such as FAA reauthorization and NextGen funding, as well as trying to make the case for lower—or at least not higher—aviation taxes at a time when Congress is newly focused on cutting the deficit. But May says Calio comes into the job with at least one advantage that May did not get during most of his tenure: the U.S. airline business is making a profit.
France is due to sign over authority for a large portion of its airlifters to the European Air Transport Command on Nov. 30.
The EATC is a partnership of Germany, France, the Netherlands and Belgium to consolidate airlift assets to gain efficiencies. Germany signed over its airlifters and shut down its airlift planning cell in October, and the Netherlands followed on Nov. 26. Belgium, the final partner, plans to do so in January, says air force Col. Mike de Coninck, an EATC official.
EATC will oversee 168 aircraft, including 80 from Germany and 61 from France. The European command is expected to declare its initial operational capability soon after the Belgian move, de Coninck tells a military airlifter conference. EATC is still defining what needs to be done to reach full operational capability, which is expected around 2013.
De Coninck says planning for EATC expansion is beginning, but that will not happen until after full operational capability is reached. EATC also will be the tactical control organization for the planned European multinational airlift unit of Airbus Military A400M users.
Airbus is coming under pressure from a key A350XWB customer to boost the capability of its largest variant, which could be the opening for GE to return to the program and rival the incumbent Rolls-Royce Trent XWB with a more powerful engine.
Emirates, whose orders for 70 A350s include 20 for the 350-seat -1000 variant, wants Airbus to boost the payload/range to enable the aircraft to operate comfortably between Dubai and Los Angeles year-round in its specification. This route is currently served by the ultra-long-range Boeing 777-200LR.
The A350-1000’s direct rival is the 777-300ER, of which Emirates has 101 in service or on order. Ultimately the airline needs to order significantly more than 20 aircraft in the A350-1000 category but has been waiting to see what Boeing does to upgrade or replace the 777 and how Airbus evolves the -1000, which will be the last of three A350 family members to be developed.
The A350-1000’s design freeze was due to be reached in mid-2010, but this slipped as Airbus threw resources at developing the first variant, the -900. However with service entry with launch customer Qatar Airways set for late 2015, Airbus aims to complete detailed design by the end of 2011 and observers believe that Emirates could yield significant influence with the promise of a major increase in its -1000’s orders.
“We’re finding that the smallest aircraft that’s useful to us needs to be 340 seats,” Emirates Airline president Tim Clark told Bloomberg News. “We’re trying to persuade Airbus to realign the A350-1000 more toward the ER, increasing both its capacity and its range.”
Clark says that as currently defined, the A350-1000 in Emirates specification is unable to operate the Dubai-Los Angeles route direct. Speaking to Aviation Week, he says: “Dubai-Los Angeles with a payload of 45 tonnes [99,000lb] would be about right.”
As currently proposed, the A350-1000 will be powered by a 92,000lb thrust version of the Trent XWB, but Clark believes that to meet the Emirates mission requirements the aircraft will need a minimum of 100,000-105,000lb thrust.
Industry sources indicate that with the Trent XWB likely to need a new core to achieve this level of thrust, Airbus could entice GE onto the program to offer a derate of the 777-200LR/300ER’s GE90-115B engine, which has a nominal thrust rating of 110,000-115,000lb.
GE was the sole supplier on the original A350, but dropped out when Airbus re-launched the aircraft in 2006 as an all-new design and Rolls joined the program.
Although Airbus currently holds orders for almost 600 Trent-powered A350s, only 75 of these are for the -1000 version, and at an investor forum in November chief operating officer Fabrice Bregier indicated that GE could supply an engine for the largest variant: “If GE wanted to be back on board we would be very pleased,” he said. “If they do something interesting for the -1000 later then we can always have a look at it.”
GE, which is still working the business case, says it “continues to discuss the A350-1000 with Airbus as the aircraft’s specifications evolve.”
Over 85 % of the A350-1000’s order book is held by Middle East carriers including Emirates (20), Etihad Airways (25) and Qatar Airways (20). The other customer is South Korean network carrier Asiana which has 10 on order.
Monday, November 29, 2010
Airline industry groups are reporting further strong gains in demand on international routes, with continuing growth dispelling fears that the recovery has run out of steam.
Both the International Air Transport Association and the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines believe that demand is returning to a steady growth curve. The two groups reported another month of solid passenger and freight traffic increases in October, with load factors also rising.
IATA says passenger traffic on international routes rose 10.1% year-on-year in October, which is slightly less than the 10.7% increase recorded in September but higher than the August increase. Capacity was up 8.2% in October.
Slowing growth in August prompted IATA concerns of a growth slowdown in the fall. Market conditions appear to have brightened since then, however. “The picture is anything but clear, but for the time being, the recovery seems to be strengthening,” says IATA Director General Giovanni Bisignani. “As we approach the end of 2010, growth is returning to a more normal pattern.”
On the freight side, traffic rose 14.4% in October on an 11.1% capacity gain. The October traffic growth was about one percentage point less than the increase in September. However, demand was up month-to-month when adjusted for seasonal fluctuations, IATA says. This ended a trend of month-to-month declines since May. “Freight appears to be at a turning point,” Bisignani says. However, “it remains to be seen if this is a stabilization in freight volumes or the start of an upward trend.”
North American and Middle Eastern airlines saw the strongest passenger growth on international routes. North American carriers reported a 12.4% traffic gain on a capacity increase of 11.9%. For Middle Eastern airlines, traffic rose 18% on a 13.7% capacity gain.
European carriers saw a 9.6% traffic gain and an 8.3% capacity hike. Those based in the Asia-Pacific region reported a 7.3% demand rise on a 5.3% capacity increase.
Bisignani says demand improvements “are being met by a cautious approach to capacity expansion.” Over the first 10 months of the year, passenger traffic was up by 8.5%, with capacity rising 4%. Cargo traffic increased 24% on a 9.2% capacity hike. “Forward schedules show a continuation of this trend,” says Bisignani, with passenger capacity expected to rise by 7.5% for the six months from the end of October.
Meanwhile, the AAPA says October results from 23 Asia-Pacific carriers “confirm the trend of continuing strong demand” in both traffic and cargo. Passenger traffic on international routes was up 8.2% year-on-year in October, with capacity rising 5.4%. Cargo traffic increased 16.6% on a 14.8% capacity hike.
The “return of premium class passengers … is particularly welcome,” AAPA Director General Andrew Herdman notes. “The improving mix of business, coupled with disciplined capacity management, has seen Asian airlines leading the industry in returning to profitability.”
For the first 10 months of the year, the 23 carriers have seen international passenger numbers rise 14.2%, with freight traffic up 28.5%. The overall outlook for the region for next year is “very positive,” Herdman says, although the double-digit increases seen in 2010 are expected to “gently ease back towards longer-term trends.”
Sunday, November 28, 2010
The U.K. defense ministry has released these pictures from the last flights from the aircraft carrier, which took place early today around 40 mi. off the coast of Newcastle:
In a statement, Capt. Jerry Kyd, commanding officer of HMS Ark Royalsays that “as the last Harriers lift off the deck of HMS Ark Royal for the final time it is with a real sense of pride that we remember the fantastic contribution they, and the carriers, have made to U.K. defense around the world.” And, he adds, “we can now look forward to an exciting new chapter of naval aviation as we continue the training for and procurement of the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.”
The Harriers returned to RAF Cottesmore.
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|Printed headline: Maintaining Position|
Freighter aircraft buffeted by economic downturn
|Printed headline: Turbulence in the Cargo Arena|