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Boeing 'headed off at the pass'?

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posted on Jun, 19 2006 @ 09:04 AM
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Airbus has revealed a new variant of the A320, referred to at the moment simply as the 'A320 Enhanced', that is targeted for service entry in 2008. The plan is for the new version to use improved engines, an enlarged and reshaped winglet (already being flight tested) use of more weight saving materials and an 'aerodynamic tidy up' to bring about a 5% reduction in fuel burn over the current model.

At first sight this looks like a re-run of the ill-judged original plan for the A350 in the face of an all new competitor from Boeing, but even Airbus isn't that stupid


This move is all about eroding the margins for Boeing and buying Airbus more time, as Airbus COO John Leahy points out, Airbus believes that an all new single aisle aircraft cannot be viable in the marketplace unless it produces at least a 10% improvement in fuel burn, and a really big improvement in airliner technology for the single aisle sector will not become available until the middle of the next decade. Therefore if the A320 can be improved by 5% immediately it moves the goalposts and pushes back any likely launch date for an all new rival. Leahy told Flight magazine "who's going to roll over a fleet to a new generation aircraft for 5% better than the A320 offers? Especially when a 10% further improvement could be coming in the second half of the next decade based on new engine technology".

This seems to be clearly borne of the need to revamp the A350 and is planned to relieve the pressure mounting on the design department for new models.

Will this move work? If not, why not?




posted on Jun, 19 2006 @ 09:10 AM
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That's a good question. I don't know if the airlines will accept a 5% increase. As he said, why accept 5% when there's better coming in the not distant future? They'll want to keep flying what they have, while they wait for the next jump to get here.



posted on Jun, 19 2006 @ 10:18 AM
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I hope they are not serious because this will be the A340 and A350 all over again...
A marginal improvement that might only be useful for current A320 customers. But that will totally fail when the new Models appear.

Boeing has stated that their Y1 project (737 replacement) can only occur when new engines are developed, not before. Airbus knows that to. However it seems they are wasting resources to a project that they don't really need when you have two enormous projects and that can very well sink the company if they are not resolved.



posted on Jun, 19 2006 @ 10:41 AM
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Hmmm,

I'd like to know more details:

1.) Is this going to be things that can be retrofitted onto the existing airframes as part of scheduled maintenance?

2.) Or does it entail purchasing a new airframe?



Either way, there is sound basis for it,

option 1 will mean obvious upgrade potential for all existing A320 operators, thus starving Boeing of existing operators on the lookout for a vastly improved machine.

option 2 will mean no retraining of pilots for the type, which is a not inconsiderate cost, it may also mean commonality among many parts, again, reducing maintenance costs, and more crucially, downtime.


If airlines can afford (and have a fleet that are approaching the age for) replacement, they may go ahead and buy a whole new fleet. But if they are operating A320s, and don't want to replace their existing machines wholesale, they may just replace on a one-by-one basis those that are approaching the end of their useful life.



posted on Jun, 19 2006 @ 10:43 AM
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Oh, and if airlines do choose to buy the A320... B [I suppose we'll call it], then it ties them down for a little longer before they will be looking a replacement, giving airbus time to sort their existing projects.



posted on Jun, 19 2006 @ 11:28 AM
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To answer you questions Kilcoo the report says that it is yes to both options, these mods will be standard across the A320 range on new build aircraft to be delivered from 2008 onwards and will also be available as retrofit kits to existing customers, many of whose aircraft are still very young of course.



posted on Jun, 19 2006 @ 11:48 AM
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If they really make the new A320 version only 5% more fuel efficient I think airliners may wait several years for those new 10% fuel-saving engines.

Perhaps you should focus too much on fuel efficiency alone, maybe they have made other improvements. You mentioned new materials will be used, perhaps those save a lot of maintenance? Perhaps the 5% fuel-saving engines already reduce maintenance costs significantly?

Also, the new 10% fuel-saving "could be coming in the second half of the next decade." Most airlines know better than to wait for technology to come out 'somethere in the next decade'. What if the 10% fuel-saving engines get delayed?



posted on Jun, 19 2006 @ 12:03 PM
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I think that is the point of it zion,the 5% improvement for the A320 is a minimum change retrofit upgrade and much more cost effective investing in an all new fleet, especially for those airlines already flying A320's if Boeing can only offer a 5% improvement over the A320E with its proposed all new design then it wont be worth the investment by them or the airlines and so Airbus gets more time to sort its mess out.

If however Airbus does nothing to the A320 then the 'new Boeing' WILL offer the 10% improvement that makes it viable and Airbus is in a race it doesn't yet want. I think this will be interesting because even with the mods this nominal 'new Boeing' will I presume still be 10% better than the 737 and so may be deemed worth pursuing anyway? In which case its design would be frozen and metal (or plastic) cut at the very least when Airbus' expected '10%' improvement comes along.

The current mod is not based purely on engine efficiency, that is what the engine builders have promised around 2015.

So, does Boeing wait, as Airbus clearly wants, or do they go ahead and risk having to change the plane only a couple of years into its life?

Its a minor mod by Airbus but it could cause big trouble.

A final thought, could Boeing pull the same trick with the 737 or is it at its limit, development wise? It is after all on its 2nd major revamp already.



posted on Jun, 19 2006 @ 12:37 PM
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Originally posted by waynos
I think that is the point of it zion,the 5% improvement for the A320 is a minimum change retrofit upgrade and much more cost effective investing in an all new fleet...

Aha I get it now.

If Boeing doesn't come up with something new, or with an upgrade plan of the 737, Airbus will have some good years ahead of them.

I googled a bit and found out about the Boeing Y1/ Boeing 737RS (Replacement Study): en.wikipedia.org...

Also read this discussion: www.ifdg.net...

They're both hard at work on new versions of their A320 and 737. If Airbus builds a new 5% saving version without the new enigne, they might win this 'war', many airlines are in need of fuel saving aircraft:


Flight

According to industrial sources, Boeing has accelerated the pace of the 737RS study effort and even plans to make its initial pass on prospective supplier teams by mid-2006. The RS/Y1 concept is based around an all-composite 787-like structure, fly-by-wire, more-electric system architecture, EVS-integrated avionics flightdeck, and a cabin cross-section “wider than A320”. Aerodynamic improvements include a longer span wing, single-slotted flaps, raked and blended-winglet wingtip options, blended fin root and 787-like Section 41 (nose and flightdeck).

Initial results from both NSR and RS/Y1 studies have, apparently, been less than stellar. Acting completely independently, the two studies have come up with similar results for their individual concepts, which fall far short of the ideal targets set for the 2012 timeframe airliner.

Airbus NSR Phase 1 results, for example, are believed to have indicated that if all the advanced technology (available and considered mature and sufficiently low-risk for entry into service in 2012) was poured into the aircraft, the best specific fuel consumption reduction would be 4%, the best operating cost reduction 3% and the best emissions reduction would be 5%. The numbers are also said to be within 0.5-1% for all parameters for the initial phases of Boeing’s RS/Y1.

These results therefore mean the aggregate benefit of all the combined results indicates a maximum efficiency improvement of only around 9-10% over the current A320/737 models. Given the estimated $7 billion development pricetag (airframe, systems and engine technology) involved in the NSR, insiders say Airbus in particular is asking if the venture is “too much, too soon”.

While this would, on the face of it, dent the hopes of anyone hoping to see a new generation in the near term, mid-term market pressure could still force the issue. There are some operators such as Southwest Airlines that have openly called for the start of work on a new aircraft to counter the rising cost of fuel, even if the improvement is “only” around 10% better than today’s aircraft.



posted on Jun, 19 2006 @ 12:57 PM
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Great info there zion, thanks. Putting the Boeing view is just what this thread needs as I don't want it to be all one sided



posted on Jun, 20 2006 @ 04:47 PM
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Here's an illustrative diagram to accompany the first post, it appears in this weeks Flight magazine and was prepared by them, not me, but it might be useful for reference.




posted on Jun, 20 2006 @ 04:54 PM
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It might help sell new aircraft, but I don't think that it is going to go over so well with modifying existing aircraft. Take the 5% fuel savings and weigh it against the costs of conversion plus the increased flying time on the airframes while they are being rotated out for conversion. I don't think it will make financial sense.



posted on Jun, 20 2006 @ 05:02 PM
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Originally posted by JIMC5499
It might help sell new aircraft, but I don't think that it is going to go over so well with modifying existing aircraft. Take the 5% fuel savings and weigh it against the costs of conversion plus the increased flying time on the airframes while they are being rotated out for conversion. I don't think it will make financial sense.


But think of the expense and aggravation of buying and introducing a whole new fleet for just another 5%, thats what won't make financial sense, Airbus hopes.

Most A320 operators probably wont bother, as you say, but for those contemplating buying the Y3 for a 10% improvement over the current fleet Airbus will be waiting in the wings whispering "we'll give you 50% of the cost savings for only 5% of the price and in a quarter of the time. Have you seen our 'A390' projections by the way?"

[edit on 20-6-2006 by waynos]



posted on Jun, 20 2006 @ 05:12 PM
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Originally posted by waynos
But think of the expense and aggravation of buying and introducing a whole new fleet for just another 5%, thats what won't make financial sense, Airbus hopes.

Most A320 operators probably wont bother, as you say, but for those contemplating buying the Y3 for a 10% improvement over the current fleet Airbus will be waiting in the wings whispering "we'll give you 50% of the cost savings for only 5% of the price and in a quarter of the time. Have you seen our 'A390' projections by the way?"

[edit on 20-6-2006 by waynos]


Has anyone looked at how long it will take to get these airframe and engine modifications certified by government agencies like the FAA? Figure on about two years if past history is any indication. I wouldn't put it past the US Congress to try to delay the certification to buy Boeing some time. There is alot more here than just bolting on some modified engines and a few airframe changes. I know of two cases where it took six months just to get certification to add an additional sink to the galley design of a 747. Airbus worked itself into a hole and is grasping at straws trying to get out.



posted on Jun, 20 2006 @ 06:14 PM
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Another question is how hard Airbus is going to lean on suppliers for engineering support and how much it will cost to impliment the changes.
A lot of promises to companies like Smith were made on the A380 project, with the idea that there would be a lot of planes sold; it doesn't appear that will be the case.
Worst case, I could see 3 Billion Euro being spent by the time this gets done, and with all the trouble management seems to be having with things like the Clearstream scandel, losing money might be a problem for Airbus for once, just like real companies.



posted on Jun, 20 2006 @ 11:29 PM
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It's a fact that for a real next gen. with improvement in the realm of the 787, you need new engines, period. I doubt Airbus can pull more than 3% of the redesigned A320 (and since they tend to exaggerate their numbers...)

Plus like I said before, they don't need it. Airlines are happy with the plane as it is right now...
Why invest money in it? they are beating the 737 by a wide margin. On the other hand, you need to work on the rest of the market were you are loosing...

The 787 and 777 outsell the A330-A340-A350

And last but not least A380 is causing tremors not because of the size but because all the delays are breaking Airbus apart...
For example today the Prime Minister of France needed bodyguards to leave the Senate because of all the insults and threats provoked by the Whale Jet debacle...



posted on Jun, 21 2006 @ 03:08 AM
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Originally posted by JIMC5499
It might help sell new aircraft, but I don't think that it is going to go over so well with modifying existing aircraft. Take the 5% fuel savings and weigh it against the costs of conversion plus the increased flying time on the airframes while they are being rotated out for conversion. I don't think it will make financial sense.


I was thinking more do the conversion when the plane is in for its major overhauls.



posted on Jun, 21 2006 @ 04:42 AM
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Plus like I said before, they don't need it. Airlines are happy with the plane as it is right now...Why invest money in it? they are beating the 737 by a wide margin.


Which is exactly Boeing would want, giving them a free run for the Y3. Airbus knows it has been spanked with the 787, if they do nothing with the A320 and just sit back and wait for Boeing to launch the Y3 there is a very good chance of them getting spanked again. You seem to be mistaking this as being Airbus plan for a next gen single aisel contender. It isn't, this is about trying to ensure the 'next gen single aisle' battle doesn't start for a few more years when Airbus would hope to be better prepared.

The 737 is now a 40 year old type whose fuselage is the same size as the 50+ year old 707. It was massively revamped in the early 80's with the introduction of the CFM-56 engine onto the -300 model and again in the 90's with the new technology wings etc. It has served Boeing extremely well but Boeing (as it knows) could really do with launching an all new replacement.

In contrast there has not yet been an 'A320NG', the A320 was a brand new contender from the ground up when it appeared for the first time in the late 1980's. It is still a teenager and it benefitted from having all the latest technology designed in from the start, including a more spacious fuselage which passengers like, therefore the improvements that Boeing has wrung out of the 737 like a tightly squeezed sponge are, in theory, yet to be applied to the A320 (relatively speaking). In that context this is a perfectly sound plan.

The unkown factor in all this is just how good can Boeing make the Y3? If they can surpass the improvements of the A320 *by a wide enough margin* (there can be no doubt that a Y3 would be more efficient overall) then Airbus' scheme may backfire. If they can't, it wont.



posted on Jun, 25 2006 @ 06:45 PM
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Late to the party but lets see if I can stir the po..... errr add some thoughts to it


I think Airbus is making a critical mistake here if Boeing brings its 737 replacement to market first. Why?

1) For all the glamour of the wide bodies and fight that is going on between the two airframe makers, narrow body a/c is thier bread and butter. This is where they have good margins and make thier money. Sure they make money on the big ones too, but never at the volumes you see with the short hual planes. Ignoring this segment is a mistake.

2) The the inital A350 was a warmed over A330 and the market looked at it said "Nah" and Airbus is back to the drawing boards with an all new a/c that is going to try to take on the 787 and the 777-200LR/300 etc. While a 5% boost in efficency is nothing to sneeze at when oil is at $70 a barrel, is it going to make enuf airlines say no to a 787 like 737? Remeber that the heavyweigts in the short hual arena like Southwest would NOT have shown a profit even with its winglet equipped modern fleet if it had not hedged a huge percentage of its fuel costs.

3) Last weeks AWST had a blurb about the notational A320 changes. One other point is that it made was that winglets which when fitted to a 737 give up to a 6% improvement on fuel burn may require enuf added weight in wing modifications that the weight penalty might negate any gains. Modification are required to retrofit 737NG, but I suspect that the wing box and wing structure itself which as Waynos noted based on 50's era designs was overbuilt in the first place so little weight penalty is incured. The A320 however is a modern design (at least compared to the 737) benifiting from a whole host of improvements and is lighter with less margin for adding weight. So if you remove the winglets from the equation will they make more than a 5% imprevement?

4) Airlines are also looking at such items as turn around time and speed of boarding / deplaning passangers. Both the A320 and the 737's cannot be improved upon in any signifigant measure as thier relative sizes are pretty much fixed in place. A new design would offer sig. savings in turn around time. An aircraft parked at the gate is making no money. Turn around time is crutial for short hual carriers. This would also segway into baggage handaling etc.

5) Engines: GE is already working on the next generation engine for short hual aircraft. They have said it will NOT be a cut down version of the GenX engine slated for the 787 and perhaps the new A350. I suspect Boeing will go the same rout it has with the 787 and NOT use bleed air from the engines. It makes sence that a all new engine would be required as long hual operations would be optimized for efficient long range cruise, whearas a short hual has a variety of scenarios it faces.

6) Stretched thin: A recent AWST article pointed out that Airbus is already stretched thin from an engineering standpoint. With problems sorting out the A380 and the A350 can it really start a whole new line? Serious questions are already being asked by airlines about the new A350's ability to go after both the 787 and 777 market with one aircraft. So, they are really stalling for time till they can focus more effort on the next narrow body generation.

7) Boeing can easly strike back with plans for its 73X and if they go the mini 787 route with composites, no bleed air etc. and 10-20% more efficient than existing NG 737's it may be a huge deal breaker. Airlines in good shape could decide to wait it out for a bit till this a/c came along.

8) Lastly, Airbus is now part of EADS and with that comes oversight by a whole different board who cares little about long term implications or even has an understanding of the comerical side of the aviation business. Couple with the recent allegations that Foregard sold shares prior to the A380 delay announcement, they may have no friends higerup the corporate ladder thus impacting any moves they make.


[edit on 6/25/06 by FredT]



posted on Jun, 26 2006 @ 05:08 AM
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At the risk of sounding like I am on a loop I'd like to try and tackle those points Fred as they are well made, but appear not to take into account some of what has been written.

1. Agreed absolutely, no argument there from me for a change.

2 Yes, the A350 point is correct but this is not meant as competition for the '7Y7' (which I use only for ease of reference). The A320 mods, if they deliver as promised, should give an overall 5% improvement in economy, the sole aim of this is to narrow the edge offered by the 7Y7 to the point where it is not worth the effort of investing in an all new fleet of an all new type, as I said earlier, Airbus hopes that half the improvement but in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost and with a familiar and established type will be good enough to act as a delaying tactic. As the A320 and 737 currently stand a 7Y7 launch is well worth it and Airbus is in no position to compete as it is so busy with other models so they are seeking to delay the start of the race by forcing Boeing to make even more improvements before they can launch, by which time Airbus would hope to be ready with its own 'A390' to take it on.

With the A320E apprearing the 7Y7's 10% improvement is suddenly only 5%, that is the key.

The only practical short term alternative to modifying the A320 is to give the 7Y7 a free run and that is no alternative at all.

Remember that the A320E is not envisaged as entering service at the same time as the 7Y7, it is to be the standard A320 model from 2008 and so would be established in service before the 7Y7 appeared, Boeing therefore needs to beat the A320E by 10% to achieve launch conditions and this is what Airbus believes it cannot do in the timescale currently planned.

3, another point to rememebr here is that the A320 wing was designed to feature winglets from the start and is already stressed for them, the 737 wing was not and the extra weight it encounters is from the beefing up of the outer wing structure which is not necessary with the Airbus. The new winglets were already flying on an A320 testbed long before this was announced so Airbus has made this announcement in the full knowledge of what these winglets offer, not a calculated prediction.



They say the winglets give 3% net improvement, the aerodynamic clean up another 1% and 'another 1% from other tweaking here and there' (???).

4 Agreed, this is an improvement that the next gen will bring but if the airlines can't get a 10% improvement in efficiency they wont go for it.

5 These engines are expected to appear for service around 2014-16 and this is when Airbus thinks it should be putting its new type into the market, the A320E is supposed to bridge the gap until then and, it hoppes, force Boeing to do the same thing.

6 That is exactly what the A320E is all about, they don't want a single aisle fight with Boeing until they are ready, it is no more than a delaying tactic.

7 The part about Airbus plan that niggles me a bit is that there are vast numbers of 737's out there and so, even if the A320E means Airbus existing customers are 'shielded' from the 7Y7, its advantage over the existing 737 should be good enough to mean that Boeing will go ahead anyway. The best that Airbus can hope for in this scenario is that the 'A390' will still have a customer base waiting for it, operating the A320E, when they might otherwise have switched to the new Boeing (the A320E not being worth replacing with it rememeber). Another hope will be that some 737 operators will opt for A320E's in 2008/9 and A390's in 2015 rather than 7Y7's in 2012 that are needing a mod to keep up with the A390 just three years later if Airbus predictions are correct. The intervening 6 years operating A320E's giving a net improvement overall instead of sticking with 737's or A320's for several more years.

8 Pretty close, if not exactly like that. Airbus is self governing, until it all goes wrong (like now) It is hard to say what impact any EADS decisions will have either way. Forgeards head is on the block though. Only time will tell on that one.







 
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