Farnborough Show Report


The value of business announced at July’s Farnborough International Airshow was US$47 billion, according to ADS, the UK aerospace, defence, and security trade organisation whose eponymous subsidiary company organises the biennial event. That total compares with US$88 billion worth of orders two years ago and US$46 billion in 2006.

The show organiser says the “sold out” event included some 1,455 exhibiting companies, compared with 1,393 at the 2008 show. Some 70 delegations from 44 countries attended, with “over 120,000” industry visitors claimed for the five trade days – down about 8 percent from two years ago.

More than 150 aircraft appeared at the show, while nearly 50 companies held 800 meetings with over 150 suppliers during a two-day business-to-business programme. ADS chairman Ian Godden says the figures demonstrate a “mood of strong optimism” – encouraging, given the current global economic climate.

“The quality of the business at the show is a testament to the endurance of [the UK’s aerospace, defence, and security] sectors, their positive contribution to UK and world trade, as well as the significance of the show,” Godden says.

However, not all airliner orders announced at the show represented new business. Rather, many headlines identified customers that previously had committed to acquisitions up to two years previously.

Many of the 200-plus Boeing orders – one involving aircraft contracted in 2008 – represented customers “going public”, but appeared to have been retained for announcement at the 2010 show. European rival Airbus also used the show as a platform to announce orders, purchase rights, memoranda of understanding or letters of intent covering 255 machines.

Franco-Italian turboprop airliner manufacturer ATR reported orders placed in the first half of the year, but Canada’s Bombardier did not secure a much-anticipated Qatar Airways order for its new CSeries jetliner. Bombardier, Embraer, Irkut, Mitsubishi, and Sukhoi all announced new business.

On the engine front, Pratt & Whitney Canada announced plans for a new turboprop powerplant, while other manufacturers confirmed their lack of agreement about re-engining proposals for single-aisle airliners. European manufacturer AgustaWestland revealed plans for a number of new helicopter designs.

Airbus announces 130 firm orders

Farnborough was “a good show for Airbus and for the [aerospace] industry”, according to Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders, speaking on the final trade day as the manufacturer unveiled a “non-binding memorandum of understanding” covering a “purchase agreement” with US carrier Virgin America for 40 A320-series aircraft.
Firm orders for 130 aircraft announced at the show took Airbus’s business for the year to date to 261 units.

“The show confirms the strength of the recovery we have seen in passenger- and freight-traffic growth in the past couple of months,” said Enders, who expects Airbus to deliver at least 400 aircraft this year. Nevertheless, he added, “‘cautious optimism’ is the password of the show”.

Displaying more optimism, John Leahy, Airbus’s Chief Operating Officer for Customers, said “the recession is definitely over [and] airlines are flying full again”. The manufacturer’s top salesman added that cargo is recovering strongly, while passenger traffic – increasing “in all major markets” – is recovering in line with global growth trends in real gross domestic product. Even in the worst case, Leahy sees full-year growth in passenger traffic of just over 2 percent.

Unlike Boeing – which flew its 787 Dreamliner home after two trade days – Airbus kept its A330-200F cargo aircraft on display throughout the week, following its handover to launch customer Etihad Airways. The Abu Dhabi-based carrier will introduce the aircraft into service in September on routes to China and Africa.

Fear of jeopardising the new freighter’s market prospects could dilute interest in any passenger-to-freighter conversion planned by Airbus. The manufacturer has considered such an exercise with the larger A330-300, while arguing that there are insufficient numbers of available -200 series aircraft to support a conversion line at its Dresden plant in Germany.

Gulf carrier Qatar Airways is hinting that it may choose converted Boeing 767s or 777-200s in the absence of a programme under which its 16 A330-200s could be converted into freighters once the first Boeing 787s arrive in a year’s time.

Airbus appears to have relaxed its design schedule for the proposed A350-1000 to concentrate resources on the primary -900 variant. While the former was due to achieve “design freeze” by about the time of the show (ahead of detail definition establishment at the end of 2011), A350 programme head Didier Evrard now characterises the process as one of repetitive “intermediate” reviews.

In turn, with A350-900 manufacture now getting started and with final assembly expected to begin in about 12 months’ time, this model is absorbing “the bulk of [programme] resources”. Airbus has completed design of the A350’s design-tolerance and electric-structural network, two exercises that had pushed the schedule back about three months to August.
Boeing grabs spotlight with 787 display debut

The Farnborough show caught world’s attention as Boeing 787 ZA003 made its international debut, staying for less than 60 hours.

The flight was used to generate flight-test data and garner valuable publicity that offset news of a possible seventh delivery delay (into 2011) that Boeing admitted days earlier. At the show, Boeing declined to offer a likely certification date for the troubled project.

Using the call sign ‘BOE787’, the 8-hour, 37-minute flight to Farnborough was crewed by Boeing’s assistant chief pilot Capt Mike Bryan, technical test pilot Capt Ted Grady and production test pilot Capt John Frischkorn. Programme chief test pilot Capt Mike Carriker says the flight tested navigation, radio, satellite, and datalink systems as the 787 entered new areas of polar and North Atlantic airspace.

Carriker confirms that the 787’s lower, 6,000ft cabin altitude arises more by default than design. Adopting a standard 8,000ft cabin altitude would not result in a significantly thinner (and therefore lighter) structure, since the carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) composite fuselage is subject to a minimum thickness for strength reasons.

He says the resultant, greater passenger comfort becomes increasingly apparent on very long flights and especially so during sectors of 12 hours or more.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes Chief Executive Officer Jim Albaugh confirms that deliveries might slip once again by “a matter of weeks” into early 2011, making the programme at least 32 months late. He adds that Boeing “probably” contracted too much work to partners and then mismanaged that outside input.

“We lost control and, in future, I believe we will outsource less,” says Albaugh. In addition to large third-party involvement, the manufacturer has adopted new technologies and a much greater proportion of CFRP in the primary structure than ever before. The 787 was originally scheduled for delivery in May 2008.

Amid the latest scheduling uncertainty, Vice-President and 787 Chief Project Engineer Mike Sinnett declined to be drawn on Boeing’s latest estimates of when the design would receive formal airworthiness approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

If formally confirmed, a seventh delay would disrupt plans to hand over the first 787 to All Nippon Airways (ANA) before January.

Following the Farnborough show, there were reports of further “issues” being discovered that threatened to cast doubt even on Albaugh’s delay of “a matter of weeks”. Further hold-ups might arise following August’s Rolls-Royce Trent test-engine failure.

Sinnett says Boeing has been completing performance testing and FAA demonstration: “I can’t say how much we’ve completed [but] the hard bit, the bulk of the risk, is behind us”. Nevertheless, he cannot confirm that type approval is still expected before 2011.

Sinnett acknowledges that a seventh delay could be aggravated by more “pop-up” issues, but claims there are “no killers” in the remaining flight-test programme.

Meanwhile, Boeing is contemplating improvements to its 777 widebody twin. According to Albaugh “a lot of time” is being spent talking to airlines on the subject. A “very open” study dubbed 777X includes a possible new engine and a composite wing, as well as an all-new design.

The executive believes there could be sufficient demand for 737 production to be increased beyond the 35 a month rate announced in June. Continued product development could see Boeing re-engine the 737 or introduce an all-new design. The company is in discussions with General Electric, Pratt & Whitney, and Rolls-Royce and expects to choose one engine before deciding whether to offer a re-engined variant.

With the US manufacturer having lost ground to Airbus, Albaugh has restructured the manufacturer’s Commercial Airplanes division as it faces increased international competition from new market entrants, especially in the 100-seat sector. His strategy includes a sharpened focus on prime functions, long-term planning, tighter management, and advisory groups that involve the recall from retirement of several former senior executives.

Boeing counts air-show ‘orders’

Boeing Commercial Airplanes appears to have reversed a long-proclaimed policy of not holding orders back for announcement at major shows. The US manufacturer, which has often accused European competitor Airbus of this practice, unveiled many contracts at Farnborough, several of which simply identified previously undisclosed customers.

Before the show, marketing Vice-President Randy Tinseth sought to demonstrate a great difference between the two companies: Airbus had made 1,261 “air show ‘announcements'” at Paris and Farnborough during 2005-09 – some 164 percent more than the 477 posted by Boeing. However, net overall Boeing orders, exceeded those of Airbus – 4,263, compared with 4,234 – but only at two the five events had it announced more ‘orders’ than its rival.

Nevertheless, Boeing has carefully worded the signing events staged at shows, often acknowledging that the papers being signed publicly are “certificates celebrating the announcements”, rather than actual contract documents.

“There are 52 weeks in a year,” says Tinseth. “Net orders at the end of the year are what count.”
Qatar Air holds off on Bombardier CSeries order

It is unclear how surprised Bombardier and Pratt & Whitney (P&W) might have been by Qatar Airways’ non-commitment to the Canadian aircraft manufacturer’s CSeries jetliner programme at Farnborough.

Qatar Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker revealed that “sensitive commercial issues” with the airliner’s P&W PW1000G geared turbofan (GTF) engine prevented his placing an order for as many as 90 aircraft.

The official, who said the issue had nothing to do with Bombardier, is understood to be unhappy with the engine’s maintenance costs. Al Baker is hopeful the matter can be resolved “soon”, although any extended delay could see either or both of Airbus and Boeing offering re-engined versions of their respective A320 or 737 single-aisle jetliner families – an option not altogether ruled out by the airline boss.

“If [either of them] bring an aircraft superior to the CSeries in seat-mile, maintenance, and fuel [costs], we’d think about it.” he said.

For its part, P&W believes a thorough analysis of all engine costs, including maintenance and operations, will come out in its favour. “We’re talking to [the carrier] and Bombardier and work[ing] to see if we can bring the order home.”

Bombardier claims the CSeries has won 50 percent of net orders in the 100- to 149-passenger market over the past two years. Following transition from the project’s joint-definition phase to its detailed-design phase (DDP), the manufacturer is releasing drawings to fabrication and production departments.

Ultimate-load testing of the composite demonstrator wing has been successfully replicated, with wing production scheduled to begin early next year in Bombardier’s new factory in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The aluminium-lithium fuselage test barrel has completed 60,000 fatigue cycles. Development wind-tunnel (WT) tests also are complete and final production WT tests will be conducted in 2011.

Since announcing the programme at Farnborough two years ago, Bombardier has taken orders from Lufthansa, Lease Corporation International, and Republic Airways for 33 CS100s and 57 larger CS300s, alongside options for 90 additional aircraft.

AgustaWestland displays four new helicopters

Helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland showed no fewer than four new rotorcraft, all of which had made their first flights in the preceding year: the AW169, intended for commercial, parapublic and government use, the civil Grand New, and the military AW159 Lynx Wildcat and AW149 models.

The Grand New represents the first in-service use of synthetic vision in a light-twin helicopter, according to AgustaWestland. Already certificated in Europe and with US approval to follow “soon”, the helicopter has a four-axis autopilot and new avionics. Some 50 examples are said to have been ordered.

The twin-engine, 4,500kg AW169 fits in between the Grand New and AW139 models and is offered with an eight- to ten-seat cabin, convertible to several roles. The heavy-duty AW169 was developed from the XX9 project, discussed by the manufacturer for the past two or more years.

Detailed specifications of the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW210-powered machine have yet to be confirmed and should be finalised before next March’s US Heli-Expo show. AgustaWestland aims to have European and US certification in time for service-entry in 2014 or 2015. Other engines may also be offered.

P&W to run new turboprop in 2011

Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) expects to run the core demonstrator of a new turboprop regional-aircraft engine in the second half of next year.

Launched at Farnborough as a replacement for the 1,800shp to 5,000shp PW100, the powerplant will be “at least” 10 percent more fuel-efficient.

Demand for a “double-digit” fuel-burn improvement can be met using technology in use in the company’s latest turbofans, including the PW1000G geared turbofan, says P&WC President John Saabas. The manufacturer has completed advanced studies but has not set a date for service entry.

“There will always be a demand for [such engines] in the high-utilisation class working 400- to 500-nautical-mile sectors,” according to Saabas, who sees potential applications on future Bombardier Dash 8 and ATR 42/72 variants, as well as aircraft being developed for emerging markets, especially in Asia.

P&WC has not given details of the features of the new engine, which is expected to be linked to new propeller technology being developed by fellow United Technologies subsidiary Hamilton Sundstrand.

The PW100 entered service more than 25 years ago. Over 6,000 have been built, and the family has accumulated more than 100 million flying hours.

Superjet 100 poised for October certification

Superjet International, the Sukhoi/Alenia joint venture, expects Russian certification of its Superjet 100 regional jet in October – one month later than its previous target.

The company says it remains confident of delivering the first aircraft to Aeroflot and Armavia later this year. New agreements, potentially covering more than 100 aircraft, were also announced at Farnborough.

Having suffered several previous delays, the Superjet’s SaM146 engine design received European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification in June, with Russian approval following later in mid-August. Formal EASA airworthiness approval for the aircraft is expected in mid-2011.

The four flight-test Superjet 100s, one of which appeared at the show, have logged over 1,750 hours in the air.

Embraer wins US$5 bln Flybe deal

Embraer stole the regional-airliner headlines with a huge contract from Britain’s Flybe for up to 140 E175 jets, nominally valued at US$5 billion.

The UK carrier, which already flies 14 larger E195s, agreed at the show to order 35 aircraft, take options on a further 65, and acquire purchase rights to 40 more. The machines will have an 88-passenger, single-class configuration, with deliveries set to begin in the second half of next year.

Separately, Brazilian low-cost carrier Azul Linhas Aereas Brasileiras will take early delivery of five E195s it ordered at Farnborough. The airline disclosed that the availability of the aircraft later this year matches its requirement for additional capacity, but the previous customer for those production slots was not identified.

Meanwhile, Embraer has decided its next product development should be a larger, all-new airliner or re-engined versions of its current line of E-Jets – or perhaps both – with a decision by year’s end, says Chief Executive Officer Frederico Curado.

The manufacturer has dropped a third option – developing a new turboprop – after concluding that the market is not big enough to support another Western supplier of such aircraft to compete against ATR and Bombardier.

CFM eyes Chinese Leap X1C production

CFM International expects to establish a Chinese line for final assembly of the Leap X1C engine, following the decision by China’s Commercial Aircraft Corporation (Comac) to mount the powerplant on its 168-/190-passenger C919 airliner.

CFM Executive Vice-President Chaker Chahrour claims the decision was unrelated to CFM’s bid to power the aircraft: “It had absolutely nothing to do with it. It’s our own initiative to optimise the assembly process.”

On the eve of the Farnborough show, Comac revealed that many C919 systems will come from joint ventures with Western equipment manufacturers.

A GE Aviation Systems/China Aviation Industry (AVIC) partnership will develop the avionics core processing, display, and on-board maintenance systems. Rockwell Collins and China Electronics Technology Avionics will jointly produce communication and navigation equipment, while Eaton and Shanghai Aircraft Manufacturing will produce the C919’s fuel and hydraulic conveyance systems.

Parker Aerospace also has won valuable systems business from Comac. Parker will develop C919 primary flight-control actuation, remote electronic units, all hydraulics, and fuel-inerting systems. It has set up a joint venture with AVIC Systems to develop and support the aircraft.

The C919 will be the first airliner to fly with an integrated propulsion system (IPS) that combines engines and nacelles for higher overall efficiency. Nexcelle, a joint venture between GE Aviation’s Middle River Aircraft Systems and the Safran group’s Aircelle, is developing the IPS concept, which is expected to reduce fuel burn by 1.5 percent and weight by over 200lb per engine.

The extra efficiency is obtained by ensuring that the pylon engine mount is positioned to minimise compressor distortion and by using military-aircraft based “O-duct” thrust reversers. The IPS will include electric anti-ice equipment and a composite nacelle intake.

CAE to develop MRJ training programme

Mitsubishi Aircraft has contracted Canada’s CAE to develop and implement an MRJ regional-jet training programme for flight and cabin crew, maintenance engineers, and dispatchers.

Training for customers will begin after European, Japanese, and US certification of the aircraft.

The MRJ was launched more than two years ago, since when the first flight and delivery schedules have slipped by a year from the original 2011 and 2013 targets. In June, Mitsubishi and All Nippon Airways (ANA) signed a “definitive agreement” covering 15 aircraft (plus ten options), but the US Trans State Holdings group has not yet converted its letter of intent covering 50 MRJs (with options on a further 50) into an order.

A cabin mock-up at the show demonstrated the additional space arising from design changes that include the adoption of a deeper, circular fuselage – which permits more headroom above passenger seats and in the aisle, increased elbow space and larger overhead storage bins.

Irkut displays MS-21 mock-up

Russia’s Irkut unveiled a 66ft-long mock-up of its proposed MS-21 single-aisle jetliner at the show, including the aircraft’s cockpit, some business- and economy-class seating, a galley and lavatory.

Irkut claims the mock-up demonstrates that the MS-21 offers higher comfort than current narrowbodies, including a wider cabin, larger seats, better lighting, and greater baggage stowage. The company says aircraft’s first flight will be in 2014, with Russian certification expected by the end of 2015, ahead of international airworthiness approval and initial customer delivery in 2016.

GE sees no case for Trent XWB rival

General Electric Aviation (GE Aviation) Chief Executive Officer David Joyce says the company does not yet see “a business case to launch a competing engine” against the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB, which will power Airbus’s A350XWB twinjet.

The engine maker was to have provided a variant of its GEnx powerplant for the original A350, which was broadly based on the current A330 jetliner, before Airbus re-launched the programme as the wider and heavier A350 XWB four years ago.

GE previously wanted to power the smaller A350-800 and -900 variants, but was inhibited from addressing the larger -1000 model that competes directly against the Boeing 777-300ER on which the GE90 is exclusive engine. The A350-900 thrust requirement later grew to 83,000lb, which is beyond the reach of the GEnx.

“So I have to consider an all-new engine for all three A350[s] and I can’t make a business case for that,” says Joyce.
A new Rolls-Royce (R-R)-powered civil aircraft type, or a new variant, has entered service or will do so every year from 2000 to 2015.

Having decided in 2008 to be ready for whatever airframe manufacturers need, the engine manufacturer is preparing to offer new two- and three-shaft turbofans later in the decade and an open-rotor engine soon after 2020. The UK manufacturer believes airlines prefer new aircraft, rather than re-engined variants of current technology, and is developing powerplant families dubbed Advance 2 and 3.

The goal for the two-shaft Advance 2, designed for service entry in 2016-17, is a 15-20 percent drop in fuel consumption for new 150-seat airliners, regional-jets, and mid-size to large corporate aircraft. The 30,000-100,000lb-thrust, three-shaft Advance 3 for larger airframes is to enter service about two years later.

An open-rotor design programme will then follow in 2022-25, with the aim of offering 10 percent lower fuel burn than an advanced turbofan while operating at sound levels below those of today’s engines. The engine noise level would still not be as low as an advanced turbofan might be in 15 years’ time, however.

Testing of the 84,000-93,000lb-thrust Trent XWB for the Airbus A350XWB began, on schedule, a few weeks before the Farnborough show, with R-R reporting that testing of components on 50 rigs was half complete. The new engine has twice the compression ratio of earlier Trent variants, with fewer aerofoils and aerodynamic parts. All three currently planned variants are scheduled to enter service during 2013-15.


CFM promotes Leap-X for new narrowbodies

CFM International is “ready and waiting to offer” its new Leap-X engine to power new Airbus and Boeing single-aisle aircraft, or re-engined variants of current designs, according to Executive Vice-President Olivier Savin.

The manufacturer is discussing all possibilities with the two airframe companies. “Leap-X is a committed product, so what Boeing and Airbus do is up to them. Our program is going forward,” Savin says.

The need to fit existing structures in re-engined A320s or 737s would require a dedicated Leap-X model that would be very different from a variant mounted on an all-new aircraft. For example, the aircraft’s ground clearance would restrict the engine’s fan diameter.

CFM reports “outstanding” results in tests of the new CFM56-7BE variant that will become the standard Boeing 737 powerplant from mid-2011. A version for the Airbus A320 series is being discussed and might be agreed before next year.

Cessna delivers four aircraft to China

Cessna Aircraft announced during the show that it delivered four aircraft to China – one Citation Mustang and three 208 Caravans. Two of the Caravans were financed by the leasing division of Aviation Industry Corporation (AVIC), China’s primary aviation organization.
Cessna says it already supports 24 Citations in China, about 35 percent of the country’s total business jet fleet, excluding Hong Kong and Macau.
“We have a very long relationship with AVIC, so it is very natural to call on this facility for finance support in China,” says Tom Aniello, Cessna vice-president of marketing. “We are finding a very good market [in China] for the full range of Cessna aircraft – piston aircraft for training up to high-performance Citations.”
The Mustang – the first to be delivered in China – was handed over to Deng Bin, a repeat customer who also owns and flies a Citation CJ1+. The Caravans were delivered to Shanghai HaoHai General Aviation, Zhongshan Eagle General Aviation and Hainan Asia Pacific General Aviation.
A large proportion of the aircraft are assigned to special missions, including flight inspection for the China Flight Inspection Centre of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) and training operations for the CAAC Flying College.
Cessna has its main China office in Beijing and a manufacturing partnership with Shenyang Aircraft.


BELL HELICOPTER Textron foresees continuing weak demand for civil rotorcraft for at least another year, despite the encouragement of orders exceeding cancellations in the early part of 2010 – a reversal of last year’s trend, according to President John Garrison. A challenge for the US manufacturer has been to convert letters of intent for the Bell 429, certificated in July 2009, into firm orders. Fewer than 10 percent of the 300 aircraft covered by such agreements had become firm orders by this July and only one had been delivered.

GULFSTREAM has registered a G550 in India for the first time, after winning type validation from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The manufacturer says the aircraft joins “a growing fleet of Gulfstream jets in the Indian skies” which will soon include the manufacturer’s new, high-performance G650. Gulfstream has previously won DGCA approval for models including the GIII, GIV, GV, G100, G200, G450 and G500. “Over a quarter-century, Gulfstream has earned a reputation as the preferred provider of private jets to many of the country’s business leaders,” says Jason Akovenko, the manufacturer’s regional vice-president for the Asia-Pacific. The company “continues to expand its commitment in the country by significantly increasing marketing and product-support activities to serve our customers,” he adds.

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