Farnborough International Air Show Report: September 2004

 - October 20, 2006, 10:22 AM

Multi-billion-dollar airliner orders are back in fashion on the international airshow circuit if July’s Farnborough International ’04 event proves to signal the start of a trend. Most airframers, from Airbus and Boeing downward, reported significant new business at the show, as the civil aerospace sector finally seemed able to point to tangible evidence of a meaningful–if still tentative–recovery from the downturn it has endured for the past three years.

Meanwhile, bitter rows between Airbus and Boeing over allegedly anti-competitive subsidies once again flared up. And there was further tension from the increasingly rancorous state of transatlantic relations over access to major defense contracts. In one of its on-site airshow publications, AIN published the contents of a letter from UK Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon to his U.S. counterpart, Donald Rumsfeld. The British government has lost all patience with the Bush Administration’s tightening restrictions on defense exports and, by way of an attitude adjustor, has threatened to exclude U.S. firms from future UK defense contracts.

Gulf Carriers Boost Show Again

Once again on the international airshow circuit, the main source of good news from the air transport sector came from carriers in the Middle East, particularly from the prosperous Gulf state of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Abu Dhabi-based start-up carrier Etihad Airways bestowed on Airbus a $7 billion letter of intent covering widebody deliveries of 24 A330s, A340s and A380s, as well as options for 12 more aircraft. On day two, its Dubai-based neighbor and rival Emirates Airline ordered four Boeing 777-300ERs and placed options for nine more of the long-range twinjets, with deliveries scheduled to run from 2006 to 2012. The value of the deal could potentially total just under $3 billion.

Overall, Airbus announced $10.6 billion worth of confirmed and optioned new business during the show. New Indian carrier Kingfisher Airlines ordered four A320s and placed options for eight more of the single-aisle transports. The venture, backed by Kingfisher beer brewer UB Group, is due to take delivery of the first of the leased airplanes early next year, followed by the first new airplane from Airbus in the last quarter of next year. Kingfisher has yet to decide on the engines for the 180-seat, all-economy-class jets.

On the same day, Turkish Airlines signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to purchase up to 36 aircraft from Airbus, including 31 of the A320 family and five A330-200s. The deal includes firm orders for 19 A320s, 12 A321s and five A330-200s, the first of which are set to arrive in Ankara by the end of next year.

Boeing also secured fresh orders for its single-aisle 737 family. Air Senegal International ordered a new 737-700 and placed an option on another to augment its existing all-Boeing fleet. Brazil’s Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes ordered another pair of the larger 737-800s, increasing to 17 the number of new-generation 737s it has contracted for this year.

Program Progress

The development of Boeing’s new 7E7 Dreamliner long-haul jet and the Airbus A380 were once again major talking points at Farnborough. Boeing announced a growing list of suppliers for the 7E7 program. As it seeks to firm up existing airline commitments for the Dreamliner, Boeing confirmed that “at least two” carriers have expressed an interest in taking larger versions of the twinjet than previously offered. Emirates has said it might require a 300-seat 7E7 (compared with the current largest proposed variant, capable of carrying 289 passengers). Boeing 7E7 senior vice president Mike Bair told an airshow press conference that the company would be ready to deliver this 7E7-9 variant, with a range of 8,300 nm, in 2012.

At the same time, Boeing engineers are now trying to evaluate whether winglets could add some zest to the slow-selling 717 single-aisle airliner. They are working with Aviation Partners Boeing to evaluate the merits of such a modification, as well as to explore the case for a 777 with winglets.

The U.S. airframer also issued a new market forecast at the Farnborough show, predicting that while world air travel will increase by 5.2 percent in the 20 years between 2004 and 2023, the number of additional aircraft required in this period will grow by only 3 percent since the company’s study a year ago, rising by 717 aircraft to reach 24,993 in the 2004 projections. It valued the prospective new orders at around $2 trillion. Boeing continues to disagree with the conclusion of rival Airbus that airline growth will result in demand for a significant number of larger aircraft such as the A380.

New Generation Narrowbody

Seeking to set straight the blurred line between regional and “major” airliners, Bombardier announced that its new “C Series” commercial aircraft will offer a 15- to 20-percent improvement in operating costs (compared with current and recently out-of-production equipment). Executives at the Canadian airframer are looking to secure board approval for the proposed program early next year, with the goal of replacing the designs that British Aerospace, Fokker and McDonnell Douglas formerly produced for the 100- to 150-seat market.

The $1.5 billion development would result in four versions of the C Series. First would come the short- and long-range 110-seaters (the C Series 110 and 110LR, offering up to 1,800 nm and 3,250 nm range, respectively). This would be followed by a pair of 135-seaters–the C Series 135 and 135LR–with range limits of 1,800 nm and 2,800 nm. All four models would be based on a common wing and differentiated by fuselage stretches.

Bombardier New Commercial Aircraft president Gary Scott told a Farnborough press conference that the company aims to achieve 99-percent dispatch reliability from initial service entry. It has projected demand for 5,800 aircraft in this class–valued at some $250 billion–over the next 20 years.

International Aero Engines announced that it will offer a new engine to meet the powerplant needs of the new Bombardier C Series. Mark King, president of the venture among Rolls-Royce, Pratt & Whitney and Japanese Aero Engines, said that the new 21,000-pound-thrust turbofan would be conceived as a centerline engine for the C Series, as well as for new regional jetliners and further developments of the Airbus and Boeing narrowbody product lines.

CFM International–the partnership between Snecma and General Electric–indicated that it might offer an alternative C Series powerplant, although its dialogue with Bombardier has not advanced as far as IAE’s. According to company president Pierre Fabre, CFM expects to confirm its intentions for the program by early next year.

RJ Sales Pick Up Again

On the eve of the show, Bombardier landed more than half a billion dollars in new business. First Spain’s Air Nostrum announced orders for 20 CRJ series regional jets. Initially, the contract calls for deliveries to include the 50-seat CRJ200s, but the Valencia-based operator has retained the right to exchange them for the larger CRJ700 or CRJ900, or even for some Q300 twin turboprops. The Canadian airframer also announced single CRJ200 orders from Slovenian carrier Adria Airways and Austria’s Styrian Spirit.

Embraer also benefited from a flurry of new regional jet bookings during the Farnborough show, with U.S. carrier Republic Airways (two Embraer 170s), Luxair (two ERJ-135s, plus a further option) and Trans States (also of the U.S., seven ERJ-145s) converting options. At sticker prices, the value of the new business totals just over $231 million.

The Brazilian manufacturer reported that the new 100-seat 190 twinjet, which made its first flight in March and appeared in the daily Farnborough flying display, is making good progress in its certification program. In addition to the two aircraft already in flight test, two more are to take to the air before the end of this month. At the same time, two pre-series examples of the new 78-seat Embraer 175 are now in flight trials. Embraer expects certification by the end of the year.

Luis Carlos Alfonso, Embraer’s senior vice president of engineering and new product development, reported that the first sub-assemblies for the new 108- to 118-seat Embraer 195 are now coming together. The first example is expected to make its maiden flight in the fourth quarter of this year and the program is aiming for certification by the third quarter of 2006.

Russian Regional Jet Gets Backing

The Sukhoi-led Russian Regional Jet (RRJ) program received a welcome boost with the news that Siberian carrier Sibir has agreed to take 50 copies of the proposed 95-seater. These were billed as “launch orders” during the Farnborough show, but on closer examination the agreement is still somewhat provisional and not backed by any deposit.

However, Sukhoi for the first time was able to unveil a full-scale cabin mockup of the RRJ, boosting the credibility of a program that has so far been confined to a small-scale model. The cabin, developed by B/E Aerospace of the U.S., features a five-abreast seating configuration.

Larger than that of either the Embraer 170/190 family or the Bombardier CRJ700/900, the RRJ fuselage is 136.22 inches wide and 145.52 inches high, giving passengers 83.46 inches of headroom, compared with 78.74 inches in the Embraers and 73.5 inches in the Bombardier models. The cabin’s single aisle is 20 inches wide, while the seat width measures 18.3 inches. Unlike other regional jets on the market, its overhead storage bins can accommodate roller bags as large as 10 by 16 by 24 inches.

During the show, French engine maker Snecma and Russia’s NPO Saturn announced the creation of a new joint venture called PowerJet to advance the SM146 under development for the RRJ. Italy’s Avio has also become a partner in the program.

The Ukraine’s Kharkov State Manufacturing brought examples of its An-140-100 twin-turboprop regional airliner and An-74TK-200 utility jet to the Farnborough show. But its overriding mission was to drum up support for the 80-seat An-148 regional jet, which is scheduled for rollout this month and a first flight before year-end.

Seeking to demonstrate its commitment to getting the Dornier 328Jet back into full production, Avcraft (which purchased the bankrupt Fairchild Dornier program last year) had a pair of the aircraft on display. One of these was in regional airline configuration, while the other was one of the corporate Envoy models that UK-based executive charter group Bookajet, now called Club328, has ordered for its operations on behalf of members-only scheduled service Club Airways.

Turboprops Still Selling

Avcraft also announced the sale of two used Dornier 328 twin turboprops to Danish regional airline Sun-Air, which is a British Airways franchise partner. It has also delivered another 328 turboprop to the Chip Ganassi U.S. auto racing team. Proceeds from sales of the out-of-production 328 twin turboprops Avcraft also acquired from Fairchild Dornier’s bankruptcy administrator are now funding the 328Jet production restart. The first of the new-build jets are due to be delivered in April next year, and Avcraft CEO Ben Bartel is now working to secure funding to increase the rate of annual output from a claimed 15 or 20 units to 40 or 50.

Halfway through the Farnborough show, Avions de Transport Regional sold an additional 68-seat ATR 72-500 to Air New Zealand– bringing its new aircraft sales tally for 2004 to 12, which represents a significant improvement over the total of the past two years. John Moore, the French-Italian manufacturer’s new American senior vice president of commercial aviation, said ATR aims to log orders for between 15 and 20 new airplanes this year, compared with 10 last year. Meanwhile, India’s Air Deccan has purchased three used ATR 42-500s and France’s Airlinair is to buy five more used models.

ATR also announced that it is joining Embraer’s AeroChain e-marketplace, covering online spare parts, sales and technical publications. Then at a joint press conference with its engine supplier, Pratt & Whitney Canada, the airframer reported that on a typical 300-nm route, its turboprops burn 54 percent less fuel than an equivalent regional jet. With a jet-A fuel price of $1 per gallon, fuel will account for 20 percent of the turboprop’s direct operating costs, compared with 25 percent of the jet’s costs. It based the calculations on a comparison between the ATR 42/72 and the Bombardier CRJ200/700 jets.

Bombardier Dominates Bizav Presence

Bombardier enjoyed the highest profile among business aircraft manufacturers at Farnborough this year. As well as announcing three new aircraft sales, the company also presented the first example of its new Global 5000 with a full production interior.

The fast-growing Abu Dhabi-based executive charter group Royal Jet ordered a pair of Challenger 300 super-midsize jets and placed options on two more. The new aircraft are due to enter service next year.

Separately, Qatar Airways announced the purchase of a Challenger 300. Due for delivery next March, the airplane will be operated by the flag carrier’s head-of-state/government Amiri Flight Division from its base at Doha International Airport.

The new Global 5000 interior featured three distinct seating areas, each measuring nine feet long. The forward zone is a typical double-club configuration with galley and lavatory. The center zone features a conference room with four seats separated by a table for dining or work and a sidewall credenza. The aft zone includes seating for five, with two facing executive seats and a side-facing divan and another lavatory. Operators can convert the aft zone into a private bedroom by sliding the divan out from the wall into a 38-inch-wide sleeping berth.

The seats in the new 5000 interior can come with visco-elastic seat cushions that are heat-activated to conform to the body profiles of individual passengers. The NASA- developed seats allow for a more comfortable distribution of body weight. The new business jet also features a cabin and entertainment management system developed by Rockwell Collins from its Airshow 21 package. This includes wireless Internet connections through Inmarsat’s Swift64 satellite link, Tailwind live TV and Iridium satcom for global voice calling. Passengers can control all cabin functions–including lighting, temperature and entertainment–from any seat to suit their preference.

Dassault Training Switches To CAE

Dassault Aviation announced that CAE, not FlightSafety International, will provide pilot, mechanic and flight attendant training for operators of the new Falcon 7X business jet. At the same time, CAE announced that it plans to build a new training center at an undisclosed location in the London area. Set to open during the fall of 2006, the center will include training for business aircraft crews. The extreme inconvenience that non-U.S. crews now experience in trying to secure the necessary visas to train at U.S. facilities and the completion of FSI’s new Farnborough Learning Center drove the plans.

Falcon 7X customers will be entitled to CAE training for three pilots, two maintenance technicians and a flight attendant. CAE is now developing a pair of full-flight simulators for the new 5,700-nm trijet, as well as two units for the Falcon 900EX and 2000EX, which also use the new EASy flight deck developed for the 7X.

Dassault reported that assembly of the first 7X has reached an advanced stage; the first fuselage, complete with vertical and horizontal tailplanes, arrived at the main Mérignac production line in mid-July. It plans to mate the first wing to the fuselage early this month. Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) sent the first shipset of three PW307 engines in June.

Stork of the Netherlands exhibited the first corporate shuttle example of its reworked Fokker 100 airliner under the brand name F100CS. The company, which purchased most of the assets of the bankrupt Dutch airframer, also now offers used F100s in full executive configuration, known as F100EJs.

Canadian operator Platinum Jet took delivery of the first of three 56-seat F100s that it will use for scheduled all-business-class shuttle operations throughout North America starting next month. It expects to receive all three aircraft by early next year under the terms of a lease deal from the UK-based management and charter firm Aravco, which is partnered with Stork in marketing the F100EJ program. Aravco and Stork subsidiary Fokker Services are now working on an auxiliary fuel tank package that would increase the range of the F100EJ from 2,000 nm to 3,200 nm, and that of the F100CS to 2,500 nm.

EADS Socata reported that the new, heavier hauling update of the TBM 700 turboprop single has received its type certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency. The TBM 700C2 can carry a payload of 1,346 pounds 1,074 nm. To fly to the maximum range of 1,565 nm, operators can cut the payload to 863 pounds.

Cash-strapped Safire Aircraft failed to occupy the booth that it had booked for the Farnborough show as part of the U.S. International Pavilion. Following a recent “temporary suspension” of the development of the Safire very light jet, the Florida-based firm is now trying to secure fresh investment. Its rival Eclipse Aviation didn’t attend Farnborough either, but it never planned to do so.

Agusta Unveils New Twin

AgustaWestland used the Farnborough show to introduce a new addition to its A109 line of light twin-engine helicopters. The A109S–dubbed the Grand by the manufacturer–has already flown in prototype form for the past 18 months and is due to complete certification early next year.

The unveiling ceremony revealed a cabin mock-up configured for an emergency medical role, but the Grand is expected to appeal at least as much to VIP and corporate operators. First deliveries from a double-digit order book for the new model, which is powered by a pair of P&WC PW207C turboshafts, are set to be made in the second half of next year.

During the show, the government of the northern Indian state of Rajasthan ordered an A109 Power helicopter for VIP transport operations. Agusta has now logged orders for more than 350 Powers.

Bell Helicopter announced a launch customer for its new 427i twin with a 15-ship order from Air Methods. The U.S. emergency medical helicopter operator has signed a deal giving it guaranteed minimum trade-in values on 15 of the 22 Bell 222 twins that it already flies. The 427i is due to complete certification during the final quarter of 2006 and deliveries should begin by late 2007.

Eurocopter reported surging sales for its EC 135, now averaging one per week. The backlog now stands at 40, and the manufacturer expects to deliver 60 this year.

Meanwhile, Eurocopter Deutschland has just completed what it bills as the world’s first all-composite aircraft door. Using a resin injection process, the company has made a complex door in a single piece encompassing all elements, such as beams, frames and external skin.

Rolls-Royce Turns 100

For UK aero engine maker Rolls-Royce, the Farnborough show this year served as a platform for its 100th-anniversary celebrations. Looking to the future, the company announced that it was just about to deliver the first Trent 900 engine to Airbus for its new A380 airliner.

The rival General Electric/Pratt & Whitney Engine Alliance appeared at the Farnborough show under a new logo designed to give it a “separate, distinct brand identity.” But the change is more than just cosmetic. The U.S. partners now want to pursue new engine programs beyond the GP7200 under development for the A380.

The existing agreement between GE and Pratt specifies that they can work together on “new, high-capacity, four-engine aircraft” that seat more than 450 passengers. To work on lower power requirements, the Engine Alliance would need clearance from U.S. and European anti-trust authorities, but–according to executive vice president Bruce Hughes–this would probably be granted if the twosome was responding to new requirements spelled out by airframers and operators rather than initiating such a development itself.

Separately, Pratt & Whitney claimed that it will achieve double-digit fuel burn savings for commercial aircraft using a new combustor technology it is now investigating under a contract from NASA. Its research into rapidly pulsing, detonative combustion accounts for one of several technologies that it is pursuing under NASA’s low emissions alternative power program.

New Weather Radar From Honeywell

Honeywell introduced its new airborne weather radar at the Farnborough show, promising operators a greatly improved picture of dangerous storms. The launch application for the RDR-4000 unit is the world’s largest airliner (the A380) but the radar is about half the size and nearly 20 pounds lighter than previous models.

The advanced system can paint the weather using new scanning and computer modeling techniques. For example, when it enters service it will use a three-dimensional volumetric scanning technique to scan the sky from the ground up to 60,000 feet instead of searching the flat plane scanned by traditional radars. This allows the RDR-4000 to locate weather more accurately, increasing the chance that pilots will deviate around it.

Honeywell’s new radar will also use “pulse compression” technology (previously available only for military applications) for longer range scanning and better resolution. With its 12-inch-diameter antenna and pulse compression technology, the RDR-4000 will be able to provide wind shear warnings.

Emirates Airline and Matsushita Avionics Systems signed an agreement at the show to establish a new in-flight entertainment and digital media joint venture in Dubai. This is part of a $1 billion deal to equip the carrier’s new A380s with the Japanese firm’s MAS eX2 in-flight entertainment system.

In addition to securing several new orders for airliner avionics suites, Rockwell Collins will provide major assemblies for pilot controls and displays for the Boeing 7E7. It will supply the control stand assembly, the pitch control assembly, the lateral control assembly and the yaw/brake assembly. Boeing wants to achieve maximum commonality with the existing 777 flight deck.

Innovative Solutions & Support announced that it has achieved FAA approval for its large (12- by 9-inch) primary display. The display portrays flight data using graphic representations of traditional round dials rather than sliding tapes.

Airbus signed a memorandum of understanding to have Jeppesen’s electronic document products added to its catalogue. The Boeing subsidiary will now work with Airbus to combine the European airframer’s “less paper cockpit” philosophy with its own electronic flight bag, including navigation charts, documentation and taxi position awareness applications.

CMC Electronics demonstrated its new PilotView handheld electronic flight bag, designed to fill the gap between off-the-shelf tablet PCs costing less than $5,000 and cockpit-installed units that can top $30,000. PilotView lists at around $15,000 and is intended for both airlines and high-end business aircraft operators. The company also unveiled its new SparrowHawk head-up display.