Last November, Christine Gregoire, governor of the U.S. state of Washington, announced an “action agenda” with the central goal of convincing Boeing to build the reengined 737 MAX in her state. Here at the Farnborough International Air show, where she is leading a trade mission, the governor can rightfully claim credit for accomplishing that goal. But the state still faces headwinds in its quest to retain and further grow its aerospace industrial base.
By the beginning of June, the first 84,000-pound-thrust Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine had flown for more than 40 hours aboard the Airbus A380 flying testbed (FTB) as Airbus moves toward a first A350 flight “probably around mid-2013,” according to engine program director Chris Young. Trent XWB Serial Number 20990 had logged 43 hours and was scheduled to make two more flights before replacement by S/N21000, dubbed FTB2 (see box).
Last year commercial airline Volga-Dnepr had revenues of $1.741 billion and generated a net profit of $59.3 million. At the same time, its debts rose to $186 million and, by the company’s estimates, are expected to increase by a further $250- to $300 million during 2012 as Volga-Dnepr borrows more capital money for its Boeing 747-8F acquisitions.
Boeing and Airbus have both arrived at the Farnborough International 2012 show under new leadership, but don’t expect any cooling in the hostility between the world’s top-two airliner manufacturers. The U.S. airframer is expected to draw the first blood in the orders battle today if, as is expected, Air Lease Corp. confirms an anticipated order for 50 or more of Boeing’s new 737 MAX narrowbodies.
A specially configured Boeing 737-800 meant to test some of the airframe maker’s most promising new technologies now sits at Boeing Field in Seattle, where crews prepare to install experimental systems that could appear in service as early as 2017 on the 737 MAX.
Despite its recent successes, GKN hasn’t had everything its own way. In December 2011, it lost out to Korea Aerospace Industries for some wing structures work for Airbus A320s. According to then Airbus chief executive Thomas Enders, the European airframer opted to send the work to Korea for “purely competitive reasons,” and, in January, he stated that “GKN did not make the upmost effort to come up with a competitive offer.”
The opening in late April of GKN Aerospace’s manufacturing and assembly facility for composite wing structures at Bristol in the UK represents a $270 million investment that the company believes will see it significantly boost its presence in this sector over the next 30 to 40 years. The new 333,000-sq-ft facility is primarily dedicated to making wing spars for the new Airbus A350XWB airliner, but it is also producing spares for the A400M military transport.
Last month’s breakthrough in winning a contract to supply Boeing with complex machined titanium and aluminum parts and assemblies for the horizontal stabilizer of the new 787-9 Dreamliner widebody is the prime example of GKN Aerospace’s recent success in keeping its backlog buoyant.
Operators of Boeing 787s powered by the latest-standard GEnx-1Bs are promised real fuel savings over similar aircraft with competing engines, according to engine maker General Electric. The powerplants also will be more durable and remain “on wing” longer if equipped with two performance improvement packages: PIPs I and II.
Airbus could withdraw from a commitment to increase A330 production to 11 aircraft per month in two years’ time, if there is no change to the European Union (EU) emissions trading scheme (ETS), according to programs executive vice president Tom Williams.