Successful 1st Flight for Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental

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The Boeing  747-8 Intercontinental successfully began its flight test program today, taking off from Paine Field in Everett, Washington, before several thousand employees, customers, suppliers and community leaders. The airplane landed four hours and 25 minutes later at Boeing Field in Seattle. The 747-8 Intercontinental‘s first flight marks the beginning of a flight test program that will finish in the fourth quarter.

With 747 Chief Pilot Mark Feuerstein and Capt. Paul Stemer at the controls, the newest member of the 747 family took off at 9:59 a.m. and landed at 2:24 p.m. local time.

“What a great privilege to be at the controls of such a great airplane on its first flight,” said Feuerstein. “And what an honor to share this day with the thousands of men and women who designed and built this airplane.”

Today’s flight was the first of more than 600 flight hours in the test program for the new 747-8 Intercontinental. The airplane followed a route over Eastern Washington, where it underwent tests for basic handling and performance. The airplane reached a cruising altitude of 19,000 feet (5,791 meters), and a speed of up to 250 knots, or about 288 miles per hour (463 kilometers).

“This a great day for the 747-8 team and for all of Boeing. What an honor it is to see such a beautiful airplane fly,” said Elizabeth Lund, vice president and general manager of the 747-8 program. “I want to thank everybody who had a hand in designing, building and preparing this airplane for flight – our engineers, our manufacturing employees, our colleagues in Boeing Fabrication, our colleagues in Boeing Test & Evaluation, our external suppliers – for all their hard work.”

The 747-8 Intercontinental will have the lowest seat-mile cost of any large commercial jetliner, with 12 percent lower costs than its predecessor, the 747-400. The airplane provides 16 percent better fuel economy, 16 percent less carbon emissions per passenger and generates a 30 percent smaller noise footprint than the 747-400. The 747-8 Intercontinental applies interior features from the 787 Dreamliner that includes a new curved, upswept architecture giving passengers a greater feeling of space and comfort, while adding more room for personal belongings.

Korean Air and VIP customers have joined launch customer Lufthansa in ordering a total of 33 747-8 Intercontinentals. First delivery of the 747-8 Intercontinental is scheduled for the fourth quarter. Air China also has agreed to order five Intercontinentals, pending government approval.

The airplane is painted in a new Sunrise livery of red-orange and is a significant departure from Boeing’s standard blue. The new colors honor many key Boeing customers whose cultures recognize these colors as symbols of prosperity and good luck. The Sunrise livery only will appear on the first 747-8 Intercontinental, which is scheduled to be delivered to a VIP customer at the end of the year.

Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental Passenger Jet Rolls Out

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Boeing’s year of flight tests on the 747-8 freighter may help the planemaker meet a goal of delivering the passenger version by year-end, removing the stigma of delays from its newest jumbo jet.

Todd Zarfos, vice president of engineering for the 747-8, said Boeing has targeted the end of March for the first flight of the aircraft, which it calls the Intercontinental. Work on the freighter during the past year is expected to make regulatory certification for the passenger version easier, he said.

“Those fixes have already been incorporated in the Intercontinental,” Zarfos said in an interview after Boeing showed the new aircraft to customers, employees and investors yesterday in Everett, Washington. “The airplane itself is largely the same as a 747-8 freighter.”

Meeting benchmarks such as first flight and delivery is important for Chicago-based Boeing, with the plastic-composite 787 Dreamliner delayed by three years, the 747 freighter about two years late and the passenger jet a year behind schedule, analysts said.

“I want that Boeing that used to never miss, under- promise, to show up, and start with the 747,” said Howard Rubel, a New York-based analyst with Jefferies & Co. The string of delays has “cost them money, it’s cost them share and it’s cost them reputation. And they can regain it.”

The fifth variant of the 747, the Intercontinental was rolled out from the same Everett, Washington, factory that made the first version of the plane more than 40 years earlier. The newest version stretches the iconic hump and carries about 467 passengers in a typical three-class configuration, fewer than the usual 525 in the larger Airbus SAS A380.

“We had during that meeting the famous words, ‘Guys, just do it,” Buchholz, executive vice president for the airline’s fleet management, said before the 747-8 was shown to the audience. “We are pleased because ‘just do it’ is behind the curtain.”

The aircraft Buchholz saw yesterday was painted red, orange and white instead of Boeing’s traditional blue, which was intended to convey vibrancy, said Pat Shanahan, general manager of commercial airplane programs.

“This certainly isn’t Boeing blue, but this isn’t Joe Sutter’s Oldsmobile either,” Shanahan said, referring to the leader of the engineering team on the first 747, about 40 years ago. “This is a new airplane, and we wanted a new livery.”

The 747-8’s wingspan stretches more than 224 feet, about 13 feet longer than the earlier model, the 747-400. The aircraft is propelled by GEnx-2B67 engines, built by General Electric Co., which are made with about 30 percent fewer parts, reducing maintenance. The cruising speed is about Mach 0.86, or about 86 percent of the speed of sound.

Two New Airbus A330-300s for TUI Travel

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TUI Travel PLC has become a new direct customer for Airbus, with an order for two A330-300 aircraft. The European travel group has ordered these aircraft for its French airline subsidiary, Corsairfly. The two wide-bodied A330-300s are the latest 235 tonne maximum take-off weight variants and will be operated on the airline’s popular long-haul routes from Paris across the Atlantic to the French Caribbean islands and North America, in addition to Indian Ocean destinations.

Pascal de Izaguirre, Managing Director of Corsairfly, says “We are delighted with this decision by TUI Travel to buy Airbus A330 aircraft.” He adds “We already experience excellent performance from the A330-200s we currently operate and these new aircraft with a track record of spectacular efficiency, reliability and low operating costs will allow us to perfectly match our new strategy. Moreover, aircraft commonality, unique to Airbus, will allow us to meet our restructuring programme target.”

John Leahy, Airbus COO Customers, says “The A330-300 is not only the most efficient aircraft in its class with lowest fuel consumption in service today, it is also the aircraft which best fulfils airline’s needs in terms of range and capacity.” He also says “TUI travel’s decision to acquire our mid-size long-haul star is further proof that the A330 delivers exactly what the market needs.”

The aircraft will be configured in two classes with a total of 362 seats.

With a true wide-body fuselage allowing very high comfort standards, the A330-300 is able to accommodate seat and class configurations to suit diverse customer requirements. It has a range of up to 5,600 nm / 10,400 km with a typical 300 passenger load. Highly efficient and optimised for the medium – to long range market, the A330-300 offers the best balance between range and cost. The A330-300 remains the most economic means of flying 300 or so passengers on medium range routes in true long haul comfort. Orders for the aircraft stand at more than 480.

The A330 Family, which spans 200 to 400 seats for the passenger variants, also includes Freighter, VIP, and Military Transport/Tanker variants, has now attracted more than 1,100 orders.

Emirates President Declares No Drop In Demand Over A380s

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According to the head of Dubai-based airline Emirates, passengers showed no hesitation in flying on the world’s largest airliner after an engine blowout on a Qantas A380, but that both Rolls-Royce and Airbus would review designs.

Emirates president Tim Clark said there were no drop in bookings even after a highly publicized November 4 engine explosion. He also predicted that Rolls-Royce would resolve problems in “one or two months”.

Emirates’ 14 A380s are still flying because they have different engines from the type which forced a fully laden A380 to return to Singapore. Its engines are supplied by Engine Alliance, owned by GE and Pratt & Whitney.

As the largest buyer of the A380, with another 76 on order, Emirates is likely to be kept in the loop on any major developments in the fleet, though Clark said he did not have a complete picture of the changes required on Rolls engines.

“Let’s not downplay this. It will have to result in modifications and changes to a large number of engines and there will be difficulties, but in the end Rolls-Royce will get a fix on this. There are perhaps issues with design and control,” he said on Wednesday, Nov. 24. Emirates uses Rolls engines on part of its fleet.

Airbus said two fragments of the inner left engine which blew apart over Indonesia severed two electric cables in the wing. Pilots were later unable to shut a second engine down as a result.

The disclosure has raised the prospect that some A380 systems would be re-routed, but authorities have so far only ordered checks on Rolls engines, and the most visible pressure remains on Rolls to identify a fix and upgrade engines.

Clark said “I am sure Airbus will look at this. They left some dead areas around the engine.” He paid tribute to the safety margins on board the A380, as well as the reactions of Qantas pilots.

“When I heard this I thought goodness me, this is a plane designed for fuel optimization, range and lightness of weight and yet it was robust enough to take this blowout,” he said. “Manufacturers build planes to be safe to the nth power.”

Clark said Airbus faced a problem in re-jigging A380 output to cope with a potential shortage of Rolls-Royce engines. Rolls is considering diverting some engines from the A380 assembly line to supply existing Rolls operators in the A380 fleet — Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa.

Emirates is about to take delivery of a 15th A380 aircraft and its next is not due until September 2011. But this date cannot be shifted forward because customised cabin fittings such as showers, which Emirates offers in first class, will not be ready, Clark said.

He also mentioned the possibility that deliveries could be delayed as Airbus tries to clear a backlog of aircraft which will by then have received upgraded Rolls engines, adding: “If that happens we will have a discussion.”

Qantas A380 Resume Service on London Routes

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Qantas’s Airbus A380s will begin to resume service this weekend, with the first few aircraft being used on the “Kangaroo routes” from Australia to London.

A spokesman from Qantas said that one A380 – VH-OQF – is being ferried from Los Angeles to Sydney, and it will operate the QF31 service from Sydney to London via Singapore on November 27. A second aircraft – VH-OQE – will also be ferried across from Los Angeles later this week, and will be used on London routes either from Sydney or Melbourne.

The spokesman also said that no timetable has been announced for the return to service of the rest of the six Qantas A380s, although the initial focus will likely be on increasing A380 frequency on the London routes. Qantas will not be operating A380s on its longer Los Angeles routes until it has done sufficient in-flight analysis on the London routes. The spokesman commented that it is “being very circumspect about transpacific flying.”

Qantas says it has voluntarily suspended A380 service on routes that regularly require use of maximum certified engine thrust, “and will continue to do so until further operational experience is gained or possible additional changes are made to engines.” It says this is an operational decision in line with its conservative approach to safety, and is not a manufacturer’s directive. Pilots will still have access to maximum certified thrust if necessary during flight.

The first aircraft to be ferried back to Sydney has had two of its Trent 900 engines replaced – one is an overhauled engine from Rolls-Royce, and the second is from another of the carrier’s A380s.

Since Nov. 4, the Qantas A380 fleet has been grounded due to the uncontained failure of a Trent 900 on an A380 flight from Singapore and the subsequent discovery of problems in other Trent 900 engines. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says that up to 16 Trent 900 engines may require modification or replacement.

Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) says it has “given a green light to a 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.”

The agency’s Director of Aviation Safety John McCormick said the decision to resume A380 flying has been “closely analyzed by CASA’s technical staff.”McCormick also stated that “CASA has looked at how Qantas will be carrying out the additional inspections of the Trent 900 engines, changes to the way the engines will be operated and how Rolls Royce service bulletins will be met.”

McCormick notes that Qantas provided extensive documentation and briefings in support of the plan. “Qantas has devoted considerable resources to making sure the return to service of the A380 will meet all relevant safety requirements,” he says. CASA will continue to monitor A380 operations, using data supplied by Qantas.

Qantas has confirmed that it is still taking delivery of two new A380s before the end of this year and a further two in early 2011.

China Challenges Boeing and Airbus with Its Own Large Jetliner

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Next week, Beijing will show off a full-scale mockup of its 156-seat C919 passenger plane at an air show hoping to compete with Boeing and Airbus, the world’s only manufacturers of large commercial aircraft. Some well-known U.S. companies are already offering help.

Slated for production by 2016, the 156-seat, single-aisle C919 passenger plane would have its fuselage emblazoned with Comac, the state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China.

But inside, the most crucial systems would bear the trademarks of some of the biggest names in Western aviation. Honeywell International Inc. will supply power units, on-board computing systems, wheels and brakes; Rockwell Collins Inc. will handle navigation systems; GE Aviation is building the avionics; Eaton Corp. is involved with fuel and hydraulics; and Parker Aerospace of Irvine is responsible for flight controls. Powering the aircraft will be two fuel-efficient engines built by CFM International, a company co-owned by GE and French conglomerate Safran.

However, this has placed U.S. and European suppliers in a tough spot: Be willing to hand over advanced technology to Chinese firms that could one day be rivals or miss out on what’s likely to be the biggest aviation bonanza of the next half a century. Honeywell alone has snagged contracts worth more than $11 billion for the project.

A C919 jumbo jet model displayed at Hong Kong's Asian Aerospace International Expo

Roger Seager, GE Aviation’s vice president and general manager for China, said he was confident that his company could protect its intellectual property. But the rapid rise of another Chinese transport industry — high-speed rail — challenges that notion. After sharing technology and expertise to help China develop a network of gleaming bullet trains, Japanese and European rail firms now find themselves competing with their former Chinese joint-venture partners for new contracts, both inside and outside China. Still, Seager said it’s crucial for his company to get into China now.

“If they launch a commercial aviation industry, you’ve got to be part of it,” said Seager, whose company has garnered contracts worth about $6 billion for the C919. “You can’t take a pass and come back in 10 years. You’ve got to jump in with both feet now…. We would be remiss if we weren’t trying to be part of their growth.”

The aircraft’s builders are so confident; the first “9″ in the jetliner’s name was picked because it sounds like “forever” in Chinese. Also, China is already a major assembler and parts supplier for some of the world’s best-known aircraft. Airbus’ A320s reach their final assembly in the northern port city of Tianjin. Half of Boeing’s fleet of 12,000 airplanes includes components made in China. About 600,000 Chinese workers are employed in aerospace, about as many as in the United States.

Still, the C919‘s success is anything but assured. Japan, South Korea and Indonesia all failed in their attempts to build large jets. Repeated delays in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and recent problems with the Airbus A380‘s engine show that even the most experienced players can stumble.

China has struggled to build its own aircraft for decades. Comac will soon roll out its first regional jet, the 78-seat ARJ21 Soaring Phoenix. Chinese officials have hailed it as a breakthrough. But experts said the ARJ21 could have a tough time competing outside China against cutting-edge models from Canada’s Bombardier and Brazil’s Embraer.

Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing for Boeing, said “I don’t think there’s any question Comac will deliver a successful airplane,” later adding “How successful? It’s hard to say. Clearly there’s room for us to grow, Airbus to grow and one or more competitors…. We have an advantage. We have built more airplanes than anyone else.”


Singapore Emergency Landing Causes Qantas to Ground A380s


Qantas has grounded its six-strong fleet of Airbus A380 airliners after one of the superjumbos, Qantas flight QF32, experienced engine trouble shortly after taking off from Singapore on its way to Sydney.

According to one passenger, one of the engines exploded with a bang and debris was found on an island below. Singapore Airlines said its A380 flights would be delayed pending technical checks.

Rolls-Royce said it was in the process of checking the 20 A380 planes currently in service – with Qantas, Singapore and Lufthansa – that use its Trent 900 engines. It said “the safe operation of our products is our number one priority.”

One area of investigation will be a European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) airworthiness report in August that flagged up one potential problem with the engine. There is no evidence that this is linked to the latest incident.

A team of air crash investigators is being sent to Singapore from France, where Airbus is based, to assist in the investigation.

A Qantas A380 aircraft

Qantas said flight QF32, with 433 passengers and 26 crewmembers on board, experienced an “engine issue” over western Indonesia shortly after taking off from Singapore.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said at a news conference, “We do take our safety reputation and our safety standards unbelievably seriously. And we’re not going to take any risks with passenger safety – and as a precaution, we’re suspending the flights of the A380 aircraft until we’re comfortable that we understand the reasons for this.”

No one was injured during the incident, which ended at Singapore’s Changi airport. Smoke billowed from the aircraft, which aviation experts say is capable of flying on two engines. One of the engines was blackened and its rear casing was missing.

Passengers said the pilot spent at least an hour and a half circling and discharging fuel ahead of the emergency landing.

The BBC’s Nick Bryant in Sydney says aviation experts have identified debris that fell on the Indonesian island of Batam as part of a Qantas engine casing. A teacher on Batam, Indra Kurniawan, told the BBC World Service: “We heard an explosion. Then I saw rubbish in the sky but after one of the pieces hit our school, we all knew it was debris from the plane.”

The grounding will mean inconvenience for thousands of passengers scheduled to fly on the aircraft, correspondents say.

Those aboard the stricken aircraft may also have a significant wait ahead to get to their destinations as there are so many of them to re-route.

This incident is a worrying development for Qantas, an airline which prides itself on an exemplary safety record.

For the European manufacturer Airbus, the timing of this incident could hardly have come at a worse time, reports the BBC’s Christian Fraser in Paris, as the Chinese President Hu Jintao is in Paris to complete negotiations for a new order of Airbus A350 and A330 passenger planes.

The closest the airliner has come to a similar incident was in September 2009, when a Singapore Airlines A380 turned around in mid-flight and returned to Paris after one of its four engines failed.

The A380 made its first commercial flight in 2007. It is the world’s largest passenger airliner, a double-decker which can carry up to 800 people – though Qantas A380s are set up to carry about 450.

Exchange Program for 787 Dreamliner Part Offered By Boeing

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On Nov. 3, Boeing announced the availability of a rotable exchange services program that will support the operation of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. This program will help airline customers reduce inventory costs by providing access to a Boeing-managed inventory pool of parts that is available to ship within 24 hours of request.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner final assembly

Dale Wilkinson, Vice President, Material Services for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said “The 787 Rotables Exchange Services Program will provide a dedicated pool of high-value, dispatch-critical parts for airlines, while helping them to improve operations support and cash flow.” Wilkinson also said that “The program manages configuration, warranty and reliability for the covered parts, freeing the airline to focus on passengers and the operation of the airplane.”

With the Boeing 787 Rotable Exchange Program, the airline removes a part from the airplane and ships it for exchange with a new unit from Boeing’s exchange pool. Boeing plans to support up to 600 high-value rotable parts, including such items as the Auxiliary Power Unit and Variable Frequency Starter Generator. By providing coverage for parts typically priced in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, the exchange program can provide considerable inventory cost savings for airlines.

The program provides a flight-hour cost basis that enables the customer to better forecast maintenance costs, while spreading out high-cost expenditures for rotable parts over the 10-year term of the agreement.

A330/A350 Switch Confirmed By Hong Kong Airlines

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Hong Kong Airlines has firmed up its deal with Airbus to convert an existing order for 15 A330s to the A350XWB and placed a new order for 10 more Airbus A330-200s. This confirms the memorandum of understanding signed at the Farnborough International Air Show in July.

Airbus says the twinjets will be operated on the long-haul network that the airline is developing from its Hong Kong base to points in Europe and North America. The newly ordered A330-200s will arrive from 2012, and XWBs from 2018.

LTU Airbus A330-200

Yang Jian Hong, Hong Kong Airlines President, said “This underscores our plan to operate an extensive long-haul network,” adding that the A350 will become “our new flagship towards the end of this decade.”

A350 variants

Hong Kong Airlines is a major Airbus customer with more than 60 aircraft in service or on order. These include 18 A330 and 15 A350 widebodies, as well as 30 single-aisle A320 family aircraft, all of which are on backlog. It also has one A330-200F in service leased from lessor Aircastle.

The A330 is a large-capacity, wide-body, twin-engine, medium-to-long-range commercial passenger airliner while the A350 is a long-range, mid-size, wide-body airliner currently under development.


Teen pilot flies solo to Alaska

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Joe Eisaguirre, a 17-year old from Los Olivos piloted his Piper PA-18 Super Cub to Alaska for the summer all by himself.

He wanted more thrills and adventure out of his summer vacation than going to a theme park, he said, so he hopped into his family’s 1959 Piper PA-18 Super Cub single-engine plane and spent a week charting his way to the north.

“I felt like I wanted to do something more, so I came up with flying to Alaska with the Super Cub by myself . I have been interested in flying my whole life, and always wanted to take a bigger trip on my own. I just got my pilot’s license at the beginning of the year so it seemed like the right time to go,” he said.

Eisaguirre, a senior at Dunn School, has been around planes his entire life because his dad, Lew Eisaguirre, has been a pilot for about 30 years. The family has a house in Alaska and regularly flies north.

“It took about 35 hours of flying time to get to Anchorage, and I got stuck in British Columbia for a few days due to bad weather. I called my dad at every stop to let him know I got in safely,” Eisaguirre said.

Father and son both own the Piper Super Cub, and Joe works off his share of the plane by working at the Santa Ynez Airport.

There haven’t been any other Valley kids as young as Eisaguirre who have earned their pilots license recently, according to Jim Kunkle, president of the Santa Ynez Airport Authority.

To earn his credentials, Eisaguirre spent 80 hours of flight time with an instructor and by himself as well as going through rigorous tests. To get a private pilot’s license, applicants must be at least 17 years old, have a current FAA third-class medical certificate, log at least 40 hours of flight — including at least. Twenty hours with an instructor and 10 solo — pass the FAA Private Pilot Airmen Knowledge written test and the FAA Private Pilot Flight Exam, according to the Federal Aviation Administration website.

Even though he knows how to fly, Eisaguirre isn’t going to make it his career choice because he wants to enjoy the feeling.

“I thought about going into the Air Force, but it’s not really my style,” he said.


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