Air Force One to return to Everett factory

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Air Force One, the blue-and-white icon of U.S. super power, has been all-Boeing during the jet age.

Starting with Dwight Eisenhower in 1959, a succession of special Boeing 707s served eight U.S. presidents. One of those airplanes today is parked at the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

In 1990, with President George H.W. Bush in office, two Boeing 747-200Bs replaced the 707s. They were built in Everett and outfitted in Wichita, Kan.

Friday, one of them flies home to Paine Field, carrying President Barack Obama for an Everett factory visit and speech. Boeing Field in Seattle is the usual destination of U.S. presidents, so this will be the first time in 19 years that one of the planes has returned to the factory of its birth while carrying a president.

Air Force One is a flying White House, with 4,000 square feet of floor space for up to 102 people, secure communication systems and medical facilities. In a pinch, surgery can be performed. These 747-200Bs have a range of 7,800 statute miles, but just in case, they can be refueled during flight.

The 747 isn’t the only Boeing plane flying U.S. VIPs. Modified 757s serve cabinet members, the first lady, the vice president and, occasionally, the president.

And Boeing hopes to provide the next generation of Air Force One. The Air Force says new planes will be needed in the latter half of this decade. The aviation trade press has reported that the company would like to offer the new Boeing 747-8 or even the 787, the assembly line of which Obama will tour Friday.

Airbus considers refining A330

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PARIS (Reuters) – Airbus is considering beefing up its A330 passenger jet in a bid to expand a recent winning sales streak for the junior member of its wide-body jet family, the planemaker said on Monday.

While the twin-engined aircraft, in service since the 1990s, is enjoying a second honeymoon with airlines due, in part, to delays in Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, analysts say it faces a threat from a possible stretched version of the 787.

An Airbus spokeswoman said a decision on how to enhance the A330 would be taken in the second half of the year.

The EADS unit is considering increasing the maximum amount of weight the A330 can carry by up to 5 tonnes and adding drag-reducing wingtip devices called “sharklets” — upward-slanting wingtips designed to help the aircraft fly further on the same amount of fuel.

They are already planned for the smaller narrowbody A320 and similar devices appear on some Boeing 757s.

A330 sales have flourished in the past two years as Boeing encountered delays in bringing out its carbon-composite 787, which recently entered service.

It has shorter range than either the 787 or Airbus’s planned carbon-fibre alternative, the future A350, but has sold well to airlines operating intermediate long-haul routes.

With the changes under consideration, the A330 would be able to lift up to 240 tonnes at take-off, Airbus said — an increase of 5 tonnes for the most popular variant, the A330-300, and 2 tonnes for the A330-200.

Increasing the maximum take-off weight allows airlines to add more fuel to carry the same number of people and their baggage further, or else carry a larger payload.

France’s La Tribune newspaper said the moves to increase the maximum tolerated weight at take-off would add 7 percent to the range of the A330, potentially giving it a range over 7,000 nautical miles.

With a three-class layout, the A330-300 carries 295 people up to 5,650 nautical miles or 10,500 kilometres, while the A330-200 — a later spin-off with a shorter fuselage and more range — takes 253 people up to 12,500 km.

Boeing has said it was considering a stretched version of its 787 called the 787-10 that would carry about 300 people approximately 6,800 nautical miles.

The move has been described by an industry official familiar with Boeing pre-marketing as a potential “A330 killer”.

The skirmish addresses a lucrative niche of the industry alongside high-profile battles between the A350 and Boeing’s 787 and the older but larger 777, which had record sales last year.

Airbus has said the carbon A350 will eventually outshine the 777 because it will be lighter and cheaper to run, while Boeing was expected to make similar claims about the 787-10 against the A330, which stems from roughly the same era as the 777.

FAA Orders Boeing 757 Inspections for Cracks

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The Federal Aviation Administration said in a directive to be published Jan. 10 that U.S. airlines must inspect 683 Boeing 757 planes for cracks after a hole opened on an AMR Corp. American Airlines plane Oct. 26.

The 1-foot-by-2-foot hole in the 757-200 plane opened at 31,000 feet, causing loss of pressure and forcing an emergency landing in Miami, the FAA has said. On Jan. 8, a notice posted on a federal website indicated when the directive will be published.

Les Dorr, an FAA spokesman, said the inspections are also prompted by an almost 11-inch crack found Sept. 11 on a United Continental Holdings Inc. 757 plane flown by United Airlines. The crack was discovered in an inspection after the flight crew reported hearing a whistling sound during a flight, Dorr said. No decompression of the aircraft resulted from the crack, he said.

Carriers must complete initial inspections within 30 days, or before 15,000 total flight cycles are accumulated, and then repeat the reviews at intervals ranging from every 30 takeoffs and landings, called a cycle, to 300 cycles, according to the FAA’s directive. The inspections will cost the airline industry a total of $58,055, based on the $85 per-hour cost to inspect all the aircraft, the FAA estimated.

Airlines must repair any cracks found before operating further flights using the aircraft, the FAA said.

Boeing recommended the inspections to carriers on Nov. 22. According to the FAA, the requirement covers 757-200, -200CB and -300 series airplanes.

The FAA requirement of inspections recommended by Boeing “is appropriate as a means to help ensure that safety continues at the highest levels,” Boeing said in an e-mailed statement.

The FAA order applies to 88 of American Airlines’ 124 757s, said Andrea Huguely, a spokeswoman for the carrier. American began inspecting those planes in November, and all initial examinations will be completed by the end of today, she said.

The inspections are done overnight, and don’t interfere with operations, Huguely said.

The Boeing 757 is a mid-size, narrow-body, twin-engine jet airliner which was conceived and designed in tandem with the 767, a wide-body twinjet with which it shares design features and two-crew flight decks. After its introduction, the 757 became commonly used by operators in both the United States and Europe, and particularly with mainline U.S. carriers and European charter airlines.