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.

Scale Model of Solar Airplane to be Displayed


On March 28-30, in Sofia Bulgaria, the world will get the first glimpse of a solar powered airplane. A scale model airplane of Solar Impulse will be displayed at the South-East European Solar PV & Thermal Exhibition (SEE Solar).

Solar Impulse will the first aircraft that can fly day and night without fuel. It aims to fly around the world with no fuel and solely powered by solar energy. The project began in 2003 and is a product of years of planning, research, simulation and testing. It aims to demonstrate that progress is possible while using clean energy. The solar-powered aircraft will take its first flight on 2014. It is currently on test missions that last for several days.

The Solar Impluse was a wing span of 63.40 meters, similar to Airbus A340. It uses four 10HP engines and weight 1600 kg. It has 11,628 solar cells located on the aircraft wings and horizontal stabilizer. It has an average flying speed of 70km/h and can reach the maximum altitude of 8,500 meters. The scale model airplane will be presented at the exhibit by Solvay Sodi, a Bulgarian company who is the main technological partner of Soalr Impluse.


A330 Production Boosts

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Airbus expects to decide soon on a plan to boost widebody output to a rate of 11 aircraft a month even as it delays ramping up narrowbody production.

Airbus had been considering a single-aisle production rate increase to 44 aircraft a month, but has decided to hold off for the moment because of bottlenecks among Tier 2 suppliers. The situation is different for the A330, making a production boost there possible, says John Leahy, Airbus chief operating officer for customers. The company expects to reach a production rate of 10 widebodies per month this year.

Airbus COO Fabrice Bregier hints that a decision on the single-aisle side could wait until a rate of 42 aircraft per month is reached, which is expected next year. “It would be premature to do it now,” he notes.

One of the reasons Airbus is keen to boost production is because of its bulging backlog. The company booked 1,419 net orders last year and made 535 deliveries. And 2012 should see order intake move ahead of deliveries, with new orders forecast to reach 600-650, while deliveries of 570 aircraft are expected. The order intake should include about 30 A380s, matching the 2012 delivery target.

Output is only one of the deliberations for Airbus this year. The other is whether to launch an A330 winglet program. Leahy says studies have begun for both forward-fit and retrofit options. A decision is likely this year.

If the devices could yield a 2% fuel burn benefit, Leahy says such a program would likely move forward.

Not on the near-term agenda is the A380-900 program, a stretched version of the aircraft now on the market. Despite occasional customer interest, such a project would not likely emerge until the second half of the decade, says Airbus CEO Tom Enders. The focus now is on ramping up production. Profit-delivering aircraft will go to customers starting in 2015.

Pilot Error Caused Air France Flight 447 crash


The Air France A330 that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean two years ago apparently had its pilots distracted with faulty airspeed indicators and failed to properly deal with other vital systems, including adjusting engine thrust, according to people familiar with preliminary findings from the plane’s recorders.

The final moments inside the cockpit of the twin-engine Airbus A330, these people said, indicate the pilots seemingly were confused by alarms they received from various automated flight-control systems as the plane passed through some turbulence typical on the route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. They also faced unexpectedly heavy icing at 35,000 feet. Such icing is renowned for making airspeed-indicators and other external sensors unreliable.

Ultimately, despite the fact that primary cockpit displays functioned normally, the crew failed to follow standard procedures to maintain or increase thrust and keep the aircraft’s nose level, while trouble-shooting and waiting for the airspeed sensors and related functions to return to normal.

Slated to be disclosed by investigators on Friday, the sequence of events captured on the recorders is expected to highlight that the A330 jet slowed dangerously shortly after the autopilot disconnected. The pilots almost immediately faced the beginning of what became a series of automation failures or disconnects related to problems with the plane’s airspeed sensors, these people said.

The crew methodically tried to respond to the warnings but apparently had difficulty sorting out the warning messages, chimes and other cues while also keeping close track of essential displays showing engine power and aircraft trajectory.

The Air France pilots were never trained to handle precisely such an emergency, according to safety experts and a previous report by France’s Bureau d’Enquetes et d’Analyses, which is heading up the investigation. All 228 people aboard Flight 447 died in the accident.

The senior captain, Marc Dubois, appears to have been on a routine rest break in the cabin when the fatal chain of events started, according to safety experts familiar with the details, but the cockpit-voice recorder suggests he may have rushed back to the cockpit to join the other two Flight 447 pilots.

Fight over aerial tanker contract set to end

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One of the most hotly sought-after military contracts in U.S. history is expected to be issued this week, perhaps the finale in a scandal-ridden bureaucratic nightmare that has pitted two global aerospace titans in a high-stakes competition for a decade.

At issue is a $35-billion prize purse to replace the Air Force’s fleet of Eisenhower administration-era aerial tankers, which refuel warplanes while in flight. The Pentagon has twice awarded the contract, only to see its decision overturned amid accusations of underhanded politics and discriminatory rule-making.

Follow-on tanker contracts could involve building 300 to 400 additional tankers valued at more than $100 billion over several decades, analysts said.

The decision has national implications and strong political overtones. Both companies have boisterous contingents in the halls of Congress pushing for one side or the other because of the huge number of jobs at stake nationwide. For example, if Boeing wins, the bulk of assembly work would be done in the Seattle area. EADS has plans for an aircraft production plant in Mobile, Ala.

But much of the work is slated for California, with airplane parts being manufactured across the Southland. Take Parker Aerospace in Irvine. It’s set to be a supplier on either EADS North America’s offering of a modified Airbus A330 passenger jet or Boeing’s contender, which is based on its 767 airliner.

Dozens of other local aerospace companies also stand to benefit, depending on the outcome, including Raytheon in El Segundo, Alarin Aircraft Hinge Inc. in the City of Commerce and Lamsco West Inc. in Santa Clarita.

But getting to work on the program hasn’t been easy. It’s been a decade-long affair for the Air Force to replace the oldest planes in its fleet. Many of the planes — based on 50-year-old heavily modified Boeing 707s — are run-down, rusty and corroding.

The military depends on the tankers all over the world because they refuel bombers, fighters and cargo planes in midair beyond America’s shores. Still, the Pentagon has been unable to award the contract.
- Los Angeles Times

Another team to search for lost Air France A330 plane

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A Franco-American team will make a fresh attempt to locate the wreckage of an Air France Airbus A330 that search teams have been unable to find in 18 months of extensive campaigns.

Thierry Mariani, the French deputy minister in charge of transportation, announced on Feb. 4 that Air France, Airbus and the government will back a new search to locate the A330 aircraft, AF447, which disappeared off the Brazilian coast between May 31 and June 1, 2009, without a trace. Like the last mission in May 2010, the new operation will rely solely on advanced unmanned automated systems (UAS), rather than surface-towed sonar, which dominated earlier searches, running back-and-forth patterns to ensure each area is observed at least twice.

However, unlike last year’s attempt, which focused on just part of the vast 17,000-sq.-km crash zone, based on ocean current models, the new mission will systematically investigate the entire zone, except for 6,000 sq. km already explored. Alain Bouillard, an official in France’s bureau of accident investigations, or BEA, who is leading the inquiry, said a follow-up study in June 2010 using dropped buoys had determined that the crash area is characterized by eddy currents, rendering modeling problematic.

To be managed by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts, which participated in the 2010 search, this year’s operation will employ three Remus 6000 UAS vehicles supported by a small expedition ship, the Alucia, based in Seattle. Two of the UAS vehicles are owned by the Waitt Foundation and the third by the German oceanographic institute Geomar. If the team is successful in identifying the wreckage field, a larger vessel still to be identified will be sent to retrieve the wreckage and the aircraft’s voice and data recorders.

BEA Director Jean-Paul Troadec says the UASs, equipped with camera and sonar, are the only means currently available capable of undertaking high-precision exploration of the sea floor at the 4,000-meter depths and rugged terrain where Flight AF447 went down, which despite a joint Franco-U.S. mission in 1974 remains largely uncharted. “Given the certainty of the aircraft’s last known position and ACARS data, transmitted 15 minutes before impact, we are sure the aircraft is in the part of the crash zone that we haven’t yet explored,” he says, “and we’re more confident than ever that our strategy will enable it to be found.”

David Gallo, director of special projects at Woods Hole and co-expedition leader, says exploration of the crash zone last year showed the Remus submarines are capable of running precision patterns in terrain with scarps of 90 degrees or more. And a high-precision mapping campaign of the Titanic site last August-September showed they can detect objects the size of a barrel or a chair at 600 meters, Gallo said.

The Alucia is scheduled to leave Seattle on Feb. 9 and arrive at Suape, Brazil, on March 14. It is slated to be on station to begin the search on March 18. The operation is to extend through July 8.

Air France and Airbus will foot the estimated €9.2 million ($12.5 million) cost of the search and the French government the retrieval effort.


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.

RAAF’s A330 Tanker Variant To Be Completed By Early November

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Airbus Military expects that by early November the remaining test flights for the Royal Australian Air Force’s A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft will be completed, clearing the way for deliveries to begin before year’s end.

A330-200 MRTT

The first operator of the A330 tanker variant will be the RAAF. Flight testing for the MRTT’s military certification was completed in July after a seven-month program involving 112 flights. Spanish military approval was received Oct. 5, said Airbus’s head of flight operations and test, Gabriel Garcia Mesuro. “There remain less than 10 qualification flights to fly [for the RAAF],” he said. Some of the testing left will involve night flights for receiver qualification. Mesuro claims “We’ll finish all these by early November.”

Mesuro said that the MRTT flight test effort involved the RAAF’s first two A330s, while its third aircraft has just gone into the paint shop in Paris. The next phase will be the start of the “formal delivery process,” he adds. “We will deliver two MRTTs by the end of the year — numbers two and three. The aircraft will be ready for delivery by early December.”

Conversion of the RAAF’s fourth MRTT began “some months ago” and will be completed in mid-2011, Mesuro said, while its fifth and final aircraft will be delivered to Qantas for modification early next year.

Meanwhile, the second A330 MRTT Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft (FSTA) for the U.K. Royal Air Force completed its first post-modification test flight from Airbus’s Getafe plant near Madrid on Oct. 26. The manufacturer says the crew reported that the aircraft, its systems and Rolls-Royce Trent 700 engines performed entirely satisfactorily during the 2-hour flight.

The RAF’s first FSTA, which made its first flight on Sept. 16, is grounded in Getafe while its Cobham-supplied fuselage refueling unit system is installed.

Mesuro stated “There was a delay in the delivery of the system from the supplier, but we have now received it.”

This aircraft performed five flights prior to going into the workshop. Early next year, it will undertake refueling qualification tests in the U.K. with various RAF aircraft, including the Eurofighter Typhoon. Mesuro said the FSTA may also fly some refueling trials with the Airbus Military A400M. According to Airbus, formal deliveries to the RAF are due to begin toward the end of 2011.

The first A330 MRTTs for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are due to make their post-modification first flights from Getafe early next year.


Etihad receives first A330-200

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Last week, Etihad Airways launched the very first Airbus A330-200 freighter plane from Toulouse to its Abu Dhabi base. Etihad Airways is the launch customer of the A330-200F which received EASA Type Certification in April. Certification was achieved for a payload capability of 70 tons which was 1 ton more than originally expected. Etihad Airways said its A330-200F can carry up to 64 tons and fly up to 4,598 miles nonstop.

The carrier said its Crystal Cargo unit carried a record 23,000 tons in July. More than 30,000 shipments were carried during the month because the company said that they were “driven by increased volumes from Pakistan, Australia, China and Bangladesh.” For the year to date, it has recorded 21 percent growth in tonnage and 30 percent growth in yield.

In October this year, Etihad Airways is slated to take delivery of a second A330-200F. Prior to taking delivery of the A330-200F, the airline’s freighter fleet were made up of two leased MD-11Fs and two leased A300Fs.

James Hogan, CEO of Etihad Airways, said “The arrival of our new A330-200 freighter marks a new era in Etihad’s cargo services and will support Etihad’s goal to expand that side of the business further. The aircraft will bring us more payloads at a reduced operating cost, and will offer us better connectivity in our flight network, with greater transfer flows.”

The A330-200F aircraft is a much improved and more popular version of the A340-200. It is also the shortened version of the A330-300 and the rival of Boeing’s 767-300ER.


Bomb hoax cause Air France plane to land in Brazil

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Air France Flight 443

The Air France Flight 443, a Boeing 747-400 passenger jet, bound for Paris emergency landed at Recife Airport in Brazil last July 10 after receiving a bomb threat.

AF Flight 443 took off from Rio de Janeiro and later received information from Rio’s International airport control tower that someone called thirty minutes after the plane took off, saying that there was a bomb on board. The mysterious caller had a female voice.

The 405 passengers and 18 crew members were unhurt and safely evacuated according to Recife Airport authority spokesman Jorge Andrade. They were ushered in nearby hotels while a five-hour search for the bomb was conducted on the B747 passenger jet. This resulted to the 30-minute closing of the Recife airport. No bomb was found after the search and resumed its flight to Paris.

The flight was on the same route as Air France Flight 447, an Airbus A330-200 aircraft, which crashed last year off Brazil’s northeastern coast. 228 people were killed. There were no survivors. Until now, authorities have not yet determined the cause of the crash.

Air France Flight 447 which crashed on June 1, 2009

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