A Guy Called Tyketto
2006-11-06 20:19:48 UTC
Airbus considers composite fuselage
Saturday, November 4, 2006
By JAMES WALLACE
P-I AEROSPACE REPORTER
In what would be a radical change of course for the company, Airbus may
switch to a composite fuselage for its next new jetliner.
It would mark the sixth time that Airbus has changed plans as it
scrambles for the right airplane to not only challenge The Boeing Co.'s
787 Dreamliner but possibly leapfrog the 777. The two Boeing planes are
dominating sales for jets that seat from about 250 to 350 passengers.
Airbus may present its latest A350 design to the board of its parent
company, EADS, next week, according to a published report.
"If they are reconsidering the virtues of an all-composite tube
(fuselage), that's a smart exercise," said Richard Aboulafia, vice
president of analysis for the Teal Group, an industry consulting firm
near Washington, D.C.
"They have to decide whether they believe composites is a killer
technology," Aboulafia said. "If they believe that it is, then a
metal-tubed A350 would be ambushed eventually by a 777 composite
Airbus has said it would aim the A350 at not only the 787 but the 777,
a bigger plane that seats from 300 to 360 passengers, depending on the
Boeing's two-engine 777 has been dominating sales for jets its size the
past few years. Airlines prefer it over the four-engine Airbus A340,
which is less fuel-efficient and has a smaller cabin.
The older 777 has an aluminum fuselage, but a composite tail. The new
787 will be the world's first large passenger jet with an all-composite
airframe, including fuselage. Boeing believes composites are the future
of commercial jet making and has said it has made its last aluminum
jetliner. Composites are stronger and lighter than metal and do not
corrode. Among other benefits, the composite fuselage of the 787 will
save airlines on maintenance and give passengers an improved cabin
environment, according to Boeing.
Airbus, on the other hand, has said Boeing is pushing the technology
envelope too far with the 787.
Earlier this year, Airbus redesigned the A350 after criticism from
several airline and industry executives that its proposed plane would
not be competitive against the 787.
At the Farnborough International Airshow in England in July, Airbus
unveiled the redesigned jet, dubbed the A350 XWB (extra wide body).
Airbus said then that the A350 would have a composite wing, but not a
composite fuselage. Airbus said it would develop three versions of the
A350, the first of which would not be ready for airline service until
But last week, Tim Clark, president of Emirates, an important Airbus
customer, told reporters that the A350 XWB was still lacking.
"It has to do better than that," he said of Airbus.
Emirates has been considering either the A350 or 787 as it looks to
place an order for as many as 100 midsize jets.
Two weeks ago, the respected online industry publication Air Transport
World reported that Airbus was rethinking the A350 design to include a
composite fuselage. It quoted "key" unnamed customers as telling Airbus
that it had not yet done enough with the plane to combat the 787.
Bloomberg News reported Friday that Airbus has indeed decided to
redesign the A350 to include more composite and will present the new
design to the EADS board Tuesday. Bloomberg, quoting two unnamed
sources, said the latest redesign will push the development costs of
the A350 from $10 billion up to $12 billion. The changes will delay the
jet's entry into service until at least 2013, Bloomberg quoted the
sources as saying.
Boeing plans four versions of its 787, the first of which will enter
service in 2008.
The European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co., the world's
second-largest aerospace company after Boeing, has not yet approved
development of the A350. It has its hands full trying to repair the
damage from a series of embarrassing delays in the A380 program. EADS
executives recently said they wanted to make sure there are enough
engineers, and that EADS has the financial resources, to develop the
A350, given the full-court press at Airbus to get the A380 problems
Industry analysts believe Airbus must develop the A350 or concede the
important middle of the jetliner market to Boeing and its 787.
In his recent comments to reporters, Clark, the Emirates Airlines
executive, said if Airbus does not come up with a competitive plane to
counter Boeing's 787, "they'll be out of business."
The Boeing jet has racked up more than 400 firm orders even though the
Dreamliner won't make its first test flight until next summer.
Brad Littlejohn | Email: ***@sbcglobal.net
Unix Systems Administrator, | ***@ozemail.com.au
Web + NewsMaster, BOFH.. Smeghead! :) | http://www.wizard.com/~tyketto
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