fredag 20. juli 2018

Airbus kan forstyrre Boeings plan om en B757 etterfølger - AW&ST

Airbus Moves Ahead With A321XLR Definition

Jens Flottau and Guy Norris 
Boeing’s proposed new midmarket airplane (NMA) is already facing both customer interest that may not align with its own official vision of the market segment and doubts among key suppliers about the size of the market. Now another factor is making the decision to launch the aircraft next year even harder—Airbus is closing in on a decision to launch an even more capable version of the A321neo.
Boeing’s competitor has long argued that its own lineup of products is sufficient to address the middle of the market, but Airbus wants to make sure it can cover an even larger portion of it. The largest version of the A320neo family is an efficient weapon for Airbus, capturing an increasing portion of the short- and medium-haul segment, and is the main reason for Airbus’ current narrowbody market share of around 60%. The A321LR is beginning to transform the medium-/long-haul segment, allowing airlines to fly some shorter transatlantic sectors with a narrowbody aircraft. And the proposed A321XLR would drive range capabilities even further.
·         Airbus accelerates A321XLR planning to limit Boeing NMA potential
·         Longest-range Airbus narrowbody could enter service in 2022
·         Engine discussions are key for NMA progress
After a pause earlier this year that was forced on Airbus by the A320neo production crisis, the manufacturer is back in attack mode. “Speed is of the essence,” Airbus Commercial Aircraft President Guillaume Faury says. While he does not disclose the timing of the launch and entry into service, industry sources say another version of the A321neo could be launched in 2019 and would be ready to enter service in 2021 or 2022 at latest. 

Rather than waiting for the exact definition of the NMA, Airbus is resuming its proactive approach, which Faury characterizes as a “step-by-step” strategy. The company is “sharing with customers the direction we are taking,” he notes. Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Eric Schulz said earlier this year that a two-year development time frame for the project is realistic.
Faury did not disclose details of changes planned beyond what the A321LR offers. However, he says, “everything is incremental,” including possible upgrades to the aircraft’s engines. “We keep pushing the limits [of the A321LR],” he points out. And unlike the multiyear development project that the NMA constitutes, the A321XLR upgrades are “short term.”
The A321LR’s maximum range is 4,000 nm, but it recently flew the 4,750-nm route from Toulouse to the Seychelles with a payload equivalent to 160 passengers. The A321neo is certified for up to 244 passengers.

Airbus is working on another version of the A321neo that would take its range well beyond the A321LR’s 4,000 nm. Credit: S. Ramidier/Airbus

The A321XLR is planned to be capable of flying 4,500 nm or more. This would enable airlines to operate the aircraft on transatlantic services to destinations farther south on the U.S. East Coast and further east from Europe. “Extending the range of the A321LR will make the NMA business case more difficult,” Faury says.
The range increase can be achieved by enlarging the center fuel tank, according to Schulz. It is integrated with the fuselage structure to save weight. About 200-300 nm of the range increase has been secured already, but Airbus still needs to close a gap of roughly 200 nm to reach its target.
The European airframer has been studying several ways to upgrade the aircraft—from relatively simple modifications such as the ones currently favored that would be ready sooner to more fundamental changes that involve a fuselage plug for greater capacity and a new composite wing, which are less likely now, given the renewed push for speed. Industry sources familiar with the process say a decision probably will not be made for several months.
Meanwhile, the first A321LR will be delivered to TAP Air Portugal by year-end. The airline will also be the first to operate both the A321LR and the A330neo, Airbus’ other tool to attack the NMA from the top.
While the A330neo has not been selling well, Faury says he is nevertheless “very optimistic” that this will change as airlines come to understand its benefits. He believes the A330neo “is very well-positioned,” and he is also not concerned that the program is becoming too dependent on one airline. Air Asia X is by far the largest customer, holding 100 of the 268 firm orders and considering further commitments.
Boeing had little to add to the NMA story at the airshow here, other than to reiterate that a launch decision will be made in 2019 to preserve a service-entry target date of 2025. “But we are not going to be rushed into a decision,” asserts Boeing President and CEO Dennis Muilenburg.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes President Kevin McAllister notes that the company is “spending a lot of time getting it right and designing the right production system,” adding: “As it takes shape, we will make that call.”
At least two of the engine-makers say exclusivity will be key to their decision whether to compete to power the NMA. “It has got to make economic sense for everybody,” says GE Aviation President David Joyce. “We haven’t made a decision on whether it is one or two choices, but we are not going to do three because that’s a recipe for disaster.”
GE and Safran say they will bid on the NMA project through their CFM joint venture even if, as sounds likely, the thrust requirement exceeds the 50,000-lb. upper limit of the engine partnership agreement. Joyce indicates that the latest Boeing specification calls for an upper thrust requirement of 52,000 lb., up from the 45,000 lb. discussed by the aircraft manufacturer in 2017.
Like Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce, CFM delivered its initial proposal to Boeing in late June. “We expect to get some feedback on this first round. The process has begun, and we are rolling through it,” says Joyce. In terms of estimated program costs, he notes: “You are talking about a $2 billion engine.”
Meanwhile, further details of the CFM proposal are slowly emerging. Although the company is not discussing the bid, industry executives tell Aviation Week the concept will likely see a further development of the 3D-woven-resin transfer-molding approach used for the Leap 1 fan. Given the larger diameter of the fan required for the NMA, there was speculation that CFM might have adopted a GEnx/GE9X-type carbon-fiber composite design for the new configuration, but this now appears not to be the case. 

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