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Qantas has selects the Airbus A350-1000 for ‘Project Sunrise’

Airbus A350-1000
  • Airbus A350 selected as preferred aircraft (no order placed)
  • Deadline for confirming delivery slots extended by one month
  • Regulatory support for ultra long haul routes, pending formal application
  • Discussions with pilots ongoing

Qantas is today announcing several important developments for Project Sunrise ahead of a final go/no go decision, which will now take place in March 2020.

AIRCRAFT SELECTION

After detailed evaluation of the Boeing 777X and Airbus A350, Qantas has selected the A350-1000 as the preferred aircraft if Sunrise proceeds. This aircraft uses the Rolls Royce Trent XWB engine, which has a strong reliability record after being in service with airlines for more than two years. Airbus will add an additional fuel tank and slightly increase the maximum takeoff weight to deliver the performance required for Sunrise routes.

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No orders have been placed but Qantas will work closely with Airbus to prepare contract terms for up to 12 aircraft ahead of a final decision by the Qantas Board.

Airbus has agreed to extend the deadline to confirm delivery slots from February 2020 to March 2020. This provides additional time to negotiate an industrial agreement without impacting the planned start date of Project Sunrise flights in the first half of calendar 2023.

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REGULATORY APPROVAL

The last of three Project Sunrise research flights (New York to Sydney) will be conducted on 17 December. Once complete, Qantas will have almost 60 hours of ‘Sunrise flying’ experience and thousands of data points on crew and passenger wellbeing.

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The data for crew will be used as part of final discussions with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to approve an extension to current operating limits required for these ultra long haul services. Based on detailed information already provided by Qantas on its fatigue risk management system, CASA has provisionally advised that it sees no regulatory obstacles to the Sunrise flights.

PILOT NEGOTIATIONS 

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Industrial negotiations with representatives for Qantas pilots, AIPA, are continuing. The discussions are aimed at closing the last remaining gap in the Project Sunrise business case. Qantas has put forward a number of suggestions to AIPA on how the gap might be closed while still offering three per cent annual pay increases and promotional opportunities to its long haul pilots. Discussions centre on productivity and efficiency gains, including the ability to use the same pilots across its A350 Sunrise aircraft and the airline’s existing fleet of Airbus A330s.

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE 

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Design of the customer experience for flights up to 21 hours continues, including new cabins across First Class, Business, Premium Economy and Economy. Research flights have underscored the importance of dedicated space for stretching and movement for Economy passengers in particular, as well as the potential benefits from re-designing the service on board to actively shift people to their destination timezone.

CEO COMMENTS 

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Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the national carrier’s support for Project Sunrise was stronger than ever, particularly after the success of recent ‘dry run’ research flights.

Singapore Airlines is now largest operator of A350, Qatar slips a position

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“Between the research flights and what we’ve learned from two years of flying Perth to London, we have a lot of confidence in the market for direct services like New York and London to the east coast of Australia.

“The A350 is a fantastic aircraft and the deal on the table with Airbus gives us the best possible combination of commercial terms, fuel efficiency, operating cost and customer experience.

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“The aircraft and engine combination is next generation technology but it’s thoroughly proven after more than two years in service. This is the right choice for the Sunrise missions and it also has the right economics to do other long haul routes if we want it to.

Boeing 737 Max to be operated most of the world except one country

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“From the outset, we’ve been clear that Project Sunrise depends on a business case that works. We’ll only commit to this investment if we know it will generate the right return for our shareholders given the inherent commercial risks.

“We’ve done a lot of work on the economics and we know the last gap we have to close is some efficiency gains associated with our pilots. We’re offering promotions and an increase in pay but we’re asking for some flexibility in return, which will help lower our operating costs.

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“Airbus has given us an extra month to lock in an aircraft order without impacting our planned start date, which means we can spend more time on hopefully reaching a deal with our pilots.

“Can I thank both Airbus and Boeing for the tremendous effort they have put into Project Sunrise. It was a tough choice between two very capable aircraft, made even harder by innovation from both manufacturers to improve on what they had already spent years designing.”

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He is an aviation journalist and the founder of Jetline Marvel. Dawal gained a comprehensive understanding of the commercial aviation industry.  He has worked in a range of roles for more than 9 years in the aviation and aerospace industry. He has written more than 1700 articles in the aerospace industry. When he was 19 years old, he received a national award for his general innovations and holds the patent. He completed two postgraduate degrees simultaneously, one in Aerospace and the other in Management. Additionally, he authored nearly six textbooks on aviation and aerospace tailored for students in various educational institutions. jetlinem4(at)gmail.com

Aerospace

Take First Glimpse of USAF B-21 Raider, Latest Nuclear Stealth Bomber

Take First Glimpse of USAF B-21 Raider, Latest Nuclear Stealth Bomber
Image:USAF

The United States Air Force (USAF) has unveiled the first photographs of the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider bomber in flight.

These images were captured during test flights conducted by the B-21 Combined Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base, marking a significant milestone in the development of this sixth-generation aircraft.

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Currently undergoing flight tests in California, the B-21 Raider represents the next generation of stealth bombers. With an estimated cost of around $700 million per aircraft, the B-21 Raider is poised to become a crucial component of the USAF’s arsenal for conventional Long Range Strike missions.

According to Air Force briefings, the B-21 Raider will form part of a comprehensive family of systems, encompassing Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance capabilities, electronic warfare, communication systems, and more. Notably, the bomber will be nuclear-capable and adaptable for both manned and unmanned operations.

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It boasts the flexibility to deploy a wide array of stand-off and direct-attack munitions, ensuring versatility in various combat scenarios. One of the B-21’s distinguishing features is its extensive integration of digital technology, as highlighted in discussions held during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Designed with an open systems architecture, the B-21 Raider is built to swiftly incorporate emerging technologies, ensuring its effectiveness against evolving threats over time. The B-21 Raider is slated to replace the aging B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers, bolstering US national security objectives and providing reassurance to allies and partners worldwide.

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Aerospace

Aurora Flight Sciences Unveils Innovative X-Plane Design

Aurora Flight Sciences Unveils Innovative X-Plane Design

Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing company, has recently completed the conceptual design review for a groundbreaking high-speed, vertical lift X-plane.

This aircraft, part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program called Speed and Runway Independent Technologies (SPRINT), aims to demonstrate key technologies and integrated concepts that combine high speed with runway independence.

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Aurora’s design features a low-drag, fan-in-wing demonstrator integrated into a blended wing body platform. This innovative approach merges the agility of vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) with exceptional speed capabilities.

The team is focused on ensuring the program’s success by setting the stage for successful flight demonstrations, showcasing a transformative capability for air mobility and Special Operations Forces (SOF) missions.

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New renderings of the fan-in-wing (FIW) demonstrator show three lift fans, a more refined composite exterior, and an uncrewed cockpit. The decision to use three lift fans simplifies the demonstrator, streamlining its path to flight testing. This FIW technology can be scaled to incorporate four or more lift fans to meet future aircraft requirements, potentially leading to a new family of systems.

Additionally, while the current demonstrator is uncrewed to facilitate testing and reduce risk, the FIW technology is fully adaptable to crewed aircraft. Aurora’s concept is designed to meet or exceed DARPA’s challenging program objectives. The blended wing body platform is capable of a 450-knot cruise speed, and the embedded lift fans with integrated covers enable a smooth transition from vertical to horizontal flight.

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The design also utilizes existing engine solutions, reducing development risks and timelines. Besides VTOL, the aircraft can perform short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL), super short take-off and landing (SSTOL), and conventional take-off and landing.

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Aerospace

China Developing Comac C939 Wide Body Aircraft to Compete with A350 and B777

Comac Eyes Saudi Arabian Market to Challenge Western Aircraft Giants


China’s Comac aircraft company is currently underway with the development of its own wide-body aircraft, the C939, positioned to compete with industry stalwarts like the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 in the future. This strategic move by Comac involves crafting the next iteration with enhanced capacity and extended range capabilities, marking a significant leap forward in technological advancement compared to the current C919 aircraft.

Air China has inked a substantial deal worth a staggering $10.8 billion, based on list prices, to acquire 100 Comac C919 jets, signaling a strong vote of confidence in the domestic challenger to aerospace giants Airbus and Boeing.

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China Comac C919 Total Order

With both China Southern and Air China combining orders for nearly 200 aircraft, the prospects for the new C919 aircraft appear increasingly promising for future fleet growth. To date, Comac has garnered orders for nearly 1,100 aircraft.

China is contemplating the development of another wide-body aircraft, the C939, poised to significantly bolster the aerospace industry in China.

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COMAC has initiated work on the C939, a new wide-body airliner. While design concepts have been formulated, it will still take several years before a prototype materializes, according to reports from the South China Morning Post, citing anonymous sources.

Initially intended to be a joint venture with Russia, plans were halted due to Russia’s decision to safeguard its copyrights and technological advancements within its borders. Consequently, collaboration between China and Russia on aircraft development was discontinued. Sources suggest that China is vigorously pursuing new avenues for the independent development of its own wide-body aircraft, crucial for accommodating larger passenger capacities and extended flight ranges.

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Comac C939 competes with Boeing 777 and A350

Information regarding the program remains limited. COMAC has refrained from commenting on the development of the new aircraft type, stating that official announcements will be made in due course. Nevertheless, the C939 could potentially accommodate up to 390 passengers, positioning it to compete with the largest Boeing 777 and Airbus A350 aircraft.

In addition to the prospective C939, COMAC is already advancing with the development of another widebody aircraft, known as the C929. This aircraft is poised to rival the Boeing 787 and Airbus A330, boasting 280 seats and a range approaching 6,500 nautical miles.

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Since obtaining certification in late 2022, the COMAC C919 has been operational, accumulating nearly 1,000 firm orders, predominantly from Chinese-owned airlines and leasing companies.

With multiple widebody aircraft in the pipeline, COMAC stands to achieve parity with the two leading international aircraft manufacturers. Boeing, with its 777 and 787 models, and Airbus, with the A330neo and A350, both have a comparable range of offerings. However, Boeing’s aircraft are encountering delays and production challenges despite substantial orders, while the A350 is performing commendably, though the A330neo’s order intake has not met initial projections.

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How much does C919 cost?

China is under pressure to fulfill the current orders for the C919 aircraft, prompting plans to expand production facilities across various regions within the country. The aim is to ramp up production capacity for C919 planes to 150 aircraft annually over the next five years. The latest reports indicate that the C919 is priced around $99 million, comparable to the price of Boeing 737 Max and Airbus A320 aircraft, with expectations for further price reductions in the future.

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While the C919 has yet to be certified in major aviation markets outside of China, only four have been delivered thus far. In the long term, COMAC’s widebody aircraft will vie for global competitiveness. One potential benefit of COMAC aircraft could be in reducing China’s reliance on Western aircraft manufacturers. However, this shift won’t happen immediately; the current delivery rate of four aircraft in nearly 18 months is not sustainable, and both Airbus and Boeing have established manufacturing facilities in China to cater to its sizable market.

Nevertheless, assuming COMAC addresses the issues impeding deliveries, there’s a plausible scenario where the manufacturer assumes a significant role, particularly as China’s aviation market continues to expand.

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As the C939 progresses through its development stages, more details are expected to emerge. Comparisons between official specifications of the C929 and C939 will be noteworthy, as will the initial orders for each aircraft type. However, it’s anticipated that neither will undergo test flights or enter into service for several years.

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