US Airways Indifferent to Airbus's A350 Dilemma

US may consider to keep or switch to widebody aircraft type unless Airbus may scrap A350 programs?

  • Keep A350

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  • Switch to B787

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  • Switch to A370

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  • Switch to B777

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  • Switch to B747-8

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  • Switch to B797 (super sonic)

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Why does US have this wait and see approach to the A350 situation? If Airbus decides to scrap the current design and develope a new one it will leav US without a new int'l a/c for another two years or more. With the a/c we have to use on int'l very few, management sure has a cavalier attitude about it. With there not being many widebodies out there now I bet we see more 757's as US's answer to int'l expansion. We really do need some more a/c before we are left in the dust on int'l flying.
Stalling to dangle a carrot
My guess is that Airbus would offer US a good short term lease on some A330s if the A350 or its successor is delayed to keep them as a customer.
From this week's issue of Aviation Week - Jim

Airbus's New Widebody Faces Stiff Headwind
By Robert Wall and Jens Flottau
06/11/2006 08:26:11 PM


Serious questions surround Airbus's plan to revise its twin-widebody strategy. Concerns range from the program's timing, to whether it is targeting the right market segment, to the aircraft maker's ability to actually assemble the airplane.

Airbus is not expected to formally unveil its new design for a few more weeks. The emerging aircraft family would replace plans for the A350, with hope of this time generating broad market interest. Getting it right is critical for Airbus, after botching the A350, which drew extensive criticism from key customers.

The centerpiece of the revised widebody, and also at the heart of current concerns, is the combination of a larger fuselage, higher-thrust engines, delayed in-service date, and increased development cost. In fact, one senior airline executive says one reason the board has not yet endorsed the revision is that development costs will double.

But the price tag can't be the issue, suggests Emirates Airline President Tim Clark. "At the moment, the [Airbus] A340-500 is dead because of the [Boeing] 777-200LR and they know that. If they want to compete with the LR, they can't do a makeover, but they will have to do a new aircraft." And, he adds, "that's a very difficult one to swallow because of the money involved."

But Clark has little sympathy for the dilemma. "We have bought $33 billion worth of aircraft, do you think that worries us? No. You build the damn thing. So if you need to invest another $10 billion in a new aircraft? That's what you are in business to do, do it! You are either in the business or not."

Additionally, Airbus faces some critical logistics challenges with the revised design, which is being transformed from an A330 replacement to an aircraft meant to also leap-frog the A340 family and take on Boeing's popular 787 and 777s. However, the new configuration's larger fuselage isn't compatible with the existing infrastructure Airbus uses to transfer components between its distributed manufacturing sites. The fuselage barrels can't be conveyed from Germany to the French final assembly line using the in-place A300-600ST outsize freighters.

OPTIONS ARE BEING weighed. Among them is establishing a coastal industrial site to assemble the aircraft. Alternatively, Airbus could resort to an A380-inspired surface transportation system. A longer-term fix would be to develop a new transport aircraft, as Boeing is doing for the 787 production process. The problem with the latter option is that the extra-wide logistics aircraft would not be available to support the extremely tight development schedule of the new design. Airbus hopes to bring the aircraft to market in 2012.

That time line already is a concern for some. Qatar Airways, for instance, which has placed the largest commitment for A350s with 60 aircraft, suggests that a lengthy delay in delivery could force it to consider a Boeing alternative.

Aeroflot, too, is finding itself affected by the Airbus uncertainty. The Russian flag carrier has put off until after the Farnborough air show in July its widebody fleet decision to give Airbus time to define its product, says Aeroflot Chairman/CEO Valery Okulov. One of the deciding factors will be how much the redesign will delay the in-service date for the aircraft, he indicates.

But Boeing faces some problems trying to accommodate the demand. Its production slots are sold out through 2010, with 2011 availability dwindling. Marlin Dailey, Boeing Commercial Airplane's vice president of Sales for Europe, is eager to see the company commit to a second production line, arguing that any additional slots that would become available past 2010 could easily be sold. But, he concedes, there are larger issues at stake, including the long-term sustainability of a second line.

Clark, who has been extremely critical of Airbus of late, acknowledges that the manufacturer is making the right decision in scrapping the A350 design. "I was not comfortable that this was the aircraft of the 21st century. I could have perhaps lived with the fuselage, but the rest of the community [clamored for a] 9-abreast arrangement." Clark says a new wing that can deliver Mach 0.85 cruise speed is needed. "You could not live with a wing designed in the mid-80s--good for the time but made for a different performance window."

AND HE SEEMS to endorse Airbus CEO Gustav Humbert's move to step back and thoroughly review the product portfolio before rolling out a new aircraft. "Airbus has a number of issues. They have the A340-500/-600, the A330-200, the A340-300. The quads are an issue, the A330 is an issue because of the 787," Clark says. "Apart from the single-aisle and A380, their whole [product] range has a question mark. So you don't rush into decisions because you are driven by the competition to do it. You sit down and think clearly what your strategy should be for the next 20 years."

But the new Airbus agenda could be problematic, too, industry officials suggest. For instance, if Airbus targets an airframe at the 777-200LR and -300ER, then the aircraft and engines will carry excessive weight when competing in a smaller version 787-8 and 787-9. And the 200-250-seat segment is the true "sweet spot" for the market, according to one Boeing official.

Clark says there may be a different option, optimizing the new aircraft to compete with the 787 and then attacking the 777 family with a third product. "Is there a place for a quad with a new wing, a new fuselage, a new engine? If you come up with what they are proposing . . . where does that leave you between 340 and 550 seats? Is there nothing in the middle? I'm surprised. Not everybody wants the A380, they want something between 350 and 400 seats. The twin will not do everything. The airframe/engine combination will not allow it to carry a 55-ton payload under our rules from Dubai to Los Angeles," Clark points out.

With Pierre Sparaco in Toulouse.
USairways has two issues facing the international fleet, replacing the 767 and the A350 issue. This has to be dealt with in two stages because 2012 is too far away to keep the 767 around. I think introducing A330-200 as 767 replacements would standardize the fllet with the A330-300 and give US a good airplane for 10 years. A330-200 could also fly from PHX to Europe, as with will eventually happen.

The A350 issue would replace both 767 and A330-300 by say 2015. Given Airbus problem right now, US can only wait and see. The "New" A350/370 will probably be bigger then a 787 but smaller then a 777. US doesn't need the range of an airplane flying 16 hours or a 400 seat international airplane. Us needs are 200 to 280 seat airplane, an A330-200 would foot the bill NOW. Airbus would give them away since hardly anyone is buying A330/A340's. I think A330-200's would be great since they would be new. Let wait for the new glorious airplane, in whatever shape it comes, after we have a solid core A330 fleet in place. An A330-200 today is about thriftyness and not a gloriuous statement like Singapore Airlines will make when the giant A380 finally flies, US is a different creature.