SEATS OF POWER

With its C Se­ries ac­qui­si­tion, first A330­neo tak­ing off and land­mark 100th A380 de­liv­ery for Emi­rates this month, Air­bus is end­ing the year on a high, re­ports Do­minic El­lis

Business Traveller (Middle East) - - Airbus Special Report -

It feels like a re­turn to sum­mer with three days of blue skies over Toulouse, the red and yel­low leaves lin­ing the river Garonne pro­vid­ing the only signs we’ve skipped into au­tumn. Mir­ror­ing the favourable weather, Air­bus has been bask­ing in its ma­jor­ity own­er­ship an­nounce­ment in the C Se­ries, pro­vid­ing Bom­bardier with a brighter out­look af­ter all the un­cer­tainty over the pro­gramme and US tar­iff dis­putes – and it ended the week see­ing off its first A330­neo test flight. The Euro­pean man­u­fac­turer will ar­rive at the Dubai Air­show with a glow this month.

Sin­gu­larly and col­lec­tively, there was much to take in. From air­craft, cor­po­rate jet and ur­ban mo­bil­ity pre­sen­ta­tions, to cam­pus walk­a­bouts and coach trips en­com­pass­ing dif­fer­ent parts of this vast site – and even a day be­hind the scenes at De­fence and Space learn­ing about the com­plex­ity of satel­lites – the di­ver­sity of Air­bus’ op­er­a­tion was self-ev­i­dent. I can’t re­mem­ber show­ing my pass­port so of­ten with­out leav­ing the ground, but that was only to be ex­pected in these hard­ware and data-pro­tect­ing times.

AIR­BUS RAISES SIN­GLE-AISLE PRO­FILE

It was a week when what we saw and what we read didn’t al­ways tally. Most of the week saw wide­bod­ies in the viewfinder, but sin­gle aisles grabbed the lime­light with Air­bus an­nounc­ing it will take a ma­jor­ity stake (50.01 per cent) in C Se­ries Air­craft Lim­ited Part­ner­ship (CSALP) with Bom­bardier and In­vestisse­ment Québec own­ing around 31 per cent and 19 per cent re­spec­tively. The deal aims to com­plete by the sec­ond half of 2018.

CSALP’s HQ and pri­mary as­sem­bly line and re­lated func­tions will re­main in Québec with the sup­port of Air­bus’ global reach and scale, but Air­bus will ex­pand Fi­nal As­sem­bly Line in Canada ad­di­tional C Se­ries pro­duc­tion at its Alabama man­u­fac­tur­ing site.

While out­wardly a great deal for Bom­bardier’s em­bat­tled C Se­ries, it looks a shrewd move by Air­bus too, since it has com­mit­ted only sales, mar­ket­ing and pro­cure­ment “but no up­front in­vest­ment,” ac­cord­ing to Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Tom En­ders. Alain Belle­mare, Pres­i­dent and CEO of Bom­bardier, high­lighted Air­bus’ global scale, strong cus­tomer re­la­tion­ships – you find in­spi­ra­tional posters lin­ing no end of of­fice walls – and op­er­a­tional ex­per­tise as key rea­sons be­hind the deal. “This part­ner­ship should more than dou­ble the value of the C Se­ries pro­gramme,” he beamed.

The part­ner­ship breathes new life into the 100-150 seat mar­ket for Air­bus, since it hasn’t sold any A319s for five years.“Now we know this is a ter­rific air­craft and sits very well with our sin­gle-aisle range,” added En­ders.“There are quite a few C Se­ries cus­tomers out there but have held back . . . these cus­tomers will now be con­vinced.”

With 5,520 A320s in back­log, Air­bus cer­tainly doesn’t need con­vinc­ing about the prospects of sin­gle-aisle air­craft de­mand, al­though it will be in­ter­est­ing to see how much spare ca­pac­ity it will have should En­ders be right, and a raft of C Se­ries cus­tomers start queu­ing up. As much as the deal is a life­line for Bom­bardier’s pro­gramme, per­haps the sheer weight of de­mand ne­ces­si­tates the tie-up; it’s not just in Toulouse where nar­row­bod­ies are be­ing churned out; the first A320­neo as­sem­bled in Tian­jin was re­cently de­liv­ered to Air Asia.

In its Grow­ing Hori­zons 20-year fore­cast, Air­bus pre­dicts sin­gle aisles will ac­count for 71 per cent of units and top 24,810 planes, sig­nif­i­cantly more than twin-aisle (8,690) and very large air­craft (1,410). As for the Middle East, fu­elled by 3.4 per cent real GDP growth, Air­bus an­tic­i­pates 2,526 new de­liv­er­ies in the next two decades with sin­gle-aisle planes also ac­count­ing for the lion’s share (1,082), sig­nif­i­cantly more than de­mand for 402 very large air­craft. Cur­rently with Middle East or­ders, the A320ceo and A320­neo are stand-outs, ac­count­ing for 268 and 263 planes re­spec­tively.

Com­ment­ing on the cur­rent Middle East mar­ket, Bob Lange, Se­nior Vice Pres­i­dent, Head of Mar­ket and Prod­uct Strat­egy for Air­bus, said: “There have

been short-term dis­tur­bances for all con­cerned but the growth you’re los­ing tem­po­rar­ily doesn’t dis­ap­pear – peo­ple still travel. We ex­pect this will be a level of ad­just­ment for a year or two be­fore the Middle East comes re­bound­ing back. The po­ten­tial for Middle East economies to build away from oil and gas-based rev­enues to trade, tourism, com­merce and man­u­fac­tur­ing will con­tinue.”

Air­bus’ Middle East fore­cast in­cludes Iran, which is widely ex­pected to grow its avi­a­tion in­dus­try de­spite cur­rent US ten­sions, and Lange didn’t see any threat to Gulf car­ri­ers.“For a coun­try which has been starved of the po­ten­tial to grow air traf­fic, I’m not sure their pri­or­ity is to go head-to-head with other ME car­ri­ers but grow their own in­dus­try. The den­sity of pop­u­la­tion, to­pog­ra­phy and po­ten­tial to grow is tremen­dous – in strong­est growth cir­cles, Iran could mir­ror Turkey.”

Turk­ish Air­lines is among Air­bus’ big­gest cus­tomer re­gion­ally, op­er­at­ing 68 A321-200s, 37 A330-300s, 24 A320-200s, 17 A330-200s, nine A319-132/1000s and four A340-330s.

WILL AIR­LINES BUY A380PLUS?

Emi­rates re­mains in­te­gral to Air­bus’VLA pro­gramme – that message was clear in­side and out­side – but doubts con­tinue to cir­cu­late over the air­craft’s fu­ture. Air­bus has de­liv­ered the A380 to 13 cus­tomers and main­tains it has or­ders un­til the end of 2019, but con­cedes pro­duc­tion has slowed.“Of course we are not de­liv­er­ing as be­fore – we’ll de­liver one per month next year,” said Fouad At­tar, Head of Com­mer­cial Air­craft, Africa and Middle East.“All the teams are work­ing to have more back­log af­ter 2020. To­day we are all work­ing to push this aero­plane, it’s needed for the in­dus­try and the only one that can an­swer to air­port con­ges­tion.”

Air­bus is pin­ning hopes on a re­con­fig­ured ‘A380plus’, which of­fers fuel-sav­ing winglets, up to 80 more seats and the op­tion of a nine-abreast pre­mium econ­omy sec­tion. Sir Tim Clark has said it is a cabin it should “take se­ri­ously” and all eyes will be on Emi­rates to see if a sig­na­ture fol­lows the words, pos­si­bly at this month’s Dubai Air­show.

At­tar is hope­ful the ad­just­ments will re­as­sure its big­gest cus­tomer and is keen to stress it pro­vides air­lines more op­por­tu­nity for seg­men­ta­tion.“For the ul­tra-long ranges, we may see some first class, but all air­lines are re­duc­ing it and to­day busi­ness class is very com­fort­able and more air­lines are look­ing at pre­mium econ­omy – which is like the old busi­ness class. Plus we have op­tions for new cab­ins such as low-cost econ­omy.”

FIRST A330­NEO TEST FLIGHT TAKES OFF

As I was about to board my Air France flight back to Paris, the first A330­neo took off (-900) on its four hour 13 minute maiden test flight, and the new en­gine op­tion is due to enter ser­vice in 2018. To date 12 cus­tomers have placed or­ders for 212 A330­neos.

Against over­cast skies, the event gen­er­ated plenty of colour­ful ex­changes on Air­bus Live Twit­ter, as be­fits the in­stan­ta­neous me­dia age when you’re as con­nected on the other side of the world as much as the other side of the run­way.

This flight test air­craft, fea­tur­ing Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 tur­bo­fan en­gines, na­celle, ti­ta­nium py­lon, new wings and an Airspace by Air­bus cabin, will be joined by two more in the next year for the A330-900 and A330-800 ver­sions.

The larger A330-900 will ac­com­mo­date up to 287 seats in a typ­i­cal three-class lay­out, while the A330800 typ­i­cally will seat 257 pas­sen­gers in three classes. The 330neo pro­vides air­lines with in­creased range of 400nm and Air­bus claims it cuts fuel con­sump­tion by 14 per cent per seat. Other Airspace by Air­bus cabin changes in­clude: • cus­tomised ceil­ing and light­ing pan­els in the

en­trance area

“To­day we are all work­ing to push this aero­plane (A380), it’s needed for the in­dus­try and the only one that can an­swer to air­port con­ges­tion.”

• larger bins with more over­head stor­age • 4G IFE with HD view­ing res­o­lu­tion and high

band­width con­nec­tiv­ity There are 858 A350XWBs on or­der and 744 in back­log and so far 114 A350-900s have been de­liv­ered, in­clud­ing most re­cently, the first of six to Air Mau­ri­tius (28 busi­ness class seats, 298 econ­omy seats).

The A350-1000 made sev­eral test cir­cuits dur­ing the course of the week. It is 7m longer than the -900 mean­ing it can hold 40 more seats in a typ­i­cal three­class con­fig­u­ra­tion.

SUM OF ITS PARTS

Air­bus is a cross-con­ti­nen­tal com­pany with com­plex multi-modal trans­port needs cov­er­ing air, sea, river and road. Spe­cial trucks and trail­ers are used for trans­port­ing large parts to Blagnac – ev­ery two-to-three weeks, roads are closed and the next ship­ments will be mid-Novem­ber – and I spot­ted a pair of Bel­u­gas star­ing large-nose-to-large-nose on the fi­nal morn­ing; these dis­tinc­tively shaped planes fly in most com­po­nents of the A380 (with the ex­cep­tion of six parts).

It’s no sur­prise that the A350 hangar was busier given the or­der vol­umes; the­o­ret­i­cally Air­bus can make four A380s a month but cur­rently it’s one. An enor­mous tail­fin soared above us, wait­ing for as­sem­bly. Op­er­a­tors drill 19,000 holes to join the three fuse­lage sections – 2,000 for the wings – and are sup­ported by mo­bile lasers. On com­ple­tion, they re­verse out and fly to Ham­burg for cabin fit-outs.

TLS has two run­ways, one cov­er­ing 3,000m and the other 3,500m, and Air­bus ac­counts for around 10 per cent of air­port traf­fic and em­ploys 21,000 peo­ple lo­cally (55,000 world­wide).

Air­bus part­ners with many lo­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions and in the UAE, Strata pro­duces com­pos­ite com­po­nents for the A330, A330­neo, A350XWB and A380. A ‘Fu­ture Sci­en­tists’ pro­gramme, with Al Bayt Mit­wahid, aims to pro­vide 21 Emi­rati high-school stu­dents with the op­por­tu­nity to study aero­nau­tics over three years and on com­ple­tion, they will re­ceive an in­tern­ship at Air­bus or its in­dus­try part­ners’ fa­cil­i­ties in the UAE.

ACJ TAR­GETS AIR­LINES TRAD­ING UP

Air­bus Cor­po­rate Jet re­cently won a new A319­neo or­der from an Asian cus­tomer “trad­ing up from a tra­di­tional busi­ness jet” and be­lieves the model is per­fectly placed to cap­i­talise on de­mand for larger cab­ins. Three A319­neos and six 320neos have now been booked by Acrop­o­lis Avi­a­tion, Com­lux, K5 Avi­a­tion and “undis­closed clients”. De­liv­er­ies of the ACJ320­neo will be­gin at the end of 2018 and ACJ319­neos from Q2 2019. The ACJ320­neo can fly 25 pas­sen­gers up to 6000nm, while the 319neo is de­signed for eight pas­sen­gers up to 6,750nm. Chadi Saade, Air­bus’Vice Pres­i­dent Com­mer­cial, said: “My main mar­ket is to up­grade peo­ple from Gulf­stream to ACJ319s, from Global 6000 to ACJ320s.”

FORE­FRONT OF DATA, DIG­I­TAL AND SATEL­LITE COMMS

I’m dressed in a light blue lab coat, hair­net and slippers and face-to-face with an $150 mil­lion electric propulsion satel­lite. It’s not quite how you imag­ine it in space – more a cross be­tween a school project and large fes­tive gift with colour­ful coat­ings and pro­tru­sions – but the so­lar panel is clearly vis­i­ble and when fully ex­tended, will be wider than an A320s’ wing­span. Walk­ing around the air­line hangars yesterday was com­pre­hen­si­ble (even if I could only guess at the

en­gi­neer­ing jig­saw) but here, in the De­fence and Space sec­tion, I’m lost in space. On ev­ery cog­ni­tive level – vis­ually, tech­ni­cally and sci­en­tif­i­cally – I’m strug­gling to keep up, but it’s a fas­ci­nat­ing in­sight into the com­plex work that’s pro­vid­ing the foun­da­tions for 21st cen­tury data and com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

The Dubai Air­show has an­nounced some of the speak­ers and pre­sen­ters at the Space Con­fer­ence, a new fea­ture for 2017 tak­ing place 13-14 Novem­ber. Among them are Apollo 15 Com­mand Mod­ule Pi­lot Col. Al Wor­den, USAF-Ret; Ge­orge White­sides, CEO of Vir­gin Ga­lac­tic; H.E Dr Mo­hammed Al Ah­babi, Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of the UAE Space Agency and Om­ran Sharaf, Project Man­ager, Emi­rates Mars Mis­sion, Mo­hammed Bin Rashid Space Cen­tre (MBRSC). UAE’s in­vest­ments in space tech­nolo­gies have al­ready ex­ceeded AED20 billion while its am­bi­tions in­clude the Mis­sion to Mars Hope mis­sion planned for 2021.

SKYWISE JOINS THE DIG­I­TAL DOTS

Air­bus is patently a com­pany where data tech­nol­ogy is as key as air­craft hard­ware, and its dig­i­tal re­mit isn’t re­stricted to operations in Toulouse. Its Skywise pro­gramme is de­signed as a sin­gle avi­a­tion data plat­form in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Palan­tir Tech­nolo­gies.

The com­bi­na­tion of global data and aero­space ex­pe­ri­ence aims to re­duce flight dis­rup­tions; de­creae main­te­nance cost through pre­dic­tive main­te­nance; op­ti­mise flight operations; trans­form cabin and ground operations; make faster de­ci­sions to cope with un­ex­pected events; and op­ti­mise fleet man­age­ment by in­ter­pret­ing high vol­umes of fleet and flight operations data.

“For some time we’ve been de­liv­er­ing dig­i­tal planes,” said Matthew Evans, Vice Pres­i­dent Dig­i­tal Transformation Progams. “Data is not a new sub­ject for Air­bus – go­ing back to the A300 and even the A320 de­signed nearly 30 years ago was built with 24,000 sen­sors and to­day, the A350 has over 250,000 pa­ram­e­ters. But his­tor­i­cally data has been frag­mented. When air­lines share data, they have ac­cess to the core func­tion­al­i­ties of the plat­form. We see Skywise as the cen­tre of a more dig­i­tal, more con­nected avi­a­tion in­dus­try.”

CI­TYAIR­BUS TAR­GETS UR­BAN CON­GES­TION

Ur­ban mo­bil­ity is a hot topic from Dubai to Donauwörth and Air­bus is busy work­ing on projects de­signed to tackle ur­ban con­ges­tion. The Ci­tyAir­bus ver­ti­cal take-off and land­ing (VTOL) air ve­hi­cle, billed as the ‘air taxi of the fu­ture’, can carry up to four pas­sen­gers. Air­bus He­li­copters’ Donau­worth fa­cil­ity (over­all sys­tem) and its Ot­to­brunn/Mu­nich site (elec­tri­cal propulsion) are work­ing on the project and the first flight is tar­geted for 2018.

Main: The first A330­neo flight takes off from Toulouse

Above: A330­neo Airspace Econ­omy Class

Above: The A3501000, cur­rently undergoing flight tests, has se­cured 169 or­ders and will seat 366 pas­sen­gers.

Be­low: Chadi Saade, Air­bus’ Vice Pres­i­dent Com­mer­cial for Air­bus Cor­po­rate Jets

Above: Air Mau­ri­tius’ A350-900

Above: Ci­tyAir­bus aims to take flight in 2018

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