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Airbus chief wishes the 787 up where it belongs, in the sky

Airbus chief says it is the role of all new jets to fly well, and says he wants the 787 to succeed in being a good competitor because he is confident its answer, the yet to fly A350 will be even better

Fabrice Brégier and John Leahy during the Airbus conference this evening

Airbus president and CEO Airbus, Fabrice Brégier, says he wishes Boeing the best in returning the 787 Dreamliner to the skies.

“I firmly believe that it is the role of new aircraft to fly. I don’t ever want to bet on building Airbus’s success on the difficulties of a competitor.

“Even if the 787 becomes a very good plane, we will be pleased to see that because we believe we have an even better plane.”

Brégier said he saw no reason at this stage to change the electrical architecture of the A350, which like the 787, makes extensive use of the lithium ion batteries similar to the one that caught fire in the rear belly of a Japan Airlines Dreamliner shortly after it had landed at Boston on a flight from Narita Tokyo on 7 January.

A malfunction in a similar battery located in the forward belly of an ANA 787 under the cockpit yesterday caused an emergency landing and slide evacuation in Japan during a domestic flight, and triggered voluntary groundings of the type by both Japanese carriers, leading quickly to an FAA edict in the US grounding all US Dreamliners and in effect those of all other airlines.

However Brégier said he had no reason to believe that the actual electrical architecture of the 787 was the same as that of the A350, the slightly larger twin engined jet which Airbus hopes to fly for the first time this June before the Paris Air Show, and put into commercial service by the end of 2014 if not some months sooner.

Brégier emphasised that Airbus would carefully study whatever findings the FAA and NTSB will make in their review of the 787 program and specifically the battery incidents to ‘see what might apply to the A350′ and then react appropriately to them as or if necessary.

He said that as an airliner still under development it was possible to make design changes in the A350 at this stage, although discussions between Airbus and the FAA and its European counterpart EASA had been very positive about its intended application of lithium ion batteries.

“We don’t see any reason to change the electrical design of the A350 at this stage until [or if] we get different information”.

At the same presentation and discussion Brégier said that the fix for the cracks that had been appearing inside the wing structure of its A380s had been designed and proven in tests and would be incorporated in new builds of the giant airliner early in 2014, as well as retrofitted to the 97 A380s now in service and those that would enter service this year.

He said the A380 program had now ‘returned to normal’.  The static testing of the Pratt and Whitney GTF or geared turbo fan engine, which will be the first new engine option to be fitted to the A320 NEO line had demonstrated to Airbus that it will get what it expected from the new technology engine [which is a 15% reduction in fuel burn] while progress on the A350′s Rolls-Royce engines and the current assembly of the static test aircraft and the first flying example of the medium to high capacity twin engined jet had it on track to deliver a 25% reduction in fuel burn compared to the Boeing 777 family, with the largest variant the A350-1000 to enter service in 2017.

Airbus chief operating officer-customers John Leahy, said that while Airbus sales had dropped back in 2012 from the record levels set in 2011, as he had forecast a year ago, the averaging of sales results over the last two years left Airbus in the lead over Boeing.  He said the Airbus A320 NEO program continued to enjoy a large lead over orders for the 737 MAX which is the later Boeing entry for a new engine technology version of its competing single aisle jet lineup.

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  • 1
    michael r james
    Posted January 18, 2013 at 2:12 am | Permalink

    They are probably remembering when the A320, the first fly-by-wire passenger jet, had all those incidents. The worst was when one flew into the mountain near Strasbourg and about 80 people died. I can’t remember what the final enquiry conclusion was but certainly at the time it was assumed it was a computer malfunction, and that the whole fly-by-wire thing might not be so great. But I read somewhere today that something like 5,500 A320s are flying!

  • 2
    Ben Sandilands
    Posted January 18, 2013 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    That was the Mont Sainte-Odile crash. I was in Paris that night and flew to Lyon on an Air Inter fight, but a Mercure not an A320 the next morning, which was the point of departure of the flight to Strasbourg.

    One of the key features of the accident was that the pilot confused the vertical rate of descent mode setting with the glideslope mode through unfamiliarity with the system. Instead of approaching the airport at 3 degrees it was descending toward it at 3300 feet per minute in the dark, in a jet that Air Inter had chosen deliberately not to equip with GPWS, and through coincidence, hit the slope of the low peak at the same angle as the ridge, crashing through snow choked trees, and killing all but 8 or 9 of the 96 people on board, all of the survivors being seated at the rear of the jet.

    They were found by a photo journalist sitting around a makeshift camp fire for warmth because he could smell kerosene as he drove the roads around the monastery at the top of the mountain, and didn’t give up, unlike the gendarmes who went home to stay warm. Everything about this accident, the flight culture of Air Inter, the lazy search and rescue effort, and other factors, is completely disgusting.

  • 3
    status07
    Posted January 18, 2013 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Great stuff, Ben!
    I find it disgusting that the BEA will not release the AF447 DCVR: http://www.pprune.org/7639287-post14.html

  • 4
    michael r james
    Posted January 18, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    I was living in Paris at the time and I remember the terrible pall of doom. The future of AirBus seemed at risk.

    Terrible to read your take which seems to confirm every French cliche –and which I am not denying though I had forgotten the botched rescue–possibly the French media soft-peddled it? It seems like it was a bit of a “Katrina” moment for the country.

    I assume the GPWS is a automatic warning system? Seems inconceivable that a fly-by-wire plane both did not have it, nor was it mandated. But historically, progress in such matters is usually via terrible accidents.

    Having said all that I give the French great kudos for their foresight and persistence in making Airbus a success. Just like with the chunnel the Brits were pulled along kicking and screaming even though they probably benefited more than anyone else (given that they provided the wings, most engines and the avionics I think?).

  • 5
    discus
    Posted January 19, 2013 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    The Mode Control Panel on the early 320s I believe, made this confusion easy for the inexperienced or poorly trained. Descent rate v angle of descent was not clearly marked and shared the same knob/select switch and LCD indicator.

    I’m not sure, but I think an A320 accident in India had similarities where the same confusion was the major factor in the accident. Ben?

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