The press releases on an important order by Air France KLM for up to 110 new jets including options divided between Airbus A350s and Boeing 787 Dreamliners are, as usual, missing-in-action when it comes to useful information.
In fact by early Sunday morning Australian time no Boeing statement about that order had arrived in the in-box, so Plane Talking will have to rely on Airbus alone for pretty pictures for this story. Boeing appears to have other distractions at the moment.
Air France KLM, one company owning two brands, needed 110 medium sized airliners for growth and fleet replacements. It has decided to make firm orders for 50 of those jets, divided into 25 Airbus A350-900s that will enter service with the Dutch brand from 2018, and 25 Boeing 787-9s, which will start flying with the French brand from 2016.
The question is, exactly what will these airliners really do? And how well? Which is the Cargolux Boeing 747-8F question as well, which is looking trickier by the minute as US media reports focus on design flaws, incomplete flight management instrumentation, and pathetic fuel flow figures considering how long GE has taken to get its act together on the engines, a non-bleed, that is, traditional iteration of the engines it offers on the 787s.
To add to the lack of information that might reasonably be expected to have been made public by the A350 XWB program at this point, Airbus has issued a separate press release about the fabrication of the first wing lower cover or WLC for the WXB, which at 32 metres length and six metre width (above) is claimed to be the “biggest carbon fibre part ever produced in civil aviation.”
For those wondering, XWB stands for EWB or Extra Wide Body in reference to the size of the standard A330 cross section. Thrilling stuff but scarcely worth an acronym.
This also appears to be the first media release about a lower wing cover of any description in air transport. Despite its historic importance, this Airbus release leaves out two matters. First, when will the initial A350-900 EWB actually fly? Second, by how much has it turned out lighter or heavier than the critical weight allowed for in the design.
Although Airbus and Boeing are using thin gauge pressure cycle exposed carbon fibre composites in their respective designs in different ways, both manufacturers seem to be challenged by the task of making the hype about composites come true in real jets.