Feb 14, 2017

Emirates chief eyes smaller jets for Dubai’s giant new airport

Emirates gives a glimpse of how it might change once it breaks free of the confines of Dubai's present airport

Ben Sandilands — Editor of Plane Talking

Ben Sandilands

Editor of Plane Talking

We can’t show you a competing 737 MAX 10 graphic because Boeing hasn’t quite got it together yet

Emirates president Tim Clark has sent the clearest of signals to his competitors that fare discounting has dropped to mutually destructive levels while causing even more excitement by talking up a possible purchase of singe aisle jets.

His comments about future fleet decisions were linked to the opportunities that would arise when Emirates moves (not a day too soon) from its current congested hub at Dubai to a vast new airport and related industrial and logistics hub at Dubai World Central, which is about a quarter of the way to the neighboring UAE city of Abu Dhabi, home of Etihad Airways.

DWC is operating now mainly for single aisle jets but the big switch is slated for the coming decade. In the CNN story Clark says  the new airport could offer the gates and runways needed to add an obviously substantial number of smaller cities to Emirates’ route map.

That comment needn’t necessarily mean, as some analysts have suggested, that Emirates is looking at absorbing the single aisle 737 operations of Fly Dubai, which has the same sovereign ownership as the Emirates juggernaut, but a separate management. Fly Dubai makes a significant contribution to congestion at Dubai’s current airport today.

It could also instead mean that Emirates, which will be putting more than 300 A380 and 777 rotations through DWC a day once the move is made, might seize the chance to expand the connections it currently has for these large jets to longer haul markets that are largely addressed, even today, by aging Boeing 757s, configured for around 200-250 seats in one or two class layouts.

Boeing has identified a need for a Middle of the Market or MoM single aisle jet to replace the 757s, now out of production for more than 11 years, and extend its scope somewhat further in terms of range. It has also identified a pressing need to do something about the Airbus A321 NEO  (and an LR version), which has invaded much of the territory occupied by the 757s, as well as throttling back sales of its currently largest version of the 737 MAX family, the -9.

Thus Clark’s comments could presage a contest between Airbus and Boeing for the longest ranged and largest sized single aisled A321s or 737s that both can offer today. It would mean Emirates might field such a jet for flights to Shenzhen to relieve to some extent the pressure on its large wide-bodied airliners serving Hong Kong, or to Bratislava if the Austrian authorities never allow it more than one or two A380s a day to closely adjacent Vienna.

There are dozens of potential routes for the 4000 nautical miles range or more being touted for jets like an MoM (which might be a quasi or mini wide body design) as well as the more straightforward course of developing the high capacity end of the A320 NEO and 737 MAX lines.

Or maybe Emirates is really focused on taking Fly Dubai. Clark isn’t going to reveal its future strategy in any detail to the media before it is all stitched up with the owners. His messaging in the CNN interview to other airline executives was primarily about the perils of mutual destruction in deep fare discounting.

Emirates looks like reporting a pretty flat full year to 31 March, and will be far from alone in terms of the financial performances of other large carriers.

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22 thoughts on “Emirates chief eyes smaller jets for Dubai’s giant new airport

  1. comet

    Why did Boeing sit around and do nothing for 11 years since it cancelled of the 757? Now it’s getting whipped by Airbus, Boeing is thinking about doing something.

    And it’s even worse for the 1960s-derived 737. Is there any sign that Boeing has started work on its replacement?

    1. Dan Dair

      Boeing seem to have ‘screwed-the-pooch’ completely.
      The fact that Ben starts this page with Boeing haven’t even got an official graphic/artists impression of the B737 Max-10, tells you so much about what’s happening in their product development offices.?

      Their last new aircraft, the B787 was a screw-up. (& possibly still has skeletons in its closet.?) Though in many respects it IS a good aircraft.
      The B747 is on its way out of production & that’ll be speeded-up if the toddler-in-chief (thanks Tango) cancels the Air Force One replacements.?
      The next upgrade of the B737 is still being talked-about when it should already be in production and the whole airframe should probably have been replaced a decade ago anyway.
      The next generation B777, the only genuine jewel in Boeings crown, seems to get booted further and further into the long grass.?
      Folding wings, wider body…… talk, talk, talk, but no apparent action.?
      Time will tell.?

      I’ve said before & (don’t want to be too boring, but) I’ll say it again,
      I can easily imagine a future where Airbus buy-out the B777 from the failing Boeing company & re-brand it the Airbus A370.

      Boeing seem to have got themselves into a hole & don’t seem to have the wherewithal to put the finances together to get themselves out of it.

      If the new B777 is as, or more fragmented a production process than the B787 was, I can’t see Boeing ever making another new aircraft after it; And that presumes that the new B777 will actually happen, which I don’t think is anything like cut-&-dried.?

      1. JW (aka James Wilson)

        With over 300 orders for the 777X and first deliveries scheduled for 2020, something sure as hell seems to be happening!

        1. Dan Dair

          James Wilson,
          I agree that the orders have been placed.
          I don’t know if a deposit is actually paid at the time of a firm order being made. If so, I’d reckon Boeing have already spent it.?

          A lot can happen in the almost 4 years until the end of 2020.
          Boeing could build a perfectly good airliner which develops all of the existing strengths of the B777 & adds more to it.

          Or, they could find themselves mired in the same problems they had with the B787 production, of outsourced components not fitting together properly or being incompatible with other parts when they come to assembly, etc. etc.

          The Boeing ethos used to be one of ‘engineering excellence’. It now seems to be ‘build down to a price’.?

          (Just to add, Concorde ‘sold’ over one hundred aircraft in development, but they only actually made & sold a dozen to BOAC (British Airways) & Air France in the end.
          Just because someone says they want it, doesn’t guarantee it’ll actually end up as a sale.?)

        2. Karl


          Airbus could quite easily put Boeing out of business in the large twin market if they were to decide to build a new aircraft family sized in between the A350-1000 and A380-800. It seems to me that the 777-9X could well become Boeing’s achilles heel. It looks to bee too aeavy (30 tonnes plus) and it has little or no MTOW growth potential above 352 000 metric tonnes. It’s only competitive with the A350-1000 on a fuel burn per seat basis because it will be using an engine that is projected to have a 5 percent lower TSFC; and thus potentially very vulnerable to a larger Airbus product entering into service a decade hence.

          With the 777-9X it seems to be all too easy for Airbus to respond in a long term game-theoretic model ; The 777-9X is too heavy, too expensive and too dependent on the 5 percent TSFC-delta of the GE9X over that of the Trent-XWB-97 engine that can easily become a 5 percent TSFC deficit to a new Airbus large twin family, powered by 100,000 lbf to 120,000 lbf thrust class Rolls Royce engines — featuring intercoolers and an ultra-high overall pressure ratio of up to 70:1 (etc.) — with an EIS half a decade after the EIS of the 777-9X. Now, if Airbus were to put that same engine on a-re-engined A350-1000 in, say, 2025, the 777-9 would be “boxed in” from below and above. Game over for the 777X?

          1. derrida derider

            A bigger big twin may or may not kill the 777-X. It would certainly kill the A380 though, which is one reasons I reckon Airbus will not now build it.

            In hindsight Airbus should have built that huge twin instead of the A380, but no-one knew when the decisions were being made just how big, efficient and above all reliable (for ETOPS) turbofans could get then.

          2. JW (aka James Wilson)


            I don’t doubt the 777X has its vulnerabilities, nor that Boeing has its problems. Nevertheless, I am optimistic we’ll see the aircraft come to fruition, something that Dan seems to doubt. Boeing can’t afford another debacle!

            Airbus is already deliberating a stretched A350-1100/2000 that would compete with the 777-9. On the ‘plus’ side, there is also talk of a stretched 777-10X, so it seems there is some growth potential for the airframe, if only modest. How likely is Airbus to introduce an even larger family of twins that would occupy VLA territory? It may happen eventually, but in the short term would surely kill off the A380.

          3. Karl

            @Derrida Derider @JW
            IMJ, a larger Airbus twin, bigger than the 777-9/10X, should be designed as a double decker. It should be designed using the same lower lobe section as the A350 and a full upper deck. The main deck would have the same twin aisle 9 abreast configuration in economy as the A350, while the upper deck could be designed with a twin aisle 6 abreast configuration in economy (i.e. 1-2-1 in business class). Since the double decker aircraft (A370X?) would have the same lower lobe as the A350, it could be designed to have a common wing with a stretched A350-1000 derived aircraft (e.g. A350-2000 = A360-900). Now, the wing would be slightly larger than the wing on the 747-8 (i.e. 20 – 25 percent bigger in area than the A350-1000 wing). However, it would have a significantly larger wing span (e.g. 75 metre-plus); including two downward folding wing tips in order to become a category E aircraft on the taxiways and at the gates (i.e. wing span 100,000 lbf
            b) A360-800 — same length as the A350-1000) and antipodal range. Cabin area: 320 m2
            c) A360-900 — 79 m long and range of 9000 nm. Cabin area: 355 m2
            d) Optional A360-1000 — 85 m long and range of 7500 nm-plus. Cabin area: 390 m2

            i) A370X A350-derived double decker MTOW = 420 000 kg and take-off thrust > 120,000 lbf.
            ii) A370-800 — 73 m long and range of 9000 nm-plus. Cabin area: 420m2
            iii) A370-900 — 79 m long and range of 7500 nm-plus. Cabin area: 480 m2.

            NB: Cabin areas of the 777-9 and A380-800 are, respectively, 360 m2 and 545 m2.

            Finally, as for the A380 — yes, an A380-derived twin is possible as well (i.e. A390X). It would require a whole new composite wing (e.g. 730 m2 vs. 845 m2 on the A388). Due to the smaller, high aspect ratio wing (90 metre-plus wing span when not folded; 80 m wingspan when folded), the weight savings from the wing alone would comfortably exceed 20 tonnes. Add a smaller horizontal stabiliser and other structural enhancements (i.e. composites replacing aluminium), a twin engine configuration and all new engines some 20 percent more efficent than the ones on the A380-800 — and we’d be looking at a massive MTOW reduction. If the MTOW of this stretched, A380-derived twin (e.g. same length as a 79 m long A380-900), would be around 500 metric tonnes, or about twice that of the MTOW of the 787-9 (i.e. compared to 560-576 tonnes for the current A388), and if it would have a wing loading similar to the 787, but with the wing having a higher aspect ratio than the 787 wing, then the take-off thrust requirements would not exceed 150,000 lbf – or about 30 percent greater thrust than the GE90-115B engine on the 777-300ER.

            Hence, an A380 derived twin is IMJ eminently doable using today’s composite wing technologies and engine technologies coming online in the early 2020s. Furthermore, the trip fuel burn for such a 79m long A390-800 should be slightly lower than the trip fuel burn for the 777-300ER and about 10 percent higher than the trip fuel burn for the 777-9. However, with a cabin area of about 620 m2 for an A390-800 vs. 360 m2 for the 777-9, the massively lower fuel burn per seat-km for an A390-800 would essentially blow the 777-9 out of the water.

  2. 777 Steve

    I think this is the tip of the iceberg Ben, DXB still has plenty of capacity off-peak for narrow bodies, TC is merely voicing what a lot in the industry already know. With expo 2020 to pay for, I dont see where the money for the continued expansion at DWC is going to come from, far more likely will be the further development of DXB on the north side with either a terminal or more remote stands. The issue in DXB is parking space as airframes are being “virtually” parked, i.e. Used less as there’s not enough crews to crew them.

    1. patrick kilby

      777 Steve,
      As just coming through DXB yesterday it took one hour from landing to entering the terminal. Not enough buses to remote stand and heavy traffic on internal roads. Then after missing our QF take off slot (due to offloading ill passengers and bags) it took another hour to find another slot. DXB is straining at all seams. Fl.ydubais move to Al Maktoum this year will only free up so many slots. EK will move to Al Maktoum one day as there is simply no space at DXB. The land DXB sits on will pay for the new airport plus some.

      1. 777 Steve

        Patrick, please re-read what I said, off-peak was the terminology…yes during peak times DXB can struggle, but again a lot of that has to do with infrastructure not keeping up. With regards to slots, DXB doesn’t operate a slot system, the restriction (I’m guessing you were Oz bound) relates to airspace capacity through India, it has nothing to do with the airport. The only restriction ever applied is to delay your push until your CTOT is within 20 minutes or so, and this then allows your flight to comply with the Indian slot in their MNPS airspace which requires 10 min procedural separation.

      2. Karl

        @777 Patrick Kilby
        As you say, Flydubai is moving to DWC next year. What will happen to Terminal 2 from which Flydubai is operating from? Now, the Automated People Mover (APM) between Terminal 1 and Concourse D could conceivably be extended half way around DXB to Terminal-2. If Emirates were to order a large fleet of A321neo/A321LR aircraft in due course (i.e. EIS 2020), I can’t see why Emirates couldn’t operate a single aisle fleet from an upgraded Terminal 2 complex. Connecting passengers would take the APM to Terminal-1 — via Concourse D — and then transfer to Concource C from Terminal 1 through the existing underground tunnel.

        Also, as 777 Steve pointed out, Emirates could very likely operate a single aisle fleet at mostly off peak hours.

  3. Dan Dair

    Maths geniuses (genii?) & airframe analysts pay attention please.!!!!

    I understand the principals but not the numbers associated with airframe design, so;
    Why can’t Boeing take the B787 design and shrink it down to become their ‘MoM’ airframe.

    By shrink it down, I mean make it into a 250 seat aircraft,
    but also adjust all the structures to reflect the change of size, weight & range the aircraft is expected to operate at.

    All this is done through computer modelling AFAIK so why isn’t the prospect of a twin-aisle, shorter version of the B787 a relatively easy option for Boeing to claw-back the B757 market-share & at the same time upgrade its product range and utilise the wealth of information the B787 project must have given Boeing.?

  4. Ben Sandilands

    Derrida Derider,
    The problem, as explained to me, is that no-one, not even today, can build a twin engined jet with the capacity of the A380. The 777-Xs currently proposed aren’t as big, and they are as some have ruefully pointed out, not as light per passenger as high composite designs like the smaller capacity 787 or A350s.

    Boeing is merging an alloy aircraft, the current 777, with new technology engines and a composite wing. The engines also have to perform better at close to 50C than current twin jets do today at Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha, and its the airlines that are based at each of those hubs which have ordered the greater proportion of bookings for the 777-X so far. What worked extremely well on jets of lesser size, including A330s and 767s, doesn’t scale up all that well in terms of wing structures or first stage compressors, since the wider diameter required results in more of the outer tips of the blades of the major turbine rotating at trans sonic speeds. (This is a minor issue on current designs, a major issue on larger diameter engines, and contrary to the design underpinnings of ducted fan engines like the P&W geared turbo fan, where the whole basis of gaining a fuel burn advantage is to slow down or vary the speed at which that part of the engine turns. ) In short, the physics of large engines can be a total PITA. Try a mind game. If we had an A380 ,or any large four engined design, fitted out with 840 seats, it would be more economic today to run that jet against two twin engined jets configured at 420 seats but perforce requiring twice as many pilots, two landing slots instead of one, and two sets of gate fees (at some airports) as well as two highly valued air corridors instead of one.
    The purple zone so to speak for big twin engined jets may well end at where Boeing has pitched the 777-X, while for future A380 operations, it might just be starting.
    However, these apparent limitations on very large twin jets might be overcome by the future acceptance of huge, rear mounted unducted fan type engines, which were briefly flirted with by Boeing in the late 80s. The flirtation ended when it was found at the time that the UDFs were so noisy they could strip paint off a barn at their optimum cruising altitude, which was only 29,000 feet, and in the event of a blade failure, it would probably cut the entire tail section off the fuselage.
    UDF designs haven’t ‘gone away’. They are hiding in the naughty corner waiting to come out again, once, or if ever, it is safe to do so.

    1. Dan Dair

      “UDF designs haven’t ‘gone away’. They are hiding in the naughty corner waiting to come out again”

      That’s given me a picture in my head that’s probably not going to go away.?
      I don’t think I should have watched ‘Planes’ with my nephew. Not only is it a poor film, but I’ve drawn upon those images to create that picture in my head.!!!!!

    2. Karl

      @Ben Sandilands

      As I pointed out in my comment above, an A380-derived twin is IMJ eminently doable. The clue to achieving this is:

      1) All new and smaller composite wings that would have an aspect ratio of around 11 (e.g. (90m wingspan)squared/(730 m2 wing area)). In contrast, the wing aspect ratio for the current A388 is 7.57 (e.g. (80m wingspan)squared/(845 m2 wing area)).

      2) Reduction of MTOW to about 500 metric tonnes — twice that of the MTOW of the 787-9/-10. With all things being equal (i.e. wing loading, wing aspect ratio etc.); in a first order approximation, a MTOW of 500 metric tonnes would require about twice the amount of thrust of what’s required for the 787-9/-10.

      3) All new 150,000 lbf engine; 150-inch diameter fan — a thrust level that’s only some 30 percent greater than the max take-off thrust of the 115,000 lbf GE90-115B engine on the 777-300ER. A 150-inch diameter fan should, in fact, fit on a wing having a wing span of 90 m-plus and wing area of 730 m2.

      4) The engine to fuselage centreline on an A380-derived twin would be about 2.5 m further outboard than the engine to fuselage centreline on the 77X. Thus, the engines on the A380-derived twin could be mounted higher vis-à-vis the ground (i.e. about 20 inches higher).

      5) A 150-inch fan would have a 62 percent larger frontal area than the 118-inch fan on the 97,000 lbf of thrust TXWB-97 engine on the A350-1000. Just by scaling up the TXWB-97 engine by 62 percent would lead to an engine having 157,000 lbf of thrust. Hence, an A380-derived VLA twin seems to be eminently possible — even when using today’s state-of-the-art engine technology.

      1. Dan Dair

        Your overall analysis does seem realistic, based upon current technology,
        None of that will solve the trans/supersonic fan-blade-tip speed problems though.? Which probably means the engines won’t deliver the power-output you suggest, or they’ll shake themselves into bits doing it.?

        1. Karl

          Dan Dair,
          I’m assuming that the 150,000 lbf thrust engine would be a Rolls Royce three shaft turbofan engine and that in order to maintain a sufficiently low fan tip speed, RR would have to introduce a 2:1 gear reduction unit behind the fan and thus mounted on the Low Pressure (LP) spool — a much simpler undertaking, however, than a 4:1-plus gear reduction unit that would be required for a same-sized two shaft engine.

          1. Dan Dair

            I will say two things;
            1. I bow to your superior knowledge of R-R’s capabilities. I had no idea (but wouldn’t be surprised to find) that they had a GTF in their design profiles.?

            2. The idea of an A380 derived, 6 to 700 seat ‘big-twin’ airliner is downright scary.
            I’m sure I could get used to it eventually.!!!
            (provided it didn’t have any tendency to crash in a heap at the end of the runway)

          2. Dan Dair

            ….or anywhere else, for that matter.!!

          3. Karl

            Dan Dair,

            In October 2016 the all new Rolls-Royce power gearbox (PGB) prototype was run for the first time, marking the start of a series of tests which will see the gearbox reach up to 100,000 horsepower – or more than three times the amount of horsepower extracted from the gear reduction unit on the PW1100G engine on the A320neo. The testing of the PGB marking is a significant step in the development of RR’s new UltraFan engine design.

          4. Dan Dair

            I keep asking (foolish.?) questions
            & the nice people on here
            keep telling me stuff I didn’t previously know…..

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