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Thread: The latest on the A vs B war

  1. #1
    Glom's Avatar
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    Sep 2002

    The latest on the A vs B war

    We may crudely describe four battlegrounds in commercial war between Airbus and Boeing.

    First, we have the narrowbody market fought with the A320 family and the 737NG family. That's pretty much being fought to a no score draw with Airbus slightly in the lead, but not enough to be of any significance.

    On the other end, we have the very large aircraft market fought with the 747, including the recently launched -8 version featuring the GEnx engines, and the A380. This battleground is pretty lame since the market here is relatively small. Boeing has won the year, but all the orders have been freighters, which they look set to dominate, while the passenger market remains to be seen.

    Then we have the large long haul aircraft market fought with the A340 and 777. Here, Boeing are guilty of war crimes killing the Airbus product in the most thorough and excruciating way possible.

    The most interesting is the mid-sized market. After the A330 made the 767 look rather outdated, Boeing came in with the 787. Airbus was first arrogant, but were then humbled by the loss of Air Canada, Air India, Northwest and Korean Air and responded with the A350, which is growing more all-new by the day (first it was an A330 with GEnx engines, now it's currently 90% new parts).

    The 787 has CFRP fuselage, which offers lower operating empty weight, as well as an oval cross section for a head roomier cabin, plus the possibility of overhead rest compartments for the crew, which the 777 has as an advantage over the A340, which requires them in the hold. The width is slightly larger than the Airbus widebody fuselage pioneered on the A300, which turned out to be ideal for the lush 2-4-2 configuration in economy as well as accomodating snugly two LD-3 containers in the belly side by side, which was the disadvantage that killed the 767. The 787 width allows them to offer the benefits of the 8 abreast config, while also allowing Emirates to squeeze in 9 abreast (because they're like that) and giving more passenger room.

    Despite the use of Al-Li fuselage structure, the A350 won't be able to match the low operating weight of the 787 and hence will inevitably burn more fuel, so Airbus have sized it slightly bigger than equivalent 787 models to allow economies of scale to compensate. It's done the trick and the A350 represents a clear and present danger to what seemed the 787's blitzfreig.

    More urgent for Boeing is that because the A350 is larger than the 787, the -900 model is actually as big as the 777-200ER and boasts comparable range (Airbus too have now adopted the 2 good 2 need 4 engines approach and hopefully now we'll see ETOPS330 soon).

    John Leahy of Airbus has said the A350-900 is going to be the 777-200ER killer. The 777-200ER is the most successful model of the 777 family, yet it has slowed in sales of late, with the 777-300ER doing most of the work in this most lucrative year for the Big Twin. With momentum down and the A350-900 offering much lower fuel burn per seat, thanks to the GEnx and Trent 1500 engines, the 777-200ER may very well be in danger. The saving grace at the moment is that the A350-900 can't do all that the 777-200ER can. It doesn't quite have the same lift capability and so it couldn't carry full passengers and cargo as far. There is also the question of availability.

    Boeing has two options. First is the 777lite, which involves CFRP fuselage sections to be used to replace large sections of the traditional Al fuselage. This could reduce costs (CFRP is cheaper to use because it is baked in large chunks rather than being assembled in tiny pieces) and reduce weight to lower fuel burn or increase capacity. This is obviously reaping the benefits of 787 research.

    The other option is to cut their losses, accept the enormous success of the 777-200ER is at an end and focus on the 787 by stretching it to the 787-10. Early indications are that Airbus have sufficiently worried Boeing with their assault on the 787 and 777 niche that Boeing have upped certain specs on the 787 base to accomodate a further stretch. Talk of this may have been enough to hold off the Emirates A350 order that was expected at Dubai. The 787-10 would be able to be a true 777-200ER replacement, much as the A350-900 is a true A340-300 replacement and as such, it would be able to keep 787/777 customers happy and may even get the lucrative Emirates order.

    Boeing needs GE and RR to ramp up their engines though. They need more thrust. The maximum take-off weight of the 787-10 would be higher than the A350-900 and Boeing philosophically really on more powerful engines for climb performance than Airbus, which relies on wing design. It is estimated that authority to offer the 787-10 will come about two minutes after either GE or RR announce they will create such a variant of their GEnx and Trent 1000 engines.

    With this vicious defense of their territory, Boeing may force Airbus to counter with the A350-900HGW and the cycle continues.

    What's the point?

    The point is that by the time this is over, the two midsized products, the 787 and the A350, will probably end up with a higher MTOW than the A380.

  2. #2
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    Mar 2004
    I guess it's time I learned what MTOW (Maximum Take-Off Weight) meant. Nicely done, Glom. I'm looking forward to reading this thread.

    Does CFRP mean carbon fiber reinforced polymer?

  3. #3
    Glom's Avatar
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    Sep 2002
    Quote Originally Posted by Candy
    Does CFRP mean carbon fiber reinforced polymer?
    Pretty much. Either that or plastic, but then plastic is a polymer.

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