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Boeing's New "Greener" 787 Airliner

The Times Online:
The lower weight and fewer parts mean that the 787 should use 20 per cent less fuel and require 30 per cent less maintenance than its predecessors. Boeing said that the model would make less noise and its Rolls-Royce and General Electric engines pollute less than those in equivalent-sized jets.
Sounds like good environmental progress! I have not found any definitive information, but a few articles suggest that Boeing jets have been more fuel efficient than Airbus jets in the past and that Boeing will continue to lead with the new airliners. Does anybody know more details and direct comparisons?

Meanwhile, Forbes writes about the Airbus vs Boeing competition:
Airbus took 680 firm orders in the first half of 2007, according to figures published on its website today, and has overtaken US rival Boeing which notched up 544 orders for the year to July 3. Airbus also outperformed its US rival in terms of deliveries over the period, reporting a record 231 for the first half of the year.


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Don S on :

Count me a bit of a skeptic about the 787 until we see it fly and until it's being built in quantity. Boeing is trying something almost entirely new in making a one-piece fuselage out of composites whilst also sourceing 70% of the plane overseas. Airbus did something less ambitious (in some ways) with the A380 and it blew up in their faces. The same could happen to the 787. Many engineers at Airbus seem to believe so. There are differences between the Airbus and Boeing projects of course. The Airbus was the largest commercial aircraft ever attempted - and Airbus seemed to have two masters (Airbus France and Airbus Germany) with nobody seemingly completely in charge of the project. Boeing does not seem to have that management problem - but the massive international outsourcing could be another and possibly worse problem. Boeing could be covering up bad news the way Airbus seemed to. There is no way to know yea or nay until the process goes further. Points in Boeing's favor are that the 787 seems better fitted to current economic and environmental conditions than the A380 does. Another point is that Boeing was at a disadvantage vis Airbus in the aircraft wars when the project began. They had to focus on the essentials whereas Airbus went in to the A380 project fat, dumb, and happy. But Boeing has had plenty of chances to get complacent over the past two years. The last time Boeing did something this daring was with the 747 in thre late 60's - and that project almost bankrupted the company! So we'll see!

Don S on :

I'm not sure but I think there may be a problem with the composition of the Airbus order book. Looking at the actual aircraft on order it seems that the vast majority of the orders are for the older mid-range jets which have been the company's bread and butter since it began. There are a total of 165 orders for the A380 but only 9 are new this year. The accounts I've read say that Airbus needs 400 A380 orders to break even, and that was before the massive delays. Airbus has been making large concessions to the ordering airlines in order to hold the orders, so surely the break even point for sales is now higher. Airbus isn't saying - but the additional costs of re-engineering and commercial concession may have put up the profit-making point quite a lot. 500, 600, 800? Nobody knows. But it has to be much higher than 400 by now I think. They have sold a lot of mid-range jets to get money. But where are the orders coming out of? Speculation is that Airbus has been giving deep discounts on their existing 330 and 340 models and therefore generating strong sales at a lower (but still positive) profit margin. Whether this is a good idea is an open question. Some of the new sales may be in lieu of Boeing or Embraeur sales, but one supects that Airbus may be cannabalizing future profits to meet the immediate cash flow crisis That is they are selling 5 330's today for a 10 million euro profit that they would otherwise have sold in 2008 or 2009 at a 20 million euro profit. That is normally a bad move but may be necessary for Airbus survival, in which case the swollen order book would be a sign of weakness, not strength. Another problem is that Boeing took dead aim at Airbus historical strength - the midsize segment with the 787. The delay and rewroking of the A380 project have apparently diverted critical engineering talent from working on the '787 killer' project - the A350 XWB. The original 350 design was withdrawn a year ago after heavy customer critcism and the planned delivery date now is 2013 - more than 5 years behind the 787! If that date slips Airbus may be in real trouble in it's core market. There are rmors of trouble on that project occassioned by the A380 delays. So this could be serious. Going back to the A380, this may be final call at the 'Last Chance Saloon' for the A380. If it slips even more Boeing may pick off discouraged customers. Boeing has brought out new models of the 747 which cut the gap between the 747 and the A380 & available for delivery years earlier.

Pat Patterson on :

Along with what Don S stated Airbus is indeed attempting to save its 350XWB by ramping up production on the older 320. Airbus claims that its cash needs for the 350XWB and the 380 can come be met this way. But like Boeing did and failed in the 90's, Airbus will attempt to increase efficiency and squeeze its suppliers. There is an article in Business Week from February 22, 2007 but I can't get the link to work. Another problem Airbus must face is that GE has refused to provide the latest engine for the 350XWB, yet that is the engine that the original orders, of the 350 were based on, and the engine that most of the European and American carriers want. A few airlines have accepted a Rolls-Royce substitute but that engine is neither as efficient or as easy to maintain as the GE. So Airbus is now seemingly stuck in selling the 350XWB that because of the engine switch is now much more costly even though its main selling point had been that it was cheaper than the Boeing.

Don S on :

One thing that stood out in the description of the 787 is the second claim of 30% less maintenance effort . The headline claim of 20% fuel savings is great - but the second claim potentially even more important. RyanAir recently announced plans to begin running trans Atlantic routes in the medium-term future. If they follow their current strategy they will wish to run medium-sized jest to medium-sized airports, and the 787 has the range to do that. RyanAir also makes it's money by quick turnaround times - and 30% less maintenance fits that to a 'T'. It might not be as important for trans Atlantic routes though - because they still have to change aircrew after a cross-Atlantic run. Where it is more likely to help on are some of the longer routes the low cost carriers now run or would like to run. London-Athens, London-Moscow, London-Marrakesh, London-Luxor. Less maintenance means more time in the air. Or Paris, Frankfurt, Milan, to those places. RyanAir here we come!

Leftclick on :

Normally flying doesn't make me feel shaky, but I think I wouldn't feel good in such a huge airplane. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I'd prefer smaller machines

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