A Boeing 747-400ER (Extended Range) flying Qantas newest route Dallas/Fort Worth to Sydney via Brisbane was forced to conduct a 90 minutes unscheduled refueling stop on the island of New Caledonia before resuming its flight. The Australian carrier began to operate its longest Boeing 747-400 route on May 16th 2011 with the QF7 outbound non stop flight from Sydney to Dallas/Ft Worth and the return flight QF8 stopping briefly at Brisbane. At 8,580 mi (13,816 km) long, the QF8 transpacific flight requires about 15 hours of flight to complete. While winds have proved favorable in allowing the QF7 US bound leg to operate optimally, the QF8 return flight which has experienced stronger head winds, has forced the aircraft to burn more fuel and fly longer, compelling the airline to make operational adjustments in accordance with the aircraft operating performance limits. According to Australia’s Herald Sun, strong winds already forced the carrier to leave 3 baggage containers behind on one of the QF8 flight last week due to “unseasonably strong headwinds”. The diversion to Noumea airport in French New Caledonia imposed a two hours delay on the flight which arrived in Brisbane Monday morning and pursued on to Sydney.
According to Boeing aircraft performance manuals, the Rolls Royce RB211-524H8-T powered Boeing 747-400ER operated by Qantas would depart the terminal weighing a maximum of 910,000 lbs (412,000 kg) and fly in excess of 6,200 nm (8,285 miles) while the non-Extended Range version 747-400 weighing in at only 875,000 lbs (397,000 kg) is limited to a 5,200 nm range. On the 8,580 miles long trip, the performance charts value indicating a 295 miles range shortfall. Compounded to the adverse winds encountered at this time of the year, the airline operations would be forced to make adjustments such as sacrificing payload for fuel. The 3 baggage containers left behind in Dallas last week were indicative to that. Ideally the aircraft would be able to operate more comfortably in a 7,000 nm range envelope weighing in at only 520,000 lbs (235,600 kg).
China Southern Air the carrier based in Guangzhou, China announced it was boosting its cargo operation with an order for 6 additional Boeing 777F. The latest deal valued at $1.58 billion would see the new aircraft delivered between 2013 and 2015, bringing the carrier’s 777F fleet to 12. A previous order for 6 Boeing 777F on February 28, 2007, already saw 5 aircraft becoming active in the airline rotation. Boeing is also set to deliver the carrier’s first Boeing 787-8 for passenger service later this year as part of a 2005 order for ten Boeing 787-8.
China Southern Airlines Company Limited ended its 2010 fiscal year in March of 2011 as China’s largest carrier in fleet size, routes network and passenger traffic volume. Operating primarily out of Guangzhou and Beijing, its routes network links 22 China domestic cities to Asia, Australia, America, Europe and Africa through presence in 52 overseas locations including London, Moscow, Tokyo, Paris, Los Angeles, Sydney, Singapore… The company holdings include a 60% majority stake in Xiamen Airlines who recently ordered 10 Boeing 787. China Southern Airlines claimed a fleet of 422 as of December 31st, 2011.
In 2010, total revenues for the carrier grew a staggering 40% from the previous year to $11.5billion, with the domestic passenger operation contributing 76%, international passenger traffic 11.8% and cargo and mail adding another 7.1% in amount of 1.12 million tonnes. The net operating profit for the year reached $949million. The latest order will be financed by the carrier’s operating fund and bank loans.
The new freighters would produce an additional 8.4% in Available Tonne Kilometers capacity measurement for the carrier, part of a major strategic initiative to aggressively boost freight capacity and network routes while furthering logistics processes integration. Similar initiatives observed from rival Air China highlight the growing competition to secure cargo and logistics market share as the nation sustains its economic growth.
The Boeing 777F, the state of the art freighter derived from the Boeing 777-200LR delivers new standards in capabilities within the industry. The twin engined aircraft relies on two General Electric GE90-110B1L high bypass ratio turbofan engines (the GE90-115BL are optional) with 110,100 lb (489 kN) of thrust to carry 112 tons (247,000 lbs) of cargo at a range of 4,900 nm (5,640 miles, 9,070 km). Its high fuel capacity of 47,890 gal (181,283 L, 320,863 lbs, 145,538 kg) and operating economics now make it the prime candidate for replacing venerable widebody Boeing 747-400 freighter which burns 20% more fuel. China Southern Airlines currently operate 2 Boeing 747-400F. The 777F superior capabilities have prompted logistics giant FedEx to adopt the type for its long haul operation, supplanting the tri-engined MD-11F. Lufthansa was the most recent operator to invest in the type. A $1.35billion order would see 5 Boeing 777F operate alongside Lufthansa Cargo’s 18 MD-11F.
In cargo operation terms, twenty seven 125 in × 96 in (318 cm x 244 cm) LD7 pallets find their way onto the 777 main deck, fitted in 13 rows of 2 pallets aside, plus a single pallet positioned against the aircraft rear bulkhead. The lower deck forward compartment is tailored for 6 additional 125 inx96 in pallets, with another 4 pallets being assigned to the lower aft compartment. The alternative as far as LD3 containers capability consisted of 18 LD3 containers loaded in the forward compartment and 14 aft unless the aft section is instead used to house up to 3 optional Boeing body fuel tanks for ultra long range operation. This operator’s choice would reduce the number of LD3 containers in the aft compartment to 8 instead.
The program is part of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System and permits the integration of the SM-3 missile with the Aegis Weapon System deployed on US Navy destroyers and cruisers. The Missile Defense Agency is relying on the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System with its Standard Missile 3 to intercept short and medium range ballistic missile threats in mid course flight. Under this setup, the Missile Defense Agency’s is provided with a mobile sea-based component for the Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS). The Block IIA designation for the missile variant not only identifies the evolutionary ‘spiral’ development model of gradually incrementing newer capabilities to system, but also differentiates the Block IIA from the previous Block IA. The Block IIA is the largest, most powerful variant yet of the SM-3 family. It is equipped with 21-inch diameter 2nd and 3rd stage rocket motors allowing it to intercept longer range ballistic missile LRBM. Alike the older SM-2 and SM-3 and even the RGM109 Tomahawk ship-launched missiles, the Block IIA is also launched from the ubiquitous Mk 41 Vertical Launching System. The system’s versatility has attracted foreign interest, with Japan joining the development team in an effort to deploy the system on its 4 KONGO Class Destroyers.
The Boost Phase
The SM-3 family uses in-flight radio-communication with the ship radar via the Aegis fire control system to plan the point of intercept with a ballistic threat in real time. The flight sequence first employs the 21-inch diameter first stage Mk 72 booster followed by the Mk 104 second stage dual thrust rocket motor. The Mk 136 Third Stage Rocket Motor (TSRM) provides enough thrust for the SM-3 to reach the Earth atmosphere where the SM-3 Kinetic Warhead will deploy from the rocket nose cone housing it. At this point the Kinetic Warhead will initiate its interception phase towards the ballistic threat. On SM-3 Block IIA, the Mk 104 and Mk 136, respectively second and third stage rocket motors which are 13.5 inches in diameter are replaced by larger 21-inch diameter second and third stage rocket motors, giving that variant a uniform look as well as 45-60% more velocity at each stage burnout.
The Intercept Phase
Upon arrival in the atmosphere, the nose cone carrying the SM-3 Kinetic Warhead will separate from the third stage rocket motor booster. Freed from the nose cone, the KW uses its long wavelength imaging infrared seeker to acquire the target. The Divert and Attitude Control System DACS is said to provide extreme maneuverability allowing the KW to lock in and engage the incoming ballistic missile threat at an extremely high velocity, disintegrating it on impact. According to Raytheon Missile Systems Co, by the time the kinetic warhead impacts with the threat, it has already selected the most lethal point of impact along the threat’s body as well as reached a level of kinetic energy similar to a “10-ton truck traveling at 600 mph”. With the Aegis Ballistic Missile defense System, the MDA has claimed 22 out of 25 successful test interceptions, one of which involved two interceptors destroying two targets simultaneously.
US Navy Readiness
The MDA identifies the following US Navy Aegis-capable forces: 22 Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense capable ships comprised by 5 Ticonderoga CG-47 Class Aegis Cruisers and 17 Arleigh Burgh DDG-51 Aegis Class Destroyers. The U.S. Navy currently maintains 16 such ships assigned to the Pacific Fleet and 6 with the Atlantic Fleet. An additional 6 destroyers from the Atlantic Fleet will convert to the Ballistic Missile Defense mission before the end of the year as planned by the Secretary of Defense and a few more soon after until 32 battle ships are ready by the end of 2013. The Congressional Research Service sees 23 ships ready by the end of this year but 41 by Fiscal Year 2016, along with 111 SM-3 interceptors delivered at the end of Fiscal Year 2011 to 341 at the end of Fiscal Year 2016.
The SM-3 IIA cost is estimated at $20 to 24 million per round by Congressional Research Service and Congress Budget Office analysts. Missile Defense Agency’s proposed budget of $2.38 billion in procurement and development funding for Aegis BMD efforts projects $318.8 million for FY 2011, $424.5 million for FY 2012, $357.2 million FY 2013, $279.4 million for FY 2014, $203.6 million for FY 2015 and $25.2 million for FY 2016. From our analysis of the 2011 Defense Budget legislation passed by the House of Representatives on May 26th 2011 (HR1540), the appropriation funds allocated for FY2012 are $615 million in procurement and $965 million for the Aegis Ballistic Missile defense research, development, test and evaluation.
Awaiting the SM-3 Block IB
The SM-3 Block IIA which will undergo testing until 2014 is already set to be replaced by a still more powerful variant again relying on the continuous ‘evolutionary’ process to add capabilities to an existing system. The Missile Defense Agency recently awarded Raytheon with a $312 Million contract for procurement of the new SM-3 Block IB using an improved signal processor and two-colors all reflective infrared seeker , a throttleable divert and attitude control system TDACS for improving target discrimination and therefore range.
Korean Air Lines became the sixth carrier this week to operate the Airbus A380-800 aircraft after Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Qantas, Lufthansa and Air France. The hand-over ceremony took place May 24th 2011 at Airbus Toulouse facility in France with Korean Air Chairman Yang Ho Cho, Airbus President and CEO Tom Enders and EADS CEO Louis Gallois in attendance. Korean Air Lines new double decker cabin interior arrangement will see an-all Business class upper deck providing 94 Prestige Sleeper Seats. The main deck will combine both the ultra luxurious First Class Kosmo Suites for 12 passengers as well as 301 New Economy Class seats. The airline has favored a highly spacious, low passenger density configuration of 407 seats for the 10 aircraft that will be operated by 2014. Airbus is due to deliver another 4 planes by the end of this year alone. According to the carrier, these aircraft will all showcase their own on-board duty free shopping displays of cosmetics, perfumes, liquors and other products along with a bar-lounge area. This particular aircraft will however not be ferried to Korea until June 2nd as it is undergoing final acceptance testing in Toulouse. Korean Air Lines plans to conduct the inaugural Seoul-Tokyo flight around mid-June. The aircraft is also set to operate the Seoul-Hong Kong route soon after. The airline does not plan to begin operating the type on North American routes until after receiving additional aircraft. Then the A380 will see the 3 times weekly services to and from New York beginning August 2nd as well as the daily Los Angeles flight beginning October 1st 2011.
France’s main national pilot’s union came out strongly in defense of the flight crews that lost their life in Air France Flight 447 flying from Rio De Janeiro to Paris on June 1st 2009.
The May 23rd 2011 statement addresses rumors which have widely circulated in the media as provided to the Wall Street Journal by a confidential source close to the investigation. Excerpts from the article published today read the “pilots (…) became distracted with faulty airspeed indicators and failed to properly deal with other vital systems, including adjusting engine thrust” which we assume would have prevented the big airliner to enter a fatal stall. The statement also responds to claims that the flight captain was not inside the cockpit as the event began to unfold and urges against drawing conclusions prematurely, as the investigation proceeds.
We are providing an integral translation of the Union’s statement, apologizing for any defects.
“The SNPL F ALPA reaffirms its attachment to respecting the confidentiality during BEA technical investigation and regrets that unconfirmed allegations have been divulged to the press.
One of the latest rumor relates to the flight captain being absent from the cockpit as the event began, floating anew unfounded allegations regarding the professional demeanor of the crew.
The SNPL F ALPA must specify that the flight captain absence from the cockpit during part of the cruise perfectly conforms to international regulations. In fact on such long flights, an extra plot is mandated so that each pilot can take a moment of rest during flight. Two pilots remain permanently at the controls in conformance to the aircraft’s certification rules, as was the case in facts.
Furthermore the SNPL F ALPA points out that in France, all crew members (flight captain and first officer) possess the same technical competencies and the same qualifications.
The SNPL France ALPA forcefully denounces the suspicions that such voluntarily non-exhaustive information are weighing against the crew.”
The Airbus A330 was flown that day by a highly experienced crew composed of 58-year-old Flight Captain Marc Dubois who had 11,000 flight hours with 1,700 hours in the Airbus A330/A340 since 2007, co-pilots David Robert, 38 had 6,600 flight hours, including 2,600 on Airbus A330/A340 since 2002, and Pierre-Cedric Bonin, 32 years who had 3,000 flight hours, including 800 on Airbus A330/A340 since 2008.
EUROCONTROL puts the number of flights canceled today as a result of the ash clouds from erupting Grimsvötn volcano at approximately 500 out of 29,000 scheduled throughout Europe. Thousands of passengers were reported to be stranded in Scotland’s Glasgow Prestwick and Edinburgh’s airports following a Irish Aviation Authority decision to curtail flights there. Inverness and Aberdeen airports had also been affected. While Greenland and Denmark saw some airspace closings, Norway and Sweden appeared not to have been affected. Predictive models maps issue by the Met Office (United Kingdom’s national weather service) show the anticipated travel path of the ash clouds for tomorrow, May 25th 2011. The areas of high and medium concentration is expected to penetrate continental Europe traveling southeast towards Hamburg at about 6:00 am UTC (2:00 am EDT).
Accordingly Ryanair is expecting traffic to the German airports of Bremen, Lubeck and Magdeburg to undergo some disruptions tomorrow.The low cost carrier had emitted very strong criticisms regarding the closing of UK and Scotland airspace by the UK Civil Aviation Authority and the Irish Aviation Authority. Ryanair holds the view that the airspace closings are unnecessary as aircraft and engine manufacturers have certified to the safe operation of aircraft even through areas of high ash contamination. The debate, according to Ryanair has evolved from UK Civil Aviation Authority assertion that the Met Office’s maps were incorrectly excluding Glasgow Prestwick and Edinburgh from the areas of high concentration. Ryanair did conduct a one-hour verification flight today at up to 41,000 feet from Glasgow Prestwick, Inverness, Aberdeen and Edinburgh apparently confirming its views.
Regarding the May 25th forecast, the pattern of high contamination is likely to briefly affect the Netherlands and areas south of Denmark, while transitioning through Germany towards Poland. However the area of low concentration is likely to propagate as far south as Belgium and the north of France. At that time, only the northern portion of Scotland would be covered by a narrower band of medium level contamination ash clouds. The effects of the eruption of the Grimsvötn volcano which erupted may 21st 2011 from its location in central Iceland have only affected airspace below 20,000ft although at several orders of magnitude below last year’s Eyjafjallajökull eruption which caused $1 billion in losses for the industry with 100,000 flights and 8 million passengers affected.
This entry reviews European regulators crisis management activities following the latest volcano eruption in Iceland, and its potential impact to aircraft’s safe flight and operation.
Eurocontrol latest statement issued Monday, May 23rd 2011 at 4:00pm Brussels time indicated that changing meteorological conditions now increased the possibility that the ash clouds from Iceland’s Grimsvötn volcano could in fact begin to affect Scotland and Ireland air spaces within the next 24 hours. The announcement contrasted with a statement published earlier today suggesting that no disruptions were expected for the next 48 hours.
Today’s Eurocontrol activities were marked by the re-activation of its European Aviation Crisis Coordination Cell (EACCC) whose first meeting involved States, European Commission, EUROCONTROL, EASA, Air Navigation Service Providers, Airlines, and airport associations after the May 21st, 2011 eruption of Iceland’s Grimsvötn volcano. The EACCC was first set up on May 19th, 2010 following the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano.
Eurocontrol also directed flight operators to the guidance provided through the European Aviation Safety Agency’s newly revised Safety Information Bulletin SIB 2010-17R3 titled “Flight In Airspace with Contamination of Volcanic Ash”. The document offers a framework allowing airlines to make risk-based determination on whether they will conduct flights on areas subjected to ash contamination. This EASA guidance emphasizes an approach already promulgated by the International Civilian Aviation Organization (ICAO)’s “Management of flight operations with known or forecast volcanic cloud contamination” version 3.1 published on December 19th 2010 and whose procedures were tested during a volcanic ash exercise held in April 2011. The ICAO International Volcanic Ash Task Force IVATF at the origin of the guidance document was formed in July 2010 as a response to the Eyafjallajokull volcano eruption which disrupted air traffic operations in Europe in March-April 2010 to the extent of an estimated more than $1 billion lost by airlines in about a week.
The guidance implements 3 main elements.
1. It offers a revised colors scheme for identifying volcanic ash concentration on charts that are made available by the London Volcanic Ash Concentration Advisory Centre (VAAC). Cyan color will now mark areas of low contamination, grey color will define areas of medium contamination and red color will signify areas of high contamination.
2. The levels of contamination have further been defined according to the concentration of ashes as measured in samples of air. Concentrations values lower or equal to 0.002 grams/m3 identify low concentration areas, values between 0.002 grams/m3 and 0.004 grams/m3 define the medium concentration range while values above or equal to 0.004 grams/m3 determine areas of high concentration.
3. The impact to flight operations
The guidance also provides advice on critical aircraft parts that must be thoroughly inspected following a flight with possible exposure to ash clouds. These include:
-”wing leading edges, navigation and landing lights, radomes, landing gear, horizontal stabilizer, all extruding structure, pitot tubes and static ports, windows and windshields, engines inlets and nacelles, engine compressors and turbines, engine oil systems, rotor blades”.
To that end, operators are instructed to monitor for the following occurrences as a way to determine an in-flight encounter with ash clouds:
-”acid odors similar to electrical smoke, rapid onset of engine problems, St Elmo’s fire, bright white/orange glow appearing at the engine inlets, dust in the cockpit or cabin, sudden unexpected outside darkness, airspeed fluctuations, landings lights casting sharp, distinctly visible beam.”
The risk-based approach would allow operators to conduct flights under accepted conditions that must be presented to their nation’s competent authority provided that risk assessments factor-in the type of airplane to be flown in medium and high contamination areas and ascertaining that manufacturers data confirm assumptions regarding operational safety of both engine and aircraft in the given contaminated area.
4. The involvement of ‘Competent National Authority” to clear flight operation.
Competent National Authorities in the countries from which such flights will operate are also granted authority to open traffic to medium concentration areas following reconnaissance/clearance flight observations and upon review of contingency flight operations plans provided by airlines. Such plans must incorporate additional facts:
-pilot briefing regarding concept of flights in the area of medium contamination
-additional fuel in the event of the flight being re-routed due to changing environmental conditions
-designation of alternate routes and airfields such as complying with ETOPS rules
-altitude constraints in the scenarios of an engine not functioning and or decompression taking place.
These measures are set to provide a decentralized way to manage and counteract potential disruptions, by delegating authority to airlines and national regulatory bodies on a discretionary basis. Following last year crisis, carriers had issued strong recriminations regarding European regulating agencies unilateral decisions to curtail flight operations without, as some later viewed it, concrete basis. For regulators the perception of potential hazards to the flying public had, it seems far outweighed the actual losses incurred by the industry.
China just agreed to deliver up to 50 JF-17 Thunder multi role fighter planes to Pakistan ‘available immediately’. China is reported to be assuming all the costs involved in the agreement. This latest announcement comes after a 4-days official visit to China by Pakistan’s prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. The move is intended as a public display of a close friendship between the two nations. Pakistan had come under increasing international scrutiny, particularly from Washington following the discovery of Bin Laden hiding there. At stake is the possible curtailing of Foreign Military Sales from the US which has contributed more than $7.1 billion allocated in various forms since 2001 in exchange for Pakistan’s collaboration in the war on terror. According to congressional research documents, during fiscal year 2002-2010, Pakistan acquired up to 95 Mid Life Upgrade kits worth more than $1 billion for its fleet of F-16A/B. The fleet of F-16 aircraft that Pakistan received in the early 90’s had fallen in disrepair following the arms embargo imposed on account of its successful nuclear military program in 1997. The east Asian nation also received 14 F-16A/B excess inventory from the US and more importantly was allowed to purchase 18 new more advanced F-16C/D Block 50/52, critical to bringing its air force at parity with India’s. In addition, more sophisticated armament for the F-16 was delivered; this includes 500 Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missiles, 1450 2000-pounds bombs, 500 Joint Direct Attack Munition tail kits, 1,600 Enhanced Paveway laser-guided kits ($629 million), 100 Harpoon anti-shipping missiles ($95 million), 500 sidewinder short range air-to-air missiles ($95 million). In its 2010 Military Balance, the International Institute for Strategic Studies places Pakistan as 7th leading purchaser of US defense articles and services between 2006 and 2009.
China’s FC-1 Xiaolong /JF-17 Thunder fighter aircraft project initiated cooperatively with Pakistan in 1999 aimed at providing advanced multi-role fighter capabilities superior to the obsolescent Mirage III family, and comparable to the F-16A/B. The prototype first flew in 2003 and a first batch of 8 aircraft ordered began arriving in Pakistan in 2007-2008, re-equipping Squadron number 26. A follow-up order for 42 aircraft was signed in March 2009 putting the aircraft price below the rumored price of $15 million per unit. With a total Pakistan Air Force requirement of 250 aircraft, Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) has acquired “the exclusive rights of 58% of JF-17 airframe co-production work “ according to their website. Additionally PAC also offers expertise engineering services in integrating the JF-17 radar; the S7 Griffo. Initially developed by M/S Selex Galileo of Italy, the S7 operates in the X-band. Its Pulse Doppler wave and digital fire control system allow all weather look down/shoot down capability, offers 25 different working modes as well as 70-100km Beyond Visual Range target engagement. The aircraft can also conduct precision laser-guided air to ground strikes. The S7 claims a very high Mean Time Before Failure. However the latest batch of 50 JF-17 is likely to incorporate the newer Chinese indigenous KLJ-7 radar developed by Nanjing Research Institute of Electronics Technology (NRIET) which, according to Janes can manage up to 40 targets.
The aircraft fuselage provides a basic semi-monocoque design with near identical dimensions with the Mirage 2000 and slightly smaller than a F-16 in length and wingspan. The JF-17 is at a clear disadvantage in maximum take off weight at 28,000lbs. It is 14,000lbs less than a F-16 and around 9,500 lbs below the Mirage 2000. In operation, this disadvantage is more palpable as the aircraft is limited to 7 hardpoints attachments for stores and armament which can not exceed 8,200lbs. The FC-1/JF-17 is powered by a Chinese derivative of the famous Russian-made Klimov RD-93 turbofan jet engine rated 49.4kN dry or 84.4kN with afterburning although a redesigned indigenous turbofan engine alternative designated WS-13 (or Tianshan-21) is likely to find its way to the JF-17.
Avionics systems comprise a modern glass cockpit using 3 Multi Function Displays and smart Heads-Up Display (HUD). The pilot can leverage on Hands On Throttle And Stick control interface set up. A dual redundant mission computers, a 1553 mil std bus, advanced ring laser gyro Inertial Navigation System / Global Positioning System increase the aircraft mission envelop.
The JF-17 is a highly maneuverable aircraft employing a quadruple redundant fly by wire system with advanced aerodynamics features such as slat leading edge moving flaps and dual ventral fins for increased directional stability at high angles of attack maneuvers. Yet these features are incorporated within a traditional design with a single vertical tail and two horizontal tails.
The slightly curved strakes leading edges are attached to the side-mounted air inlets, blending smoothly with the wing root while providing better lift at higher angle of attack. The JF-17 air inlets implement the innovative DSI fuselage bumps to optimize air flow entering the engine ducts and compressor during various regimes of flight. Normally the rush of air flow along a fuselage surface tends to form a very thin layer where the air flow can slow down dramatically, resulting in an inadequate flow of air to the engine. Traditional designs would normally require a ‘lip’ separating the actual air flowing through the engine inlet from the boundary layer forming on the fuselage outer skin. Locating a Divertless Supersonic Inlet (DSI) ‘bump’ at the base of the air inlet prevents the boundary layer to form there. This approach precludes the employment of moving air inlet mechanisms while improving overall design simplicity and even radar signature (stealth).
The Pakistan Air Force who entered the war on terror pursuing a two-fold procurement strategy of sourcing additional F-16 and/or parts while furthering the development and deployment of a cheaper, embargo-proof, non-US alternative, appears now confined to the latter option.
On April 30th 2011 we reported the test launch of Pakistan’s new Air launched cruise Missile. The Raad, delivered from a Mirage III offers precision strikes capabilities at ranges of 215 miles (350 km) with an estimated 9 ft (3 m) target accuracy probability (Circular Error Probability -CEP) carrying both conventional or nuclear warhead. This Tomahawk-like weapon complements the evolving stand-off missile launch capability within the Pakistani Air Force arsenal. With India as a strategic rival, the newer JF-17 because it is now likely to become available in much larger numbers than the very advanced F-16s (particularly the Block 52) will be the dominant platform for both nuclear and conventional role in the near future.
Lufthansa Cargo and Boeing finalized an agreement for the carrier to receive 5 brand new Boeing 777 Freighters valued at $1.35 billion. Lufthansa Cargo which already operates its own fleet of 18 wide body Boeing MD-11 Freighters also benefits from direct access to freight capacity aboard Lufthansa passenger aircraft cargo holds. In addition the carrier can as well use capacity from dedicated freighters operated by other carriers affiliated to the Lufthansa Group. Most prominent in this list are AeroLogic which already operates 8 Boeing 777 Freighters and China-based Jade Cargo International. In this context the Boeing 777 Long Range Freighter will bring a more fuel efficient aircraft capable of transporting 45,000 more pounds of weight than the MD-11F further. The introduction of this state-of-the aircraft to Lufthansa Cargo signals the fleet’s transition to a more efficient, lower CO2 emissions and quieter QC2-compliant operation which will be critical in the future.
For the company founded in 1994, the Boeing MD-11F -as with many other global freight carriers- has played an enormous role generating value for the brand. In 2010 alone Lufthansa Cargo sales revenues amounted to 2.78 billions euro on 1.8 million tons transported. The all-cargo MD-11F provides capacity for transporting 202,100 pounds (91,670 kilograms) to a range of 3,500 nm (4,027 miles, 6,479 km) using three high-bypass ratio turbofan engines. The General Electric CF6-80C2D1F engine has been a popular choice to power these aircraft along with the Pratt & Whitney 4460. Lufthansa Cargo logistic operation has been able to extract maximum revenue from the LD-7 standardized pallet system which has a footprint measurement of 125 in × 96 in (318 cm x 244 cm). On the MD-11F, 26 such pallets can be positioned on the main deck. In addition the lower deck forward compartment has room for 6 pallets and the aft compartment 4 more. As an alternative the aft compartment can receive 14 LD3 containers. The compartment number 5 with its dedicated smaller door is very practical for storing loose cargo items, mail and parcels. With a maximal fuel capacity of 38,615 Gal, (146,173 liters, 258,721lbs, 117,356 kg), Lufthansa which like FedEx Express, favors the LD7 125×96 pallet versatility can average 95 tonnes of freight carried per flight.
The state of the art 777 freighter derived from the Boeing 777-200LR delivers new standards in capabilities within the industry. The twin engined aircraft relies on two General Electric GE90-110B1L high bypass ratio turbofan engines (the GE90-115BL are optional) with 110,100 lb (489 kN) of thrust to carry 112 tons (247,000 lbs) of cargo at a range of 4,900 nm (5,640 miles, 9,070 km). Its higher fuel capacity of 47,890 gal (181,283 L, 320,863 lbs, 145,538 kg) and operating economics not only make it the prime candidate for replacing older widebody freighters like the MD/DC-10, MD-11, and Boeing 747-200 Freighters but also for the Boeing 747-400 which burns 20% more fuel. In cargo operation, twenty seven 125 in × 96 in (318 cm x 244 cm) LD7 pallets will find their way onto the 777 main deck, fitted in 13 rows of 2 pallets aside, plus a single pallet positioned against the aircraft rear bulkhead. The lower deck forward compartment is tailored for 6 additional 125 inx96 in pallets, with another 4 pallets being assigned to the lower aft compartment. The alternative as far as LD3 containers capability would be 18 LD3 containers in the forward compartment and 14 aft unless the aft section is instead used to house the 3 optional Boeing body fuel tanks for ultra long range operation. This operator’s choice would reduce the number of LD3 containers in the aft compartment to 8 instead.
Regarding the Boeing 777 freighter performance since entering service in 2009, we analyzed FedEx Express operational data. The logistics giant which now operates 12 such aircraft shows that profitably operating the type beyond the estimated 5,640 miles range requires a lot of weight optimization for each trip.
For instance on the 6,581 miles Memphis to Tokyo trip, freight carried is reduced by 43% to increase the aircraft reach by 17%. The greatest challenge remains the 8,184 miles long Hong-Kong to Memphis leg as it requires the aircraft to operate with a 35% additional capability in range. In that scenario the freight weight must be reduced by 30% to 159,867 lbs.
Data made available to USDOT indicates that FedEx Express rarely allows the MD-11 to venture at ranges greater than 5,416 miles as in Osaka-Oakland where freight must be weighted down by 33%. At that weight level (135,769 lbs) the B777F normally carries enough fuel to ‘push’ an additional 1,100 miles. This single most persuasive element highlights the advances in performance capabilities that the Boeing 777 Freighter has, just like its passenger variant, been able to introduce to the cargo industry.
We are publishing excerpts from an interview published in the French daily newspapers Le Monde issue of May 20th 2011 and Air France news portal of Pierre Henri Gourgeon, Air France’s CEO. The interview follows the group announcing it had realized a 122 million euros ($174 million) profit for the 2010-2011 fiscal year ended March 31st 2011, reversing 1.3 billion euros ($1.85 billion) lost a year before.
The 65-years old Aeronautics Engineer became Air France CEO in January 2009 after serving as Deputy CEO from June 2004. He is likely to remain at that post through 2015 pending confirmation at the next board meeting on July 7th, 2011. The 122 million euros profit just announced by the Air France-KLM Group is a big turn around from the 1.3 billion euros lost in 2009-2010. His latest ‘Embark’ strategy will focus on security of flights and attention to customers needs. He hopes to be able to further reduce the Group’s debt ratio which went from 1.15 in March 2010 to 0.85 currently (the target is 0.5 within 3 years). Better process integration across KLM and Air France remain a big objective; finance, accounting, IT, and streamlining wherever redundancies remain from the 2004 merger.
The 2009 turn-around plan is now set to generate up to 1.4 billion euros ($2 billion) in savings (900 millions euro-$1.28 billion were expected); better offerings on European flights and strong products on the long haul have been introduced. The cargo business did turn around positively a year ahead of planned. Labor reductions contributed 600 millions euros ($855 million) in savings. Interestingly enough he reveals that fuel cost makes 20% of medium haul fare and a third of long haul’s.
The so-called provincial bases (Marseille debuts October 2nd 2010 plus 3 others in 2012) could generate cost savings of 15% which coupled to higher aircraft utilization and flexible personnel schedules (more flying hours in fewer days) would create the foundations for a low cost operating infrastructure.
The long haul North Atlantic sector will see stronger joint ventures and a re-invigorated Sky-Team alliance. Thanks to a deeper network in the Chinese market, the CEO claims being immune from the competition from the Gulf carrier.