ANA, Japan largest carrier has reached a milestone when taking delivery of its 50th Boeing 787 Dreamliner on August 17th 2016. The new aircraft was handed over by manufacturer Boeing that day at an official ceremony held at the Everett facility near Seattle, Washington state.
By initiating a 50-aircraft order back in 2004, ANA become the launch customer for Boeing’s new highly fuel efficient 787 type. The first aircraft delivered to the fleet; a Boeing 787-8 arrived in 2011. Subsequently the carrier has accepted another 35 Boeing 787-8 along with 14 stretched 787-9 variants. The 787-9 started being delivered from 2014. This 50th aircraft delivered is a stretched 787-9.
To date the carrier has outstanding order for another 30 Boeing 787-9 plus 3 of the even larger Boeing 787-10.
Currently ANA claims the world’s largest 787 fleet with 50 aircraft out of 449 delivered to 39 airlines worldwide. Citing figures obtained from ANA, Airways Magazine indicates that replacing the older 767-300 by the state-of-the-art 787 has generated $98 million in savings each year for the carrier.
With its ability to operate on thin long haul routes, the 787 has extended the airline reach to non-stop destinations, more advantageously on routes where passenger traffic is less affluent. This makes it an ideal complement to the much larger Boeing 777 whose wider fuselage is better applied to denser , more mature routes. In all, since its entry into service the 787 can claim to have allowed airlines the opening of more than 500 new direct, non-stop routes. ANA is betting on opening direct flight to Mexico City and Phnom Penh in the nearest future.
In comparison ANA’s 777 fleet currently stands at 57 aircraft including 16 Boeing 777-200, 12 Boeing 777-200ER, 7 Boeing 777-300 and 22 Boeing 777-300ER. Another 6 Boeing 777-300ER are still on order with Boeing together with 20 Boeing 777X. At full strength ANA could see up to 83 Boeing 777 operate under its brand.
ANA’s fleet structure suggests that operating the 777 fleet with 787 in equal proportion (83 Boeing 777 and 83 Boeing 787) will offer the carrier an opportunity to simple double the footprint of its international long haul destinations coverage.
A Boeing 737-800 operated by United Arab Emirates low cost carrier FlyDubai crashed while attempting to land at Rostov-On-Don in southern Russia this Saturday March 19th 2016. The aircraft had departed Dubai six hours earlier with 55 passengers and 7 crews on board. Operating as Flight 981, the 737-800 first aborted its landing while 6.7 km short of Rostov On Don Airport Runway 22, visibly due to gusts of wind approaching 67 km/hr. At this juncture it appears that the aircraft was put on holding pattern nearby for close to two hours before pilots began to re-initiate another landing attempt. During the same time, another aircraft that had aborted two landings had already been diverted to Krasnodar. This second attempt to land failed tragically when the FlyDubai aircraft plummeted suddenly towards the ground from an altitude of 3,975 ft at about 5.6 km short of the runway.
Flydubay is, together with its most famous sibling Emirates Airways one of two airlines fully owned by the United Arab Emirates government. Both carriers have operated as completely seperate entities, even though there were some mutually managed operations segments early in the low cost’s beginning. The carrier which currently operates a fleet of 49 Boeing 737-800 had started operation in 2008 following a $3.74 billion order for 50 Boeing 737-800 with Boeing at that year’s Farnborough Air Show. A subsequent order at the January 2014 Dubai Air Show will position the carrier as the operator of another 11 Boeing 737-800 augmented by up to 75 Boeing 737 MAX 8. Opening the Rostov-On-Don route took place in 2013. The aircraft involved was registered as A6-FDN and was carrying 55, mostly Russian nationals passengers along with 7 crews. It had been delivered January 19th 2011 brand new and was later re-configured into a 12 business and 162 coach seating configuration.
sources: aviation safety network , Los Angeles Times, Wikipedia
Lufthansa the launch customer for Airbus new A320NEO aircraft began operating the type this January 25th 2016 with its maiden flight on the Frankfurt – Munich route. The aircraft registered D-AINA (MSN 6801) was delivered to Lufthansa on January 20th 2016 ahead of another 70 A320NEO and 45 A321NEO ordered by the group from the European plane maker. The A320NEO (New Engine Option) represents Airbus latest incarnation of the highly successful A320 family which has sold nearly 6,900 since the late 80’s with 4,500 NEO destined for some 80 airlines since its plans were finalized in 2010. The aircraft characteristically differs from regular A320 aircraft due to the addition of the new blended wing extension christened “sharklet” (similar to boeing “Winglets”), as well as with their new larger diameter engines. New Engine Option identifies the presence of the new clutch fan technology Pratt & Whitney PurePower Geared Turbofan engines PW-110JG-M. The powerplant is expected to take narrow body air travel to a whole new lower boundary of operating economics burning 15% less fuel and producing 20% less emission. Delivery of the new aircraft had been due December 22nd but was postponed following problems with the PurePower engines. The relatively low key first flight paves the way for a new era of air travel.
Malaysia Airlines is ending Boeing 777 operations immediately, the Independant UK reported. The government-owned carrier has announced that the new restructuring plan being currently executed imposed to do away with the aircraft that was involved in the two MH17 and MH370 tragedies. Both incidents had involved two of the carriers 6 Boeing 777-200ER. MH370 is a 777-200ER that disappeared somewhere probably in the Indian Ocean on March 8th 2014 with all 239 people on board. MH17 incident involved another Boeing 777-200ER being shot down by a surface to air missile while cruising over battle- scarred Ukraine, killing all 298 on board. Despite the recovery of a small number of aircraft parts, the aircraft involved in the MH370 tragedy is missing to this day.
The effort marks a dramatic new direction for the carrier whose image suffered tremendously from the two catastrophes. Instead of the Boeing 777-200ER, the carrier will for now operate 737-800 on the Guangzhou – Kuala Lumpur route and Airbus A380 on the Heathrow – Kuala Lumpur. The 777-200ER started arrived in the fleet in 1997. By 2004 the carrier had 17 such aircraft operating its long haul fleet. The carrier loss of two aircraft paved the way for the gradual phase out, visibly in an effort to distance itself from the tragedies. Subsequently 8 aircraft found their way back to the lessors leaving only 7 aircraft operating in the fleet. The long haul fleet is now left to operate with 19 A330, 6 A380 and 2 enduring 747-400.
Air France has now officially turned the final page on its 45 years old history operating the Boeing 747.
The farewell festivities began January 11th 2016 as the last commercial revenue flight arriving in Paris from Mexico was operated by one of the fleet’s 3 surviving 747-400. Upon its arrival at Paris Charles De Gaulle airport, flight 439 received celebratory water canon treatment by airports firefighting vehicles.
Remaining events saw two special 747-400 flights carrying the highly symbolic designation of Air France Flights 747 and 744 depart Paris CDG at 9am and 11:30am respectively on January 14th using (the 3 last remaining 747-400 are two 1992-vintage aircraft registered as F-GITD and F-GITE along with F-GITJ built more recently in 2004). On board a privileged group of Air France-selected passengers together with a mix of lucky buyers of the Euro 220 tickets were treated to Business class hallmark champagne and delicacies. The aircraft embarked on a low altitude honor tour across France’s Landmarks including the Mount Blanc, the Mount Saint Michel, the cities of Paris, Toulouse and Bordeaux also bringing a final opportunity to “showing off” the Queens of The Sky to the public at large. Of more than 30 000 peoples that had intended to take part in those flights, only a few privileged 700 or so people took part.
Subsequently the aircraft were put on display to the visiting public at Le Bourget airport on January 16 and 17. There Air France stewards, pilots and mechanics associated to the 747 operation conducted guided visits for visitors.
History of the Jumbo Jet in Air France service
With customer code 28 being assigned by Boeing to Air France, the french national carrier operated as many as 73 Boeing 747 from 1970 to 2016. The carrier purchased 18 Boeing 747-128, 29 Boeing 747-228, and 24 Boeing 747-428, respectively designating 747-100, 747-200, and 747-400. We note that 2 Boeing 747-300 were also absorbed from the UTA fleet following its merger with Air France in December 1992.
The french national carrier first acquired the type in 1970 with F-BPVA being the first 747-100 (or -128 to use Boeing customer code) delivered on 20 March 1970, paving the way for deliveries of another 17 -100 airframes. The first revenue flight took place June 3rd 1970 on the Paris – New York route.
By 1974, the fleet began incorporating the 747-200 with F-BPVO arriving in October 1974, followed by 28 other aircraft including numerous combi and freighter variants.
The 1991 acquisition by Air France of UTA brought two 747-300 F-GETA and F-GETB accompanied by another 2 Boeing 747-400 (747-4B3) registered F-GEXA and F-GEXB. These arrived in the mix of Air France own sizeable orders with manufacturer Boeing for 747-428 that began arriving from February 1991 with F-GITA being the first 747-400. The 747-400 fleet would eventually peak at 24 aircraft with the most recent 747-400ERF freighters being delivered from 2002 (F-GUIA) to 2007. Surprisingly the 6 newer longer range dedicated freighter Boeing 747-400ERF (747-428ERF) did not stay in the fleet long, being all returned to lessors before reaching the 10 years mark with the carrier.
In fact by the mid-2000s the airline was already in 777 mode, looking to replace the 747 freighters with 777F, just as it had began doing in its passenger fleet way back in 2005. Here hard economics alone campaigned decisively for the end of the 747 service. Typically as an online article of Lepoint newspapers points out the 432-seat 747-400 as operated by Air France on the Paris – New York route required 102 tonnes of fuel. This figure contrasted unfavorably with the 107 tonnes carried by the 540 seats A380, and the mere 68 tonnes needed by the 381 seats 777-300ER (along with its 20 tonnes of paying freight). This alone can explain Air France voracious appetite for the 777.
The 747 replaced by another Boeing product
In Air France service the 777-300ER (-328ER should we say) fulfills a growing number of roles; there are now 5 different cabin configurations of the aircraft seating respectively 296, 303, 322, 381 and 468 passengers making possible a very flexible combination of passengers product ranging from First, Business, Premium Coach and Coach. Along with flexibility and versatility, twin engine fuel efficiency has propelled the 777-300ER popularity to an all time high illustrated this past November 2015 when Air France took delivery of its 40th ship. This is in addition to another 25 shorter fuselage 777-200ER passenger version plus another two -200LRF freighters. The aircraft has shown its endurance and adaptability with the 468 seat “Indian Ocean / Caribbean” cabin configuration proving able to replace the Air France high density 472-seats Boeing 747-400s that had long operated a route, once thought to be the sole realm of the 747 brand.
For Air France the long haul fleet has stabilized around the 40 777-300ER and the 10 Airbus A380. In comparison, Deutsch affiliate carrier KLM fleet has elected to retain its 24 Boeing 747-400 in service. British Airways is another operator that shows no sign of replacing its proudly owned 747-400, still operating 41 of the 57 aircraft it has acquired, albeit with revamped cabin product. In all with a barrel of oil priced bellow $30, carriers are seeing their fuel bill slashed by 3 quarters of what it was one year ago. This augurs well with the cyclical aviation industry well honored time period where positive cashflow and earnings must be accumulated in order to prepare the financing for the next cycle of aircraft purchases. In fact there hasn’t been a more favorable time to operate efficiently four-engined Boeing 747 in a long while. British Airways and KLM retaining the 747-400 seems to conform to that approach. For Air France, so long the 747s.
On October 13th 2015, Singapore Airlines has announced it was adding 4 more A350-900 to its current outstanding order of 63 with Airbus. On that occasion, the carrier detailed new plans to fly direct non-stop flights to the US once it takes delivery of 7 specially configured new Airbus A350-900. The 7 aircraft will be taken from the current backlog of 63 A350-900XWB on order with Airbus, and receive special modifications to increase their endurance. Re-designated as Ultra Long Range, the new A350-900 aircraft variant will incorporate an increase Maximum Take Off Weight sufficient to accommodate the extra fuel needed for the longer cruise, along with necessary modifications to the fuel system. In addition the aircraft is set to receive aerodynamic improvements which have not yet been specified by Airbus at this time. The decision by the airline to re-introduce direct flights between Singapore and the US comes two years after it stopped operating the world’s longest commercial non-stop flight linking Singapore to Newark. On that route first established since 2004, the airline relied upon a quad-engined A340-500 configured strictly with 100 of the carrier award-winning fully flat business class seats. Following the route closure, the A340-500 aircraft used by Singapore Airline on that route were to be re-purchased by Airbus which it appears has kept them (5 aircraft) in storage ever since. The 18.5 hours Newark Singapore intended to save business travelers the 4 hours additional time that connecting flights on non-direct routes impose. However the significant duration of flight itself may have discouraged some business travelers.
EVA Air has manifested its intention to acquire another 2 Boeing 777-300ER along with 24 Boeing 787-10. The new build aircraft package compounds a list price of $8 Billion. The October 15th 2015 statement by manufacturer Boeing Company reminded that the Taiwan-based carrier already operates 21 Boeing 777-300ER with another 15 due for delivery from Boeing together with another 5 Boeing 777F. The introduction of the stretched 787-10 in EVA Air fleet alongside the workhorse 777-300ER will provide a more profitable -fuel efficient- alternative on marginally less dense routes.
Thai Airways International, Thailand main’s carrier has finally introduced its flagship A380 on the coveted Bangkok-London Heathrow on July 1st 2015. The move comes more than two years after the aircraft became operational in Thai service. The route had been traditionally operated by Boeing 747-400s up until the middle of 2012 when the aircraft were withdrawn for cabin upgrades. After the one-year hiatus necessitated by the cabin upgrade work, the 747-400s returned to service on March 31st 2013 with a four airplanes rotation servicing the two daily frequencies. That one year span between upgrade was completed saw the interim use of the A340-600.
At that time in 2013 Thai Airways had only taken delivery of 4 of the 6 A380 it had on order with Airbus. While two aircraft were assigned on each of the Frankfurt and Paris destinations, the airline’s management never fully committed the type on the London route despite expectations that delivery of the 2 remaining A380 scheduled to arrive by late 2013 would make additional aircraft available. A380 service to London was first scheduled to launch December 1st 2013 but was postponed first until October 30th of the following year 2014, and then indefinitely. In the meantime the carrier curiously downgraded capacity on the line by withdrawing one of the two 747-400 with a A340-600.
Thai Airways International 747-400s are configured with 374 seats comprising 9 in First, 40 in Business and 325 in Economy. The A340-600 can seat 267 with 8 in First, 60 in Business and 199 in Economy. The A380 for its part boosts capacity to 507 with 12 seats in First, 60 in Business and 435 in Economy.
Dubai-based Emirates Airlines recently announced it is beginning daily service with its A380 between Dusseldorf and Dubai replacing Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. The new destination marks the carrier’s 12th service to a European city, and its 84th globally. Dusseldorf will also be the third German city to receive the A380. Emirates which now operate 62 Airbus A380 will also bring the A380 to Madrid beginning August 1st and Copenhagen on December 1st.
Zurich Airport and Etihad Airways officials along with the media gathered at the gate of the re-fashioned daily flight offering between Zurich and Abu Dhabi, the carrier’s home base in the United Arab Emirates. The route that has previously been served with an Airbus A330-300 is only the third, beginning July 6th 2015 where the carrier is deploying its new state-of-the-art Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner after Brisbane and Washington DC. The 787-9 will also begin serving the Abu-Dhabi – Singapore route on August 1st.
The aircraft cabin which is introducing a new level of comfort that will soon make the 787 a rising star in Etihad Airways fleet is configured with 235 seats including 8 First Class Suite Seats, 28 Business Studio Seats and 199 Smart Economy Seats.
Etihad began taking delivery of 787-9 on February 2015. It has orders for 71 Boeing 787-9 and 787-10 both stretched variants of the basic 787-8. Having taken delivery of 4 Boeing 787-9 aircraft to date, the carrier intends to gradually deploy the type launching highly differentiated long haul product linking the world’s major destination through its Abu-Dhabi hub. Airline officials point out that it will soon become possible to travel from Zurich to Singapore in a 787 (via Abu-Dhabi).