After Controversy Over Sensitive Technology, Boeing Finally Allowed To Complete Mid-Life Upgrade Of 4 French E3-F AWACS To Block 40/45 Configuration


A UK AWACS Flanked By 2 Tornados. the 4 CFM-56 High By-Pass Ratio Turbofans
A UK AWACS Flanked By 2 Tornados. the 4 CFM-56 High By-Pass Ratio Turbofans

Boeing has resumed work on the Mid Life Upgrade program for the four Boeing E3-F AWACS flying with the French Air Force.As Boeing’s main subcontract on the project, Air France Industries will undertake most of the work at its main facility at Le Bourget Airport near Paris. Boeing is nonetheless retaining most of the main engineering and quality assurance responsibilities. The first AWACS to receive the upgrade should be able to return to service in 2014 while the rest of the fleet will fly the upgrade by 2016. The works consist of $354 million worth of hardware and software improvements. Once available on the French Air Force four E3-F AWACS, the only other user of the highly advanced variant will be the USAF as none of the others AWACS operators(NATO’ s 17 E3-C, UK’s 7 E3-D, Saudi Arabia 5 E3 nor even Japan‘s more recent E-767 platform) can claim yet such capabilities.Illustrating the might of the systems upgrades, fears that sensitive technology would be transferred to a foreign nation even prompted a stop-work order being issued in September of 2012.Adding insult to injury, a proposal to sale France a degraded version of the Block 40/45 even envisioned the client disbursing an extra $5 million in engineering cost.

 That idea did not take hold following a risk review prompted by the US government, the project finally received clearance as initially specified in 2010.

The Block 40/45 Capabilities

As a previous in depth block 40/45 analysis from a previous entry recognized:

… the Block 40/45 configuration represents AWACS latest set of upgrades integrating the aircraft capabilities mostly through yet newer software based implementations. The New Generation IFF (NGIFF) provides more secure transponder-based Secondary Surveillance Radar SSR Mode 5 capabilities over longer range and with implementation of the Mode S civilian aircraft feature.

The Block 40/45 is also incorporating additional modern aids to navigation that will bring the aircraft always more in line with FAA/ICAO/EUROCONTROL safety of flight rules . The Diminishing Manufacturing Sources (DMS) Replacement of Avionics for Global Operations and Navigation (DRAGON) initiative has been the driving force for the sourcing of a fully Components-Off-The-Shelf COTS Flight Management Systems avionics architecture. Funding for Required Flight Performance RFP capability in 2009 would allow pilots to conduct more fuel efficient computed take-offs, cruise, approaches and landings.

Net-Centric Capability (NCC) is finally merging with the Airborne Web Service data Access and sharing paradigm to enjoy greater benefits. In that logic connectivity is enhanced by fully IP-based Beyond-Line-Of-Site BLOS IP SATCOM. The introduction of robust chat services as the privileged medium of communication between war fighters is also mirrored aboard the aircraft. The new IP/ethernet connectivity architecture is reinforcing the open architecture solutions approach as well as providing incentive for cheaply interconnecting off-board and on-boards sensors via tactical data links. The well tested JTIDS is set to receive yet a newer Open Architecture based display employing a DII COE (Common Operating Environment) compatible Operating Systems (a choice from IBM AIX, HP-UX, Windows NT, Solaris 8, Red Hat Linux)…”

 In all the AWACS mid life upgrade brings decisive engineering advantages to France’s ability to continue sourcing replacement parts. After all the AWACS still relies on the 1950’s 707 platform and is also equipped with the 1970’s AN/APY-2 radar antenna and supporting equipment. The replacement of an older IBM mainframe with networked workstations just illustrates the shift in maintainability that the Block 40/45 open architecture brings about. The operational gains for France are as well far reaching; precision navigation capabilities conforming with Eurocontrol protocols and real-time tactical data interchange with France’s Tiger attack helicopters. Most of these gains bring readily observable “mission value” to operators and planners alike. As with the USAF, France’s AWACS fleet is now set to remain in service well into the year 2030.



AWACS Upgrades For Boeing E-3 Sentry And Japan Boeing E-767 (Part 1)

AWACS Upgrades Part II: RSIP, Block 40/45 and ScanEagle UAV


Cockpits Upgrades For US And NATO E-3 Sentry AWACS

E-3 Sentry AWACS Refueling A $368 million EMD (Engineering Manufacturing and Development) Defense contract with Boeing will finally see both NATO and USAF fleets of E3-A/B/C Sentry Airborne Warning And Control Systems (AWACS) retrofitted with advanced digital flight decks. The 32 E-3s aircraft in the US Air Force inventory along with the 16 aircraft operated by NATO, all delivered between 1977 and 1985 have been some of the most recognized military derivatives of the legendary Boeing 707-320B designed in the 1950’s. Despite continuous upgrades to the AWACS battle management/radar processing systems,enhancing the rotating dome-mounted AN/APY-2 radar performance under the current Block 40/45 configuration, the E-3 Sentry have mostly retained obsolescent analog cockpit flight instruments. The upgrade works on the aircraft that are scheduled to take place between 2013 and 2015 at Boeing Seattle facility will finally allow the AWACS fleet to operate without restriction in crowded airspace where precision navigation and minimum/reduced separation standards between aircraft are in effects under the International Civil Aviation Organization rulings.

Proposed Upgraded US/NATO AWACS flight deck (Boeing)

The new state-of-the-art digital flight deck layout proposed by Boeing consists of 5 main Multi-Function glass Displays integrating an open architecture originating from the Boeing 737NG program. Boeing will rely on proven expertise and materials from Rockwell Collins for the flight management system suite (air-data and flight-management computers) as well as Telephonics of New York, Thales of Belgium, EMS of Canada and Raytheon of Maryland. Once the new flight systems are operational alongside the very recent Block 40/45 radar processing/battle management configuration upgrade, the E-3 Sentry fleet would have secured the critical uninterrupted sourcing of new replacement parts for at least the next 20 years.

In comparison, various similar programs have already been successfully undertaken on other high value aerial assets whose strategic and operational status remain critical to the US combat posture.

The US Navy E-6B Mercury Showing Its Resemblance With The E-3 Sentry AWACS
US Navy E-6B Flight Simulator For Aircrew Training Showing The Upgraded Flight Deck

In the case of the 16-aircraft strong Boeing E-6B Mercury fleet (another Boeing 707-320B derivatives) delivered to the US Navy between 1989 and 1992, a cockpit upgrade based on the 737-700 has been effectively implemented between 1999 and 2003. Fulfilling a strategic communication and command role for the Navy’s Strategic Communications Wing 1, the E-6B Mercury cockpit inherited from the Boeing 707-320B offered only marginal improvements over its E-3 Sentry ersatz. In the E-6B case, the $123 million flight deck upgrade program saw 6 new flat-panel modern Multi-Function Displays replace more than 100 analog cockpit instruments.

The E-4B Will Also Receive A New Flight Deck

A more recent cockpit upgrade program for the 4 Boeing E4-B National Airborne Operations Center delivered in 1973 to the US Air Force 55th Wing was announced June 7th 2011. Again 737NG avionics systems will be fitted to that 747-200-based platform. Under the program, the E-4B aircraft will integrate new core CNS/ATM (Communication Navigation Surveillance/Air Traffic Management) systems to 737NG-inspired Multi-Function Displays glass deck management interface.

In all, upgrades of legacy 70’s or 80’s Boeing military aircraft cockpits have continuously relied on open architecture avionics program derived from already successful implementations on passenger Boeing 737NG and 777 aircraft. In each case aging and/or out-of-production flight systems have compounded limited operational capabilities to poor maintainability due to the growing difficulties of sourcing replacement parts.

Another successful case saw Off-The-Shelf components sourced from Smiths Industries used to upgrade 59 USAF KC-10 Tanker. That retrofit showcased a combination of PowerPC-based CPU architecture solution with a VMEBus controller in a program began in 2002. This approach has permitted the potent 1970’s DC-10-based platform to acquire more operational flexibility.

Bhoja Air Flight B4-213 Boeing 737-200 Crashes On approach To Islamabad, All 117 Passengers And 9 Crews On Board Lost


The Tail Of The Crashed Bhoja Air 737-200 Resting At The Crash Site Near Rawalpindi

A Boeing 737-200 operated by Pakistan’s Bhoja Air crashed late Friday while carrying 117 passengers and 9 crew members. The aircraft had departed Karachi at 5:05pm and was due to land at Islamabad at 6:50pm (9:50 am New York City local time). The approach took place under very severe weather conditions and the aircraft was reportedly seen turning into a massive fireball shortly before or after hitting the ground near a Husain Abad village residential habitations area. This area is located in the vicinity of the Rawalpindi Air Force complex. The evening crash took place at about 6:40 pm amid lightning, rain and possibly hail conditions as air traffic controllers reported suddenly losing contact with the crew of the doomed aircraft. A large scale recovery effort coordinated by the ministry of defense has been underway, highlighting the severity of the crisis, one of Pakistan’s worse.

Pakistan's Defense Ministry Is Coordinating The Crash Recovery Effort

Bhota Airlines is a small Pakistani air operator started in 1993. The Karachi-based carrier who had stopped operations following financial difficulties in 2001 recently re-emerged into passenger operations and was apparently conducting its first Karachi-Islamabad flight under the flight B4-213 that crashed on Friday. Pakistan’s main national carrier PIA was preparing a flight on behalf of the country’s Civil Aviation Authority to bring the victims’ relatives to Islamabad at no cost. The Boeing 737-200 aircraft series were all delivered by Boeing between December 29th 1967 and August 8th 1988 all powered by the ubiquitously small diameter Pratt and Whitney JT8D turbojet engine, which allowed the aircraft to have a lower stance while on he ground.

The JT8D Equipping the Bhoja Air Boeing 737-200 Clearly Recognizable

Discovery Space Shuttle Final Ferry Flight To Washington DC Atop NASA 747 (Photos)


The last Discovery Space Shuttle flight took place Tuesday April 17th 2012 mounted atop the NASA 905 Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. After 39 missions in space totaling 365 days, Discovery left the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 6:58 am as the pair treated spectators to a graceful fly-by. The arrival four hours later at the nation’s capital Washington Dulles International Airport was graced with similar historical solemnity with an overflight of the National Mall and other iconic buildings.

The NASA 905 Boeing 747 carrying Discovery Space Shuttle

Preparing For The Flight

Discovery’s mating to the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft was carried out on Sunday April 15th, a day later than planned after strong wind gusts impaired work at the Kennedy Space Center the day before.

The Mate Demate Device MDD that helps secure the Space Shuttle onto the Carrier Aircraft is a bridge-like metallic structure whose crane helps hoist the 167,000 pounds (75,300 kgs) space shuttle 60ft (18 m) in the air while the Boeing 747 is allowed to park underneath the still hanging shuttle. In a tightly choreographed sequence, the 122-foot (38-meter) long orbiter space shuttle is lowered onto the 231-foot (70-meter) Shuttle Carrier Aircraft Boeing 747 where it is finally secured onto three attachment points.

Mating the Shuttle to its Carrier
The Shuttle Orbiter Being Lowered Onto The Carrier Aircraft From The MDD

Since its first delivery flight to Kennedy Space Center on November 9th 1983, Discovery was carried by NASA 905 fourteen times before this final flight. In four other ferry flights, Discovery was mated to the now retired NASA 911 second Shuttle Carrier Boeing 747 Aircraft.

Following today’s arrival at Washington Dulles International Airport, two large cranes will remove Discovery from the back of the NASA 905 Boeing 747. The official arrival ceremony scheduled for Thursday April 19th 2012 will see Discovery roll onto its Smithsonian’s James S. McDonnell Space Hangar final stand at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy National Air and Space Museum adjacent to Dulles complex. No later than April 23rd 2012, NASA 905 is due to arrive at New York’s John F. Kennedy airport carrying the Enterprise Space Shuttle. Enterprise was the first prototype of the orbital space shuttle program which never flew to space but instead was used for Approach and Landing Tests in 1977 when released from the NASA 905 carriers. On display at Steven F. Udvar-Hazy National Air and Space Museum since 2003, Enterprise is moving to a new home at the NYC Intrepid Air, Sea and Space Museum. Delivery will take place on the Intrepid’s deck after being ferried by barge from JFK via New York City’s Hudson River.

Discovery On Top Off NASA 905 at Washington Dulles

The NASA Space Shuttle Carriers

NASA 905 refers to the oldest of two assigned Boeing 747 registered N905NA acquired by NASA from American Airlines in 1974 (reportedly for about $15,601,192.19). The modifications made by Boeing onto this Boeing 747-123 manufactured in 1970 comprise the addition of the three struts where the Space Shuttle attaches to along with two vertical stabilizers at the aircraft tailplane. The other Space Shuttle Carrier Boeing 747 aircraft known as NASA 911 (registered N-911NA) made its final flight on February 8th 2012 after more than 20 years of service with NASA. This 747-100SR(-46) built in 1973 and acquired by NASA from Japan Air Lines in 1989 will now serve as spare parts supporting NASA 905 in its next mission as NASA Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).

NASA 905 Is A Boeing 747-100 Modified From Passenger Configuration

The End Of The Line

With Discovery induction at the Smithsonian Museum in the nation’s capital and Enterprise donation to the Intrepid Museum in New York, Atlantis will remain at Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida while Endeavour will head to the California Science Center in Los Angeles later this year.

references and photo courtesy of NASA

Virgin Atlantic Orlando Bound A330-300 Emergency Return To Gatwick: Four Minor Injuries


The A330-300 following its emergency landing AP Photo/Lorna Willson/PA

Four people aboard a Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330-300 aircraft sustained minor injuries following an emergency landing on Monday April 16th 2011. The flight operating as VS27 with 299 passengers and 13 crews on board had departed London Gatwick airport at 9:48 GMT (5:48 am New York local time) at destination of Orlando but returned for an emergency landing at 11:30 GMT (7:30 am New York local time). According to a Virgin Atlantic web site posting, the pilot’s decision to reverse course and return to Gatwick followed the in-flight discovery of an unspecified ‘technical problem’. The aircraft precautionary evacuation proceeded after the aircraft landed and came to a stop on Gatwick’s single runway with all its emergency chutes deployed. Emergency crews at the airport also reported putting out a small fire inside the aircraft. Traffic at London’s second busiest aircraft did resume 2 hours later at about 1330 GMT (9:30 am New York local time).

F/A-18D Fiery Crash Onto Virginia Beach Neighborhood:No Fatalities


Kandice Angel / The Associated Press

Seven people were injured after a US Navy F/A-18D fighter jet crashed onto an apartment complex in Virginia Beach at about 12:05pm on Friday. Among the two injured were the aircraft’s pilot and its flight officer who had ejected reportedly after dumping fuel from the ailing aircraft in anticipation of a crash. Of the seven people injured even only one of the pilot was reported to have remained in the hospital overnight. A total of 63 residents of the Mayfair Mews complex had been found unharmed after some 40 apartments were damaged by the crash ensuing fire. The aircraft had apparently been airborne briefly after taking off from nearby Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia. The base is home to Strike Fighter Squadron 106 (VFA-106) ‘Gladiators’, a unit serving as the East Coast Fleet Replacement Squadron training for F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet air crews. There, naval aviators and first officers participate in 9 months duration air-to-air and air-to-ground training operations prior to applying for aircraft carrier qualifications. NAS Oceana is only distant from the larger Norfolk Naval Station by a few miles.

Additional Orders For F-35 JSF Engines Placed To Pratt & Whitney

By Karim Toure

The Department Of Defense announced Friday, January 6th 2012 a latest round of engines purchase for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Acquisition Program. The $195 million contract to Pratt & Whitney Military Engines a wholly owned subsidiary of United Technologies Corp covers a total of 37 Pratt & Whitney F-135 engines, with associated parts and technical support for the Lot VI of the program’s current Low Rate Initial Production phase. This order for 37 F-135 engines comprises 18 engines for the US Air Force Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL) aircraft variant worth approximately $55 million, 7 engines for the US Navy Carrier Variant (CV) worth about $37.14 million, another 6 engines that will equip the US Marines Short Take Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant worth $84.7 million. In addition, two of the program foreign customers; Italy’s Air Force and Australia’s Royal Air Force will receive respectively 4 engines ( worth $11.6 million) and 2 engines funded ($5.8 million), all for Conventional Take Off and Landing operation.

Low Rate Initial Production

In a previous entry, we highlighted that the current phase of US funding for the program’s Development and Procurement would likely appropriate a total of $61.5 billions ($10.8 in development funding and $50.7 billions in procurement) for the 2012-2016 period, also securing the acquisition of up to 325 aircraft. Under this plan the USAF would receive 203 F-35A, the US Navy 72 F-35C and the US Marines Corps 50 F-35B.

In light of the significant cost and schedules over runs incurred by the program, including the highly publicized breach of Nunn-McCurdy statutes presented to congress in the spring of 2010, major program restructuring cost were forecast to take effect beginning in the FY 2012 Defense Budget. Notably the $7.7 billion increase in System Development and Demonstration funding that would be counter-weighted by a $8.4 billion decrease in procurement funding. Accounting for likely additional schedule slips, Full Rate Production may not begin until 2018, (5 years later than the 2007 baseline program projected).

Fiscal Year 2012 Defense Budget and other constraints

Already, the latest order reflects program changes implemented after the STOVL variant proved overweight and under-performed during initial testing. The decision to reduce the number of STOVL test airframe sourced from 37 aircraft to 15 between 2011 and 2013 led to the the 6 aircraft that will be procured in FY 2012.

The Fiscal Year 2012 budget in its final format shows some of these adjustments in procurement funding. The US Navy STOVL procurement program is funded by line items of $1.43 billion and $117 million while de-funded by $ 286 million. Similarly the CTOL procurement funding will see an inflow of $3.6 billion and 323.5 million but with an outflow of $257 million.

In all the F-35 shows unit cost in 2012-2016 are reaching $141 million a piece for the F-35A (CTOL), $183 million for the F-35B (CV) and $180 million for the F-35C (STOVL)-with development costs factored in. The cost over runs and schedule delays will translate into lower number of aircraft procurements: the US Air Force, US Navy and US Marines reducing their orders by 409 aircraft to the current level of 2,457 jets through 2035 (1,763 Air Force CTOL, 680 US Navy & Marines CV/STOVL + 14 development airframes).


Emirates Large Order For 50 Boeing 777-300ER At Dubai Airshow

Boeing 777-300ER landing at Perth (Commons)

The opening day of the Dubai Air Show on Sunday in the United Arab Emirates saw Emirates placing the single largest commercial aircraft order (in dollar value) in history. The deal made with Boeing consists of a firm order for 50 Boeing 777-300ER worth about US$ 18 Billion at list price along with options for another 20 aircraft worth an additional US$ 8 Billion. Attending the agreements’ signing ceremony on Sunday, November 13th 2011 included Emirates Chairman Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh and General Electric CEO David Joyce.

The deal highlights the Dubai-based carrier need to further continue growing its global route network while expanding and continuously modernizing its fleet. On November 3rd, Emirates announced better than expected financial results for the first half of its current fiscal year (the six month following March 31st 2011). The 18% increase in passenger revenue generated a net profit of US$ 225 million. With a current destination network integrating 115 destinations in 67 countries to its hub in Dubai, the carrier has achieved a remarkable 20% annual average revenue growth throughout 23 years of profitability in a tumultuous industry. Accordingly Its fleet has grown spectacularly from 60 aircraft in 2004 to 162 today. The Boeing 777-300ER With 95 Boeing 777 currently flying with the carrier, Emirates has grown into the world’s largest operator of the type, surpassing the likes of Singapore Airlines, Air France and British Airwyas. The 95 Boeing 777 it flies are composed primarily of Boeing 777-300ER now numbering 61 aircraft. The rest of the 777 fleet consists of 3 Boeing 777-200, 6 Boeing 777-200ER, 10 Boeing 777-200LR, 12 Boeing 777-300 and 3 Boeing 777-LRF. The proportion of aircraft owned by Emirates: Of these 95 aircraft, 48 have been purchased directly from the manufacturer Boeing while the remaining 45 aircraft are on operating leases from the likes of International Lease and Finance Corp., BOC Aviation (Bank Of China, formerly Singapore Aircraft Leasing Companies SALE), Mauritius-based Veling, General Electric Capital Aviation Services, Ireland-based Pembroke, Noor Islamic Bank of the United Arab Emirates, HSH Nordbank AG, Doric Asset Finance (Germany) and Dubai Aerospace Enterprises. Emirates previous orders history with Boeing prior to Sunday’s deal consisted of 89 total aircraft with 70 Boeing 777 aircraft comprising 3 Boeing 777-200 (ordered June 4th 1992), 6 Boeing 777-200ER (4 ordered June 4th 1992, 2 more ordered August 21st 1997), 10 Boeing 777-200LR (ordered November 21st 2005) and 70 Boeing 777-300ER ordered at various points between July 2004 and particularly on July 16th 2010 when a massive deal for 30 777-300ER was finalized during the Farnborough Air Show. Of the 777-300ER component, 29 aircraft have already been delivered including 7 this year alone notably 2 during October.  Combining the 31 Boeing 777-300ER backlog from previous years orders to the latest 50 firm orders means that no less than 81 new aircraft will reach the fleet at an average delivery pace of at least 7-9 aircraft per year. Once options are exercised there may be as many as 140 Boeing 777-300ER flying in Emirates colors when the decade ends. Characteristically, Emirate will introduce new planes at a very brisk pace. This fiscal year alone (from March 31st 2011 to March 31st 2012), Emirates will see 23 brand new aircraft reach its fleet, a greater proportion of which being 777-300ER and Airbus A380.

A Global Fleet built around the -300ER

After growing its fleet from 60 aircraft in 2004 to 162 today, Emirates is looking to escalate further its route network in destinations and in number of direct flights offered. This year alone it has introduced service to Baghdad, Geneva and Copenhagen integrating 115 destinations to 67 countries. In 2012 again newer long haul routes to Rio De Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Harare, Lusaka, Dallas, Seattle and Dublin will be implemented. The carrier’ plans to operate 90 Airbus A380 Super Jumbo gives a good impression of the scale of operations to evolve at the Dubai hub. To date 17 A380 have been delivered. We previously analyzed that these aircraft have been configured in a 489-passengers Ultra Long Range version and 517-passengers Long Range version. The 777-300ER as optimized to accommodate 360 passengers in 8 First Class, 42 Business Class and 310 Economy seats will become the workhorse of the carrier operating most higher frequency direct services to/from Dubai global hub. The 777-300ER 7,930 nautical miles (14,685 km) range carrying 360 passengers makes it ideally suited for each of the new routes planned for 2012. In that critical role, the 777-300ER brings proven, low-risk, stable operational record second to none. Emirates expects that when available, the 70 Airbus A350 on order will be able to replicate similar capabilities at yet lowered operating costs.

 This latest order confirms a trend we highlighted in a previous post; that improved economic outlook last year will allow carriers to order more of the highly reputable 777-300ER aircraft. The ‘lost decade’ of 2000-2010 (in revenues) is now giving way to the widespread necessity to rejuvenate fleets still dominated by aging 747-400 and earlier Boeing 777-200 and Airbus 340-200/300. Boeing shows it is capitalizing on the trend. Net orders for the 777-300ER this year reached 182, surpassing the 2005 high mark of 154. General Electric is also looking favorably at the additional business opportunities offered thanks to the highly reliable and efficient GE90-115B turbofan that powers the 777-300ER.

With dispute settled, Cargolux takes delivery of first of 13 Boeing 747-8F

Cargolux SA, the Luxembourg-based world leading cargo carrier took delivery of its first Boeing 747-8F from Boeing Company at the Everett, Wa. facility on October 12th 2011. The hand over was only made possible after a tentative agreement was reached between Cargolux, Boeing and General Electric late last week. The dispute took center stage around September 17th 2011 when Cargolux announced that it was suspending the financing process for two Boeing 747-8F due to be delivered only a few days later on September 19th and 21st. This prompted the abrupt cancellation of the 3-day event Boeing had planned around its newest 747 delivery to launch customer.

Skepticism regarding the aircraft performance falling short of expectations was echoed on September 21st when Atlas Air Holding, another Boeing 747-8F customer decided to altogether forgo 3 aircraft due to be delivered in October and November 2011. Jim Proulx, a Boeing spokesman also acknowledged that some of the first aircraft leaving the assembly line would be overweight. In addition following last week’s tentative agreement involving Cargolux, General Electric has admitted that its Genx-2B engines suffered a 2.7% performance shortcoming. As a result 747-8F operators will be unable to extract the 15% improvement in fuel efficiency claimed by Boeing over the older 747-400F. General Electric has stated that its engine performance improvement kit for the under performing GEnx-2B engines will not be available until late 2013.

Atlas Air will only operate 9 of the 12 Boeing 747-8F it intended to acquire with 3 aircraft expected to be delivered in October and November, another 4 during 2012 and the final 2 aircraft in 2013.

Cargolux is now poised to receive its full complement of 13 aircraft ordered in 2005 and 2007. 

Cargolux And Atlas Air Forgo 5 Boeing 747-8F Ahead Of Delivery

A Test Boeing 747-8F Aircraft Parked At Boeing Everett Plant

Atlas Air, the world leader in cargo Aircraft Crew Maintenance Insurance announced Wednesday 21st 2011 it was “exercising right to terminate” 3 brand new Boeing 747-8F out of the 12 ordered since 2006. The 3 aircraft were due to be delivered in October and November 2011. The announcement indicates that because the 3 aircraft were among the first to be issued from the 747-8 assembly line, these ‘early-build’ aircraft did not incorporate the various design improvements installed by Boeing on latter (newer) build aircraft. The implication that performance shortcomings might be more apparent on these three aircraft it seems influenced Atlas air decision. Through, Jim Proulx, a Boeing spokesman explained that these 747-8 being “the first airplanes off the line are slightly short of expectations, these early-build models nonetheless will be great airplanes with unparalleled efficiency and low costs,” Elaborating on the aircraft ending being overweight following major re-design work of the wings that have cost the program the two-years delay also adversely impacting Atlas Air. William J. Flynn, President and Chief Executive Officer of Atlas Air Worldwide, hinted the decision from a risk management and operational performance point of view: “As prudent asset managers, terminating the first three aircraft was the right decision for our fleet, our customers and our stockholders. We expect the remaining 747-8Fs in our order to be better-performing aircraft than those we have terminated.”

Atlas Air will only receive 9 Boeing 747-8F instead of 12 ordered

This drastic decision will leave Atlas Air with only 9 of the 12 Boeing 747-8 it intended on operating. Having replaced the 3 aircraft canceled in the assembly, Boeing still intends on delivering 3 brand new 747-8 freighters to Atlas Air in October and November, 4 during 2012 and the final 2 in 2013. For Atlas Air, the priority is to honor its ACMI contract with British Airways with the 3 aircraft that will be delivered by the end of 2011. Another outstanding ACMI will see Switzerland-based global logistics provider Panalpina utilize the first 2 aircraft delivered in the first half of 2012.

Cargolux will operate 11 Boeing 747-8F instead of the 13 ordered.

The cancellation by Atlas Air follows Cargolux decision to “reject” 2 Boeing 747-8 Freighters. The Luxemburg-based cargo airline, launch customer of the type announced September 17th 2011 that its Board of Directors was suspending the 2 aircraft financing process through JP Morgan pending resolution of contractual issues with Boeing. Underlying the dispute seems to be Boeing’s two years delay in delivering the brand new freighters. Industry insiders have speculated that after Qatar Airways recently acquired a 35% stake in Cargolux, frustrations with Boeing’s continuous delays for delivering Qatar Airways 787s would find indirect repercussions. Nevertheless Atlas Air position regarding under performing early-build aircraft, and Jim Proulx candid admissions may be the hard facts in the 747-8F undercarriage.

Cargolux which incrementally received 16 Boeing 747F between 1993 and 2008 now stands to operate 11 Boeing 747-8F instead of the 13 initially planned. Atlas Air still intends during the year 2012 to withdraw from use 4 aging Boeing 747-200F built between 1979 and 1985 along with a Boeing 747-300F built in 1985. For any trip, the performance shortcomings affecting the 3 early build aircraft can easily negate part of the 16% added cargo capacity claimed against a 747-400. Furthermore the substantial and scarce capital investment required for acquiring a new 747-8 versus a second-hand 747-400BCF practically makes the former option much less optimal. Both carriers will thus resort to used 747-400. As for Boeing, the Cargolux decision completely upset plans for the various celebrations programmed between September 19th and 21st, dates at which the 2 aircraft were to be handed over to Luxembourg-based carrier. With official delivery of the first 787 to launch customer All Nippon Airways planned for Monday September 24th 2011, Boeing is looking forward for a celebration after all.