Re: Really Long Range Commercial Transport

From:         kls@ohare.Chicago.COM (Karl Swartz)
Organization: Chicago Software Works, Menlo Park, California
Date:         16 May 94 01:53:28 
References:   1
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In article <>,
Terrell D. Drinkard <> wrote:
>  Assume for a moment that a commercial airframer could build a transport
>that is capable of flying halfway around the world in scheduled service.
>Does this have any real value?  Or are we happy at roughly 7000nm range?

Would this be a sub-sonic aircraft or super-sonic?  The answer may
make a significant difference in terms of passenger preference.  A
flight halfway around the world means about 25 hours of flying at
sub-sonic speeds.  The existence of interesting city pairs this far
apart, or nearly so, is irrelevant if few people would want to fly
for that long in one sitting.  Personally, I wouldn't want to do it.

Assuming your hypothetical transport is either super-sonic or there
are enough people who are willing to be crammed into an aluminum
sardine can for that long, you have to look at potential city pairs
that might require that range.

Several folks have already mentioned the demand for better access to
the rapidly expanding Asian markets, e.g. China and Singapore, from
the central and eastern U.S. as an example of why you might need an
aircraft with such range.  They're still a fair bit short of what
you're asking about, however -- pole to pole is about 12,437 nm, while
JFK-SIN is "only" about 9,540.

For the really long routes, you need to keep in mind that most of the
major cities are in the northern hemisphere, and not just by a little
bit.  So, you need to be thinking of southern hemisphere cities.  The
booming Asian markets don't really qualify, though Singapore is only
barely above the equator.

Australia and New Zealand are good candidates -- Sydney is about
10,500 nm from London or Paris, and Auckland is about 11,500 nm.  In
Africa, CapeTown is nearly opposite San Francisco, though at 10,200 nm
it's still not as far as the Auckland routes.  Finally, there's South
America -- Santiago is nearly as far away as you can get from Hong
Kong at 11,620 nm, and Buenos Aires isn't much better.

Now consider whether or not any of these are interesting markets.
(Read "enough traffic to make it profitable for an airline to fly.")
They'd better be really hot to justify non-stop service.  Besides the
benefits of a stop to passengers like me, it permits the airlines to
use less specialized (and presumably less expensive) aircraft, while
giving them a chance to improve loads by combining markets on at
least one leg of the long route, either through a mini hub or just by
stopping at an interesting intermediate city.  For example, Pan Am
had JFK - Rio de Janeiro - Cape Town, with local rights only on the
JFK-GIG segment.  Chances are the segment to Cape Town was a lot less
loaded than the other segment, so even if Pan Am had had equipment
that could fly non-stop, it might not have been profitable to do so.

I can easily see a need for something with around 9,600 nm range.
This can reach all of the Asian markets from JFK as well as the mid-
west.  Singapore is beyond reach from the south-eastern U.S. cities
(e.g. Miami), but most of the rest of Asia is within the range,
including Hong Kong.

That same range also puts much of the U.S. (with Denver as the west-
ern limit) within reach of Johannesburg and Cape Town, and the recent
changes in South Africa suggest that this may be a growing market.
Unfortunately, the market probably won't support more than one or two
U.S. gateways, and the closest one, which just happens to be New York,
is already within the range of a 747-400, albeit only barely so.  The
best that a longer-range aircraft could offer here would be to avert
payload shortfalls or fuel stops on westbound flights out of the "hot
and high" Johannesburg during the southern summer.

Adding another 350 nm to the range, bringing it to 9,950 nm, permits
LAX to Cape Town (but not Johannesburg).  A more interesting pair
within the reach of this aircraft would be JFK-SYD.  While Sydney is
probably not going to be quite as interesting a market as Singapore,
this is only a minor range increase, perhaps a reasonable target for
performance increases on a plane introduced with a 9,600 nm range.
It also puts at least Singapore and Delhi within reach of most major
South American cities, such as Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro.  The
only notable exception is Santiago.

Boosting the range to 10,600 nm mostly extends the convenience from
emerging markets, e.g., Johannesburg from the U.S. West Coast, and
puts Santiago within reach of Singapore and Tokyo.  The one really
notable new capability with this range is Sydney from most of Europe,
including London.  This is probably the one city pair at this range
with sufficient demand to support non-stop service.

Beyond this range, few new markets seem likely to generate sufficient
traffic.  11,000 nm links Rio de Janeiro to Tokyo and Hong Kong, which
might be of some interest.  It also allows non-stop Chicago to Perth
service, but I really have a hard time seeing a stampede for tickets
on that one.  Further yet and you can fly London to Auckland (11,420
nm), and add better connections for Santiago, Buenos Aires, and Perth,
with the longest route I could come up with being New York to Perth at
11,630 nm.

If it were my decision, I suspect I could justify going beyond the
7,000 nm range you mention to 9,600 nm.  9,950 nm would be harder to
justify, unless it was a fairly inexpensive improvement from a basic
9,600 nm range aircraft.  Beyond that range, I only see a handful of
sales, primarily a 10,600 nm range aircraft for British Airways and
QANTAS to use on the LHR-SYD route.  I doubt the few additional sales
could justify the added development expense.

On the other hand, a look at the history books shows that the special,
ultra-long range aircraft have not done very well at all -- both the
DC-8-62 nor the 747SP were rather disappointing.  Despite the appeal
of routes like JFK-SIN, I have to wonder if a new "long ranger" would
suffer a fate similar to those aircraft.

Karl Swartz	|INet		
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		|Snail	2144 Sand Hill Rd., Menlo Park CA 94025, USA
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