Re: Singapore picks the A340-500 over the 777-200X

Date:         26 Jun 98 02:37:46 
From:         Chuanga@cris.com (H Andrew Chuang)
Organization: Concentric Internet Services
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I meant to comment on SQ's order for a long time, but I have been
quite busy lately.

In article <airliners.1998.911@ohare.Chicago.COM>,
Karl Swartz <kls@ohare.Chicago.COM> wrote:
>>WRT the SIA order for A340's; Keep in mind SG's geographics. Is it not
>>true that the A34X is the only viable choice that'll  do N.America
>>from Singapore non-stop ?
>
>It is not true.  That's the whole point of this thread -- Singapore
>considered the A340-500 and 777-200X to both be technically capable
>of doing the job, or at least that's what the said in public.  Their
>stated reason for choosing the A340-500 was price.

ETOPS was a concern, nevertheless.  One question that I have about
the B777-200X is its take-off performance, especially in a relatively
hot Singapore.  The A340-500 will be powered by 4 53K-lb-thrust engines,
while the proposed -200X would be powered by 2 102K engines.  I believe
the A340-500 will have a slightly higher MTOW than the B777-200X.
However, the -200X is a twin, twins generally should have higher
thrust-to-weight ratio than four-engine planes (and this has been
discussed many times in s.a.a).  Relative to other B777 variants, an
102K engine does seem to be adequate for the proposed MTOW for the
-200X.  Or, is it because Airbus got so paranoid about its underpowered
A340-300 that it decided to make the -500/-600 most overpowered
aircraft?  ;-)

>AW&ST had some interesting comments on the order.  They noted that the
>order for only five A340-500s was insufficient to cover all of SIA's
>planned flying, and suggested that SIA might yet order the 777-200X --
>in addition to the A340-500.

I find this report to be extremely speculative.  Perhaps, AW&ST wanted
to cover its behind, because a week or two before this report, AW&ST
said Boeing was ahead in this competition.  At that time, I had already
read in both Flight International and the Wall Street Journal that
SIA intended to order the A340-500.

Concerning the small order, SIA has traditionally used number that
include options.  Thus, the five+five number is not a big surprise.
With five planes, SIA will be able offer two daily SIN-US West Coast
flights.  With limited payload, yields on these services need to be
much higher.  Hence, I think it will take some time to develop the
market for this type of services.  Anything more than two daily
flights, IMHO, is unrealistic.  So, at this time, five planes make
sense.

IMHO, both Airbus and Boeing seem to have seriously over-estimated the
market potential for the 200-/300-seat, ultra-long-range aircraft.
Until now, only two firm orders for seven A340-500s have been placed.
Boeing is shifting gear and pitching yet another B747-400X to
customers like Qantas, EVA, and Cathay.  Personally, I think the
A340-600 and/or B777-300X will have a great future, but I'm uncertain
about the A340-500 and B777-200X.  I won't be terribly surprised if
Boeing actually sells more B747-400X than the B777-200X and A340-500
combined.  Nevertheless, with the ending to the current Asian economic
turmoil nowhere in sight, Asian carriers might eventually be forced to
use smaller aircraft.  Whether this will happen or not still remains
to be seen.

P.S. Since I am on the subject of B777, I might as well talk about
a potential order from Taiwan's China Airlines (CI).  CI has recently
decided to phase out the A300 after two nearly identical crashes
in a three-year span.  (The MD-11 and the B747 classics are also to
be phased out.)  Although, human errors played an important role in
both crashes, pressure has been mounting both within the company
and from outside.  At least one-third of the flight crew had petitioned
the airline to stop flying the A300, especially the -600R.  Loads on
the A300 flights are particularly poorer (i.e., Taiwanese passengers
are avoiding the A300) than flights on other aircraft.  The B777 is a
leading candidate with the B767, A330, and A340-500 also being
considered.  My guess is the order will likely consist of a combination
of the B777 and B767 (as well as some B747Fs).  The A340-500 might have
a chance because of the (false) impression that four-engine planes are
safer.  Nevertheless, the government has banned the airline from any
aircraft ordering until the safety standard is improved.  This might not
be an easy obstacle to clear.  Still, Boeing must be eagerly waiting for
this order, because this will be a rare big order (on the order of US$4-5
billion) from Asia where the economy turmoil has brought down many major
carriers in the region.