Date: 10 Jul 99 02:33:36 From: email@example.com (James Matthew Weber) Followups: 1 2
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If you have read my previous post, you know the current press reports say the A340-500 is about 6.5 tonnes overweight. For SQ if this problem doesn't get fixed, it will get very ugly. The A340-500 was purchased for a specific mission, LAX-SIN against prevailing winter winds. At the time the purchase was being negotiated, the requirement was reported as 200 revenue passengers. Other analysis suggestd a break even load factor of 90%, which is troubling in and of itself. Some of you may remember that AA actually refused to accept MD11's because they couldn't fly the mission they were ordered for, so such a decision from SQ would hardly break new ground. If the aircraft remains overweight, each 100kg in weight costs 1 passenger, so if the aircraft ends up more than 2 tonnes overweight, it will be impossible to make money with it, assuming all things are equal. If the RR Trent 500 comes in as little as 1% over predicted fuel burn, or even a little overweight, the same thing happens. A combination of an overweight aircraft, and even a slight shortfall in engine performance would be catastrophic. For instance a 1% fuel economy problem with the current weight problem would mean the loss of 40% of the passenger load. (I wouldn't mind traveling on an A340 with a maximum passenger load of 120.......) I suspect SQ would object very strongly to being forced to fly them that ways however... RR thinks the overweight problem can be addressed with more engine thrust, which is certainly true to a certain extent, but the extra weight will cost fuel burn which reduces payload unless you can make a corresponding increase in both MGTOW and MLW. That however increases the fuel costs and the in transit fees and landing fees for the aircraft which obviously erode the margins How much is payload worth... The Arithmetic suggests the result can be staggering over the life of the aircraft. One of the reasons BA likes the 777 so much is it turned out to be about 400kg under weight. Let's look at how much that 400kg is worth. If we assume it is cargo, and we can get on average $1.75 per kg in revenue for it (given how the 777 is deployed today, this is probably a realistic number), and you fly a round trip per day, that 400kg is worth $1400 per day. Assuming you fly the aircraft 80% of the days it is the fleet, over the 20 year life of the airframe that is $8 million...The savings in fuel over the life at current US prices for Jet A is about another half million. I leave it to the readers to figure out just how much 6.5 tonnes would reduce the revenue over the life of the aircraft. It is probably enough to guarantee the operator could never make money with it... The other interesting bit in the current Avweek is how Boeing plans to increase the range of the 777 and word on the 747 variants. The current plan is to allow for up to 3 pallet mounted fuel tanks, each of which could hold up to 1850 gallons... The traditional problem with fitting tanks to increase the range of aircraft, is the tanks and associated hardware become a permanent part of the airframe, and increase the empty weight accordingly. I.E. you pay for the ability to carry the fuel, even if you don't need to carry it because the weight of the tanks and the space they occupy comes out of cargo lift and space. The pallet allows most of the airframe wieght and space to recovered if you don't need the additional fuel capacity. Without the tanks fitted, the basic 777-200x is claimed to capable of an 8750nm operation with 300 passengers, at a 14% lower ASM cost than the A340-500. The 200X is claimed to be 55,000 pounds lighter than the A340-500. If true, it would give a sizeable fuel burn advantage to the 777 even with the 777's oversize engines that are required for certification, and would imply a substantially lower fuel burn (and reduced operating cost for the 777) for the 777. For some airports, the new 777's could be painful.. wingspan has gone up 11.5 feet... At this point both the A340-500 and 777-200X are not a lot more than paper airplanes, so I tend to view the claims as interesting, but I wouldn't want to bet a lot of money on how accurate they turn out to be when and if the aircraft come into service. A couple of 747 variants are in the winds again. Boeing claims to have prospective customers. The trailing edge wedge modifications have been flight tested on an Asiana 747-400. The enhanced 747-400, possible the ER, would have a 930,000 pound MGTOW, and is claimed to be capable of JFK-HKG or SIN-LHR with a full commercial payload in all weather conditions. The other 747 variant referred to by Avweek as the -400X involves a plug in the wingroots, and a fuselage plug compelled with a new undercarriage and a 1,043,000 MGTOW. Boeing claims an improvement in direct operating costs of 10% relative to the current 747-400. No doubt these claims are all aimed at damaging the opportunities for the A3XX. I think there is one safe bet, if both the 747-400X and A3XX are built, I doubt Airbus will ever sell enough A3XX's at a reasonable margin to recover the R&D costs. I don't think Boeing will make money either, but they would be looking at an R&D bill that is likely to be a LOT lower, so the level of pain involved is likely to be less. To be brutally honest, the usefulness of either aircraft is suspect if 777-200X and -300X goes ahead, and ETOPS gets extended to 207 minutes. Given the choice between a carrier operating an A3XX or 747-400X twice a day, and another carrier operating another widebody, be it an A330-200X or 777-200X four times a day, or a carrier operating A 747 or A3XX via a hub, or less than once a day, versus daily operation with a smaller widebody non-stop, The monsters lose. That has certainly been the experience on the Atlantic. As the aircraft to do this have started to become available on the Pacific, it seems to be happening there as well.