Quick news

October 2014 edition

“Common Type Rating” achieved for A350 and A330 pilot training

Airbus has obtained regulatory approval for training of A350 XWB airline pilots in accordance with the original goal of an A330/A350 “Common Type Rating” (CTR). This approval means that pilots current and qualified on the A330 can already commence their training for the A350 using only ‘differences training’ which does not necessitate use of the full-flight-simulator. As well as significantly reducing costs, this approach also confers a 65 percent reduction in training time for airline pilots – to only eight days – versus a standard transition course, and facilitates the creation of one pool of pilots flying both the A330 and A350 for increased flexibility. A notable factor in achieving CTR was the similarity in handling qualities between the two aircraft, as recently verified by pilots representing the EASA and FAA Authorities, who flew both aircraft. In short, A330/A350 CTR is an important addition to the integrated Family concept and further bolsters the case for airlines to operate the A330, A330neo and A350 in parallel. As the latest Airbus widebody twin-engine jetliner, the A350 XWB is to set a new standard of comfort and efficiency in its class. With A350 XWB deliveries to begin before the end of 2014, an increasing number of pilots will be trained to fly the aircraft – many of whom are already approved to operate the A330.

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First A350 XWB spares already being prepared for outstations

In preparation for the A350’s entry into service with launch customers, Airbus’ Satair-managed parts support hub at Fuhlsbüttel in Hamburg is already preparing the initial provisioning of spares inventories. For first operator Qatar Airways, Airbus has already dispatched the first major assemblies to Airbus’ store in Dubai. At this 3,700m2 facility – inaugurated in 2008 – 80 percent of the spares held there are destined for customers in the Middle East, with the remaining 20 percent available for airlines worldwide as part of Airbus' global spares provisioning. At Fuhlsbüttel 100 more major assemblies such as doors and rudders will undergo quality inspections over the coming weeks. They will subsequently be transported between production sites, Airbus stores, and customers in custom-made transport containers. To ensure fast delivery to other first A350 XWB customers – including Vietnam Airlines, Finnair, and LATAM – the Airbus stores in Singapore, Europe, and the US will shortly be stocked with A350 spares.

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A350-1000 production underway

Production of the A350-1000 – the largest A350 XWB variant – is underway, with first tooling in the plants and production of first parts taking place at Airbus plants and with risk sharing partners. Most recently, at Premium AEROTEC’s Nordenham plant, the first carbon fibre layers of a fuselage shell were produced using an automated placement machine. Earlier, at Airbus’ plant in Nantes, France, the first metal cuts and carbon fibre lay-ups took place (in June). The first carbon-fibre wing covers for the A350-1000 have also been produced with the upper cover in Stade and the lower cover in Illescas now both completed – where production of the first rear fuselage section is also underway. The next milestones during Q4 2014 include the production start of the first pylon at St Eloi and the first Vertical Tail Plane in Stade. Regarding the engines, first runs for the Trent XWB-97 commenced at Rolls-Royce’s facilities in the summer, with flight trials scheduled to start on Airbus’ A380 Flying Test Bed in summer 2015, in preparation for the actual A350-1000 flight-test campaign to start in the summer of 2016. Customer delivery of the first A350-1000 and entry into service will occur in 2017.

A350 in-cockpit wi-fi connectivity offered for pilot’s portable devices

Airbus’s latest innovation for the A350 XWB is to offer in-cockpit wi-fi connectivity for pilots. Previously although wi-fi could be available for passengers in the cabin, pilots were prohibited from transmitting wi-fi signals in the cockpit from ‘Portable Electronic Devices’ (PEDs) such as tablets. This changed recently when the ability to have wi-fi in the A350’s cockpit was approved after Airbus successfully demonstrated compliance of the A350 with the standard “RTCA DO-307 - Aircraft Design and Certification for PEDs”. This standard is considered an ‘acceptable means of compliance’ with the authorities regarding the tolerance to potential electromagnetic interference from PEDs. One of several key operational benefits of having wi-fi in the cockpit is to enable pilots to retrieve meteorological information from the internet in real-time. Another benefit is to enable the combined use and intercommunication of a pilot-attached device (eg. a tablet) with the aircraft-attached (ie. ‘docked’) EFB. While Airbus provides revision of the Aircraft Flight Manual (AFM), the Airline would be responsible for implementing the actual technical solution and, if required, conduct a demonstration of the compliance to operational requirements for their local authorities.

A320’s original centre-wingbox 2D blueprints being transformed into new 3D DMU ‘Digital Mock-Up’ at Nantes

A project is now underway in at Airbus’ facility in Nantes to bring production of the aircraft's centre wing box (CWB) into the digital age by transforming the original 2D design drawings into a 3D “Digital Mock-Up” (DMU). The initiative will support Single-Aisle production quality improvement and help to secure supply chain capacity in support of the ongoing ramp-up. The first step is a ‘reverse engineering’ exercise to measure parts and to correlate the real aircraft with the existing drawings. The design office and plant teams will then determine which technical solutions will be adapted by the single-aisle engineering team to create the DMU. The project’s production embodiment in December would lead to further digital CWB options.

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Iridium’s Satcom option for the A320 Family now in service

A new A320 Family satellite communications (Satcom) option based around the Iridium provider has been certified introduced for A320 Family operations. The Iridium Satcom system, which can be retrofitted, provides an alternative to Inmarsat for cockpit communication purposes which includes the pilot cockpit voice transmissions in addition to HF/VHF voice transmissions, and data transmissions for ATC/AOC (Air Traffic Control/Aircraft Operational Communication data-links in addition to HF/VHF data communication. The equipment provides integration with the A320’s existing data-link systems (e.g. FANS A+) and provides an optional voice channel for the cockpit ATC/AOC transmissions. In the future (from 2017) with the new constellation “Iridium Next” it will provide connectivity for cockpit Electronic Flight Bags. Iridium Satcom uses satellites which operate in lower orbits enabling less use of power and weight savings, smaller antennas and a higher quality of voice exchanges with air traffic control outside of VHF coverage. It can also provide complete global coverage. Certification of the Iridium Satcom system on A330 aircraft is planned for late 2014.

Thomas Cook Group becomes first European airline to select Airbus’ Runway Overrun Prevention System (ROPS) for its A320 Family fleet

Thomas Cook Group plc has decided to equip 12 new A321 Family aircraft with the Airbus Runway Overrun Prevention System (ROPS) within the fleets of Thomas Cook Group Airlines. In doing so, it becomes the first European airline to select ROPS for its A320 Family fleet. ROPS is on-board cockpit technology which increases pilots’ situational awareness during landing, reduces exposure to runway excursion risk, and, if necessary, provides active protection. The system is being fitted to A321s which will soon join the fleet of the Thomas Cook Group Airlines in Thomas Cook Airlines UK and Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia, as well as A321s for Condor.

Spring Airlines becomes the 1st customer for A320 Sharklet retrofit in China

Spring Airlines, a low-cost carrier based in Shanghai, China, has signed an agreement with Airbus for Sharklet retrofit of its A320 aircraft in operation to become the first Chinese airline to perform retrofit of the latest fuel saving device. Spring Airlines took delivery of its first A320 with Sharklets in September 2013. Since then the operator has been evaluating the effect of these aerodynamic devices on the operational performance of its fleet of six Sharklet-equipped A320s. Based on the proven operational advantage observed from more than 8,500 accumulated flight hours, Spring Airlines has decided to select Sharklets for all its new deliveries and is now expanding the option to its fleet. For these aircraft the existing wing tip fences are removed and the new Sharklets attached. This is possible because these aircraft were already delivered with the latest design of wing, which includes a reinforced structure.

A320 Family ‘Extended Service Goal’ (ESG) upgrades underway

As an increasing numbers of operators with older A320 Family aircraft wish to continue operating them well into the future, Airbus’ specially devised “Extended Service Goal” (ESG) programme – which has been formulated to allow aircraft operations beyond the original Design Service Goal (DSG) – is becoming increasingly popular. A320 Family ESG is well underway with around 80 aircraft involved in the retrofit thus far and many more under consideration. When an aircraft is approaching the DSG limitation, the owner has a choice: They may choose to withdraw the aircraft from service or they may wish to invest in the Extended Service Goal (ESG) programme to enable aircraft operations to continue up to 10, or even more, additional years. The number of operators having aircraft ready to benefit from the ESG will naturally increase in proportion with the initial delivery programme which started in 1988 for the A320s.

. . . and A330/A340s next to benefit from ESG treatment

Meanwhile, the A330/A340 programme which first entered service in the early 1990s is also set to receive the ESG treatment. The required analysis has been launched with prioritisation according to aircraft models approaching the DSG. Airbus is already advising operators and aircraft owners to plan in the ESG at an early stage to ensure best use of scheduled downtime. The ESG will enable customers to earn additional revenue by flying their aircraft longer, as well as benefiting from the increased residual value of their Airbus fleets. A full ESG may be achieved by: A top cover Service Bulletin (SB) which is issued once a full concession review is completed and the Repair Design Approval Sheet (RDAS) review performed; Systems related SBs and kits embodied where required. A small number of systems components may need to be replaced or upgraded, as well; and structural related SBs and kits embodied where required.

Airbus Asset Management group and owners achieve over 50 A340 placements so far in 2013/2014; Higher exit limit planned for A340-600

The A340 fleet, though discontinued in production, continues to prove its worth to operators, investors and leasing companies. Over the last 12 months Airbus’ Asset Management division together with the aircraft owners and lessors achieved over 50 A340 Family placements and lease extensions, with more expected in the coming months. Of these, 25 aircraft were directly attributed to Airbus’ remarketing activities. Going forward, Airbus is enhancing the largest model – the A340-600 – by working to certify later this year a new 475-seat maximum exit limit (up from the current 440 seats), which will bolster seat mile costs even further, as this will enable the type to carry as many passengers as a 747-400, whilst burning around 20 percent less fuel per trip. In addition, Airbus and the A340-500/600’s engine supplier – Rolls-Royce – are together actively supporting to keep the type economically attractive while making the most of the family’s performance and operational advantages. Likewise CFMI are fully supporting the CFM56 engines which power the smaller A340-200/300 variant.

A380 now serving the longest airline route

The growing network of routes the A380 flies now includes the world's longest: Qantas' Sydney-Dallas/Fort Worth service, which covers 7,450 nautical miles (nm). It is one of more than 200 weekly A380 services to eight US destinations. Qantas recently began operating its A380 non-stop roundtrips, with the aircraft configured in a high-three-class cabin layout. By using the A380's range capabilities to replace its B747s between Sydney and Dallas/Fort Worth, Qantas is now able to serve this route non-stop in both directions, while offering the highest passenger comfort. (The B747 required a stopover in Brisbane on the return flight because of headwinds.) The US airport is one of 10 new destinations being added by A380 airlines in 2014 – the largest yearly increase since entry into service in 2007. By this December, the A380 will be deployed on scheduled service to a total of 41 airports worldwide. The A380’s previous longest-range route was the 7,246nm Dubai-Los Angeles flight performed by Emirates.

ProtoSpace and rapid architecture lab opened in Hamburg

Airbus has recently opened two centres for innovation in Hamburg: ProtoSpace and the Rapid Architecture Lab. The 400m2 ProtoSpace facility is a creativity arena where concepts can be developed, solidified and rapidly translated into prototypes using techniques like 3D-printing. Inside this former machining workshop, Airbus employees from all functions can work on refining their innovative ideas determining in minimum time to what extent an idea would be worth pursuing. The new Hamburg site is part of a global ProtoSpace initiative launched in Airbus; it joins the existing ProtoSpace network of facilities in Toulouse, Bangalore, and Filton.

Located opposite ProtoSpace, the new Rapid Architecture Lab (RAL) -- large enough to house several project groups working in parallel – is the only facility of its kind anywhere at Airbus. Its objective is to accelerate the development and testing of product innovations and design concepts for the cabin. Here the technical feasibility of innovations can be demonstrated within 100 days. Products can be developed, tested in a virtual reality and integrated into physical mock-ups. Employees can quickly verify parameters together with airline customers or suppliers, promoting faster decision-making. One example is the 'Space-Flex' cabin space-saving project, for which Airbus saved two to three months' development time.

Airbus rapidly produces cabin parts for Qantas using 3D-printing

Airbus Material and Logistics is continuously expanding the scope of printed spare parts, growing to include tools as well as customized parts and services. Recently, Airbus has produced several hundred 3D-printed cabin parts in a very short time, following an order placed by Qantas who needed the parts following the removal of some obsolete armrest-mounted IFE control panels. After receiving Qantas’ blueprint for a seat armrest ‘blanking plate’, Airbus adapted the design for 3D printing, created a prototype and within days, it was with the customer. The airline subsequently placed an order for more than 500 parts to be produced. This initial success has now led Qantas to study a further 3D printing proposal for producing two further derivatives of the initial blanking plate. This is possible because the original engineering work can be re-used, whereas injection moulding would require new tooling even though the dimensions only change slightly. This application highlights one of the advantages of 3D printing: Efficient production of small batches which enables Airbus to deliver individual and flexible solutions to its customers.

‘Turnaround Optimizer’ – Improving an aircraft's pit-stop performance

Airbus is developing a ‘Turnaround Optimizer’ so that airlines can perform real-time monitoring of on-ground aircraft activities. The concept is to make the aircraft itself the centre of improving performance by giving real-time visibility to what is happening on-ground and predict potential departure delays. Airlines could use the data to pinpoint areas for improvement and benchmark the performance of ground handling activities. While there are existing systems which provide data from ground handlers, the Turnaround Optimizer is the only solution which would leverage objective and reliable data from the aircraft itself, thus providing differentiation and credibility. A working prototype has been tested on A380 test aircraft MSN001. This will be followed with customer trials in early 2015.

Airbus’ Real-Time Health Monitoring optimised for A350 and A380 customers’ maintenance control centre operations

To fully complement operators’ Maintenance Control Centre (MCC) capabilities, Airbus Real-Time Health Monitoring (AiRTHM) is being reshaped into four standalone modules: ‘Pre-Departure Check’, ‘Real-Time Flight Watch’, ‘Trend Monitoring’ and ‘Preventive Maintenance’. AiRTHM is an advanced Airbus solution through which A380 and future A350 XWB operators can receive advice on optimized maintenance and real-time troubleshooting actions. A 24/7 dedicated Airbus team uses the uplink technology to further investigate and anticipate the warning and fault messages’ consequences.

New ‘Maintenance Mobility’ tool for ‘Smarter Fleet’ e-Solutions

Airbus Customer Services is to offer a new tool dedicated to “Maintenance Mobility” as part of the Smarter Fleet e-Solutions project launched in 2013 in partnership with IBM. The objective is to provide maintenance personnel with useful and critical information on mobile devices supporting their daily activities; these are the aircraft health status, on and off-line access to technical documentation and scheduled work packages. The Maintenance Mobility solution will help to significantly improve troubleshooting and maintenance productivity. The tool not only addresses the line maintenance activities to optimize the turnaround-time, but also supports all checks and maintenance activities efficiently.

Airbus ProSky to redesign airspace of Cap-Haïtien International Airport

Haiti’s civil aviation authority “Office National de L'Aviation Civile” (OFNAC) has agreed to partner with Airbus ProSky (APS) to design the airspace of Cap-Haïtien International Airport. As the second phase of a wider Haiti national airspace optimization programme, APS will support the deployment of Performance Based Navigation (PBN) procedures in the terminal airspace of Cap-Haïtien Airport. Through implementation of highly efficient Required Navigation Performance (RNP) procedures, the airport will be able to accommodate the request of several airlines to increase operations. In April 2014, APS signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to consult with OFNAC on the redesign of Haiti’s airspace and to rebuild the country’s aviation infrastructure.

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