One of the big contests in the aviation industry of late has been the contest for offering the longest flying routes. I’d like to imagine it is purely commercial and nothing to do with bragging rights, but we’ve seen some pretty impressive aircraft come on to the market in the recent years, which have made routes such as Singapore Airlines’ non-stop flights between Singapore and New York possible again, and Qantas’ new flights between Perth and London, which are some of the longest flights in the world.
In 2017, Qantas announced the Project Sunrise, which is their plan to fly non-stop from the East Coast of Australia, such as Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, to places such as London and New York non-stop, which would be more than 9500 miles of range. They asked Boeing and Airbus to make them an aircraft which could do the range for these intended flights by 2022. Qantas has issued an RFP for these aircraft, which should be able to have at least 300 people fly together in a four-class configuration, to be delivered 2022 onwards. Karan wrote an excellent piece about the project a few months ago, and what could be Boeing and Airbus play with. Both Boeing and Airbus, as would be predictable, have made confidential proposals to Qantas. Qantas will decide by the end of the year.
In the meanwhile, there have been some interesting updates on both ends in the past week, so I thought of consolidating both in one go.
Airbus may launch the A350-1000ULR
It seems that Airbus is preparing to launch the A350-1000ULR this year. Airbus has claimed they have an aircraft that is capable of flying the range for Qantas since a few months now. Only this past week did new information emerge, which hints at Airbus being almost certain of launching the A350-1000 Ultra Long Range aircraft which will be able to serve the mission.
The A350-1000 is a very roomy plane, which is intended to match up with the 777, so if they are able to add the ultra long range, it would give the best of both worlds on a single aircraft. In a four class configuration, this would work wonders for Qantas, given the aircraft will be heavy with 400 passengers, and needs to fly about 10000 miles in one go. In our earlier writeup on the subject, we had mentioned how Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar Al Baker had touched on the extended range of the aircraft,
The ordered -1000s will be a new high-gross-weight version that Airbus has in development. The new batch will be delivered in 2020-21.
Boeing postpones the development of the 777-8 variant.
Boeing on the other hand seems to have a lot on its hands with the developments on the 737MAX affecting the company as a whole. The entire Commercial Airplanes division is focussed on getting the 737MAX back in the air at the moment, as production continues and airframes pile up around Washington State in the hope of a return to service within the year. However, with the FAA making it clear just this past week that they are not looking at any timeline to follow on the 737MAX right now, that means the timeline could be Q4 2019 as Boeing expects at the moment or later.
The word from Seattle at the moment is that work on developing the 777-8 is frozen for now. The 777-8 is the ultra-long-range variant of the 777X family, and the airframe maker is currently grappling with delays on the 737 MAX programme, and getting the 777-9 to progress, given the have not received the test engines from GE at the moment, and the programme is delayed by a few months for now.