Development milestone: Integration begins for Airbus’ next-generation Beluga XL

Courtesy: Airbus.

Airbus’ next-generation oversize cargo airlifter is transitioning from concept to reality as the first Beluga XL core airframe starts its 18-month integration process at the company’s production facilities in Toulouse, France.

The core airframe is an extract of an Airbus A330-200 freighter that already has been structurally reinforced, providing the platform on which the Beluga XL airframe will be built. This element was assembled in December without a nose fuselage or tail assembly – both of which will be added during activity planned in 2017.

Integration of the Beluga XL core airframe will be performed inside the two-section L34 building at Airbus’ Lagardère industrial zone, which is adjacent to Toulouse-Blagnac Airport.

For the first 12 months of the assembly activity, the airframe will be completed and its mechanical and electrical systems will be fitted at an integration station. For the remaining six months, the aircraft will move to a second station for ground testing and engine installation.

“The coming year of final integration will be a series of small steps,” said Beluga XL programme head Bertrand George. “The number of holes to be drilled and fasteners to be installed is far bigger than on any other Airbus aircraft. Sticking to schedule at each step is the key to being ready for first flight in 2018. I fully trust the capability of our teams to make it happen together.”

Based on the airframe of the versatile A330 jetliner, a total of five Beluga XL airlifters are to be built, with the first to enter operational service in 2019. They will gradually replace the existing fleet of Beluga ST aircraft, which were derived from the shorter-fuselage A300.

Once the first Beluga XL enters service, it will provide crucial support to Airbus’ production ramp-up from day one thanks to its ability to carry a full set of A350 XWB wings.

Source: Airbus.

Airbus is reaching new heights in providing in-flight connectivity solutions for passengers

Courtesy: Airbus.

Courtesy: Airbus.

Airbus is evaluating a new standard high-bandwidth architecture that will provide faster and more wide-reaching connectivity services on-board its modern, market-leading jetliners.

Using the in-house A330 testbed aircraft this autumn, Airbus became the first in the industry to flight demonstrate such a high-bandwidth connectivity platform – which will enable faster internet, mobile telephone services and support applications for passengers and airlines via high-throughput satellites.

Applying high-bandwidth connectivity is an important part of the company’s focus on providing a superior on-board experience – and soon will allow airline customers to choose from the range of new high-throughput satellite technologies such as Ka-band and Ku-band for continuous worldwide connectivity.

Constant innovation to improve the passenger experience

“Our goal is to extend our connectivity portfolio in new production aircraft and as retrofit,” explained Bruno Galzin, Head of Airbus’ Connectivity Programme and Upgrade Services. “Our initial testing in high-bandwidth connectivity is a new step to improve the passenger and crew experience. We already are working on new solutions in line with the latest, fast-evolving technologies so anyone can be connected on-board just like at home.”

In-flight connectivity is becoming increasingly important for passengers, who now expect to always be connected – using their own electronic devices to access the internet, exchange with those on the ground and enjoy social media.

Airlines also are demanding the need for connectivity solutions to enhance their operational communications, such as with digital cabin logbooks, telemedicine or for credit card authentication, as well as to generate ancillary cabin revenues.

Cabin connectivity for the future 

With the start of testing successfully underway this autumn, Airbus is expected to be the first aircraft manufacturer to offer this standard architecture on its commercial airliners – with service entry for this solution planned for the third quarter of 2017.

Airbus’ high-bandwidth connectivity architecture will be available from multiple suppliers for applications on its A320, A330 and A380 jetliners, which supplements the A350 XWB – a “digital native” that entered service with high-bandwidth connectivity capability.

“The number of connected commercial aircraft is expected to grow from 5,000 to a volume of 16,600 over the 2015-2025 period, accounting for 62 percent of the global commercial fleet,” explained Galzin. “The innovative solutions we are currently developing will help passengers and airlines benefit from a new generation of high-throughput satellite technologies in the Ka-band and Ku-band frequencies.”

Source: Airbus.

Iberia to offer new Premium Economy Class on 37 of its long-haul aircraft

Courtesy: Iberia.

Courtesy: Iberia.

Iberia unveiled today (October 20th, 2016) its new, extra-comfortable Premium Economy cabin, to be available on 37 of its long-haul aircraft, starting during the summer season of 2017.

The new cabin will be installed on eight Airbus A330-300s and 13 of the airline’s A340-600s, to be modified in the course of 2017 and 2018, and will come factory-equipped with it in the 16 new A350-900s to be delivered starting in 2018.

Seats in the new cabin will be 19” wide, and distance between rows will be extended to 37”. Seats will recline by an additional 40% over those on the economy cabin.

Customers flying in Premium Economy class will also enjoy the adjustable head and foot rests, noise-cancelling earphones, and an exclusive amenities kit.

Courtesy: Iberia.

Courtesy: Iberia.

They will have full access to the entertainment programme via 13-inch display screens, instead of the 9-inch screens in Economy class.

In addition, Premium Economy passengers will have priority in boarding and leaving the aircraft, an extra suitcase allowance, upgraded dining options, and other privileges.

Iberia’s Executive Chairman Luis Gallego explains that “Premium Economy is an initiative included in our Plan de Futuro aimed at increasing revenues. It will give Economy passengers an additional option for greater comfort and extra services on long flights.”

Iberia Chief Commercial Director Marco Sansavini, points out that “Iberia is the sole airline that will offer this intermediate seating class on direct flights between Spain and Latin America, which should strengthen our leadership of this market.” The first aircraft to be equipped with the new section will be used next summer on routes between Madrid and Buenos Aires, Bogota, Lima, and Chicago.

Source: Iberia.

 

KLM launching service to Minneapolis – St. Paul

Courtesy: KLM.

Courtesy: KLM.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is adding another international destination to its network. From 27 March, 2017, KLM will operate three roundtrips a week to Minneapolis-St. Paul on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. The new KLM service comes in addition to the three daily flights between Amsterdam and Minneapolis-St. Paul currently operated by Delta Air Lines, Air France KLM’s transatlantic joint-venture partner.

KLM is keeping up the pace of its network expansion. This new destination not only provides travellers to Minneapolis with more options, KLM’s codesharing agreement with Delta Air Lines also means that KLM can offer its customers connections to more than 60 North American destinations. This further emphasises the strength of the North Atlantic joint venture between Air France, KLM, Alitalia, and Delta Air Lines – KLM President & CEO, Pieter Elbers.

Flight schedule Amsterdam – Minneapolis-St. Paul 
The KLM flights will depart Amsterdam at 09:35 hrs CET and arrive in Minneapolis-St. Paul at 11:20 hrs (local time). The return flight will depart at 14:50 hrs local time and arrive in Amsterdam the next day at 05:50 hrs CET. The flights will be operated using an Airbus 330-200 with 18 World Business Class seats, 35 Economy Comfort seats and 214 seats in Economy Class.

Source: KLM.

Air France-KLM signs a partnership agreement with Gogo to equip its long-haul fleet with WiFi

Courtesy: Air France - KLM.

Courtesy: Air France – KLM.

On 29 September 2016, Air France-KLM signed a partnership agreement with Gogo, a world leader in broadband Internet provision and entertainment in the airline industry, to offer its customers connectivity services on board its long-haul flights.

68 Air France Boeing 777 and 15 Airbus A330 as well as 29 KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Boeing 777 and 12 Airbus A330 will be equipped with WiFi on board starting from end 2017, a total of 124 long-haul aircraft.

With this new joint Air France and KLM agreement, the Group’s passengers will benefit from WiFi during their trip by staying connected around the world with their family, friends or business partners, on their smartphone, laptop or tablet. On the in-house Air France-KLM designed onboard portal a freely accessible environment is available where customers can find relevant information about their flight, arrange travel details and find entertainment beyond the state of the art seat-back inflight entertainment systems.

The 2Ku product from Gogo offers a future-proof platform based on the latest antenna technology, bringing flexibility to adapt to growing demands from our customers.

We want to offer our customers the best possible solution to stay connected. By installing the latest WiFi technology on board on more than 120 aircraft in our long-haul fleet, we are once again illustrating our ability to innovate and provide all our passengers with the best possible experience – Michel Pozas Lucic, Vice President Customer Innovation and Care at Air France-KLM.

Boeing 787 already equipped with WiFi
On Air France-KLM’s long-haul fleet, passengers already enjoy WiFi on board the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, with currently 8 aircraft operated by KLM and the first aircraft operated by Air France as from 9 January next year. The Group’s Boeing 787, which offer WiFi on board, are equipped by Panasonic Avionics, and offer the same portal and products as planned on the rest of the long-haul fleet.

Source: KLM.

First Airbus A330neo starts its final assembly in Toulouse

Courtesy: Airbus.

Courtesy: Airbus.

Airbus has commenced the final assembly of its first A330neo, an A330-900, at its Final Assembly Line in Toulouse with the joining of the wings to the centre fuselage at station 40.

As the newest member of the world’s most popular A330 wide-body family the A330neo builds on the Family’s proven economics, versatility and reliability, set to reduce fuel consumption by a further 14 per cent per seat. Both the A330-800 and A330-900 feature a new A350-inspired wing with Sharklet wingtip devices for state-of-the-art aerodynamics, incorporating latest-generation Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines, and the new AirSpace by Airbus cabin for the latest experience in cabin comfort.

“We have started with a very tight development schedule and are today right on time,” says Odile Jubécourt, Airbus Head of the A330neo programme. “I am happy to say we are in good shape to meet the high standards of maturity and reliability our customers expect from us and I want to thank the teams for this outstanding achievement.”

Courtesy: Airbus.

Courtesy: Airbus.

Thanks to its low, new generation fuel-burn, the A330neo expands its operators’ market opportunities by offering an additional 400 nautical miles range, leading to a 6,550 nautical miles range on the A330-900 and 7,500 nautical miles on the A330-800. To date, 10 customers have ordered a total of 186 A330neo.

The A330-800 and the A330-900 are 99 per cent common, sharing a  95 per cent commonality across the entire A330 fleet, set to optimize costs and flexibility for all its operators. Airlines will also benefit from the Family’s market-leading reliability and reduced maintenance costs.

The A330 is the most popular mid-size wide-body aircraft ever, having won over 1,600 orders to date. Today, over 1,250 aircraft are flying with over 120 airlines worldwide on a wide range of routes, from domestic and regional flights to long range intercontinental services.

Offering the lowest operating costs in its category, and due to continuous investments in latest innovations, the new generation A330neo is the most profitable and best performing aircraft in its size category.

Source: Airbus.

Airbus innovation at work: 25 years of aircraft family commonality

Courtesy: Airbus.

Courtesy: Airbus.

The commonality feature of Airbus’ fly-by-wire jetliner families is marking 25 years of operations, providing benefits that range from enhanced fleet deployment, improved efficiency and better scheduling for airlines to greater productivity, proficiency and job satisfaction for pilots.

Airbus’ A320 was the first fly-by-wire airliner to enter commercial service, providing a cornerstone in the company’s forward-looking approach that brought cockpits and flight controls into the modern era. The commonality results from Airbus’ continuous application of similarities in cockpit layout and functionality – along with shared aircraft handling characteristics and similarity in systems – across its product line of fly-by-wire aircraft.

Today, Airbus commonality covers everything from the single-aisle A320 Family (composed of the A318, A319, A320 and A321) to the widebody A330, A340, A350 XWB and the double-deck A380.

Single Fleet Flying: a foundation of Airbus commonality 

Within the twin-engine A320 Family, flight crew members can perform Single Fleet Flying – easily shifting among the various aircraft models, thereby flying multiple versions with the same type rating.

Advantages of Single Fleet Flying include the optimum use of pilot resources by airlines, reduced training requirements for flight crews as well as related lower costs for airlines, and increased flight opportunities for pilots.

These benefits extend to the latest A320neo (new engine option) variants as well. The world’s airworthiness authorities have concluded that even with the installation of NEO’s new powerplants, the aircraft can be considered variants of the A320ceo (current engine option) family members – allowing all versions to be operated by pilots with the same A320 type rating.

Single Fleet Flying also applies within other Airbus product line segments, such as the A330, covering its A330-200 and A330-300 passenger models, the A330-200F freighter…and in the future, the A330neo (new engine option) version.

And while the long-range A330 and next-generation A350 XWB have different type certificates, their handling characteristics are so similar that they have been granted a Common Type Rating from the airworthiness authorities. To transition from an A330 to the A350 XWB, pilots use laptop-based systems and ground-based trainers, eliminating the mandatory need for expensive full-flight simulators and a full type rating check ride. The pilots can then be assigned to both the A330 and A350 under terms of a single licence endorsement – another example of Single Fleet Flying that results directly from Airbus commonality.

Cross Crew Qualification, and the advantages of Mixed Fleet Flying 

Commonality also streamlines the requirements in transitioning from one Airbus jetliner product type to another. For instance, an A320-rated pilot who is going to qualify on the very large, four-engine A380 is given shortened ground training courses and only five simulator sessions; whereas pilots without previous Airbus fly-by-wire experience would require more extensive training – both in ground school and with flight simulators.

This commonality-related aspect within the Airbus product line is called Cross Crew Qualification, and it enhances the opportunities for a pool of multi-qualified pilots to operate, for example, both single-aisle and widebody Airbus airliners in what is referred to as Mixed Fleet Flying.

Significant cost savings and more flexibility for airlines 

Commonality enables airlines to create a truly integrated fleet management structure, offering flexibility in the scheduling rosters for their crews and improving the utilisation of their aircraft – such as seamlessly bringing in a longer-fuselage A321 on a route where passenger volume has grown beyond the capacity of an A320.

Gerrit Van Dijk, who works in Technical Marketing – Aircraft Operations for Airbus Customer Affairs, noted that it is not uncommon for a pilot to experience six to eight changes in the aircraft types flown during a career, involving typical retraining costs of $30,000 for each changeover. “Add some 1.5 months of pilot downtime for each change, and it becomes obvious that the combined costs to airlines is several billion dollars every year,” he said. “However, those with Airbus fleets can reduce pilot retraining costs by two-thirds on average.”

According to Van Dijk, the advantages of commonality not only apply to large main-line carriers with significant aircraft fleets; smaller airlines in particular can benefit from powerful economies of scale that previously were the privilege of big operators. Depending on the mix of fleet and the nature of an airline’s flight operations, annual revenue flying time per pilot may increase by 5-15 percent with Single Fleet Flying and Mixed Fleet Flying, he added.

A better work environment and more proficiency for pilots 

Pilots appreciate Airbus commonality for the opportunities of a more varied work environment, including the ability to fly on a larger part of an airline’s route network, while enjoying better mobility within their airline and across the job market, Van Dijk explained.

He cited the example of pilots who alternate long-haul and short-range trips by applying Single Fleet Flying and Mixed Fleet Flying. These flight crew personnel have the possibility to perform more takeoffs and landings for proficiency, while enabling a better work and life balance compared with being assigned only long-haul flying.

Source: Airbus.