Airbus and Boeing’s re-engined versions of their best-selling single-aisle jetliners face competition from a number of all-new designs, writes Andrzej Jeziorski. Airbus and Boeing have both been grabbing headlines and racking up orders with re-engined versions of their market-leading single-aisle aircraft families. With all the attention that has been focused on these manufacturers as Airbus’s A320neo and Boeing’s 737 MAX go head-to-head, it is easy to forget that both those models will be facing emerging competition from a clutch of all-new single-aisle jetliners.
10th Nov 2011
Single-aisle contenders line up
Airbus and Boeing’s re-engined versions of their best-selling single-aisle jetliners face competition from a number of all-new designs, writes Andrzej Jeziorski.
Airbus and Boeing have both been grabbing headlines and racking up orders with re-engined versions of their market-leading single-aisle aircraft families.
With all the attention that has been focused on these manufacturers as Airbus’s A320neo and Boeing’s 737 MAX go head-to-head, it is easy to forget that both those models will be facing emerging competition from a clutch of all-new single-aisle jetliners.
The 110- to 130-seat CSeries, from Canadian manufacturer Bombardier Aerospace, is that company’s first venture into territory hitherto dominated by the A320 and 737 jet families.
In July, Korean Air (KAL) placed the most recent orders for the new aircraft, converting a letter of intent signed on 21 June at the Paris Air Show into a firm order for ten, 130-seat CS300 versions of the aircraft. The deal also includes options on ten more aircraft of the same type, as well as purchase rights for a third batch of ten.
According to Bombardier, the South Korean flag carrier has ambitious plans to mobilize the CSeries in the Asia-Pacific region, including adding new routes to China. The order makes KAL the first Asian customer for the CSeries, and takes total firm orders for the aircraft up to 133 from eight customers. The manufacturer has also booked 119 options and ten purchase rights.
“Korean Air’s selection of the CSeries aircraft to meet its route expansion requirements in the Asia-Pacific market, and our growing list of customers in the European and North American markets are testaments to the high value and operational flexibility of the CSeries aircraft programme,” says Gary Scott, president of Bombardier Commercial Aircraft.
Powered by Pratt & Whitney PW1521G geared turbofan engines, the aircraft will offer a 15 percent cash operating cost advantage and a 20 percent fuel-burn reduction compared with today’s competitors, the manufacturer predicts. It will also offer “greatly reduced” noise and emissions, as well as “superior” operational flexibility and airfield performance, along with range of 2,950 nautical miles (5,463km). The jetliner will feature “widebody-style seating in a single-aisle aircraft”, Bombardier says.
Apart from KAL, other customers to date include: Republic Airways, with an order for 40 CS300s; Deutsche Lufthansa, which is taking 30 smaller, 110-seat CS100s; Lease Corporation International Group, with 17 CS300s and three CS100s; Braathens Aviation, which has ordered five of each version; a “well-established, unidentified airline”, which will take three CS100s; an “unidentified major network carrier”, taking ten CS100s; and “an unidentified European customer”, which has ordered another ten CS100s.
The CS100 aircraft is scheduled to enter revenue service in 2013, followed by the CS300 in 2014.
Being a clean-sheet design is simultaneously an advantage and a disadvantage for the CSeries, when compared with its re-engined competitors.
On the plus side, Bombardier has used state-of the art structural and aerodynamic design techniques and the latest production technology to produce the most efficient aircraft possible.
On the other hand, customers may see the CSeries as a higher-risk proposition than the A320neo or the 737 MAX – both of which are familiar aircraft from manufacturers with a great deal of experience in this market segment. A clean-sheet design also requires massive initial investment, compared with the relatively small investment Airbus and Boeing face to improve their best-selling models. Training and maintenance procedures for the CSeries will all be new, while both the A320neo and the 737 MAX will offer a great deal of commonality with current fleets.
But Bombardier remains confident that the technical advantage of an all-new design will win the day, as well as the fact that the CSeries will enter the market three years ahead of the A320neo and four ahead of the 737 MAX.
Among the systems highlighted by the manufacturer are the CSeries’ all-new flight deck, featuring Rockwell Collins’ Pro Line Fusion avionics suite.
“The Pro Line Fusion avionics solution provides an open architecture that features an intuitive graphical human-machine interface, extensive situational awareness capabilities, and comprehensive integration with aircraft systems,” says Colin Mahoney, vice-president of sales, marketing and support for Rockwell Collins’ Commercial Systems unit. “To enhance operational efficiency, the system can offer information-management capabilities for database management, aircraft maintenance and airline operations planning.”
The integrated flight deck features high-resolution, 15.1-inch diagonal LCD displays, the industry's largest, capable of enhanced and synthetic vision.
Another all-new single-aisle jetliner entering into service this year – albeit a smaller model than the CSeries and its Airbus and Boeing rivals – is the Sukhoi Superjet 100 (SSJ100), which entered into service in April this year, with Armenia-based Armavia, which is using the aircraft to replace Airbus A319s on some of its routes.
The SSJ100 is a fly-by-wire regional jet designed to accommodate 75 to 95 passengers. Development began in 2000, with the aircraft completing its maiden flight in May 2008. Certification was obtained from the Russian Interstate Aviation Committee in January this year, with European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) approval expected to follow.
Powered by PowerJet SaM-146 turbofans, the SSJ100 is designed to compete with regional jet models from Bombardier and its Brazilian competitor Embraer.
Firm orders to date number 214 from 18 customers. Promoted internationally by marketing company SuperJet International, the SSJ100 has already won some export success in Asia, Europe and the USA.
In Asia, Indonesian carriers Kartika Airlines and Sky Aviation have placed firm orders for 15 and 12 aircraft, respectively. Kartika has also taken 15 options. Bangkok-based Orient Thai Airlines has ordered 12, with 12 options, while Laos’ Phongsavanh Airlines has three firm orders with six options. India’s Aviotech has signed an agreement covering ten firm orders with another ten options for the aircraft.
In September, the SSJ100 completed additional certification trials to evaluate its performance at high-altitude airports. Testing of prototype MSN95004 took place at Mexico’s Toluca airport, located at 2,580m above sea level, from 14-30 September.
“Extensive ground and flight tests proved the proper functioning of the aircraft systems, equipment, engines and APU and confirmed declared take-off and landing performance,” Sukhoi says. A report will be submitted to the Interstate Aviation Committee with the aim of gaining a supplement to the SSJ100’s existing type certificate.
“In Toluca, the SSJ100 aircraft was also shown to the president and management of Interjet Airlines of Mexico, which ordered 15 such aircraft in January 2011,” Sukhoi says.
The SSJ100 is proving to be the most successful commercial aircraft programme in the history of the Russian aerospace industry. More than 20 foreign partner companies are involved in the project, with France’s Snecma partnering with Russia’s NPO Saturn to form the PowerJet engine joint venture, while marketing company SuperJet International is a partnership between Sukhoi and Italy’s Alenia Aeronautica.
Avionics are being supplied by France’s Thales, while Liebherr is providing the flight control system and Messier-Dowty, the landing gear. The auxiliary power unit is being supplied by Honeywell and the interior by BE Aerospace.
As of 11 October, Sukhoi said Armavia has racked up more than 1,000 revenue flight hours with its aircraft, carrying more than 21,000 passengers over 650,000km. Armavia operates the aircraft from Yeravan to 27 airports in Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Western and Southern Europe and the Middle East. There are currently three SSJ100s in service with Armavia and Russia’s Aeroflot.
China, too, has been pursuing an all-new single-aisle aircraft, with Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) announcing during this year’s Asian Aerospace show in March that it had completed preliminary design of the planned 150-seat C919 jetliner and was entering the final design definition phase.
The C919 programme is on track for entry into service in 2016, the manufacturer says.
COMAC was the largest exhibitor at the Hong Kong show, displaying models of both the new C919 and the ARJ21 regional jet.
The C919 is the first single-aisle, medium-range jetliner developed by the company. In November last year at the Zhuhai Airshow, COMAC announced combined orders for 100 of the aircraft from China’s three biggest airlines – Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines. The following month, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) officially accepted the company’s application for a type certificate.
Shanghai-based COMAC says it has drawn upon the experience of many of the world’s leading aerospace companies to support the programme. The company has developed partnerships with both domestic and international aerospace suppliers, who have been selected to provide structural components, materials, engines and other aircraft systems.
Nine Chinese manufacturers, including Chengdu Commercial Aircraft and Xian Aircraft Industrial have already been contracted to supply major structural components for the C919. A further 22 Chinese and 17 international suppliers, including CFM International and Honeywell, have been selected to provide systems and components.
The manufacturer said the C919 would enter its final design-definition phase this year, laying the foundation to proceed in 2012 with production, testing and certification. Detailed design is to be completed next year in the run up to the aircraft’s first flight in 2014. Type certification is expected by 2016, followed shortly afterwards by the first delivery.
Established in May 2008, COMAC says it aims “to become a world-class manufacturer of commercial aircraft, offering the world’s airlines safe, economical, comfortable and environmentally friendly modern commercial airliners”.
While neither the Russian nor Chinese manufacturers are likely to cause Airbus or Boeing to lose any sleep right now, it is clear that both countries’ aerospace industries have made huge strides in the past two decades. With emerging markets such as China expected to drive demand for new aircraft in the next two decades, the competitive environment for the world’s leading airframe makers may look substantially different by 2030.