Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Odds and Ends: wrap-up from ISTAT Europe Conference; Airbus Group joins Aerion to create biz-jet.

The European 2014 ISTAT conference took place in Istanbul Monday and Tuesday. We have reported elsewhere on the presentations by Airbus and Boeing, here follows three interesting tidbits from the rest of the conference. We also comment on the surprising news that Airbus Group will join the US company Aerion to develop the worlds first supersonic biz-jet.

Airline and passenger growth: The  ISTAT conference had an inspiring keynote by the CEO of Turkish Airlines, Dr. Temel Kotil. It was all about phenomenal passenger growth.

Turkish Airlines uses its location between east and west for a development in the scale of the Gulf airlines, Turkish is thereby a good example of the doubling of passenger traffic over 15 years as presented by Airbus. From its privatization in 2004 it has gone from 12 million passengers per year to 60 million 2014, spanning 250 destinations with 260 aircraft.

Turkish Airlines feels it is ideally placed at the cross roads to Asia and Africa, both continents with very high growth. They therefore foresee continued growth to 120 million passengers by 2033. They are fortunate that the Turkish state has played its part in enabling such expansion, leasing land to a 3rd major airport in the Istanbul area. This will be necessary should the majority of these passenger streams pass Istanbul, then the area will beat London Heathrow’s present 70 million passengers, calling for additional infrastructure.

Wizz Air CFO Mike Powell: In a discussion over the future of airlines, the development in USA and Europe was compared. In the US the consolidation has led to 4 airlines handling 90% of the traffic, in Europe the numbers are 40 airlines covering the same extent of the market. Wizz Air CFO Mike Powell (fifth largest LCC in Europe after Vueling) predicts that airlines which does not deliver returns on their assets or state-owned airlines not being able to operate without subsidies would be victims of European consolidation. The local traffic will to a large degree be taken over by LCCs whereas long-haul will move to the large hubs and networks in Western Europe like Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Paris etc.

Powell also explained what drove Wizz Air to go from taking delivery of A320 to A321 from next year. Their LCC traffic is very price sensitive but not so frequency sensitive, if they go from an average frequency over their destinations of 5 flights per week to 4 they would normally only loose a couple of percent in traffic margin. Flying the same load factor with a 321 and at lower frequency gains them around 6-7% in cost i.e. going to the larger aircraft will gain them something like 4-5% in margin.

Airbus Group teams up with Aerion: Airbus Group has joined Aerion, the supersonic biz-jet company from Reno, to help them develop the world’s first business jet which can fly at speeds up to Mach 1.6. The aircraft, called AS2, will seat 8 persons in typical biz-jet comfort and has transatlantic range.

Aerion AS2 supersonic Biz-Jet

Aerion AS2 supersonic Biz-Jet

In a typical flight from Europe to US, the part over Europe would be flown at a sonic boom less speed of Mach 1.1-1.2 (with Sonic boom cancellation due to a phenomenon called “Boom cut-out”) and at a long-range cruise of M 1.4 over the Atlantic. Once over US soil they will have to finish the flight at M 0.95 as civil supersonic flights are still forbidden.

Aerion has developed unique natural (i.e. non assisted) supersonic laminar flow technology over the last 12 years and has during 2014 sought industrial partners to help in design and production of the aircraft and engines. Airbus group under the leadership of the Group Chief Technical Officer Jean Botti has decided to be the airframe technical partner. Engine partner is not yet announced. First flight is foreseen for 2019 (which we understand will very much depend on the solution for the engine) and certification should be achieved by 2021.

The three engine jet uses a new form of laminar flow aerodynamics to make cruising at M 1.4 as economical as when the aircraft finally has to cruise at M 0.95 over the US. It is this technology which is the main interest for Airbus Group, in exchange for their technical and industrial partnership Airbus gets full access to this technology.

Airbus will mainly use expertise from the Defense side in the project. We deem this is because these have supersonic expertise from Tornado and Typhoon projects but also have resources available as the military programs winds down. This seems like a win-win for both parties as Aerion gets a large partner will complementary expertise and resources and Airbus gets access to technology that can make supersonic flight economical.

By Leeham Co EU

Filed under: Airbus, Uncategorized Tagged: A320, A320NEO, Airbus
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