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Introducing ... Boeing's electric 7E7

Commercial plane will be the first with such efficiency

Thursday, May 20, 2004



EVERETT -- In twin, four-story office buildings constructed here for 777 engineers more than a dozen years ago, a new generation of Boeing Co. aircraft designers are pushing the envelope further than ever before.

Working with airlines and Boeing's partners, they are designing the world's first electric commercial jetliner -- the 7E7.

Much has been made of the new jet's composite wings and fuselage, its cabin innovations and the next-generation, fuel-efficient engines. But just as significant to the success of the 7E7 (the "E" stands for efficiency) is this pioneering approach toward a more electric airplane.

For the first time, Boeing recently allowed the engineer leading this effort to provide a detailed look at the systems that will give the 7E7 a competitive edge.

It is a plane that that will have far fewer computers than current commercial jets, miles less wiring and a revolutionary way of electrically powering some critical systems, from the brakes to the de-icing mechanism in the wings.

Even the 7E7 engines will be started electrically -- a radical change that initially concerned airlines.

"This is groundbreaking," said Mike Sinnett, Boeing's chief engineer for 7E7 systems, who formerly led the systems work on the now-canceled sonic cruiser program. "We think this is the way of the future."

"The industry has kicked this around for a long time," he said. But the state of the technology was such that designing an electric jetliner was not possible -- until now.

Jetliners are not nearly as efficient as they could be. More pneumatic power, for example, is created than is required from a systems standpoint. This power comes from huge amounts of "bleed air" diverted from the jet engines. It not only makes the engines less efficient but some of the bleed air is dumped overboard before it can be used, adding to the overall inefficiency of the plane.

Carried by a network of ducts through the plane, the bleed air must go through check values and precoolers before it can be used. Even then, it is not used as efficiently as electrical power.

"You have all this high-pressure, high-temperature air coming off the engines and the airplane can't accept air with that much energy," Sinnett explained.

On the 7E7, Boeing will eliminate this bleed air, other than a tiny amount to help with engine stability at idle settings.

As a result, there will be no need for the network of titanium ducts, which are expensive to make and add hundreds of pounds to a plane's weight.

Systems once powered pneumatically will use electricity, supplied by two 225-kilowatt generators attached to each of the 7E7's two engines. The auxiliary power unit, or APU, in the plane's tail will also have two of these generators.

"Part of the idea of going to a more electric airplane is that all these components that are used to generate pneumatic power are eliminated and ... we only create the power we need," Sinnett said.

Today's jet engines always operate at higher thrust settings to create bleed air, even if it is not used.

Engine makers, according to Sinnett, have often told Boeing: "Gee, you guys keep robbing bleed air from us and you are making it harder for us to do our jobs."

So Boeing came back, he said, and told the engine makers: "OK, if you are really serious, we will eliminate that bleed air. "

The engine makers were stunned, Sinnett said.

"They said, 'Whoa. Wait a minute. What are you guys talking about? This is a very big deal,' " Sinnett recalled

Boeing recently picked General Electric and Rolls-Royce to supply the new 7E7 engines.

The new approach is possible because of advances made in power electronics technology.

"The problem has always been that we were not able to create generators that from a size and weight standpoint are efficient enough to create the power that you need," Sinnett said.

Today's jets use a complex system on the engines that coverts variable frequency power into constant frequency. This is no different than what happens with electricity going into a home. The power must be of the same frequency.

On jets, this process is accomplished using what is called a constant speed drive. Such drives are typically complex, heavy and prone to failure.

The 7E7 will be able to take variable frequency power from the engines and "condition it" for use by the various aircraft systems. This will done in the electronics bay of the plane rather than on the engines.

"We can create four times as much (electrical) power on the 7E7, but we only create what we need," Sinnett said.

With the elimination of bleed air and pneumatic power, a range of systems will, for the first time, be powered electrically on the 7E7:

The de-icing system. The leading edge of the wing will be heated electrothermally, rather than pneumatically.

The overall hydraulic system is more electric because air-driven pumps have been eliminated. Large, pneumatic pumps are used to raise the landing gear on jetliners. This will be done electrically on the 7E7.

Boeing is evaluating the use of electric actuators for some secondary flight controls that now are powered hydraulically.

On today's jets, cabin air comes from the bleed air system on the engines. The air is hot and dry and must be cooled. On the 7E7, cabin air will come directly from the outside. Less energy will be needed to make it suitable for the cabin.

Brakes are activated hydraulically on today's jets using a complex and expensive plumbing system. On the 7E7, brakes will be controlled by electric motor driven actuators, with four on each wheel.

The auxiliary power unit on the 7E7 will be far simpler. On today's jets, the APU unit has a complex load compressor to supply pneumatic power. The compressor is eliminated on the 7E7, and the APU becomes a jet-fuel powered electrical generator.

Sinnett said the 7E7 will also incorporate a number of other advances beyond the move away from bleed air:

Hydraulic power will be distributed at 5,000 pounds per square inch, rather than the standard 3,000 psi. Less fluid will be needed and smaller hydraulic lines.

Electrical power will be distributed remotely instead of running everything from a central center. As much as 60 miles of copper wiring will be eliminated. And the wiring that is used will be smaller gauge and lighter weight.

Given how far Boeing is pushing the design envelope with the 7E7, some airlines have at times expressed concern whether this new way of doing things will be as reliable as what they have today, Sinnett acknowledged.

One concern has been with the way the 7E7 engines are started electrically.

Typically, jet engines have air turbines, one of which is started with high-pressure bleed air from the APU when it is fired up.

On the 7E7, the APU will supply electrical power to fire the generators on the engines, which will act as starters.

If an APU fails on today's jets, such as the 767, the engines can be started by ground trucks that supply pneumatic power. But some airlines were worried that if the APU on the 7E7 did not work, there would be no way to start the engines.

"We are now going through the process of figuring out how to configure the plane to accept external electrical power to start the engines," Sinnett said.

For airlines, the advantages of operating a more electric plane are enormous, Sinnett said.

The cost of overhauling brakes will drop substantially. There will be no more ducts that require periodic inspection and maintenance. Power is not wasted. Efficiency is improved. Weight is saved

And for Boeing, it means the 7E7 will have a significant advantage over the competition, Sinnett said.

The main competitor to the 7E7 will be the Airbus A330-200, which was introduced in the late 1990s and has been clobbering Boeing's 767 in sales.

Airbus has said it is not worried about the 7E7 -- it will add the more efficient engines designed for the 7E7 to the A330-200 and make other improvements as needed.

But given the significant changes being designed into the 7E7 from the start, Sinnett said, there is no way that Airbus can alter an existing plane and make it as efficient.

"You have to look at the total integrated package of an electric plane," he said. "You can't take one piece of that and put in on a non-electric plane and expect anything out of it."

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Boeing's 7E7 to tout technology advances


SEATTLE (AP) - The first new American commercial jetliner to be built in more than a decade won't be the biggest or fastest passenger plane in the sky.

Nor will Boeing's 7E7 Dreamliner stun onlookers with a radically different appearance. Rival Airbus sneers at the "little airplane" as nothing special, and the basic design is another "cigar with wings" - the shape that has defined jets for decades.

But the mid-sized 7E7, being tweaked and simulated in Boeing design labs and three-dimensional computer design images, should offer plenty to wow airlines and the first paying passengers in 2008.

Boeing says the new plane will fly faster, higher, farther, cleaner, quieter and more efficiently than any other medium-sized jet, using 20 percent less fuel. There'll also be bigger windows, seats, lavatories and overhead bins, which the company shows off to prospective buyers and other visitors at a mock-up of the airplane's interior not far from its sprawling Seattle-area manufacturing complexes.

Analysts say further 7E7 orders, which Boeing promises will be announced soon, could signal not only a successful new plane but a renaissance for the company.

"For the first time in a while, Boeing has seized the industry initiative," said aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group. "When it comes to making a plane that's more economical - it's just a matter of time before everybody falls in line."

It's still a gamble. By adopting a sharply opposed strategy to that of Airbus, which thinks its superjumbo A380 will be the jet of choice following its 2006 debut, Boeing risks misgauging years' worth of demand. That's what happened with two projects it dropped in the past three years - the 747X, an enlarged jumbo jet, and the super-fast Sonic Cruiser, which was seen as pricey even before the economic fallout from Sept. 11, 2001.

"That was a case where we misjudged the market a little bit," David von Trotha, Boeing's chief engineer for product development, said this month. "What we thought would be attractive ... turned out to be different from what the market wanted."

All signs are that the 7E7 - the 'E' stands for efficient - is headed for a better fate.

Alan Mulally, chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, speaks of the plane with an evangelical fervor. He told reporters Boeing was in talks for deals involving more than 400 7E7s beyond the initial, record 50-plane order from All Nippon Airways last month, including more than a dozen firm offers.

"We're getting great interest from around the world," Mulally said. "The interest in this plane is going to be absolutely a game-changer" in the industry.

Here are some of the noteworthy features planned for Boeing's 11th passenger jet series:

- Fuel savings. The 7E7 will be no slouch for speed, cruising at 560 mph - comparable to the largest jets. But the big appeal to cash-pinched airlines is Boeing's promise that it will allow them to cut fuel costs and fly long, point-to-point routes between cities that can't fill a bigger plane.

Like flying SUVs, airplanes consume an extraordinary amount of jet fuel - it takes 47,000 gallons to gas up a Boeing 747. But Boeing says the 7E7 will burn 20 percent less fuel than similar-sized planes thanks to advancements in technology.

New engines being developed for the 7E7 will be 10 percent more efficient and a supercomputer can design the plane with minimal drag, making it more streamlined. Advanced materials, a smaller wing area and improved on-board systems also will contribute to fuel savings.

- Cabin comfort. For most people, walking onto an airplane isn't exactly pleasant: You're immediately confronted by a dark metallic galley, narrow aisles and a jumble of passengers trying to cram their bags into overhead compartments and their bodies into tiny, well-worn seats.

With airlines struggling to eke out a profit, Boeing can't promise luxury accommodations on the 7E7. But it is trying to create a more welcoming environment with a completely redesigned interior.

A visit to a mock-up starts with a trick of the eye: a ceiling designed to emulate natural light and create the illusion of more height. The design boasts a front galley that looks more like a kitchen island than the traditional tiny compartment. And there's more room to see between seats, another change aimed at reducing the claustrophobic feel.

Boeing also is trying to sell airlines on jumbo-sized windows, complete with electronic shades to darken the panes more naturally.

In addition, the design calls for slightly wider seats and bigger restrooms and overhead bins.

- Better air quality. There's another reason to dread getting on an airplane: the dry, recycled air that can make your eyes sting, dry out your sinuses and add to flying fatigue.

With the 7E7, passengers will feel like they are at a maximum altitude of 6,000 feet, rather than the normal 8,000 feet. Boeing also is considering adding humidifiers to further reduce dryness. That's feasible because the 7E7 will rely more heavily on composite materials - instead of aluminum - meaning there is less risk of corrosion from the added moisture.

The company also promises the latest air filters and is considering ways to reduce odors.

- More composites. The 7E7 will go far beyond any previous commercial aircraft in its extensive use of composite materials, such as carbon and graphite, which will comprise 50 percent of its weight.

Not only will that make it 15 percent lighter than comparable planes, trimming fuel and operating costs, but Boeing expects composites to be more durable, reducing maintenance and corrosion.

Still, some prospective customers have expressed concern that composite structures could be more fragile and that damage is harder to discern than it is with metals. Boeing intends to embed structural monitoring sensors in the fuselage and elsewhere to assuage such worries.

"Composites are used extensively on military aircraft but ... airlines want to see it proven out before they take a leap, because of liability concerns," said JSA Research analyst Paul Nisbet. "But if they can withstand the rigors of fighter aircraft, they certainly would not be extended in a commercial aircraft."

- Less Noise. Anyone who's flown on an older Boeing 747 knows how annoying a noisy airplane engine can be. Boeing is isolating certain loud functions with the 7E7, such as pumps and motors, and using sound absorption technology to further reduce the noise to the cabin.

But it turns out just damping out the roar of the engine isn't the answer. While most people might think they want an airplane that's library-quiet, Boeing researchers have found there are certain noises people like. These include sounds that make people secure the airplane is operating normally, such as the reassuring clunk of the door closing

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Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Aerospace Notebook: Canada may climb aboard the 7E7



SINGAPORE -- The last time Air Canada ordered jets from The

Boeing Co., another Bush was in the White House and Boeing was a year away from starting development of its last new jetliner, the 777.

Since ordering six Boeing 767-300s in August 1989, Canada's flagship carrier with the Maple Leaf on the tail of its planes has gone with Airbus, although it has leased some Boeing jets since that last order 15 years ago.

But now, Air Canada's top executive is saying he may want a Boeing plane again --the new 7E7 that is due to enter service in 2008.

"From my standpoint, given my position that we should maintain a mix of manufacturers, the 7E7 campaign, when it occurs, probably next year, is Boeing's to lose," Milton said in a recent interview in Singapore, where he attended a meeting of Star Alliance airline executives.

"I do not believe that we should be all Airbus," he added.

But is Boeing listening?

Milton expressed surprise that Boeing has not been knocking on his door and making a strong sales pitch for the 7E7.

"We have yet to receive any information from Boeing on the aircraft," Milton said in the June 5 interview. "We have not heard anything."

Boeing, however, said it has talked with Air Canada, though not Milton, about the 7E7, and in fact recently had some of its people in Montreal.

We have had some general talks with them," said Catherine Heide, business director of Boeing jetliner sales for the Americas.

"We plan to have more," she said, adding, "We probably need to move it up to the next level to show him (Milton) what the plane can do for Air Canada."

Boeing has said it may win as many as 500 orders for the new jet by the time the first 7E7 is delivered to All Nippon Airways in Japan in the first half of 2008.

But to reach that figure, Boeing will probably need orders from airlines in North America, industry analysts say. U.S. airlines that would be potential 7E7 customers are still struggling financially to recover from the industry downturn.

So is Air Canada.

It has been in creditor protection since April 1, 2003, but expects to emerge this fall. Air Canada recently reached a key accord with its unions. It has restructured supplier contracts and aircraft leases, resulting in a reduction of $2 billion (Canadian) in operating costs.

In May, the Ontario Supreme Court granted Air Canada an extension of creditor protection until Sept. 30 as it resolves outstanding business issues.

But Milton said the current restructuring that Air Canada is going through does not mean it isn't interested in buying new planes. He noted the airline's recent order for 90 smaller regional jets from Bombardier and from Embraer. (Air Canada rejected Boeing's 717.)

Air Canada now has a mixed fleet of Boeing and Airbus planes, along with some 25 Canadair regional jets.

It operates a large fleet of some 43 Boeing 767s, the midsize, twin-engine plane that the more efficient 7E7 will replace. Boeing says the 7E7 will be as much as 20 percent more fuel efficient than the 767-300 and will reduce an airline's operating costs by about 10 percent.

Milton said the 7E7 would be a replacement plane for those 767s.

"But it could also be a significant portion of the growth component for the company internationally," he added.

The base 7E7 will have the range of a 747 or 777 but carry fewer passengers.

Air Canada in March announced an expansion of its services into Latin America, using 767s. This came four months after it inaugurated new service to Chile, Argentina, Costa Rica and Cuba.

In August, Air Canada will start non-stop service from Toronto to Hong Kong, using the new Airbus A340-500, currently the world's longest-range commercial jetliner.

Air Canada is taking two A340-500s from Airbus. It has also ordered A340-600s, a plane that carries more passengers than the A340-500 but has less range. Delivery of those A340-600 jets has been deferred for several years.

In addition, Air Canada operates eight Airbus A330-300s and nine A340-300s. Those planes compete against Boeing's 777 -- a plane that Air Canada has never ordered.

"I would say I'm a fan of the 777, but we have never been able to make sense out of it in our evaluations for Air Canada," Milton said.

But Boeing's 7E7 looks attractive, he said.

"It would be a very good fit for them," said Boeing's Heide.

And Milton made it clear he wants a mix of planes from Boeing and from Airbus.

"It is important that airlines over a certain size, and we are definitely large enough, try and maintain a mix of planes from the two manufacturers," he said.

"Airbus has done an excellent job. They have a common cockpit (across the various models) and that provides us incredible synergy.

"That said, Boeing has made excellent products and where we can find an excellent product from Boeing that is sold to us at a sufficiently attractive price, we will have to look ... ."

But that's up to Boeing, he added.

"We are not shy about ordering aircraft," Milton said. "But you have to get a proposal to do that."

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Well, I certainly would like to see Air Canada operate some of these. Sound like a lot of job security for an Avionics guy!

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7E7's cabin innovations meet passenger approval

Thursday July 29, 2004

A comprehensive study of more than 500 people found that Boeing 7E7 Dreamliner passengers will feel more relaxed and less fatigued thanks to cabin pressurization improvements on the new airplane.

Oklahoma State University and Boeing conducted the study, which was based on US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine methodology characterizing 68 possible altitude symptoms. The goal was to determine participants' comfort levels at various pressurization levels. This article is copyright 2004

"Improving the passenger experience with flying is important to us," said John Feren, vice president of Sales and Marketing for the 7E7 programme. "We want to make sure that the changes we introduce represent a real improvement, and clearly our studies show that a lower cabin altitude will have a positive effect on passengers."

Because their structures are primarily metal, today's commercial airplanes are certified to a maximum altitude equivalent of 8,000 feet to minimize structural fatigue during normal operation. The 7E7 will be pressurized to a maximum altitude equivalent of 6,000 feet during normal operation, a decision enabled by the stronger, more-durable composite materials from which the airplane will be constructed. Composites are not subject to the same fatigue conditions that limit the amount of pressure cycles that can be applied to an aluminum airplane.

Study participants reported feeling less achy, more relaxed and more comfortable with the 6,000-foot cabin pressurisation.

The participants experienced a 20-hour flight regime in an airplane-cabin simulator. The simulator was pressurized to five different altitude equivalents, and each level was tested nine times. Participants sat in standard economy-class seats, ate typical airline food, watched movies and slept as they would during a real flight.

The participants were carefully selected by gender and age to fairly represent the flying public. They completed surveys before and during the simulation, while also undergoing memory, coordination and visual tests.

"Passengers experience flying as an overall event," Feren said. "On the 7E7, they may not be able to quantify the role that a lower cabin altitude plays in creating a better experience but they will know they feel better during and at the end of the flight."

More Info:

Source: Boeing Co.

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A Plane That Could Change The Game

Boeing's 7E7 will slash costs for carriers and take half the time to build

Cutting costs has become an obsession for major carriers worldwide. Nowhere is that more true than in the U.S., where big airlines closed out July with a second-quarter loss of $2.1 billion, as they continued to battle rising costs. While foreign carriers tend to be in better shape, the industry knows the key to survival lies in being lean and mean.

If only carriers could get their hands on a Boeing 7E7 now. Experts say the plane, which will go into service in 2008, could redraw airline economics. Much has been said about the 7E7's fuel-sipping nature. But Boeing Co. (BA ) is luring carriers with other potential cost savings, too. And thanks to more efficient factories, it aims to build each 7E7 in half the time it takes to crank out a widebody jet. That would get new planes to carriers faster when demand surges. "The 7E7 is a significant step forward for the economics of a plane," says Peter Gardner, vice-president for technical issues at Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd.

While U.S. carriers are not in a position to buy new planes now, Continental (CAL ), American (AMR ), and Northwest (NWAC ) have all shown interest in the 7E7. Meanwhile, foreign carriers have ordered 62 7E7s, and Boeing expects 200 more orders by yearend. And while strong defense sales helped the company post second-quarter income of $607 million on $13.1 billion in revenues, reversing a year-ago loss of $192 million, Boeing is hiking its 2005 earnings forecast thanks to renewed strength in its commercial business. Says Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Alan R. Mulally: "We feel good about where we're going."

So will Boeing deliver? Much depends on getting its new manufacturing process right. In the 1990s, Boeing ramped up hard after putting in place a supposedly more efficient system -- with nearly catastrophic results.

This time, key suppliers believe Boeing will do better because it has been improving the work flow in its factories. "Nothing like a near-death experience to change bad habits," says Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst at Teal Group. "Boeing's factories are more efficient than at any time in its history." Indeed, Boeing has cut the final assembly time of a 737 in half, to 11 days; Airbus has only been able to reduce its A320 final assembly from 40 days to 24.

With the 7E7, Boeing aims to work even faster. Suppliers will build huge chunks of the fuselage, which -- in a break with the past -- will be packed with plumbing, electrical systems, and computers before being shipped to Seattle for final assembly. By outsourcing more of the manufacturing, Boeing aims to build a 7E7 -- from start to finish -- in four months, rather than the traditional 12. The strategy, though, carries logistical risk, since it relies heavily on suppliers. Still, most analysts believe Boeing has established a sufficiently strong relationship with its partners.


If Boeing can build its plane faster, carriers stand to benefit. Typically, by the time airlines take delivery of a new plane, they must reconfigure the interior because the market has changed. That's expensive: It once cost Cathay $1 million to shift a toilet three inches on one 747. "If you cut the delivery time in half, you can respond to market changes and avoid costly interior makeovers," says Gardner.

Carriers also like how the plane could help cut costs and lift revenues. The plane is expected to be 10% cheaper to operate. Its composite fuselage won't require checking for cracks, which costs $2 million to $4 million per plane for aluminum jets. And its 20% better fuel economy will allow airlines to carry cargo on longer flights, a potential revenue-booster.

Boeing still faces plenty of challenges. Airbus says it will respond with an improved or new A330, which will closely match the 7E7's operating costs. Boeing also will have to manage a whole new way of building planes. And with delivery three years off, airlines have time to see if Boeing can hit its performance goals. But if it does, the 7E7 could be the best news the industry has had in years.

By Stanley Holmes in Seattle, with Michael Arndt in Chicago

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Airbus Challenge To 7E7 'Difficult To Believe'

Forbes Online 09/01/04

Credit Suisse First Boston said Airbus' A350 aircraft may not be able to challenge the 7E7 from Boeing (nyse: BA - news - people ). Reports noted that the A350 used new fuel-efficient engines designed by General Electric (nyse: GE - news - people ) and Rolls-Royce, and would cost about $2 billion to develop. CSFB said, "[W]e find it difficult to believe that Airbus could deliver 7E7 cost savings with an older airframe for only a $2 billion investment while also successfully completing development and production of the A380 and launching the military A400M." The research firm said Airbus could be floating the information "to give airlines pause before considering a large investment in the 7E7" and noted that Boeing "did the same with its B747 derivative idea when Airbus was initially shopping the A380 concept to potential customers," noting that "ultimately Boeing shelved the idea." CSFB said, "While we expect an Airbus response to strong market acceptance of the 7E7, we believe a delivered aircraft is unlikely before 2011 to 2012." The firm said that "order news flow in the coming months, particularly for the 7E7, will drive Boeing shares higher" and it maintained an "outperform" rating on Boeing with a $55 target.

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7E7 rival comes to Northwest

Thursday, September 2, 2004

7E7 rival comes to Northwest

Airbus A330-200 rolled out for show in Portland



PORTLAND -- The Airbus jet that will be the chief challenger to Boeing's 7E7 entered service here yesterday for the first time with a U.S. customer.

Northwest Airlines is using the A330-200 for non-stop daily operations between Portland and Tokyo.

The planes replace older Northwest DC-10s that have been used on that route since June. San Francisco and then Seattle will be next to get the twin-engine Airbus plane.

Northwest already operates non-stop flights to Tokyo in both those cities -- on DC-10s between San Francisco and Tokyo and on 747- 200s between Seattle and Tokyo.

Northwest said it will start non-stop service between San Francisco and Tokyo with the A330-200 Oct. 1 and then between Seattle and Tokyo Nov. 1.

Two planes are needed for each new route, according to


So far, Northwest and US Airways are the only carriers in this country to order the A330- 200, which has been in operation since 1998. US Airways, which is trying to recover from bankruptcy, has not taken delivery of any of the planes.

Despite the lack of sales to U.S. airlines, the A330-200 has won significant market share from Boeing's 767 in what's known as the middle of the airplane market.

Northwest ordered 10 A330-200s, of which two have been delivered for the Portland-Tokyo service.

At the Portland airport yesterday, Northwest showed off its new Airbus jet to the media.

"This marks the beginning of a new level of in-flight comfort and entertainment for travelers between the West Coast and Tokyo," said Laura Liu, vice president of international marketing and revenue for Northwest.

Northwest has configured the A330-200 for two classes, with 32 business seats and 211 coach seats. On the first flight to Tokyo were 19 business-class passengers and 174 in coach.

Northwest has installed a new interactive entertainment system on its A330-200s, along with lie-flat business class seats that recline to 176 degrees.

Some international carriers have dropped first-class cabins to put more emphasis -- and money -- into business class.

They have fitted their long-haul planes with new business-class seats to attract customers who are willing to pay for a higher standard of service.

Northwest claims its "World Business Class" seat reclines more

than that of any U.S. competitor and, at 6 feet 7 inches, is longer.

"This is an $80 million airplane parked out there," Bill Wyatt, executive director of the Port of Portland, said before the media boarded the Airbus jet for a look several hours before the 1:45 p.m. departure to Tokyo.

"We are very pleased it came to Portland," he said. "This plane represents 21st-century trans-Pacific transportation."

The Airbus A330-200 has a listed price range of from $146.5 million to $153 million.

Asked where he got the $80 million figure, Wyatt said it came from Northwest's Liu.

Is that what Northwest paid? If so, it got a substantial discount off the list price.

Liu said she was uncomfortable talking about the $80 million figure, but she did not deny that is what Northwest paid for the plane.

Boeing has aggressively priced its 7E7 -- which will have newer technology than the A330-200 -- at $120 million.

Airlines never pay the list price of a plane. And launch customers for a new model typically get discounts that can range upward of 30 percent off the list price.

If Airbus sold Northwest A330- 200s for $80 million, Boeing would have to offer slightly more than a 30 percent discount to match that price.

Boeing has won 52 firm orders for its 7E7. Two charter airlines in Europe have announced they will buy 10 planes.

A key order for as many as 60 7E7s could come soon from a group of Chinese airlines -- the first time any airline in that country has been the launch customer for a Boeing or Airbus plane.

The Chinese may order other Boeing jets along with the 7E7, pushing the total order to nearly 100 jets, according to industry sources.

The mostly composite twin-engine 7E7 is being developed as a replacement for the 767. It is slightly bigger than the 767-300, but a little smaller than the A330-200.

The 7E7 is not scheduled to enter service until 2008, but there is already intense competition for the business of several airlines that are weighing whether to order the 7E7 or A330-200.

There is also a war of words between Boeing and Airbus over whose plane is better.

The A330-200 has more range than the 767-300 and can carry more passengers and cargo. It also has a wider twin-aisle cabin than the 767.

Boeing's 7E7 will have substantially more range than the A330-200. And the 7E7, according to Boeing, will be able to carry more cargo than the Airbus plane -- an important revenue-producer for airlines.

The cabin of the 7E7 will be 14 inches wider at the shoulder level of passengers, according to Boeing. (The fuselage diameter at floor level is about the same as the A330-200.).

The 7E7 will have new engines under development by Rolls-Royce and General Electric, and Boeing has said its plane will be as much as 20 percent more fuel efficient than the A330-200 and deliver better overall operating economics.

Airbus has publicly said that it is not worried about the 7E7. The A330-200 can more than hold its own against the new Boeing offering, according to Airbus.

Even so, Airbus is known to be talking with airlines and engine makers about an updated version of the A330-200 that would be more competitive.

The plane could be called the A350 to distinguish it in the marketplace.

Officially, Airbus will only say that it has started looking at what kind of plane it might develop after the A380 superjumbo, which is due to enter service in 2006.

But Airbus won't confirm that its next jet would be a derivative of the A330-200.

It's expected that should Airbus go ahead with the A350, it would incorporate engine technology under development for the 7E7.

And the A350 would have more range than the A330-200 and a different wing.

Northwest is reportedly one of several airlines that Airbus has talked to about the A350 as it looks to head off the threat from the 7E7.

Northwest operates a mixed fleet of Boeing and Airbus planes. Northwest and United are the only remaining U.S. airlines that have Boeing 747 passenger planes.

But in recent years, Northwest has courted Airbus over Boeing. It was the U.S. launch customer for the Airbus A320, which competes against Boeing's 737. And now it is the first U.S. airline to operate A330-200s.

When Northwest initially ordered widebody jets from Airbus in January 2001, it was for the A330- 300, a bigger version that carries more passengers but has less range than the A330-200.

Northwest ordered 24 of those planes after a hard-fought competition in which Boeing was offering its 767 and 777 jets.

Later, Northwest swapped 10 of those orders for the A330-200 so that it could offer non-stop trans- Pacific service from the United States.

These routes require planes with more range than the A330-300.


Airbus A330-200

· Range: 6,450 nautical miles

· Length: 194 feet

· Wingspan: 198 feet

· Cabin width: 17.4 feet (measure at shoulder height)

· Speed: Mach .82

· Passengers: 253 in three classes

Boeing 7E7-8

· Range: 8,500 nautical miles

· Length: 182 feet

· Wingspan: 193 feet

· Cabin width: 18.8 feet (measure at shoulder height)

· Speed: Mach .85

· Passengers: 217 in three classes

P-I aerospace reporter James Wallace can be reached at 206-448-8040 or

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Boeing to use 747s to speed up 7E7 program

By David Bowermaster

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

Boeing has purchased the first of three 747s it plans to convert into mega freighters capable of flying 7E7 parts into Everett from Asia and Europe, said Mike Bair, senior vice president of the 7E7 program. Speaking at the University of Washington Business School yesterday morning, Bair said Boeing is on schedule to have the converted 747 flying by 2006.

"We're rapidly developing that airplane," Bair said. The plane is a used 747-400 passenger jet, a Boeing spokeswoman said later.

Boeing declined to disclose the airline it was acquired from or the price. The deal was finalized about 10 days ago.

"We're working through the process of where we're going to modify the airplanes," the spokeswoman added. Boeing has traditionally transported components built by foreign suppliers by sea.

But last October, Boeing said that for the 7E7, which is due to enter service in 2008, Boeing would fly structures from Japan, Italy and elsewhere to Washington state to decrease production times.

Replacing a 30-day sea-crossing with a one-day flight also yields a "huge improvement in our work-in-progress inventory costs," Bair said.

Bair also spoke at length about the advanced composite materials that will replace aluminum as the primary fuselage material of the 7E7.

Airline executives have been especially curious about the new materials' ability to sustain runway dings inflicted by maintenance, food-service or baggage vehicles.

U.S. airlines spend about $2 billion a year fixing such "ramp rash," he said.

Boeing believes composites will largely eliminate that expense. "This stuff is almost impervious to the type of daily damage aluminum endures,

" he said. Because many airlines remain in financial distress due to skyrocketing fuel prices and cutthroat price competition, Boeing is working hard to prove the 7E7's economic value, Bair said.

"Everything we're doing is focused on helping our customers change their business model so they can make money," he said. One questioner asked whether the 7E7 will benefit Washington, since so many parts will be built overseas.

"I'm sure it will help more than it will hurt. We're really happy we got to stay," Bair said. "I can't imagine trying to do all of this [on the 7E7] and trying to open a factory in some hurricane zone," he deadpanned. Among the locations Boeing examined last year as potential 7E7 assembly sites were Mobile, Ala., and Kinston, N.C., both of which have been hard hit by storms this year.

David Bowermaster: 206-464-2724 or dbowermaster Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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Hope you guys don't mind a "peelot" sniffin' around in this part of the forum (I must admit, I hadn't checked this part out before) but this thread is great!

Much better than the hack and slash found elsewhere, and I had no idea the 7E7 was such a conceptual departure for an aircraft. I say, from my perspective, "bring it on!!". The huge loss thru bleed dumping always seemed a little odd; this makes huge sense to me. All I've seen are the press releases here tho - any thoughts on the viability from the AME side?

Regards (and a tip o the hat)


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Hope you guys don't mind a "peelot" sniffin' around in this part of the forum (I must admit, I hadn't checked this part out before) but this thread is great!

Much better than the hack and slash found elsewhere, and I had no idea the 7E7 was such a conceptual departure for an aircraft. I say, from my perspective, "bring it on!!". The huge loss thru bleed dumping always seemed a little odd; this makes huge sense to me. All I've seen are the press releases here tho - any thoughts on the viability from the AME side?

Regards (and a tip o the hat)


Thanks, I am glad that many of you find this information useful.

I believe this is the way all aircraft manufactuers will be going. Although it may not be as good for the AME's because less parts are prone to breaking down it will definetly be good for the airlines that are investing in this type of aircraft. The less parts that boeing can elminate without comprimising safety the better for the airline. With the prices of fuel rising the fuel efficency is a great selling point for the airlines. The viability of this aircraft is there as you can see with ANA purchase, its just a matter of time until the rest of the aviation world jumps onto projects like this one.

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Boeing lands 200 7E7 down payments

Aerospace company says down payments are in addition to existing 52 orders for new jet.

September 23, 2004: 8:49 AM EDT

BERLIN (Reuters) - Boeing has received down payments for up to 200 of its new 7E7 planes in addition to the known 52 orders it has gained, Chief Executive Harry Stonecipher said in an interview published Thursday.

"We presented it just five months ago -- and today there are 52 orders in our books. We have down payments for up to 200 more. The 7E7 already is our most successful new development of all time," Stonecipher told Germany's Stern magazine.

"We have a number of orders from very large airlines, all known names. We will present them all by the end of the year, one after the other," he said prior to a news conference later Thursday in Berlin.

Stonecipher was set to meet Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Transport Minister Manfred Stolpe and other government officials in the German capital, a company spokesman said.

Analysts have been unsure about the success of the 7E7 Dreamliner plane at the list price of $120 million apiece, which is routinely discounted. Down payments are refundable.

Stonecipher reiterated that a 1992 pact between the United States and the European Union should be abolished. The pact limits subsidies for the Airbus, co-owned by European aerospace company EADS and Britain's BAE Systems, and Boeing.

"This treaty has got to go. We don't need that anymore. Nobody needs help from the government," he said.

Boeing (BA: Research, Estimates) estimates Airbus has received about $15 billion in government "launch aid" loans since 1967, conferring about $40 billion in subsidy benefits because of easy repayment terms.

Boeing has also received support from Washington state and Japan to develop its new 300-seat 7E7 aircraft, slated to debut in 2008.

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Aviation Daily

Rolls-Royce Shuts GE Out Of 7E7 Powerplant Competition

By Lori Ranson

10/14/2004 08:59:46 AM

The Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 completely shutting out the General Electric GEnx in the 7E7 powerplant race with its latest victory in the highly competitive contest to power the 50 planes All Nippon Airways (ANA) ordered in April.

Air New Zealand also tapped Rolls earlier this year to supply engines for its two 7E7s. Boeing's other 7E7 customers -- Blue Panorama and First Choice -- haven't announced their powerplant selections yet.

The estimated $1 billion order plants Rolls-Royce back in the Japanese market, a spokesman for the OEM said, noting that ANA had used other engine suppliers for close to 30 years.

Pratt & Whitney, CFM International, GE CF6 and International Aero Engines (IAE) products power ANA's 132 planes.

"Rolls-Royce has always had confidence in its products," the company's spokesman said. "The question was overcoming the GE incumbency. It was a difficult task to take on." ANA highlighted the Trent 1000's economics and fuel efficiency.

Rolls-Royce's spokesman said it was difficult to be precise as to which aspect finally won ANA over since the airline's engine team had been evaluating the two powerplants for many months. He did note the basic design advantages of "better performance and reliability."

Preliminary design for the Trent 1000 should be finished by the end of the year, with the first engine run set for 2006. Statistics from ANA show the three-shaft Trent 1000's thrust range is 53,000-70,000 pounds, with a bypass ratio of 11 and a fan diameter of 2.8 meters (110 inches). The GEnx thrust range is 55,000-70,000 pounds.

When questioned about potential discussions between Airbus and Rolls-Royce concerning the airframer's A350 aircraft to compete with the 7E7, the Rolls-Royce spokesman said the company was a major supplier to Airbus and the two companies frequently discuss a wide range of topics.

He did note, however, that Roll-Royce was already talking to Airbus about another Trent variant for the plane, but the company couldn't speak for Airbus, which still hasn't decided to launch to program.

"We'd be extremely interested in providing power for that aircraft if it came to market," he said.

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Fascinating thread. I have read an article months ago in flight International about the 7E7 and its electric engines but you guys have provided so much more detail in this thread. Thanks again!

Question, Airbus says they can match the efficiency of the 7E7 with an Airbus A350 utilizing the 7E7 engines converted back to pneumatics. dry.gif What do you think?

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Thanks CPdude,

I havent read too much on the scarebus 350 but from what I heard is that the A350 is a paper airplane right now. The A350 would be a modified A330, compared to the all new 7E7 so how effiecient can a exsiting product be made into and why havent they already made this new A350? I believe as of now it is only something to throw off airlines that are contemplating purchasing the 7E7. Pneumatics is something that the 7E7 designers were trying to eliminate. Why have heavy air ducts everywhere when you can have electric wiring that can do the same job.

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By Sebastian Steinke

Walt Gillette, Vice President and Airplane Manager of the 7E7 programme, took the occasion of a visit by FLUG REVUE to his office to announce spectacular fuel consumption records for Boeing's latest twin-jet: “The 7E7 will use less fuel per passenger than an A380.” Boeing has set itself a target of reducing the 7E7's fuel consumption by 20 percent compared with comparable types around today, such as the 767. “Boeing has always taken the lead and been the first when it comes to innovation.”

But why has the manufacturer waited almost 15 years to finally launch a completely new civil aircraft programme? Gillette: “The problem was that we had to wait for new technology. It will only be available for incorporation into an aircraft in 2008. Besides, it is the airlines who demand these innovations, not us.”

Firstly, he explains, in addition to engines without bleed air, there are new materials available today which are needed to reduce fuel consumption, while at the same time it is now possible to use numeric flow simulation (finite element/computational fluid dynamics) to work out the truly optimal aerodynamics. “We want to avoid local areas with supersonic airflow, which only cause drag and noise.”

According to Walt Gillette, about eight percent of the twenty percent of the fuel economy is due to the new engines, whose fan diameter is larger relative to the core than on the previous generation of engines. A further three percent improvement is contributed by each of the following features: the advanced aerodynamics, the more efficient systems with less weight, the lower overall structural weight and the optimal sizing, that is, the made-to-measure basic design which, in the case of the 7E7, began with a clean sheet of paper.

Gillette explains that the new generation of engines, when fitted to the A330, which was not optimised for this right from the start, produces only a six to seven percent improvement in fuel consumption, compared with when they are installed on the 7E7. On the other hand, due to this major advance in technology, it would be well worthwhile using the 7E7 engines on a possible future version of the 747.

On the 7E7, for the first time, engines from two different manufacturers will be fitted on the same pylon. It will even be possible to change the engine model at a later date: all that will be necessary will be to change the engine monitoring software. This innovation should be especially attractive to leasing companies and the used aircraft market.

The experienced designer is surprisingly sceptical about aluminium, the traditional aircraft material. “Aluminium has become a relatively expensive material, for which you have to pay 'boutique prices'. The majority of world production is destined for the consumer goods industry, for example, for drink cans or ladders. The proportion of aluminium accounted for by aerospace consumers is dwindling. If you need special alloys, then for the most part you have to finance these developments from your own pocket. That is becoming expensive. On the other hand, carbon fibre offers far more industrial applications, and this fact is exerting downward pressure on prices.” According to Gillette, Boeing would have needed eight different aluminium alloys for the 7E7, for which precise data was provided to the metal factories. Only one type met the specification.

Gillette suspects that a similar “boutique technology” applies to bleed air systems: “Only the aerospace industry uses bleed air, everyone else uses electricity. It is time to move away from expensive high-pressure air technology. To control the voltage in the 7E7, for example, we are using parts similar to those used on the French TGV high-speed train,” says Gillette, explaining his preference for bulk-produced products. For the pressurising system and probably the majority of the anti-icing, the 7E7 will probably use a lighter electrical system. The auxiliary power unit (APU) in the tail will have a modular design so that it can later be exchanged for a fuel cell, as it does not have to generate any bleed air any more. The 7E7 has three 5,000 psi hydraulic systems.

Although the composite fuselage of the 7E7 promises fuel consumption advantages due to its low weight, many potential customers are likely to have reservations as to how to maintain it. In the rough airline daily routine, ground vehicles, passenger steps and baggage carts are always running into parked aircraft and leave behind dents, scratches and sometimes even tears in today's aluminium structures which are not always harmless. Whereas dents in aluminium components can be routinely removed, polished, strengthened or replaced with riveted patches, composite materials, with their layered structure, are relatively difficult to examine for damage and complicated to repair.

Walt Gillette dismisses these arguments. “We could equip the entire aircraft with a neuronal glass fibre network of sensors that report any damage. But we probably won't need that because the fuselage is simply so strong. For example, the fuselage skin around the doorways is 2.54cm thick. If someone knocks into the shell at this point, it can survive for as long as the aircraft. We have developed two repair methods using patches. The first one takes an hour to install and lasts to the next C check, while the second one takes two hours and lasts for a full aircraft lifetime.”

The 7E7 programme has been designed right from the start as a family of aircraft. In addition to the basic version, the 7E7-8 with transpacific range, there will also be a short-haul variant, the 7E7-3, and a stretched version, the 7E7-9. How can one optimise a family of aircraft so as to minimise fuel consumption, when the different members of the family are intended for completely different purposes? Walt Gillette: “The 7E7-8 and -9 have the 'right' wing. The wing is designed for the requirements of the 7E7-9. By comparison, the short-haul version, the 7E7-3, has a shorter wing and less range. Its winglet restores some of the efficiency, but admittedly not all of it. On the other hand, it can be parked in the small ground handling space allowed for a 767. This gate utilisation is valuable in its own right. Inside, we are reducing the material strength. This means that a lot of the 7E7-3, for example the landing gear, will be lighter. Only the rudder will be bigger, as the 7E7-3 will take off from shorter runways at a slower speed, which means that bigger steering input is necessary in the event of an engine failure. Although the larger 7E7-8 has actually been calculated for longer distances, due to the higher strength of its composite structure, if required it can also be used for wear-intensive short distances like a 7E7-3. Some Asian airlines are already doing that today with the 777.”

According to Walt Gillette, Boeing is currently developing all three versions in parallel. As soon as the basic structure of the aircraft family has been fixed, for example, the undercarriage bay is to be uniformly dimensioned for all three versions, they will then temporarily stop work on the 7E7-9, which will appear later, and initially complete only the 7E7-3 and -8, for which orders have already been received. “We are starting with the detailed design of the front and are slowly working back towards the tail. Originally, the 7E7 was planned to be narrower, with only seven seats per row. At the request of the airlines, we then significantly widened the fuselage to eight seats.” The enlarged 7E7 fuselage cross-section is only about 18 inches narrower than the 777 and only an arm's length narrower than the 747 on each side. Version 7E7-8 will attain “firm configuration” status in mid-2005, version 7E7-3 then following half a year later.

In the cockpit, the 7E7 strongly resembles its cousin, the 777, so that conversion training is required to last only three days. The most striking enhancement is the two standard head-up displays. As Gillette points out, “The instrument panel has the same dimensions as in the 777, but the new displays are a lot bigger. Despite this, they can be configured to appear just like in a 777. The 7E7's electronic yoke is similar to the familiar one in the 777. The computers will also create the same feeling as in the 777.”

Amplifying the previous 777 standard, Gillette is planning more extensive electronic protective mechanisms for the 7E7, similar to those offered by Airbus. For example, if the aircraft is flying so slowly that a stall is imminent, thrust is automatically applied. And if the Mach limit maximum operating speed (MMO) is exceeded, the elevator automatically deflects upwards, causing the aircraft to climb and hence lose some of its speed.

If the pilot wants to fly unusually tight turns which generate more than 2.5g, the artificial counter-pressure which he feels in the control horn will be doubled. However, unlike the fixed limits in Airbus aircraft, the pilot will be able to override this by applying the appropriate force. Gillette: “There have been cases of Boeings pulling 5 to 5.5g in emergency situations which were still able to land in one piece. The design adds another 50% safety margin to the maximum accelerations required by the authorities for certification purposes. We don't need any active gust load control, as the extremely strong wing structure can handle all loadings.”

The angle of roll, he adds, is electronically limited initially to 30º, but this can be overridden by exerting twice as much force. During banking, there will be no further need in the future for compensation of the elevator. The 7E7 computers automatically correct the loss of lift during banking, and the jet continues to circle until the pilot straightens up again.

A 7E7 wind tunnel visit

Boeing Field airport, to the south of the outskirts of Seattle: in an inconspicuous production building at the edge of the company grounds, Boeing's transonic wind tunnel hides away. When FLUG REVUE visited it on 25 May, a 2.13m long model of the 7E7 was already in position in the tunnel. An “oil flow visualisation test” has been scheduled for today. This entails releasing coloured oil from the model so as to reproduce the pressure gradients of a boundary layer at Mach 0.85, the cruise speed planned for the future 7E7. But before wind tunnel engineer Robert Hill starts up his 55,000hp electric motor, he has to notify the power station, as the equipment already draws 26MW from the mains supply at the “cruise”, and at full throttle this rises to as much as 42MW. Tom Cogan, Chief Project Engineer, explains that the shape of the cockpit nose on the model is already virtually the same as the final shape, whereas the empennage, wingtips and other details still have to be optimised. “We have already advanced one-third of the way.” The programme included comparing 50 to 60 wing configurations alone. There are wing sets for take-off and landing with extended flaps, leading-edge flaps and undercarriage, and models for the cruise with different loading conditions. The new composite material used on the 7E7 has the effect of changing its aeroelastics, for the wing no longer bends and twists as much as an aluminium structure. Altogether, the 7E7 engineers will need 15,000 wind tunnel hours at various stages of the development work. Because every wind tunnel has its own characteristics, Boeing is also using facilities belonging to the University of Seattle, NASA in California and QinetiQ in Farnborough in parallel. On top of this are ever better computer-aided simulations. Aerodynamics expert Cogan explains, “On the 777, we were still telling the computer the form that the pressure distribution should take. Today we enter the desired performance, and the computer tells us the pressure distribution and shape needed.”

From page 30 of FLUG REVUE 8/2004

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Dec. 6, 2004. 07:09 AM

Boeing's plastic modelAluminium virtually scrapped in skin of



Every kid has a plastic plane. With simulated engine noises and hand-powered propulsion, those little toys can fly to every corner of our imagination.

Now Boeing has dreamed up a plastic plane of its own and the company plans to fit nearly 300 people inside. Built from a plastic material known as carbon composite, the Dreamliner 7E7 will be a significant leap forward in airplane design.

Strong and light, carbon composites have been used in aircraft for decades but are generally limited to the smaller parts. With the 7E7, Boeing Commercial Airplanes plans to use more carbon composite than ever before.

The Chicago-based company, which builds most of its aircraft in Seattle, Wa., (though important 7E7 components will be made in Winnipeg), said more than 50 per cent of the plane's parts by weight will be made of the material.

"It's a really great material for aerospace structures," said Tom Cogan, Boeing's chief project engineer for the 7E7. Ultimately, carbon composites could do more than make planes tough and durable.

The structural material could give airplanes brawn, and brains as well, by becoming an electronic component. Richard Aboulafia, vice-president of analysis for the aerospace consulting firm Teal Group Corp., said it's the first time a commercial plane has used carbon composites for primary structures such as the fuselage.

"The whole body will be plastic, basically," he said. Unlike the flimsy plastic that held together your toy plane, Boeing's material was specially engineered to withstand the forces of flight.

Composites, such as the one being used to make the 7E7, are made of two or more materials: fibres and some kind of gluey substance that binds them all together.

The binding material, which is often a plastic, is called the matrix. The most common fibres used for planes are made of carbon or glass (as in fibreglass). Boeing typically uses carbon composites that come in tape-like strips.

The fibres are embedded in the tape, which is also impregnated with matrix. Layers of tape are added, one on top of another and the final form is put into an autoclave where it is cured under high pressure and heat. Carbon-fibre composites are especially useful in aircraft because they are strong yet light.

"It has a 30 per cent better weight-to-strength ratio than the aluminium that we use," Cogan said. "It has very good fatigue characteristics and it doesn't corrode." Metals such as aluminium will suffer fatigue over time and crack. But the aligned, continuous fibres in a strip of carbon composite reinforce the strip in a particular direction, much like visible fibres in a piece of strapping tape.

One tape layer might be applied with the fibres running in a vertical direction while the next layer might have the fibres running in a horizontal direction.

By varying the direction of the fibres in each layer engineers can build an airplane part that it is reinforced against common kinds of stress. Any cracks that do develop in a carbon composite can't grow very large because of the continuous fibres and the way the tape is layered.

"Composites are the way to go today and in the future of aviation," said Airbus spokesperson Mary Anne Greczyn. Airbus currently has its own composite commercial craft in development.

The Airbus A380 won't have nearly as much of the stuff, however. Carbon composites will be limited to secondary structures, such as the tail fin, on that plane.

Greczyn said it's possible that Airbus could use more carbon composites for future airplanes, "but it takes years of testing to make sure composite structures work in a certain application."

Boeing also has a leg up on the competition — a special production process that's making it easier than ever before to work with composites. Cogan said that historically, building large plane parts out of carbon composite was too expensive because there was a lot of hand labour involved.

It's only since Boeing found a way to automate the tape-laying process that large composite parts became economically efficient to produce. Money is, after all, the driving force behind the transition to lightweight composites.

The lighter the plane, the lower your fuel costs. Boeing estimates a 20 per cent improvement in fuel performance per passenger. Using composites also means Boeing can make the plane out of bigger parts. The company estimates that will cut the time it takes to build the airplane by 30 to 40 per cent.

The benefits of carbon composites will reach far beyond the mighty dollar. Less spent fuel translates into lower environmental costs as well, because of a reduction in airplane exhaust.

"It could also eliminate the horrors of a dry airplane," said Aboulafia. Metal planes have to be kept rather dry to keep the body from corroding.

Carbon composites, however, can handle a little moisture so the air inside the plane could be made more humid. The strength of composites also allows engineers to design planes with bigger passenger windows. In the long term, the building material could make planes a lot more intelligent.

Deborah Chung, a professor in the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University at Buffalo, is devising ways to make materials "smart" by tapping into the electrical properties of carbon composites. "A lot of work has been done on building structural materials just for structural sake. But relatively little work has been done on non-structural attributes,"

Chung said. Chung has already found a way to detect damage in the carbon composite formulas used by the aerospace industry.

Electrical contacts hooked up to the composite can detect damage to the airplane part by sensing changes in electrical resistance caused by broken fibres. As fibres are broken the electrical resistance increases, and a message is sent to a central computer to alert staff.

The contacts could be permanently embedded in the part for real-time damage detection, Chung said, or manually attached just for safety checks.

Chung is already in the process of commercializing the technology, which she estimates will take another three years. Today's airplanes are checked for damage using an ultrasound system but Chung says her technique would be able to sense much finer cracks.

"We can even see slight de-bonding between the fibre and the matrix," she said. Boeing has similar plans for their own smart parts. But Cogan said there's still some debate over the best way to use such a system.

It might be best used, he suggested, to determine the extent of any known damage as opposed to a damage alert system. He said the company also hasn't determined whether such sensors will be built into the Dreamliner 7E7, which is slated to go into service in 2008.

The question of safety is paramount with any new building material. Engineers can build in a fancy damage sensing system but in an aircraft it's fundamentally more important that the material itself is sound.

You can't make a lot of repairs in the air. A single accident, three years ago had a lot of people asking questions about carbon composites. On Nov. 12, 2001, American Airlines flight 587 took off from Kennedy International Airport. Moments later, 265 people were killed when the plane's rudder and tail fin separated from the rest of the plane.

The crash of the Airbus A300 prompted questions regarding the safety of carbon composites, which were used to make parts of the plane. The pilot had been navigating the aircraft through severe turbulence in the wake of another plane.

"This inquiry was raised and dismissed more ways that I can count," Airbus' Greczyn.

But after a lengthy investigation —- including an examination of the manufacturing process for the stabilizer — the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board ruled that pilot error likely caused the crash. According the NTSB, the pilot used excessive and unnecessary movements to try to control the rudder, which put the tail fin under more stress than it could handle.

The carbon composite wasn't to blame, however.

"The Board found that the composite material used in constructing the vertical stabilizer was not a factor in the accident because the tail failed well beyond its certificated and design limits," read one statement issued by NTSB concerning the crash. Improved pilot training regarding rudder control was ultimately recommended by the board. Given the NTSB findings and decades of experience with carbon composites in military aircraft, airplane manufacturers have no qualms about the increased use of the material.

"We're absolutely confident that composites can be used very, very safely in an airplane without compromising the integrity of the plane," Boeing's Cogan said. Pilots feel safe flying the plastic planes, too.

Tom Phillips, chair of the aircraft design and operations group of the Air Line Pilots Association International, said the material is certainly "acceptable" as it has passed all the requisite testing for use in both primary and secondary plane structures.

The association represents 64,000 commercial airline pilots in the U.S. and Canada. Phillips said the material hasn't presented any special safety problems and he can't tell the difference between flying a plane made of composites from one made of aluminium.

The Teal Group's Aboulafia is happy with the weight loss achieved so far through composites. But the industry analyst says the real changes are yet to come, as the next step for commercial airplane manufacturers involves a significant redesign. "You take out the aluminium and build advanced structures that truly take advantage of the tensile and compressive strengths of carbon composites," he said. "We will be able to experiment with novel forms of aircraft design." If Aboulafia is correct, the commercial planes of tomorrow might not look much like the bulky birds we fly today thanks to a lot of well-laid tape.

Copyright Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. All rights reserved.

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Boeing 7E7 to die, but 787 to be born

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Boeing 7E7 to die, but 787 to be born

It's all a part of tradition -- and a nod to the Chinese



The 7E7 jetliner won't fly.

Not by that name, anyway.

The Boeing Co. has decided to stay with tradition and change the jetliner's name to the 787, according to people familiar with the matter. Boeing's last new jet was the 777. It's first commercial jet was the 707.

No official announcement has been made, however, because Boeing commercial airplanes boss Alan Mulally would like to wait until a group of Chinese airlines places what is expected to be the biggest 7E7 order yet -- for at least 60 planes and perhaps more, these people said.

The number "8" is considered good luck in China.

In Mandarin, the main language of China, as well as in Cantonese, the pronunciation of "eight" sounds the same as the word to make money.

In China, people want -- and pay money for -- license plates that end with the number 8, or phone numbers that end with the number. Weddings are planned around dates that include the number.

The China Olympics will begin at 8 p.m. on 8/8/08.

Boeing would be showing just how much it values China as a customer and partner if the 7E7 name change coincides with an announcement by China that some of its airlines will buy the 7E7 -- in time to fly passengers on the Boeing jet to the Beijing Olympic

No Chinese airline has ever been the launch customer for a Boeing or Airbus plane.

Boeing won't confirm that a decision has been made to change the 7E7 name but has acknowledged the matter is being discussed.

It is not clear if the name change will be announced this year if the Chinese 7E7 order is still pending.

The timing of airplane order announcements by Chinese airlines are nearly impossible to predict, because the government has final say about aircraft purchases in that country. Politics can often delay announcements even when airlines have already made a decision to buy new jets.

So for now, Boeing's plane is still known as the 7E7 (the "E" standing for efficiency).

It is not unusual early in a Boeing aircraft development program for the name of a proposed new jet to have a letter sandwiched between 7s.

What became the 757, for example, was initially known as the 7N7.

But with the 7E7, Boeing has waited until well into the program to consider a name change. Company executives have said they wanted to carefully weigh changing the jetliner's name -- and might not do so -- given the successful worldwide marketing and branding associated with the 7E7 name.

But tradition -- and the prospect of making a good impression with China -- apparently carried the day.

While the number 8 is considered lucky in China, the number 7 has been good for Boeing. Since the 707, all new Boeing jetliners have been named in succession -- 727, 737, 747, 757, 767 and 777.

©1996-2004 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Boeing unveils key new technology for the Dreamliner

In its secretive Developmental Center, where nearly four decades



In its secretive Developmental Center, where nearly four decades ago the company built a wood, steel and aluminum mock-up of its planned supersonic transport, The Boeing Co. yesterday unveiled what it believes will be the real future of commercial aviation.

"This is a really significant event in the history of aviation," said Walt Gillette, the noted Boeing engineer who began his career the same year the SST mock-up was constructed in 1966.

"What you are seeing is our new baby, and this is the first one like it in the world," he told reporters.

Born in a high-pressure oven called an autoclave, the "baby" is 22 feet long and nearly 19 feet in diameter -- and made entirely of carbon-fiber composites.

It is the first full-scale test section of the 7E7 Dreamliner fuselage.

No one has ever manufactured a composite pressure vessel this size, Gillette said.

And there are bigger ones to come.

Using prototype tools and robots, Boeing and its 7E7 partners in Japan, Italy and the United States must perfect new manufacturing processes for the 7E7, which will be the first large commercial jetliner with a nearly all composite structure instead of traditional aluminum.

"With this first section, we have proved we can make it," said Deborah Limb, who leads Boeing's international team responsible for designing and building the 7E7 fuselage.

"It turned out just the way we had hoped," she added, "and now we know the concept works."

Seven more 7E7 test sections representing different parts of the plane will be manufactured this year at the Developmental Center, near Boeing Field.

Assembly of the first 7E7 is likely to occur in late 2006 or early 2007, with the jet entering airline service in the first half of 2008.

Fuselage sections of Boeing jetliners are numbered, and the same numbering system is used for the 7E7. This first barrel made at the Developmental Center is what's known as section 47, part of the fuselage that will be supplied by Texas-based Vought. It is the aft fuselage just before the tail structure.

Windows were cut in the composite structure where the plane's last rows of passengers will sit near door No. 4.

The barrel section came out of the autoclave just after Thanksgiving, after several months of developmental work.

A computer-controlled robot applies layers of carbon fiber material on a huge mold, which is then baked in an enormous autoclave.

An aluminum fuselage barrel would require several large pieces held together by thousands of rivets.

The composite fuselage barrel does not need rivets, because it is one big piece.

Gillette said Boeing and its partners decided to make section 47 first because it represented a more difficult challenge than some of the other 7E7 fuselage sections. That's because section 47 gets narrower just before the aft-pressure bulkhead, where it is joined to the tail section.

Gillette, who is vice president of 7E7 engineering and manufacturing, described this section as "highly curved." It will not be the biggest one-piece composite fuselage structure on the 7E7. That will be section 41, the forward fuselage and cockpit, which will be some 43 feet long.

Airbus has said Boeing is pushing composite technology too far in having an all-composite fuselage.

Boeing took the wraps off the fuselage barrel and invited reporters in for a look one week to the day before Airbus rolls out its first A380 superjumbo in France. The A380 will use more composites than previous jetliners, but not nearly as much as the 7E7.

"It is a matter of time before (Airbus engineers) come to the same conclusion," Gillette said of the benefits of an all-composite aircraft structure.

Composites do not corrode or fatigue like aluminum. And a composite structure is 15 percent to 20 percent lighter than the same structure made of aluminum.

Frank Statkus, Boeing's vice president of technology, tools and processes for the 7E7 program, joined Gillette at the Developmental Center event.

In an interview last year, he said Boeing had built its last aluminum airplane.

"If you want to be part of the future of commercial aviation, you better be able to do composites," he said yesterday.

More headlines and info from Everett, Georgetown/South Park.

P-I aerospace reporter James Wallace can be reached at 206-448-8040 or

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Guest rattler

Neat but how does one repair it if it is dinged by a catering truck, fmc, belt loader etc.? I imagine it is not simple.

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Apparently Boeing has addressed this concern already. There will be a quick temp fix that will take one hour to do and there is a permanate fix that will take 2 hours to fix. If there is major damage, parts of the fuselage will be able to be replaced enitrely by snapping fuselage pieces into place. I will try to find where i saw this in an article and post it.

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Walt Gillette dismisses these arguments. “We could equip the entire aircraft with a neuronal glass fibre network of sensors that report any damage. But we probably won't need that because the fuselage is simply so strong. For example, the fuselage skin around the doorways is 2.54cm thick. If someone knocks into the shell at this point, it can survive for as long as the aircraft. We have developed two repair methods using patches. The first one takes an hour to install and lasts to the next C check, while the second one takes two hours and lasts for a full aircraft lifetime.”

OK here it is, I did previously post it.

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Published: Wednesday, January 19, 2005

7E7 may push Boeing past Airbus in 5 years

Airbus on Tuesday rolled out the world's largest airliner. A week ago, it announced that it not only sold more airplanes than the Boeing Co. in 2004, it had also built and delivered more planes.

Boeing, on the other hand, missed its goal of selling 200 7E7s in 2004, spent most of last year mired in defense contracting scandals, and last week announced it would shut down its slow-selling 717 program.

Airbus rules the skies. The only question is how long it will hold that crown.

"That's a good question," said Teal Group analyst Richard Aboulafia. "There are reasons to believe that 2005 could see the tide turn for Boeing."

Boeing has been sharply criticized in the European press this week - and not just by heads of state looking to indulge in a little payback for U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's "old Europe" cracks prior to the start of the Iraq war.

"Boeing has struggled with the development work needed to take the company into the 21st century," Tim Clark, president of Emirates airline, told the Financial Times of London.

Emirates is gung-ho about the A380 and has ordered 45 of them. Yet, it also flies the Boeing 777, which is a "brilliant" airplane, Clark told the newspaper.

"But he has reservations about the rest of the U.S. group's range," Financial Times reported. Clark said. Airbus "has been braver, more brazen, more prepared to push the boat out."

Boeing, on the other hand "was more concerned about shareholder returns," Clark said. "It lost its bravery about developing new lines."

Aboualfia agreed. Boeing is "paying the price for a long product-development vacation," he said.

But not all is well in Toulouse.

The A380 is a huge gamble, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported. Only 14 airlines have placed orders for the A380, which is so big it will only be able to land at about 50 airports.

"If all goes to plan, the A380 may kill the 747 jumbo and become a must-have for airlines on long routes," BBC continued. But at the same time, "airlines may find it hard to fill, and therefore not the cost-saver they are hoping for."

"There are real concerns that rather than being a giant luxury transporter that brings greater comforts to customers, the A380 might be used as a 'cattle-class' transporter for the masses by airlines struggling to recoup their costs."

Airbus will rule the roost until the end of the decade, analyst Paul Nesbit, with JSA Research in Rhode Island, said Tuesday. But look for Boeing to come back with a vengeance.

Boeing is poised to win major 7E7 deals from Qatar and China, Nesbit said. Those will give Boeing the 200 Dreamliner orders it's been talking about, and could allow it to top Airbus in sales this year.

Airbus will likely continue to deliver more planes than Boeing for the next couple of years, Nesbit said. But once Boeing gets the 7E7 line in full production around 2010, Boeing will surge ahead once again.

"Boeing's on the right track with this," Nesbit said.

Aboulafia said Airbus' future rests less on the A380 and more on the A350 - the 250-seat jet it proposes as a counter to Boeing's 7E7.

Airbus originally proposed it as a quick-and-dirty overhaul of its A330 aircraft, and it was successful in blunting the momentum of Boeing's 7E7 sales.

But now it appears that the A350 might not be good enough to steal away any 7E7 orders, he said.

"Boeing could get two-thirds of a very promising market," Aboulafia said. "That's the basis for a comeback. "

Reporter Bryan Corliss: 425-339-3454 or

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