Skip to comments.A Timely Stretch (Boeing 747-8)
Posted on 12/31/2005 10:38:19 PM PST by Paleo Conservative
When the father of the 747, Joe Sutter, was asked by ATW about the longevity of the model on the 30th anniversary of its entry into service, he said without so much as a second's hesitation that the "Queen of the Skies" would be around for another 30 years.
A bold statement indeed when made against a backdrop of the launch of the A380 and the many failed attempts by Boeing to commit to significant upgrades since the dash 400 version rolled out in January 1988.
Perhaps when Sutter made the prediction he had in mind a dramatic engine breakthrough similar to the one that made the 747 possible, giving the venerable jumbo yet another lease on life. For it is the engines designed for the 787 with significantly higher bypass ratios1:8.75 for the newly designated 747-8that promise to give the 747 a real kick in performance.
In fact, at the launch of the 787, Cathay Pacific COO Tony Tyler told ATW that the airline was "delighted with the 787's launch because of what it means for the 747 [-8]." And what it means, say Boeing insiders, is that the business case for the 450-seat aircraft is compelling, particularly with the company's new focus on meeting market pricing by extracting greater production efficiencies. As this issue closed for press, Boeing announced it would launch the type in both cargo and passenger models and identified two customers for the 747-8 Freighter.
Cargolux, which had announced its intention to order the aircraft last August, signed up for 10 plus purchase rights on an equal number, with deliveries beginning in third-quarter 2009.
Nippon Cargo Airlines ordered eight freighters with deliveries commencing in the 2009 fourth quarter. It took options on six more.
A number of other carriers including China Airlines, Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines have been identified with the program, although the last two already have ordered the A380, with SIA set to take first delivery late next year. There are also a host of airlines that have medium and small 747 fleets and are leery of making the big step up to the A380. One of these, Air New Zealand, told this magazine that "if Boeing launches [the 747-8], we will probably buy it."
Former British Airways CEO Rod Eddington confided to ATW in late September that his favored solution for the replacement of BA's 57 747-400s was a mix of 777-300ERs and 747-8s. He said he "preferred to see the A380 in airline service before making a commitment. BA doesn't need to make a decision for a few years yet so we have the luxury of observing the A380 in service."
By The Numbers
Boeing's pitch is, "Why invest in an A380 [with what Boeing claims are 25% higher trip costs] when the 747-8 will deliver 3% lower seat-mile costs?" The economics naturally form a major part of the sales pitch and the new model has some significant advantages, says VP-Marketing Randy Baseler. Fuel is obviously of major concern and this is where he sees the aircraft having a clear edge over the A380. He claims the 747-8 "will burn 13% less fuel per seat than a 416-seat 747-400 and 12% less than a 542-seat A380."
Key to that performance is the 66,500-lb.-thrust General Electric GEnx derived from the 787 program. GE was selected as the sole-source engine supplier for the 747-8 and this version of the GEnx will have bleed air and a smaller fan than the 787 engine. "The engine is all new," says Baseler.
Aside from the fuel efficiency of the GEnx, he says one of the keys to the 747-8's fuel economy is structural efficiency, with "an operating empty weight of 985 lb. per passenger compared to 1,161 lb. for the A380" making the A380 17.9% heavier per seat. He admits that Airbus brochure figures are lower but still 11.3% heavier than the 747-8. To match the structural efficiency, "the A380 would have to be stretched to 650 passengers," he states.
Baseler concedes that the A380 has an advantage with its all-new wing, but he argues that Boeing is closing the gap with work in the 777 and 787 programs. The 747-8 has raked wingtips borrowed from the 777-300ER/-200LR program and now sports double-slotted inboard flaps and single-slotted outboard flaps. The outboard wing has been re-lofted and the flap tracks and fairings redesigned. Wheels, tires and brakes from the 777 complete the structural enhancements.
These improvements give it a trip cost just 2% above the 747-400 but 22% below the A380, says Boeing. On a seat-mile basis, it says the new model's costs will be 6% better than the 747-400 and 3% better than the A380. Those figures differ considerably from Airbus's numbers, but Boeing claims that much of the disparity in its rival's claimed performance advantage relates to differences in methodology. For instance, Airbus cites a 555-seat A380 versus a 412-seat 747-400, while Boeing says the A380 will seat 542 by its rules and the 747-400 416. There are also differences in economic, performance, weight and distance factors that result in Boeing claiming that the A380 has only a 3% cash operating cost per seat advantage over the 747-400, while Airbus claims 14%. The reality will unfold when the A380 enters service in December 2006 with SIA.
Claim and counterclaim aside, the variant is a significant step forward over the 747-400, which itself has gotten a new lease on life with 19 sales this year net of cancellations. Those orders fill most of the delivery slots before the first 747-8 takes shape. According to Regional Director-Product Marketing Anita Polt, the passenger version will carry 8% more passengers and 21% more cargo than the 747-400 and fly 850 nm. farther to 8,000 nm. (14,815 km.). This gives it Paris-Honolulu or even Paris-Perth capability.
The 747-8 is the first fuselage stretch of the 747upper deck notwithstandingpossibly a testament to the fact that the aircraft that ushered in the jumbo era was way too big in 1970. Since then, airlines have expanded its capacity by shrinking the seating from nine across with 34-in. pitch to today's 10 across with 31/32-in. pitch, while Boeing tossed in a bit more room upstairs on the dash 300 and dash 400 versions. Offsetting the squeeze in the back has been the trend in the last few years to add beds in both first and business class, cutting capacity in the front and driving a desire for more floor space. To meet this demand, the 747-8 Intercontinental passenger airplaneto use its formal namewill have an 11.7-ft. stretch and the cargo model will be lengthened by 18.3 ft.
As in earlier versions, the freighter will have nose loading and a dash 200 upper deck. Payload capacity is 140 tonnes (154 tons) and it will fly 4,470 nm. (8,275 km.). Boeing is claiming it will have just 2% higher trip costs than the dash 400F but 13% lower ton-mile costs and will carry 16% more volume and weight. Polt says that it "has a higher freight density of 9.9 lb./cu. ft. compared to 7.9 lb. for the A380 and the A380 cannot accommodate the industry standard 10-ft. containers."
It is in the passenger model where Boeing has had to do extra work. All the economics in the world mean nothing if the opposition is stealing passengers with the glitz of lounges, grand entry stairs and showers. Polt admits that "bringing passengers in through the kitchen [galleys]" has not been a good look. The company has devoted considerable effort to giving the interior a significant makeover to match the A380 hype. It will have an entry more like that of a cruise ship, with the staircase offset to the far side of the main-deck cabin. In the ceiling above the staircase are three windows in the roof, enhancing the feeling of being on a spaceship.
The entry area also features a domed ceiling and a concierge station that doubles as a mini lounge during the flight. From the 777 comes the sculptured interior that gives passengers 15% more storage space, while those on the upper deck will get a 100% increase in storage space. Boeing is adding 777 windows to give a little more window area. The jet also will have LED mood lighting, lighter 787 interior components and 787 space age toilets and will be e-enabled.
The currently vacant crown space in the 747 has come in for special attention, with the manufacturer proposing to use the area for Sky Suites and a business center. The Sky Suites would accommodate 14 first class, 24 business class or 40 economy bunks. With the move to first and business class beds on the main deck, it is more likely that the space will be used for premium economy beds or a business center. Polt says airline interest is high, with a number of variations on how to use the space. The weight penalty is not significant, with the new zone structure replacing the fuselage support struts.
Boeing also is working hard to make sure the aircraft meets stringent European noise requirements. It will have a 30% smaller noise footprint than the 747-400, which itself was 40% quieter than the dash 200, Polt says, meaning that both the passenger and freighter models easily will meet the demanding QC2 requirements for departures and QC1 for arrivals at British airports.
The company expects the 747-8 to make its first flight in mid-to-late 2008. It puts the market at 450 aircraft over the next 20 years, of which 300 will be freighters. The new model appears to have a slice of the market to itself, being positioned between the 365-seat 777-300ER and the 550-seat A380.
Perhaps Sutter was correct: If Boeing has its numbers right, the 747 may indeed be around for another 30 years.
A Timely Stretch
Boeing believes the 747-8 will challenge the A380 for a piece of the ultra-large market.
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The 747 Any variant truly the Monarch of the skys
This is the second punch in the one two punch of the 787 and 747-8. The 787 is knocking out the middle of Airbus' line up and the 747-8 should hurt the A380.
A redesigned model aimed at the A320 should be the knock-out punch.
Also imagine a model with sizes between the 777-300 and A380-8 with twin engines.
I would be a bit sceptical about the engine being a GE. They have never been as reliable as the P&W.
The original 747 was designed to fly with engines that had a 6:1 bypass ratio and a static thrust of 44,000 lbf. The airplane's gross weight was originally 618,000 lbm if my memory serves.
I certainly wish them luck. The 747 was my baby when I worked at the Lazy-B.
While the 747 is the queen of the sky and always will be, the A380 is the hideous girl at the prom nobody wants to dance with.
The reason why British Airways and Japan Airlines favor the 747-8 over the A380-800 is the fact both airlines control a large fraction of the landing slots at their respective home airports (London Heathrow and Tokyo Narita), so there is no pressure to buy as big a plane as possible.
Somewhere I read the range will be over 8,200 nautical miles. Considering Boeing's reputation for underestimating the actual performance of its planes before they are tested, I wouldn't be surprised if it were actually a bit more. Even if Airbus comes out with a high gross weight version of the A380-800, I doubt it will match the CASM of the 747-8I.
Well the year is over.
737 orders = 497
747 orders = 43
767 orders = 15
777 orders = 131
787 orders = 198
Not a bad year.
I don't think Airbus got the 200 A350 orders in 2005 Leahy said they'd get.
The combined firm + commitments is 170. I'm not sure of what the breakdown is. Probably 30% firm? Bangkok Airways ordered 6 on the 30th.
"............Considering Boeing's reputation for underestimating the actual performance of its planes before they are tested, I wouldn't be surprised if it were actually a bit more. ..........."
I wonder if the reloft will transform the wings into supercritical airfoils?
I know they had said they needed to sell 250+ A380s to "break even" - and that was before the cost overruns and schedule delay penalties..........
That would be an enhanced 737 with a 787-style wing, which is almost surely already on the drawing board. Looks like Airbus is in for some rough years ahead.