Skip to comments.747-8 model turning heads (Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines showing keen interest in plane)
Posted on 04/14/2006 8:30:55 PM PDT by Paleo Conservative
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Although The Boeing Co. has yet to announce a customer for the passenger version of its planned 747-8, two key airlines in Europe and Asia are seriously considering the plane.
Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines both operate older 747-400s, and the newer model would make a good fit in their respective long-haul fleets, executives of both airlines said in interviews.
The two airlines also are considering Boeing's 787, although the chief executive of Lufthansa said he is most interested in the 787-10, a stretch version that Boeing only recently said it will develop.
Chew Choon Seng, chief executive of Singapore Airlines, and Wolfgang Mayrhuber, chief executive of Lufthansa, talked with the Seattle P-I about their plans to order new widebody jets from either Boeing or Airbus. Their airlines are members of the Star Alliance, which on Monday welcomed its 18th member, South African Airways, during a ceremony here at the Johannesburg airport. The chief executives of the international airlines that make up the Star Alliance attended the event, as well as one last Friday in Zurich, Switzerland, in which Swiss International Airlines officially joined the alliance as the 17th member.
The upcoming decision by Singapore Airlines to buy what could be as many as 50 widebody jets will be one of this year's most important orders for either Airbus or Boeing.
Chew said the Singapore Airlines board will meet in early May to consider a possible widebody order.
"At that time, they will evaluate the situation and if the numbers fall the right way, I suppose the board will give management the mandate to proceed," he said.
The airline has been evaluating Boeing's 787 for nearly two years, but delayed a decision on ordering the plane until it had time to study the proposed A350 from Airbus.
The A350 will have a redesigned wing as well as the more efficient engines being developed for the 787. But the plane is still a derivative of the A330 with the same fuselage.
Steven Udvar-Hazy, the well-regarded chief executive of International Lease Finance Corp., one of the largest customers for both Boeing and Airbus, recently said Airbus should have come up with an all-new A350 to challenge the 787.
Chew said he generally agreed with that assessment.
"The 787 is a good clean-sheet design," he said.
"Since they have given the A350 a new wing, new engines and new tail, they should go ahead with a new fuselage," he said.
Even so, Chew said his airline is still considering the A350 as an option to the 787.
"The A350 as it now stands is not without its attractions," he said, "particularly if the price advantage over the 787 can be significant enough."
In response to comments from Chew and Hazy, Airbus said this week that it continues to look at ways to make the A350 even better.
Boeing is also pitching the 747-8 to Singapore Airlines, as well as additional 777s. The airline is already the world's largest operator of the 777, but Boeing is keen to sell Chew the 777-200LR, which just entered passenger service as the world's longest-range commercial jetliner.
"It is in the running," Chew said of the 777-200LR. Singapore Airlines has five A340-500s from Airbus on its 18-hour non-stop flights between Los Angeles and Singapore and New York and Singapore. The 777-200LR likely would replace them on those routes.
The A340-500 is a four-engine design that has fallen out of favor with many airlines because of the high price of fuel. Last year, Boeing's twin-engine 777 clobbered the A340 in sales.
"With the price of oil today, a twin definitely has long-haul advantages," Chew said.
In addition to the 777-200LR, Chew said, Singapore Airlines is seriously considering the passenger version of the 747-8. It will be the first-ever stretch of the 747 and is due to enter service in 2009.
Boeing launched development of the 747-8 last year with orders for the freighter but has yet to land a customer for the passenger model, which will have about 35 more seats than the 420-seat 747-400. The 747-8 will have a more efficient wing as well as the new fuel-efficient engines under development for the 787. The 747-8 also will have more range than the 747-400.
"The size of the 747-8 will find a place in our future fleet, but the economics and the numbers have to be right," Chew said of the ongoing evaluation.
Singapore Airlines once operated a fleet of about 40 747-400 passenger planes, but that is down to about 28.
The airline has also ordered the 555-passenger A380 from Airbus, and will be the first airline to take delivery of the double-deck giant later this year.
The A380 is about six months late, but Chew said Airbus has told him the first plane should be delivered by the end of November, allowing it to be in service before the end of the year.
Lufthansa is also a customer for the A380 and, like Singapore, is considering the 747-8.
Mayrhuber, Lufthansa's CEO, described the 747-8 as "an attractive" plane. "We are seriously considering it."
Lufthansa has two ways of growing its widebody operations, he said. It can use A380s and Airbus A340-600s, or it can swap out older 747-400s for the bigger 747-8.
"We can trend in both directions," he said.
A decision could come before the end of the year.
Lufthansa had long urged Boeing to develop a bigger 747. In response, Boeing offered airlines a bigger 747 in the late 1990s but it would have used the same engines as the current 747-400. The project was killed when airlines did not order the plane, mainly because the price tag was too high.
Rather than expensive design changes, the new 787 engines are driving much of the efficiency gains in the 747-8 so it can be offered to airlines at a much more competitive price than that previous stretch version of the 747.
Lufthansa is also considering the 787 and A350. But Mayrhuber said he is only interested in the bigger 787.
"The minimum for us would be the 787-9. Even better would be the 787-10," he said.
That plane would seat upwards of 300 passengers and is likely to become a replacement for older 777-200s.
If you want on or off my aerospace ping list, please contact me by Freep mail.
Since I judge things by soccer fields, I would say it was one football field over me, about 300 feet. It thought it was going to hit the geese or the eagles.
The biggest unknown in this order is will Airbus be able to demonstrate 8,000 nautical mile still-air range with a reasonable payload. If Airbus can do this this could lead to both Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa buying more A380-800's.
The rats ran Boeing's HQ out of Washington State. The odd part was that it did not seem to cause a lot of concern by the government (sort of a show case boo hoo).
You should see the Blue Angels practice. A few years ago I saw them flying over a parking lot in their F-18's at an altitude about twice the height of the light posts in the parking lot and sometimes upside down too. Believe me the engines on an F-18 are very loud.
The 747-8 Intercontinental is 16 percent more fuel efficient than the 747-400, 14 percent more fuel efficient than the A380.
The 747-8 Freighter's empty weight is 86 tonnes (95 tons) lighter than the A380 freighter. This results in a 25 percent lower fuel burn per ton, which translates into 20 percent lower trip costs and 23 percent lower ton-mile costs than the A380F.
With any of the currently produced test planes or future builds? The A380 wing failed at 1.47 times the maximum load instead of 1.50+. I wonder if any of the already produced aircraft will ever be cerified for 100% of their design MTOW?
You know you're old when you read about replacements for aging 777's.
Why do you think Boeing picked up their skirts and left their Seattle home in a huff?
The greedy (bleep)ing democRATs that infest the gub'mnt in Washington State have been gouging them as their very own cash cow for years.
They should have come down south where we still respect business instead of going to Chicago.
Chicago is the heart of Conservatism.
Not a bad idea.
I just might move down south myself since William the Bent dealt the Northwest a mortal blow by shutting down our wood products industry. All the "hi-tech" industries combined have not been able to make up for it.
The Airbust CEO has said that not a single passenger version of the new 747 will be bought this year.
I have a feeling he's going to get bitchslapped on that prediction.
Plenty of pine trees in the south.
747-8-747 might just not be a model I'd want to see ;-)