The 1,050th and last 757 airliner took off from Boeing’s Renton, Washington assembly plant for delivery to Shanghai Airlines on April 28, some 23 years after the company ferried the first of the single-aisle workhorses to launch customer Eastern Airlines. But out of sight doesn’t mean out of mind for Boeing. Fifty-five operators still fly some 1,000 of the twinjets, many of which will need upkeep for decades to come.
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Boeing made the apparently radical decision two years ago to use composites for most of the primary structure of its new 787 jetliner, resulting in a need for around 35 tons of the material per airplane. Japan’s Toray Industries, whose Torayca pre-preg is used already by Boeing for the 777’s tail and floor beams, was selected a year ago to supply the raw material, which combines carbon fibers with toughened epoxy resin.
Marco Cavazzoni says to mark his words: “We’ll deliver the first 747-400 Special Freighter on December 13. Cathay Pacific Airways will put it into revenue service within a couple of days.” Cavazzoni, who leads the 747 passenger-to-freighter conversion program for Boeing Commercial Aviation Services, added, “We’re told that such a firm date is unusual…customers will keep that date in their pocket.”
The chasm separating the realm of full-size airliners and regional airplanes has claimed another victim, swallowing the Boeing 717 as surely as it did the Fokker 100 and British Aerospace 146/Avro RJ. So who, you ask, would dare tempt fate again? All signs point to Canada’s Bombardier.
Recent changes to the proposed Airbus A350 have rendered the planned A330 variant much more competitive against the Boeing 787 in the battle for the “middle of the market,” according to Airbus. The European airframer has refined the design, which now offers more seats and, consequently, lower seat-mile costs.
BAE’s Jetstream regional airliner family enjoyed a successful year in 2004, delivering 25 turboprops to lease customers, and expecting to achieve its 2005 target of 30 more.
A recent slew of new announcements from BAE Systems Regional Aircraft has reminded the industry that the BAE146/ Avro RJ jetliner family has not gone away. New lease packages to regional airlines, the possibility of a new production line and some innovative conversion packages all suggest that the four-engine jets still have some life left in them.
The April 27 first flight of the Airbus A380 was undoubtedly a triumph for Europe’s aerospace industry. But it was also an occasion to celebrate for many companies on the other side of the Atlantic. According to EADS, which owns 80 percent of Airbus, more than 300 U.S. suppliers in 42 American states produce nearly 50 percent of the A380.
Say what you will about Boeing’s political and boardroom troubles over the past few years, the company’s technical proficiency doesn’t appear to have diminished. Just ask 787 program manager Mike Bair, whose engineering team continues to meet virtually every scheduling milestone set when the company launched the Dreamliner project a little more than a year ago.
Airbus officials hope to eventally have the new A380 very large airliner certified by European and U.S. safety regulators to carry almost 900 people. Initial A380-800s will enter service with nominal loads of 555 travelers, but the European manufacturer plans to show later this year that both main cabins can be cleared of 873 crewmembers and passengers quickly enough to ensure approval of planned higher capacity variants.