Industry

Published on July 19th, 2015 | by FII Reader

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Airbus brings their new A350XWB to Dublin

On 30th June, AerCap Holdings N.V. took delivery of its first Airbus A350 XWB, during a ceremony at the Airbus Delivery Centre in Toulouse. AerCap immediately handed the aircraft, VN-A886, over to Vietnam Airlines on a long-term lease, making the airline the world’s second operator of the A350 XWB, after launch customer Qatar Airways.

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The Airbus A350XWB arrives in Dublin

AerCap – including International Lease Finance Corporation, which it acquired in 2014 – is Airbus’ largest customer, having placed firm orders for more than 900 jet airliners (worth over $1.2 trillion or around €1.09 trillion at catalogue prices) from the Airbus’ product line. In addition to the 20 A350 XWB airliners it has on firm order, AerCap is the company’s top customer for the single-aisle A320 Family with 751 aircraft booked, and the widebody A330 product line (129 ordered).

Underscoring the close relationship between Airbus and its customers with operations in Ireland – including AerCap and Aer Lingus, Airbus sent their A350-941 flight test aircraft (c/n 005) to Dublin, on 8th July, for an event jointly hosted by AerCap, Aer Lingus; IDA Ireland and the Dublin Airport Authority.

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AerCap, which has recently established its commercial centre in Dublin, is the global leader in aircraft leasing with 1,300 owned and managed aircraft in its current fleet and a highly attractive portfolio of 470 high-demand, fuel-efficient aircraft on order. Its aircraft are leased to 200 customers in 90 countries. The company is listed on the New York Stock Exchange and also has offices in Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Shannon, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Singapore, Shanghai, Abu Dhabi, Seattle and Toulouse.

Hangar 6 transformed for the event

Speaking at the event in Hangar 6, at Dublin Airport, which had been transformed into a reception area for the event, Aengus Kelly, CEO at AerCap said: “We are pleased with the investment we have made in Ireland which now includes our commercial centre in Dublin. Over the past year we have created over 100 new highly skilled jobs and intend to continue growing our operations in Dublin and Shannon. Through our people, suppliers and providers of technical support we contribute over $100 million (around €92.34 million) to the Irish economy each year. The A350 XWB, which was flown into Dublin from Toulouse for the event, is one of the most technologically advanced commercial aircraft in the world today and strategically important to our long term success. It will form part of AerCap’s core fleet in the coming years and provide a platform for growth and shareholder enrichment”.

A350 Aengus Kelly, CEO at AerCap (IMG4393 JL)

Aengus Kelly, CEO at AerCap

Noting that Ireland “is one of the very few places in the world where there is a great concentration of excellence in this industry” Mr Kelly added “This is something that we have fostered over decades in Ireland by the Government and by various companies. We ourselves have very deep roots in Ireland. We started off in Shannon 40 years ago as a company called GPA group. After many years of restructuring in the 1990’s, various mergers, takeovers, acquisitions and IPOs, we are here to day. The same company that is now the largest owner of commercial aircraft in the world, AerCap Ireland PLC, is the same corporate entity as the GPA group PLC”. He went on to thank Government who were “extremely helpful in making it much easier for people to come here, be it with visas, work permits etc” and in thanking the Government “for all they have done to make Ireland the hub of aircraft leasing” he cautioned them “never take it for granted and continue to work very hard at it”. “All the people that we have moved here have been welcomed in Ireland by everybody here and we had a tremendous time so it’s been a great experience for us and we will continue to build here and we will also continue to support the economy here” he added.

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation said that aircraft leasing is a key sector which has been targeted as part of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs. “In recent years we have seen a strong jobs performance in this area” he said, acknowledging that jobs created by AerCap, were in “high end roles across various disciplines including Sales and Marketing, Aircraft Technical, Legal, Contracts Management, Finance and Treasury”. That investment was supported by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation through IDA Ireland.

Martin Shanahan, CEO at IDA Ireland added: “Ireland has successfully developed itself as a hub for aviation finance worldwide with 50% of the world’s fleet of leased aircraft now being managed by lessors based here. The aviation leasing industry continues to find the right combination of skills for their business here in Ireland. Seeing the A350 XWB here in Dublin today gives us a sense of the sheer scale of the business that AerCap manage from their offices in Dublin and Shannon”.

As the aviation industry continues to grow, lessors such as AerCap are playing an important role in sustaining this development. In 2014, some 50% of all Airbus deliveries were financed by lessors – either through a direct order or sale-and-lease-back at delivery. Christopher Buckley, Airbus Executive Vice President, Europe, Asia and Pacific, said he was proud to be in Dublin with the most modern fuel efficient aircraft on the planet which features the latest aerodynamic design, carbon fibre fuselage and wings, plus new fuel-efficient Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines. He added that he was “proud to be here with AerCap – their largest customer” noting that while Aer Lingus were not up to numbers ordered by AerCap, they remained an important customer with whom they had a long relationship. He was delighted with the Airbus presence in Ireland and noted the attendance of staff from Airbus Financial Services Ireland.

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Left to right: Chris Buckley (Airbus Executive Vice President, Europe, Asia and Pacific),Martin Shanahan (CEO of IDA Ireland), Paschal Donohoe TD (Minister for Transport), Stephen Kavanagh (CEO Aer Lingus),Richard Bruton TD, (Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation) and Aengus Kelly (CEO AerCap)

This company, based in Dublin’s Financial Services Centre, was originally set up by Airbus to finance commercially and independently the development costs of the Airbus A321. Ireland was selected because of its beneficial tax environment and skilled professionals, particularly aviation professionals. The success of the Dublin operation has led to the growth of its activities to being both owner and lease manager for the fleet of ‘Airbus owned’ (including five Beluga aircraft) and financed aircraft, as well as manager of those aircraft owned by third party financiers. The portfolio currently under management is approximately $5 billion (around €4.62 billion) in value.

Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe TD paid tribute to AerCap and the aviation leasing industry and AerCap’s growth which he said “increasingly cements Ireland’s position as a global leader in aviation, particularly where aircraft leasing is concerned”. “Aviation is an activity we do well and when we do it well it is a cause of economic growth not just a consequence of it” he added. He went on “If you want to see companies that do what they do so well both AerCap and Aer Lingus embodied all that”. The Minister noted he had recently spent a day at Aer Caps Dublin Headquarters and it had reaffirmed to him that “this was global company with global reach and ambitions”. “Today was another step in them realising the kind of success that we want them to deliver” he added. Noting that half of the world’s leased aircraft are registered or managed from here in Ireland, he said that the reason for that was the success “was because of people like Angus and his team” but also because there is “a regulatory and policy environment embodied in organisations like the Irish Aviation Authority and the government want to nurture that environment and see even greater success”.

Aer Lingus CEO Stephen Kavanagh said that the economy and luxury of the A350 aircraft attracted it to Aer Lingus. Aer Lingus currently has nine A350s on order to replace the A330 fleet, three each in 2018, 2019 and 2020. While he gave no indication of the eight additional aircraft due under the IAG takeover proposals, he did note that the A350 gave Aer Lingus the option to offer the aircraft in a three class configuration, something it does not offer at the moment, but which is a key part of the IAG yield strategy.

Airbus had 781 firm orders for the A350 as of end of June 2015 from 40 customers, with 16 for the A350-800: 596 for the A350-900 and 169 for the A350-1000: Mr, Buckley, responding to questions from Flying in Ireland said he was “extremely pleased and proud at the way the 350 has sold, but the hugely frustrating thing for us as commercial people is that we have no 350’s to sell until maybe 2021 or beyond”. “Having said that we are we are very confident that we will two very significant orders to announce two significant orders by the end of the year” he added. “Our big challenge right now is ramping up production in a good enough way to make sure we have enough aircraft to provide to our additional customers”.

First look at the aircraft

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Business class seats on the Airbus

The Airbus A350-941 aircraft is the fifth production aircraft built and it is painted in Airbus corporate colours with large XWB logos. It landed on Dublin’s runway 28 shortly after 0900 hours as the AIB901 and proceeded to the hangar area. It was then towed into Hangar 6 and partially screened off on the starboard side, where a press area, had been created. After the speeches and the press interviews, a walkthrough of the aircraft was afforded to the assembled guests and staff of AerCap and Airbus Finance, in a number of groups. This allowed them to have their first close look at the interior. Immediately apparent was the roomy cabin with high ceiling accentuated by the mood lighting on display. The aircraft was in a three class layout with First, Business and Economy class. The cockpit was on view to take a closer look at the main office onboard the A350 along with the galleys and crew rest areas. There were two crew rest area, one aft for the cabin crew and one just behind the cockpit for the spare flight crew. On board the aircraft and on the flight deck Airbus personnel were available to answer any questions.

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The economy section of the Airbus A350XWB with a 3-3-3 seating configuration

Although used as a demo aircraft, the seating arrangement was relatively typical of the standard customer fit out and noticeable was the generous width as well as pitch assisted no doubt by the slimmer modern seating. Launch customer, Qatar Airways, for example, operates the aircraft with 283 seats, 36 flat bed seats with 180 degree recline, 22” (560 mm) wide with a 50” (1,270 mm) pitch and 247 standard seats in economy 18” (457 mm) wide with a 31-32” (787-813 mm) pitch.

While one set of visitors was ushered through the aircraft, the other guests were treated to some fine hospitality with light snacks and drinks.

Cockpit and Avionics

The revised design of the cockpit dropped the A380-sized display and adopted 15” (38 cm) LCD screens. The new six-screen configuration includes two central displays mounted one above the other (the lower one above the thrust levers) and a single primary flight/navigation display per pilot, with an adjacent on-board information system screen. Airbus says the new cockpit will allow advances in navigation technology to be placed on the displays in the future plus flexibility and capacity to upload new software and to combine data from multiple sources and sensors for flight management and aircraft systems control. The A350 XWB will also feature a head-up display.

The avionics will be a further development of the integrated modular avionics (IMA) concept found on the A380. The A350’s IMA will manage up to 40 functions (versus 23 functions for the A380) such as undercarriage, fuel, pneumatics, cabin environmental systems, and fire detection. Airbus says benefits will include reduced maintenance and lower weight because IMA replaces multiple processors and LRUs with around 50% fewer standard computer modules known as line-replaceable modules. The IMA runs on a 100-Mbit/s network based on the (Avionics Full-Duplex Switched Ethernet) standard, already employed in the A380 instead of the architecture used on the A330/A340.

Engines

A350 Rools Royce engine (IMG4335 JL)

The Rolls Royce engine on the A350WXB with some Aer Lingus crew

The Trent XWB family has two basic engines to power the three A350 variants. The baseline 83,000lb (37,648 kg) thrust version for the A350-900 will be derated to 74,000lbs and 79,000lbs (33,565 and 35,835 kg) for the −800, while an upgraded 97,000lbs (44,000 kg) thrust version will power the A350-1000. The higher-thrust version will have some modifications to the fan module – it will be the same diameter but will run slightly faster and have a new fan blade design – and run at increased temperatures allowed by new materials technologies from Rolls-Royce’s research. The basic 248 t MTOW −800 will be offered with a 74,000lbs (33,565 kg) sea-level-thrust rating, while the 279 t MTOW option will have 79,000lbs (35,835 kg) thrust. Airbus also plans to offer a ‘hot and high’ rating option for Middle Eastern launching customers Qatar Airways, Emirates, and Etihad. This option has an increased 79,000lbs thrust at higher altitudes and temperatures.

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The engine and blended winglet on the A350WXB

The Trent XWB will feature a 118” (300 cm) fan diameter and the design will be based on the advanced developments of the Trent 900 (Airbus A380) and Trent 1000 (Boeing 787). The Trent XWB may also benefit from the next-generation reduced acoustic mode scattering engine duct system (RAMSES), which is an Acoustic quieting engine nacelle intake and a carry-on design of the Airbus’s ‘zero splice’ intake liner developed for the A380. Engine thrust-reversers and nacelles will be supplied by US-based UTC Aerospace Systems.

The A350 XWB will feature a 1,268 kW (1,700 shp) Honeywell HGT1700 auxiliary power unit, which has 10% greater power density than the previous generation of Honeywell’s 331 APU family. Honeywell will also supply the air management system: the bleed air, environmental control, cabin pressure control and supplemental cooling systems. The ram air turbine, capable of generating 100 kVA, is supplied by Hamilton Sundstrand and located in the lower surface of the fuselage. In light of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner battery problems, in February 2013 Airbus decided to revert from Lithium-ion to the proven Nickel-cadmium technology.

The flight

Preliminary inspections over, it was time for the aircraft to take to the air, and those luckily enough to have a boarding pass for the flight were asked to board the aircraft, which operated as the AIB902, but which the boarding cards referred to as the EI350. On board it was free seating for the 96 invited guests. Pushback commenced from inside Hanger 6 at 12:53 and the aircraft was towed to beyond Pier D, as construction work was underway, before engine start could take place. There was then a lengthy delay as several aircraft arrived and departed, before the Airbus A350 was cleared to line up. Once on the runway and with the light load, the new type took off into the Irish skies for the first time, and was airborne at 13:42 after a short run. The climb out was quiet and very impressive.

As soon as the aircraft was in the cruise, Captain Malcolm Ridley, who was assisted by three other flight crew, invited the quests to walk around the aircraft, while cabin crew from Aer Lingus served champagne and some fine pastries. Management from Airbus, AerCap and Aer Lingus together with Minister Donohoe were available for interview during the cruise. Unfortunately, the cloud cover across the country was quite extensive, so it was quite hard to work out our location, without using the 3D map on the in-flight entertainment system.

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The route taking by the Airbus A350XWb on the flight around Ireland.

However as a passenger, I can see how Airbus can say that the A350 XWB brings new levels of in-flight comfort, with an extra-wide cabin offering more personal space in all classes, including 18” (457 mm) wide seats in a nine abreast layout as standard in economy class, which were extremely comfortable. For premium classes, airlines can install the most comfortable lie-flat seats in their own optimised layouts. We were able to sample what Airbus again describe, as the latest in-flight entertainment and connectivity systems. The quiet cabin also features wide panoramic windows and large overhead stowage compartments, as well as the latest draught-free air conditioning system with precision temperature control.

The aircraft routed out to the west towards Mullingar, before turning south west towards Shannon and then onwards towards Cork and over Clonmel, before turning back towards Dublin. All too soon, the captain was calling for everyone to be seated, about 10 minutes from touchdown. The aircraft broke out of the clouds as it crossed south Dublin near Dundrum and then turned out over Dublin Bay near Dun Laoghaire before turning in around by Howth for a straight in approach to Runway 28. The winds had died down during the day and the aircraft was down gently ‘on the numbers’ with a smart braking at 14:33 and we were easily slowed down enough to be able to exit at taxiway E6.

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Again the aircraft was towed back to the Hanger 6 apron and it must have been photographed hundreds of times by those assembled outside the perimeter and airport workers from all airlines, handling agents and ramp staff as it taxied in, excited at the sight of such a rare aircraft on these shores (for now!). We will have to await Aer Lingus taking delivery of their first A350 in 2018 and the delivery of a further 8 in the following three years.

Postscript

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Crew rest area at the rear of the Airbus

Once again AerCap’s hospitably towards its guests was exemplary, with a hot light lunch served to those emerging from the flight experience. Soon there was a further call for the Airbus personnel returning to Toulouse to again board the aircraft and at 16:17 that afternoon it lifted off from 28 as the AIB903. Meanwhile, sister ship, F-WWCF (c/n 002) had landed in Campinas, Viracopos International Airport, Brazil for the first time ever as part of its Demo Tour across the Americas. The following day, the aircraft, fitted with a two class cabin layout with 42 lie-flat business class seats in a four abreast configuration and 210 economy-class seats, travelled to Bogota, where it completed the Latin America portion of its Demo Tour before heading to the United States. First stop was in Atlanta and the aircraft will be demonstrate to investors and airlines in Newark, Chicago and Milwaukee as well as Atlanta,before the general public can experience the A350 XWB at EAA’s AirVenture air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Words and photos by Alan Dwyer and Jim Lee.

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