In addition to the 3,500 pounds envisaged to be saved on the 747-8 (“Boeing 747-8F is now a step closer to its first flight“, 2nd Sep 09), Boeing is targeting additional weight savings and that both the 747-8F freighter and 747-8I Intercontinental are poised to beat their targets from day 1 in operations. Airways Aviation News reports.
Weight reduction efforts
“We have identified more opportunities and are currently evaluating these for practical application,” Boeing spokesman Mark Hooper concedes.
“Weight reduction opportunities come from material changes, part weight reduction by using less material and part simplification like more monolithic parts,” Hooper further explains.
Overweight issue in new airplane development programs is common and the 747-8 program’s one is very minor and has no impact on its payload capabilities. Moreover, with the 3,500 pounds weight reduction in place, Boeing will have trimmed 1.59 tonnes of the around 1 tonne overweight issue, all or around all of it.
Any additional weight savings will directly lead to a gain in payload performance, possibly allowing the 747-8F and 747-8I to fly further with the same payload or more payload with the same range.
“Our focus is to provide our customer with an airplane that achieves its mission capability in terms of structural payload capability, payload-range and fuel burn. We expect to achieve our committed performance level on the 1st airplane,” Hooper reiterates.
Regarding the fuel burning for the 747-8, Boeing hasn’t changed the target, although its General Electric GEnx-2B engines have already exceeded their original Specific Fuel Consumption (SFC) target.
“Fuel burn per seat or fuel burn per ton-of-cargo is expected to be at least 16% better than the 747-400,” Boeing spokesman Mark Hooper confirms.
Boeing has a fuel burn target of 2.6L of fuel per passenger per 100 km for the 747-8I Intercontinental while accommodating 467 passengers in a 3 classes configuration, and that “this estimate remains the same”, Hooper tells Airways Aviation News.
However, the better-than-expected GEnx-2B SFC will undoubtedly lead to a lower fuel consumption per passenger per 100 km for the 747-8I, pushing the 13% margin higher over the fuel consumption of 3.0L of fuel per passenger per 100 km for the A380.
My good friend Saj Ahmad from FleetBuzz Editorial.com has had discussions with 747-8 Chief Engineer Michael Teal this February who revealed (“Boeing Reveals 747-8 Family Progress“, FleetBuzz Editorial.com, 13th Feb 09):
“From a performance side in terms of our Cash Operating Costs (COC) our tonne-mile costs and the fuel-burn, we’re meeting and exceeding what we’re asked to do, so we’re feeling really good about that.”
Business case, potential Intercontinental orders
As the nosedive in global air travel demand recedes, as well as growths returning in some Asian countries, the business case for the Boeing 747-8I Intercontinental is strong.
Instead of deploying the inflexible A380 on trunk routes, carriers like Cathay Pacific that have a big proportion of revenues coming from business travelers, will be benefited from operating the Boeing 747-8I Intercontinental for accommodating more passengers while retaining the flight frequency which business travelers favor.
And the aforementioned performance gain will satisfy the requirements of some tough potential customers like Emirates, despite its President Tim Clark’s recent comment that the Boeing offering is “no longer an option”.
Commenting on the matter, aerospace analyst Saj Ahmad from FleetBuzz Editorial.com, who has travelled to visit Boeing factories, says:
“Having seen the progress on the 747-8 program first hand this week, the fortunes for the Intercontinental are timed almost perfectly with a market recovery. By that time, there will be a sizable in-service fleet of 747-8Fs – and once the benefits of the big Boeing jet are seen, those customers who have deferred a selection in replacing their 747-400s will invariably see that in the 400-500 seats segment, the 747-8I makes the most sense.
Like the successful 777-300ER, it doesn’t have a direct competitor.”
Regarding talks with potential 747-8I Intercontinental customers, Boeing spokesman Mark Hooper says:
“We continue to speak with several airlines regarding the 747-8 Intercontinental. We are getting an understanding of their needs in this economy and how the 747-8 can meet their needs.”