Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A350 Design Changes Again UPDATE 3

The usually well informed James Wallace of the Seattle Post Intelligencer is reporting that contrary to ATW and Suddeutscher Zeitung reports earlier this week, John Leahy has said that the A350 will, indeed, be built as it was to be in the second iteration, CFRP panels over conventional structure. vSo we're back to A350 v. 2.0, I think.

On the other hand, a ringing denial from one part of da Festung does not necessarily mean it ain't so where another department is concerned. So nearly anything could happen between now and the end of the Paris Airshow.

If what Leahy says is true, it amounts to an admission that Airbus can't take the two more years delay of deliveries and can't afford the infrastructure investments necessary to build a monolithic fuselage from CFRP , even though it would yield substantial benefits in weight reduction.

If true, it's also a failure of belief in the future of a technology that is going to change the way aircraft are built from here on in, perhaps because it was 'not invented here'. The takehome from this announcement, if it turns out to be accurate, is that instead of being4 or 5 years behind the power curve, Airbus will be 10 or 12 years behind the power curve of technology.

In any event, the fat lady has definitely not yet started singing. Stay tuned.

EADS Insider Trading and the A380

I believe we blogged this a while ago, but the Associated Press is reporting that Airbus execs are on the hotseat again as a result of the investigation that's going on related to dumping EADS stock in advance of the bad news about A380 delays becoming public knowledge.

It seems that Technical Director Alain Garcia discussed this subject in detail during a meeting of EADS honchos on 7 March 2006, but no official record exists of that discussion. There is, however, a recorded telephone conversation in which Garcia admits as much.

What's significant about all this is that two weeks after the meeting of 7 March Noel Forgeard and 85 per cent of other EADS top execs exercised stock options and dumped their shares.

On June 13, the EADS Board met again, announced what we now know were the first official announcements of decomposition in the A380 program, and issued a profit warning that caused EADS stock to decline 26 per cent in value in one day.

A350 Design Changes Again UPDATE 2

Reuters reports this morning that Qatar Airways has signed on to order 80 A350 aircraft from Airbus, deliveries to start in 2013. The order supercedes a 2005 order for 60 A350s of a previous design configuration.

Louis Gallois states that the idea that Qatar may take a position in EADS has nothing to do with the order, and he also said that there were not going to be any design changes to the A350.

The only question to be addressed, therefore, is which A350 did Qatar order?

It's not at all clear that anyone knows at this point.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

BA Leans Toward Boeing

The Evening Standard reports today that flag carrier British Airways is leaning toward selecting the B747-8 as its large long haul carriage of choice, rather than the A380 as some had speculated.

Film at 11, as they say.

A350 Design Changes Again: UPDATE

Der Spiegel is reporting this day by way of Suddeutscher Zeitung that the current "official" version of the A350-CFRP panels on a more or less conventional framework-has been rejected by potential customers including Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways and ILFC.

It is alleged that these customers are plumping for a full monolithic CFRP fuselage because the notion of panels over structure is a more maintenance intensive, intermediate stage on the road to full CFRP structure.

Of course a spokeswoman from da Festung was asked about all this (could it have been the enigmatic Barbara Kracht?) and she said "Horsefeathers!" or something like that.

Whichmore or less confirms that such a design change is in the works and will be announced with mucho fanfare at the Paris Airshow. Der Spiegel also points out that the development piggy bank is showing signs of strain and that da Festung would have to make major investments in infrastructure to acquire the kind of autoclaves that would be necessary to accomplish the task.

Friday, May 25, 2007

A350 Design Changes Again?

Air Transport World is reporting this day that there is an impending design change to the A350XWB which will change the construction of the fuselage from a panels on framework model to a monolithic cylindrical fuselage barrel. It is said that this will also result in a further delay to the A350's entry into service date.

This is news that I have long expected.

I believe that I have opined on several occasions that the methods of construction and material science embodied in the B787 project was going to be a game changer the like of which has not been seen in our lifetimes. Nothing this big has occurred in the aircraft construction field since the introduction of aluminum monocoque construction in the 1930s put the dope and fab, plywood, and corrugated aluminum builders out of the commercial aircraft trade.

If this announcement proves accurate it vindicates the direction that Boeing took with the B787, and it suggests that the technical situation at Airbus is in a parlous state.

Stay tuned for the Paris usual it should prove verrrrrrrrrrry intereschting.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Air France Set To Order

It is reported that Air France is set to order 18 B777s to replace its fleet of B747s, and also to order 30 A320s and convert two options for A380s from the Home Team.

What's interesting here is that the trend here is not toward the bigger A380 as a replacement for the aging Air France B747 fleet that carries about 400 passengers, but toward a somewhat smaller, 2 engine aircraft that carries around 350 passengers. The number of A380s on order by Air France is 12, and Air France is not showing interest in the B747-8.

If you do a simple engines to passengers ratio the B747 comes in at 1:100, the B777 comes in at 1:175 and the A380 comes in at 1:125, assuming a realistic passenger load of about 500.

The Trent on the A380 is classed at about 70,000 pounds of thrust ,whereas the B777 engines are somewhat larger-in the 90,000 pound thrust range.

B787 In Production, Rollout Nears

Randy II, or Randy son of Randy, or Randy 2.0....anyway, where was I? Oh yes, I remember now. Randy's blog has some nice pictures from the factory of components arriving and being set up for assembly.

Mark my words.....the production (the development's already a done deal) of a CFRP composite airliner is a game changer, the like of which we haven't seen since metal monococque construction put paid to the dope and fab Curtiss Condors, the plywood Fokker Trimotors, and that corrugated aluminum shed of an airplane the Ford Trimotor.
I might just try and make it to Everett for the first flight.

This changes everything.
Photo credits to the fine folks at Boeing.

New Meaning to Carry On Luggage?

The associated press reports this day that customs officers at Cairo, Egypt detained a man attempting to board a flight to Saudi Arabia with approximately 700 live snakes in his possession. Among the critters were two poisonous cobras.

Yahia Rahim Tulba told the cops that the snakes are wanted by people to keep them in glass jars or as pets or for 'research' but the Egyptian cops, who have no doubt seen everything there is to see in the last 5,000 or so years that Egypt has been around, weren't having any and carted Tulba off to durance vile after the obligatory clapping him in irons.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

New Hardware At The Crib

Every once in a while a technical artifact comes your way and you get to go on an excursion into the past to see how much of your mechanical and diagnostic skills are left. I guess old dogs like to be out in the field and smell the gunpowder.
This Speedaire compressor followed me home the other day and it soon became evident why the previous owner had lost faith in it-it could not produce much pressure, perhaps 20 psi. There's little technical information available about these things and my entreaties went unanswered.
I thought about all this and that night I woke up from a dream in which I'd visualized the operating cycle it as it was running. The remedy became clear.
I removed the two round plugs and there I found two disc valves. A good soak in lacquer thinner was enough to soften up the residue of paint that had come in through the intake valve, so that it could be removed with compressed air and a toothpick. After annealing the copper gaskets and applying some gasket shellac and reassembling, the Speedaire is now capable of producing 130 psi in a fairly short amount of time.
Plus, it's cool looking and industrial as all hell.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Floyd Landis Notes

There are some new developments in the Floyd Landis ruckus.

First of all, the arbitration hearing that will decide his ultimate place in cycling history begins Monday. You can read about it here.

As a sometime litigator myself, it is my considered opinion that the conduct of arbitration and its alleged impartiality, cost effectiveness and utility is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on a gullible and unsuspecting populace of yokels since the Cardiff Giant.

The only reason people like Dr. Gary Wadler of the WADA think arbitration is fair is because people who want to play judge, jury and executioner always say that. To admit that arbitration offends fundamental notions of fairness, transparency and minimal due process would be to admit that the entire process is morally and ethically bankrupt, without a fig leaf of credibility to hide its nakedness, an asylum being run by the inmates. Thus is it ever when neanderthals take the law unto themselves instead of leaving it to those who know it, and the system that was created thereby.

The purveyors of this quack remedy are the only ones impressed with themselves. Here's some language I put in every one of my responses to arbitration claims. It is yours for the taking.

Consumer arbitration of the "take it or leave it" adhesion contract variety is fundamentally so unfair and biased as to eliminate any chance that a consumer in a debt collection case has any meaningful rights or the ability to present them in an economical manner. See, Deborah Schneider and Michael Quirk, Mandatory Arbitration of Consumer Rights Cases, Wisconsin Lawyer, September 2002 (and sources cited therein). Data disclosed by First USA in a case challenging mandatory arbitration revealed that the National Arbitration Forum found for the bank 99.6 per cent of the time. See, Carolyn E. Mayer, Win Some, Lose Rarely? Arbitration Forum's Rulings Called One Sided, Washington Post, Mar. 1, 2000.

Second, it is reported that the 2006 Tour de France winning cyclist, has said that the USADA had offered him a deal last year to go easy on him if he ratted out Lance Armstrong.

Floyd says that Travis Tygart, USADA general counsel, made the offer last year to Floyd's attorney Howard Jacobs and that it wasn't worthy of a reply. Travis, if you're listening, time to turn off the reruns of Law and Order. That's not how we do it.

If true, it's a window into the offensive and tawdry world of the sports drug Gestapo, and how they comport themselves when their bullshit is put to the test by someone who's not afraid of a fight. The S.O.B's just can't get over the fact that Lance kicked their butts, Floyd kicked their butts, and they're still not done with the hated Yanquis as we shall see.

In other news Chris Campbell, one of the arbitration panel considering the USADA case against Floyd Landis has issued a blistering dissenting opinion regarding the conduct of the arbitration panel. You can read about it here.

It seems that Campbell was not informed of a decision made by the other two arbitrators to deny a motion made by Landis to exclude evidence from consideration. The issue was to be briefed by the parties and USADA filed its brief on May 1 at 12:10 am-the arbitration panel had made a decision by 5:11 am the same day, sans notifying Campbell that a decision was to be taken.

Here's what he said in part:

The action of the majority in excluding a party-appointed arbitrator from the deliberative process is unprecedented and wholly inappropriate. It sends a clear message that the majority is unwilling to hear and consider valid arguments regarding a dispite and undermines the integrity of the arbitration process and the decisions resulting therefrom. This violates the notion of fundamental fairness and should give the party who has experienced such unfair treatment cause for concern.

Christian Prudhomme, race director of the Tour de France says that Floyd Landis will nt be remembered as the victor of the 2006 Tour, and that his name will be scrubbed from the rolls and his picture snipped out of all the newspapers and schoolbooks the Tour Gestapo can get their hands on. You can read about that here.

Chris, as a European you ought to know that the opera ain't over until the fat lady sings. That hasn't happened yet. Apparently you and Dick Pound were asleep that day in class when they talked about fundamental fairness, transparency, and due process being the bedrock on which the entire edifice of justice is built. Strike at that, and you defeat the entire project.

We're starting to see that it seems that the presence of the hated Americans is tolerated at the Tour just as long as they don't do anything so crass as to beat the Europeans at their own game on their own court.

Stay tuned.

Be Careful What You Say On A Cell Phone

It is reported today that French police have uncovered a recorded cell phone call between Jean Douani and Alain Garcia, then executive vice president in charge of engineering at da Festung.

The investigation, of course, is part of an insider trading scandal that rocked the European financial world. The timing of large trades in EADS stock by insiders in advance of a significant downturn is what's driving the investigation.

What's interesting about the call is the timing and the subject material. The call occurred in October of 2005, and Douani says it concerned production delays in the A380 program. Also of interest is a meeting of Airbus executives on March 7, 2006, wherein a discussion was held concerning the manifold technical problems in the A380 program.

Why's this interesting? Because Noel Forgeard and other highly placed Airbus insiders unloaded large holdings of EADS shares, which declined in value by better than 25 per cent when the production delays in the A380 program became common knowledge later on in the year.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Puzzled Indians Put B737 To Good Use

The BBC reports this day that the hull of an Air Sahara B737 turned up in a residential neighborhood in Mumbai, India to the initial puzzlement and then to the utility of the locals.

It seems that the aircraft ran off the runway last year and the hull was disassembled and placed on a flatbed. When the driver got lost he threw up his hands in despair and abandoned the load.

Some folks took up residence, using the cargo hold as a makeshift kitchen and some other folks used the wing attach points to run clotheslines from, once again proving that the Mumbai man or woman in the street knows how to get busy on a good thing when it comes his or her way.