Boeing's hypersonic plans, Tahiti's 'message' Dreamliners and more

Boeing's hypersonic expert, Kevin Bowcutt, says there is inherent value in flying faster.

Nevil Gibson looks into the future of super-fast travel, Boeing's new mid-range airliner and the new Tahiti Dreamliners.

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Boeing unveils hypersonic passenger concept
Boeing has for the first time revealed a passenger version of its concept for a hypersonic aircraft. It was debuted at an aerospace conference in Atlanta this week.

“There is an inherent value in speed,” says Kevin Bowcutt, senior technical fellow of hypersonics at Boeing Research & Technology.

Boeing has been working on hypersonic aircraft since 1956, breaking speed records with the X-15 and moving on to other experimental planes such as the X-43 and X-51. Boeing’s display was aimed at reminding competitors such as Lockheed Martin, as well as the Chinese and Russians, that it is still in the hypersonic race.

Boeing’s designers envision using a commercial turbofan engine capable of a wide range of speeds that can be bypassed when it’s time for the aeroplane to really zoom, Popular Mechanics says.

Most modern hypersonic jet designs rely on a ramjet, which uses the plane's forward motion to compress air.

“The turboramjet would be designed to valve the air so it bypasses the [turbofan] engine and dumps into a combined afterburner ramjet,” Mr Bowcutt says. “That same afterburner would function as a ramjet.”

The ramjet would propel the vehicle to Mach 5 [five times the speed of sound], fast enough to get from New York to Tokyo in about two hours. 

In February, Boeing said a military version (above) could be a reality within 10-20 years. A passenger version, pictured below, is more likely to be 20-30 years away.

Boeing reports ‘positive’ reaction to 797
Boeing says it’s having positive feedback from airlines interested in the 797, an all-new mid-sized aircraft that could fly up to 10 hours and have a capacity of between 200 and 300 seats. This would make it bigger than the largest 737s and Airbus A320s but smaller and less costly than wide-body models.

The 797 is still at the concept stage and Boeing has yet to decide on whether it will launch production. But senior managing director of marketing Darren Hulst says customer response globally so far has been “very positive.” If Boeing were to launch the aircraft, it would be in the middle of the 2020s.

Airbus counters with even longer-range A321
Meanwhile, Airbus is considering adding extra endurance to the longest-range version of its A321 in an effort to pre-empt a potential new mid-market jet being studied by Boeing. A new version called the A321XLR is on the drawing board. Industry analysts value the 200-270-seat segment at hundreds of billions of dollars over 20 years. Airbus’ A321LR recently claimed a long-distance record for single-aisle jets in testing.

Message in Tahitian Dreamliners
Air Tahiti Nui has unveiled the striking look of its Tahitian Dreamliner, which it says is inspired by the beauty and richness of the Polynesian islands. The airline’s trademark Tiare flower and a tattoo pattern represent a story of Tahiti and its people. 

Air Tahiti Nui has ordered four B787-9s for delivery by September 2019. Their registration codes will join together to say “the warrior (TOA) going forward (MUA) in the great (NUI) canoe (VAA).”

The Tahitian Dreamliner will make its first commercial flight on the Papeete-Auckland route on November 8, coinciding with the airline’s 20th anniversary. It will also introduce a three-class configuration with a new premium economy seating.

The new aircraft will eventually replace five A340-300s on services it also operates to Los Angeles, Paris and Tokyo.

Dreamliners to launch Vietnamese startup
Bamboo Airlines, a startup Vietnamese carrier based in Hanoi, has announced a commitment for 20 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners worth $US5.6 billion at list prices. Bamboo is 100% owned by the FLC Group and plans to offer flights within Vietnam from 2019 before expanding into other Northeast Asian markets such as China, Korea and Japan. FLC Group is a Vietnamese multi-industry company focusing on aviation, real estate, resorts, farming and golf.

Low-cost travel may not be cheaper
A survey by AirlineRatings.com has found travel in Australia on so-called low-cost airlines can be up to 30% more expensive than full-service airlines. This is after adding the costs of luggage, food, drinks and seat selection.

The survey, taken on June 13, showed the Perth-Sydney and Melbourne-Sydney routes for a range of three dates were more expensive for Jetstar and Tigerair than Qantas or Virgin Australia one-way fares after the extras were added. In one example, the $A40 cost of a checked bag, meal and non-alcoholic beverage was more than the gap between the fare of $A236 charged by Qantas and Jetstar’s cheapest fare at $A199.

Spanish flag carrier Iberia is the latest to take delivery of an Airbus A350-900 (pictured taking off at Toulouse), which will be used on its long-haul flights to the Americas. Madrid-based Iberia, a founding member of the IAG Group, has 16 A350s on order and is the 18th airline to operate this aircraft. It is configured in a three-class layout, with 348 seats, including 31 full lie-flat beds in business, 24 premium economy and 293 economy seats. Iberia has an all-Airbus fleet comprising more than 100 aircraft (including Iberia Express).

Aegean chooses Airbus over Boeing
Greece’s largest carrier, Aegean Airlines, the privatised successor to Olympic Airlines, signed a €5 billion deal with Airbus for up to 42 A320neo aircraft to renew its single-aisle fleet. It is the largest order by a Greek carrier and the third time Aegean has invested in new aircraft since launching operations 19 years ago. Aegean, a member of the Star Alliance, said in March it was also considering the Boeing 737 MAX. Most of Aegean’s current leases need to be replaced between 2019 and 2023.

Scoot adds Berlin to its network
Singapore Airlines’ budget carrier Scoot offers a considerably cheaper alternative for travel between Singapore and Europe. The promotional fares started at $S239 for travel from September 10 this year to March 15 next year. Scoot flies four times a week using Boeing 737 Dreamliners. It also has new long-haul routes to Athens and Honolulu.

Route news of the week
Air New Zealand is adding a larger Boeing 777-300ER to its Auckland-Rarotonga route once a week from July 23 to August 27. Air New Zealand operates up to 11 weekly flights during peak holiday season. Qantas will increase its Sydney-Jakarta service to six flights a week from December 13 and operate on Thursdays using A330 aircraft. Qantas will also increase its Sydney-Singapore service to 17 weekly flights from December 14, up from 14 weekly. LOT Polish Airlines and Singapore Airlines have expanded their codeshare partnership to cover LOT’s Warsaw-Singapore as well as Singapore Airlines’ services to Vietnam (Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City) and Australia. Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Sydney-Canberra).

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