Day 2 aviation news highlights from the Asian Aerospace 2011 exhibition held in Hong Kong.
More news from Wednesday’s show, including Cathay Pacific orders, aviation technology and the environment and why social media could help bring back the romance of air travel.
Cathay Pacific leads Asia-Pacific rebound
Some idea of the way in which the dynamism of this region is helping power the global recovery was given today by Cathay Pacific which not only reported a near tripling of its profits in 2010 from HK$4.69bn to HK$14.05bn but also announced it had placed some $5.99bn worth of airliner orders with Airbus and Boeing. The orders will boost its existing fleet with 15 extra A330-300s and ten additional 777-300ERs – as well as an extra two A350-900s it will source from ILFC.
“Now, what is a 797?” asks Boeing’s Randy Tinseth
With the pace of press conferences slackened – it was a chance to catch up for more deeper conversations with executives at the show. We spoke to Randy Tinseth, VP Marketing, Boeing Commercial Airplanes on 747-8I sales, new entrants to the market and whether this summer’s Paris airshow might see the announcement of a Boeing ‘797’ – a potential 737 replacement.
Though Tinseth refuses to be drawn on whether it will be a new aircraft or a re-engined 737 he notes that the re-engine plan had so far drawn a ‘mixed’ response from customers. Could any new aircraft be a twin-aisle? Certainly a wider fuselage might speed up turnaround times he remarked, perhaps allowing some operators to squeeze in an extra flight per day.
Whatever Boeing’s decision on the successor to the 737 – its next move will be extremely significant.
Aviation Awards Asia
A new event this year at Asian Aerospace was the inaugural Aviation Awards Asia – a competition to recognise and honour the best in civil aerospace in the region. Winners were chosen by a distinguished panel of judges who scored entries on innovation, customer service and business strategy among other factors. The winners in the five categories were:
Full service airline: Air New Zealand
Low-cost carrier: AirAsia
Business Aviation: Dassault Falcon
MRO: SIA Engineering
Technology & the Environment: Airways New Zealand
A hearty congratulations to the winners!
The next step for social media and airlines?
Imagine posting a message on your Facebook page saying ‘bored – want a holiday’ and next thing you know an airline has tweeted you with a great special deal to your favourite city and also told you that your long-lost friend will be in town at the same time. Checking in – you are allocated seats next to someone who has same interests and likes and the IFE system even suggests movies and TV shows you had forgotten you loved.
Far fetched – not really. This concept, enabled by social media, aims to bring Amazon-like personalisation to the air travel experience – bringing back the romance of flying. The concept from Sergio Mello, ceo of Satisfly, allows airlines and passengers to tap into rich publicly available social media networks. For the passenger, this, in the initial stages, would allow them to be allocated a seat next to someone with similar views or tastes (or even to someone who wanted no talk at all!). Meanwhile, for the airlines, this would allow them to build up highly personalised passenger profiles – allowing social media to evolve from communication tools, to actually help drive business profits.
Like ‘Amazon’ which learns over time which books, films and games you like, so would airlines be able to better serve their passengers by drawing on the vast online networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn that people now connect to. Sergio reports that after being almost ‘laughed out’ of conferences only three years ago – airlines are now sitting up taking close interest. He is already in negotiations with several airlines to implement this and become a launch customer.
Can China cope with this aviation growth?
While the majority of the show was upbeat with airlines, manufacturers and media dazed over China’s headlong growth – one or two dissenting voices did speak off the record on the challenges that this might bring. One issue in particular was the concern over training of new pilots. Said one training provider who asked not to be named: “China will run out of pilots before they realise they need to loosen the rules on foreign ab-initio flight schools.” With currently no new foreign based ab-initio schools being approved, Western flight training providers are privately worried that China may not have the capacity to bring on the pilots it needs in the time required.
And it is not just pilots. Another source commenting on “45 new airports in five years” said “They just don’t get the amount of growth” – and when pressed said this referred not only to the Chinese authorities, but airlines, manufacturers and everyone involved. However, while there are concerns – it is clear that there was broad agreement that China can address these problems once it wakes up to them. The dark side of this unprecedented growth is perhaps best represented by the falsified pilot records scandal that shook China in 2010. All involved, from regulators, airlines and manufacturers, must then be aware of the risks, as well as the opportunities, of this massive expansion in aviation.
Future of aviation
The show also hosted conference sessions – with a particularly interesting set of technical presentations given by Professor Rik Parker, Director of Research & Technology, Rolls-Royce, Al Bryant, VP, Boeing Research & Technology China, Stephane Garson, VP Marketing, CFM/Snecma, Song Fu, Deputy Dean, Laboratory for Advanced Simulation Turbulence, Tsinghua University, Beijing, Professor Xin Zhang, Airbus Noise Technology Centre, University of Southampton and Dr Mark Watson, Head of Environment, Cathay Pacific. These speakers covered such topics as open-rotor engines (Rik Parker), sustainable biofuels (Al Bryant), Leap-X engine (Stephane Garson), C919 aerodynamic research (Song Fu), future green aviation (Xin Zhang) and the airlines’ perspective (Mark Watson).
A highly technical session, it is impossible to cover everything that was said in this one post – but key themes emerged. Firstly biofuels are becoming extremely attractive (partly due to MidEast unrest) and are now commercially viable. According to Al Bryant the crossover price of biofuels vs JetA1 was exceeded when oil went past $90 a barrel. Meanwhile in engines, both Rolls-Royce and CFM see potential longer term in open-rotor powerplants – which could deliver 15-20% better fuel efficiency than advanced turbofans. Encouragingly too, there are signs that ICAO may recognise that open-rotor may be a special case for future noise standards – potentially opening the door to this promising technology.
RAeS Hong Kong Branch flying high
Also with a stand at the show was the Royal Aeronautical Society’s Hong Kong Branch who was involved in providing information about the Society, spreading the word about benefits and hopefully signing up new members. The Branch, according to Branch Secretary Darryl Chan (also Head of Engineering, Dragonair), had an extremely active 2010 in terms of events. Interestingly as well as the usual lectures the Branch also runs other activities, such as BBQs, field trips along with aviation quizzes, build a (model) plane contests and also education sessions for school careers teachers – to help them inspire kids into following a career in aerospace. The Branch has its own website and also gets good support from local aviation companies such as Cathay Pacific, Dragonair and HAECO. Thanks to Cathay’s association with the Boeing 747 – the Branch also has a special fan in the shape of aviation legend Joe Sutter – who recorded this special message to the Young Members.
With its location in the gateway to China – expect the RAeS’s Hong Kong Branch to fly even higher in the future!