Airbus A340: Making the Same Mistake Twice

It is possible to hide an aircraft in plain sight. Ask most people how many four engined aircraft Airbus has produced and the typical answer is two; the A340 and the A380. The correct answer is three, the differences between the A340-200/300 and A340-500/600 are such that they are by any standards different aircraft, despite similar appearances. Compared to the baseline A340-200/300, the A340-500/600 has: Newer, larger, heavier, more efficient and more powerful engines from a different supplier. A new wing of increased span, sweep and area. Enlarged vertical and horizontal tailplanes. Modified landing gear with extra wheels. Fuselage lengthened Continue Reading

Why Aren’t Planes Made from Steel?

Steel is a wonderful metal that has become ubiquitous in the modern world. Ships, trains and cars are made from steel, yet the vast majority of aircraft are built from aluminium, although carbon fibre is becoming more popular and wood was used extensively through to the end of the Second World War. Is there Anything Wrong with Aluminium? Although not inherently unsuitable for building aircraft, aluminium does have a long list of disadvantages as a building material compared to steel. It is: More expensive More susceptible to corrosion Difficult to weld More susceptible to fatigue Quicker to melt Not as strong Continue Reading

The Airbus Widebody Fuselage Cross-Section

Although the Airbus A300 is no longer in production, part of it lives on. The original fuselage cross-section of the A300 has been used on a further 13 Airbus aircraft across 3 different aircraft families, ranging in length from 47m (155ft) all the way up to 75m (246ft). As of today 2427 aircraft using the same A300 cross-section have been delivered, even though only 561 A300s were constructed. This year the same cross-section will have enjoyed 42 years of uninterrupted production, and a backlog of 363 orders for the A330neo will ensure production past 2020 at least. A perfectly circular Continue Reading

Did Boeing Trick Airbus into the A380 with the Sonic Cruiser?

There is something of an urban legend that Boeing deliberately used the Sonic Cruiser to trick Airbus into building the A380 and pouring billions of dollars into a project that was doomed to huge costs and moderate sales. I came across it most recently doing an online Strategic Management course from the Copenhagen Business School. The course director, Robert Austin, mentioned it as a classic example of a strategic ploy by one company to trick another, despite it by his own admission not having been confirmed by either side. Which got me thinking, could it be really true? The Case for Continue Reading

Why We Will Never See a Solar-Powered Airliner

The recent adventures of Solar Impulse II almost completing a round-the-world flight (1st of August 2016 update: Congratulations to the Solar Impulse team, they have completed their circumnavigation!) have shown that solar-powered aircraft are undeniably possible. In an ever-changing world where aviation is under increasing pressure on both cost and environmental grounds to reduce fuel consumption, is it just a matter of time then until we see a completely solar-powered passenger aircraft? Let’s have a look at the numbers. Can we put Solar Panels on Everything? Aircraft use a huge amount of energy to fly, and the energy is stored very densely Continue Reading