Airbus made headlines during the Farnborough Airshow’s opening day with news across the company’s product portfolio – from nine order announcements for commercial jetliners to the unveiling of its series production facility for the Zephyr High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite (HAPS) and the introduction of SmartForce digital support services for military customers operating Airbus aircraft.
The company’s presence during Day 1 of this biennial UK aerospace event clearly underscored Airbus’ motto, “We make it fly,” and was paced by announcements covering acquisitions and commitments for both A320neo Family single-aisle jetliners and widebody A350 XWBs.
The best-selling A320’s “unbeatable combination”
Pacing the business activity was Airbus’ single-aisle A320 Family in its NEO (New Engine Option) configurations. Leading the Farnborough Airshow announcements were a Memorandum of Understanding with an undisclosed global lessor for 80 A320neo Family aircraft; a firm order from Macquarie AirFinance Group Limited for 20 A320neo jetliners; Golden Falcon Aviation’s order confirmation of 25 aircraft in the A320neo/A321neo versions for Kuwait’s Wataniya Airways; and Goshawk Aviation Limited’s firm order for 20 A320neo Family jetliners.
Completing today’s announcements was the Letter of Intent with New Delhi-based VISTARA for 13 A320neo aircraft, accompanied by this full-service airline’s intention to phase-in an additional 37 A320neo Family jetliners from lessors; and an agreement for SalamAir, Oman’s first budget airline, to add six new A320neo aircraft to its fleet – of which five are on lease from an undisclosed lessor.
“We have once again demonstrated how the A320neo Family’s unbeatable comfort, performance and economics make it the fastest-selling aircraft in the world,” Eric Schulz, Airbus Chief Commercial Officer, told journalists attending the Farnborough Airshow.
A350 XWB orders in a strengthening widebody market
Airbus’ widebody A350 XWB also logged new business, with Farnborough announcements today involving a Memorandum of Understanding with Taiwan-based STARLUX Airlines for the purchase of 17 A350 XWBs (12 in the A350-1000 version and five of the shorter-fuselage A350-900s); plus a confirmation that Sichuan Airlines of China is ordering 10 A350-900s.
Airbus’ Schulz said this new A350 XWB business is another sign that sales opportunities remain sold for the widebody sector, which he described as an extremely long-term market.
“I continue to be quite confident for the widebody market picking up again in the next 18 months to two years,” he explained in answering a reporter’s question at Farnborough. “There was a massive wave of widebody orders four to five years ago, and the market had to pause a bit while ramping up in rate, and this is now behind us. I see the market starting to accelerate again, particularly in Asia.”
Flying in the stratosphere with Airbus’ Zephyr HAPS
Airbus’ ‘We make it fly’ motto reached stratospheric heights at the Farnborough Airshow with today’s unveiling of the world’s first series-production assembly line for unmanned High Altitude Pseudo-Satellites (HAPS), which will build the company’s Zephyr HAPS. Located adjacent to Farnborough Airport, this HAPS facility already is in production.
The Zephyr HAPS provides persistent see, sense and connect capabilities with its ability to fly at stratospheric altitudes while carrying a variety of sensors and payloads. Opening new capabilities for commercial, military and institutional end-users, the diversity of Zephyr missions can range from remote monitoring, mapping and planning, border security and electronic intelligence to wide-area relay and fixed broadband or LTE direct connectivity.
In parallel with today’s HAPS production facility unveiling, Zephyr S is five days into its maiden flight, having taken off from Arizona. Ultimately, the goal is to enable Zephyr flights of 100 days, as Airbus builds its expertise with the HAPS’ combination of solar power and secondary batteries that are charged during the daytime for overnight operation.
Sophie Thomas, Zephyr programme manager at Airbus Defence and Space, said the Zephyr S that currently is airborne already is a success – as it has achieved a new altitude record of 74,000 feet.
SmartForce: support services for military aircraft and helicopters
Airbus’ news during the Farnborough Airshow’s opening day also involved product applications closer to Earth with the unveiling of its SmartForce digital support services, harnessing the power of data-driven intelligence to improve the operational readiness of company-built aircraft and helicopters that are flown by military customers.
By breaking through information siloes, SmartForce can help military operators more rapidly perform root cause analysis and develop faster troubleshooting methods, providing more efficient support.
An important advantage of SmartForce is the secure-platform sharing of aggregated data between operators, increasing the range, scale and effectiveness of the data while respecting national security boundaries. The result is maximum fleet availability and optimised maintenance – enabling rapid and robust decision-making while controlling costs.
SmartForce builds on Airbus’ Skywise aviation data platform for operators of its commercial jetliners, as well as the H-Care Connected Services for helicopter users.