Airbus To Explore High-Speed Subsonic Plane With Airlines
By Jim Proulx/DALLAS
05-Apr-2001 1:32 PM U.S. EDT
Airbus Industrie will sit down with airlines to discuss their desire for a high-speed subsonic aircraft, Airbus Industrie's top market-forecasting executive said today, calling the idea "fascinating and intriguing" while harboring some doubt that such an aircraft could be produced economically.
Speaking at the Air Transport Association Engineering, Maintenance & Materiel Forum running in conjunction with Aviation Week's Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul Conference & Exhibition in Dallas, Airbus market forecast VP Adam Brown said that a transport cruising at Mach 0.95 could be "the best way for us to move on" for a next generation of airliner technology "if the trade-offs can be done" that will allow airlines to acquire and use the aircraft at a viable cost.
Boeing made a big splash in recent weeks when it announced it would work to create a high-speed, subsonic airliner series to replace the 757-767 family of aircraft. Brown contended that Airbus, because some of its engineers have experience on the Concorde, has the most qualified staff to design such an aircraft, but, he said, "my engineers tell me that it actually would be easier to design an aircraft that could cruise at Mach 2 than at 0.95."
Brown told attendees that Airbus conceptual designers have been working on an aircraft, dubbed the E2 (E-squared), that could fly about the same stage length as an A320 but have a capacity somewhere between the A320 and the A330/A340 family.
The concept, which Brown emphasized to AviationNow.Com here is not really new, is little more than an exercise for advanced engineering studies right now. A production version of the plane would need to drop its noise, nitrogen oxides and CO2 by 50% to meet ever stricter environmental requirements, especially in Europe. The aircraft would have a variable-geometry wing, a front canard, and two very-high bypass engines mounted behind the aircraft high above the wing surface to reduce noise signature.
Brown said Airbus is losing interest in the concept of a supersonic transport, saying such an aircraft doesn't meet the needs of his forecast of a rapidly growing low-cost leisure travel passenger base - some 42% of the current market, he said - a need served quite well by the A380. An SST for more exclusive passengers, he said, would be viable in the market, but could not draw the public funding that would be needed to finance research and development.
That's crucial for Airbus, since Brown noted he anticipates a high degree of input from the European Community - 120 billion euros through 2020, with the aim of making Europe the leader in the aviation technology industry by 2020. That call echoed a speech by 101-year-old aviation pioneer L. Welch Pogue at the conference Tuesday night, when he called for an "aviation champion" to keep the U.S. in front.
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