Boeing and Airbus fly new planes for first time

Stretched 787 stretches its wings and A319neo Euro-hops.

The first A319 takes to the skies
The first A319 on its first test flight

Airbus and Boeing have both debuted new commercial jets.

Boeing's 787-10 took to the skies over South Carolina last Friday and spent four hours and fifty eight minutes strutting its stuff.

The 787-10 is the biggest variant of the 787, also known as the “Dreamliner”. The plane boasts the same 60m wingspan and 574cm cross-section as the 787-8 and 787-9, but at 68m is five metres longer than the 787-9 and can therefore pack in about 38 extra passengers in Boeing's recommended configurations.

The downside of that extra size is shorter range: at 11,910 km the 787-10 will be comfortable going from Europe to Asia, northern Asia to North America, or from Europe to the United States' west coast. Flights from Australia to the Americas will be a bridge too far.

Boeing will be able to cover those longer routes with the forthcoming 777-9, leaving the 787-10 a solid option to replace 767s on trans-Atlantic routes while offering an option to replace older 747s, 777s and A340s for longer hops.

The 787-10 has months of testing ahead of it before it's allowed to carry paying passengers, but the previous two 787 variants have already passed those tests (and overcome battery issues) so Boeing shouldn't have much trouble getting the 787-10 flying by its “first half of 2018” deadline.

Model Range Seats
787-8 13,620 km 242
787-9 14,140 km 290
787-10 11,910 km 330

Airbus has also flown a new variant for the first time, as the A319neo hopped from Frankfurt to Toulouse last Friday.

The A319 is the second smallest member of the A320 family (the A318 is the littlest), offering 124-156 seats and a range of up to 6,950km.

Model Range Seats
A321neo 6,850km 185
A320neo 6,850km 150
A319neo 6,950km 124

While the A319 can hop the Atlantic if required, it will likely do duty on shorter routes around the world as its single aisle means it's not well-suited to longer flights.

The “neo” range offers operators new engine options and the first flight was made with propulsion by CFM International LEAP-1A engines.

Both plane-makers emphasise lower operating costs as the main benefit of their new birds, as well they might because passenger services offer notoriously low margins.

Which isn't deterring airlines from sprouting up all over the world to cater to the burgeoning numbers of people with enough cash to fly. Indian and other Asian airlines often place orders for dozens of planes to cater to emerging middle-class travellers. Boeing and Airbus therefore both have long backlogs of orders.

That's created an opportunity for Commercial Aircraft Corp of China, which thinks it can get a single-aisled 160-seater into the air in mid-2017. Japan's Mitsubishi is working on 88-and-76-seater jets, but has delayed their planned entry to service from 2018 to 2020 as it wrestles electrical issues. ®

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