x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Boeing hard at work on airline's weight woes

Boeing is working to increase the range on its ultra-long haul aircraft for Emirates Airline and allow it to carry more cargo on flights to the US West Coast.

Boeing is working to increase the range on its ultra-long haul aircraft for Emirates Airline and allow it to carry more cargo on flights to the US West Coast. The West Coast lies at the outer edge of the Boeing 777-300ER's range, and Emirates has been forced to carry less cargo for the non-stop trip. "Emirates has always mentioned that a key objective is to fly the 777-300ER from Dubai to San Francisco and Dubai to Los Angeles with full payload and full passengers," said Marty Bentrott, the regional vice president of sales at Boeing.

"We are looking at engine improvements, aerodynamic improvements and additional weight-saving improvements." The changes could take place in the next two to three years and include more use of lightweight composite materials and new wing-tips. Boeing and Emirates officials were unable to quantify the weight restrictions, saying they depended on flying conditions such as temperature and wind speed.

Boeing's new 777-300ER boasts the world's largest turbofan engine and can carry 365 passengers for 14,690km, with a maximum take-off weight of 349,000kg. Now, Emirates is asking for further improvements. The fast-expanding UAE airline last year became the only operator of direct flights between the West Coast and the Middle East. There was such immediate demand that Emirates decided to take its Boeing 777-200ERs, with 266 seats in a three-class configuration and 10 tonnes of freight capacity, off the route and began using its larger 777-300ERs.

The 300s have 100 more seats and can carry 13 tonnes of cargo, but have a shorter range. The attention to detail can make or break an airline, as carriers worldwide are expected to lose US$11 billion (Dh40.4bn) this year because of weaker demand. Emirates is one of the most profitable airlines in the world, although it has not been immune to the financial crisis. Its yields are down by 20 per cent this year as it lowered prices to stimulate demand, although it still posted a first-half profit of $205 million.

Boeing has good reason to keep the airline happy. It is the biggest customer of its 777 aircraft, with 81 in operation and 27 still on order. Each plane sells for about $280m at list prices. Helping Emirates fly full loads to Los Angeles could encourage Emirates to make more orders or accelerate its delivery schedule, Mr Bentrott said. The airline is also widely expected to order more 777s, as well as more Airbus aircraft, to replace older planes that will be phased out over the next five years.

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