Air New Zealand Defers Boeing 787-10 Deliveries Until Past 2024

Boeing’s 787-9 launch customer, Air New Zealand, has reached an agreement with the manufacturer to push back the…

Air New Zealand Defers Boeing 787-10 Deliveries Until Past 2024

Boeing’s 787-9 launch customer, Air New Zealand, has reached an agreement with the manufacturer to push back the initial delivery date of its most recent Dreamliner order to 2024. With long-haul passenger figures hovering at just 5% of pre-COVID levels and New Zealand’s international borders remaining essentially shut for the foreseeable future, it is not difficult to see why.

Air New Zealand has reached an agreement with Boeing to delay Dreamliner deliveries by a year. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Initially intended for 2023

In a trading update on June 18th, Air New Zealand said it had recently renegotiated the date for the delivery of the first of eight new Boeing 787 Dreamliners. The airline placed the order for seven of the larger 787-10s and one 787-9 in September 2019, six months before COVID hit.

The first of the aircraft was supposed to join the fleet in 2023. However, Air New Zealand said today that as a result of its ‘strong, longstanding relationship with the manufacturer’, a new date had been set for the financial year of 2024. The Kiwi flag carrier already operates a fleet of 14 Boeing 787-9. It was the global launch customer for the type, taking delivery of the first in July 2014.

The airline’s long-haul passenger numbers are currently at a mere 5% of pre-COVID levels. Photo: Tom Boon / Simple Flying

Long-haul supported by government scheme

It comes as no surprise that airlines are none too keen on bringing home new widebody aircraft at the moment. Air New Zealand’s long-haul passenger numbers sit at a minuscule 5% of pre-COVID numbers. With the country’s international borders effectively closed and without a roadmap for when they could potentially reopen, this is not something that is likely to change any time soon.

However, long-haul destinations are still supported by airfreight demand. As for many other carriers, the airline’s cargo business continues to contribute significantly to overall revenue. Combined with the New Zealand government’s Maintaining International Air Connectivity (MIAC) scheme, Air New Zealand is operating an average of 30 international flights per week until the end of October this year.

Air New Zealand’s international routes are currently supported by the government’s MIAC scheme, which is expected to contribute between $320 million and $340 million NZD. Photo: Boeing

Domestic and bubble demand bright spots

Domestic and short-haul demand is showing positive momentum, the airline said. Meanwhile, it also cautioned that the pendulum could swing quickly in the other direction if there were further restrictions or lockdowns.

“There has been much to celebrate in recent months, with the opening of travel bubbles on the Trans-Tasman and to the Cook Islands, and the continued strong demand across our Domestic network,” Greg Foran, Air New Zealand CEO, said in a statement.

“The airline has its eyes firmly set on the future as we move out of the survive phase and into revival mode. (…) It means maintaining the hard-won structural cost reductions made across our business from the outset of this pandemic and ensuring continued cost vigilance,” Mr Foran continued.

When is your best guess for when New Zealand will reopen its borders? Have you traveled in or out of the country during the past year? Leave a comment below and tell us about your experience. 

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Russia Working On AN-124 Replacement: Dubbed ‘Slon’ or ‘Elephant’

For a few years now, Russia’s Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute has been working on an aircraft to fill the role…

Russia Working On AN-124 Replacement: Dubbed ‘Slon’ or ‘Elephant’

For a few years now, Russia’s Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute has been working on an aircraft to fill the role of the Antonov An-124 heavy lifter. First unveiled as a model in 2019,  what can we expect from this aircraft named the ‘слон’ (slon) or ‘elephant’?

The An-124 has been one of the main go-to aircraft for transporting extra large and heavy equipment. Photo: Getty Images

Replacing the An-124

It was back in November 2019 that we first saw a clear vision of Russia’s plan to replace the An-124. The Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute (TsAGI) showed off a model of their heavy-load transport aircraft named ‘Slon,’ Russian for ‘Elephant.’

Just like the An-124, Slon will be used to transport heavy and large-size cargo. Here’s what is planned for this new large aircraft:

  • Its range is targeted to be 7,000 km (4,350 miles)
  • The aircraft will have a speed of 850 km/h (528mph).
  • The maximum payload will be 50% more than the An-124, 180 tons compared to 120 tons.
  • Finally, the aircraft will require a runway of three kilometers.

“The work is carried out under a governmental contract with the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation within the framework of Magistral-technologies (Highway-technologies) R&D program.” -TsAGI

Like the An-124, the Slon will also be powered by four engines and have a ‘high wing’ design- with the wings mounted on the upper fuselage. Slon’s engines, however, are set to be Russian Aviadvigatel PD-35 advanced ducted-fan engines.

An initial model of the Slon was released in 2019. Photo: TsAGI Press Service

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Aerodynamic testing during 2020

With the model made public in late 2019, TsAGI spent a good portion of 2020 conducting aerodynamic testing. In July 2020, the firm announced it was in the second stage of testing, where the scientists of the institute “analyzed the aerodynamic characteristics of the model at low flight speeds in the longitudinal and lateral channels in the wind tunnel T-102.”

“We were able to study the behavior of the aircraft model at different slip angles, determine the effectiveness of the elevators and rudders, and also evaluate the influence of the assembly elements on the lateral stability of the aircraft at low flight speeds. The results obtained have confirmed the stated design characteristics,” -Alexander Krutov, Junior Researcher, TsAGI

Wind tunnel testing of the Slon model has been ongoing. Photo: TsAGI Press Service

TsAGI noted at the time that this stage of tests would be completed in 2020, with work in 2021 focused on improving the aerodynamic layout based on the test results. Design, take-off and landing mechanization of the aircraft wing and further wind tunnel research would also take place in 2021.

Filling an important niche

Alexander Krutov, a Junior Researcher at TsAGI, also notes that after the gradual decommissioning of the An-124 Ruslan, “a niche will be formed that can be filled with a new aircraft built on the basis of promising technologies.” Krutov believes that civilian cargo companies will become the main customer of the new aircraft. However, it is also expected that the military will be able to transport their cargo with this aircraft, complementing the operations of An-124s still in service.

When do you think this mammoth aircraft will finally become a reality? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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