As lightweight composite materials and advanced aviation technology enable larger aircraft to take to the skies, it’s interesting to note that the largest airplane in the history of aviation, measured by maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) is Ukraine’s Antonov An-225 Mriya. Designed in the 1980s by the Soviet Union’s Antonov Design Bureau, the airplane took its first flight on December 21, 1988. It was featured at the Paris Air Show in 1989, as well as the Farnborough air show in 1990, where it demonstrated its capabilities by taking-off and landing with the Soviet Buran – an orbital vehicle similar to the renowned US Space Shuttle – on board.
The An-225 was specifically designed to transport the Soviet Buran spacecraft, and when the Soviet space program was abandoned in the 1990s the airplane was put into storage for a time, but later reinstated into service as a cargo jet. With its 46,000 cubic feet (1,300 cubic meters) of cargo space the An-225 is capable of transporting five military tanks, or 50 automobiles, over a distance of 3,000 miles. In September 2001, the An-25 took off carrying 4 battle tanks recorded at 253.82 tons, flying at an altitude of 6,600 feet over a distance of 620 miles at an average speed of 474.2 mph.
With a 640 ton gross weight, the An-225 it is acknowledged to be the heaviest aircraft in the world, and it has a maximum takeoff weight of 1.32 million pounds, or 600,000 kilograms. By comparison the Airbus A380 can take off carrying around 1.24 million pounds, the heaviest of all passenger aircraft.
The An-225’s first commercial flight was in January 2002, flying from Stuttgart, Germany, to Thumrait, Oman, where it delivered 216,000 prepared meals to American military personnel. It has since been employed in transporting emergency supplies to disaster struck areas, and delivering items such as locomotives, massive generators and a range of military supplies. It has transported the heaviest single cargo item ever airfreighted – a generator weighing 420,000 pounds to an Armenian power plant, as well as the longest piece of air cargo ever delivered – two 42-meter wind turbine blades from Tianjin in China to Denmark. In March 2012 it was used to transport equipment from Calgary in Canada to Nigeria that would previously have been sent by sea. The equipment was urgently needed to prevent dangerous gas flaring in Nigeria’s oil industry. The An-225 appeared in the 2004 Guinness Book of Records for 240 record-setting achievements. The An-225 is one-of-a-kind, with a second airplane started but reportedly never completed.
With the increasing demand for a cleaner burning aviation fuel obtained from renewable resources, Airbus recently signed a deal at the 9th China International Air Show in Zhuhai, with Chinese natural gas supplier ENN Group to develop alternative fuels, including fuel derived from algae oil. Extracted, processed and refined from algae, algae oil is considered to be one of the most promising biofuel products being developed for the aviation industry. Depending on the results of a Sino-US feasibility study, a test flight using the biofuel will take place in China in 2013. ENN has the capacity to produce more than ten tons of algae oil-based jet fuel annually.
High oil-output algae was initially considered as an alternative to fossil fuels back in 1978, under the presidency of Jimmy Carter. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory conducted research which tested more than 3,000 different types of algae, the conclusion being that algae oil-based fuel could be used in place of fossil fuels for heating homes and running transportation. But when the gas crisis which had resulted in high prices and long queues at the gas pumps passed, and carbon emissions were not an issue back then, the need for alternative fuels was no longer urgent.
Today, several government agencies and private companies are supporting projects to make the production of algae oil-based fuel more commercially viable. Although harvested algae releases CO2 when burned, the CO2 is reabsorbed by the growing algae. Referred to as ‘algaculture’ the commercial cultivation of algae can be carried out on land that would not have been used for agriculture, so the product is not competing for land that could be used for food crops, which is a concern with some other biofuel products. Other advantages of cultivating algae for fuel are that they can be grown in ocean water as well as certain grades of wastewater. Also, they are biodegradable, burn cleaner and will not pose the same level of risk to the environment as fossil fuels if spilled.
A report by the United States Department of Energy has estimated that to produce sufficient algae-based fuel to replace all the petroleum-based fuel in the United States would only require the equivalent of around 15,000 square miles of land, or 0.42 percent of the United States. But, while space is not a problem, cost is, and this is one of the main issues to be addressed. It’s not so much a question of whether the product can be produced and whether it works, but whether it will be commercially viable.
Promoted as the “first new airplane of the 21st Century”, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner arrived in Beijing on Sunday 4 December to start its scheduled six month tour which will include Ethiopia, Qatar and Kenya. With China being the biggest Boeing customer outside the United States, the aircraft manufacturer will be demonstrating the Dreamliner’s features and benefits to potential and confirmed customers in Beijing, Guangzhou and Haikou between now and 11 December. Identified as having the fastest growing aviation market, China’s four main airlines – China Southern Airlines Co Ltd, Air China Ltd, Hainan Airlines Co Ltd, and Xiamen Airlines – have ordered a total of 41 Dreamliners, while Hong Kong Airlines has reportedly entered into a memorandum of understanding for the purchase of 32 aircraft.
Boeing’s senior vice-president of sales and marketing for the regions of Greater China and Korea, Ihssane Mounir, noted that in addition to having the fastest growing aviation market, China is on track to become the world’s second largest market, despite being affected by the economic slowdown in both Europe and the United States. As China experiences an impressive level of economic growth, it is anticipated that it will become more competitive both in domestic travel and on an international level.
Although there have been numerous delays in the production of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the manufacturer reportedly has firm orders for 821 of the wide-body aircraft. With the current production capacity of two-and-a-half per month, plans for increasing production capability are underway. Featuring between 200 and 300 seats depending on configuration, the Dreamliner is said to be Boeing’s most fuel-efficient model, consuming up to twenty percent less fuel than the Boeing 767 which is of comparable size. One of the unique features of the Dreamliner is the high percentage of composite material used in construction. With final assembly taking place at the Boeing Everett Factory and the new North Charleston factory in South Carolina, the 787 Dreamliner has come about through a large-scale collaboration with suppliers in a number of countries around the world. By the time the aircraft was rolled-out in July 2007 at the Boeing factory in Everett, the company had already received 677 orders, making it the fastest-selling airliner in its class.
Monday, 18 April 2011, was a big day for both China and Boeing, as the plans to construct an addition to their existing factory were unveiled. Aviation Industries Corporation of China, along with Boeing, has entered into a joint venture that will see a new division of the factory in Tianjin produce more composites for the aviation industry. The factory, known as Boeing Tianjin Composites Co, will be able to expand with the $21 million investment Boeing has made, and the factory will be able to run at full production capacity by the year 2013.
Boeing Tianjin Composites has been vital to the production of components used on a variety of Boeing’s aircraft, such as the 777, 737, 747-8 and 787. Companies such as Goodrich, Korean Aerospace Industries and Hexcel rely on Boeing Tianjin Composites to provide them with the components they need. Outsourcing is no longer a questionable route to go for major companies, and it is estimated that almost nine thousand six hundred aircraft are dependent on the parts supplied by China. Current value of the partnership that the Chinese aviation industry has with Boeing is estimated at $2.5 billion. The expansion of the factory is a positive gesture for China, as they believe that it will encourage Boeing to assist the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China with their new venture, which is the production of an aircraft named the C919. It will be a passenger jet aircraft, and if all goes well and according to schedule, the aircraft will be ready for release by the latest 2014.
Commenting on the new addition to the factory, Boeing Supply Chain Management and Operations General Manager, Ray Conner, commented: “It is win-win cooperation. Our Chinese partner will provide high quality components to increase Boeing’s capacity, which in turn boosts our employment in China.” The new addition, which covers an area of fifty-five thousand square meters and provides floor space of twenty-five thousand square meters, will increase employment. To date, Boeing’s involvement in China, with direct and related businesses, has already created approximately twenty thousand employment opportunities within the country.
With the popularity and rising demand for air travel in China, the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, under the leadership of Wu Guanghui, began to design a commercial aircraft that will suit the needs of the aviation industry. A model of the aircraft was recently revealed, and Wu Guanghui spoke to the media in regard to the design process and vision that he has for the aircraft. It is estimated that the design will be completed by the end of 2010, revealing a new era of Chinese aviation to the world.
The new aircraft, named C919, will offer a range of features to increase the comfort of passengers, as designers are striving to improve on the designs used by trusted carriers such as Airbus and Boeing. One of the main design features will be bigger seating for passengers, as the C919 will be able to give passengers additional centimeters to ensure a comfortable journey. The new aircraft will still be able to provide seating for 150 passengers, with six seats being available in each row, but customers will have the choice between widening the aisle space or the seating size. With the correct outlay, the C919 team hopes to achieve new design innovation and move forward in the development of future commercial aircraft.
Another feature that will create interest amongst customers is the fact that the C919 will be ten percent more cost efficient than its contemporaries. A decrease in maintenance and running costs will lead to cheaper airfares, allowing the aviation industry to gain more passengers and offer affordability to the public. The maiden flight for the C919 will take place in 2014, and it is hoped that carriers will be able to accept delivery of the C919 by 2016. Wu Guanghui has predicted estimated sales to be at approximately 2000 units, saying: “I believe we can sell more than 2,000 aircraft, in general, the 150-seat aircraft has a breakeven point of approximately 300 units.” The new C919, will be developed and new models designed to grow with the industry and the demand of the public. It is foreseen that with the rate of growth in air travel in China that more than 2000 units will be needed in the country alone. The aviation industry will be waiting in anticipation to see the C919 take to the skies.
The China Aerospace & Aviation Technology Show 2009, kicked off at the Shanghai New International Exhibition Center today, and will run until the 7th of November 2009. It is a wonderful networking opportunity for everyone in the aviation industry, and international suppliers are able to build up vital relationships within China. There will also be a variety of exhibitors present, in various aviation categories, such as Design Solutions, Airframe Design and Production, Aircraft Interiors, Avionics Systems, Test Equipment, Components, Engines, Structures, Training Services and Engineering Solutions.
For more information regarding the China Aerospace & Aviation Technology Show 2009, visit the official website at www.caats.aero
Date: 3 – 7 November 2009
Venue: Shanghai New International Exhibition Center
Aero India has not been established very long yet it is already growing so much in size that this year it will officially be the biggest air show in Asia. The event is organized by the Ministry of Defense and the Government of India in association with the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO), the Department of Space, the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Union Ministry For Civil Aviation.
China is one of the largest and most populous nations in the world with more than one hundred different ethnic groups. The country has a vast and varying geography ranging from flatland in the east to large mountains and plateaus in the west. There are also many rivers around the country like the Mekong and Pearl River in the south of China. Here, over 1.3 billion people live, approximately a fifth of the entire world’s population, making it quite an experience to see just how so many people live together and the technological advances made to ease this reality.
The main airport can be found in Beijing, the capital city of the People’s Republic of China. The International Beijing Capital Airport will probably be the airport that you find yourself using if you visit this fast moving country. When the Beijing Capital Airport was first constructed it was not easily accessible, with only one narrow road from the Sanyuanqiao area. Now, of course, this has all changed and in place of this narrow road is a twenty km Airport Expressway.
Another major airport that you will find in the western part of Shanghai is the Shanghai Hongqiao Airport, which is one of two airports in this city. The other airport is the Shanghai Pudong International Airport ,which was built at the end of the 1990s. The Hongqiap Airport was used for international flights before the Shanghai Pudong airport was built, but today it is used basically for domestic flights. From most of these international airports you will find alternative transport like taxis and minibuses to take you to and around Shanghai.
Airports in China:
The Beijing Capital International Airport is located in the People’s Republic of China, and is approximately 25 kilometers outside the city center of Beijing. Within China, the Beijing Capital International Airport is not only the biggest airport in China, but also the busiest. It first opened its doors on 2 March 1958 and is under the control and management of the Civil Aviation Administration of China. Passenger traffic and air traffic has increased to such an extent that the Beijing Airport now sees an average of 33 million passengers pass through its doors every year. The Beijing Airport facilitates over 5 000 scheduled flights to 88 destinations within China, and 69 international flights.
The airport has 3 impressive terminals. Terminal 1 came into operation on 1 January 1980. Construction on Terminal 2 ended in 1999, after which Terminal 1 was closed for renovation to replace the old 1980’s building. Up until the completion of Terminal 2, the Beijing Airport only had the use of one terminal. In 2004, a new and modern Terminal 1 was back in business, taking responsibility for the domestic flights and international traffic. The new terminal is 60 000 square feet, has ten boarding gates and can accommodate 60 daily flights. It also has car parks and a parking apron.
The airport’s secondary terminal, Terminal 2, is 336 000 square meters in size and it is equipped with all the latest technology and equipment. Terminal 2 was designed to accommodate approximately 26.5 million passengers a year and currently deals with domestic and international flights. Terminal 3 was completed in in 2008. It houses a number of major international airlines, as well as Air China. Interestingly, Terminal 3 is bigger than all 5 of London Heathrow Airport’s 5 terminals combined.
At present, the Beijing Capital International Airport has two asphalt runways that are 3 200 meters and 3 800 meters, respectively. The third runway is constructed from concrete and measures 3 800 meters. Facilities that are available throughout the terminals include public telephones, fast food outlets, clinics, banks, smoking areas, restrooms, commercial centers and restaurants.
The Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport is located approximately 13 kilometers outside the city center of Shanghai. Hongqiao International Airport is the very first civilian airport that was constructed in Shanghai over eighty years ago. Renovations have been done to the airport over the years and is one of the primary airports in China. Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport used to accommodate most of Shanghai’s international flights, but after the construction of Pudong Airport, Hongqiao Airport concentrates mainly on domestic air travel.
The Hongqiao Airport operates from one terminal that is 82 000 square meters in size. The terminal includes 18 VIP lounges and 15 waiting halls. At present, the Hongquiao Airport accommodates 300 flights a day, which is made easier by the 15 luggage conveyor belts that are in the terminal. Inside the terminal, either waiting to leave or waiting for a loved one to arrive, the terminal offers many facilities to pass the time with. Facilities such as clinics, beauty salons, fitness center, postal services, ATMs, fast food outlets, restaurants, business centers, shopping areas and smoking rooms are available to passengers. Transportation to and from the airport is taken care of by taxis, buses and rental car companies.
Airlines that fly to and from the Hongqiao Airport include China Southern Airlines, Xiamen Airlines, Air China, Shangdong Airlines, Spring Airlines, China Eastern Airlines and Shanghai Airlines.
The Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport has one taxiway and one runway. The runway is constructed from asphalt and is 3 400 meters in length. The apron is approximately 486 000 square meters and can accommodate 66 aircraft. The Hongqiao Airport has an advanced infrastructure and has the latest technology available in regard to navigational, security and communication systems. Even though all international flights have been transferred to Pudong Airport, the systems still allow Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport to receive any aircraft and is always on stand-by for any emergencies or diverted planes.