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Consequences of the Boeing tragedy

27.03.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
The consequences of the tragedy that happened to Ethiopian Airline’s Boeing 737 Max passenger plane could shake the position of world leaders in the manufacture of airliners in Africa.
The aircraft crashed on March 11 during its journey along the route Addis Ababa – Nairobi, killing all 157 passengers on board, including 8 crew members.

The cause of the disaster is not yet clear. However, it is reported that the pilot reported difficulties and asked to return to Addis Ababa. Officials are investigating whether changes in the automatic control system of the aircraft could have led to uncontrollable loss of height. Ethiopian airline testifies that in February, the plane underwent a thorough technical inspection. The captain of the aircraft of Kenyan-Ethiopian descent was considered an experienced pilot, with eight thousand flying hours over his shoulders.

Another aircraft of the same model crashed less than five months ago, when the Lion Air flight fell into the sea near Indonesia with nearly 190 people on board.

The liner belonged to the latest generation of Boeing 737 Max, which is available in four versions and is the most bought aircraft in the history of the American corporation.

Ethiopian Airlines has temporarily suspended this aircraft. A similar decision was announced by the authorities of China and Mongolia. Vietnam also abandoned the operation of the aircraft. Indonesian airline Garuda has publicly announced that it plans to cancel an order worth $ 6 billion for Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, because many passengers are afraid to board the plane after two tragedies.

AFRICAN AVIATION MARKET

Analysts believe that by 2026 the GDP of the African continent will grow by 1.4%. And the total passenger turnover will increase by three times compared with the 2016 figures. In the long run, narrow-body and wide-body aircraft with a capacity of 150 and 250 seats will form the basis of the demand of African airlines. Total demand for aircraft is projected up to 810 units.

With the formation of a new middle class and the growth in consumption of the African population, it is expected that the economic growth rates of the region will average 4.4% per year, which is significantly higher than the world average. Improvements in the economy have a positive effect on the demand for air travel. Nevertheless, the effective development of the African aviation market is hampered by a number of serious problems, including the underdeveloped infrastructure and high rates of air crashes, which are much higher than the world average. Aviation is one of the most important components of economic development in Africa. This industry creates 6.7 million jobs and brings about $ 6.8 billion to the continent’s economy every year.

Today, civil aviation in Africa, like the whole world, flies on Airbus and Boeing. Most of the countries of the African continent mostly fly on the old technique. Also, African countries traditionally have high interest in Russian technology. In this light, the aircraft An-12, An-26, Tu-135, Tu-154. Aircraft finalize their term.

Today, Russia can offer Africa new aircraft, based both on the traditions of the Soviet aircraft industry, and on the use of modern developments. We are talking primarily about the aircraft “MS-21” (from 150 seats).

AIRPLANE OF THE 21ST CENTURY

The name of the Russian aircraft “MS-21” stands for “mainline aircraft of the XXI century.” As conceived by the designers, it should not only replace outdated models from the USSR, such as the Tu-154, but also become a serious competitor to the popular Airbus A320 and Boeing 737.

The MS-21 aircraft has unique Russian designs. The wing is entirely made of polymer composite materials. For a medium-haul aircraft, this is a revolutionary step; as carbon fiber was used as a construction material only in wide-body long-haul aircraft such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 XWB. The peculiarity of composite materials is that the parts made of them correspond to or exceed the strength of traditional ones that are created from aircraft alloys. Such parts are lighter; their use reduces the weight of the aircraft and reduces fuel consumption, which reduces the price of a ticket for a passenger and increases the competitiveness of the airline.

The economic efficiency of the MS-21 is determined by the presence of a modern power plant, high aerodynamic quality, increased comfort and reduced time for boarding / disembarking passengers due to a wider passage, which eliminates the “tunnel effect” when one passenger loads the luggage on the shelf and the other waiting for him to go to his place. The MS-21 has a wider fuselage (4.06 m) than the A320NEO and 737MAX. The idea is to allow two passengers to disperse in the corridor (61 cm versus 48 cm from competitors) and thereby accelerate their embarkation and disembarkation. Engine selection can also be considered a trump card. The Pratt & Whitney engine will allow the MS-21 to demonstrate excellent economic and technical performance. MS-21 should consume 10% less fuel than A320NEO and 737MAX.

And finally, another plus is low price. The cost of the Russian MS-21 aircraft (from 150 seats) is 15-20% lower than the price of its competitors of similar capacity of the Boeing 737MAX-8 (from 162 seats) and the Airbus A320neo (from 165 seats). The first user of the MS-21 should be the Russian company Aeroflot, which will start receiving liners in the first quarter of 2020.

IMMEDIATE PLANS

So far, only Sukhoi Superjet-100 will fly over the African sky. This is another novelty of the Russian aircraft industry, which is already in operation. However, this model is focused on a completely different segment of the global passenger aircraft market. According to the world classification, the Superjet is a regional aircraft, and its capacity is almost half that of the MS-21.

To date, there is an agreement on the supply of four Sukhoi Superjet-100 aircraft for Zambian airlines and another one for the country’s leadership. In April 2018, the manufacturer of the Sukhoi Civil Aircraft (GSS) manufacturer participated in a joint business mission of Russian companies in the aviation industry to Africa. The interested companies from Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria were shown the business version of the Sukhoi Superjet-100 aircraft.

The African Export-Import Bank, through its shareholder, the Russian Export Center will allocate about $ 500 million for the purchase of Russian aircraft and another $ 300 million to support leasing. Manufacturer Sukhoi Superjet-100 “Sukhoi Civil Aircraft” (GSS) is talking only about projects in varying degrees of study “with representatives of several countries of the African continent. There are active negotiations on the supply of aircraft Sukhoi Superjet-100 with Nigeria, Ghana, and Namibia.

COMPETITION IS INCREASING

However, the situation on the world market is developing not in favor of new players in the civil aviation market. At the turn of 2000–2010, manufacturers of regional jets – Embraer E-Jet (Brazil) and Bombardier C Series (Canada) in various variations declared themselves in the global market. But in 2018 both manufacturers came under the care of megabrands. Bombardier has agreed to merge with Airbus, and now Canadian airliners are produced under the name Airbus A220. Embraer responded with a merger with Boeing.

These events demonstrate that economies of scale are playing an increasing role in civil aviation. Boeing and Airbus produce 1,000 airplanes per year and still decided that this is not enough, it is necessary to cover the segment of regional transportation. If the Russian or Chinese aviation industry cannot provide the same scale of output, they will have to be contented with second roles in international cooperation. Both Russia and China are the only countries that retain ambitious goals and are oriented toward approximately the same export markets, including Africa. They want to be the third player after Boeing and Airbus. However, according to many experts, Russian aircraft are better than the Chinese equivalent of the C919, since Russia has extensive experience in the industry.

Whether Russia will be able to offer a real competitive civilian aircraft for African countries will show the coming year.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Credit image: google image

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