Strategic Meetings Summit London, 26 September,
September 29 2022, Kimpton Fitzroy London
Friday 30 September 2022, JW Marriott Grosvenor
Virgin says that it recognises the fuel efficiency gains that using twin-engined aircraft can provide, as the UK carrier ordered 15 787s.
”We”ve decided to move on with the world,” said Virgin Atlantic chairman Richard Branson, as he surprised the airline industry with an order 15 of the new Dreamliners.
Branson certainly caught the airline industry unawares with a 15-strong order announcement for the Boeing 787 at what was supposed to be a fairly low key re-introduction of the airline”s daily Heathrow ” Chicago service last Tuesday.
Virgin has gone for the ultra long-range -9 version of the aircraft and will offer both Perth and Hawaii as destinations, with initial deliveries slated for 2011.
This will be the first time that Virgin has ordered a twin-engined aircraft. ”We”ve decided to move on with the world,” said Branson at a very well supported press conference in Chicago”s impressive Museum of Science and Industry. ”Having twin-engines makes an enormous difference to fuel burn and carbon emissions.”
He claimed that the 787, known as the Dreamliner, would use 27% less fuel than Virgin”s existing Airbus 340-300 per passenger. It would also be 60% quieter carrying about the same number of passengers.
Chief executive Steve Ridgeway, said that the plan was from 2011 to standardise on a fleet of Airbus A380s, Airbus A340-600s and Boeing 787s. He emphasised that it was important to have two manufacturers competing for every order ”preferably three.”
Both Sir Richard and Ridgeway pointed out that considerable work was going on behind the scenes to improve the whole efficiency of the aircraft operations. Sir Richard said that, together with Boeing, Virgin was looking at ways of motorising the front bogie of the aircraft in order to manoeuvre them on the ground without the use of tow trucks. Power would come from units already on the aircraft providing air conditioning and lighting. Short term trials with tow trucks were being conducted at London”s Heathrow and Gatwick airports and San Francisco International Airport producing positive results, while work was continuing to develop alternative operational procedures at the world”s busiest hubs.
Previously Virgin has criticised the take off delays at New York Kennedy described as ”considerable.” Branson also noted that talks were taking place with the air traffic authorities to try and ”smooth” the approach and departure procedures for aircraft, which would reduce noise and fuel burn.
The partnership with Boeing attracted much attention. The two companies are developing a joint biofuel demonstration aimed at developing sustainable fuel sources suitable for commercial jet engines. Amongst materials being considered as replacement for oil are soya beans, algae and prairie grass. ”We are still at a stage, to use a pun, where we are trying to separate the wheat from the chaff,” Boeing chief executive James McNerney, explained.
Ridgeway, elaborated on the environmental theme. "The environmental partnership includes a joint biofuel demonstration aimed at developing sustainable fuel resources suitable for commercial jet engines and the aviation industry. The evaluation, scheduled for summer 2008 using a Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400, is being worked on jointly with GE Aviation and Virgin Fuels," he said.
No engine announcement was made for the new aircraft with Rolls-Royce and GE as the two contenders. First Choice and Monarch have both ordered different versions with earlier delivery dates, while British Airways has said that the aircraft is 'under consideration'.
On a less serious note, Sir Richard”s efforts with a Virgin 787 simulator set up at a mammoth party to celebrate the Chicago route was not a success. Watched by crowds of guests including Boeing Commercial Aircraft president Scott Carson the Virgin Atlantic chairman made what could only be described as a very heavy landing somewhat short of the runway. ”Well I did my best,” was all that the ex-balloon pilot would say.