Odds and Ends: Russian MC-21 subsidy; C919 assessment; ExIm countdown

Two news items popped up today on emerging aircraft.

MC-21 subsidy: Government subsidies for commercial aircraft development have been a sore point between the US and Europe (i.e., Boeing and Airbus) for decades. Although the US and Europe went through years of international disputes at the World Trade Organization on behalf of Boeing and Airbus, with adverse decisions now under appeal by both sides, and even though Canada and Brazil previously won cases over illegal subsidies to Embraer and Bombardier, nothing has come of the decisions–and nothing has been done about government subsidies by Japan and China to their aerospace industries. No complaints to the WTO have been filed against either country, which are members of the WTO.

This article updates some information about Russian aid to Irkut, which is developing a competitor to the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 families. The MC-21 and China’s COMAC C919 are directly sized against the best-selling single-aisle airplanes. Russia is not a member of the WTO, so there is no legal basis (that we know of) to file a complaint.

Long-time readers know we disdain the entire WTO process anyway as more political than practical. The WTO has no enforcement powers and sanctions that might be authorized by the WTO against offenders don’t have to be implemented (as in the case of Canada and Brazil) or even applied against the offender’s products–another industry altogether may be sanctioned, a silly and unfair prospect.

C919 assessment: This article provides an assessment of the prospects for the COMAC C919. What’s especially interesting in this article is what we aviation geeks have known all along, and that is China uses Western technology to develop its airplanes (and trains, the article points out). Airbus and Boeing identify China as the next viable competitor in the airliner field, albeit perhaps a generation in the future. But the technology is coming from Airbus, Boeing, Embraer, Bombardier, the engine makers and the supply chain. They are creating their own future competitors.

While China’s industrial espionage contributes to its understanding and acquisition of Western technology, most of it comes from joint ventures between Chinese companies and the Western OEMs and suppliers.

ExIm countdown: The authorization for the US Export-Import Bank expires next month, and Boeing is pulling out all stops to get a recalcitrant Republican Party to agree to extend the life of the bank, reports The Hill, one of the specialty publications that covers the US Congress.

Killing ExIm will put Boeing at a disadvantage to Airbus, which uses and will continue to use European Credit Agencies (ECAs) to support sales of its aircraft. Boeing will have to fall back on its internal Boeing Capital Corp. or attempt to help customers find private financing if ExIm tanks.

After-market support becoming key to winning engine orders

Maintenance and power-by-the-hour parts and support contracts are increasingly becoming the deciding factor in deciding which engines and which airplanes will be ordered—it’s no longer a matter of engine price or even operating costs, customers of Airbus and Boeing tell us.

Ten years ago, 30% of engine selection had power-by-the-hour (PBH) contracts attached to them. Today, 70% are connected, says one lessor that has Airbus and Boeing aircraft in its portfolio, and which has ordered new aircraft from each company.

“We’ve seen a huge move in maintenance contracts,” this lessor says.

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PW re-delivering GTF to Bombardier CSeries flight test fleet, airborne program likely next month

Pratt & Whitney has completed a design repair for the Pure Power 1500G used on the Bombardier CSeries Flight Test Vehicles (FTVs) and is re-delivering the engines, Leeham News has learned.

Flight tests are expected to resume in September, likely the first half, according to sources close to the situation. BBD will only say flight tests will resume “in the coming weeks.”

A PW spokesman was equally ambiguous. “We continue to work closely with Bombardier to return the CSeries to flight testing,” the spokesman wrote in an email. “I would also note that the fundamental architecture of the Geared Turbofan engine remains sound.”

The FTVs have been grounded since May 29, when a PW engine on FTV 1 suffered a failure in an oil seal, causing a fire and spewing engine parts into the composite wing of the airplane. The wing is undergoing repairs.

Details of the fix for the FTV engines have not been revealed. But one person familiar with the situation told us that the FTV engine repairs enable the test fleet to return to the air, and that the redesign of the affected area of the engine will be incorporated into a production redesign before the CSeries enters service. Bombardier continues to maintain that the CS100, the first of the two-member family scheduled to enter service, will do so in the second half of 2015. Some aerospace analysts believe BBD will be hard-pressed to meet this schedule, and EIS will slip into early 2016. The larger CS300 was scheduled to enter service six months after the CS100, and it’s unclear if this EIS will continue to have a six month gap.

Bombardier is preparing to resume the flight test program with the four FTVs that have been completed; three more are in assembly.

The Pure Power 1100G for the Airbus A320neo, scheduled to enter service in October next year, will incorporate the production redesign, says the source familiar with the situation. No delay is expected in this program.

Boeing on path to surpass Airbus in single-aisle production

Note: This has updated information from its distribution to our e-newsletter recipients a week ago.

Boeing is on a path to overtake Airbus in producing single-aisle aircraft by the end of this decade.

In the hotly contested single-aisle sector, which Airbus currently leads,  both OEMs are essentially sold out through 2019. Few delivery slots can by found by either of the Big Two. Airbus already plans to boost production of the A320 family to 46/mo in 2016, when its new Mobile (AL) plant comes on line. It will initially produce 4/mo but has the capacity for 8/mo. It’s Tianjin, China, plant is producing at a rate of 4/mo and likewise has the capacity to go to 8/mo. The Toulouse and Hamburg plants are understood to be at capacity now, giving Airbus a total capacity of 59/mo: Hamburg can produce 25/mo and Toulouse 18/mo.

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Odds and Ends: Dual sourcing; FAA overflight bans; Super Constellation

Dual sourcing: There is always much angst in Seattle among the labor groups and Washington State’s elected officials when Boeing decides to put work outside the state. Much of this angst is because Boeing uses this as a sledgehammer to beat up unions for concessions and the state for tax breaks.

But dual sourcing isn’t really a bad thing. Pratt & Whitney is dual sourcing to avoid a single point of failure, as this article explains. Boeing, of course, has made the same point but it always gets submerged by its heavier-handed tactics. We’ve often made the point that if Boeing wants to set up assembly lines elsewhere, why not use the Natural Disaster Risk Diversion as the reason–and nobody could argue the point (well, they could, but it is a valid concern).

FAA overflights: It’s big news here in the USA, likely far less so in the rest of the world: the racial unrest in the small Missouri town of Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, where an unarmed 18-year African-American male was shot six times by a white policeman. Police say the young man attacked a police office. Witnesses say he had his hands up to comply with the officer’s orders. A grand jury will attempt to sort out facts. In the meantime, demonstrations–some peaceful, some not, some with looting–have turned Ferguson into an armed camp of police looking like the Army, in Humvees, battle gear and automatic weapons.

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What order bubble?

Following the Farnborough Air Show last month, media and some aerospace analysts once again began asking the question: is the order bubble done?

We retort by saying, “What order bubble?”

We have been hearing since 2008 if the order bubble was about to burst. We’ve been asked this question many, many times. The trouble in answering this question is that nobody truly defines what they mean by “order bubble” when they ask if the bubble is about to burst.

Do people mean:

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Odds and Ends: CSeries status; Airbus accident analysis; 737 rate increase; Kenya Air holds Boeing hostage

CSeries Status: Here is an interesting, detailed article from a blogger who follows the Bombardier CSeries more closely than anyone we can think of.

The article pretty well summarizes the issues, although we have this additional color: the fixes have been identified and are being installed and are still in Transport Canada review for approval and the green light to resume flight testing.

Airbus accident analysis: Airbus issued a study that looks at the causes of commercial accidents since 1958. The full report may be found here. The report is intentionally light on text and heavy on charts and graphics, so it’s easy to digest.

737 rate increase: Several media reported yesterday that Greg Smith, CFO of The Boeing Co., told an investors day Boeing is likely to decide this year on a production rate increase for the 737 line beyond the 47/mo previously announced to go into effect in 2017. Well, you read it here first–we reported more than a year ago Boeing was looking at a rate increase to 52/mo and even 60/mo. We’ve had in our estimates the 52/mo by 2018, 2019 or 2020, followed by 60 a year or two later.

Kenya Air: no more Boeings: We know some Airbus customers have long tied route authority to buying Airbus airplanes, and China is notorious for holding Airbus and Boeing orders hostage for political reasons. Kenya Airlines now says it won’t buy more Boeing aircraft unless it gets US route authority, according to this article.

Odds and Ends: Boeing discounting; A380 analysis; A320neo LEAP

Boeing discounting: Although Boeing alternately acknowledges it’s under price pressure from Airbus or it’s maintaining pricing on its aircraft, UBS aerospace analyst David Strauss concludes that discounting is increasing on the 737 and 777 but is somewhat better on the 787.

Strauss writes in an August 6 note that discounting on the 737 is around 59%. The 777 is now discounted at about 54% and the 787 trails at 46%. (He doesn’t bother with the 747-8.) These are for in-production models.

Strauss concludes that 737 discounting increased since the introduction of the MAX in 2011.

Current list pricing for the 737 is $78.3m for the -700, 93.3m for the -800 and $99m for the -900. The MAX list prices are $87.7m, $106.9m and $113.3m.

The list prices for the 777 are $269.5m for the -200ER, $305m for the -200LR, $330m for the -300ER and $309.7m for the -200LRF. The -8X comes in at $360.5m and the -9X at $388.7m.

The 787-8 lists for $218.3m, the -9 for $257.1m and the -10 for $297.5m.

We are hearing, however, of special cases in which the 787-9 runs for $135m or significantly less and the 787-8 for as low as $115m. We also hear of the 777-300ER being offered for as little as $128m in special circumstances. The calculated discounts UBS mentions for 737 fall within the pricing range that we hear in the market. Strauss writes that some discounts to list reached 65%, also within the range of what we have heard.

The discounting becomes increasingly important because Airbus says it can price the A330ceo and neo sharply below the 787, up to 25% less. Boeing has far less flexibility to discount the 787 than with the 737NG and 777 Classic. The former still isn’t making money while the latter have amortized production lines–just as the A330ceo line is fully paid for. Airbus has offered the A330ceo at steeper discounts to list than Boeing offers the 787, and the forthcoming neo will also see steeper discounts than the 787–unless Boeing becomes more aggressive in that pricing, which will only increase the time to profitability.

A380 analysis: Here is a good, detailed analysis about the Airbus A380 and its position in the marketplace.

A320neo LEAP: CFM’s LEAP-1A, for the Airbus A320neo, has entered production. Aviation Week has this article with the details.

Overlooked possibilities for the A330neo

There are overlooked possibilities for the Airbus A330-800 and A330-900 New Engine Options.

What, you may ask, are these?

The A330neo might give new life to the poor-selling A330-200F program and, perhaps more importantly better position Airbus to compete for the next round of the USAF Air Force Tanker competition, the KC-Y program.

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Half time 2014 for Boeing and Airbus

The major OEM’s have published their half time 2014 results and we can make an analysis of their half year results together with orders / deliveries and the state of their product lines. We compare Boeing and Airbus on the high end and in a follow up article Embraer and Bombardier on the low end. To make orders and deliveries comparable we include the month of July as the OEMs collected business to be announced at Farnborough mid July.

Boeing had a strong first half 2014. Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA) business is now past the initial problems on the 787 program and delivered 48 units January to June 2014 (8 per month) which is the same numbers as for the 777 program. The 737 is now at rate 40 per month with a first half total of 239 deliveries. The 747-8 is at rate 1 with only 6 deliveries and the 767 has stopped as a commercial program with only 1 delivery during the first half year. The commercial deliveries of 342 aircraft drove a 4% increase in company overall revenue and a 5% increase in earnings compared to first half 2013 (both non-GAAP i.e. the core business performance), this despite a Defense, Space and Security side which was down 5% on revenue and down 15% on earnings.

777-9X, 787-9 and 777-300ER in ANA colours

777-9X, 787-9 and 777-300ER in ANA colors

The troubled unit is Boeing Military Aircraft (BMA) which is struggling with its 767 tanker program (KC46A charged BMA with $187 million and BCA with $238 million due to increased development costs) and it is also fighting to not have its major military airplane program, the F18, stop 3 years from now from lack of orders. The military aircraft order drought contrasts with BCA where first half orders was 783 aircraft, mainly 737 but also 777X, where Emirates and Qatar confirmed their orders for 200 777X. Continue reading