Boeing faces 737 production gap: analysis

Subscription Required.

Introduction

Sept. 2, 2015, (c) Leeham Co. Boeing faces a production gap for the 737, based on an analysis of the delivery streams of the 737NG and the 737 MAX.

There’s a production gap for the Boeing 737 more than 100 airplanes, according to a Leeham Co. analysis. Boeing photo.

While focus of Boeing production gaps has been on the 777 Classic and, to a lesser extent, the 747-8, few have analyzed the production gap for the 737 line. Boeing announced rate increased from 42/mo to 47/mo in 2017, the year the MAX enters service, and again to 52/mo the following year. The company is studying taking rates even higher, to 60/mo, by 2020. Boeing cites a large backlog and continued demand for the 737 for boosting production rates.

But Market Intelligence indicates emerging concerns about the gap.

Summary

  • We see a gap of perhaps 100-200 737s in 2017 and 2018, even as the 737 MAX is “feathered” into production of the 737NG.
  • Beyond 2018, the apparent gap depends largely on the delivery stream of Unidentified MAX customers accounting for nearly 600 orders identified by the Ascend data base. Boeing lists just over 1,000 Unidentified 737 orders through July (August figures aren’t out yet), sharply higher than the Ascend data base.
  • The current low fuel price environment is a concern.

Read more

Union leaders stall contract vote for Republic

Republic Airways Holdings appeared to resume its downward trajectory toward a potential bankruptcy when the leadership of its pilots union refused to put the company’s last, best and final and final offer for a new pilot contract.

Republic subsidiaries provide regional airline service to American, Delta and United airlines.

Republic says pilot shortages caused it to reduce operations. Pay raised, benefits and working conditions have been at the heart of the protracted contract negotiations between the company and the Teamsters, which represents the pilots.

Republic previously restructured one of its smaller subsidiaries outside bankruptcy, but with pilot shortages and reduced revenue to support debt service, the situation is worse now than it was then.

Republic also has billions of dollars worth of aircraft orders, with nearly $2.7bn due next year. This includes the first of 40 Bombardier CS300s and a number of Embraer E-Jets.

Read more

Pontifications: Casting eyes toward Dubai Air Show

By Scott Hamilton

By Scott Hamilton

Aug. 31, 2015, © Leeham Co. September begins tomorrow and we’re only nine weeks away to the 2015 Dubai Air Show.

We’re looking to this event to be the last big opportunity for major airplane orders for this year. While it’s true that Airbus, Boeing and the other OEMs make a big year-end push to top off the order book, the Dubai show has become increasingly on a par with the Farnborough and Paris air shows, but focused on wide-body orders and program launches.

Eyes on the Dubai Air Show will be watching for what could be would be this year’s prize catch: whether Emirates Airlines will be ready to place the oft-talked about order for 50-70 Airbus A350-900s or Boeing 787-10s. (Some have floated an even higher number.) The other big item of interest: whether Airbus will launch the A380neo.

Read more

Boeing’s 767 revitalized as a MOM stop gap, Part 2

By Bjorn Fehrm

Subscription required.

Introduction

Aug. 31 2015, ©. Leeham Co: Last week we started to look at Boeing’s 767 to see if it can serve the passenger and range space which is not well covered by modern aircraft: the 225 passenger/5,000nm sector. Boeing calls this the Middle of the Market or MOM. Boeing recently said that there is some increased interest for the 767. We analyze why and what can be done to increase any chances of it having a new life as a passenger aircraft.

We started with comparing the 767’s different variants to the most likely MOM aircraft from our series “Redefining the 757 replacement requirement for the 225/5000-sector”. We will now continue and look at the 767 in detail, its strong suits and its less efficient areas. We will also discuss what can be made to address the less efficient areas.

Summary:

  • Boeing’s 767 has the right cross section for passenger transportation in the 225 passenger/5,000nm segment.
  • It also carries cargo containers, not as efficiently this time. We show what the consequences are.
  • Finally the wing is not the slender wing of the modern aircraft. We show what impact it will have on overall efficiency.
  • Combined with engines from the 1990s, this gives less than stellar fuel economics. We investigate what can be done about this and how much of an impact it will have in today’s low fuel prices.

Read more

Bjorn’s Corner: Russian aircraft industry.

By Bjorn Fehrm

By Bjorn Fehrm

22 August 2015, ©. Leeham Co: The Russian air show MAKS is taking place in Moscow, on the airfield of Zhukovsky, Southeast of Moscow. The town of Zhukovsky is called the Aero-City of the Russian federation. It houses not only a 17,800ft runway but also the center of the Russian aeronautical research and test knowledge around the gigantic airfield.

Just a couple of miles from the airfield lies the well-known Russian Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute, TsAGI. It has been involved in designing the aerodynamics of all Russian aircraft, including the latest, the Sukhoi Superjet and Irkut’s new MC-21 competitor to the Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A320neo.

I have always been interested in the enigma of the Soviet and later Russian aeronautical industry. It had such a different structure to its western counterparts and has therefore struggled. The MC-21 is a good example. Ilyushin says they are working on MC-21, as does Yakolev and Irkut. Irkut says it is their aircraft, yet I had not heard of Irkut as a plane OEM before MC-21.

My household names for Russian airliners were Tupolev and Ilyushin with perhaps Yakolev for the smaller types. If we included Ukraine during the Soviet period, we could add Antonov as a known airliner OEM. But not Irkut. Yet today the main players doing new civil airliners are Sukhoi and Irkut, neither known for building airliners. How does this all fit together? Here is a try to sort it out. Read more

Boeing’s 767 revitalized as a MOM stop gap?

By Bjorn Fehrm

Subscription required.

Introduction

Aug. 27 2015, ©. Leeham Co: In our Monday article, “Boeing sees healthy future for 767,” Boeing’s spokesperson said, “We are continuing to explore additional capabilities and improvements” for the 767. It was not clear what these improvements were other than a 0.5% engine performance improvement package (PIP) that was introduced earlier in the year. With lower and lower fuel prices, existing aircraft get more and more viable as a stop gap to cover market segments that today are not part of the plans for the OEM’s modern products.

We will therefore examine the 767 deeper to understand what can be improved further and how well such an improved model would serve as a stop gap replacement for the lack of a modern Middle of the Market (MOM) aircraft. We explored how a MOM aircraft should look like in our series, “Redefining the 757 replacement requirement for the 225/5000-sector”.

The 767 has several of the attributes that we found optimal for a MOM aircraft, one having a seven abreast cabin cross section. In the 767 variant that is being produced for the US Air Force tanker program, the 767-200ER, the overall fuselage dimensions are also close to the ones we found desirable for a MOM aircraft.

With fuel now well below $2.00 per US Gallon (about $1.35), we will compare the 767 to our MOM specifications and try to understand where there is a fit and what would needed to be changed to improve the 767’s efficiency so that it could serve as a MOM stop gap. Finally, we will check if such changes can be economically viable in different fuel price scenarios.

Summary:

  • Different to the 757,the 767 is still produced for the foreseeable future, thanks to the US Air Force tanker program.
  • Boeing 767 is the only produced aircraft that has the desired seven abreast cabin, which we found optimal for a MOM aircraft.
  • How does the 767 fuselage and wing compare to the ones we found desirable for the MOM?
  • Is the cargo capability of the 767 acceptable for a MOM role?
  • We explore the primary characteristics in our first article today. We will go deeper with technical and economical analysis in subsequent articles.

Read more

World air cargo market struggles continue; ominous sign for new-build main-deck freighters

A330F Deliveries

Figure 1. A330F once tallied more than 60, but many were converted to passenger models. Today there are just 38 orders. The delivery stream shows a tapering off. Click on image to enlarge.

Aug. 26, 2015: World air cargo markets continue to struggle, according to reports yesterday from Cargo Facts newsletter and The Wall Street Journal.

Neither report bodes well for new-build, main deck freights, although Cargo Facts concludes a demand remains.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Europe-to-Asia volume and rates are falling.

“Maritime and air freight rates for some of the world’s busiest trade routes are tumbling as slower growth in China combined with a sluggish eurozone economy dash forecasts for higher volumes during the normally busy late-summer season,” writes WSJ’s Robert Wall, who is based in London. “The air-cargo market is suffering on several fronts. Lower demand in Asia is coming at the same time air-cargo capacity is climbing. A large chunk of the air-cargo market is transported in the hold of passenger planes. With major airlines adding flights globally this year, that is weighing on cargo rates. Falling fuel costs also are delaying plans by airlines to retire older jets, exacerbating the problem.”

Cargo Facts takes a different view on the belly capacity.

Read more

Six year turnover in sale/leasebacks put supply-demand balance at risk

Subscription Required

Introduction

August 24, 2015, © Leeham Co. When airlines like Indigo of India, Air Asia, Norwegian Air Shuttle (NAS) and Lion Air have outstanding orders for Airbus A320s and Boeing 737s that number in the hundreds, far more than operations and growth appears ready to support, the deals raises the natural  question: What are they thinking?

As LNC’s Bjorn Fehrm explained Friday, one aspect of these big orders is to “flip” the aircraft every six or seven years, a time that roughly coincides with the maintenance holiday/warranty period. Sale/leasebacks are used to finance these huge purchases.

The practice is hardly new. The USA’s JetBlue Airlines, Ryanair and others practiced this flip for years.

Carriers like the new LCCs mentioned above not only plan to do so to avoid major maintenance costs, but also to fuel their growth. In the case of Lion Air and NAS, these companies also plan to lease out aircraft to other airlines.

But there remain risks involved for the companies and for the industry.

Summary

  • The growing practice of flipping aircraft every six or seven years presents risks to lessors.
  • Indigo Airlines has 96 aircraft in service, 430 on order.
  • Select LCCs in Asia, Europe, India have 1,000 A320s, 737s on order.

Read more

Pontifications: FAA shouldn’t be surprised at composite fire duration

By Scott Hamiltn

By Scott Hamilton

August 24, 2015, (c) Leeham Co. News that the US Federal Aviation Administration was surprised at the duration of the composite fire with the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 787 in 2013 came as a surprise to the agency, but it shouldn’t have.

When fire tests were undertaken during the development of the 787, the FAA received comment that the fire testing standards weren’t what they should be from engineers. The FAA largely dismissed these concerns at the time.

More to the point: the take-off crash of a Northrop Grumman B-2 bomber, on which Boeing was a sub-contractor, burned for 24 hours. This should have been a clue to the FAA.

Leeham News and Comment published a long piece March 10, 2009, about composite and aluminum airplane fires after a Boeing 787 on final approach in Laredo (TX) caught fire. The plane landed safely, but the testing was set back months.

I’m reprinting that report in its entirety here.

Read more

Bjorn’s Corner: Sale/Leasebacks

By Bjorn Fehrm

By Bjorn Fehrm

21 August 2015, ©. Leeham Co: IndiGo Airlines firmed up Airbus’ largest aircraft sale by unit numbers in the week. The order is for 250 A320neos. This means the airline goes from 180 A320neos on order to 430. The airline is just finishing off its first order with Airbus for 100 A320ceos, the final eight being delivered over the next months.

How can an airline that did not exist 10 years ago order 430 A320neos?

There are a couple of things that makes this possible, one of them being the Sale/Leaseback. Before we go to Sale/Leaseback and how this enables this magnitude of business, let’s take a quick look at IndiGo. It has certain similarities to other airlines that also close large aircraft deals.

Read more