By Bjorn Fehrm
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Aug. 20, 2015, © Leeham Co.: Conventional wisdom credits Bombardier’s CSeries with being the disruptor that prompted Airbus to launch the A320neo, which in turn caused Boeing to launch the 737 MAX and Embraer to launch its E-Jet E2.
But an academic paper by John Slattery, chief commercial officer for Embraer, reveals that David Hess, the former president of Pratt & Whitney, credits Mitsubishi rather than Bombardier as the catalyst for the dramatic changes that followed.
In a paper entitled Resources & Rivalry, A Case Study of The Single-Aisle Commercial Jet Manufacturing Industry, Slattery interview present and former executives of the Big Four airframe manufactures, the former CEO of ILFC and officials of P&W.
The paper provides a chronicle of thinking leading to decisions to move ahead with new airplane projects, including re-engining the A320 and 737 rather than proceeding with new, clean-sheet designs.
The interviews debunk some of the conventional wisdom surrounding the variety of programs. We’ll periodically report the findings of Slattery’s paper, starting with PW and Mitsubishi.
By Bjorn Fehrm
Aug. 19 2015, ©. Leeham Co: We will now finish our series over Boeing’s changes to its configuration rule sets by looking at how this affects the Very Large Aircraft (VLA) segment.
Airbus and Boeing used to describe the VLAs in their line-ups using three class cabins, albeit with different standards. Now Boeing has changed its standard to a modern three class seating while Airbus has changed to a four class cabin, including premium economy.
We have enough information of the A380 equipped with a three class cabin to be able to make a comparison using three class rule sets. We will therefore apply a three class cabin to the A380 and 747-8 that will have modern seating standards and pair that with Boeing’s tougher payload weights and enroute reserves.
Aug. 19. 2015, © Leeham Co. Boeing sees a “healthy” future for the 767 commercial line, but won’t comment whether this includes an effort to rekindle interest for
passenger airlines, or if the future is strictly for cargo carriers.
It was almost a throw-away question and answer at last week’s Jefferies Co. Global Industrial Conference at which Greg Smith, the CFO of The Boeing Co., appeared. Howard Rubel, the aerospace analyst for Jefferies, asked, “All of a sudden we’ve seen orders for 767s. It’s a 4,000 mile aircraft that is easy to operate and easy to fit into the fleet.” Could there be more orders? he asked. The question was obviously prompted by the July order by FedEx for 50 firm and 50 optioned 767-300ERFs. The 767-300ER’s capacity and range fits in the general description of the so-called Middle of the Market aircraft being explored by Boeing.
“There are opportunities,” Smith replied. “I think we will continue to see a healthy product line. At the same time we are still looking for opportunities to make the airplane more efficient in the operating cost perspective.”
That was it.
This raised more questions than the one that was answered:
Aug. 18, 2015, (c) Leeham Co. The US Air Force should not proceed with a decision giving Boeing the go-ahead for low-rate production on the KC-46A tanker “before it has adequate knowledge that
the KC-46A can perform its aerial refueling mission,” the Government Accountability Office said in an April report.
This was before the latest delays, the impact of which remains undetermined, resulting from Boeing inserting the wrong chemical through a test KC-46A’s fueling system. The Seattle Times reported a vendor mislabeled the chemical. Boeing had already eaten up development margin in the timeline. When the GAO issued its April report, one of its periodic reviews of the program, the flight testing schedule had already been compressed to a mere three months before the low-rate production decision is due in October.
The flight testing is already running eight months behind schedule.
“Boeing is at risk of not meeting the entrance criteria needed to support the projected October 2015 low-rate production decision,” the GAO wrote in April, “and will have less knowledge about the reliability of the aircraft than originally planned. The small schedule margin that was built into the program has eroded….”
Aug. 17, 2015 (c) Leeham Co: Sometimes I never know what’s going to exercise readers. Sometimes it’s obvious. Last week it wasn’t.
Our post last week about the formidable challenges still facing Bombardier for the CSeries brought some surprising reaction, particularly on Twitter. And I didn’t see it coming.
The story was behind the paywall, but Canada’s National Post saw the public portion and called to get more information. The Post published some comments from an interview and with permission recreated a chart that was behind the paywall.
We’ve been doing risk assessments of “skyline” quality for a couple of years now, including Bombardier, which is why the reaction to last week’s post came as a surprise.
Our risk assessment has taken a couple of forms. For Bombardier, it’s a Green-Yellow-Red assessment, the meaning of which really doesn’t mean any explanation for anyone who drives a car or, in the aerospace industry, has ever seen Boeing’s Green-Yellow-Red assessment of access to aircraft financing it does every year.
The other symbolic method we use is nautical: Storm Warning Flags, looking at the top 10 narrow- and wide-body customers of Airbus and Boeing and raising a Storm Warning Flag about how solid the order is. We do this annually and the most recent time for Airbus and Boeing customers is here, also behind our paywall.