Update, April 1, 0800PDT: Boeing just issued this statement in response to the DOD announcement yesterday:
ST. LOUIS, April 1, 2010 – The U.S. Department of Defense on March 31 said it will extend the deadline to receive proposals in the U.S. Air Force KC-X Tanker competition from May 10 to July 9 if European Aeronautic Defence and Space (EADS) makes a formal request for an extension. The Boeing Company today responded with the following statement:
“We are deeply disappointed with EADS-Airbus efforts to further delay this vital warfighting program and tilt the U.S. procurement process in its favor. EADS-Airbus has been fully engaged in the competition for four years and was always expected to provide the vast majority of its team’s work content.
“We welcome the denial of EADS’s repeated requests to alter U.S. warfighting requirements, and we support the Air Force’s stated intent to provide a level playing field for qualified competitors. We do not see a legitimate reason for EADS’s bid deadline extension request, and we believe an extension that favors any individual competitor does not further the goal of ensuring fair competition.
“Boeing remains fully prepared to submit a competitive proposal by the May 10 deadline originally set by the Air Force. However, this latest development, along with the World Trade Organization’s recent final ruling that Airbus has been heavily and illegally subsidized for decades, requires Boeing to review all of our options for going forward while we wait for a final determination on a deadline extension.”
DOD just announced that it will extend the deadline from May 10 for 60 days to July 9 in order to give EADS the opportunity to submit a bid for the KC-X contract. This is contingent upon EADS notifying the Pentagon of its intent to bid.
EADS hoped for 90 days.
The Pentagon will compress its evaluation schedule to stay on its delivery date timeline for an early-fall contract award. No changes will be made in the RFP. The Pentagon also rejected questions whether political interference was involved.
Geneva, Switzerland: Here is a report we did for Commercial Aviation Online from the Aircraft Finance and Commercial Aviation conference, followed by some additional commentary and reporting exclusive to this column concerning the prospect of re-engining the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737. Our additional commentary includes a discussion of the Bombardier CSeries and the PW GTF engine.
Geneva, Switzerland: During the Aircraft Finance and Commercial Aviation Conference, we filed a couple of stories in aircraft finance with Commercial Aviation Online. Since CAO is a paid subscription service, our arrangement with CAO is that it gets exclusive use for a few days before we can post the stories here.
The stories are below the jump. In them, we report what panelists had to say about the “funding gaps” in 2009 and 2010 and about aircraft values.
A flurry of activity has been happening on the air force tanker front while we’ve been in Geneva, Switzerland, (working, not playing). Unfortunately, we think the activity has all been rather sad.
In the aftermath of the World Trade Organization issuing its final report on the US Trade Representative complaint about illegal subsidies to Airbus, the anti-Airbus crowd has once again seized on this issue to attack the new reports that Airbus parent EADS is now likely to bid on the KC-X contract against Boeing’s KC767NewGen.
Update, March 29: Airbus CEO Tom Enders now says a decision will be made in two-three weeks.
Geneva, Switzerland: EADS will decide within days whether to pursue a bid on the KC-X tanker program, this column has learned.
The Pentagon has yet to officially decide whether to grant a 90 day extension so EADS can be fully briefed on what is necessary to make a bid, something that Northrop Grumman had previously done as the prime contractor. EADS needs to be brought up to speed on everything Northrop learned during the previous effort to bid on the tanker.
The second day at the Aircraft Finance and Commercial Aviation Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, covered a lot of ground but the most interesting for our readers is the skepticism over the prospect of re-engining the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 families.
Potential buyers are anything but convinced this is the way to go. They look at the unknown capital cost, the new costs associated with maintenance, inventory and other factors, and have yet to be convinced that the net-net fuel savings will be sufficiently large to offset the added costs.
Here are our thoughts and observations from Day 1 of the Aircraft Finance conference in Geneva, Switzerland:
The mood here among the 300+ attendees in generally upbeat. There is a general sense that the airline industry has seen its worst and recovery is on the way. A leading indicator is the improvement in the cargo market, which is showing substantial gains year-over-year. Passenger traffic is up but premium traffic, while also showing gains, has a long way to go to recover. Even the notoriously pessimistic IATA was upbeat.
Aircraft financing for new airplanes is available but expensive. Aircraft financing for used aircraft is much less available.
The Airbus A319 and Boeing 737-700 cannot effectively compete with the Bombardier CSeries, even if re-engined, is some of the talk here. We were on a panel with James Billing of Boeing and Richard Aboulafia of The Teal Group. Billing prudently avoided being dragged into the discussion over the CSeries, sticking with market forecasts for the single-aisle segment; Aboulafia termed the CSeries a “niche” aircraft. We suggested that Airbus and Boeing could and should “crush” the CSeries by pricing the A319RE and 737-700RE as part of a family offering in airplane campaigns with the A320/321 and 737-800/900 by offering prices on the smaller models Bombardier couldn’t hope to match with the CSeries. Boeing’s Billing and Randy Tinseth, who was in the audience, figuratively ran for the hills on this suggestion—anti-trust regulators would be all over the company on this scenario. An Airbus official in the audience caught us afterward and merely suggested this wouldn’t be a good idea. The genesis of this is that Airbus introduced the A318 to kill the McDonnell Douglas MD-95 and Boeing priced the 737-600 at a reputed $16.7m to undercut MDC’s launch customer sale to SAS. The MD-95 never recovered from the two actions; the A318 and 737-600 proved to be sales dogs.
There is a growing belief that the Open Rotor engine will not be a successful solution for A320/737 replacement airplanes and the second generation GTF and Leap-X engines will be.
The reaction to the WTO Final Report at the Aircraft Finance Conference is a Big Yawn, even among Americans here in the Geneva, Switz, venue. As one person with close ties to Boeing put it, “Nobody cares.”
At a briefing we attended Tuesday night about the final report, we didn’t hear anything that meaningfully changed our commentary below.
The Final Report on the US complaint about illegal subsidies to Airbus is due tomorrow (March 23), but it will remain confidential until sometime in April before a public version is released for all to see.
Partisans on both sides of the dispute are already lining up in pre-issuing statements and, in the US case, an orchestrated media campaign touting how dastardly Airbus has been.
Update, 10:00AM PDT: Defense News has this item that adds more to this increasingly goofy story. A firm named World Aviation Maintenance Co. from Omaha, Neb., is identified as the US company involved in this story–but Google does not provide any “hits” on this firm and neither does the anywho.com web-based telephone directory.
George Talbot of The Mobile Press-Register has this bizarre twist in the KC-X tanker saga: a Russian official with United Aircraft Corp. says he doesn’t know what the California attorney purporting to represent UAC is talking about when it comes to the report last week that UAC will enter the tanker contest. Yet the attorney provided documents to Talbot backing up his claim. Read the story here.