Odds and Ends: ‘We’re happy with LEAP, confident it will meet target’

During the Boeing 1Q2012 earnings call, CEO Jim McNerney had this to say about the story that won’t die (that Boeing continues to look at the PW Geared Turbo Fan for the 737 MAX):

The gear turbo fan, the — yes. The — right now, as I think we’ve announced many, many times, we are working exclusively with CFM on the MAX, and we’re very happy with the development there. We’re confident that we can meet the targets that our customers need and that we’ve promised them. So that’s our plan going forward.

“Right now.” Was this a Freudian slip or an inconsequential choice of words?

Boeing likes American Airlines as stand-alone: McNerney also said Boeing prefers AA to emerge from bankruptcy as a stand-alone airline. This is no shock; the US Airways management is exclusively Airbus, and while American strayed from Boeing last year, it still placed a large order for 737NGs/737 MAXes.

McNerney talks about pricing: I think the summary on pricing is 777 steady, steady as she goes, capturing value, in many ways a uniquely positioned airplane today and significant productivity associated both with better conversion and with taking up rate. So the margin environment there, I would say, is good and favorable going forward. 37, all of the comments I just made on productivity apply. Significant productivity, both absorption kind of productivity due to increased rate as well as conversion productivity per unit. Slightly more aggressive pricing environment due to the introduction of the MAX and the NEO. So there’s launch customer kinds of pricing that have happened in a few cases. But I think at the end of the day, the — we anticipate about half of that market, which is a big number. And we see a pricing environment that’s not too different than the pricing environment we’ve had historically after we get through some of the launch customer — loss — launch customer pricing, which is part and parcel with our business.

[Source for all the quotations: Seeking Alpha Transcripts.]

We are hearing there essentially is a price war going on right now between Airbus and Boeing for single aisles, as Boeing attempts to stem the inroads and success by Airbus with the A320neo. In this case, we’re hearing Boeing is the aggressor (which follows, since it is playing catch-up).

Boeing won Delta Air Lines on the 737-900ER v A321 competition largely on price, we understand–bidding 10% lower than Airbus. We also believe price is likely the determining factor in the soon-to-be-completed United Airlines deal, where Boeing is widely reported to now be the favorite.

Another story that won’t die

We’ve recently tagged a few items “a story that won’t die.” Here is another one, the continuing analysis of the Pratt &
Whitney GTF for the Boeing 737 MAX.

Although Boeing’s Lauren Penning told The Puget Sound Business Journal there isn’t a “team” at Boeing working on this prospect, reports out of Aspire Aviation (now Orient Insight), Aeroturbopower, Airline Economics and last month’s ISTAT meeting continue to create buzz on this topic. The AirInsight piece was published in limited circulation two weeks ago.

USAF inserts plan for AF One replacement into future

The current Air Force One (all two of them) entered service in 1990 and 1991 and are based on the Boeing 747-200. The time appears nearing for a replacement.

Defense News reports that the USAF has added replacements in its future planning.

Given the long history of the Secret Service demanding more than two engines, a replacement would almost certainly be the Boeing 747-8I.

Here are a couple of links to the history of Air Force One here and here.

Boeing reveals some MAX details, at last

Boeing has, at long last, revealed some details about the 737 MAX, most of which have long been talked about in various media. Boeing is further testing new wingtip designs–with or without winglets? And while readers cite this articlein our previous post linking AirInsight about winglets in an effort to discredit the conclusions, the last paragraph is noteworthy:

For the forward-fit market, LaMoria sees a “very healthy” business for Boeing 737s for the “next 5-6 years”, but there is no guarantee the company will select APB blended winglets for the GE Leap-1B-powered 737 Max, set for entry into service 2017. “We have a lot of long-lead future-oriented plans in place in hopes of working with Boeing for many years to come,” says LaMoria. “But Max is still an open question.”

Separately, see this Aeroturbopower article.

Odds and Ends: ExIm Bank, 777X, Winglets, 737 MAX

ExIm Bank: The fight between Delta Air Lines and the ExIm Bank continues.

As readers know, Delta is behind the move to block ExIm Bank financings of wide-body airplanes to international customers. We’ve a link to a Wall Street Journal article that gives another take on the controversy, so we won’t repeat the details here (which we’ve written about on several occasions).

Then last week, ExIm approved a guarantee with the Brazilian airline GOL for CFM 56 engines on Boeing 737NGs, with a proviso that GOL send the engines to Delta TechOps (a subsidiary of DAL) for maintenance. This caused quite the kerfuffle, as noted in the Politico article (also linked below).

Finally (actually not, but it is for today’s post), there is an editorial in the Washington Post that Delta really likes and sent on to us. That link is also below.

Readers know that we think the effort to block the ExIm Bank is stupid. Delta takes pains to say it is not against the Bank, only against funding international wide-body sales that compete with US international air carriers (and most specifically, Delta).

We understand Delta’s position but largely disagree with it. Delta does have a point when healthy carriers like Emirates Airlines use below-market rate ExIm funding. But Delta is off the mark when it comes to objecting to the concept that ExIm supports funding to foreign companies that are financially unable to commercial lending without the government guarantee. This is precisely why ExIm was created in 1934–to boost US sales to these companies.

Nearly $12bn in Boeing airplane sales (most equipped with GE Engines) were backed by ExIm guarantees last year and it will probably be a similar number this year. It’s anybody’s guess how many of these sales would not have happened had ExIm not stepped up.

We fully concur that it makes little sense for carriers like Emirates to qualify for ExIm. And international parties agreed last year to set market rates for ExIm services (replacing below-market rates), beginning January 2013. Delta remains skeptical that this solves the problem and that it will take years to see the results. It’s correct on the latter point and cynical on the former.

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Odds and Ends: FAA’s NextGen, B-52 at 50

FAA’s NextGen: This short piece analyzes the benefits of the FAA’s NextGen air traffic management system. A 36-page report is available here.A Washington (DC) think tank called Eno has a lot of stuff about NextGen, including a recent synopsis of a debate about the program and a You Tube link within the synopsis of the debate.

This is a much more balanced view of the benefits and shortfalls in FAA policy than one consultant who revels in criticism but offers no solutions. We recommend the constructive approach.

Alaska Airlines has implemented a piece of NextGen. Here is a New York Times article describing the effort.

B-52 turns 50: And that’s just the youngest one. DOD Buzz has this story about America’s venerable bomber.

Odds and Ends: 777-9X will create new class of airplane

Boeing 777X: The 777-8X, said to be a replacement for the 777-200, is really sized closer to the 777-300 and the 777-9X is a new class of airplane. See this story for details.

A330neo: It’s a story that won’t die: talk of re-engining the A330. But does it make sense? AirInsight completed a short report in which economics of the A330, the A330neo, the A350, the 787 and the 777 are evaluated. The results indicate that while the A330neo will have a major gain in fuel performance, and in fact will be almost equal to the 787-8 with substantially more seats for revenue opportunities, it still falls short of the 787-9 and the A350.

The A330neo, suggested by AirAsia, would mimic the minimum-change A320neo and thus be different in scope than the original A350 proposal, which was a re-engined, new-wing, new system version of the A330 (much as the 777X will be compared with the 777). Airbus says it’s not interested in the A330neo “for now” but consultant Michel Merluzeau predicted at a conference organized by the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance that Airbus will eventually proceed with the airplane.

But are the gains good enough to make sense to proceed with the project? The report is offered for sale for a modest $99.

WTO, Airbus and Boeing: It’s another story that won’t die (and do we wish it would): The US vs the EU on the illegal subsidies to Airbus. The US has stepped up its pressure to have the EU decide that the assertions by the EU that it has complied with the WTO findings are inadequate. The US wants to impose $7bn-$10bn in sanctions annually. The EU says the US is full of it.

MAX v NEO: Guy Norris at Aviation Week did his own analysis of the fluff Airbus and Boeing put out about the MAX and NEO fuel efficiency. Just goes to show you can’t believe either party. That’s why we like to rely on the analysis of the customer. Lufthansa has analyzed the MAX and NEO and told us last year (and again at ISTAT last month) it concludes there is only a two percent difference (in Boeing’s favor) between MAX and NEO, which LH said both times simply retains today’s status quo between the two OEMs. (This also throws cold water on Boeing’s claim that the NG is 8% more efficient than today’s A320.)

Missing Bob Crandall

The link to a video of Bob Crandall on the Charlie Rose show speaking to airline industry issues, and the bankruptcy at American Airlines, spurred some comments from our readers. The most interesting comment came from a Doug Stephan, whose comment is reproduced at the end of this post.

When we co-owned Commercial Aviation Report (until recently called Commercial Aviation Online by Flight Global, which became the fourth owner of the company), we resided in Dallas in Bob Crandall’s backyard at American.

Naturally the proximity gave us many Crandall stories. Stephan’s comment spurred us to remember some. We share a few with readers today.

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