Odds and Ends: Independents like battery fix; 787 test flight today?; JAL and A350; PAL and 777X

Back to the 787 batteries: The Seattle Times had this story Saturday in which it talked with independent experts who like the battery fix proposed by Boeing. The Time also reported that the first of two test flights might occur today.

JAL may buy A350s: Japan Air Lines may buy 20 Airbus A350s, according to this news report. The aircraft would replace Boeing 777s, according to this report.

Hawaiian firms A321neo order: It was announced in January as an MOU and now Hawaiian Airlines has firmed up its order for 20 Airbus A321neos for use between the Islands and the US West Coast.

Philippine Air Lines may buy 777x: PAL may buy the forthcoming Boeing 777X, looking at the 400-passenger 9X version.

49 Comments on “Odds and Ends: Independents like battery fix; 787 test flight today?; JAL and A350; PAL and 777X

  1. Thanks for this. I found it interesting that by comparison to the Boeing presentation on the fix, the NTSB statement on the presentation and their unhappyness with Boeing’s approach to communications seems to have seen little comment. I thought that was quite a strong statement from the NTSB.

    • Investigative Journalism is a rare beast in the US.
      .. and it is a wheezing one elsewhere.

      though I think a lot is due to news propagators mostly just reparceling items from the main news agencies and entities that hand in articles ( mostly businesses making often stealthy press releases.)

  2. What I missed in the boom box video was the reaction of the exhaust pipe. Pipes reaction must be in a way like a fire hose moves under pressured water. I hope Boeing fixed the exhaust pipe very well to the fuselage. A broken pipe exhausting ‘non fire’ directly to fuselage maybe nasty.

    • It seemed that the boom box demonstration, although very impressive, probably involved only the sealed box alone. It had been filled with an explosive dose of propane which was then ignited to demonstrate the capability of the box to withstand even a powerful internal fiery explosion.

      Presumably, the hole in the box to which the vent tube would normally be attached was sealed up for this box test or the internal pressure might not have been sufficiently high before the relief valve blew open. If this is so, hopefully they will do another similar test with the vent tube attached and sealed at the far end with the relief valve membrane that should then be ruptured by overpressure.

      And this should be done in a manner that verifies the adequacy of the vent tube’s attachment to the fuselage at 39,000 ft. when it blows out.

      • I find this to be extraordinary.They have built a containment device for when things go wrong… rather than answering the question, “What must go right?”
        Potentially spewing hot gases and burning bits of a battery out of a tube in the side of an aircraft does not fill me with confidence.

  3. Howard, you are correct on the HA numbers, but the story is about JAL. The HA agreement is just a MOU at this point. It is not a firm order, yet, neither is the JAL “order, it to is an MOU.

    • Nope, wrong. It’s firm. From the Airbus website: 25 MARCH 2013 PRESS RELEASE
      Following a Memorandum of Understanding in January 2013, Airbus today announced a firm order for 16 A321neo aircraft from Hawaiian Airlines – the first single-aisle order of Airbus aircraft for the carrier.

    • Pratt is the minority engine selection running in 3rd place behind Undecided and GE (in that order).

      • The early orders had more GE customers than PW ones. There hasn’t been an announced GE customer for any A320 neo model sunce 2011, though. Most recent customers have not announced an engine choice, though I would expect Lufthansa to order PW to go along with their earlier PW order.

      • Logical error to view “undecided” as a third selection.
        “undecided” is no selection. ( and when finally done
        can go either way ).
        Then GECAS financing has a strong “selection bias” towards GE ( here CFM ) engines.
        What direction the undecided take in the future will in one part depend on GTF trust building by way of performance ( and reliability ) data expanding the current image.

    • After the “initial surge” of A32XNEO orders, both Boeing and Airbus are running almost “neck-on-neck” in terms of orders.

      • Andreas :
        That was probably correct until last week when 400 or so NEOs were sold.

        The website website Uwe linked to takes the orders from Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa and LionAir already into account. Even the one from Hawaiian. Current stats:
        1.93/day avg for MAX and 2.6/day for Neo since their respective launch (for MAX, the AA order announcement is taken as the initial launch/offer date).

        • But the B-737MAX wasn’t officially launched until after the AA order, in which AA said they are not the launch customer. The official launch customer is WN.

      • KC135TopBoom :
        But the B-737MAX wasn’t officially launched until after the AA order, in which AA said they are not the launch customer. The official launch customer is WN.

        Therein lies a crux, of course, which Boeing brought about themselves, because AA did sign (and announce) a legally binding contract to buy the plane before it was officially launched. AA was not alone in that – ACG and LionAir also signed publicly announced MoUs (significant ones, at that) before the official launch of MAX. I don’t think it’s unfair to hold them to that standard and use the AA MoU sign date as the basis for calculating average orders, given that Boeing have been muddying the waters themselves by talking about numbers for MAX “orders and commitments”, and even announcing they had 700 commitments before they had actually launched MAX.

        However, at the same time, http://www.pdxlight.com/neomax.htm only considers firm orders in their “orders/day” average number, which means it is not quite coherent. Because obviously, a firm order could only have been signed after the official launch. To be a bit more coherent, they should include MoUs in that stat as well, but it is a bit hard to keep track of those, as many of them aren’t even announced.

        So for completeness’ sake, here are the comparative numbers for when taking the SW order date – 13-Dec-2011 – as the launch date, as of 25-Mar-2013, we get:
        737MAX:
        Days since launch: 468
        Average / day (firm): 2.53

        A320Neo:
        Days since launch: 845
        Average / day (firm): 2.6

      • Pdxlight starts from “available for buying” date.
        If you have commitments one certainly must have had an “available for buying” date before that.

      • Anfromme/Uwe, that’s basically what it boiled down to when I chose to use AA’s commitment date. KC has a valid point and there are obviously two sides to the argument. But in my opinion it wouldn’t make sense to use their “official” December date for reasons already stated, and all while Conner was getting his photo taken with Rusdi Kirana of Lion Air and none other than Barack Obama in a signing ceremony a month beforehand – with Boeing going on to claim “the largest commercial airplane order ever” in their history. That said, it’s merely my personal take on things.

      • 65% market share is the current value.

        The expectation is that the current value goes asymptotically from 100% (market opens, only one vendor), to x% (market closes).

        Of course, everyone want to known what x is going to be.

        But guessing x from the past market share remains mere prediction.

        • If you look at pdxlights marketshare graphic asymtotal equilibrium seems to have been reached already.
          The contention expressed is that due to MAX having EIS 2 years later the available frames inside the airlines procurement horizon are fewer. Same/similar argument tendered for lack of further 787 sales.
          2200 units for the NEO should reach ~8..9 years forward from now

  4. anfromme :

    Andreas :
    That was probably correct until last week when 400 or so NEOs were sold.

    The website website Uwe linked to takes the orders from Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa and LionAir already into account. Even the one from Hawaiian. Current stats:
    1.93/day avg for MAX and 2.6/day for Neo since their respective launch (for MAX, the AA order announcement is taken as the initial launch/offer date).

    What I mean is that the point about the MAX selling as fast as the NEO was only correct until last week. :)

    In any case, from the point onwards that AA ordered the plane, others could have done so, so you can slice and dice the numbers any which way, What the numbers do show however is that the ‘initial order rush after which sales will taper off’ is still happening for the NEO. That’s one comforting story gone for Boeing.

  5. Some time ago Airbus suggested they might pull forward the A321 NEO, before the A319 NEO. Maybe the rush of A321 orders during the last few weeks is a sign Airbus has decided to do so.

  6. jacobin777 :
    After the “initial surge” of A32XNEO orders, both Boeing and Airbus are running almost “neck-on-neck” in terms of orders.

    As I said in a previous comment, Airbus is grabbing Boeing single aisle customers, one after the other. Seemingly, there’s little traffic heading the other way. If Boeing cannot reverse this trend, which I believe they will have a hard time doing, we’ll see a single aisle market share shift towards Airbus of more than 60 percent, lasting a decade, or more.

  7. I think Scott hit it on the head. Its market share that matters, not rate of orders.
    Boeing have really put themselves into an unenviable position by having no options left if the LEAP cannot match GTF.
    It cannot be a coincidence that none of the current spate of orders have been taken without engine choice revealed.
    Maybe more significant is that there have been no LEAP contracts for some time.
    The airlines appear to be falling over backwards to give CFM every chance, but my suspicion is that PW have upped the fuel burn saving guarantee by the 3% rumoured to be possible, and even with the fan diameter not being limited on the NEO, it may be a hard act to follow.
    Even harder on MAX with the smaller fan diameter.

    • People say the GTF has better future efficiency improvement options in the future. PW was more conservative on advanced materials, temperatures and pressures. Everybody also keeps staring at that hot gearbox in front of the engine though..

  8. So these independent experts all like the fact that the armoured box can contain any explosion or flames from the batteries. I agree that this is a good first step to the solution. I do wonder if they also find it good that these “controlled” explosions occur at a rate of more than 2 per year on a fleet of 50 aircraft. I won’t bother to extrapolate that for you, you all know your maths.

    What is puzzling me is why it seems nobody is interested in the issue of the frequency of these battery events. Have Boeing done anything concrete to ensure that the unacceptably high rate of events occurs at a rate less than that which was set out by the FAA back in 2007, not to mention what might be more stringent requirements that are applicable today?

    I am surprised that Boeing, despite all of its presentations and information sessions, not to mention its polls to find out what concerns the people, seems to focus more on the containment issue and not on the fact that these things seem to be popping off at a rate that is far above that which was deemed acceptable by the FAA back in 2007.

    The fact that, with this fix, any knowledge of such an event would also be contained from the flying public also leads one to wonder if said flying public would be informed as to how often these events would occur in the future. After all, it serves both Boeing and the airlines to have the fliyng public not in the know of these events.

    But of course, as Boeing has pointed out, nothing has happened in the first place, and when nothing happened in the first place, the system worked as it was supposed to and therefore there is nothing really to fix, but out of the goodness of their hearts, Boeing is going to fix that which needs not to be fixed, and the flying public should be eternally grateful to Boeing for that.

    I do hope that people now understand why I am, at this point, very negative on Boeing and the 787 Dreamliner.

    • There seems to be quite a strong minority bringing up valid critique.

      But the majority of news outlets is in lockstep with Boeing interests.
      Dissent will get no talk time ( and that includes the NTSB ).
      fluffy items will be moved across the stage in tight hammering loops of “facts” injection.

      • Ah, there you go again with your conspiracy theories. Oh, of course, it must be that evil Boeing manipulating all of the media to its nefarious advantage. You take the cake.

  9. If one of the Japan based airlines were to order from AIrbus, it certainly would be a blow to Boeing. I do have to personally wonder if Boeing really thought that they could keep this exclusivity ad infinitum.

    On the other hand,I can also entertain the thought that such musings are also good negotiation tactics for compensation and future orders from Boeing. Boeing is also going to actively do its part to prevent such an order for Airbus products from taking place.

    As far as the NEO/MAX issue is concerned, it doesn’t matter who sells at a greater rate or who has the best market share. If the GTF performs as well as many suspect, the MAX will be dead in the water and that will be the end of the LEAP engine. If not, then the show will go on as usual for all concerned. Of course there is also the third option of the GTF being much worse than people expected and then it would be a case of the NEO/GTF both flat lining on the operating room table.

    • Aero Ninja :
      On the other hand,I can also entertain the thought that such musings are also good negotiation tactics for compensation and future orders from Boeing. Boeing is also going to actively do its part to prevent such an order for Airbus products from taking place.

      I wouldn’t put it all down to pure negotiation tactics – entertaining one OEM just to drive the other’s price down usually doesn’t work very well, as neither Boeing nor Airbus look lightly upon airlines that play them just to get a lower price out of their preferred vendor. See e.g. John Leahy’s comments about Ryanair, as well as how much convincing it took Boeing to even participate in Iberia’s widebody tender a decade ago. (For details on the latter, see http://faculty.washington.edu/sundar/MM-BBUS320/Fun-READINGS/Airbus-Boeing%20for%20Iberia%20Deal.pdf – very interesting reading indeed.)

      • From what I have seen in the automobile market entry and relative success ( VW, Audi, BMW on one side and US manufacturers on the other side ) the Japanese are not bait and switchers.

        More like establish intimate relationship and then bargain one on one.

        In that context I would think that the JAL interest in Airbus
        is more like sending divorce papers to Boeing.

        A very strong statement.

  10. “Of course there is also the third option of the GTF being much worse than people expected”

    That would be firework.. the engine technology that shook up 70-236 seat playing field dramatically not performing..

    I guess the CSeries GTF is certified and the NEO’s is bolted under PWs 747SP as we speak so progress is made..

    Regarding Airbus selling in Japan, Skymark should take delivery of A380s next year and the A321NEO at 236 seats, very quiet, clean efficient. Hard to ignore for domestic flights it seems.

    • it wouldn’t be the first time Pratt has fallen on its face… PW6000 ring a bell? Airbus was lucky that AF demanded (and got) the CFM, or the A318 would have been stillborn.

      • Well considering where the A318 ended up, they might have been even more lucky if they hadn’t offered the CFM and sold A319s to AF instead?

      • The Pratt & Whitney GTF on the CSeries was delivered to Bombardier on time and on specs.

        It is already playing the same role as the JT8D was playing on aircraft like the 727, 737 and DC-9. Pratt was stupid to let go that market. It was another classic case of short term profit versus long term vision.

        We can now say that with the GTF P&W is making a triumphant comeback.

  11. As I understand it, and it is still only rumoured, PW have offered a 3% decrease on fuel burn based on actual flight test results, so any suggestion of not meeting guarantees looks unlikely.
    All the new NEO orders have the luxury of not needing a commitment immediately, but in my humble opinion (IMHO)(I hate acronyms), CFM have problems.
    I recall early on that someone speaking for CFM regarding early PW successes said they could overcome any performance issue with commercial clout! ( A very imprecise paraphrase, but too lazy to delve into the archives), but a 3% improvement in guarantees may need a re-think of that statement.

  12. keesje :
    “Of course there is also the third option of the GTF being much worse than people expected”
    That would be firework.. the engine technology that shook up 70-236 seat playing field dramatically not performing..
    I guess the CSeries GTF is certified and the NEO’s is bolted under PWs 747SP as we speak so progress is made..
    Regarding Airbus selling in Japan, Skymark should take delivery of A380s next year and the A321NEO at 236 seats, very quiet, clean efficient. Hard to ignore for domestic flights it seems.

    I think the chance of the GTF being a dud is low. Airbus was exceptionally conservative in adopting the GTF. They bolted a GTF under an A340 in 2008 just to verify if the claims were correct. I can not remember any other relatively recent case (i.e. last 30 years) where an aircraft manufacturer took the step of testing an engine themselves without having committed to this engine first. There might have been cases where it involved research projects, but I think a “pre-sales” test is very rare. It was also an indication of how badly P&W had destroyed their own reputation with poorly executed programs.

    • Yes, Pratt hasn’t done themselves any favors over the last decade or so. I think that is in part why their sales have lagged at this point. I think many airlines are taking a ‘wait and see’ attitude. They have nothing to lose, if their orders aren’t going to be delivered until 2017, why chose now? Wait and see how the GTF actually performs in the Airbus configuration (very important), and see how things go. Pratt has done a good job setting themselves up with buying out Rolls and getting the V2500 consortium back together, so there’s some sort of support continuity option for old V2500 customers. Time will tell.

      • Readers may think PW GTF sales have “lagged,” but near-parity on the A320neo with CFM, which once “owned” the A320 market is a big achievement. Furthermore, remember PW is the sole source on the CSeries, the MRJ and was also selected as a dual source on the MS-21. CFM is sole source on the MAX and C919.

        GTF was also selected to power the E-Jet re-engine.

  13. Aero Ninja :
    What is puzzling me is why it seems nobody is interested in the issue of the frequency of these battery events. Have Boeing done anything concrete to ensure that the unacceptably high rate of events occurs at a rate less than that which was set out by the FAA back in 2007, not to mention what might be more stringent requirements that are applicable today?

    Boeing has modified the battery to prevent further problems. Therefore it relies on those modifications as much as containment to ensure safety. But Boeing elected to stick with Lithium-Cobalt. If they cannot do without Li-ion, they should at least have switched to Lithium-Phosphate instead.

    The modified battery, installed in the boom-box, could actually work. At least for a while without any problems. But as time goes by, the statistics might start to catch-up with them. Lithium-Cobalt is inherently unstable and therefore I don’t think the problem has been solved. We have still not even found what the root cause of that problem is.

    But Boeing considers its contraption as a permanent fix, whereas I see it as an interim solution. But if it works Boeing will save a great deal of money. On the other hand, if it fails I don’t know what would happen to Boeing.

    I see three things in the solution that Boeing now offers:

    1- A lot of risk for the aircraft.
    2- Extremely high risk for the company.
    3- Unacceptable risk for the flying public.

    • Simply by attaching an electrothermal cooling plate to the top of the new safety box, this could induce some cooling air currents around the skin of the blue battery box trapped inside, thereby helping to cool the battery cells within it — even if only slightly. Is this part of the fix?

      • It appears to me that the modifications that Boeing has carried out on the battery itself are small, but vital. It could make an appreciable difference for preventing frequent thermal runaways of the kind we have witnessed last January.

        But the threat posed by the Lithium-Cobalt technology remains. It is intrinsically unstable and there is nothing Boeing can do to eliminate that risk, only mitigate it. It is not an ideal situation for an ETOP aircraft.

        But the main thing is that no one knows what’s going on onboard the Dreamliner. Why replace more than 100 batteries with eight carriers operating 49 aircraft over a period of less than a year? At least if we knew why! But we don’t.

        Unless someone is hiding the truth. Or worst, the truth is hiding itself from our view! It doesn’t matter how I look at the situation, I am still not comfortable with what I see.

  14. leehamnet :
    Readers may think PW GTF sales have “lagged,” but near-parity on the A320neo with CFM, which once “owned” the A320 market is a big achievement. Furthermore, remember PW is the sole source on the CSeries, the MRJ and was also selected as a dual source on the MS-21. CFM is sole source on the MAX and C919.
    GTF was also selected to power the E-Jet re-engine.

    The V2500 has a very respectable showing on the A320, if I recall correctly, pretty evenly split, some years more some less, but overall CFM and V2500 are pretty even. Yes the GTF has made some good scores, but as I said, time will tell if they are indeed “back”. There was much hope and praise for the PW6000 before it got to Airbus and actually got installed and into test flight. That’s when the wheels fell off the bus.

    The GTF was selected for the E-Jets G2 for a number of reasons. Some to do with promised performance, some to do with customer dis-satisfaction with GEs support of the smaller engines. Some was pure business case. GE gave that platform to Pratt, whether they intended to or not.

    • I don’t have the numbers, but it seemed to me at the time that the V2500 was gaining momentum until Pratt started to offer the GTF. Especially on the A321, if I am not mistaken. I even think it was starting to gather more orders than CFMI. But I could be wrong.

      Pratt is a very different company today. Contrary to Boeing, it seems to have evolved in the right direction. The then President of Pratt & Whitney, Louis Chênevert, pushed to make the GTF a reality. Now that he heads United Technology he is more committed to the GTF than ever and wants to make sure his baby will thrive. Chênevert was Aviation Week “CEO of the Year” in 2011.

  15. I don’t think Philippine Airlines will be ordering any B777’s unless the Philippines is listed from Category 2 status by the FAA. Most B777’s are intended for use to North America and Europe by the airline but these services are impossible until the bans is lifted. They ended up just leasing 4 ex-Iberia A340’s to satisfy their short term requirements as they are currently permitted to use them on their existing services to the US.

    More info here:
    http://www.philippineflightnetwork.com/2013/05/the-exciting-flight-path-of-philippine.html

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