Odds and Ends: Order bubble, revisited; MRJ lands JAL; MH370

What order bubble, Revisited: We recently asked the question, What order bubble?

The orders don’t stop coming. Boeing landed a big fish with a large order from BOC Aviation, bringing net orders to 918–easily on the path to 1,000. Airbus lags at just over 800 net orders through July (it only reports monthly, not weekly as does Boeing), but we see Airbus hitting 1,000 this year, too. There were 121 MOUs announced at the Farnborough Air Show for the A330neo and we expect most of these to firm up, if not all. (There will likely be some swaps by Air Asia from the A330ceo to the neo, however.) We expect more A320 orders as well.

Boeing’s BOCA order was the lessor’s largest ever and included two 777-300ERs. Boeing is attempting to combine -300ER orders with 737 and 777X deals in order to bridge the production gap between the 777 Classic and the 777X.

GE Aviation and GE Engines naturally benefited from the 737 and 777 BOCA deal, since they are the sole-source engine providers on the airplanes.

MRJ lands JAL: Japan Air Lines ordered 32 Mitsubishi MRJ90s for delivery from 2021. This is the fourth customer for MRJ. JAL’s rival, All Nippon Airways, was the launch customer for the MRJ90. JAL also ordered up to 27 Embraer E-Jets.

MH370: New information emerged this week on the flight path of Malaysian Airlines MH370, which disappeared on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and is believed to have crashed in the south Indian Ocean.

We’ve been asked by local media if MAS can survive. We believe it can, given the government backing. It’s the flag carrier and we don’t think Malaysia will allow the airline to go out of business. Korean Air Lines survived following a series of crashes and the Soviet shootdown of KAL 007 during the 1980s. MAS may become a very different airline, but we think it will continue.

Qantas defers 787s, Boeing gears up response to A330neo

Financially ailing Qantas Airways has deferred some of its order for Boeing 787s, a move that ordinarily would be seen as a negative to Boeing. But in this case, it comes at an opportune time that will actually help Boeing respond to the Airbus A330neo.

Qantas’ deferral is from 2016 to 2017 and only for a few airlines. But having posted a record loss and previously canceled and deferred aircraft, we wouldn’t be surprised if this happens again.

The A330neo is planned to enter service in 4Q2017. Airbus is counting on near-term availability to help sales.

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Odds and Ends: Russian MC-21 subsidy; C919 assessment; ExIm countdown

Two news items popped up today on emerging aircraft.

MC-21 subsidy: Government subsidies for commercial aircraft development have been a sore point between the US and Europe (i.e., Boeing and Airbus) for decades. Although the US and Europe went through years of international disputes at the World Trade Organization on behalf of Boeing and Airbus, with adverse decisions now under appeal by both sides, and even though Canada and Brazil previously won cases over illegal subsidies to Embraer and Bombardier, nothing has come of the decisions–and nothing has been done about government subsidies by Japan and China to their aerospace industries. No complaints to the WTO have been filed against either country, which are members of the WTO.

This article updates some information about Russian aid to Irkut, which is developing a competitor to the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 families. The MC-21 and China’s COMAC C919 are directly sized against the best-selling single-aisle airplanes. Russia is not a member of the WTO, so there is no legal basis (that we know of) to file a complaint.

Long-time readers know we disdain the entire WTO process anyway as more political than practical. The WTO has no enforcement powers and sanctions that might be authorized by the WTO against offenders don’t have to be implemented (as in the case of Canada and Brazil) or even applied against the offender’s products–another industry altogether may be sanctioned, a silly and unfair prospect.

C919 assessment: This article provides an assessment of the prospects for the COMAC C919. What’s especially interesting in this article is what we aviation geeks have known all along, and that is China uses Western technology to develop its airplanes (and trains, the article points out). Airbus and Boeing identify China as the next viable competitor in the airliner field, albeit perhaps a generation in the future. But the technology is coming from Airbus, Boeing, Embraer, Bombardier, the engine makers and the supply chain. They are creating their own future competitors.

While China’s industrial espionage contributes to its understanding and acquisition of Western technology, most of it comes from joint ventures between Chinese companies and the Western OEMs and suppliers.

ExIm countdown: The authorization for the US Export-Import Bank expires next month, and Boeing is pulling out all stops to get a recalcitrant Republican Party to agree to extend the life of the bank, reports The Hill, one of the specialty publications that covers the US Congress.

Killing ExIm will put Boeing at a disadvantage to Airbus, which uses and will continue to use European Credit Agencies (ECAs) to support sales of its aircraft. Boeing will have to fall back on its internal Boeing Capital Corp. or attempt to help customers find private financing if ExIm tanks.

After-market support becoming key to winning engine orders

Maintenance and power-by-the-hour parts and support contracts are increasingly becoming the deciding factor in deciding which engines and which airplanes will be ordered—it’s no longer a matter of engine price or even operating costs, customers of Airbus and Boeing tell us.

Ten years ago, 30% of engine selection had power-by-the-hour (PBH) contracts attached to them. Today, 70% are connected, says one lessor that has Airbus and Boeing aircraft in its portfolio, and which has ordered new aircraft from each company.

“We’ve seen a huge move in maintenance contracts,” this lessor says.

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Boeing on path to surpass Airbus in single-aisle production

Note: This has updated information from its distribution to our e-newsletter recipients a week ago.

Boeing is on a path to overtake Airbus in producing single-aisle aircraft by the end of this decade.

In the hotly contested single-aisle sector, which Airbus currently leads,  both OEMs are essentially sold out through 2019. Few delivery slots can by found by either of the Big Two. Airbus already plans to boost production of the A320 family to 46/mo in 2016, when its new Mobile (AL) plant comes on line. It will initially produce 4/mo but has the capacity for 8/mo. It’s Tianjin, China, plant is producing at a rate of 4/mo and likewise has the capacity to go to 8/mo. The Toulouse and Hamburg plants are understood to be at capacity now, giving Airbus a total capacity of 59/mo: Hamburg can produce 25/mo and Toulouse 18/mo.

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Odds and Ends: Dual sourcing; FAA overflight bans; Super Constellation

Dual sourcing: There is always much angst in Seattle among the labor groups and Washington State’s elected officials when Boeing decides to put work outside the state. Much of this angst is because Boeing uses this as a sledgehammer to beat up unions for concessions and the state for tax breaks.

But dual sourcing isn’t really a bad thing. Pratt & Whitney is dual sourcing to avoid a single point of failure, as this article explains. Boeing, of course, has made the same point but it always gets submerged by its heavier-handed tactics. We’ve often made the point that if Boeing wants to set up assembly lines elsewhere, why not use the Natural Disaster Risk Diversion as the reason–and nobody could argue the point (well, they could, but it is a valid concern).

FAA overflights: It’s big news here in the USA, likely far less so in the rest of the world: the racial unrest in the small Missouri town of Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, where an unarmed 18-year African-American male was shot six times by a white policeman. Police say the young man attacked a police office. Witnesses say he had his hands up to comply with the officer’s orders. A grand jury will attempt to sort out facts. In the meantime, demonstrations–some peaceful, some not, some with looting–have turned Ferguson into an armed camp of police looking like the Army, in Humvees, battle gear and automatic weapons.

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What order bubble?

Following the Farnborough Air Show last month, media and some aerospace analysts once again began asking the question: is the order bubble done?

We retort by saying, “What order bubble?”

We have been hearing since 2008 if the order bubble was about to burst. We’ve been asked this question many, many times. The trouble in answering this question is that nobody truly defines what they mean by “order bubble” when they ask if the bubble is about to burst.

Do people mean:

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Odds and Ends: CSeries status; Airbus accident analysis; 737 rate increase; Kenya Air holds Boeing hostage

CSeries Status: Here is an interesting, detailed article from a blogger who follows the Bombardier CSeries more closely than anyone we can think of.

The article pretty well summarizes the issues, although we have this additional color: the fixes have been identified and are being installed and are still in Transport Canada review for approval and the green light to resume flight testing.

Airbus accident analysis: Airbus issued a study that looks at the causes of commercial accidents since 1958. The full report may be found here. The report is intentionally light on text and heavy on charts and graphics, so it’s easy to digest.

737 rate increase: Several media reported yesterday that Greg Smith, CFO of The Boeing Co., told an investors day Boeing is likely to decide this year on a production rate increase for the 737 line beyond the 47/mo previously announced to go into effect in 2017. Well, you read it here first–we reported more than a year ago Boeing was looking at a rate increase to 52/mo and even 60/mo. We’ve had in our estimates the 52/mo by 2018, 2019 or 2020, followed by 60 a year or two later.

Kenya Air: no more Boeings: We know some Airbus customers have long tied route authority to buying Airbus airplanes, and China is notorious for holding Airbus and Boeing orders hostage for political reasons. Kenya Airlines now says it won’t buy more Boeing aircraft unless it gets US route authority, according to this article.

Odds and Ends: Boeing discounting; A380 analysis; A320neo LEAP

Boeing discounting: Although Boeing alternately acknowledges it’s under price pressure from Airbus or it’s maintaining pricing on its aircraft, UBS aerospace analyst David Strauss concludes that discounting is increasing on the 737 and 777 but is somewhat better on the 787.

Strauss writes in an August 6 note that discounting on the 737 is around 59%. The 777 is now discounted at about 54% and the 787 trails at 46%. (He doesn’t bother with the 747-8.) These are for in-production models.

Strauss concludes that 737 discounting increased since the introduction of the MAX in 2011.

Current list pricing for the 737 is $78.3m for the -700, 93.3m for the -800 and $99m for the -900. The MAX list prices are $87.7m, $106.9m and $113.3m.

The list prices for the 777 are $269.5m for the -200ER, $305m for the -200LR, $330m for the -300ER and $309.7m for the -200LRF. The -8X comes in at $360.5m and the -9X at $388.7m.

The 787-8 lists for $218.3m, the -9 for $257.1m and the -10 for $297.5m.

We are hearing, however, of special cases in which the 787-9 runs for $135m or significantly less and the 787-8 for as low as $115m. We also hear of the 777-300ER being offered for as little as $128m in special circumstances. The calculated discounts UBS mentions for 737 fall within the pricing range that we hear in the market. Strauss writes that some discounts to list reached 65%, also within the range of what we have heard.

The discounting becomes increasingly important because Airbus says it can price the A330ceo and neo sharply below the 787, up to 25% less. Boeing has far less flexibility to discount the 787 than with the 737NG and 777 Classic. The former still isn’t making money while the latter have amortized production lines–just as the A330ceo line is fully paid for. Airbus has offered the A330ceo at steeper discounts to list than Boeing offers the 787, and the forthcoming neo will also see steeper discounts than the 787–unless Boeing becomes more aggressive in that pricing, which will only increase the time to profitability.

A380 analysis: Here is a good, detailed analysis about the Airbus A380 and its position in the marketplace.

A320neo LEAP: CFM’s LEAP-1A, for the Airbus A320neo, has entered production. Aviation Week has this article with the details.

Overlooked possibilities for the A330neo

There are overlooked possibilities for the Airbus A330-800 and A330-900 New Engine Options.

What, you may ask, are these?

The A330neo might give new life to the poor-selling A330-200F program and, perhaps more importantly better position Airbus to compete for the next round of the USAF Air Force Tanker competition, the KC-Y program.

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