Odds and Ends: Storm Warnings; Boeing photos now available to everyone; CSeries; Movin’ on up

Nov. 26, 2014:Storm Warnings: We’ve made references in recent posts about airlines on our “Storm Warning Flag” list.

Top 10 TA 2013

Our 2013 Top Customers and Storm Warning Flag list for wide-body airplanes. The Red are Middle Eastern airlines, blue from Asia and black from the US and Europe. Only one airline for wide-body orders was on our Storm Warning Flag list: AirAsiaX. Expansion and ordering we considered too rapid landed the carrier on the list. Sources: Airbus, Boeing. Click to enlarge.

In 2013, we compiled the Top  Customers for Single-Aisle and Twin-Aisle Airplanes for Airbus and Boeing. Here’s our 2013 Storm Warning Flag list. The name comes from the flag, which signals Storm Warnings. This list was compiled before the 777X orders announced at Dubai were firmed up, so the yellow boxes show what the Top 10 Boeing rankings would be had they been. We considered the quantity of orders, the current operations, financial status and other factors in placing a carrier on our Storm Warning Flag list. The Wide-body list also illustrates the growing importance of the Middle Eastern airlines (consider that this was a year ago). The wide-body list is pretty stable.

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Fundamentals of airliner performance, Part 4

By Bjorn Fehrm

Nov. 25, 2014: In our article series around the performance of a modern airliner we have now come to the climb after takeoff. Leeham logo with Copyright message compactWe started with cruise as this was simplest because the aircraft is flying in steady state, then we looked at the modern turbofan and how this is affected by both altitude and speed. We then examined how this affects the takeoff and today we continue with the climb after takeoff.

Before we start, let’s sum up a few points we need for today:

  • Drag is the one thing we always need to be aware of as this regulates how much excess power we have in different flight situations and therefore if we can stay on our altitude or climb.
  • Drag diminishes with altitude as the airs density diminishes and thereby our dominant drag component, air friction against our aircraft’s skin. This is the major component of the aircraft’s dominant drag, parasitic drag.
  • Our lift force is generated by forcing air downwards and this causes induced drag as this downwash cost energy to generate and maintain. Induced drag is mitigated by a wing with a large span.

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Odds and Ends: E-175s for Alaska; AirAsia X and Norwegian Air; Production rates

Nov. 25, 2014: E-175s for Alaska Airlines: SkyWest Airlines of the USA, a provider of contract service to several US carriers, ordered seven Embraer E-175s for planned service for Alaska Airlines. Simultaneously, Alaska announced new service from its Seattle hub, using E-175s from SkyWest to Milwaukee, Oklahoma City, and from Portland to St. Louis.

This is Alaska’s first use of the E-Jet in its system. All service to now has been with Bombardier Q400s from ALK’s sister, Horizon Air, or Bombardier CRJs from SkyWest.

Alaska is in a market battle with Delta Air Lines, which is expanding its hub at Seattle.

AirAsia X and Norwegian Air: CAPA, the Centre for Asia-Pacific Aviation, has a very good analysis about AirAsia X, the long-haul, low-fare carrier that has reported big losses for the last several quarters. This airline made it on our Storm Warning Flag list last spring. It’s got a big backlog of Airbus A330-300s, A330-900s and A350-900s and it’s announced some deferrals of the -300s. We consider this to be a shaky skyline for Airbus, particularly with the -300s.

Aviation Week has a good story about Norwegian Air Shuttle, another airline on our Storm Warning Flag list. NAS is building a long-haul business model based on the Boeing 787 in additional to plans to greatly expand its Boeing 737-based LCC model in Europe.

Production rates: We’ve written a great deal about production rates and production gaps. Flight Global’s sister company, Ascend, provides this broad look (free registration required in a particularly annoying process). The analysis missed the Airbus notice to the industry to plan to take production rates of the A320 to 54/mo in 2018, but otherwise this is a good analysis which happens to pretty well coincide with our views we’ve expressed throughout the year. This is a good one-stop piece.



Odds and Ends: Korean tanker competition sounds like US rerun; About that blister on the top of airliners; JetBlue explains bags, seats

Korean tanker competition: South Korean is holding a competition for an aerial refueling tanker and in many respects, it sounds like a rerun of the USAF competition between Airbus and Boeing.

In the US contest, major debates happened over Bigger vs Smaller between the A330-200-based KC-330 MRTT and the 767-200ER-based Boeing tanker, which ultimately won and which was named the KC-46A.

This article neatly sums of this same issue in the Korean competition. It’s a matter of greater range, more fueling capacity, vs “enough” and better airport access; and global compatibility.

About that blister: Have you ever noticed the big “blister” in the top of airliner

The “blister” on top of the fuselage contains internet connectivity antennae. The power line appearing to come out of the top of the blister is not part of this. Source: AirlineReporter.com

fuselages? This is for Internet connectivity, an increasingly popular feature on airlines as passengers bring their own Nookbooks, iPads and the like to watch movies or cruise the Net. But aircraft lessors apparently don’t find these features all that desirable and are increasingly talking about having airlines take them out at the end of lease terms. Mary Kirby of Runway Girl Network has this story on the esoteric topic.

JetBlue explains bags, seats: JetBlue is reducing seat pitch and adding bag fees. CFO Mark Powers explains these moves in a Bloomberg News interview.

Little progress on A330 production gap

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Leeham logo with Copyright message compactWith the end of the year a mere five weeks away, Airbus appears to have made little progress in closing its production gap for the A330.


  • Airbus still has a gap of approaching 150 production slots at current and announced rates between now and the planned EIS of the A330neo in December 2017.
  • Launch of A330neo helps, but does not cure production gap–especially between now and 2018.
  • No Chinese order for A330 Regional after more than a year.
  • AirAsiaX deferring orders–and will some CEO orders be swapped for the NEO?

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Odds and Ends: No Boeing response to A321neoLR; After DL loss, Boeing wins Kuwait; It’s ‘huge’

No response to A321neoLR: Reuters reports that Boeing isn’t going to respond to the Airbus A321neoLR, the airplane intended to be a bonafide replacement for the Boeing 757.

We are very happy with where the MAX 9 sits and feel the competition is simply doing things to catch up with it,” Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing at Boeing Commercial Airplanes said, Reuters reports.

There’s really no other choice but to say Boeing is happy. As we demonstrated in our three-part 757 replacement series in October, the 737-9 can’t be made competitive with the A321neoLR. As Tinseth notes in the Reuters article, and which we covered in our three-part series, Boeing could put another fuel tank (as does Airbus in the A321neo) in the -9 to match the range. But what Tinseth did not note in Reuters (or at least it wasn’t reported if he did), and which we did write, the 737-9 comes up more than 15 passengers short of the A321neoLR and 20 passengers short of the 757–and it needs 12,000 ft of runway to take off with a full load.

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Odds and Ends: JetBlue defers A320s; Delta’s A350 order; Another KC-46A delay?

JetBlue defers A320s: This US airline announced at its investors’ day that it is deferring Airbus A320s from this decade into next. JP Morgan had this commentary November 19:

JetBlue…announced a deferral of 18 A320-family aircraft from 2016-18 to 2022-23. While having a $900m positive impact on cap-ex through 2018, we believe the deferral should also limit near-term speculation on widebodies and Transatlantic expansion for several years. The reason? We believe the deferral was driven in large part by Airbus’ continued study of an ‘A321neoLR….’ Airbus continues to explore the development of a long-range version (3,900 nm) of its flagship narrowbody aircraft to serve as a fuel-efficient competitor to the Boeing 757-200W, with potential entry in to service by 2018-19. We believe such an aircraft would fit exceptionally well into JBLU’s longer-term expansion plans, though it does imply a Transatlantic future somewhere down the road, in our view.

JetBlue has expressed interest in entering long-haul, over-water routes, but it doesn’t have ETOPS qualification. If it were to do so sooner than later, it would have to either wetlease aircraft (as did WestJet of Canada) or lease the four-engine A340-300, a cheap lift with a modest capacity.

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Lufthansa to use A340s in “lower cost” operation; our analysis against the 787

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By Scott Hamilton and Bjorn Fehrm

Low cost long haul service is gaining traction, but previous efforts proved difficult to be successful.

Dating all the way back to Laker Airways’ Skytrain and the original PeoplExpress across the Atlantic, airlines found it challenging to make money.

More recently, AirAsiaX retracted some of its long-haul service, withdrawing Airbus A340-300 aircraft when they proved too costly. The airline recast its model around Airbus A330-300s as an interim measure, unable to fly the same distances as the longer-legged A340. AirAsiaX ordered the Airbus A350-900 and now is a launch customer for the A330-900neo.

Leeham logo with Copyright message compactCebu Pacific of the Philippines is flying LCC A330-300 service to the Middle East. Norwegian Air Shuttle famously built its entire LCC long haul model around the Boeing 787, initiating service with the 787-8 and planning to move to the 787-9.

Canada’s WestJet is leasing in four used Boeing 767-300ERs to offer LCC service,

Legacy carrier Lufthansa Airlines plans to use fully depreciated A340-300s to begin “lower cost” (as opposed to “low cost”) long haul service. LH says the fully depreciated A340s come within 1%-2% of the cost per available seat mile of the new, high capital-cost 787s.


  • AirAsiaX’s A340 LCC long haul service proved unprofitable. Can Lufthansa’s similar service with fully depreciated A340s work?
  • Our analysis shows that it can. It can even support the lease rates that would be charged for a 10 year old A340 if the fuel price remains at the present level.
  • When doing the research for this article and going through the results of our proprietary model we started to ask ourselves, is the A340-300 the ugly duckling of the airline market?

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Airbus wins Delta wide-body order

Airbus has won the hotly-contested competition for 50 wide-body airplanes, two sources tell Leeham News and Comment.

Artist rendering of Delta Air Lines A350, via Twitter, original source unknown.

Airbus will sell Delta 25 A350-900s and 25 A330-900s, our sources say. Rolls-Royce is the sole-source engine supplier.

YouReadDLBoeing hoped to sell Delta the 787-9 and also offered five new 777-200LRs as bridge lift until delivery slots for the 789 were available, according to our information.

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Fundamentals of airliner performance, Part 3

By Bjorn Fehrm

In our first article about how to understand the performance of a modern airliner we defined the main forces that are acting on an aircraft flying in steady state cruise. In our clinic we use the ubiquitous Boeing 737 in its latest form, the 737 MAX 8, to illustrate our case. Leeham logo with Copyright message compactIn the second article we introduced the aircraft’s engines and understood how they function by pumping air backwards faster than the aircraft’s speed and therefore generating thrust as air is in fact quite heavy. We also looked at the influence of flight altitude on the performance of the aircraft.

In short we can conclude our findings so far:

  • For cruise lift is the same force size as weight, only opposite. To understand the cruise phase we can therefore focus on how much drag this lift force and the aircraft’s friction against the air create.
  • When we have this drag we also know the engine thrust and we can calculate the cruise fuel consumption from the engines fuel consumption per unit of thrust and hour.
  • We also found that it is beneficial to fly high as the airs density diminishes and with this the airs friction against our aircraft’s skin.
  • Our lift force is generated by forcing air downwards and this causes drag due to weight as this downwash cost energy to generate and maintain. The air resists being downwashed and slinks up on the side of the wing thus generating large vortice sheds which consumes energy. This drag we call induced drag or drag due to weight.
  • We diminish this re-circulation of the air by spreading our wings as wide as we can, in fact we get double reward for increases our span, it counts twice in induced drag reduction.
  • Our limit to fly high for our cruise is set by the increase in induced drag, we are seeking a flight level where we have a drag minimum when adding the diminishing friction drag and the increasing induced drag.
  • We also have a problem with climbing to a to high cruise flight level, our engines lose power both due to the thin air and due to the aircraft’s forward speed.
  • Finally there are supersonic phenomena which stop high cruise altitudes. As the air gets thinner the wings need to throw the air downwards with higher speed (increase wing canting or alfa angle). This means the air on the top side of the wing has to speed up and is therefore going deeper into supersonic flow on parts of the wings overside. This causes disturbances called buffeting when these supersonic areas grow to strong.

Having covered the most important aspects of cruise we will today look at takeoff, a subject with a lot of aspects. Read more