Odds and Ends: Boeing earnings; Shandong is a new 737 order; MH370; Boeing SkyInterior; Azul and Airbus; 186-seat A320

Boeing earnings: Boeing announced its 1Q2014 earnings today and they were better than expected on a per-share basis. David Strauss of UBS remains grumpy about the 787 deferred costs:

787 deferred production grew by $1.5B, in line with our forecast, with balance now at $23.1B as compared to BA’s ~$25B target. We estimate deferred production per unit at ~$50M, lower from $75-80M on positive production mix of nearly all 787-8s from Everett as problems continue on 787-9. We continue to believe that deferred production peaks at $30-35B as compared to BA’s $25B target.

Boeing’s earnings call is later this morning.

Shandong’s 737 order: Early this week, Chinese media announced that Shandong Airlines had ordered 50 737NGs and MAXes. Boeing’s statement the next day acknowledged the news report. With more than 600 737s listed in Boeing’s Unidentified customers, we asked if this was a new order or one from the Unidentifieds–Boeing told us this is new.

MH370: Flight Global’s safety expert reporter, David Learmont, doesn’t think the Boeing 777 that was Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 will be found. We only found this story (pun intended) five days after it was posted. As Readers know, we wrote weeks ago that former NTSB investigator Greg Feith made this prediction.

Boeing SkyInterior: Boeing posted a video on its website about some of the thinking that goes into creating the SkyInterior, which is similar across the 787, 747-8 and 737 lines. Passenger experience has become an important part of Boeing’s product strategy (as with Airbus, Bombardier and Embraer as well), so in a departure from our usual practice of generally not linking “house videos,” we’re doing so on this one to give Readers a peek at what goes into some thinking at the OEMs.

Azul trans-ocean jets: Brazil’s domestic low cost carrier, Azul, will order Airbus wide-body jets for its planned trans-Atlantic service, according to Reuters.

A320 at 186 seats: Airbus is seeking certification of the A320 for 186 seats, just three short of the maximum of rival Boeing 737-800, according to this article in Aviation Week. (We had heard the effort was to 189 seats.)

OEMs are ramping up services as profit centers

Original Equipment Manufacturers are ramping up their focus on services to increase these as profit centers for company financial performance.

The news April 10 that Boeing will relocate its Commercial Aviation Services unit from Seattle to its fading facility in Long Beach (CA) is another example. After-market support services for all DC- and MD- models and the out-of-production 7 Series airplanes previously were relocated to Southern California. Now, support for the in-production 7 Series (except the 787), the 737-based P-8A Poseidon and the forthcoming KC-46A will shift to SoCal. The 787, 737 MAX and forthcoming 777X support will be in Seattle.

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Odds and Ends: Airbus ponders PIPs for A320neo, says AvWeek; Boeing moves more jobs; MH370 search

A320neo Plus: Airbus is pondering a Performance Improvement Package (PIP) for the A320neo family even before the airplane enters service, according to Aviation Week. The improvements would include an upgraded interior and several systems, designed at providing more carry-on cargo space, more seats and better economy. This fits with a desire to focus on product improvements rather than launching another new airplane program. The prospect of launching the much-discussed A330neo is also referenced in the AvWeek article.

Boeing moves more jobs: The Seattle Times reports that Boeing is moving more jobs out of Seattle, this time also to Southern California. This time these are defense jobs. Boeing has been migrating defense jobs out of Seattle for many years.

Separately, Boeing named its Suppliers of the Year for 2013. These companies are profiled in short videos here.

MH370 search: The Wall Street Journal has a good update of the search for Malaysian Airlines MH370 using the Bluefin 21 unmanned submarine.

Airline food: Here’s an irreverent look at why airline food is bad.

Odds and Ends: No to 757 MAX; Fallout from Boeing job transfer; 8,000th 737; Fire sale pricing on 777LR

No to 757 MAX: Steve Wilhelm of the Puget Sound Business Journal writes that Boeing has no plans to build a 757 MAX. This refutes the Motley Fool article we linked Tuesday. Then yesterday a different Fool write wrote why Boeing won’t build a 757 MAX. That may be, but as we wrote we had heard rumblings that Boeing was at least talking to the market about the prospect of such an airplane. But this could be nothing more than what we term, “Boeing being Boeing” exploring everything.

Fallout on engineer shift: The Seattle Times wrote that the fallout over Boeing’s plan to shift another 1,000 engineering jobs out of the Puget Sound area is pretty bad among the local work force. The morale at Boeing, The Times writes, is bad among its white collar engineers and technicians. We’re also told the IAM 751 membership continues to have poor morale in the wake of the Jan. 3 contract vote related to the 777X, with a major retirement expected among workers just in advance of the 2016 switchover to the 401(k) style pension plan. There seems to be a growing belief Boeing may face a workforce shortage just at a time when it’s ramping up production the following year on the 737NG, preparing production for the 737 MAX, in the early stages of production for the 777X and ramping up production again for the 787 as it prepares to introduce the 787-10 in 2018–as well as the KC-46A production ramp up and perhaps on the P-8A Poseidon.

And then there is the continued overhang of the potential NLRB action related to the 751 vote. Although a long shot, what happens if the NLRB requires a new vote and this time it fails? Boeing is already committed to building the 777X in Seattle: ground has been broken and the timeline too late to go elsewhere. Bonuses have been paid out. This could become a real mess.

8,000th 737: On the plus side, Boeing delivered its 8,000th 737, to United Airlines this week. It’s quite the accomplishment.

Fire sale pricing on 777-200LR: Air India, a financial basket case, plans to sell three more Boeing 777-200LRs, apparently for whatever it can get, in order to raise cash. It previously sold five 5-year old -200LRs for $335m–an average of a mere $67m each. According to the appraisal firm Collateral Verifications, a five year old -200LR should have a current market value of about $98m.

Inmarsat to offer free tracking: Inmarsat, the satellite company that proved key to tracking Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, will offer free tracking service, The Wall Street Journal writes.

Odds and Ends: Composites in future airplanes; Boeing and Hillary Clinton; 757 MAX; AA swaps A321neo orders; Delta RFP

Composites in future airplanes: Composites World has a post about the use of composites in the future, with a good graphic detailing the increasing use of this material in airliners.

Boeing and Hillary Clinton: The Washington Post has a long story about the relationship between Boeing and Hillary Clinton, while she was US Secretary of State. While the story raises some interesting issues with respect to the prospective presidential candidate in 2016, the points focusing on her advocating for Boeing aircraft purchases doesn’t bother us a bit: that’s what politicians do on behalf of Airbus. As far as we’re concerned, our government should be supporting our industries, too.

757 MAX: The Motley Fool raises the prospect of a Boeing “757 MAX,” which is a restart of the 757 line but with a composite wing and new engines–something along the lines of the 777X in concept.  We’ve been hearing rumblings about this, too.

American swaps A321neo orders: American Airlines swapped 30 A321neo firm orders into options, leaving 100 firm orders for this sub-type left. The deliveries were for 2021/22. American told us it retained this flexibility in the original contract and the new management elected to do so in order “to maintain flexibility.”

Delta’s RFP: Airchive has a good analysis of the Delta Air Lines Request for Proposals to replace its wide-body fleet. We were especially interested in the cost analysis of the 787 vs the A330, which is close to our own numbers (there was no collaboration between Airchive and Leeham).

Boeing slammed for moving jobs to Southern California, WA state for naivete

Boeing took two hits over the weekend from Seattle Times columnists for the announcement that 1,000 engineering jobs will move from the Puget Sound area to Southern California.

Columnist Danny Westneat interviewed a “lonely, ignored voice” who predicted Boeing would go ahead and move jobs despite the $8.7bn tax breaks proposed by Gov. Jay Inslee that were then before the Legislature in hearings prior to approval. (SPEEA Executive Director Ray Goforth also warned of the loopholes in the proposed legislation, but he was ignored, too.) Washington State was criticized for being snookered on jobs once again.

Satirist Ron Judd also took Boeing to task in his Sunday column.

We got our knuckles rapped by a state official because we opined our coverage that the “state” tends to sit back and relax after wins.The state official wrote:

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The diminishing market for main deck freighters

At the IATA Cargo symposium last month Fred Smith laid it on the line – there is currently over-capacity in the market, the Industry is undergoing what he described as a profound transformation and he warned that the good old days will not return.

This message was supported by IATA that warned its members that the air freight portion of the pie is continuing to shrink and air freight is losing market share to other modes of transport. There needs to be significant improvements in execution and delivery of the air freight offer – transaction costs are too high and  little improved since the 1950’s in terms of a door-to-door transaction.

What is the impact for the freighter business – new builds and conversions? Old fuel inefficient platforms are out and what Fred Smith described as ‘low cost belly space’ is in. Airline cargo managers are moving out of main deck freighters (IAG, JAL, United, American, Delta to name a few) and befriending their passenger colleagues for space below the main deck to accommodate their cargo which they can sell at rates and profit margins not dreamed of before.

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Boeing to move engineering jobs to California

Boeing will move 1,000 engineering jobs from Washington State to  California, The Seattle Times reported today. Predictably, the engineers union, SPEEA, is having fits about this.

Washington State probably won’t be too happy, either, especially after giving Boeing nearly $9bn in tax breaks to build the 777X here.

We’re going to set aside the debate with the union and Boeing and the Washington impact and try to take a larger view.

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Odds and End: ExIm fight, again; A350 interior; C-17 production ending early; 787′s longest routes; That’s no bull; MH370

ExIm fight, again: Republicans and the conservative Heritage Foundation are once again attempting to kill the US ExIm Bank, which providing financing support for Boeing airplanes.

This isn’t a sexy topic for our readers, but it’s an important issue we’ve written about many times. While the Republicans and Heritage call this corporate welfare (of which we’re generally disdainful), we disagree in this instance. It’s a matter of competitiveness.

Loren Thompson, with whom we’ve often disagreed, and whose institute is partly funded by Boeing, takes on the effort to kill ExIm in this column. His underlying facts are valid, though his tiresome shot at Airbus subsidies and Boeing’s innocence is laughable once more. The WTO found Boeing received illegal subsidies, too, and of course we just witnessed Boeing getting the largest subsidy in corporate history from Washington (State, that is)–all of which Thompson ignores.

But this National Review magazine (a conservative one) fails in its taking Thompson to task to even mention Airbus, the principal thrust of Thompson’s piece. This is as silly as Thompson’s continued Airbus bashing.

The reason we support ExIm’s continued existence has nothing to do with who gets what subsidies; it has everything to do with the fact that Europe’s export credit agencies fund Airbus airplanes and Boeing needs to have ExIm to compete. (We’d be less harsh about Thompson if he would stick to this topic rather than beating the subsidy drum with highly selective facts on an issue for which he was paid by Boeing to issue a study during the WTO dispute.)

National Review’s critique of Thompson totally ignores the Airbus export credit support challenge. There may be merit to many practices about ExIm to criticize, but these critics need to focus on the ECA competitive advantage for Airbus should ExIm go away. Boeing’s right on this one.

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More A350-800 orders vanish

Twelve more Airbus A350-800 orders vanished as Aircraft Purchase Fleet canceled, according to the latest tally from Airbus. APF is the special purpose company set up for Alitalia Airlines, which is a financial basket case and probably couldn’t finance a Piper Cub, let alone an A350. In this case, the -800s were not upgraded to -900s or -1000s, according to the monthly Airbus Orders and Deliveries tally. There are now just 34 A358s in backlog.

The shrinking backlog further suggests the need for a refresh of the A330 with a re-engine, in our view. Without the A350-800, Airbus won’t have a competitor in the 250 seat sector that has any current technology. An A330neo with new engines would at least fill some of this void.

Meantime, Delta Air Lines issued a Request for Proposals for 50 wide-body aircraft to replace its aging Boeing 747-400s and some 767-300ERs. Delta’s CEO has said he could be interested in the A330neo. Delta eschews new technology, preferring “proven” technology, which could work against the Boeing 777X powered by an entirely new engine. By the time Delta would be ready to take delivery of its order, the A350XWB and its new technology will have been in service for many years. Delta has a deferred order for the Boeing 787-8 it inherited from Northwest Airlines, and this technology will be mature by the time Delta would be able to take delivery, so the 787 family could be in the mix. So could an A330neo, which would most likely be powered by one of the 787′s engine options, the GEnx or the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 TEN. Market intelligence tells us Delta is pushing the GEnx, given its strong relationship with GE.