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

Subscription required.

By Scott Hamilton and Bjorn Fehrm

Introduction
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.

Summary

  • 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?

Read more

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

Fundamentals of airliner performance, Part 2.

By Bjorn Fehrm

In our first article on how to understand the fundamentals that make up airliner performance we defined the main forces acting on an aircraft flying in steady state cruise. We used the ubiquitous Boeing 737 in its latest form, the 737 MAX 8, to illustrate the size of these forces. Leeham logo with Copyright message compact

Here a short recap of what we found and then some more fundamentals on aircraft’s performance, this time around the engines:

When flying steady state (Figure 1) we only need to find the aircraft’s drag force to have all important forces defined.

Lift with downforce

Figure 1. Elementary forces acting on an aircraft at cruise. Source: Leeham Co.

The lift force is given as equal to and opposite to the aircraft’s weight and the tail downforce that we need to add to this was small. We also presented the two classes of drag that we will talk about:

  1. Drag independent of lift or as we often call it drag due to size as almost all drag components here scale with the aircraft’s size.
  2. Drag due to lift or drag due to weight as we call it as this drag scales with weight when one flies in steady state conditions.

We could see that the aircraft’s flight through the air created a total drag force of 7900 lbf, Figure 2 ( lb with an f added as we prefer to write it as this is a force and not a measure of mass. Mass we denote with just lb or the metric units kg or tonne = 2205 lb).

Drag components

Figure 2. Drag of our 737 MAX 8 and how it divides between lift and non lift drag. Source: Leeham Co.

We also learned that if the drag is 7900 lbf then the engine thrust is opposite and equal. It is then 3950 lbf per engine when cruising at our mean cruise weight of 65 tonnes or 143.000 lb on our 1000 nm mission. Drag due to size consumes 63% of our thrust and drag due to weight 37%. Read more

Zhuhai Airshow: China’s aircraft industry is gaining speed

The 10th Chinese airshow at Zhuhai opened today. It was a day with fewer announcements than expected from the usual suspects (Airbus, Boeing…) but the Chinese industry did not disappoint. China is now showing more and more of its coming might as a player on the aeronautics arena.

The most prominent displays at this show were on the military side, where China has two stealth aircraft projects flying (the large Chengdu canard J-20 and the smaller Shenyang J-31) while their canard Chengdu J-10 was flying the display circuits overhead (Figure 1).

J-31 Kopie

Figure 1. Chinas latest fighter developments; the J-31 and J-20 stealth fighters and the canard J-10. Source: China internet.

All aircraft are of latest structural and aerodynamic design if not in engines and systems. This is a big difference to previous shows where the Russian Sukhoi and MIG aircraft and their local copies did the flying display until 2008. Since then everything has changed and now China and USA are the only countries in the world with two different stealth designs flying. USA has one in operation (F-22) and one close to (F-35) whereas China still has many years to go until they have their new aircraft operational. But it is significant that the old aeronautical behemoths Europe and Russia have none respective one (PAK-50) stealth fighter in flight test.

Read more

Boeing 737 MAX 8 as a long and thin aircraft and how it fares in general versus Airbus A320neo.

Subscription required.

By Bjorn Fehrm

Introduction

Over the last weeks we have looked at Boeing’s 757 replacement possibilities on its long and thin network niche, including a ground breaking launch interview for the A321neoLR with Airbus Head of Strategy and Leeham logo with Copyright message compactMarketing, Kiran Rao. In the series we have seen that the A321neo has the potential to replace the 757-200 on long and thin international routes. Boeing’s equivalent single aisle entry, 737 MAX 9, has problems to extend its range over 3,600nm. It is too limited in the weight increase necessary to cover the longer range.

Many have asked how the less- restricted Boeing 737 MAX 8 would fare, suitably equipped with the necessary extra tanks. This is the subject of this week’s sequel on the theme long and thin. At the same time we look at Airbus entry in this segment, the A320neo, to see how it stacks up to the 737 MAX 8, both in their normal 1,000 to 2,000nm operation and then also in a long and thin scenario.

Let’s first summarize what we found so far in our four articles around the Boeing 757 and its alternatives:

  • The Boeing 757-200 with winglets can serve international routes with city pairs up to 3,500nm. The rest of its range capability (about an additional 500nm) is needed for unfavorable winds and reserves.
  • The A321neo has the capabilities to be extended to cover the range of the 757-200. This was also announced by Airbus during our series. The improvements are an increase in range of 500nm by virtue of three extra center tanks and an increase in max takeoff weight of 3.5 tonnes ( 7,400 lb). The efficiency improvement over 757-200 would be 25% with a small decline in passenger capacity (162 vs. 169 seats) in a typical First, Premium economy and economy cabin.
  • Boeings 737 MAX 9 fares less well. While it has the wing to fly the range, the aircraft’s squat stance hinders the aircraft to cant the wing to generate the necessary lift for an increased takeoff weight. MAX 9 can’t rotate to more than 70% of the angle of an A321neo. Subsequently the take off distances get too long with any weight increase.
  • Boeing’s New Small Airplane study covers from 130 to 240 seats and evaluates both single and dual aisle alternatives. The big question mark is when an entry into service (EIS) is necessary and therefore when a launch decision has to be taken. We think after the 777X has entered flight test in 2018/19 for EIS 2025. Boeing’s CEO, Jim McNerney, says he sees EIS as 2030 for a new small airplane. We argue this risks missing the boat.

Summary

  • The 737 MAX 8 is 1.5m (5 feet) longer than A320 with a 2.5m (8.2 feet) longer cabin. This brings a 12 seat higher capacity, everything else being equal. The result is that the MAX 8 beats the A320neo on per seat efficiency while being worse on trip efficiency.
  • The MAX 8 has a range on internal fuel of 3,700nm. This makes it suitable for extending the range up to 4,000nm with smaller changes. It thereby is probably Boeing’s best bet of offering a long and thin aircraft before the New Small Aircraft (NSA) comes to market. Its major drawback is a 33 seats reduction in capacity compared to 757-200 when both are configured for long and thin.
  • A320neo is less ideal to extend to long and thin. It requires several extra fuel tanks to get to 4,000nm nominal range and then there is too little space left for luggage.

737 MAX8 overlaid with A320neo

Figure 1. Boeing 737 MAX 8 overlaid with Airbus A320neo. Source: Leeham Co.

Read more

Odds and Ends: C919 EIS in 2020, says consultant; Qantas goes on diet; BBD tables Russia; Swiss not Cseries launch operator

C919/ARJ21: Aviation Week reports that the COMAC C919 might fly be the end of next year and that EIS may be in 2018.

However, Michel Merluzeau, of G2 Solutions in Kirkland (WA), predicts the EIS won’t happen until 2020. Speaking last week before the British American Business Council-Pacific Northwest unit conference in Seattle, Merluzeau said that after a recent trip to Shanghai, where COMAC is, he now sees EIS in 2020, some four years late and 12 years after the program was launched. The C919 competes with the Airbus A320/321 and the Boeing 737-800/8 and 737-900ER/9.

Read more

Boeing considers single, twin aisle, co-development 757/767 style for next new airplane

Subscription required.

Introduction
Boeing is looking at a number of scenarios for its New Airplane Study (NAS) that would replace the 757 and 737, have ranges from 4,000nm-5,000nm, and carry as few passengers as 130 or as many as 240.

Leeham logo with Copyright message compactTo cover this broad range of demands could require reverting back to the 1980s when Boeing simultaneously developed two airplanes serving very different missions, the 757 and 767, that shared cockpits and some other common elements.

Boeing faces some hard decisions in the coming years, as Airbus outflanks Boeing in the single-aisle sector with the A320neo family and its latest offering, the A321neoLR. Our analysis and sales figures show the 737 MAX falling further and further behind in market share as MAX 9 lags vis-à-vis the A321neo.

We spoke with Kourosh Hadi, director of product development at Boeing, during a break at a conference last week organized by the British American Business Council-Pacific Northwest, and covered this and a number of other topics.

Summary

  • Boeing is studying a New Light Twin (NLT) and New Single Aisle (NSA) to replace the 757 and 737 airplanes.
  • The tipping point between an efficient NSA and the NLT is around the passenger size of the 757-200.
  • Boeing is evaluating materials, including metals and composites, for the NAS and the manufacturing process, which will also be a determining factor in the materials for the new airplane.
  • Engine advances for the 777X’s GE9X are beyond the GEnx and CFM LEAP of today and could help drive the next new small engine technology.
  • Although having a miniscule portion of the 100-150 seat market, Boeing today plans to continue participation in at least the 130 or 150 seat sector even as airplane size moves up every year.

Read more

Part 3: Boeing 757 replacement: 757 and Airbus A321neoLR versus clean sheet designs.

Subscription required.

By Bjorn Fehrm

Part 3 of 3

Introduction

In Part 2 of our three-part 757 Replacement analysis, we took a close look at Airbus’ new 97 tonne take-off weight A321neo, revealed in a world exclusive by Leeham logo with Copyright message compactLeeham News and Comment October 21. We analyzed the A321neoLR’s capabilities and limitations when compared to Boeing 757-200W and we saw that it could do the international flights that the 757-200 does with about 25% better efficiency. In this final Part 3, we will now compare the 757 and A321neoLR against what can be Boeing’s reaction, a clean sheet New Single Aisle, NSA, or New Light Twin Aisle, (NLT). First the conclusions from Part 2:

  • When using the United Airlines-configured 757-200W international as benchmark, we came within seven seats of the 757 capacity for an A321neoLR. It covered the same range and had trip fuel costs that were 25% lower.
  • The per seat fuel costs gave a 22% higher efficiency, which was within 2% of Airbus own figures.
  • 737 MAX9 is not suitable for stretch to an international version, not because the wing is not good enough but because the MAX9 cannot bring the wing to an angle at take-off where it can work efficiently; the landing gear is too short.

Summary
For Part 3 we can summarize:

  • A New Single Aisle (NSA) or New Light Twin (NLT) which would enter the market in 2025 would be sized at around 200 passengers with subsequent variants covering the 175-225 seat market, all numbers with OEM standard two-class seating. Figure 1 shows the fuselage cross sections we have used in our modelling of NSA and NLT to cover this market segment.

NSA and NLT cross sections

Figure 1. Fuselage cross sections of our models of NSA and NLT. Source: Leeham Co.

  • In order to cover the market segment of the 737, A320 and 757 it would have a range in excess of 4,100nm. We will use 4100nm for our modeling to maximize the comparative efficiency information.
  • Its efficiency would be higher than an A321neoLR, primarily due to better engines and a more modern wing.
  • The New Light Twin (NLT) wins on comfort and ground turn-around time but pays with a larger fuselage cross section due to the extra aisle. This causes more drag and structural weight, net effect is a reduction in efficiency of around 2.5%.

Read more

CASM Paradigm: Lower Seat Mile Cost or Higher Yield; Evaluating the GOL competition

Subscription Required

Introduction

As Brazil’s budget airline GOL reportedly evaluates whether to acquire 20 Boeing 737-7s or Embraer E-195 E2s, the principal of the “CASM Paradigm” is a concept worth examining.

Leeham logo with Copyright message compactThis head-to-head evaluation of the E-195 E2 and the 737-7 MAX is a rarity. Typically the head-to-head involves the Bombardier CS300 and the Airbus A319neo. All three have the same seating capacities. The E-195 E2 has slightly fewer passengers than the 737-7 with similar seat pitch.

The competition is also what might be seen as a contrary competition. Airframers agree: the airline industry is upgauging. Capacity discipline, long elusive until after the global financial collapse of 2008, has been driving load factors higher. But lowering unit costs, or the Cost per Available Seat Miles (CASM) has long been the principal measure by which airlines, OEMs and aerospace analysts measure efficiency.

Although Trip Costs of aircraft operating over a route is important, the trend toward upgauging at all levels clearly is the driving force.

It's an age-old debate: the cost per available seat mile (CASM) vs trip cost. CASM typically wins, and the airline industry is migrating toward larger aircraft. Embraer, not surprisingly, thinks this has gone too far. Graphic: Embraer, reprinted with permission.

Figure 1. It’s an age-old debate: the cost per available seat mile (CASM) vs trip cost. CASM typically wins, and the airline industry is migrating toward larger aircraft. Embraer, not surprisingly, thinks this has gone too far. Graphic: Embraer, reprinted with permission. Click on image to enlarge.

Embraer takes a different view, arguing that trip costs and a smaller airplane should trump the CASM obsession. A smaller airplane will mean higher yields, EMB says. A larger airplane provides lower trip costs but drives yield lower.

We visited Embraer’s headquarters earlier this month and received a full briefing on what EMB calls the CASM Paradigm. In our report today, we detail the presentation and discuss other considerations beside CASM vs Trip Costs that drive the size of the aircraft acquired.

Summary

  • The CASM Paradigm becomes a vicious, circular cycle, driving airlines to larger aircraft but lower yields.
  • Extra seats on larger aircraft mean lower unit costs but at the cost of profits.
  • Scope Clauses remain an issue in the US.
  • Connecting traffic, pay scales also are issues.
  • We analyze the operating costs of the E-195 E2 vs the 737-7.
  • We discuss the GOL competition.

Read more

Part 2: Boeing 757: Airbus A321neoLR as a replacement on long and thin routes

Subscription required.

By Bjorn Fehrm

Part 2 of 3

Introduction

In Part 2 of our three-part 757 Replacement analysis, we take a close look at Airbus’ new 97 tonnes take off weight A321neo, revealed by Leeham News and Comment October 21. We call the 97t airplane the A321neoLR (Long Range); Airbus has yet to name the aircraft, which it began showing to airlines last week.

Leeham logo with Copyright message compactWe analyze the A321neoLR’s capabilities and limitations when compared to the aircraft it intends to replace, the Boeing 757-200W. We have chosen to do so using a real airline configuration as opposed to an OEM’s typical seating layout. By comparing the 757-200W and the A321neoLR over the route structure that United Airlines is using the 757 today, we can better see the characteristics of the A321neoLR and what operational consequences the differences between the types would mean for the airlines. Before we start, a short recap of Part 1 about the 757 and its replacement candidates. Here is what we found:

  • the seating capacity of the A321 is within 10 seats of the 757-200 in a standard configuration; the 737 MAX9 is trailing with about 20 fewer seats.
  • the myth about the strong engines of the 757 is just that, a myth.
  • the good field performance of the 757 is coming from its wing more than any advantage on the engine side
  • the A321neo and 737 MAX9 were hindered in their capability to replace the 757 for long and thin international routes by characteristics that can be changed. For the A321neo, this may be accomplished with rather modest changes to Max Take Off Weight (MTOW) and tankage. For the 737 MAX9, more elaborate changes to the wing and engines are required, both hard to do.

BA 757-200

Figure 1. Boeing 757-200 of British Airways which launched the 757 together with Eastern Airlines 1983. Source: Wikimedia.

Summary, Part 2

  • We will now look in detail on the changes Airbus is doing on the A321neoLR, what each change brings and any restrictions that remain.
  • We will also detail why we think it will be harder for Boeing to match the A321neoLR with a 737 MAX9 development.
  • We detail prime, present 757W long-thin routes.
  • We present 757W international, A321neoLR and 737 MAX9 “long range” configurations.
  • We provide economic comparisons such as Payload-Range charts and Fuel consumption per trip and per seat diagrams.

In the final Part 3, will look at Boeing’s alternative to an A321neoLR, a clean sheet New Single Aisle (NSA) and a prospective Small Twin Aisle (STA) design and how much such an approach would surpass the A321neoLR on medium and long haul networks and when it could be available.

Read more