Odds and Ends: MTU on A380; lessons learned; Alaska Air v Delta; GOL looking for airplanes; Boeing downgrade and upgrade

MTU on A380: The German company MTU, which is a key supplier on a variety of Airbus and Boeing engines, questions the potential market for an A380neo, according to this article from Reuters. Our Market Intelligence indicates Airbus is moving toward a re-engined airplane, although an Airbus official denied this to us this week. Reuters’ sources suggest work is ramping up.

Tapping lessons learned: The Puget Sound Business Journal has a somewhat different approach to the story earlier this week on the groundbreaking for the Boeing 777X wing factory. Steve Wilhelm focuses on Boeing’s tapping of lessons learned on the 737 and 787 programs.

Alaska Air v Delta Air: Months and months ago (almost a year), we were the first to write that hand-wringing over Delta Air Lines’ growth at Seattle, viewed as a major run at Alaska Airlines, was over-wrought. The growth was to support Delta’s growing international hub and while the growth came on many Alaska routes, Alaska’s dominance would prevail. A few months later, we pointed out that Delta’s growth was coming at the expense of Southwest and United airlines; Alaska was solidifying its position. (It also posted record 3Q earnings this week.)

The Puget Sound Business Journal has this story about how the three generations of the Boeing 737 is helping Alaska face off Delta.

GOL looking for planes: Brazil’s GOL is looking at the Boeing 737-7 and the Embraer E-195 E2 to renew its 737NG fleet, according to this Bloomberg report. Next week we’ll be taking another in our series of looks at EMB’s approach to the market with a discussion of the CASM Paradigm.

Boeing downgrade and upgrade: Credit Suisse yesterday downgraded Boeing from Outperform to Neutral (Buy to Hold) on the basis of 787 deferred costs and lower free cash flow. Wells Fargo reiterated its Hold rating. Zacks went from Neutral to Buy. Stern Agee reiterated its Buy.

E-Jet, the project that shaped Embraer

By Bjorn Fehrm

Introduction

In a recent visit to Embraer in Brazil we got a thorough brief on the background and decision making around the E-Jet and E-Jet E2 programs. We have written about these programs before but we will now cover how they came about, what was the program objective when the decision was taken and how it panned out. Both programs have had and will have a profound influence not only on Embraer but the whole civil aviation segment between 70-150 seats. It is worth looking into how Embraer, once an also-ran in the regional market, rose to the top three spot in civil aviation after Airbus and Boeing and how EMB intends to stay there.

Summary

  • American Airlines was part of changing history in regional jets, long before in single aisle.
  • E-jet started as a product program and soon put Embraer on a steep learning curve how to support an E-jet in the market above 50 seat regional jets.
  • Embraer today rates their support second only to Boeing and Airbus.
  • The requirements for the mid-life update of their E-jet, the E2, is all about delivering a mature product. This has shaped all aspects of the program, from cooperation with suppliers to how testing and qualification is done.

KLM E-jet

Figure 1. KLM Cityhopper E-jet taking off. Source: KLM

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Mitsubishi rolls out MRJ90

Mitsubishi rolled out its MRJ90 regional jet, the first passenger airliner to be produced in Japan since the YS-11 turbo-prop in 1962.

The MRJ90 challenges the Embraer E-175/190 and E2 and the Bombardier CRJ900. The smaller MRJ70 won’t be developed until after the MRJ90 is well on its way. The MRJ90 faces six months of ground testing before the first flight test. Entry into service is now scheduled for June 2017, some four years late.

The MRJ90 is a 2×2 configuration with 18 inch wide seats and aisle, making it nearly as wide as the E-Jets, which are fractionally wider. The MRJ will have better passenger comfort than the CRJ, a ground-breaking airplane in its day but increasingly outmoded when it comes to passenger comfort.

The Mitsubishi is a clean-sheet design, but Embraer claims its new E-Jet, with a new wing, the same Pratt & Whitney GTF engines, a new fly-by-wire system, a smaller tailplane, and aerodynamic improvements, will nonetheless beat the MRJ’s economics.

Regardless, we believe the MRJ and Embraer will dominate the 70-99 seat market. BBD’s share of this sector continues to decline. The Sukhoi SSJ100, while posting reasonably good orders, is and will remain handicapped by its Russian lineage and overhang of Russian politics. Production and delivery rates haven’t lived up to promises.

Mitsubishi, while discovering that being an airplane integrator is much more difficult than being a supplier (it designed and built the wings for the Boeing 787, which produced challenges in its own right), should in the end produce a solid airplane.

The company has been looking into this long enough. We recall that at least 15 years ago Mitsubishi made the rounds of US regional airlines getting input about what a new airplane might be. At that point, the 50-seat market was still viable. We were retained by a consultant to Mitsubishi to facilitate a meeting with a regional airline–so we know how far back this goes, and what Mitsubishi was asking. (We thought at the time Mitsubishi needed to go “up,” rather than do a “me too.”)

Mitsubishi has already talked about an MRJ100, but there are no firm plans.

Indigo order raises questions of demand in India, elsewhere

Free content.

Introduction

The Indigo order announced this week for 250 Airbus A320neos raises once again questions of whether Indian airlines in particular and the greater Asian region in general are over-ordering airplanes.

We’ve written in the past that we believe Asia and India are dicey markets for which a shakeout is yet to come.

The USA entered deregulation in 1979/80. There was a proliferation of new airlines that started service–by some counts, more than 200. Nearly all failed through a combination of poor business plans, under-capitalization, mergers, economic and travel collapses due to Middle Eastern wars, fuel price hikes and other factors.

Even legacy airlines collapsed. Eastern Airlines, Pan Am, TWA and Braniff–all storied names in US commercial aviation–are gone. (The new Eastern Airlines hopes to start service this year, 23 years after the original one ceased operations.) Northwest Airlines and Western Airlines merged out of existence.

The US airline industry is down to American, Delta and United as the holdovers from a by-gone era. Southwest Airlines now carries more domestic passengers than any of these legacies. Alaska Airlines remains. jetBlue, Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines are a new breed of Ultra Low Cost Carriers (ULCC).

In Europe, a shakeout of airlines has occurred but arguably it has hardly gone far enough. During our trip last week to Brazil to visit Embraer, officials pointed out that there are 40 airlines in Europe serving a market similar in size to the USA, where essentially there are 10 carriers.

In Asia and India, the shakeout is only beginning.

Summary

  • Shakeout of airlines in US has occurred.
  • Shakeout in Europe has occurred, but it hasn’t gone far enough.
  • Shakeout in Asia is only just beginning.
  • “LCC Evolution” is shrinking.
  • ASEAN region is over-ordered.

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Embraer becomes #3 commercial aircraft company on E-Jet families

Free content.

Introduction
Embraer is now the #3 commercial airplane manufacturer, after Airbus and Boeing and supplanting Bombardier, capturing 50% of the orders and 60% of the deliveries in recent years.

We examined the relevancy of the 100-149 seat sector Monday. Embraer is playing an increasingly important role in this sector.

The Brazilian company entered the regional jet field after Bombardier, designing its ERJ (Embraer Regional Jet) to go up against the BBD CRJ (Canadair Regional Jet), at a time when the latter created an entirely new market.

Deciding that the ERJ was no longer competitive, EMB rolled the dice and in the 1990s designed a clean-sheet jet, the E-Jet, that brought mainline cabin standards to the 70-120 seat sector.

More recently, with its CRJs outclassed by the E-Jets, Bombardier took the gamble and designed a clean-sheet CSeries for the 100-149 seat sector, a decision that still draws controversy. With the E-Jet facing economic obsolescence by BBD’s move, this time Embraer decided to bypass a new design and went with an extreme makeover, the re-engined, re-winged E-Jet E2.

Summary

  • Embraer’s E-Jet E2 is less than 50% common to the legacy E-Jet.
  • EMB claims the E2 is as efficient as a clean-sheet airplane for a fraction of the cost to develop.
  • EMB has more than 500 orders and commitments for the new E2.
  • Airbus, Boeing are also-rans in the 125-149 seat sector.
  • Mitsubishi, Sukhoi gaining strength.

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Leeham News launches Premium plan, companion to free content; engineer joins staff

Free content.

Leeham News and Comment (LNC) today launched a Premium subscription plan as a companion to free content.

LNC has provided news and commentary since February 2008, providing industry-leading information and insightful analysis, principally focuses on Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier and Embraer but also including emerging challengers to the Big Four OEMs, the leading engine manufacturers, suppliers and airline news.

LNC has been a leading resource of news and comment throughout the commercial aviation industry and its professional followers in the aerospace supply chain, investment analysts and the media.

Since the first of this year, LNC increasingly provided more and more technically-based content. This content is valuable and supplements the industry-leading news and reporting that has been provided since 2008. We are pleased to announce the addition to our staff, Bjorn Fehrm, who focuses on technical evaluation and complements the strategic expertise of Scott Hamilton, the founder of LNC and Leeham Co. consultancy.

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Embraer’s big bet on its largest airplane yet

Introduction

Embraer is days away from the roll-out of its biggest airplane project yet and one that has the potential to make its biggest inroads yet into the global defense market: the KC-390.

Rendering of KC390 tanking two Embraer AMX fighters. Source: Embraer

Rendering of KC390 tanking two Embraer AMX fighters. Source: Embraer

The airplane, with a fuselage cross-section the size of the Boeing 767, challenges the Lockheed Martin C-130, a venerable aircraft that has been updated throughout the decades since it first entered service in 1956. Despite this modernization, Embraer believes the time has come for a modern design and a multi-mission capability that far surpasses that of the C-130, with higher productivity of a jet aircraft vs a four-engine turbo-prop.

KC-390 3D view with main data. Source: Leeham Co

KC-390 3D view with main data. Source: Leeham Co

Summary

  • Embraer sees a market for 728 KC-390s in 77 countries, excluding the US, Russia, China and Europe.
  • The KC-390 is half the price of the Airbus A400M and about the size of the Lockheed Martin C-130.
  • Launched with paid development and an order for 28 aircraft from Brazil to fulfill the country’s unique requirements.
  • Typical mission capabilities will be: Cargo 7 pallets, Displacement of 80 soldiers, air dropping of 86 paratroopers, transporting 1 Black Hawk helicopter or one LAV25 or 3 Humvees, Rescue missions, Air tanking of 2 aircraft or helicopters.
  • The KC-390 flies at M0.8 and will therefore finish missions in two thirds the time of the C-130 Hercules (which flies as M0.5). This will also result in more missions flown per day i.e. more airlift capacity.

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Assessing the 100-149 Seat Sector

Introduction
The 100-149 seat market sector has long been criticized as irrelevant because of a string of poor-selling aircraft. Boeing officials even labeled this a Bermuda Triangle. The critics fail to recognize, however, that except for the Bombardier CSeries and the Embraer E-195 stretch based on a clean sheet design, there hasn’t been an airplane specifically designed for this sector since 1983. That was the British Aerospace BAe-146, which despite being powered initially by poor engines and having a cramped cabin, sold moderately well.

The early derivatives, the Boeing 737 Classic, and the McDonnell Douglas MD-80, did well. (The MD-80, while capable of seating up to 172 in shoe-horn configuration, was principally operated within the 130-150 seat layout.) But as fuel prices increased, derivatives began to lose their appeal because they weren’t optimized for the market. Engines then in use couldn’t keep up with the rising cost of fuel and airframes designed in the 1960s/70s/80s were no longer aerodynamically efficient as required for the changing fuel environment.

Leeham News and Comment continues its traditional of industry-leading news and insightful analysis. Some content remains free and detailed analysis based on decades of experience in commercial aviation and aeronautical engineering becomes paid content.

Leeham News and Comment continues its traditional of industry-leading news and insightful analysis. Some content remains free and detailed analysis based on decades of experience in commercial aviation and aeronautical engineering becomes paid content.

Summary
• Until the Bombardier CSeries and Embraer E-Jet, there hadn’t been an airplane specifically designed for the sector since 1983.
• Engine technology and airframe aerodynamics didn’t keep up with the demands of rising fuel prices for derivative designs.
• Airbus and Boeing are ceding the sector.
• Bombardier and Embraer will “own” the sector.
• There is a valid market for the 100-149 seat sector.

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New and Derivative airplanes: Some good, some not; Part 1

First of two parts.

Earlier this year, Airbus officials said they will concentrate on improving existing airplanes once the A350 enters service.

Boeing followed by saying it would not take any “moonshots” and develop new airplanes, at least for some indeterminate time.

The sentiment on the part of both companies is understandable if not disappointing for aviation purists who want to see new and innovative airplane models rather than made-over sub-types.

This is one of those cases where both schools of thought are right. (Text continues below photo.)

Later this month, we will unveil a new, updated Leeham News and Comment with a combination of paid and free content. Watch this space for more information.

Later this month, we will unveil a new, updated Leeham News and Comment with a combination of paid and free content. Watch this space for more information.

New airplanes are, to state the obvious, very expensive to develop and in this increasingly technological age and demand for “smarter” airplanes that are more fuel efficient and which try to improve passenger experience while cramming as many revenue-paying passengers into the airplane as possible, becoming more and more challenging. Where it once was possible to bring an airplane to market within four years of launch, today airframers routinely look at seven years and even eight. Even derivative airplanes are now taking six or seven years to enter service from launch.

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Assessing the 70-90 seat regional jet sector

Introduction

Major orders last week for Bombardier and Mitsubishi and the release of the Airbus Global Market Forecast provide an opportunity to look at market segments that don’t get a lot of attention in the shadow of the greater focus on the A320/737 and medium-twin aisle sectors.

These over-shadowed sectors are the 70-99 seat regional jet; the 100-149 seat single-aisle market; and the Very Large Aircraft.

Due to the scope and length of each examination, we will detail these sectors in three parts.

Summary

• Embraer and Mitsubishi will dominate the 70-99 seat sector;
• Embraer and Bombardier will dominate the 100-149 seat sector;
• Airbus and Boeing have largely withdrawn from the 100-149 seat sector;
• Airbus clings to unrealistic 20-year forecast in the VLA sector, but Boeing is a non-player today and in the future.

Part 1: 70-99 Seat Sector
This is a shrinking market for the regional jet as increasing fuel prices make it more and more difficult for regional jets to be economical. Nonetheless, there are several established and new entrant players in the market:

• Bombardier, with the CRJ-700, CRJ-900 and CRJ-1000
• Embraer, with the in-production E-170/175 and E-190/195
• COMAC/AVIC, with the ARJ-21 70 and 90-seat models
• Mitsubishi, with the MRJ-70 and MRJ-90
• Suhkoi, with the SSJ-100

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