Odds and Ends: Bombardier signs Macquarie Airfinance for 40+10 CS300s; 787 fire suppression

Big CSeries order: Bombardier today announced a firm order for 40 CS300s with options for 10 more with lessor Macquarie Airfinance. This brings firm orders to 243 and orders and commitments to 563.

This is the order that was has been pending since the Farnborough Air Show, and which was delayed perhaps a month because of the grounding of the test fleet from May 29. Flight Global initially reported that Macquarie could be lined up to place an order, and we followed up with some additional information July 29.

Macquarie is a small lessor by today’s standards, with 128 aircraft in the portfolio. These have all been acquired through purchase/leasebacks or via a portfolio purchase from other lessors. The CSeries is the first speculative order placed by Macquarie. As such, this is a major endorsement of the CSeries program. It also makes Macquarie one of the largest customers: Republic Airways Holdings, a launch customer, ordered 40 and optioned 40; Lufthansa Group ordered 30 plus options; and Ilyushin Finance Corp., a Russian lessor, has ordered nearly 40.

Macquarie bypassed Airbus and Boeing A320s and 737s for new orders. It has 63 and 57 in its fleet already and the backlogs for new orders stretch to 2020.

787 fire suppression: The Wall Street Journal reports that regulators have ordered changes in the Boeing 787 fire suppression system.

Boeing initially issued a service bulletin in May but regulators have now made the fix mandatory. The order covers 88 earlier versions of the 787; there are more than 150 in service today.

Coincidentally, a LOT Polish Airlines 787 made an emergency landing today in Scotland because of a faulty fire warning.

 

Odds and Ends: Comparing Airbus, Boeing 20-year forecasts; A320neo first flight; 787 battery probe fizzles; Mythbusting

Airbus v Boeing forecasts: The Blog by Javier takes its annual look at and comparison of the Airbus and Boeing 20-year forecasts. Airbus issued its new forecast this week; Boeing’s annual update was issued last summer.

Separately, the A320neo with Pratt & Whitney engines made its first flight today. The CFM LEAP neo is supposed to follow by six months. Showing class, Boeing Tweeted a congratulations for a milestone for the industry.

787 battery probe: The US National Transportation Safety Board hasn’t been able to find the root cause of the lithium ion battery failure in the Japan Air Lines and ANA Boeing 787 incidents. Now, the Japanese investigation has also failed to find the root cause of the ANA battery meltdown.

It’s rare but not unknown for investigators to not find root causes of problems, sometimes for years. A Northwest Airlines Boeing 747-400 split rudder hard over during a flight from Anchorage to Tokyo is one example; it took four years to determine the cause. The root cause of Boeing 737 rudder hard-overs, two of which caused fatal accidents, went unsolved for years.

Boarding airplanes: The reality show Mythbusters, an often entertaining look at myths, conventional wisdom, fact and fiction, takes a deep dive into airplane boarding. The article, with an insert to the episode, is here.

The Southwest Airlines style of boarding, with no seat assignments and derisively called cattle-call boarding, is the fastest and the most annoying, according to Mythbusters. Back-to-front is the longest. The Window-Middle-Aisle works best (but for those of us who like the aisle seat, the overhead bins are usually stuffed by then).

Odds and Ends: Delta/Airbus/Zodiac unveil A320 interior; Upgauging narrow-bodies, down-gauging 747s

A320 interior upgrade: After nearly a year of denying a story by Mary Kirby of Runway Girl Network and avoiding our own report from two years ago, Delta Air Lines, Airbus and interior OEM Zodiac revealed a new interior for the A320 family.

The announcement was made at the APEX convention by Airbus. The interior will appear beginning in Q12016, in this case in Delta’s A321ceos.

New pivot bins will be installed on the Airbus A320 Family beginning in 1Q2016. Delta Air Lines will be the first customer in the A321ceo. Airbus photo.

New pivot bins will be installed on the Airbus A320 Family beginning in 1Q2016. Delta Air Lines will be the first customer in the A321ceo. Airbus photo.

The overhead bins, which mimic the A350 design, are available for retrofit. Airbus says there is 10% more space compared with today’s bins.

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Final A330neo analysis; cabin improvements gives the A330neo gains over today’s A330

When we did our analysis of the A330neo after the Farnborough launch we limited our checks to trip fuel efficiency as we did not have enough clarity of the cabin improvements that Airbus announced. After a meeting in Toulouse last week with Airbus cabin experts we know have the missing information.

Airbus gives the A330 cabin an interesting update for the A330neo. It comprises A330 ideas (improved crew rests), A350 ideas (improved lighting and IFE) and finally ideas tried out on the A320 (SpaceFlex and SmartLav lavatories). Combined they give the A330neo cabin a better passenger experience and improved utilization of cabin space. Continue reading

Buckingham lowers Boeing to Underperform (sell), others increasingly bearish

Update: 24/7 Wall Street just published this gloomy outlook about Boeing.

Buckingham Research Group today lowered its call on The Boeing Co. from Neutral to Underperform, the equivalent of Hold to Sell. As far as we can tell, this is the first research analyst to put a sell on Boeing in recent years.

According to Thompson/First Call, 10 analysts rate Boeing as a Strong Buy, nine as a Buy and seven as a Hold. None rated Boeing as an Underperform or a Sell (Thompson separates the two ratings; Buckingham’s Underperform is a Sell). According to Thompson/First Call tallies on Yahoo Finance, there hasn’t been a downgrade to sell since 2008, when the 787 program problems were ramping up.

Buckingham has become increasingly pessimistic in recent months about Boeing, so the new rating isn’t necessarily a surprise, and Buckingham isn’t alone. Bank of America Merrill Lynch recently downgraded Boeing to Neutral and in June RBC Capital Markets downgraded Boeing to Sector Perform from Outperform. Wells Fargo and Credit Suisse analysts have been raising concerns in recent notes but haven’t downgraded Boeing, and UBS has been bearish for some time.

Buckingham cited anticipated worsening free cash flow as its principal reason for the downgrade, driven by BRG’s forecast of lower 777 production rates and higher than Boeing’s forecasted $25bn in deferred production costs for the 787. BRG also cited about 1,500 737s not yet added to the accounting block it believes have been sold at steeper discounts than historically.

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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.

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.

Half time 2014 for Boeing and Airbus

The major OEM’s have published their half time 2014 results and we can make an analysis of their half year results together with orders / deliveries and the state of their product lines. We compare Boeing and Airbus on the high end and in a follow up article Embraer and Bombardier on the low end. To make orders and deliveries comparable we include the month of July as the OEMs collected business to be announced at Farnborough mid July.

Boeing had a strong first half 2014. Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA) business is now past the initial problems on the 787 program and delivered 48 units January to June 2014 (8 per month) which is the same numbers as for the 777 program. The 737 is now at rate 40 per month with a first half total of 239 deliveries. The 747-8 is at rate 1 with only 6 deliveries and the 767 has stopped as a commercial program with only 1 delivery during the first half year. The commercial deliveries of 342 aircraft drove a 4% increase in company overall revenue and a 5% increase in earnings compared to first half 2013 (both non-GAAP i.e. the core business performance), this despite a Defense, Space and Security side which was down 5% on revenue and down 15% on earnings.

777-9X, 787-9 and 777-300ER in ANA colours

777-9X, 787-9 and 777-300ER in ANA colors

The troubled unit is Boeing Military Aircraft (BMA) which is struggling with its 767 tanker program (KC46A charged BMA with $187 million and BCA with $238 million due to increased development costs) and it is also fighting to not have its major military airplane program, the F18, stop 3 years from now from lack of orders. The military aircraft order drought contrasts with BCA where first half orders was 783 aircraft, mainly 737 but also 777X, where Emirates and Qatar confirmed their orders for 200 777X. Continue reading

Farborough Air Show, July 16: Snipe hunts in an era of model improvements

  • Upate, 5:30am PDT: The Wall Street Journal has an article that is more or less on point to the theme of this post.

It doesn’t matter what the competition does, it’s always inferior–until you do it yourself.

The continued, and tiring, war of words between Airbus and Boeing throughout the decades is monotonous and self-serving. If you step back, it’s also amusing.

Consider:

  • Boeing constantly dissed the Airbus concept of fly-by-wire–until ultimately adopting FBW in its airplanes.
  • Airbus dismissed twin-engine ETOPS of the 777 while promoting four-engine safety of its A340–until evolving the A330 into a highly capable ETOPS in its own right.
  • Airbus put-down the 777X, saying the only way Boeing could make it economical was by adding seats…which Airbus has now done for the A330-900 to help its economics.
  • Boeing ridiculed the idea of a re-engined A320, but then had to follow with a re-engined 737 MAX due to the runaway success of the A320neo.
  • Boeing ridicules the A330neo as an old, 1980s airplane–neatly ignoring the fact that the 737 and 747 are 1960s airplanes.
  • Airbus still calls the 777/777X/787 a “dog’s breakfast,” though we know some dogs who eat pretty well.

And so it goes.

The fact of the matter is, however, that minor and major makeovers of existing airplanes have long been a fact of life, maximizing investment and keeping research and development costs under control. The Douglas DC-1 was the prototype for the DC-2, which begot the DC-3. The DC-4 (C-54) begot the DC-6, DC-6B and DC-7 series. The Lockheed Contellation was reworked from the original L-049 through the 647/749/1049 (in various versions) and finally the 1649.

Then came the jet age, with vastly more expense, and model upgrades became the norm. The sniping today between Airbus and Boeing goes unabated in an era of historical model improvements.

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Farnborough Air Show, July 14: A330 program analysis after neo launch

It was pretty much the worse-kept secret in advance of the Farnborough Air Show this year: Airbus launched the re-engining of the A330, designating the new engine option the A330-800 (the A330-200 successor) and the A330-900 (the A330-300).

Rolls-Royce, as had been widely reported, becomes the sole-source engine provider of the Trent T7000. Airbus also gave it new A350 style winglets and have made enhancements to the cabin with improved seating, IFE and mood lighting, In total Airbus claims to have improved the fuel consumption with 14% per seat. Deliveries will start in Q4 2017.800x600_1405309967_A330-900neo_RR_AIB_01Rebranding the A330, dropping the -200 and -300 names, and adopting the more modern -800/-900 speaks to the significant upgrade of the airplane. Parenthetically, this also follows the pattern set by Boeing decades ago when it went from the 737-200 to the 300/400/500, then the 700/800/900 and now the 7/8/9. It speaks to adopting new technology and is consistent with the sub-type branding of the A350.

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