Boeing notified supply chain: prepare for 52 737s per month

Boeing has notified is supply chain that demand for the 737 is sufficient to support a rate increase to 52 a month by the end of the decade.

In a letter dated January 3, Kent Fisher, vice president of supplier management, set the date for going to 47/mo in July 2017. The year had previously been announced by Boeing. Fisher continued that demand is “sufficient” to take the “protection rate” to 52/mo “later in the decade.”

Production Rates to 2020

“Protection rate” means the Boeing and the suppliers need to protect the ability to increase to the desired rate in terms of tooling, machinery, parts, and their own suppliers. This notification isn’t as firm as announcing an actual production rate increase, but it’s pretty close.

Airbus, meanwhile, continues with construction of its Mobile (AL) plant, with a target operational date of next year. Initial production will be 2/mo, ramping up to 4/mo. The plant has the capacity of 8/mo. This means Airbus increases production of the A320 family to 44 in late 2015 or early 2016, then 46 later in 2016 and 48 to 50 thereafter.

The Airbus and Boeing production rates dwarf those of Bombardier, which is challenging the Big Two OEMs at the lower end of the 100-220 seat sector with the 110-145 seat CSeries, and Embraer, which produces the 100-122 seat E-190/195 E1 today and which is offering the 132 seat E-195 E2 for delivery beginning in 2018.

Airbus’ factories are in Hamburg, Toulouse, Tianjin and from next year, Mobile. Hamburg and Toulouse are currently producing 38 A320 family members a month, weighted toward the latter, and Tianjin is at 4/mo. Tianjin and Mobile have the capacity of 8/mo each; we don’t know the total capacity of the Hamburg and Toulouse plants but are told these are at capacity; Airbus declined comment. This means Airbus has the capacity to go to 54 A320s/mo among the four plants after Mobile is fully operational.

Boeing has the capacity for 63 737s a month at its single Renton (WA) factory. Embraer has the capacity for 17 E-Jets a month. Bombardier plans a capacity of 20/mo for the CSeries.

IAM 751, in dramatic reversal, accepts Boeing 777X contract

The members of the International Association of Machinists District 751, in a dramatic reversal of its November 13 landslide contract rejection, today approved a revised contract offer from Boeing by a vote of 51% to 49%.

Approval means Boeing will produce the new composite wings for the 777X and undertake final assembly of the airplane right here in Puget Sound (Seattle). The 777 Classic is assembled at Boeing’s Everett factory, home to all wide body assembly since it was built specifically for the 747. The 777 Classic’s wings fuselage panels are produced in Japan and shipped to Everett for assembly to the fuselage.

The outcome was in doubt as 751 members began voting at 5am today. Rallies leading up to the vote were largely anti-acceptance. Pro-acceptance rallies were lightly attended.

Sentiment on blogs and in Comment sections of the Seattle papers overwhelmed positive comments. Reports from the field polling places suggested the contract would be rejected.

The vote secures jobs for the IAM members at the expense of ending the defined pension plan in 2016 in favor of a 401(k) approach to retirement benefits. It also extends of Letter of Understanding (#42) providing that 737 MAX and KC-46A tanker production remains in Puget Sound through 2024, to which is when the 2016 contract has now been extended.

The controversial contract may bring mixed feelings to union members, but it brings unfettered job to elected officials, the Puget Sound supply chain and other interested parties who feared Boeing would take all the 777X production elsewhere at the cost of nearly 30,000 direct and indirect jobs and huge hits to the local economy.

But make no mistake: when Boeing proceeds with a new airplane design to replace the 757, followed by one to replace the 737, we’re going to see another round of efforts to browbeat the union and the state into more concessions or give-backs in exchange for production to be located here.

The timeline for decisions for a 757 replacement should begin around 2017. Decisions for a 737 replacement should begin around 2020.

Odds and Ends: Boeing to hike 737 rate; Passenger comfort, fees and PEDs

You read it here first: In June, we reported Boeing planned to take the 737 production rate to 47/mo by 2017 (and to 52 in 2019). Boeing announced on Halloween that it is taking the 737 rate to 47/mo in 2017.

Passenger fees and experience: We recently appeared on China’s CCTV, talking about passenger fees and seating comfort. Here’s the video:


Speaking of passenger experience, Personal Electronic Devices, or PEDs, will be allowed to operate on airplanes gate-to-gate (though no cell phone calls), under a new FAA rule. Airlines have to create new policies and submit them for FAA approval. This article provides a good summary of the status of US carriers. Alec Baldwin should be pleased.

Odds and Ends: MC-21 to be renamed; Boeing buys land; seat wars ahead?

MC-21 to be renamed: After creating a brand for the Russian Irkut MC-21, authorities have decided to rename the airplane the Yak 242, according to this article in Flight International.

The article is too brief to explain the reasons behind this, other than to indicate the MC-21 evolved out of a design that was designated Yak-242. The MC-21 is somewhat larger than the 242 and it is a direct challenger to Airbus and Boeing in the 150-210 seat sector.

Among our activities, we engage in branding. We don’t think this is a particularly smart move on Russia’s part. Returning to the Yak name is a throwback to the old Soviet Union and the history of Soviet airliners that left a lot to be desired. The “Irkut MC-21″ name creates some distance to this history in the effort to sell the airplane outside the old Soviet political sphere.

The Sukhoi Superjet SSJ100, which has had some success selling beyond the sphere, nonetheless reinforces the history of troubled Soviet airliners. Production has been painfully slow and in-service reliability difficult.

We think the Irkut name should be retained, a move toward the future, not one toward the past.

Boeing buys more Charleston land: The US government shutdown delayed the land purchased by Boeing of federally property around the Charleston (SC) airport. Now that the government is open again, the purchase has moved forward, according to the Charleston Post and Courier. According to reports, Boeing now owns or has under contract slightly more land at Charleston than it owns at Everett.

Boeing has been shifting work from Washington to Charleston, and the trend toward purchasing land means this will continue. We continue to believe that when clean-sheet airplanes come out of the Boeing shop to replace the 737 and 777, production of these will be at Charleston. Hopefully the demand for the 737 replacement will be high enough that production will be split between Washington and Charleston. We can foresee a scenario where Boeing has a more equal split between the two locations, such as Airbus has with Hamburg and Toulouse.

But the immediate question is whether the 777X derivative will be built in Washington or Charleston. We’ve heard both scenarios but don’t have enough information to know which is correct.

Seats Wars pending? Airbus has called for an industry standard for 18-inch wide seats in coach. Plane Talking has an analysis of this. We’ll point out that Embraer already has 18-inch seats as standard in its E-Jets and Bombardier has 18-inch window-and-aisle seats plus a 19-inch middle seat for its CSeries. This makes the E-Jet and the CSeries the most comfortable domestic airplanes available, with the middle-seat bonus for the CSeries.

We haven’t flown coach internationally for years, but we do so domestically and have been crabbing about the 17 inch seat on the Boeing 737 for a long time. With the Airbus A330 and Boeing 777 nine-abreast essentially the same width, we believe airlines and their drive toward cramming as many seats in as possible to the total disregard of passenger comfort certainly merits international standards at 18 inches.

But we’re not deceived that this proposal is altruistic on the part of Airbus. Boeing’s ability to accommodate one more row of seats with a slightly wider standard than Airbus, reducing CASM in the process, is clearly the motive. When Boeing compares today’s 777 against the A350 in sales campaigns, it uses 10 abreast in coach vs nine abreast for the A350 and argues superior CASM costs. Customers tell us this indeed reduces the CASM advantage the A350 has at an apples-to-apples 9 v 9 (the A350 continues to maintain a trip cost advantage).

We agree with Airbus on the principal. But far chance it will happen.

Odds and Ends: Supply chain demands; Southwest hints?; Retrospective on A320/737 replacements

Supply chain demands: Earlier this week, we talked about the prospect of production wars as Airbus and Boeing ramp up over the next five years, combined with the new entrants and the new offerings from Bombardier and Embraer.

We noted that this will mean opportunity and risk for the supply chain. Ryan Murphy from Salem Partners has a long analysis the starts with the finishing sector but which goes beyond this to discuss the broader implications. It makes for an interesting read.

Southwest: Hints of things to come? Yesterday we wrote about Southwest Airlines and the demise of the Wright Amendment that restricts travel from Dallas Love Field. We suggested several routes that Southwest would launch from Love once the Amendment passes into history.

Here’s a display Southwest erected on its countdown to the end of the Wright Amendment. We think it hints at things to come. Going clockwise: Chicago, New York and Charlotte seem to be where the airplanes are going. Then Los Angeles and Salt Lake City seem to be implied destinations. But the last one? Boise, or some other obscure city?

Or are we reading too much into the placement of these airplanes?

Source: Dallas Morning News

Our thoughts:

WN Love Field

Retrospective: We were looking at previous posts for some specific information and in the process re-read one about replacing the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737. The post dates from 2009. In light of subsequent events, it makes for interesting re-reading. We discuss the internal views of Airbus and Boeing about replacement or re-engining their aircraft and the engines from Pratt & Whitney and GE Aviation/CFM. We also touch on Boeing leaning toward not replacing the 777.

Retrospective, Part 2: Airchive has a nice set of historical looks at the development of the Boeing factory at Everett: Part One and Part Two.

Production wars coming: Airbus v Boeing

If some industry observers are concerned about the prospect of over-production now, the current state of affairs may only be the tip of the iceberg.

Airbus CEO Fabrice Bergier says he expects to boost production of the A320 and A350 families over the next few years, overtaking Boeing by 2018.

Airbus currently produces the A320 at a rate of 42 per month. The A330 rate is 10/mo and the A380 at 3/mo. Production of the first customer-destined A350 is to begin by the end of this year, with a targeted delivery in the second half of next year. Ramp-up to an initial production target of 10/mo is planned over a four year period, but the wing factory in Broughton, Wales, has a capacity for 13/mo, inferring a greater rate is already planned. Airbus is considering a second A350 production line, largely focused on the A350-1000.

Boeing currently produces the 737 at 38/mo, going to 42/mo next year. The 777 rate is 8.3/mo and the 747-8F/I rate is 1.75/mo. The 767, driven by the USAF tanker, is 1.5/mo. The 787 is ramping up to, with a target by year end, but we believe this will be more likely in Q12014.

Boeing has notified the supply chain to consider higher rates for the 737, 767 and 787. We posted the chart below last June, reflecting the higher planning rates.

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Busy decade ahead for new, derivative airplane EIS dates

The next decade will see an extraordinary number of new and derivative airplanes entering service, beginning next year with the Boeing 787-9 and ending in 2022 with what we believe will be a replacement for the Airbus A330.

Bombardier’s CS100 is currently planned to enter service in around September next year, 12 months after its first flight on September 16, 2013, but we think EIS will slip to early 2015. Bombardier seems to be laying the groundwork for this in statements that it will reassess the EIS date in a few months.

Beginning with the 787-9, there is a steady stream of EIS dates–and a couple of end-production dates of current generation airplanes.

This chart captures the airplanes and their dates. Most dates are based on firm announcements from the OEMs, but we’ve adjusted some based on market intelligence and our own estimates.

EIS Dates


The arrows to certain points within years are not necessarily representative of specific timelines within that year. OEMs generally are not too specific about and EIS date, preferring to say “first half” or “second half” or some derivative of ambiguity. The only specific that we’re aware of is Boeing’s revised EIS of the 737 MAX, from 4Q2017 to July 2017. Although the Ascend data base is quite specific, we’ve not attempted to be highly specific in this chart. (Have we been specific enough about all this?)

Readers will note that we have the ARJ21 arrow going to a question mark. This airplane is already seven years late, and supposedly it’s going to enter service next year, but we aren’t banking on this at all. COMAC/AVIC, producer of the ARJ21, has a dismal record of meeting target dates. Accordingly, although COMAC now says the EIS for the C919 is 2017, we’ve got this in 2018–and even this is likely generous.

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A380 struggles despite Doric order at Paris Air Show

The surprise MOU announced at the Paris Air Show by specialty firm Doric Leasing for 20 Airbus A380s does little to build confidence in the aircraft’s long-term sales prospects.

Doric finances A380s for the airlines already operating them, such as Emirates and Singapore. There are several other special purpose companies that have also financed the behemoth, but no legacy operating lessor has ordered the airplane since International Lease Finance Corp. was a launch customer-and ILFC swapped these in favor of the more marketable A320 family.

The backlog, through June, of firm orders looks like this:

Emirates 55
British 12
Etihad 10
Hong Kong Airways 10
Qatar 10
Qantas 8
Lufthansa 7
Asiana 6
Skymark 6
Virgin Atlantic 6
Kingfisher 5
Singapore 5
Air France 4
Korean Air 4
Transaero 4
Air Austral 2
Thai 2

Source: Airbus, June 30, 2013

Virgin Atlantic continues to push out its A380 order, with entry-into-service now scheduled for 2018, and according to the Bloomberg article even this future date seems iffy.

Kingfisher’s order, of course, is as good as gone. So, probably, is the Hong Kong Airways order unless the Chinese government for some reason steps in and reassigns them to other carriers within China mainland. The government, as Readers will recall, previously curbed HKA’s growth.

One could argue about the quality of a couple of the other customers as well.

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Airbus comes up for air, responds to Boeing’s Form 41 reliance

Airbus came up for air from the Paris Air Show and provided this response on the DOT Form 41 debate. Readers can now compare closely Boeing’s response to our queries with the Airbus response and draw their own conclusions. As with Boeing, we print their verbatim replies to our questions.

DOT form 41 Maintenance cost comparison

Boeing uses F41 data of the period 2004 to 2011 to demonstrate lower maintenance cost of the 737NG compared to the A320. Without debating about the relevancy of F41 data for aircraft maintenance performance and the “correctness” of the data, let’s have a look at the reported F41 data from the point in time when the A320 entered the US market (1991).

DOT 41_1

We see why Boeing is focusing on the 2004 to 2011 period, the reported data are at the first glance favourable for the 737NG.

However, the NG entered in the market in 1998, seven year later than the A320, hence at any point in time the graph compares aircraft with at least a seven year age difference. Is this a “like for like” comparison?

Let’s just shift the 737NG curve to the left, starting in the same year than the A320, in 1991:

DOT 41_2

The picture does now look quite different, but money over time does not have the same value and this is in the above graph penalising the NG.

To be fair the reported cost data need to be harmonised respecting the economic conditions. Let’s put all reported data in year 1991 economic condition:

DOT 41_3

At the time A320 entered the US market barely any MRO capacity was in place. This has changed over the years and from a certain point in time MROs started to make money with performing maintenance work on the A320. Competition started to take place between the MRO’s, which impacted the pricing of maintenance work in reducing the money spent for the operators. For the NG the maintenance market condition has not been the same. Due to the derivative nature of the NG to the 737 Classic a wide MRO base has been proposing maintenance work on the NG right form the entry into service in 1998.

The graph below illustrates this effect in showing the evolution of independent MROs in the US market.

Text Box: Increasing competition  - lower priceDOT 41_4

Another fact leads to lower maintenance cost for the A320 compared to the NG. It is the solid structure, which has been fully fatigue tested during the certification of the aircraft. An advantage the NG does not have, because again due to the derivative nature of the NG compared to the Classic, no full fatigue test has been performed and certification of the airframe has been obtain by “grandfather rights”.

Some quotes from leading MRO’s illustrate the well maturing structure of the A320:

A320 v 737 Maintenance


·         Instead of focusing on the “sweat spot” for the NG, data of the entire reporting period must be compared

·         Comparing different fleet ages is not leading the sensible results

·         Market forces e.g. competition have an impact on maintenance cost

DOT 41_5

 The A320 airframe is better maturing than the NG and improvements on the A320 are showing tangible results.

Boeing’s future in Puget Sound, Washington–maybe Airbus, too

Yesterday we opined that the Boeing “exodus” from Washington State is a tad overblown so far. Here’s why we think so.

  • As long as the airplane programs are derivatives of in-production aircraft, Puget Sound’s place in aerospace is solid. We don’t think the 777X will be assembled anywhere but here, just as MAX–a derivative of the 737 NG–was certain to be assembled here (and it was). The debate, such as it was, over where to assemble the MAX was in our view nothing more than making the airplane a pawn in the labor dispute with IAM 751 and the NLRB lawsuit over the second 787 assembly line. IAM dropped the suit in exchange for the MAX. Or so it appeared.
  • So what if the 787-10 is assembled in South Carolina? Boeing has to take production to 14 a month, in our view, in order to accommodate the 787-10 and to open up delivery slots for the 787-9 and 787-8. We think this means seven 787s a month at Everett and seven at Charleston.
  • Demand for the 737NG and 737 MAX is such that Boeing has to take production rates higher. The Renton factory has the capacity for 63/mo.
  • Demand for the KC-46A tanker may boost rates on the 767 line. Also, as we previously reported, Market Intelligence tells us FedEx is preparing to order the civilian freighter version of the KC-46A, the 767-2C. This also means higher rates.
  • In fact, our Market Intelligence tells us Boeing is already reaching out to the supply chain to plan on production boosts for the 737, 767 and 787 lines.

Production Rates

Source: Leeham Co. Market Intelligence. 777 and 747 rates not included.

Will Boeing continue to shift jobs from unionized Washington to non-union states? You betcha. But if these production rates come to pass (and the supply chain will have to gear up to meet these rates), not only will Boeing be adding jobs but so will the suppliers.

Airbus is talking to suppliers about similar rate hikes. For Washington, this means more jobs, to0, because our state is the No. 2 US supplier to Airbus by company count.

The Seattle Times reports that Airbus may consider opening an engineering center in Washington.

Note the comment about the USAF tanker in the story. We asked Gov. Jay Inslee about his relationship with Airbus during a conference call Wednesday, the final one held by the State to recap its daily activities at the Paris Air Show. Inslee bowed out of the trip to deal with Washington’s lack of a budget.

When he was in Congress, Inslee was one of the most vociferous opponents of the Airbus/EADS bid for the USAF tanker in competition with the Boeing KC-767. Inslee introduced legislation to require the Air Force to take into account WTO findings that Airbus received illegal subsidies for the A330, the plane on which its tanker design was based. Even the US Trade Representative’s office said such legislation violated WTO rules and the effort went nowhere.

Inslee’s efforts at the time offended Airbus officials, who were considering holding a suppliers fair in Washington, which is the No. 2 US supplier to Airbus. Because of the vitriolic opposition by Inslee and other members of the Washington delegation, Airbus shelved consideration of the fair.

We asked Inslee Wednesday how he might mend fences now that he is governor, seeking to expand our supply chain business with Airbus. Inslee was beginning to answer when US Rep. Rick Larson, who was leading the State’s Paris Air Show delegation in Inslee’s absence, interrupted to say he had talked with McArtor, who said the tanker wars were over.

Airbus has a suppliers event scheduled here next month.