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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Farnborough Air Show, July 13: CSeries program analysis

The unexpected pre-Farnborough Air Show announcement by Bombardier for letters of intent for up to 24 CS100s is welcome news for the company and the program.

Although an announcement by Falko Regional Aircraft Leasing of a firm order would have been more welcome, history shows that LOIs tend to be converted into firm orders eventually, whether these are from Airbus, Boeing, Embraer–or Bombardier. With the Falko LOI, BBD now has 471 firm orders and commitments for the CSeries.

Hand-wringing headlines and stories over May’s engine incident in which a Pratt & Whitney P1000G Geared Turbo Fan during a CSeries ground test and the assumed hugely negative impact on the program these stories and headlines suggest are way overblown.

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Boeing should “dual source” 737 fuselage work–right here in Puget Sound

Boeing’s 737 line suffered a second disruption when a train carrying fuselages from Spirit AeroSystems derailed in Montana, sending three of six down an embankment and into a river.

Source: PBS.

The disruption may be short-lived, but nonetheless highlights the issue of relying on Spirit as a sole-source supplier for 737 fuselages. This is the second time in two years there has been a disruption for the 737 line. A tornado struck the Spirit plant in 2012, closing the facility for a short time. Damage was slight, but had the twister been more of a direct hit, the impact on Boeing would have been severe.

With Boeing planning to bring production of the 737 line to 47/mo by 2018 and pondering rate 52 and even rate 60, the company should consider creating a second fuselage production line–and it should be right here in Puget Sound.

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No more moonshots stifles innovation

Boeing CEO said there will be no more “moonshots” at Boeing when it comes to future airplane development. Airbus says it will focus on derivatives rather than new airplanes.

After the program debacles of the Airbus A400M and A380 (plus the development cost of the A350) and Boeing 747-8 and 787, we can appreciate the sentiment. However, Boeing CEO Jim McNerney’s statement that doing a new airplane every 25 years is, essentially, bad policy, is disheartening.

Boeing used to be the shining example in the US of innovative technology: The B-17, B-29, B-47, B-52, 707, the versatile 727, the 747, the ETOPS 767, the incredibly reliable 777 and now the 787 (even as troubled as it has been). The 737, best-selling airplane that it is, was not a ground-breaking technology and neither was the 757. But each became solid stable mates in the 7 Series line up.

Airbus also offered ground-breaking technology and concepts. Fly-by-wire. Common cockpits across the family line. Re-engining the A320 family (forcing a reluctant Boeing to do the same with the 737). A technologically impressive A380, even if it’s hardly been the sales success Airbus hoped for.

Innovation and the willingness to taking industrial-leading chances make a company great.

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Embraer’s enhanced E-Jet passenger experience

We flew in a new American Airlines (operated by Republic Airways) Embraer E-Jet E1 on our way to the Pratt & Whitney media day and noticed the difference immediately with the E-Jet” Classic.”

It’s the “passenger experience.”

The E-Jet Classic had overhead bins that were better than the Bombardier CRJ and Embraer ERJ but non as good as the Airbus A320, Boeing 737 or the forthcoming Bombardier CSeries. The bins could accept larger bags than could the CRJ and ERJ but not as big as the other jets. The port side bin in the E-Jet Classic was a narrow little thing that we joked could accept your water bottle and that was about it.

The new E-Jet E1 Enhanced bins are much better. While the port side first class isn’t as big as the starboard side, it now accepts briefcases, tote bags and small backpacks. The star board bin easily accepts roller backs sized for three nights away, though Airbus, Boeing and CSeries still have an advantage.

Boeing’s approach in creating the passenger experience

Passenger experience continues to become more and more of a focus for the Original Equipment Manufacturers, who try to create an atmosphere that’s appealing even as airlines cram more and more seats into airplanes to gain revenue in an environment where ancillary fees often mean the difference between profit and loss.

Cabin ambiance for mainline, and especially intercontinental, jets is a battle that hasn’t gotten much attention until the advent of the Boeing 787. The creation of the Boeing 747, of course, provided unprecedented space and ambiance and the “wide-body” was followed quickly by the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and Lockheed L-1011. Creating the wide-body look for the single aisle airplanes followed, with improvements subsequently in overhead bins and the look of the ceiling. But it wasn’t until the 787 that there was a dramatic change in the cabin interior look and feel. Boeing expanded this look to the 747-8 and the 737.

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