Implications of the Dubai Air Show orders

With the Dubai Air Show wrapped up, it’s time to assess the events and the implications.


Boeing launches 777X

Boeing launched the 777X at the show with orders and commitments for 182 777-9s and 43 777-8s, the latter the Ultra Long Range (ULR) version. These orders were driven by Emirates Airlines, which ordered 115 -9s and 35 -8s.


All had been widely telegraphed, and follow Lufthansa Airlines’ order for 34 777-9X previously anounced.


The 777-8 competes directly with the 350-passenger Airbus A350-1000; the 777-9, at 407 passengers, is in a class by itself between the -1000 and the 467-seat Boeing 747-8.


Boeing forecasts a 20-year demand for 670 350-400 seat (including the 405-seat 777-9) sector. Airbus forecasts a need for 779 aircraft in this sector. Airbus had booked 176 A350-1000 orders going into the show and added 10 more.


This means Airbus and Boeing have sold 186 and 259 aircraft in this sector respectively, or 445 in total. Boeing converted three options of the 777-300ER to a firm order. Now we’re at 448, of 67% of the Boeing forecast or 58% of the Airbus forecast. There are 278 777-300ERs in backlog, for a total of 692.


There are 306 747-400 passenger models in service and another 23 Combis, or 329. There are 501 777-300s in service. This equals 830 excluding the 777-300ER backlog or 1,108 including the backlog,








In Service


















 Sources: Airbus, Boeing


We believe the Airbus and Boeing forecasts understate the 20 year demand just on the replacement potential of today’s 1,108 747-400s and 779 777-300ERs in service or on backlog. In addition to the replacement requirement, traffic growth will support more aircraft orders.


Airbus and the “A350-1100″

We previously analyzed the Airbus dilemma over how it should meet the development of the 777-9. Airbus doesn’t have a direct competitor to this aircraft, though officials claim the A350-1000 is this competitor. We disagree and so do Emirates Airlines and Qatar Airways. According to our Market Intelligence, Airbus has held conversations with Emirates about a stretch “A350-1100″ version. Qatar’s CEO, Akbar Al-Baker, publicly expressed interest in an “1100″ model.


Airbus previously dismissed the idea of an “1100″ of roughly equal capacity to the 777-9 because it did not see a market for the airplane of this size. Based on its forecast of 779 airplanes and the existing sales, this logic is apparent. Since then, however, Airbus officials indicated they are at least looking at the possibility, though no formal study is underway.

There is a concern in some quarters that Airbus has already missed this opportunity and Boeing has too great a lead.

We continue to believe Airbus will eventually proceed with the “1100.”


Boeing 747-8

We think it significant that no orders were announced for the Boeing 747-8I passenger model or for the 747-8F. We have long believed the 777-9 spells the end of the 747-8I. While Lufthansa Airlines has ordered the 8I, the 777-9 and the Airbus A380 and sees a need for each of these as each serves different market sectors, there is little the 747-8I can do that the more economical 777-9 can’t. Lufthansa likes the 747-8I for hot-and-high airports, such as Mexico City, but there are few of these markets that support the continuation of this airplane now that the 777-9 is official.


The 747-8F’s future depends on the recovery of the cargo market. Boeing forecasts this to occur next year. But one cargo conversion company, which doesn’t play in the 747 space, doesn’t see the business case of a new-build 747-8F when there are abundant 747-400Fs parked in the desert and those 329 more passenger and combi aircraft available for conversion at a far less expensive price than it costs to buy new. Additionally, this company believes the belly capacity of the 777-300ER and Airbus A330-300, and the existence of the 777-200LRF, provides plenty of capacity that diminishes the economics and requirement for the 747-8F.


Airbus A380

The order by Emirates Airlines for 50 A380s is a badly needed shot in the arm for the program, which saw sales stall at 262 for an extended period (259 net of cancellations). There are several orders that are iffy (Hong Kong Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, two for Air France) and dead (Kingfisher Airlines), among others. Emirates plus a pending confirmation of an MOU for Doric Lease are needed to fill near-term production slot vacancies and boost the book-to-bill deficit in the program.


But customer concentration is increased with the Emirates order, now accounting for 140 (42.5%) of the 329 orders confirmed and announced. Airbus continues to bank on airport congestion and traffic growth combining to boost sales. We think the 777-9 will cut into this demand. The question is whether Airbus proceeds with an A350-1100 to retain some of this diversion in the family or whether it allows Boeing the monopoly to do so.

Airbus’ McArtor on VLA, 777X, 757 replacement and Airbus future products

Airbus Americas Chairman Allan McArtor.

Allan McArtor believes there will always be a market for the Very Large Aircraft (VLA), but he’s not surprised Boeing cut the production rate of the 747-8.

McArtor, who as chairman of Airbus Americas, is hardly an unbiased observer. He says the 747-8 Intercontinental is uneconomic and the market for the 747-8F is weak. But he also acknowledged that the dearth of sales for the Airbus A380 has been a challenge.

Airbus has forecast 1,200-1,300 VLA-Passenger deliveries over a 20 year period every year since 2000, while Boeing has steadily reduced its forecast to just 540 VLAPs in its current forecast. Airbus believes it will capture 50% of the market, based on its forecast. In fact, it currently is capturing between 86%-90% of the sales.

Each forecasts several hundred more VLA-Freighter deliveries during the next 20 years. Boeing currently holds a monopoly in the VLAF sector, but sales haven’t been on a pace to meet either company’s forecast, nor have sales of the A380 remotely maintained a pace that suggests Airbus will meet its own forecast, without dramatically adjusting both the total market and its market share expectations.

In an interview with Leeham News, McArtor maintained there will “always” be a demand for the VLA. He acknowledged that one can quibble with the forecast or the timing, but airport constraints and growing markets between key cities, such as London-Tokyo, London-New York, Paris-Tokyo or New York and similar segments, will demand a VLAP.

Airbus so far this year has has a net order for the A380 of minus three, but it signed a Memorandum of Understanding for 20 from specialty lessor Doric during the Paris Air Show. This is expected to be firmed up before the end of the year, potentially at the Dubai Air Show.

Boeing is also expected to make a splash at Dubai with the highly anticipated public launch of the 777X, with a large order from Emirates Airlines. The airplane, with a new composite wing, new engines, systems upgrades and cabin modifications, will come in a 350-seat 777-8 and a 407-seat 777-9. The 777-8 directly competes with the Airbus A350-1000. The 777-9 doesn’t have an Airbus competitor and at nominally 407 seats falls just within the VLA sector, which begins at 400 seats.

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Odds and Ends: Airbus 20 year forecast; Boeing in WA State; water bombing a fire; Rolls-Royce’ Classic Airliners

Airbus forecast: Airbus announced its 20 year forecast update today in London (Boeing’s update came in advance of the Paris Air Show in July). Here are links to the update:

Reuters, via Fox News

The Star of Malaysia

Airbus summary and news release

Global Market Forecast video and document.

Overall demand increased, according to the forecast. The demand for the Very Large Aircraft sector remains flat at 1,300, a figure which generally has varied very little since Airbus first began forecasting this sector. Boeing’s forecast is sharply lower. We basically agree with Boeing’s number but believe Airbus will have the lion’s share of this sector.

Boeing does not categorize its 406-seat 777-9X as a VLA even though at this capacity it falls within the sector’s long-standing definition of >400 seats.

Boeing in Washington State: KUOW, one of the public radio stations here in the Seattle area, has an, in-depth report on Boeing in Washington State and the challenges the state has in keeping Boeing here. The text is here, along with the broadcast.

Michel Merluzeau, of Kirkland (WA’s) G2 Solutions consultcy, says the center of aerospace has shifted to the US Southeast from Washington State. We’re not sure the “center” has shifted, yet, but it’s certainly tilting that direction.

Putting out a fire: With a hat-tip to JC Hall of Esterline for bringing this to our attention, this video clip needs no explanation.

Rolls-Royce: Aviation Week has this story about the future of Rolls-Royce in commercial aviation now that its joint venture with Pratt & Whitney (International Aero Engines) is over.

Classic Airliners: Loads of photos here.

Lufthansa splits wide-body order between Airbus and Boeing

Lufthansa Airlines announced its long-expected wide-body order, for 59 Airbus A350-900s and Boeing 777-9Xs.

Airbus won a firm order for 25 with options for 25 more. Boeing’s press release didn’t disclose options.

This is a big win for both companies in a hard-fought contest. LH had long said it expected to buy only from one company, and the split order means neither OEM came away empty handed. But Boeing did not get an order for the 787-10, which was part of the package being offered to LH. Nor did it receive an order for the 747-8I, which it had hoped to obtain as well.

Who needs a 747-8I? Air Canada puts 458 seats in 777-300ER

Holy crammed-in-coach, Batman!

Air Canada has configured its latest Boeing 777-300ER with 458 seats, in three classes. How in the world? Airline Reporter tells how, and we wouldn’t want to be stuck in coach.

We’ve been writing for some time the Boeing 747-8I is squeezed from the bottom by the -300ER and from the top by the Airbus A380, but this configuration on the -300ER is pretty extreme. Boeing claims seating of 467 for its 747-8I when it compares its Very Large Aircraft with the A380 (a configuration that is unrealistic–it should be 405 in typically airline layout). has this illustration of Air Canada’s -300ER seating.

Airline Reporter doesn’t say who makes Air Canada’s new coach seats. Recaro seems to be a popular supplier, providing its slimline seats to Qatar and Alaska Airlines, among others. We’ve been in Alaska’s Recaro-equipped coach class and while AS touts these as state-of-the-art comfort, we were less impressed. There was little lower back support unless sitting firmly in the seat, and the recline isn’t enough unless you slouch. The headrest is in the wrong position for good neck support (for a 6-footer). We also sat in Qatar’s Recaro coach seat when the airline showed its first Boeing 787 off to media and invitees, and we weren’t impressed then, either. Slimline design notwithstanding, it was still cramped. On the other hand, Qatar uses BE Aerospace-designed fancy business class seats and these were the first we’d seen where you don’t have to be an engineer to figure out the controls, figuratively speaking.

Since we started out with a Hollywood saying, we’ll end with one. Coach class on international flights, especially considering 17 inch wide seats and narrow seat pitch: as Danny Glover’s character in Lethal Weapon said, “I’m too old for this [stuff].”

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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Odds and Ends: Dominating Wide-Bodies; Trying to save the 747-8; Delta waits; China OKs 787

Dominating Wide-Bodies: Boeing claimed at its investors’ day yesterday it will dominate the wide-body sector. This, predictably, caused some mirth among our Reader Comments.

We agree with Boeing–for the next several years.

The 777-9X will have a monopoly in its seat size, just as the 777-300ER does today. Boeing’s greater production plans, both announced and with figures bandied about for some time, also support this.

Below is our chart, based on announced production numbers, anticipated 787 production and our own prognostications.

Production rate is per month.

2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
A380 3 3 3 3 3 3 3
A350 2 4 6 8 10 10 10
A330 10 10 10 10 8 8 8
Total 15 17 19 21 21 21 21
777X 2
777 Today 8.3 8.3 8.3 8.3 8.3 6 6
787 10 10 10 12 14 14 14
747 1.75 1.75 1  1 1 1 1
Total 20.05 20.05 19.3 21.3 23.3 21 21

What do you think?

Saving the 747-8: The Puget Sound Business Journal has this article about Boeing’s latest effort to improve sales prospects for the 747-8, particularly the passenger model. Only 31 Intercontinentals have been ordered by airlines (vs 262 Airbus A380s). This is only a 10.5% market share for Boeing.

Delta Waits: Delta Air Lines hasn’t ordered the Boeing 787, the Airbus A350 or the re-engined aircraft. The 787s it inherited from Northwest Airlines’ order and merger have been pushed out to 2020 and, for all intents and purposes, may as well be considered canceled, though they are still on the books. Why no orders for the new or re-engined airplanes? This article explains.

China OKs 787: Chinese authorities have at long last certified the 787 for operation by its airlines. China Southern was one of the early launch customers but swapped delivery slots to avoid the so-called Terrible Teens (overweight, highly re-worked models). Chinese carriers hoped to have the 787 in service in time for the 2008 Summer Olympics in China, and when the 787 was named, the number “8″ was said to be a good number in China (thought there was never really any doubt about the name since 8 was next in sequence).

But certification was delayed and delayed. We’ll probably never truly know why, but market rumor reported a nexus between the Chinese certifying the 787 and the FAA’s dawdling on certification procedures for the COMAC C919. Not that the Chinese would ever play politics with airplane deals, mind you….

EADS earnings and Airbus A350, A380 updates

EADS reported its first quarter earnings and in the process reiterated plans to fly the Airbus A350 in June.

Speculation remains rampant that Airbus will fly the airplane in time for the Paris Air Show.

Meantime, sales for the giant A380 languish, with open delivery slots in 2015–the year Airbus has said the program will break even. Like the rival Boeing 747-8I, sales of the Very Large Aircraft have stagnated while sales of the Big Twin engined airplanes have flourished. Airbus, like Boeing on the 747-8, took a huge write off years ago on the A380 program.

Airbus is sticking with its 20 year forecast of 1,300 VLA Passenger sales for Airbus and Boeing, and officially expects to capture 50% of the market. We’ve believed the forecast to be, kindly, optimistic. But the A380 has nearly 90% of the VLAP market and we expect this to remain the case. Airbus might reach its goal of 650 sales over 20 years, but even this is likely to be generous. This are new sales on top of the 272 already sold.

In a lawsuit between Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney a few years back, it was revealed Airbus expected 630-650 program sales, which means about 42% of the sales have already been reached. (It took Boeing nearly 40 years to reach 1,300 747 sales, and for a time the 747 held a monopoly in the “jumbo jet” market). No orders for the A380 have been booked so far this year.

Sizing up the 777X vs Airbus–and Boeing

It was no surprise that Boeing’s Board of Directors authorized the sales force to begin showing the 777X to customers for sale, as opposed to the concepts. As we’ve reported (and as did others), this move was expected this week. Entry-into-Service (EIS) is slated for late 2019, and will be driven in part by development of the GE9X engine.

The 777X replaces the 777-200LR and 777-300ER, with the 777-9X at nominally 406 passengers giving Boeing a monopoly position similar to that currently enjoyed by the -300ER. The 8X/8LX is 353 passengers.

Airbus v Boeing TA


The 777-9X falls just within the Very Large Airplane category of +400 passengers. We believe this will sound the death knell for the struggling 747-8I. The 747-8 nominally carries 467 passengers but Lufthansa, the only operator so far, configures the airplane for 362-386. The 777-9X will likely be far fewer than 406 in Lufthansa’s configuration but plane mile costs should be far superior to the 748. In high density configuration, the 9X will be solidly in VLA territory.

Update, 900am PDT: Boeing dropped five orders for the 747-8F from ailing lessor Dubai Aerospace. The 8F backlog is now down to 33, plus 26 for the 8I.

Gov vows to keep 777X in Washington

Gov. Jay Inslee vows to keep assembly of the 777X in Washington State, a development that gained even higher profile this week with the announcement by Boeing Tuesday that it will spend $1bn to expand its Charleston (SC) facility.

In a press gaggle last week following Boeing’s opening of the Everett Delivery Center at Paine Field, where the current generation 777 is assembled, Inslee repeated his vow to win assembly of the successor airplane for Everett.

“Boeing management understands we’re the jewel of aircraft manufacturing in the world,” Inslee said. “We have to understand that every single model from here on, including the 777X, is going to be competed. We need to do our job to be competitive, to improve the skills training from machinists and engineers, to improve the transportation system so that we can move products and Boeing can move their engines back and forth. If we can do these things, we’re always going to be on top and I intend to do that.”

We asked Inslee about Washington’s strict environmental regulations compared with Southern states, including South Carolina, where regulations are much more lax compared with here. Inslee, a strong environmentalist during his tenure in Congress and who has a strong “green” agenda as governor, replied:

“I am firmly of the conviction that we can have a sound environment and a booming economy, including aerospace. What we can do is maintain our standards but I do hope we can find a way to expedite our permitting decision-making. I think we can make these on a more timely basis and I am working with my regulatory agencies to do that. I believe Boeing values the environment as we do in Washington, and we’re going to have both.”

The press gaggle then shifted over to Pat Shanahan, VP of Aircraft Programs, who was the ranking Boeing representative at the Delivery Center’s opening. In his position, he is also keenly involved in new aircraft development.

Given the now-paranoid nature of Washington politicians and media over Boeing’s future here, Shanahan was asked if the new Delivery Center had any bearing on Boeing’s commitment to Puget Sound.

“We wouldn’t build a facility like this if we weren’t committed to it,” he said. We then asked if the Everett facility has enough room to seamlessly integrate the 777X, or whether an expansion would be required, or whether another airplane program would have to be discontinued to make way. We noted that the Renton facility had to displace some staging areas for parts and equipment currently serving the 737NG production to make way for the 737 MAX line start-up.

“We have a lot of options,” replied. “You saw in Renton we had a lot of options. Over the course doing any kind of development, or laying out a program, you go through every one of those as well as what kind of investments are required and what kind of business case you need to make. We’re in the midst of the 777X doing lots of studies.”

Shanahan declined to answer a question from a reporter whether the 777X will kill the stagnant 747-8I.