The case for an A330neo

With the increasing possibility that Airbus will defer or even drop the A350-800, the case for an A330neo becomes much stronger. Absent the A358, Airbus has no effective competition to the Boeing 787-8. The current A330, which we will call the A330 Classic, is a very good airplane but it is not as fuel efficient as the 788. The Airbus argument that the A330 Classic is competitive is based on the most favorable of assumptions and rests in part on the key capital cost assumption and moderate fuel prices.

In a story on Friday Reuters confirmed our December 23 e-newsletter report (which subsequently was published at Leeham News and Comment December 29) that Airbus is seriously considering an A330neo. This certainly clears the air on this score.

A332 cost per seat

 Source: Airbus

Airbus argues that the lower capital cost offsets the higher operating costs of its A330s vs Boeing’s 787-8 and forthcoming 787-9.

The following table includes Airbus’ assumption as well as 2013 lease rates reported by the appraisal firm Collateral Verifications (CV). Airbus assumes a higher lease rate for the 787-8 than CV reports. CV does not yet have an estimated lease rate for the 787-9.

Current Market Value is the price an airplane can be expected to sell for in today’s environment. Current Base Value is the theoretical price in a stable supply-and-demand market.

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A330neo prospect gains traction

Note: The following was distributed to our e-mail list December 23. Last week, American Airlines (as predicted) swapped the A350-800s for A350-900s.

The possibility of Airbus launching an A330 new engine option appears to be gaining ground.

Our Market Intelligence tells us that Airbus is considering a decision soon, probably next year, with a target entry-into-service date of 2018.

A decision to proceed with an A330neo would come after one to drop the A350-800, according to our information. Airbus has systematically switched -800 customers to the larger, and more profitable A350-900 and A350-1000. There are now just 79 A350-800s in backlog.







Aircraft Purchase Fleet


For Alitalia






Probably will swap to A359

Hawaiian Airlines


Waiting on US Airways



Probably will swap to A359



Good as gone




US Airways


Expected to disappear now that AA merger completed, replaced with A359/A351




Source: Airbus, Nov. 2013


 Leeham Co Chart

We identify 37, or 47%, that probably are already at risk of cancellation in favor of the larger A350-900 or A350-1000. These 37 are highlighted in red and pink. Another 10, those for Yemenia, are probably already iffy, according to Market Intelligence. The total of 47 represents 59% of the backlog. We have no information on the remaining customers’ intentions.

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Airbus’ A350-800 dilemma

Last week we discussed Airbus’ A350-1000 dilemma. The -1000 will be a fine airplane, but we concluded the company needs to go forward with a larger capacity “A350-1100″ to match the size of the Boeing 777-9X, but take the Boeing 787-10 approach and be content with sacrificing range in lieu of designing a new wing and engines.

Airbus’ A350 dilemma doesn’t end there. What’s it to do with the A350-800? One fleet planner told us a year or more ago that the “-800 is an expensive A330-300″ with the same operating costs as the larger capacity A350-900.

Airbus has been encouraging customers to move up to the larger A350-900, with Hawaiian Airlines and US Airways the key hold outs. Conventional wisdom says US Airways will swap its order once the merger with American Airlines goes through (which is looking more and more likely, given settlement talks with the Department of Justice). American has a large order for the Boeing 787-9, making the -800 unnecessary in a combined carrier fleet plan.

There are now around 80 -800s in Airbus’ backlog, and even officials at Airbus have been ambiguous about green-lighting production of the -800, which is supposed to enter service in 2016 (after the -900 but before the -1000). We have written several posts in which we concluded the -800 would be re-sequenced to 2018, after the 2017 EIS of the -1000.

We believe there is a very good chance the A350-800 will be dropped in favor of proceeding with an A350-1100.

So what’s Airbus to do in the 250-300 seat space now occupied by the -800 and the aging A330 family?

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Odds and Ends: Airbus to rethink A380 strategy, says Reuters; Boeing B-29

A380 Strategy: Airbus may rethink the near-term strategy of the A380, with an eye toward reducing production rates, reports Reuters. Earlier this week, Boeing announced a rate reduction for the 747-8. Very Large Aircraft (VLA) continue to be a tough sell. YTD, Airbus has net orders of minus three for its VLA, although a Memorandum of Understanding for 20 was signed at the Paris Air Show and is expected to be firmed up by year end and possibly at the Dubai Air Show next month.

Still, the VLA market is very tough. Boeing sold five 747-8s this year and had cancellations of five. Airbus hasn’t met its annual sales target for the A380 for a couple of years.

787-9 Video: In a change of pace, enjoy this video that is nothing but a relaxing visual.


Boeing B-29: Here’s a sight not seen much anymore: take off and landing of a B-29. As interesting as this is, the weather and the photography is pretty cool, too.

Odds and Ends: Flight test progress for A350, 787-9, CSeries; New A320, 737 cabins; JetBlue tails

Flight Test Programs: Here’s a quick update on the flight test programs underway right now:

Airbus A350XWB: The sole flying test platform in the A350XWB program has accumulated  150 hours since its first flight just before the Paris Air Show in June. The second test plane is due to enter the program this month. The program is believed to have completed its VMU (unstick) testing.

Boeing 787-9:  The second member of the 787 family has accumulated 40 flying hours since its first flight on Sept. 17. Aviation Week has a good article on the flight test progress. The airplane is nearing its flutter testing.

Bombardier CSeries: Flight Test Vehicle 1 returned to the skies Tuesday after two weeks since its first flight Sept. 16. Further software upgrades and analyzing test results were stated as the reasons for the gap. The airplane reached 25,000 feet and Mach 0.60 in its second test flight, which lasted four hours.

New A320/737 cabins: Interior maker Zodiac has designed retrofit cabins for the Boeing 737NG and the Airbus A320 families. The 737NG cabin is similar to the Boeing Sky Interior installed on every new 737, but Boeing didn’t offer this as a retrofit to the installed base. Zodiac’s design actually carries more luggage than Boeing’s. The Zodiac A320 cabin is similar.

APEX reported in 2012 that Zodiac had designed an A320 cabin. Zodiac has this detail of its 737NG cabin offering.

Only Qantas Airways has purchased Zodiac’s 737 interior and so far there are no customers for the A320 version. But this is about to change. Here is the story we wrote for APEX.

JetBlue Tails: The airline’s blog has a nice compilation of all its tail liveries here.

Odds and Ends: CSeries concludes second flight; Boeing’s impact on WA State

CSeries second flight: It was two weeks and one day to the second flight of the Bombardier CSeries, quite a bit longer than the Boeing 787-9 and the Airbus A350. The lengthier time was subject to a fair amount of scrutiny by some observers.

We’re told that Flight Test Vehicle 1 was under-going software upgrades. The fly-by-wire aircraft had taken aloft in direct law flight mode. Some of the delay to first flight had to do with software upgrades.

Bombardier collected some noise data on the second flight.

Boeing’s impact on WA State: A new study outlines the impact of the current Boeing 777 family to Washington State, and it’s pretty big. The study was commissioned by the State to understand what needs to be done to win the assembly site for the 777X. A bi-partisan Legislative panel has been appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee as part of this effort.

Other stuff:

  • Long-time readers will remember that we’ve had the opportunity to take a couple of trips on the Trident submarines Alabama and Maryland. Our interest in submarines remains keen. So when we came across an article about the plans for the successor to the Ohio class SSBN, we decided to include it today. The features talk about fly-by-wire control, video monitoring instead of the periscope and a host of other whiz-bang modern technology.
  • Airbus Military handed over the first A400M to France. If we thought the development period of commercial airliners is tough these days, the A400M may set new standards for a military program: 30 years, according to Reuters. With the plans to end Boeing’s C-17 production in 2015, we hear Boeing is developing a smaller cargo/troop transport that will compete with the A400M and be a replacement for the smaller Lockheed Martin C-130.

Odds and Ends: RR, Airbus milestone; C919; first flight videos

Rolls-Royce, Airbus Milestone: Aviation Week reports that the two companies reached a design milestone for the engine on the A350-1000.

C919 nearing ‘critical’ stage: Flight Global reports that the COMAC C919, China’s bid to challenge Airbus and Boeing in the 150-210 seat sector, is nearing a critical design stage. COMAC also discusses some of the issues with its ARJ21 in the article.

First Flight Videos: No introductions needed.

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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787-9 first flight follow-up

Here is some “morning after” coverage of the first flight of the Boeing 787-9.

  • The Wall Street Journal has this article with some detail about pricing, design improvements and other differences between the 789 and the 788. Via Google News so it should be accessible to all Readers.
  • CNET has this report, along with a compilation of photos.
  • The Seattle Post Intelligencer has this photo array.
  • Aviation Week has this report, with its usual devotion to detail.
  • The Everett Herald has this report.

Boeing 787-9 departs on first flight

The Boeing 787-9 left this morning on its first flight at 11:02 AM PDT. We discussed the implications of this first flight on Sept. 13.

We were at the first flight departure at Paine Field, Everett (WA), for what was essentially a photo-op (this isn’t a complaint); no Boeing officials were made available to talk with. The flight departed an hour later than schedule. As we write this, the flight is still airborne, due to land at Boeing Field at 4pm 3pm (back to original schedule) PDT. A press conference with the pilots follows, though we will miss this.

While waiting, a LAN 787-8 also prepared to depart on a test flight. Compared with the 787-9, the 788 is a stubby little airplane and the 789 much sleeker. We only imagine what the even longer 787-10 will look like next to its siblings.

Here are some videos we shot. We’ll start with the take-off, followed by other videos shot while waiting for first flight.

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