Odds and Ends: Composites in future airplanes; Boeing and Hillary Clinton; 757 MAX; AA swaps A321neo orders; Delta RFP

Composites in future airplanes: Composites World has a post about the use of composites in the future, with a good graphic detailing the increasing use of this material in airliners.

Boeing and Hillary Clinton: The Washington Post has a long story about the relationship between Boeing and Hillary Clinton, while she was US Secretary of State. While the story raises some interesting issues with respect to the prospective presidential candidate in 2016, the points focusing on her advocating for Boeing aircraft purchases doesn’t bother us a bit: that’s what politicians do on behalf of Airbus. As far as we’re concerned, our government should be supporting our industries, too.

757 MAX: The Motley Fool raises the prospect of a Boeing “757 MAX,” which is a restart of the 757 line but with a composite wing and new engines–something along the lines of the 777X in concept.  We’ve been hearing rumblings about this, too.

American swaps A321neo orders: American Airlines swapped 30 A321neo firm orders into options, leaving 100 firm orders for this sub-type left. The deliveries were for 2021/22. American told us it retained this flexibility in the original contract and the new management elected to do so in order “to maintain flexibility.”

Delta’s RFP: Airchive has a good analysis of the Delta Air Lines Request for Proposals to replace its wide-body fleet. We were especially interested in the cost analysis of the 787 vs the A330, which is close to our own numbers (there was no collaboration between Airchive and Leeham).

Odds and Ends: Change in Boeing’s supply chain management; the Ukraine; Bearish mood toward cargo P2F

Boeing supply chain: Stan Deal, VP and GM of Boeing Commercial’s Supply Chain management, has been appointed to SVP of Boeing Commercial Aviation Service, replacing Lou Mancini, who is retiring.

Boeing CAS serves customers with aircraft maintenance issues, aircraft-on-ground (AOG) situation and it was the entity that fanned out across the globe to install the battery fixes following the grounding of the 787 fleet. CAS is a significant revenue and profit contributor to Boeing’s bottom line.

The Ukraine: The turmoil in the Ukraine has ripple effects in aerospace. Bombardier, which last year signed an agreement (yet to be firmed up) to sell 100 Q400s to Russia and establish an assembly line there, has seen talks to conclude the deal slow. At the ISTAT conference this week, we were asked if we thought Airbus, Boeing and other OEMs would see sales of titanium slow; Russia is the largest supplier. (Our opinion was probably not, but with Russia, who knows?)

Bearish cargo market: Despite a slight uptick in cargo traffic in January and February, according to data compiled by IATA, the mood toward cargo airplane conversions was decidedly bearish at the ISTAT conference.

While single-aisle P2F conversions are holding up, widebody P2F conversions and new-build main deck sales remain anemic at best. Increasing reliance on the belly capacity of the Boeing 777-300ER, Airbus A330-300 and Boeing 787 cuts demand for dedicated freighters.


Public pressure mounts on Airbus to launch A330neo

Public pressure is building on Airbus to launch a re-engining of its A330 medium-sector, twin-aisle, aging airplane as CIT Aerospace and Air Lease Corp. officials joined Delta Air Lines and AirAsia in their previous overt calls for development of an A330neo. Lufthansa Airlines is understood to be seeking a neo behind the scenes.

GE Aviation and Rolls-Royce are encouraging Airbus to proceed with a neo as a platform for their GEnx and Trent 1000 TEN engines. The GEnx is used on the Boeing 747-8 and the 787; the Trent 1000 TEN is used on the 787.

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Airbus and Boeing square off at ISTAT

Andy Shankland, senior vice president of leasing markets for Airbus, and Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing for Boeing, were next up at the ISTAT annual meeting in San Diego today.

The following is a synopsis and paraphrasing of their presentations and free-wheeling discussion.

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CIT Aerospace looks at A330 future

CIT Aerospace, one of the Top Tier lessors in the business, takes a look at the future options of the Airbus A330.

In a short paper released concurrent with the start of the AGM of ISTAT, the International Society of Transport Aircraft Traders, in San Diego today, CIT’s Steve Mason outlines what he sees as the options facing Airbus to improve sales.

The four page PDF may be found here.

We have production rates of 14 Boeing 787s a month (vs 16 in the CIT analysis) and 10 Boeing 777Xs a month (based on Boeing’s own information) vs eight in the CIT analysis, but otherwise the   CIT analysis is very similar to the issues we’ve written about here previously, so we won’t repeat them. We presented yesterday to the ISTAT Appraisers Continuing Education meeting about the production gap facing Airbus, Boeing and Embraer between their current airplanes and future programs, a topic we’ve also discussed here previously.  CIT and we concur that Airbus has a major dilemma with the A330 going forward; we believe Airbus should proceed with the A330neo, which should extend the life of the airplane by 10-15 years. Absent this, we believe Airbus will be at a major production rate disadvantage in the important 210-400 seat twin aisle sector.

Odds and Ends: MH370, Day 5; Delta’s RFP

MH370, Day 5: Yesterday brought another round of frenzied media coverage when the Chinese government released satellite images of what might be pieces of the Malaysian 777 in the water, 140 miles west of the last known contact position of flight MH370.

These images were identified as being up to 72 feet long and 52 feet wide. The images were taken Sunday, after the Friday night/Saturday morning disappearance.

We’re skeptical that these things are part of the airplane. They are huge to be floating on the water. Most likely something this big would have sunk.

Further, we simply cannot get past the fact that no debris field of any kind has been seen anywhere along the intended flight path or within broad proximity. Seat cushions, aircraft insulation, light-weight parts, papers, and even bodies should have been found in broad proximity to the “crash” site–and these haven’t been.

Certainly this would be a breakthrough if these objects turn out to be part of the plane, for you then could mathematically take into account the currents and winds and backtrack to the point of origin. But we aren’t going to count on it.

And in a dramatic development, The Wall Street Journal reports that signals from the plane’s engines indicate the flight flew on for four hours after the transponder stopped sending signals. This theory has been denied by Malaysia.

Delta’s RFP: Aviation Week has a short story that’s filled with news about the Delta Air Lines request for proposals to replace its Boeing 747-400 and Boeing 767-300ER fleets. The story also contains some information about the need for a plane the size of the Bombardier CSeries. Delta wants the Airbus A330neo, the A330 Classic, the A350 or the Boeing 787 (it has left-over, deferred orders from Northwest Airlines on the latter), and it needs a plane with around 5,000nm-6,000nm range (which fits the A330-300/300neo). It also says the Boeing 737-700 isn’t economical and the 737-800 is too big. While not naming the A319 and A320, the Boeing equivalents, we believe the same is true for these aircraft. This suggests the CSeries. Delta also likes the Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbo Fan.

Odds and Ends: MAS MH370, Day 3; Qatar on A380; A330neo; New Small Airplane

MAS MH370, Day 3: The dominant news last week and over the weekend was, of course, the mysterious disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, a Boeing 777-200ER. It didn’t just crash (which is the assumption): it vanished, with no trace at all.

There was a tantalizing clue that maybe it turned back toward Malaysia, its origination, based on radar returns. But if it were near the Vietnam coast, why turn back when there probably would have been a closer airport in the event of an emergency?

If the radar report is accurate, and the airplane did turn, the larger question is whether the turn was intention, under the command of the pilots (or hijackers), or whether the turn was induced by some problem with the airplane or engines, or an explosion?

As we wrote over the weekend, the absence of debris along intended flight path suggests the airplane deviated–but this is speculation, albeit perhaps supported by the radar indication of a turn.

Some of our Readers, and observers on television, noted that a few days passed in the case of Air France 447 before debris was spotted. AF447 was the Airbus A330 that disappeared between Rio de Janeiro and Paris in 2009 in the South Atlantic. There are similarities but there are differences, too. AF447 went down well out into the open Atlantic in waters about 15,000 feet deep. MH370 disappeared in a much smaller, confined area where the depths are much shallower: up to 300 feet deep. The entire Gulf is 320,000 square km, no small area to search but certainly far smaller than the South Atlantic where AF447 went down.

Latest developments:

  • It’s now been reported that the oil slicks have been analyzed and are not from MH370.
  • Officials say it was standard procedure to keep the cockpit door locked, in accordance with ICAO rules, and cannot be opened from the outside. We’d point out that this doesn’t rule out a cockpit breach entirely, however.
  • The “passport passengers” were not Asian.

The Wall Street Journal created this graphic that is quite illustrative about the situation. What we haven’t seen anywhere is the location for the “turn” reported by radar.

Mary Kirby and Steve Trimble have opinion pieces about the need for a real-time streaming of information. Kirby’s piece is here and Trimble’s is here. Each have a good argument. One thing they don’t talk about is whether there are international standards that would permit this. We did a story for Kirby when she was editor of APEX magazine about the international standards issue with respect to Wi-Fi on airplanes. That story is here.

Although the details between Wi-Fi and real-time aircraft data streaming are different, we wonder if the over-arching challenge Boeing faced with Wi-Fi is the same or similar for real-time data streaming.

Qatar on A380: Akbar Al-Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, is known for his hyperbole and about-faces, but every once in a while he expresses an opinion that has some useful information. His comments about the Airbus A380 is one of these occasions. Take note of the operating costs vs fuel prices and the reference to re-engining the airplane.

A330neo momentum: There continues to be increasing interest among airlines about the prospect of an Airbus A330neo, our Market Intelligence tells us.

New Small Airplane: Here is a 13 page PDF paper written in 2012 and presented to the AIAA discussing the prospects of a twin-aisle operation on 757/737/A320 routes.

Odds and Ends: Repairing composites; More on Rolls-Royce; Boeing layoffs; Book Review; A380 assessment

Repairing composites: Aviation Week has a good article about repairing composites: specifically the Boeing 787 that caught fire at London Heathrow Airport a year ago.

More on Rolls-Royce: Aviation Week also has a longer article to follow up its previous one on the development of new engines by Rolls-Royce. This one details RR’s 20-year engine plan.

Boeing layoffs: It’s one of those good news-bad news things. Boeing announced layoffs for 600 workers in San Antonio (TX). That’s bad news. But it’s because there is little 787 work remaining at this center used to catch up on fixing and finishing 787s during the huge backlog of airplanes. That’s good news. The San Antonio Business Journal has this story.

Separately, the Puget Sound Business Journal reports that St. Louis apparently was the leading contender to be the home for the Boeing 777X if Seattle’s IAM 751 hadn’t approved a new contract.

Book review-The Aviators: We’ve just finished a book focusing on Charles Lindbergh, Eddie Rickenbacker and Jimmy Doolittle and recommend it. The Aviators provides a single location for coverage of these three remarkable pioneers. If you’ve read dedicated biographies of these three, you probably won’t learn much that’s new but if not, this is a great one-stop shop.

Lindbergh was much more than “just” an aviator. He was an environmentalist and a scientist. Aviators also covers the kidnapping of his namesake son. Doolittle’s career as a salesman of airplanes and his hand in urging his employer, Shell Oil, to create 100 octane aviation gas, is chronicled. Rickenbacker’s entry into England is highlighted when British authorities thought him a German spy because of his name.

Aviators follows their stories through to death.

A380 assessment: No, it’s not by Richard Aboulafia, who views the Airbus A380 as his favorite whipping boy. It’s an opinion written by an Aviation Week reporter. It’s not a rousing endorsement of the A380′s future.

Lessons learned from A380, 787 benefit A350

By Leeham Co EU

Lessons learned by Airbus on its A380 production and development by arch-rival Boeing of the troubled 787 appear to be paying off with the A350 XWB.

There are now two A350s operational in the flight test program as it counts down to a fourth quarter delivery target for launch customer Qatar Airways. Testing has passed the 1,000 hour mark and by all accounts is going well. Three test aircraft are coming on line in the next four months to complete the 2,500 flight hours needed for certification. After 1,5 years of delays, the flight test program appears proceeding smoothly and tracking to plan.

Boeing and Bombardier should have had it so good with the 787 and CSeries. The 787 program was delayed nearly four years, interrupted by design and production issues and an in-flight fire on final approach to a landing in Texas involving a power control unit. Bombardier last month announced a new delay, its third, in the CSeries countdown to EIS, this time of 9-15 months.

With flight testing heading for certification in August-September, Airbus says the big challenge is now the production of the serial airplanes. Having been following the production preparations over the last two years, here is our view on how Airbus stands in their industrial ramp up. Airbus plans to ramp up to 10 A350s per month four years after EIS, and it is talking with suppliers about a higher rate.

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Odds and Ends: Boeing’s bonus to Charleston workers; E-Jet E2 EIS; IAM and Airbus; Fending off A330neo

Boeing’s bonus to Charleston workers: We’ve ignored the continuing workmanship stories of Boeing’s Charleston plant on the 787 for the past months as Norwegian Air Shuttle, LOT and Air India continue to have problems with the airplane. We figured there has been more than enough written about the program difficulties, so we moved on.

But the stories that Boeing is offering bonuses to Charleston workers to get the job right is something we feel compelled to comment on. The Seattle Times has this story.

It’s a bit of wonderment that Boeing finds it necessary to incentivize workers to do their jobs correctly, providing a bonus that is greater than those given to the Everett workers who have to fix the poor workmanship of Charleston. Typically, bonuses are given to workers for going above-and-beyond, not for merely doing what they are supposed to do in the first place.

The continuing issues with Charleston are waved away as “things are going according to plan,” and “traveled work is expected.” If this is “according to plan,” then the planner should be canned. Of course, we know this is merely corporate rhetoric dodging the question and strains credibility.

And back at Everett, those early 787s, known as the “Terrible Teens,” are still problem children, according to this report on public radio station KUOW.

EMB E2 timeline: Embraer has clarified its entry-into-service for the E-Jet E2. Flight Global reports that an official said the E-195 E2′s EIS will be the first half of 2018 (which was previously specified) and the E-190 E2 and E-175 E2 will follow in the first half of 2019 and 2020 respectively. Previously, EMB hadn’t been this specific about the EIS of the sibling models, saying only EIS would be in 2019 and 2020.

Union attempt at Airbus: To absolutely no surprise, the International Association of Machinists will attempt to unionize the new Airbus Mobile (AL) plant, reports The Street. IAM will also attempt to re-organize Boeing’s Charleston plant, which was once an IAM shop but de-certified in advance of the second 787 assembly line being located there. The Charleston Post and Courier has this story about the union plans there.

Conspiracy theorists in the IAM 751 suggested a quid-pro-quo between the International IAM: Boeing neutrality of re-organizing Charleston in exchange for the 777X contract vote.

Fending off A330neo: Aspire Aviation has a long piece about the prospective Airbus A330neo and how Boeing can fend off this potential competition.

Icing Up: This isn’t aviation (unless you consider this a satellite photo), but we are just fascinated by this picture of the Great Lakes in the US Midwest. The Great Lakes are 80% iced over.