Alenia, traveled work contine to plague 787: Everett Herald

At a time when Boeing continues to assure Wall Street that all is well with the 787 program, industrial partner Alenia of Italy and traveled work from Boeing South Carolina continue to plague the program, according to a report from The Everett Herald.

The Herald’s report also comes on the heels of a “documentary” by Al Jazeera English calling into question the competency of the Charleston 787 plant. The documentary was widely criticized, including by this column, for its tactics.

The newspaper, which is located in the same city as Boeing’s wide-body plant, reports that barrel sections made by Alenia continue to have quality control issues, six years after production began on the composite airliner.

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Odds and Ends: Delta/Airbus/Zodiac unveil A320 interior; Upgauging narrow-bodies, down-gauging 747s

A320 interior upgrade: After nearly a year of denying a story by Mary Kirby of Runway Girl Network and avoiding our own report from two years ago, Delta Air Lines, Airbus and interior OEM Zodiac revealed a new interior for the A320 family.

The announcement was made at the APEX convention by Airbus. The interior will appear beginning in Q12016, in this case in Delta’s A321ceos.

New pivot bins will be installed on the Airbus A320 Family beginning in 1Q2016. Delta Air Lines will be the first customer in the A321ceo. Airbus photo.

New pivot bins will be installed on the Airbus A320 Family beginning in 1Q2016. Delta Air Lines will be the first customer in the A321ceo. Airbus photo.

The overhead bins, which mimic the A350 design, are available for retrofit. Airbus says there is 10% more space compared with today’s bins.

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Al Jazeera dumps “Inside Story” look at 787 documentary

Update, Sept. 15, 12:20pm PDT: We got an email from Al Jazeera America Inside Story saying that Al Jazeera English Inside Story is the one that extended the invitation to appear, not Al Jazeera America Inside Story. If you all are confused, so was I. Apologies to AJA Inside Story.

Al Jazeera America English canceled its planned panel discussion of the documentary by sibling Al Jazeera English of the Boeing 787, aired last week to withering criticism by reviewers, including this column.

AJA’s AJE’s half hour discussion program, Inside Story, was to take a free-wheeling look at the documentary. I was invited, and accepted, a slot on the panel. Even after I pointed out my scathing review, AJA AJE assured me that I was still welcome.

The program was to air Sunday or Monday this week. I received notice in a 3am email Sunday (PDT) that the program had been canceled, although no reason why was given and none was provided when I asked.

I don’t know what the real intent of the program was, though I can guess. AJA AJE was trying to get the IAM and SPEEA unions as the other panel participants, so to me it smelled of validation of the documentary rather than an independent discussion. I have no way of knowing whether the unions accepted or declined and the program was canceled for lack of participants or whether it was canceled for other reasons.

Update, Sept. 15, 8:00 am PDT: AJA AJE says the news director concluded there had been enough coverage of the Boeing story and decided to move on.

However, I had my talking points ready. Here’s what I would have said had the program proceeded:

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Al Jazeera slams 787; Boeing punches back; our scathing review

Special note: In a departure from our usual practice and instead I am signing this column. In the interests of full disclosure, I have occasionally appeared as a “talking head” on Al Jazeera America (AJM) with respect to breaking aviation news and on panel discussions over national airline policy. I had no involvement in the 787 special. I was skeptical of what I saw on the preview, which didn’t show anything of substance that was new but because of the attention already drawn to the program, I wanted to wait until seeing it myself before commenting. Al Jazeera America English has invited me to be on a panel to air Sunday or Monday to discuss this investigation; I have accepted. It remains to be seen after this review if AJM AJE still wants me.

–Scott Hamilton

Boeing and Al Jazeera news are trading punches over an hour-long program by the latter that Boeing says was positioned as a documentary under false pretenses and using tabloid tactics.

The controversial all-news station, which evolved when Al Jazeera bought Current TV from from vice president Al Gore (who is now suing for partial non-payment), focused on Boeing’s 787 South Carolina plant.

Boeing’s counter-offensive began Monday in advance of Wednesday’s broadcast. The Charleston Post and Courier neatly encapsulates the Boeing response to the show. Boeing’s full response is at the end of the post.

A Boeing communications official spoke with me at Tuesday’s Ryanair delivery event, repeating much of what is recounted in the Post and Courier article, with particular emphasis on:

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Odds and Ends: Air France/KLM trims cargo fleet; ExIm Bank countdown; BBD v EMB; More

Air France-KLM trims cargo fleet: Steve Wilhelm of The Puget Sound Business Journal reports that Air France-KLM group is sharply trimming its cargo fleet, with the company declaring the capacity continues to shift to the belly capacity of passenger airplanes. This further validates what we have been writing for some time and, in our view, further bolsters our argument that the demand for new-build, dedicated freighters continues to fall. This in turn means Airbus won’t see recovery for the A330-200F nor will Boeing see recovery in demand for the 747-8F or 777-200LRF.

ExIm Bank Countdown: September 30 is the date the US ExIm Bank runs out of money. Although there is talk of a short-term extension of a few months (conveniently taking it past the election and perhaps defusing some of the Tea Party angst over the agency), Emirates Airlines said it will still buy Boeing airplanes even if ExIm isn’t renewed.

This can’t help Boeing’s argument that ExIm should be retained.

Left unsaid in Emirates’ statement, however, is something we heard in the market: Boeing’s deal for the 150 777Xs with Emirates nearly fell apart over the ambiguity over the Bank. We’re also told Boeing agreed to backstop the Emirates deal.

Neither Boeing nor Emirates comment on financing support.

Bombardier vs Embraer: Here is an interesting thought piece on the financial returns of Bombardier vs Embraer. One obvious error in the article: Malmo Aviation didn’t cancel its order for the CS100; it just decided not to be the launch operator.

Neither do you: Flight Global writes this about the end of plans between COMAC and Bombardier to have a common cockpit between the C919 and the CSeries:

“Basically in the development of the C919, Bombardier is not involved,” says [CAAC}. “They have experience in building regional jets, but not so much in narrowbodies.”

We can’t help but think the Chinese learned what they wanted to learn and moved on.

787 safety: This is one of those stories for which we have skepticism but which is already getting enough press that we don’t feel we can ignore it. Al Jazeera America has a special Wednesday night about the safety of the Boeing 787. AJM previously did an investigation of the safety of the Boeing 737. The Seattle Times has an early review. We’ll hold our opinion until after watching the program.

Ryanair finally orders 737 MAX: Once Boeing announced the launch of the 200-seat 737-8 MAX at the Farnborough Air Show, an order from Ireland’s Ryanair was only a matter of time. It became official today: Ryanair ordered 100+100 of the new version, the 737 MAX 200.

 

Final A330neo analysis; cabin improvements gives the A330neo gains over today’s A330

When we did our analysis of the A330neo after the Farnborough launch we limited our checks to trip fuel efficiency as we did not have enough clarity of the cabin improvements that Airbus announced. After a meeting in Toulouse last week with Airbus cabin experts we know have the missing information.

Airbus gives the A330 cabin an interesting update for the A330neo. It comprises A330 ideas (improved crew rests), A350 ideas (improved lighting and IFE) and finally ideas tried out on the A320 (SpaceFlex and SmartLav lavatories). Combined they give the A330neo cabin a better passenger experience and improved utilization of cabin space. Continue reading

Buckingham lowers Boeing to Underperform (sell), others increasingly bearish

Update: 24/7 Wall Street just published this gloomy outlook about Boeing.

Buckingham Research Group today lowered its call on The Boeing Co. from Neutral to Underperform, the equivalent of Hold to Sell. As far as we can tell, this is the first research analyst to put a sell on Boeing in recent years.

According to Thompson/First Call, 10 analysts rate Boeing as a Strong Buy, nine as a Buy and seven as a Hold. None rated Boeing as an Underperform or a Sell (Thompson separates the two ratings; Buckingham’s Underperform is a Sell). According to Thompson/First Call tallies on Yahoo Finance, there hasn’t been a downgrade to sell since 2008, when the 787 program problems were ramping up.

Buckingham has become increasingly pessimistic in recent months about Boeing, so the new rating isn’t necessarily a surprise, and Buckingham isn’t alone. Bank of America Merrill Lynch recently downgraded Boeing to Neutral and in June RBC Capital Markets downgraded Boeing to Sector Perform from Outperform. Wells Fargo and Credit Suisse analysts have been raising concerns in recent notes but haven’t downgraded Boeing, and UBS has been bearish for some time.

Buckingham cited anticipated worsening free cash flow as its principal reason for the downgrade, driven by BRG’s forecast of lower 777 production rates and higher than Boeing’s forecasted $25bn in deferred production costs for the 787. BRG also cited about 1,500 737s not yet added to the accounting block it believes have been sold at steeper discounts than historically.

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Odds and Ends: Malmo and CSeries; Boeing’s Terrible Teens; MH 370

Malmo and CSeries: Malmo Airlines, a small carrier in Sweden that is a subsidiary of Braathens, last week said it withdrew as the launch operator of the Bombardier CSeries. Malmo has five CS100s and five CS300s on order.

First delivery was scheduled for the second half of next year. The oil line failure in a Pratt & Whitney GTF engine on May 29 has set the flight testing back, although BBD hasn’t said by how much. We believe it will likely be a day-for-day setback and it’s possible that EIS will actually slip to 1Q2016.

The flight test fleet is expected to return to the air this month.

According to the Ascend data base, Lufthansa Group’s Swiss Airlines subsidiary was to be the second operator, also in 2015. We don’t expect Swiss to change its planned delivery schedule.

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Focus on Bombardier after more executive changes

This report has been updated since it was issued to our E-subscribers last Monday to reflect our new estimate of the return to airborne status for the flight test program.

Bombardier two weeks ago made more executive changes to the CSeries program, replacing the vice president of marketing and other officials. The company said additional changes might be forthcoming—a clear signal that something more is afoot.

Bombardier has been stuck on 203 firm orders for the CSeries for the better part of this year, although the number of orders and commitments has swelled to 513 with a much better than expected Farnborough Air Show. Still, MOUs and LOIs aren’t firm orders with deposits and progress payments, and poor sales of the CRJ, Q400 and business jet divisions combine with the R&D costs of the CSeries to put a huge financial squeeze on the company. Layoffs and cost cutting, along with the management changes, add to the perception that BBD is a company in trouble.

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Qantas defers 787s, Boeing gears up response to A330neo

Financially ailing Qantas Airways has deferred some of its order for Boeing 787s, a move that ordinarily would be seen as a negative to Boeing. But in this case, it comes at an opportune time that will actually help Boeing respond to the Airbus A330neo.

Qantas’ deferral is from 2016 to 2017 and only for a few airlines. But having posted a record loss and previously canceled and deferred aircraft, we wouldn’t be surprised if this happens again.

The A330neo is planned to enter service in 4Q2017. Airbus is counting on near-term availability to help sales.

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