Odds and Ends: Bombardier signs Macquarie Airfinance for 40+10 CS300s; 787 fire suppression

Big CSeries order: Bombardier today announced a firm order for 40 CS300s with options for 10 more with lessor Macquarie Airfinance. This brings firm orders to 243 and orders and commitments to 563.

This is the order that was has been pending since the Farnborough Air Show, and which was delayed perhaps a month because of the grounding of the test fleet from May 29. Flight Global initially reported that Macquarie could be lined up to place an order, and we followed up with some additional information July 29.

Macquarie is a small lessor by today’s standards, with 128 aircraft in the portfolio. These have all been acquired through purchase/leasebacks or via a portfolio purchase from other lessors. The CSeries is the first speculative order placed by Macquarie. As such, this is a major endorsement of the CSeries program. It also makes Macquarie one of the largest customers: Republic Airways Holdings, a launch customer, ordered 40 and optioned 40; Lufthansa Group ordered 30 plus options; and Ilyushin Finance Corp., a Russian lessor, has ordered nearly 40.

Macquarie bypassed Airbus and Boeing A320s and 737s for new orders. It has 63 and 57 in its fleet already and the backlogs for new orders stretch to 2020.

787 fire suppression: The Wall Street Journal reports that regulators have ordered changes in the Boeing 787 fire suppression system.

Boeing initially issued a service bulletin in May but regulators have now made the fix mandatory. The order covers 88 earlier versions of the 787; there are more than 150 in service today.

Coincidentally, a LOT Polish Airlines 787 made an emergency landing today in Scotland because of a faulty fire warning.


Odds and Ends: Comparing Airbus, Boeing 20-year forecasts; A320neo first flight; 787 battery probe fizzles; Mythbusting

Airbus v Boeing forecasts: The Blog by Javier takes its annual look at and comparison of the Airbus and Boeing 20-year forecasts. Airbus issued its new forecast this week; Boeing’s annual update was issued last summer.

Separately, the A320neo with Pratt & Whitney engines made its first flight today. The CFM LEAP neo is supposed to follow by six months. Showing class, Boeing Tweeted a congratulations for a milestone for the industry.

787 battery probe: The US National Transportation Safety Board hasn’t been able to find the root cause of the lithium ion battery failure in the Japan Air Lines and ANA Boeing 787 incidents. Now, the Japanese investigation has also failed to find the root cause of the ANA battery meltdown.

It’s rare but not unknown for investigators to not find root causes of problems, sometimes for years. A Northwest Airlines Boeing 747-400 split rudder hard over during a flight from Anchorage to Tokyo is one example; it took four years to determine the cause. The root cause of Boeing 737 rudder hard-overs, two of which caused fatal accidents, went unsolved for years.

Boarding airplanes: The reality show Mythbusters, an often entertaining look at myths, conventional wisdom, fact and fiction, takes a deep dive into airplane boarding. The article, with an insert to the episode, is here.

The Southwest Airlines style of boarding, with no seat assignments and derisively called cattle-call boarding, is the fastest and the most annoying, according to Mythbusters. Back-to-front is the longest. The Window-Middle-Aisle works best (but for those of us who like the aisle seat, the overhead bins are usually stuffed by then).

ISTAT Europe Conference in Istanbul: Boeing and Airbus slugging it out with some new twists

Airbus and Boeing squared off once again Monday, this time at the ISTAT Europe conference in Istanbul, once again pretty much over the entire product lines.
Boeing’s VP Marketing Randy Tinseth began with two focal points, the 737 with its latest developments and Boeing’s “superior” Twin Aisle line-up. Tinseth claimed Boeing has caught up to the A320neo with the 737 MAX.

After an A320neo head start of a year, Tinseth says Boeing has kept the same sales rate per year for the 737 MAX. The backlog of 737 MAX now stands at 2,300 aircraft and he described why Boeing thinks it is well positioned in this market segment.

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Odds and Ends: Tom Enders at Bernstein; JetBlue’s CEO; Al-Baker on Al Jazeera; Volcano photos

Tom Enders: Airbus Group CEO Tom Enders appeared recently at a Bernstein Research conference. A couple of highlights:

The A350 program is on track for certification and first delivery on the schedule set two years ago.We have not seen a commercial aircraft program stay this close to schedule during the last 20years, which Enders emphasized demonstrates how far the company has come in its product development processes since the A380. The challenges of the production ramp are still ahead, which is the most difficult part, with the simultaneous objectives of managing schedule and lowering recurring costs. While additional charges or schedule changes are acknowledged as a possibility, there is no change in the company’s outlook for the production ramp at this stage. Airbus expects A350 margins to ultimately be as good as on the company’s current mature programs. While development of a second stretch A350-1100 might be explored by engineers, management is not considering it at this stage. The focus remains on getting the A350-900 completed and development of the A350-1000.
After an extensive review, Airbus saw the A330neo as a necessary step. The A330neo launch decision required assessing the risk of cannibalization of the A350-900 in detail. Airbus was convinced that this would not be a major problem and that the two airplanes could be complementary. Realistically, the expectation is that the A330ceo rate will need to come down as the transition to the A330neo occurs in 2017-18. No rate has been set for the A330neo, but it could be in the 7-10/month range. One should not, however, necessarily expect 10/month, as this was the all time peak rate. As with most programs near the end of the line, the later A330ceo prices will likely be at a discount (just as Boeing expects discounts near the end of its 777-300ER line). The A330neo development is expected to be easier than for the A320neo, because it does not involve an entirely new engine. We have seen the nacelle (to be produced by Safran’s Aircelle) as the most difficult part of the timeline. Airbus has been assured by Safran, however, that the A330neo schedule should be met.
CEO’s departure at JetBlue: The Street.com has a recap of the issues that have led to the planned departure of David Barger, the CEO at Jet Blue. Expect more fees and more crowded airplanes. Greed prevails over passenger experience.
Al-Baker raps Al Jazeera: Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baker criticized its sibling (or cousin), Al Jazeera English, for its “documentary” on the Boeing 787. Flight Global has a recap here.

Volcano photos: It’s not aviation but these photos of the recent volcanic eruption are incredible.

Also not aviation: Had Scotland voted for independence, would “Great Britain” have become “Mediocre Britain?” Credit to my daughter for this one.

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