Odds and Ends: Airbus ponders PIPs for A320neo, says AvWeek; Boeing moves more jobs; MH370 search

A320neo Plus: Airbus is pondering a Performance Improvement Package (PIP) for the A320neo family even before the airplane enters service, according to Aviation Week. The improvements would include an upgraded interior and several systems, designed at providing more carry-on cargo space, more seats and better economy. This fits with a desire to focus on product improvements rather than launching another new airplane program. The prospect of launching the much-discussed A330neo is also referenced in the AvWeek article.

Boeing moves more jobs: The Seattle Times reports that Boeing is moving more jobs out of Seattle, this time also to Southern California. This time these are defense jobs. Boeing has been migrating defense jobs out of Seattle for many years.

Separately, Boeing named its Suppliers of the Year for 2013. These companies are profiled in short videos here.

MH370 search: The Wall Street Journal has a good update of the search for Malaysian Airlines MH370 using the Bluefin 21 unmanned submarine.

Airline food: Here’s an irreverent look at why airline food is bad.

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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Bombardier CSeries delays have little impact vs competitors

Bombardier’s third CSeries Flight Test Vehicle finally became airborne March 3. FTV 3 focuses on avionics. FTV 4 will focus on the testing of the Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbo Fan engine; Bombardier hasn’t announced a date when this airplane will join the test program.

Bombardier’s rescheduled flight test schedule, reflecting a 9-15 month additional delay to entry-into-service (now the second half of 2015), hasn’t been publicly detailed. BBD presents to the International Society of Transport Aircraft Traders (ISTAT) at its annual US meeting this week in San Diego, and there is an investors day later in the week. We expect one or both venues to provide program updates.

The new EIS narrows the gap between the CSeries and its competitors, the Airbus A319neo, the Embraer E-190/195 E2 and the Boeing 737-7 MAX. But the impact isn’t significant, in our view. Airbus’ A319neo—the direct competitor to the CS300—was to be the first of the re-engined challengers to the new-design CS300 with an EIS originally set for the first quarter of 2016 (six months after the A320neo EIS of October 2015). But Qatar Airways, the launch customer of the A319neo, dropped this order in favor of the larger A320neo. The A319neo EIS is now slated for the second half of 2017, for Avianca Airlines.

EIS 100-149

 

This means the original two-year gap between the CS300 and the A319neo remains the same, assuming no additional delays for the CSeries and none for the A319neo.

Parenthetically, we are unsure if Frontier Airlines will take its order for 20 A319neos, with first delivery scheduled in 2018. When we talked with CEO David Siegel two years ago, he expressed doubts about taking the airplane, preferring the larger A320 sibling. The only other announced customer is Avianca, with a firm order for nine. Will Avianca ultimately take the A319neo, particularly if Frontier swaps its order? We have our doubts. There is an unannounced customer for the A319neo for eight, according to the Ascend data base, but delivery dates currently are listed as “2500.”

The Embraer E-190 E2 nominally competes with the CS100; it’s barely within the 100-125 seat category in a one-class configuration, while the CS100 is comfortably within this sector. In two classes, the E-190 E2 is an 88 seat aircraft and the CS100 is 100 seats. The CS100 also has more range; arguably these are different classes of aircraft.

The E-195 E2 nominally competes with the CS-300. In one class, the E-195 E2 is a 132 seat airplane, but the CS-300 carriers 145-149 passengers, and as with the CS-100 has longer range. The E-195 E2 is a more direct competitor with the CS-100, but range is shorter and missions may be somewhat different. The EIS for the CSeries vs the E2s still has a gap of 2 ½-3 ½ years, assuming no delays to either program based on the currently announced schedules.

The 737-7 MAX EIS is slated for 2019, about four years after the CS-300.

Thus, we see little impact to Bombardier’s delay from a practical standpoint.

Despite the additional delay, Bombardier hasn’t yet updated its expectations for firm orders and customer numbers. It’s still reporting its goal to have 300 firm orders and 20-30 customers by EIS (previously fall of 2014). Moving the EIS to the right by 9-15 months should implicitly infer higher numbers. Perhaps new targets will be revealed in the program update this week.

The case for an NSA in 2025 — successor to 737-8 MAX — (continued)

 Editor’s Note: Given the amount of interest in the prospect of replacements for the single-aisle airplanes, including the Boeing 757, our Guest Columnist provided a follow-up think piece.

By James Krebs

With the reengined Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A320 neo families selling like gangbusters, it may seem premature, before one even flies, to be considering a New Small Airplane (NSA) successor to enter service beginning in 2025. But I’m convinced the NSA will come before conventional wisdom expects. The marketplace will demand them.

A combination of market forces could make a compelling case for a NSA in service in 2025.

-   Continuing high fuel prices

-   Increasing urgency to reduce aviation carbon emissions

-   Availability of technology for 20% fuel savings vs 737-8 max and A320 neo (at same seat number) at acceptable risk

-   Traffic growth calling for more seats for 2025 and beyond.

-   Growing pressure from the airlines later in this decade for cleaner, more economical short haul NSA’s

-   Huge global market potential for NSA families — with their performance improved through the years

-   A short haul market share by 2017-18 (neo’s and MAX in service) very disappointing to Boeing.

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Odds and Ends: Airbus neos; 757RS/A320RS; charity efforts

Airbus neos: The conversation continues, with Tom Williams, EVP of programmes, giving an interview to Flight Global about the A330neo and the A380neo. Plane Talking has another version of the Williams interview. Notable in Plane Talking’s report is the indication Williams said it will be a year before a decision is made on the A330neo. Our information is that a decision, whether yes or no, is due this year. PT also reports Williams indicated an A380neo would be a 2020s product. This suggests the prospect of a new engine from Rolls-Royce, which is under development, or conceivably a Big Engine Pratt & Whitney GTF could be considered.

757RS/A320RS: Aerotubropower, whose expertise is engines, discusses the implications of the planned improvements in fuel burn on the Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbo Fan and what this means for the replacement of the Boeing 757, 737 and Airbus A320 families.

Charity efforts: IAM 751, the touch-labor union for Boeing, is often portrayed as a bunch greedy members who feel a sense of entitlement. One can certainly debate this point, but what isn’t debatable is 751′s efforts at charity throughout the year. Every once in a while, we pop over to 751′s blog. Today (Feb. 19) the first four items are about philanthropic efforts in Pierce and King counties.

Just as 751 members are often cast as greedy, so is Boeing, so it is only proper in this context to point out that Boeing also engages in philanthropic endeavors throughout the US (we don’t know about abroad). Here’s a link to some of Boeing’s efforts.

Odds and Ends: LEAP vs GTF; CSeries flight testing; MRJ FAL

LEAP vs GTF: Reuters has a story looking at the intense competition between CFM and Pratt & Whitney for the market dominance of the LEAP vs Geared Turbo Fan engines.

The only airplane where there is competition is on the Airbus A320neo family; CFM is exclusive on the Boeing 737 MAX and COMAC C919 and PW is exclusive on the Bombardier CSeries, Embraer E-Jet E2 and Mitsubishi MRJ. PW shares the platform of the Irkut MC-21 with a Russian engine. PW says it has sold more than 5,000 GTFs across the platforms. CFM has sold more than 6,000 across the three models it powers.

On the A320neo family, the competition is 50-50 at this point, with a large number of customers yet to decide on an engine choice. However, 60 A320neos (120 engines) ordered by lessor GECAS never were in contested (GECAS buys exclusively from CFM) and 80 A319/320neos from Republic Airways Holdings (160 engines) were part of a financial rescue package for then-ailing Frontier Airlines.

PW’s joint venture partner, International Aero Engines, shares the A320ceo family platform with CFM. Late to the market, IAE caught up to CFM in recent years.

On platforms where they compete, the sales figures so far show a neck-and-neck competition between CFM and PW.

Update, 12:30: The link has been fixed. Update, 9:30 am PST: Flight Global has this story reporting that PW plans a Performance Improvement Package on the GTF that will further cut fuel consumption by 3%.

CSeries flight testing: Bombardier’s CSeries flight testing has been slow to this point, but it’s beginning to ramp up. Aviation Week reports that FTV 3 should be in the air by the end of this month and FTV 4 should follow in April. FTV 3 is the avionics airplane and FTV 4 focuses on GTF engine testing.

Mitsubishi MRJ: Aviation Week also reports that the Mitsubishi MRJ airplane #1 is nearing final assembly.

Guest column: envisioning the next round of airplanes

By James N. Krebs

Leeham News recently forecast that the next all new Boeing airplane will be a 757 successor with an entry-into-service around 2025, followed by a smaller NSA (New Small Airplane), a 737 MAX/A320 neo successor, in maybe 2027. I believe it will be clear in the next few years that the technology is and can be available here to build a reasonable-risk NSA with 20% fuel savings over the MAXes/ neos (at same seats) for initial service by 2025 (which will demand perhaps 40 more than 162 seats for even better economics). Its production would ramp up over ~5 years or so.

I hope this would be mainly a “Made in the USA” Boeing NSA: American engineering, American manufacturing, American jobs and American competitive edge. If that takes some helpful brainpower and/or investments from NASA, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, etc, good.

Boeing and Airbus might love to build a combined 100/mo. MAXes and neos “forever,” but technology and market forces aren’t likely to permit this. The companies won’t want to whet any appetites soon but I hope Boeing’s advanced design people are already at work–I’d be disappointed if they aren’t.

Airbus could certainly put an A320neo successor in service 10 years after their 2015 neo. A reengined A330 and a possible A350-1100 aren’t the only new projects they are capable of in the next decade.  The market response to their A320neo family completely surprised Boeing a couple years ago. What’s next?

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Filling the production gap at three OEMs

HawksWinHawksWinHawksWin!!!

Airbus, Boeing and Embraer face production gaps of several years in three key product lines. Two of these, Boeing and Embraer, relate to transitions from current generation airplanes to new derivatives. Airbus faces a large gap for its ambition to continue one popular airliner well into the 2020 decade.

Airbus wants to continue production of the A330 at least to 2022 and perhaps later. Boeing last year launched the 777X to succeed the 777 Classic. Embraer also launched a new derivative, the E-Jet E2, to succeed the E-Jet E1. Based on current production rates, the OEMs’ current backlogs produce the following picture:

Airplane

Backlog

At 12/31/13

Production

Rate Today

Per Month

Current Backlog Ends

EIS of New

Airplane

Production

Gap

A330

267

10

May 2016

2022*

6 yrs

777 Classic

314

8.3

Feb 2017

2020**

3 ½ yrs

E-Jet E1

279

8

Nov 2016

1H2018

1 ¼-1 ½ yrs

* Publicly identified continued production goal

** Boeing says 2020;we assume 1H2020; Market Intelligence indicates Boeing would like to achieve a 2019 EIS.

Leeham Co. Chart. Sources: OEMs.

The key, and obvious, question is what do the three OEMs do to bridge this production gap.

 Embraer arguably is in the best shape. EMB’s chief executive officer told Bloomberg News last week that he sees about 150 E-Jet orders through 2015—but the news report didn’t specify how many might be today’s E-Jet E1 or the re-engined, next generation E-Jet E2. If these 150 turn out to be the E1, the production gap is basically filled. If these 150 are a mix of E1s and E2s, EMB could still have challenges. EMB could, like Airbus and Boeing, combine current and next generation deals into one.

 EMB officials have also gone on record that they won’t cut prices to spur sales of the E1. What else can they say publicly? They are certainly not going to say they’re open to bidding wars, and we’re not at all convinced there isn’t sharp discounting in EMB’s future. Bombardier has famously refused to offer discounts demanded by potential customers and mediocre CSeries sales reflect this. Boeing and Airbus claimed they would maintain pricing on the 737NG and A320ceo families in advance of the re-engined derivatives, but both complained about price cutting by the Other Guy and our Market Intelligence certainly tells us each has engaged in sharp, sharp discounting against each other (and in Airbus’ case, against Bombardier’s Cseries).

 We fully expect Boeing to offer discounted package deals to customers to sell the 777 Classic with the 777X and Airbus certainly expects Boeing will cut the price of the 777 Classic to close the production gap.

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Click this link: Airlines beginning to push for discounts on 777 Classic.

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 Airbus has the greatest challenge: currently a six year gap between today’s backlog and the previously stated goal to maintain production to at least 2022. Airbus has been more successful with the A330 than officials ever expected (helped in no small measure by the 787 program debacle). With a production line long-since paid off (which is also true for the 777 Classic), Airbus has a lot of pricing flexibility (as does Boeing). But while Boeing has a successor product for the Classic, Airbus positions the A330 as a complementary airplane to the A350, not a successor. The launch last year of the A330 Regional is an effort to refresh the line and add sales, but so far none has been announced. Proceeding with an A330neo would breath new life into the program, probably adding 10-15 years to production.

 Another way to bridge the production gap is to reduce rates and spread out delivery dates. But this repositions cash flows and profits, and it’s something we don’t think the OEMs will want to do.

 We think price discounting, as with the 737NG and A320ceo, will be the more likely solution.

 

Airbus wins annual results, trails Boeing in deliveries

Airbus announced 1,619 gross orders for 2013–1,503 net orders–and a backlog of 5,559 aircraft. The company delivered 626 aircraft for the year. It ended the year with 51% of the market vs. Boeing.

Boeing won the delivery race but came in second in orders.

CEO Fabrice Bregier said that 10 years ago Airbus delivered only half the aircraft it did in 2013.

Bregier, at the annual press conference, says “re-engining [the A330] is always an option, but not only option,” reports Reuters. “[Airbus COO-Customers John]  Leahy says Airbus could eventually add 1-2 rows to A350-800.”

Aviation Week reports the A350-800 EIS could be moved back a couple of years, also reporting it could be enlarged by two rows.

Bregier says A320 production could increase, reports say from the press conference. (We report in our e-mail distribution today what the production rates will be over the next few years–this will be published on this website next Monday.)

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Looking ahead to 2014

Here’s what to look for in 2014 in commercial aviation.

Airbus

A350 XWB: The high-profile A350 XWB program continues flight testing this year. Entry-into-service has been a sliding target. The program is running about 18 months behind original plan and EIS was intended for mid-year following initial delays. Even this has slipped, first to September and then to “the fourth quarter.” Currently first delivery is scheduled in October to launch customer Qatar Airways, which is slated to get four A350-900s this year. Emirates Airlines is listed as getting two of the total of six scheduled for delivery.

A320neo: Lost in the shadow of the A350 program is the A320neo. Final assembly of the first aircraft is to begin in the spring and first flight, followed by testing, is scheduled for this fall. The Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbo Fan is the initial variant. First delivery is scheduled in the fall of 2015.

Others: Airbus continues to evaluate whether to proceed with developing an A330neo. Based on our Market Intelligence, we expect a decision to proceed will come this year. Concurrently with this, we expect most if not all of the remaining 61 orders for the A350-800 to be upgraded to the A350-900 and the -800 program to be officially rescheduled if not dropped. The -800 is currently supposed to enter service in 2016, followed by the A350-1000 in 2017. But recall that as delays mounted on the A350-900, Airbus shifted engineers to the -900 and the -1000 at the expense of the -800. Salesmen have consistently shifted orders from the -800 to the larger models. We long ago anticipated the -800’s EIS would be rescheduled to 2018, following the -1000. The -800’s economics aren’t compelling enough just justify the expensive list price. So we expect Airbus to upgrade the A330 to a new engine option, using either or both of the Trent 1000 TEN and GEnx with PIPs (Performance Improvement Packages) or with some modifications. EIS would be about 2018. This precludes Pratt & Whitney from offering a large version of the Geared Turbo Fan, which wouldn’t be ready by then.

We also expect Airbus and the engine makers to look at re-engining the A380, driven by desires of Emirates Airlines to see a 10% economic improvement. Emirates announced an order for 50 A380s at the Dubai Air Show but instead of ordering the incumbent engine from Engine Alliance for these, Emirates left the engine choice open. This leaves open the possibility the A330neo and the “A380RE” could share an engine choice.

Boeing

After many years of turmoil, 2014 should be quiet for Boeing (now that the IAM issues have been resolved—see below).

787: Barring any untoward and unexpected issues, Boeing seems at long last to be on an upward trajectory with this program—but we’ve said this before. There are still nagging dispatch and fleet reliability issues on the 787-8 fleet to resolve, but flight testing of the 787-9 appears to be going well. Certification and first delivery should come without trouble this year, to launch customer Air New Zealand.

737: Nothing to report on the Next Generation program except ramp-up to a production rate of 42/mo is to take effect this year. Development continues on the 737 MAX.

Others: The 777 Classic is humming along. Now that the 777X is launched, we’ll be closely watching sales for the Classic; Boeing has a three year backlog but six years to 777X’s EIS. How is Boeing going to fill this gap, and what kind of price cuts will be offered to do so?

The 747-8 continues to struggle, barely holding on. Boeing says it thinks the cargo market will recover this year, boosting sales of the 747-8F. We’re dubious.

The 767 commercial program continues to wind down. The 767-based KC-46A program ramps up.

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