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: 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.

The deeper, longer term implications of IAM’s Boeing contract vote January 3

There are deeper, longer term implications for the January 3 vote by IAM 751 members on the revised contract proposal from Boeing than have been discussed in the public domain.

  • Contract extension to 2024 brings “labor peace,” but also significantly weakens the union in the future.
  • The replacement for the Boeing 757 lurks in the background.
  • So does the replacement for the 737 MAX.

The near-term implications have been discussed ad nausea: for employees, vote for a contract that includes concessions, notably on pensions, or risk losing the assembly site for the 777X. For the states, Washington could be a winner, or a big loser. The state that’s awarded the assembly site would be a big winner. Suppliers will supply Boeing regardless of where the 777X is assembled.

Another near-term implication we’ve talked about: the fall-out on the IAM, both at the International level and the District 751 level. No matter how the vote turns out, there is a civil war within 751 members who are royally upset with their leadership and others who believe in it. The civil war between 751 and IAM International HQ will continue well beyond the vote, with the prospect that International could simply depose all the 751 leaders and place 751 under a trustee “for the good of the union.”

But there are much longer term implications of the vote.

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Is tide ready to turn for CSeries?

CS100 first flight, September 16, 2013. Photo via Seattle Times.

Is the tide ready to turn for the Bombardier CSeries?

Following a nine month delay, the CS100 Flight Test Vehicle #1 took to the air September 16. It’s flown only twice since and has been undergoing ground vibration tests and more software upgrades. BBD is pretty mum about the testing program, which causes speculation about whether some issue emerged during the three flight tests. But we’re told by a source familiar with the program, but who is not with BBD, that BBD is being conservative in its pace, counting on the fact that it will eventually have seven FTVs to bring entry-into-service on time. A few Canadian aerospace analysts think EIS will slip to 1Q2015.

Then there are the orders, just 177 firm, which is more than those for the Airbus A319neo and the Boeing 737-7 MAX combined, but which the market perceives as low and a slow-selling program. Bombardier points out that the firm sales are about on par with other new airplane programs at this stage, but the market–dazzled by the thousands of orders placed for the NEO and MAX–won’t make these distinctions.

But it’s possible the tide is ready to turn for the CSeries. Here’s why.

  • Potential customers have been waiting for the first flight and to see whether the program will be more or less on time with the new, implied schedule emanating from first flight. We believe a few more months have to pass before any conclusions are drawn on this score.
  • Likewise, a few months have to pass before Bombardier and Pratt & Whitney will know whether the economic promises will in fact be achieved.
  • There are some key sales campaigns for which decisions should be made in the coming months, both this year and into next, that if BBD wins will serve to build significant momentum.
  • Airbus is running out of delivery slots for the entire A320 family.  The VivaAerobus order announced October 21 includes deliveries beginning next year. The backlog goes to 2019-2020, and while John Leahy, COO-Customers, is adept at finding slots through juggling the skyline, there simply aren’t too many left mid-term. Bombardier is sold out into 2016 and is a better position to offer deliveries in quantity. This makes it difficult for Leahy to “buy” a deal, which he has done on several occasions, to under-price CSeries to a point where BBD can’t play in the sandbox.
  • Boeing remains more focused on the 737-8/9 than on the 737-7, leaving BBD to largely fight its war against the diminishing Airbus and the forthcoming Embraer E-190/195 E2, the latter with a planned EIS of 2018, a good three years after CS100 enters service.

It will likely be next year before solid trends are noticeable. BBD retains its goal of reaching 300 firm orders and 20-30 customers by EIS, at least a year from now. We think this is easily achievable.

Update, Oct. 22: The Iraq-Business News reports that the government has approved the purchase of five CS300s at $40m each.

Airbus’ McArtor on VLA, 777X, 757 replacement and Airbus future products

Airbus Americas Chairman Allan McArtor.

Allan McArtor believes there will always be a market for the Very Large Aircraft (VLA), but he’s not surprised Boeing cut the production rate of the 747-8.

McArtor, who as chairman of Airbus Americas, is hardly an unbiased observer. He says the 747-8 Intercontinental is uneconomic and the market for the 747-8F is weak. But he also acknowledged that the dearth of sales for the Airbus A380 has been a challenge.

Airbus has forecast 1,200-1,300 VLA-Passenger deliveries over a 20 year period every year since 2000, while Boeing has steadily reduced its forecast to just 540 VLAPs in its current forecast. Airbus believes it will capture 50% of the market, based on its forecast. In fact, it currently is capturing between 86%-90% of the sales.

Each forecasts several hundred more VLA-Freighter deliveries during the next 20 years. Boeing currently holds a monopoly in the VLAF sector, but sales haven’t been on a pace to meet either company’s forecast, nor have sales of the A380 remotely maintained a pace that suggests Airbus will meet its own forecast, without dramatically adjusting both the total market and its market share expectations.

In an interview with Leeham News, McArtor maintained there will “always” be a demand for the VLA. He acknowledged that one can quibble with the forecast or the timing, but airport constraints and growing markets between key cities, such as London-Tokyo, London-New York, Paris-Tokyo or New York and similar segments, will demand a VLAP.

Airbus so far this year has has a net order for the A380 of minus three, but it signed a Memorandum of Understanding for 20 from specialty lessor Doric during the Paris Air Show. This is expected to be firmed up before the end of the year, potentially at the Dubai Air Show.

Boeing is also expected to make a splash at Dubai with the highly anticipated public launch of the 777X, with a large order from Emirates Airlines. The airplane, with a new composite wing, new engines, systems upgrades and cabin modifications, will come in a 350-seat 777-8 and a 407-seat 777-9. The 777-8 directly competes with the Airbus A350-1000. The 777-9 doesn’t have an Airbus competitor and at nominally 407 seats falls just within the VLA sector, which begins at 400 seats.

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Irkut makes 10% fuel advantage claim over NEO, MAX for MC-21

Russia’s Irkurt claims its MC-21 mainline jet, a direct competitor to the Airbus A320/321neo and Boeing 737-8/9 MAX, will be some 10% more economical. Irkut claims the MC-21 will be up to 23% more efficient than the current engine-powered Airbus and Boeing products.

Thanks to a reader who is at the MAKS air show, we received this photo from a slide presentation. Although others may have seen this information before, this is the first time we have.


Other MAKS news:

  • Sukhoi inked orders for some more Superjet 100s.
  • Still no announcements from Airbus, Boeing or Embraer.
  • Ilyushin Finance Corp and Bombardier announced that the first Russian operator of the CSeries CS300 will Vim Airlines. IFC ordered 32 with 10 more options at the Paris Air Show.

In other news, Boeing and Canada’s WestJet announced a letter of intent for 65 737 MAXes: 25 MAX 7s and 40 MAX 8s. This will enable WestJet to expand and replace its 737 NG fleet. Delivery begins in September 2017, making WestJet one of the first operators.

Single-Aisle backlog market share between the Big Two

The rivalry between Airbus and Boeing intensified in recent weeks with Airbus landing another major order from a previously exclusive Boeing customer, LionAir. Boeing announced another major order just a day later, Ryanair, retaining exclusivity with this customer.

The market share battle between Airbus and Boeing was fierce and prolonged. The introduction of the A320neo family placed more pressure on Boeing, particularly when it became clear Airbus was going to land American Airlines as a major customer for Current Engine Option and the New Engine Option. Boeing, which had been dismissing the neo as a viable option and dithering about whether to proceed with a new design to replace the 737 NG, found its hand forced. Having no other choice, Boeing launched the MAX, a re-engined version of the 737 NG.

With all the recent orders, we’ve done the math and determined market share for the current generation and re-engined types and sub-types. This data is through March 31 and only includes orders that have been listed as firm contracts, not those that have been announced but not yet firmed up.

Sources are Airbus, Boeing and Ascend Worldwide.

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Odds and Ends: Hawaiian commits to A321neo; Emirates A380; JAL 787

Hawaiian commits to A321neo: Hawaiian Airlines has committed to the Airbus A321neo, contingent on new employees contracts setting rates for staffing the aircraft. The A321neos will be used on Hawaii-mainland services. This validates Airbus’ design of the 321neo to give it better range than the 321ceo for just such service. Bloomberg has this story. Since this order is contingent, we wonder if it will be included in the final Airbus tally for orders, to be announced January 17.

Emirates could use 30 more A380s: It’s not especially new news but here’s a story about Emirates Airlines saying it could use 30 more A380s. Airbus’ John Leahy said there was a significant order for A380s pending. We wonder if this is it, to be announced January 17.

Japan Air Lines 787: A JAL 787 parked at Boston Logan Airport has an smoke/fire related incident today. The plane had completed a flight from Tokyo and had disembarked all passengers. Here is a detailed story.

Odds and Ends: Why aircraft are late; catching up to Boeing

Why Aircraft Are Late: Boeing 747-8, 787, Airbus A380, A400M, A350, Mitsubishi MRJ, Comac ARJ-21, Sukhoi Superjet and probably Comac C919, Bombardier CSeries and Irkut MS-21–all late. It’s the new normal. Ernie Arvai at AirInsight takes a look at why.

Catching Boeing: Airbus may well have trailed Boeing through the Farnborough Air Show in terms of orders, but it may also be on the way toward catching up. The big PAL order for 54 aircraft was announced this week. A 100-airplane order out of China is due to be announced shortly. Another 100 airplane order from AirAsia appears to be pending. Year-to-date, Boeing has 701 net orders and Airbus has 270 net orders. These three orders still leaves Airbus well short of Boeing, and Boeing has more 737 MAX commitments to convert this year. We expect Boeing to finish the year in first place. It will be interesting to see how close Airbus can come.

NEO firm order wrap: Aviation Week has this detailed recap of NEO firm orders. We expect some of the A320neos to be converted to A321neos as time goes on, just as we expect 737-8 MAX orders to be swapped with 737-9 MAX positions.

Filling the gap until re-engine

Reuters has this interesting story from Airbus and a focus on selling the A320ceo (Current Engine Option) to fill in production slots in 2015-17 (2013-14 slots are sold out) while waiting for the A320neo (New Engine Option) production to ramp up. The A320neo is slated to enter service in October 2015, followed in six month increments by the A319neo and A321neo.

Concern about selling the current generation A320 (and the Boeing 737NG) at prices that won’t depress residual values is rearing its head again, alluded to in the Reuters story. The impact of the re-engine programs on the current generation A320 and 737 was a major talking point in the months leading up to the RE decisions by Airbus and Boeing. These concerns were pooh-poohed by both companies. But if Airbus (and perhaps Boeing) have to deeply discount sales of current airplanes to fill production slots, then this will depress values of the installed base.

Furthermore, UBS Securities just visited Boeing with more dismal news to values. UBS writes that Boeing acknowledged lease rates and values of second hand aircraft will likely weaken as production rates ramp up. Airbus and Boeing both have announced rates of 42/mo (Airbus by the end of this year and Boeing by 2014) for their single-aisle airplanes. Airbus is studying going to 44 and even 60 and Boeing has openly signaled its intent to go to 60 for the 737. This will put more pressure on lease rates and values.