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.

More A350-800 orders vanish

Twelve more Airbus A350-800 orders vanished as Aircraft Purchase Fleet canceled, according to the latest tally from Airbus. APF is the special purpose company set up for Alitalia Airlines, which is a financial basket case and probably couldn’t finance a Piper Cub, let alone an A350. In this case, the -800s were not upgraded to -900s or -1000s, according to the monthly Airbus Orders and Deliveries tally. There are now just 34 A358s in backlog.

The shrinking backlog further suggests the need for a refresh of the A330 with a re-engine, in our view. Without the A350-800, Airbus won’t have a competitor in the 250 seat sector that has any current technology. An A330neo with new engines would at least fill some of this void.

Meantime, Delta Air Lines issued a Request for Proposals for 50 wide-body aircraft to replace its aging Boeing 747-400s and some 767-300ERs. Delta’s CEO has said he could be interested in the A330neo. Delta eschews new technology, preferring “proven” technology, which could work against the Boeing 777X powered by an entirely new engine. By the time Delta would be ready to take delivery of its order, the A350XWB and its new technology will have been in service for many years. Delta has a deferred order for the Boeing 787-8 it inherited from Northwest Airlines, and this technology will be mature by the time Delta would be able to take delivery, so the 787 family could be in the mix. So could an A330neo, which would most likely be powered by one of the 787′s engine options, the GEnx or the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 TEN. Market intelligence tells us Delta is pushing the GEnx, given its strong relationship with GE.

No stress on the order backlog, says Airbus at ISTAT

Airbus doesn’t see any “stress” in its aircraft order backlog, or “skyline,” says Andrew Shankland, senior vice president of leasing markets from the European manufacturer.

Shankland spoke with us at the annual meeting of the International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading, held Monday and Tuesday this week in San Diego.

Persistent concerns are expressed about an “order bubble,” including during the ISTAT conference. Shankland told us in an interview that “we don’t see any stress; we meet every two weeks” in a process Airbus calls its “watch tower” (Boeing calls its process the “war room”).

“As long as we can move things around, and we have a pretty rigorous process to be sure every plane has a home,” Airbus doesn’t see any issue with its skyline, Shankland said.

Steven Udvar-Hazy, CEO of lessor Air Lease Corp, sees Asia as a high risk region where huge orders have been placed by carriers such as AirAsia and Lion Air, both big A320 customers. AirAsia just announced deferral of 19 A320s this year and next. AirAsiaX also has large orders for the A330 and A350, recently deferring some A330s “until the time is right.” Shankland wouldn’t discuss any individual customer, and only generally noted that Airbus and Boeing have successfully “manipulated” the skyline in the past when deferrals or even cancellations occur.

Shankland isn’t involved in Airbus’ analysis of whether to proceed with the prospective A330neo, but acknowledged that the business case for the airplane “remains to be seen.”

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.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

Rolls-Royce plans for new single-aisle, twin-aisle airplane engines

Rolls-Royce may not be at a cross road but it’s certainly at a fork in the road.

RR sought to be a dual-source supplier for the Boeing 777X, competing with GE Aviation for the privilege; it was generally a given that GE would be a provider. The question was whether it would be the sole supplier or share the platform with another. Pratt & Whitney withdrew, concluding the business case wasn’t there for its proposed big Geared Turbo Fan. RR stayed in the competition, assured by Boeing that it wasn’t a stalking horse to GE.

But GE won the position as exclusive supplier, much to RR’s consternation.

Next, the future of the Airbus A350-800, powered exclusively by RR, is in serious doubt. The backlog is now down to a mere 46 as customer after customer, encouraged by Airbus, up-gauged to the A350-900 and -1000 sub-types. While RR is also the exclusive supplier on each of these models, and the engines are largely common, there has been substantial investment by Rolls on the -800’s application. If the -800 is canceled (as many industry observers believe it will be), RR’s investment is largely down the drain. How does Airbus “make good” to RR for this?

Continue reading

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: 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.

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.