Can the A350-800 rise out of its own ashes, like the Phoenix?

The announcement last week that Hawaiian Airlines swapped its order for six Airbus A350-800s for the A330-800neo isn’t a particular surprise, although we thought HA might issue an RFP and open the competition for Boeing.

That it did not may speak as much as to lack of the Boeing 787’s availability as anything else. But Airbus had some advantages going into a replacement for the A358: HA already operates a fleet of A330-200(ceos), so there is commonality between the neo and the ceo, minimal integration costs and the likelihood of additional Airbus incentives to keep HA in the Airbus family.

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Odds and Ends: Hawaiian orders A330-800, drops A350-800; A330neo market potential; Engines and Airbus

Hawaiian Air’s A350-800s: Hawaiian Airlines July 22 ordered six Airbus A330-800s and simultaneously dropped its order for six A350-800s. HA also took six purchase rights for the A338. Deliveries begin in 2019.

The A338 is slightly smaller, nominally at 252 seats, and has somewhat less range at  7,600nm than the 276-seat, 8,250nm A358, but only Hawaiian knows how much it needed the extra range. Losing the extra seats does give HA a hit to revenue potential, however. For wide-body airplanes, Airbus says each seat has the revenue potential of $2m/yr.

Offsetting the revenue loss is a far lower capital cost for the A338 vs the A358. Our economic analysis, based on technical specifications estimated before the Farnborough Air Show and before Airbus revealed data for the A338, showed the A338 pretty close to the A358 on a pure operating cost basis, not including adjustments for capital cost.

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Farnborough Air Show, July 15: VLA program analysis: A380, B747-8I, 777-9, [and the wishful thought of an A350-1100]

Fabrice Bregier, CEO of Airbus Commercial, threw cold water on the prospects of an A380neo and an A350-1100, the latter to compete with the Boeing 777-9.

Bregier’s position on the A350-1100 leaves Boeing with a monopoly at the 400-seat marker. Boeing doesn’t view the 777-9, which nominally seats 407 passengers, as part of the Very Large Aircraft sector which begins at 400 seats. Rather, Boeing lumps the -9 into the medium-twin aisle sector (300-400 seats).

While Airbus continues to struggle with sales for the A380, Boeing doesn’t much talk about the 747-8I anymore, focusing primarily on the future potential of the 747-8F. Boeing bravely talks about the prospect of four or five customer sales for the 747-8I this year, including a strong wishful-thinking of an order from Emirates Airlines (president Tim Clark says he’s not interested).

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Next new, clean sheet airplane around 2030, says Airbus

Airbus currently is planning for the next new, clean sheet airplane around 2030 and now are focusing on incremental improvements to the existing product lines, officials said at the Innovations Days annual media briefing last week in Toulouse.

Fabrice Bregier, CEO of the Airbus commercial aircraft unit, said that “innovation is on a case3-by-case basis,” with a successor to the A320 family requiring an engine “with great benefit.” He did not define this, but previously Airbus indicated a successor needs a combined 30% airframe/engine improvement to make an entirely new airplane design worthwhile.

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ILA Berlin Air Show begins tomorrow

The ILA Berlin Air Show begins tomorrow. The Air Show is a poor cousin to the Farnborough Air Show (July this year) and the Paris Air Show (in odd-numbered years). We went to this show in 2006 and were more excited about returning to Berlin for the first time since before the Berlin Wall came down than we were about going to the event itself.

Boeing doesn’t place much stock in the show since it is viewed as an Airbus star vehicle. Best we can tell from the ILA website, Boeing isn’t even an exhibitor.

Airbus tries to have some major announcements for the show, although Farnborough and Paris–being the bigger draws and having greater international prestige–are clearly the favored forum.

What might Airbus announce at the Berlin show, other than a few orders? The aviation world is waiting and watching for what Airbus will do about the A330neo and, with it, the future of the A350-800. Airbus is sending the A350-900 to the Air Show for the first time–will this be the place Airbus puts the nail in the coffin of the A35-800? We have our doubts about that.

Could Airbus launch the A330neo at the ILA? We received an email over the weekend that an announcement could be forthcoming at this show, but the source is from outside Airbus (though information from this source is usually reliable). Expectations for the A330neo have centered on Farnborough, however. Our Market Intelligence tells us few potential customers have actually seen proposals from Airbus on the A330neo as yet, so we think it might be a bit premature to have a launch of the program. Information is also that Airbus has been looking at the “second half” of 2014 to make a decision (at least publicly). May isn’t in the second half–but July is.

Other than this suspense, if you can call it that, we don’t expect much out of ILA this week.

Logical conclusions: Airbus wide-body decisions

A330 programme. The long range programme presents no new challenges. However, managing the order book beyond 2016 becomes more challenging due to competition from A350 XWB and Boeing 787.

—From the Airbus Group 2013 Annual Report

We have written previously that Airbus faced a production gap, a major drop in backlog orders from 2016, with no orders at all from 2020 (excluding the 27 orders placed in March by China, for which we don’t currently have delivery data yet).  Back on December 29, we noted that the prospect of the A330neo was gaining traction–and it’s even more so today.

Market Intelligence from multiple sources indicate that Airbus will announce at the Farnborough Air Show that it will proceed with re-engining the A330 into a new engine option configuration, including sharklets similar to that on the A320 family.

This will give a needed boost to the A330 line. There have been a dearth of orders, in part, no doubt, to the industry waiting to see whether Airbus will proceed with the A330neo. Recall that there had been a drop in A320 family orders in the run-up to the launch of the A320neo.

We have now completed a comprehensive study about the business case for the A330neo and how competitive it would be vs. the Boeing 787-8 and -9, and what price Airbus has to offer to help make the airplane competitive. This proprietary study is based on our proprietary economic modeling which, along with our own Market analysis, concludes that there is a business case to proceed with the A330neo. We concurrently believe Airbus will discontinue offering the A350-800, although this announcement may not come for some time. Among the reasons: Hawaiian Airlines wants the A350-800 as offering the passenger capacity and the range it desires. The A350-900 is too big, officials currently believe. But an A330-300neo won’t offer the range Hawaiian wants (it will fall about 1,500nm short, according to our estimates). If Airbus discontinues the A350-800, Hawaiian may well re-issue its Request for Proposals that will give Boeing a shot at getting the 787-9 into Hawaiian. Given the planned production boost to the 787 line (12/mo in 2016, 14/m0 in 2018 or 2019), Boeing now has delivery slots to offer to match that of the A350-800 schedule.

But we don’t think Airbus is done once it launches the A330neo. We believe Airbus continues to look at the prospect of re-engining the A380, c.2020, given additional impetus from the large customer for the A380, Tim Clark of Emirates Airlines. This article in The Wall Street Journal is the latest on this topic.

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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.

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?

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Odds and Ends: A350 EIS; A330neo; more on 757RS

A350 EIS: Bloomberg reports that the first Airbus A350 XWB could be delivered to launch customer Qatar Airways “before the December deadline.” According to the Ascend data base, the first delivery had been planned for July and then slipped to September and then October. Airbus later said November or December. Based on this movement and market intelligence, we had slipped EIS to early 2015. In the end, we’ll see where the date lands.

A330neo: Aspire Aviation reports that Hawaiian Airlines could be an early customer for the A330neo. The prospect makes sense: HA is a hold-out for converting its A350-800 order to the larger A350-900, preferring the capacity of the smaller airplane.

757 Replacement: News out of the Singapore Air Show about the prospect of a 757 replacement continues to pick up steam. This story in the Puget Sound Business Journal is as complete as any (besides which, it also quotes us and our stories).

Competing in Asia: CNN has a profile of the competition between Airbus and Boeing in Asia for the low cost carriers.

Odds and Ends: A350-800 stretch; Mixed results on P-8A; BBD takes hit; Hot seat

A350-800 Stretch: The idea of an A350-800 stretch, to around 300 seats, was floated at the Airbus annual press conference January 13. This doesn’t make a lot of sense to us. This would put the airplane almost on a par with the A350-900  at 316 seats. Typically the seating differences between minor model variants range from 10% to 15% to 20%–not a mere 5% as would be the case with the suggested 800-to-900. The operating results would be the following, according to Leeham Co EU’s analysis:

  • On  6,000nm trip, ie a 12.5 hour flight the fuel burns would be:
  • - 900, 65.4t      datum    2.33l per seat and 100km
  • - 800l 63.9t       97.7%  2.44l
  • - 800  62.4t       95.4%  2.53l

The -800 would have slightly lower trip costs but per-seat costs would be somewhat higher.

Mixed results: Bloomberg News reports mixed operational results for Boeing’s P-8A Poseidon, the replacement for the 1950s-era Lockheed P-3 Orion sub-hunter and surveillance airplane.

Bombardier takes hit: Bombardier takes a harsh hit in this column in the Toronto Globe and Mail, coming on the heels of 1,700 layoffs.’s CEO gave this interview to Bloomberg News.

Hot seat: Runway Girl Network reports that magnesium might be used for airplane seats. Let’s hope the plane is evacuated in the mandatory 90 seconds in an emergency and fire.

Embraer forecast: Embraer sees 150 orders through 2015 for its E-Jets, according to this Bloomberg News report. EMB needs the orders, if they include the E-Jet E1; there is a production gap between the E1 and E2. Boeing has a gap for its 777 Classic to 777X and Airbus has one between its current A330 orders and expectations that it will continue production into the 2020 decade.