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).

Boeing slammed for moving jobs to Southern California, WA state for naivete

Boeing took two hits over the weekend from Seattle Times columnists for the announcement that 1,000 engineering jobs will move from the Puget Sound area to Southern California.

Columnist Danny Westneat interviewed a “lonely, ignored voice” who predicted Boeing would go ahead and move jobs despite the $8.7bn tax breaks proposed by Gov. Jay Inslee that were then before the Legislature in hearings prior to approval. (SPEEA Executive Director Ray Goforth also warned of the loopholes in the proposed legislation, but he was ignored, too.) Washington State was criticized for being snookered on jobs once again.

Satirist Ron Judd also took Boeing to task in his Sunday column.

We got our knuckles rapped by a state official because we opined our coverage that the “state” tends to sit back and relax after wins.The state official wrote:

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The diminishing market for main deck freighters

At the IATA Cargo symposium last month Fred Smith laid it on the line – there is currently over-capacity in the market, the Industry is undergoing what he described as a profound transformation and he warned that the good old days will not return.

This message was supported by IATA that warned its members that the air freight portion of the pie is continuing to shrink and air freight is losing market share to other modes of transport. There needs to be significant improvements in execution and delivery of the air freight offer – transaction costs are too high and  little improved since the 1950’s in terms of a door-to-door transaction.

What is the impact for the freighter business – new builds and conversions? Old fuel inefficient platforms are out and what Fred Smith described as ‘low cost belly space’ is in. Airline cargo managers are moving out of main deck freighters (IAG, JAL, United, American, Delta to name a few) and befriending their passenger colleagues for space below the main deck to accommodate their cargo which they can sell at rates and profit margins not dreamed of before.

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Boeing to move engineering jobs to California

Boeing will move 1,000 engineering jobs from Washington State to  California, The Seattle Times reported today. Predictably, the engineers union, SPEEA, is having fits about this.

Washington State probably won’t be too happy, either, especially after giving Boeing nearly $9bn in tax breaks to build the 777X here.

We’re going to set aside the debate with the union and Boeing and the Washington impact and try to take a larger view.

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Odds and End: ExIm fight, again; A350 interior; C-17 production ending early; 787′s longest routes; That’s no bull; MH370

ExIm fight, again: Republicans and the conservative Heritage Foundation are once again attempting to kill the US ExIm Bank, which providing financing support for Boeing airplanes.

This isn’t a sexy topic for our readers, but it’s an important issue we’ve written about many times. While the Republicans and Heritage call this corporate welfare (of which we’re generally disdainful), we disagree in this instance. It’s a matter of competitiveness.

Loren Thompson, with whom we’ve often disagreed, and whose institute is partly funded by Boeing, takes on the effort to kill ExIm in this column. His underlying facts are valid, though his tiresome shot at Airbus subsidies and Boeing’s innocence is laughable once more. The WTO found Boeing received illegal subsidies, too, and of course we just witnessed Boeing getting the largest subsidy in corporate history from Washington (State, that is)–all of which Thompson ignores.

But this National Review magazine (a conservative one) fails in its taking Thompson to task to even mention Airbus, the principal thrust of Thompson’s piece. This is as silly as Thompson’s continued Airbus bashing.

The reason we support ExIm’s continued existence has nothing to do with who gets what subsidies; it has everything to do with the fact that Europe’s export credit agencies fund Airbus airplanes and Boeing needs to have ExIm to compete. (We’d be less harsh about Thompson if he would stick to this topic rather than beating the subsidy drum with highly selective facts on an issue for which he was paid by Boeing to issue a study during the WTO dispute.)

National Review’s critique of Thompson totally ignores the Airbus export credit support challenge. There may be merit to many practices about ExIm to criticize, but these critics need to focus on the ECA competitive advantage for Airbus should ExIm go away. Boeing’s right on this one.

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GE engines faces challenge from PW, RR GTF technology

The recent announcement by Rolls-Royce that their future engines will contain gearboxes has put GE and its CFM partner SAFRAN under considerable pressure.

GE/SAFRAN were together with Rolls-Royce proponents to go directly from Direct-Drive turbofans to Open Rotor designs for the next generation aircrafts. This left Pratt & Whitney as the only major engine manufacturer promoting high by-pass ratio geared turbofans as a better alternative for these aircrafts. With the Rolls-Royce announcement of Advance for 2020 (Carbon fanned tri-shaft) and Ultrafan (Geared big fan) for 2025, this has all changed. Suddenly Pratt & Whitney has strong support in their strategy and GE/SAFRAN stand out as loners.
By honing key technologies in their traditional two shaft turbofans GE, and GE/SAFRAN in CFM, have built a market leading position in all thrust classes, Regional (CF34), Single Aisle (CFM56) and Dual Aisle (CF6, GEnx, GE90). Their declared next step was Open Rotor for future Single Aisle while keeping Direct-Drive for larger engines.

Airbus and Snecma continue to research open rotor technology. Aviation Week has this story.
Now this solid position is threatened. The geared architecture has won the future regional market (CSeries, MRJ, E-Jet E2 goes PW GTF), market parity on the A320neo family and the 757 replacement studies by Boeing (dubbed NAS, New Airplane Study) will not go Open Rotor as Open Rotor only works up to M 0.75 and the 757 replacement will likely fly over 4,000nm, necessitating higher cruise speed. The NAS will thereby favor a geared turbofan instead of Open Rotor. Why not Direct-Drive? There are two major reasons:

  •  A geared design allows higher by-pass ratios and thereby higher propulsive efficiency without the engine being too heavy from its large low pressure turbine needed to drive a high BPR fan.
  • A geared design can allow the big fan to rotate slowly and with a low pressure ratio. This creates a low noise engine, a very important feature for aircrafts operating out of noise troubled airports.

GE/SAFRAN has shown with their CFM LEAP project that they can match the efficiency levels of a geared engine like Pratt & Whitney’s GTF, using its superior hot section technology to achieve the high efficiency. It cannot achieve the low noise levels of a geared fan however; engine noise stands in direct relation to fan rotational speed and pressure ratio.
It will thereby be the environmental factors that will put the most stress on GE/SAFRAN’s present strategy. Having lost the regionals to the geared camp, will it also lose the next generation short/medium haul? It will be interesting to watch the GE/SAFRAN over the next 18 months: does it change strategy or not? If one goes by the recent words of GE Aviation President David Joyce (who spoke at last week’s opening of their Indiana LEAP factory), he thinks his present line-up is fine for a 757 replacement, and he sees no urgent need for new developments.

By Leeham Co EU

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.

Odds and Ends: Airbus, Boeing square off on tankers; IAM election; Russian titanium; MH370 hunt and hell

Airbus, Boeing square off on tankers: The Big Two OEMs are bidding for a sale to South Korea on airborne refueling tankers. If we remember correctly, this will be the first head-to-head competition since the USAF from 2004-2009.

IAM election: Voting begins this week, through the month, for officers of IAM International. This is the first contested election in decades, driven in no small part by the bitter vote at Boeing’s IAM 751 district in November and January over the 777X contract. The Street.com takes a look.

Russian titanium: With selective embargoes going on against Russia over Ukraine, we remarked at the time the prospect of an adverse affect on aerospace because titanium is a major resource from Russia and a major component in aerospace. Thus, a headline caught our eye about a Russian who attempted to do a deal with Boeing to sell the company the precious metal. Only this story was a bit more sordid; it makes for an interesting read.

MH370 hunt and hell: Officials vow to hunt for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 until hell freezes over. Mean while, more focus on CNN’s 24/7 MH370 coverage and its affect on its own ratings. We did note, however, that the shooting at Ft. Hood actually pushed MH370 off the front page of its website.

Putting the MH370 search in perspective–literally

The search area for Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 now encompasses an area the size of Oregon. So we pulled it up on Google Earth and marked the Portland International Airport. You can’t see the airport let alone a Boeing 777. This illustrates the task at hand.

Oregon

Then we zoomed in on PDX Airport, though we don’t know what “altitude” this represents; we’re not smart enough to take a measurement of the airplanes (a known size) and extrapolate to compute the altitude–we’re sure some of our readers are.

Read the Comment from Andrew about the altitude (and our response).

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Odds and Ends: No butts about it; 737 Norway to Houston; MH370

No butts about it: Flight Global has this story  (free registration required) about the Airbus campaign for an international seat width standard. But while Airbus is touting comfort, it’s now promoting five abreast in the center section of its A380 economy section, reducing the 18.5 inch seating to 18 inches. The London Telegraph has this story on seat width and other stuff related to the increasingly crowded cabins.

737 Norway to Houston: No, this isn’t a type. The USA Today explains.

Tossing a lawsuit: An Illinois judge tossed the first lawsuit filed in connection with Malaysian Airlines Fight MH370 and threatened sanctions on the law firm that filed it.

And this has become indicative of CNN’s breathless, sometimes ridiculous coverage of MH370:

While Greg Feith thinks a probable cause of MH370′s disappearance may not be solved, another former NTSB member has a different opinion. John Goglia, however, was a board member, not an investigator, although he was a US Airways accident investigator.