A350 certified; we provide a comprehensive program review

Airbus’ most recent all-new aircraft, the A350 has achieved civil airline airworthiness certification from EASA today September 30, FAA certification will follow. It marks an end to an eight year program to develop an all-new airliner in the 250-350 passenger segment. It also creates a point where a review of this last (for quite a while) big aircraft program is called for.

Airbus photo of A350 test aircraft in formation, celebrating the certification.

Airbus photo of A350 test aircraft in formation, celebrating the certification.

Below we go through all the aspects of the A350, not only program and technical aspects but also organizational, economical and market communication aspects. In all those dimensions it was the big step forward. Continue reading

Air Berlin 787 cancellation potentially gives Boeing big advantage in Delta order competition

The announcement last week that AirBerlin canceled orders for 15 Boeing 787s gives Boeing an unexpected, big advantage in the contest for a big wide-body order from Delta Air Lines–depending on when Delta wants the airplanes.

The competition apparently has been narrowed to the Airbus A350-900 and the Boeing 787-9, according to Flight Global. Based on this article, the Airbus A330-900 neo has been eliminated, which if true is a blow to the fledgling program in which Airbus had counted on Delta to be a launch customer.

Outside of the OEMs and Delta, it’s not known when Delta wants 50 widebodies. But the A350 and 787 are essentially sold out through the end of the decade, though both OEMs can typically find delivery slots for important campaigns such as this one by over-booking or persuading other customers to move their delivery positions.

Airbus has plenty of slots for the A330neo from 4Q2017, when entry-into-service is planned. But with the apparent elimination of the A330neo from the competition, delivery schedule becomes important–and the AirBerlin cancellation works to Boeing’s advantage.

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Assessing the wide-body and narrow-body freighters

This column has been updated since distribution to our e-mail recipients Sept. 22.

There is an emerging demand to replace aging small- and medium-size wide-body freighters, but with limited choices to replace them.

Airbus A310Fs and A300Fs are rapidly aging. Used principally by FedEx, UPS and DHL, these aircraft are in a size that is too small for the new-build Boeing 777F and Airbus A330-200F, and for which these airplanes are too costly to provide a good return on investment.

FedEx is replacing many of its aircraft with the new-build Boeing 767-300ERF, but it deferred and reduced its order for the 777F. UPS has no 767s on order from Boeing, having previously fulfilled its backlog.

The package carriers may down-gauge. FedEx contracted to acquire a large number of Boeing 757s for P2F conversion, but many of these have been replacing Boeing 727Fs. DHL is currently evaluating proposals for converting 757s from P2Fs from third-party conversion companies. The 767-300ER is the one airplane most comparable with the A310s and A300s.

FedEx, UPS and DHL may simply retire some of these aging Airbuses rather than replace them.

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ISTAT Europe Conference in Istanbul: Boeing and Airbus slugging it out with some new twists

Airbus and Boeing squared off once again Monday, this time at the ISTAT Europe conference in Istanbul, once again pretty much over the entire product lines.
Boeing’s VP Marketing Randy Tinseth began with two focal points, the 737 with its latest developments and Boeing’s “superior” Twin Aisle line-up. Tinseth claimed Boeing has caught up to the A320neo with the 737 MAX.

After an A320neo head start of a year, Tinseth says Boeing has kept the same sales rate per year for the 737 MAX. The backlog of 737 MAX now stands at 2,300 aircraft and he described why Boeing thinks it is well positioned in this market segment.

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Etihad, Emirates refute charges of favoritism from government owners

Two of the Middle East’s most aggressively growing airlines said charges that they benefit from government subsidies, artificially low fuel prices, cheap airport facilities and preferential financing refuted these charges at the World Routes conference in Chicago this week.

Neither, however, addressed charges they unfairly benefit from US ExIm Bank funding, a particularly sensitive topic for Delta Air Lines which has been waging an effective campaign to cast doubt over the Depression-era institution intended to support US exports. Boeing is the largest user of ExIm financing and Emirates in particular has been an active participant in the program. Delta claims ExIm provides below-market rate fees and interest charges.

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Airbus critiques the Boeing 737 MAX 200

With the formal launch by Boeing of the 737 MAX 200, the 200-seat high density version of the 737-8 with an order for 100+100 from Ryanair, Airbus was quick to launch its own critique on the airplane.

Kiran Rao, Executive Vice President, Sales & Marketing for Airbus, was quick to take aim at the advertised seating capacity of the MAX 200 and at the 197 seats Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary says will be in the carrier’s configuration.

In an interview with Leeham News and Comment, Rao said that Boeing has to eliminate too many galley carts, even at reduced food and beverage options, to adequately service passengers. One cart is needed for every 40 passengers.

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Airbus could decide on A380neo within six month: Emirates’ Tim Clark

Airbus could decide within the next six months whether to re-engine the A380 with Rolls-Royce powerplants, says Tim Clark, the president of Emirate Airlines, which has ordered more of the giant airplanes than any other customer.

Tim Clark, president of Emirates Airlines. Emirates Airlines photo.

Clark, speaking to a press gaggle on the sidelines of the World Routes conference Sunday in Chicago, said a RR engine would likely be based on elements of the Trent 1000 and Trent 7000 engines on the Boeing 787 and Airbus A330neo.

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Boeing’s P-8 program viewed as “model” defense procurement

The Boeing P-8A Poseidon program has been termed a model of procurement by the US Defense Department, reports Boeing program managers. It came in on cost and on time, and as more P-8s are delivered to the US Navy, the per-airplane cost is coming down—saving US taxpayers $2.1bn.

The Royal Aeronautical Society-Seattle Branch sponsored a public briefing Tuesday at the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field in Seattle at which the P-8 program was described.

Boeing 737-based P-8A Poseidon. Boeing photo.

Boeing will deliver its 20th P-8 to customers this year—the US Navy and India—in a program that eventually is expected to sell well more than 100 aircraft worldwide. The P-8, based on the 737-800, is replacing 50-year old Lockheed Martin P-3 Orions. The P-3 is based on the Lockheed Electra, a four-engine turbo-prop that entered commercial service in January 1959. The P-3 entered service in 1962, just in time for the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Stephen Tripp, P-8A Business Development Senior Manager for Mobility, Surveillance and Engagement for Boeing, spent more than 30 years in the Navy, including flying P-3s and “chasing submarines.” He joined Boeing upon retirement on the P-8 program.

“Submarine threats are not going away,” Tripp said. “China and [Russian Premier Vladimir] Putin are launching subs at a rate not seen since the 1960s.”

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Alenia, traveled work contine to plague 787: Everett Herald

At a time when Boeing continues to assure Wall Street that all is well with the 787 program, industrial partner Alenia of Italy and traveled work from Boeing South Carolina continue to plague the program, according to a report from The Everett Herald.

The Herald’s report also comes on the heels of a “documentary” by Al Jazeera English calling into question the competency of the Charleston 787 plant. The documentary was widely criticized, including by this column, for its tactics.

The newspaper, which is located in the same city as Boeing’s wide-body plant, reports that barrel sections made by Alenia continue to have quality control issues, six years after production began on the composite airliner.

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Odds and Ends: Delta/Airbus/Zodiac unveil A320 interior; Upgauging narrow-bodies, down-gauging 747s

A320 interior upgrade: After nearly a year of denying a story by Mary Kirby of Runway Girl Network and avoiding our own report from two years ago, Delta Air Lines, Airbus and interior OEM Zodiac revealed a new interior for the A320 family.

The announcement was made at the APEX convention by Airbus. The interior will appear beginning in Q12016, in this case in Delta’s A321ceos.

New pivot bins will be installed on the Airbus A320 Family beginning in 1Q2016. Delta Air Lines will be the first customer in the A321ceo. Airbus photo.

New pivot bins will be installed on the Airbus A320 Family beginning in 1Q2016. Delta Air Lines will be the first customer in the A321ceo. Airbus photo.

The overhead bins, which mimic the A350 design, are available for retrofit. Airbus says there is 10% more space compared with today’s bins.

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