Odds and Ends: KC-46A update; A440M in the US; A320neo first flight; Southwest no longer an LCC

KC-46A update: Aviation Week has an update on the status of the Boeing KC-46A tanker. Among other things, first fight has now been moved from June to November at the earliest.

A400M in the US: Airbus thinks it’s possible to sell hundreds of its A400M to the US Armed Forces to replace the Lockheed Martin C-130 and Boeing C-17, according to this article by Reuters.

A320neo first flight: Is the Airbus A320neo first flight going to run behind schedule? Airbus won’t say but Reuters suggests that it might. So does Aviation Week, like Reuters, pointing to an issue with the engine.

Southwest no longer an LCC: Bloomberg writes that Southwest Airlines is no longer a low cost carrier, with Cost per Available Seat Mile now approaching the legacy carriers. Years ago we characterized Southwest as the first legacy LCC, as costs increased, low fares began to disappear (it’s often easier to find a low fare on a competitor today) and routes took it into big city airports previously eschewed.

Overlooked possibilities for the A330neo

There are overlooked possibilities for the Airbus A330-800 and A330-900 New Engine Options.

What, you may ask, are these?

The A330neo might give new life to the poor-selling A330-200F program and, perhaps more importantly better position Airbus to compete for the next round of the USAF Air Force Tanker competition, the KC-Y program.

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Analysts split on Boeing 2Q earnings

Aerospace analysts split in their reaction to Boeing’s second quarter earnings. Many were upbeat on the commercial aircraft results, while others didn’t like the higher-than-expected, continued deferred expenses for the 787 program and a big charge on the KC-46A program.

Bloomberg News was quick to point to the KC-46A program charge and the implications that this is yet another costly new airplane program for Boeing.

Traders didn’t like the news, either, with stock falling more than $3 despite higher profits for the period and higher profit guidance going forward.

The Bloomberg article cites several analysts who didn’t like elements of the earnings report.

Here are initial notes, pre-earnings call, based on the press release:

 

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Counting options, Letters of Intent

Should manufacturers be counting options and letters of intent toward program certainty? We’ve always thought this was pretty cheeky, but in reality there is a reasonable foundation and history for doing so. Years ago Boeing regularly ridiculed Airbus for announcing “commitments,” denigrating these as not being “real” orders (and, of course, literally they weren’t). But then came the losing battle between the A320neo and the 737 MAX. Lo and Behold, Boeing touted “1,000 orders and commitments” for the MAX in a PR effort to bolster the competitive position of the MAX. Of course, these “commitments” (in the form of options, MOUs and LOIs) converted to orders eventually.

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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.

Odds and Ends: A330neo decision could be near; KC-46A; Countdown to Superbowl; A400M

A330neo decision: Aviation Week reports that a decision to proceed with the Airbus A330neo could be “imminent.” The report also discusses the advocacy by Tim Clark, COO of Emirates Airlines, to re-engine the Airbus A380. As with the Reuters and Bloomberg articles we previously linked, the Aviation Week piece also confirms much of what we were the first news outlet to report in December. We have a launch in 2014 rather than 2015 reported in Aviation Week, although we both have a decision to proceed for this year. Aviation Week and Bloomberg report that the decision could come as early as March.

Aviation Week confirms our report that Pratt & Whitney would be unlikely to bid on the project because the short time lime precludes development of the big engine version of the Geared Turbo Fan.

KC-46A at ‘high risk’ for delay: A US government report suggests the Boeing KC-46A tanker is at ‘high risk’ of a six month delay.

These are not unusual for military programs, nor, it seems, is it any longer unusual for new or derivative aircraft programs. Boeing believes the program is on time, but even if a six or 12 month delay does emerge, by today’s standards, this indeed is “on time.”

Countdown to Super Bowl: Boeing painted a Boeing 747-8F test plane in the Seattle Seahawks livery and this week “skywrote” the number 12 on a flight. The Seahawks play the Denver Broncos Sunday in New Jersey for the Super Bowl. The number “12” represents “the 12th man,” of the collective Seahawks fan base.

We think it would be super for the 747 to overfly the game Sunday, the ultimate 12th man appearance. Alas, Boeing says there are no plans to do so.

A400M: Cool picture. No other words needed.

Looking ahead to 2014

Here’s what to look for in 2014 in commercial aviation.

Airbus

A350 XWB: The high-profile A350 XWB program continues flight testing this year. Entry-into-service has been a sliding target. The program is running about 18 months behind original plan and EIS was intended for mid-year following initial delays. Even this has slipped, first to September and then to “the fourth quarter.” Currently first delivery is scheduled in October to launch customer Qatar Airways, which is slated to get four A350-900s this year. Emirates Airlines is listed as getting two of the total of six scheduled for delivery.

A320neo: Lost in the shadow of the A350 program is the A320neo. Final assembly of the first aircraft is to begin in the spring and first flight, followed by testing, is scheduled for this fall. The Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbo Fan is the initial variant. First delivery is scheduled in the fall of 2015.

Others: Airbus continues to evaluate whether to proceed with developing an A330neo. Based on our Market Intelligence, we expect a decision to proceed will come this year. Concurrently with this, we expect most if not all of the remaining 61 orders for the A350-800 to be upgraded to the A350-900 and the -800 program to be officially rescheduled if not dropped. The -800 is currently supposed to enter service in 2016, followed by the A350-1000 in 2017. But recall that as delays mounted on the A350-900, Airbus shifted engineers to the -900 and the -1000 at the expense of the -800. Salesmen have consistently shifted orders from the -800 to the larger models. We long ago anticipated the -800’s EIS would be rescheduled to 2018, following the -1000. The -800’s economics aren’t compelling enough just justify the expensive list price. So we expect Airbus to upgrade the A330 to a new engine option, using either or both of the Trent 1000 TEN and GEnx with PIPs (Performance Improvement Packages) or with some modifications. EIS would be about 2018. This precludes Pratt & Whitney from offering a large version of the Geared Turbo Fan, which wouldn’t be ready by then.

We also expect Airbus and the engine makers to look at re-engining the A380, driven by desires of Emirates Airlines to see a 10% economic improvement. Emirates announced an order for 50 A380s at the Dubai Air Show but instead of ordering the incumbent engine from Engine Alliance for these, Emirates left the engine choice open. This leaves open the possibility the A330neo and the “A380RE” could share an engine choice.

Boeing

After many years of turmoil, 2014 should be quiet for Boeing (now that the IAM issues have been resolved—see below).

787: Barring any untoward and unexpected issues, Boeing seems at long last to be on an upward trajectory with this program—but we’ve said this before. There are still nagging dispatch and fleet reliability issues on the 787-8 fleet to resolve, but flight testing of the 787-9 appears to be going well. Certification and first delivery should come without trouble this year, to launch customer Air New Zealand.

737: Nothing to report on the Next Generation program except ramp-up to a production rate of 42/mo is to take effect this year. Development continues on the 737 MAX.

Others: The 777 Classic is humming along. Now that the 777X is launched, we’ll be closely watching sales for the Classic; Boeing has a three year backlog but six years to 777X’s EIS. How is Boeing going to fill this gap, and what kind of price cuts will be offered to do so?

The 747-8 continues to struggle, barely holding on. Boeing says it thinks the cargo market will recover this year, boosting sales of the 747-8F. We’re dubious.

The 767 commercial program continues to wind down. The 767-based KC-46A program ramps up.

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Odds and Ends: EMB, BBD split AA order; WTO on Airbus subsidies; IAM, Boeing bargaining; KC-46A

EMB, BBD split American order: Embraer took the lion’s share of the long-awaited order from American Airlines for regional jets. EMB won 60 firm orders and 90 options for the E-175 and Bombardier won 30+40 CRJ-900s. Flight Global points out that none seem to be going to American Eagle.

The order is welcome by both OEMs, which had gaps in their respective production lines.

WTO on Airbus subsidies: Bloomberg News reports that the World Trade Organization won’t rule until the end of next year on a US complaint that Airbus failed to comply with WTO findings that it received illegal subsidies. (No link available).

Bloomberg writes, The EU says it had secured repayment of some $2.3 billion in launch-aid loans and terminated the launch-aid loan agreements in question, while also addressing subsidies given in the form of capital contributions, infrastructure support and regional aid.(Emphasis added.)

     The U.S. counters that the largest launch-aid subsidies—for the A380, Airbus’s super jumbo jet—remain in place and that the actions the EU claims to have taken with respect to earlier subsidies “appear to do nothing to withdraw them, or to remove their adverse effects.”

As we’ve written, Boeing is now requesting essentially the same thing in its Request for Proposals for the 777X site selection.

IAM, Boeing bargaining: It’s a relief to see Boeing and the International Association of Machinists District 751 bargaining for a new contract amendment for the 777X site selection, but no deal is imminent. The Seattle Times reports things could move quickly, however.

First KC-46A airframe, wings joined: Aviation Week has this story about the progress of Boeing’s KC-46A tanker program.

Odds and Ends: 787 software; Hazy on 777X; 787 reliability; A340 lemon; 777X won’t be built in WA: MO politician; Chinese war games

787 software: Aviation Week reports that continuing software issues bedevil the Boeing 787.

AvWeek also takes a closer look at Japan Airlines’ decision to take the 787 off certain routes due to the icing issues of the GEnx engines. Most incidents occurred on the 747-8 but one happened on the 787. The 747-8 also uses the GEnx engine.

Hazy on 777X: Steve Udvar-Hazy, CEO of Air Lease Corp and one of the most influential people in commercial aviation, offered his assessment of the 777X specifications in an interview with Aviation Week. He also commented on the future of the A350-800 and the prospect of an A350-1100.

787 reliability: Aviation Week also reports about Boeing’s efforts to improve the reliability of the 787.

A340 Lemon: Bloomberg News, tipped by our select e-newletter distribution yesterday, wrote this story about an Airbus summit to discuss the future of the A340 family in the secondary market. We’ll publish our e-newsletter for general readership with an expanded version next Monday in this column.

Boeing will nix WA for 777X: So says a Missouri politician. KOMO TV (ABC Seattle) ran a piece yesterday in which a Missouri politician said all indications they’ve had from Boeing is that the 777X won’t be built in Washington State. The clip is not on the KOMO website, however, but we saw it while watching the news.

Pacific War Games: “War is Boring,” a blog, ran a war game involving the current Chinese action declaring a defense identification zone in airspace between China and Japan. We’ve no clue over the quality of this blogger or the war game, but we were reminded that the Pentagon had war game scenarios that were important in the KC-X competition. This was one reason the Northrop Grumman-EADS KC-330 MRTT won the competition (later overturned)–because of the vast distances involved in the Pacific and the assumption that China may be successful in a conflict of what’s called Anti-Access, Access Denied (A2AD) that would have isolated US bases in Guam and Japan. The USAF concluded the EADS KC-330’s longer range vs Boeing’s KC-767, greater loiter time and greater refueling capacity was important to the selection.

Boeing in Puget Sound after the IAM 777X vote: bleak, unless something changes

With the rejection last week by the International Association of Machinists Local 751of the Boeing contract offer that would have located the 777X airplane assembly and wing production in Puget Sound (Seattle), the inevitable question arises: What is Boeing’s future here?

Seattle media and state elected officials are worried that if Boeing locates the 777X outside Washington State, and given the toxic relationship between the machinists and Boeing as well as within its own union, that this could be the start of an exodus from the state.

We agree, although we believe it will be a slow, downward spiral, not a rapid exodus–unless something dramatic changes with the current situation.

The chart illustrates our forecast of Boeing’s gradual departure from Puget Sound based on the current set of circumstances.

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