Odds and Ends: LEAP vs GTF; CSeries flight testing; MRJ FAL

LEAP vs GTF: Reuters has a story looking at the intense competition between CFM and Pratt & Whitney for the market dominance of the LEAP vs Geared Turbo Fan engines.

The only airplane where there is competition is on the Airbus A320neo family; CFM is exclusive on the Boeing 737 MAX and COMAC C919 and PW is exclusive on the Bombardier CSeries, Embraer E-Jet E2 and Mitsubishi MRJ. PW shares the platform of the Irkut MC-21 with a Russian engine. PW says it has sold more than 5,000 GTFs across the platforms. CFM has sold more than 6,000 across the three models it powers.

On the A320neo family, the competition is 50-50 at this point, with a large number of customers yet to decide on an engine choice. However, 60 A320neos (120 engines) ordered by lessor GECAS never were in contested (GECAS buys exclusively from CFM) and 80 A319/320neos from Republic Airways Holdings (160 engines) were part of a financial rescue package for then-ailing Frontier Airlines.

PW’s joint venture partner, International Aero Engines, shares the A320ceo family platform with CFM. Late to the market, IAE caught up to CFM in recent years.

On platforms where they compete, the sales figures so far show a neck-and-neck competition between CFM and PW.

Update, 12:30: The link has been fixed. Update, 9:30 am PST: Flight Global has this story reporting that PW plans a Performance Improvement Package on the GTF that will further cut fuel consumption by 3%.

CSeries flight testing: Bombardier’s CSeries flight testing has been slow to this point, but it’s beginning to ramp up. Aviation Week reports that FTV 3 should be in the air by the end of this month and FTV 4 should follow in April. FTV 3 is the avionics airplane and FTV 4 focuses on GTF engine testing.

Mitsubishi MRJ: Aviation Week also reports that the Mitsubishi MRJ airplane #1 is nearing final assembly.

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: Boeing Everett; SkyWest raises doubts about MRJ; Boeing and Charleston on 777X

Boeing’s Everett Footprint: With the news that Boeing will build 1.5m sf of space for a new 777X Final Assembly Line and wing production facility if the IAM 751 members ratify the new contract and Washington State ponies up on incentives, the obvious question is: what happens with the current Everett plant?

It had been assumed the 777X would be built in the current facility, integrating with and ultimately replacing the current 777 line; or starting off in the space now occupied by the 747-8, which is struggling to stay alive and which many–ourselves included–believe will die off with the advent of the 777-9.

Let’s consider this latest twist.

  • The 787 Line 1 is assumed to eventually reach a production rate of 7/mo, with Charleston also target for 7/mo, with the goal of the combined lines going to the announced rate of 14/mo by 2018/19.
  • The KC-46A tanker, which occupies half of one bay, goes to two a month in a few years, though it has capacity to go to three. The other half of this bay is currently occupied by the 787 surge line, but in theory this is supposed to go away once Charleston is up to rate 3. Boeing now says this will happen in the first quarter (it was supposed to by year end) but this may not be achieved by then, according to some. But one has to believe Charleston will be ready to rock by 2016, when the 777X is gearing up.
  • The current 777 line, now at 8.3/mo rate, is assumed to have a two year overlap from 777X EIS, or around 2022, when it’s been assumed the current generation 777 would be discontinued. But the 777-200LRF may live on, both in its current form and as a replacement for the KC-10 tanker. Although the USAF is reportedly looking at a 2040 procurement date for the KC-10 replacement, some believe this is too far out into the future and this date will be brought forward.
  • Then there is the 747-8 production space. It’s also assumed this airplane is living on borrowed time. The USAF says it wants to replace the Air Force One fleet in 2021, and this is a long time to keep this line alive. Boeing is counting on the cargo market to return in 2014 to spur demand of the 747-8F, but some believe main-deck freighters of this size will have a very tough time when cheap 747-400 conversions can be had for a fraction of the cost.
  • If space at the primary Everett plant does open up, what is there to fill it if not the 777X? Any number of potentials: the Y-1 737 replacement, closing the Renton factory in the process and splitting the Y-1 between Washington and South Carolina (or Texas, or some off-shore location). A maintenance, repair and overhaul operation: Boeing wants to dramatically increase this service business. Component production.

Over to Readers for your thoughts.

Meanwhile, The Puget Sound Business Journal has this long story on the expected use of robots in building the 777X.

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CFM LEAP accelerating in test program; Airbus and the A350-800

Aviation Week has a long, detailed story about the test program for the CFM LEAP engine, which is accelerating rapidly.

In its 737 MAX program update yesterday, Boeing said the LEAP-1B has begun testing and it will benefit from the testing already underway for the LEAP-1A, the version that is designed for the Airbus A320neo family. The LEAP-1C for the COMAC C919 is on its original schedule for certification in 2015, despite the fact the C919 has slipped to at least 2017, reports AvWeek.

The 737 MAX is exclusively powered by the LEAP, as is the C919. The former has more than 1,600 firm orders and the latter just hit its 400th order/commitment. CFM faces competition on the A320neo family from Pratt & Whitney’s P1000G Geared Turbo Fan, where PW holds a 49% market share against CFM, which previously held a larger, more dominate position in the A320ceo competition. A large number of orders don’t yet have an engine selection.

PW is the sole-source engine provider for the Bombardier CSeries, the Mitsubishi MRJ and the Embraer E-Jet E2. PW splits the engine choice on the Irkut MC-21 (soon to be renamed the YAK 242) with a Russian engine.

Just as Boeing’s LEAP-1B will benefit from the experience of the LEAP-1A now in testing for Airbus, Airbus will benefit from the testing and experience of PW’s testing of the GTF on the Bombardier CSeries.

Aviation Week also has a story about the Airbus A350-800 with the blunt headline, The airplane Airbus doesn’t want to build. This refers to the A350-800. AvWeek muses that the outcome of the merger between US Airways, now the largest customer for the airplane, and American Airlines, may be the deciding factor for the airplane. We agree. With American’s large order for the Boeing 787-9, the A350-800 would be unnecessary.

That would then leave Hawaiian Airlines as a key decision-maker. We hear in the market that Hawaiian is just sitting back and waiting to see what kind of incentives Airbus will offer to entice a switch to the larger A350-900.

Aerospace Supply Chain challenges for planned production rates

Airbus and Boeing have announced production rates for their single-aisle airplanes of 42/mo each and are thinking of going as high as 52/mo. Boeing last week announced a planned rate of 14/mo for the 787. Airbus has plans for 10/mo for the A350 XWB, and is considering a second final assembly line.

Bombardier, Embraer, COMAC, Irkut, and Mitsubishi each have new airplanes coming on line soon. There are more than 22 new and derivative airplanes planned to enter service between now and 2022.

How will the supply chain meet the demands of the OEMs?

It will be tough, says J. C. Hall, the chairman of the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance, headquartered in the Seattle area. PNAA represents small-to-medium suppliers.

We sat down with Hall to get his take on the challenges ahead for the supply chain.

Odds and Ends: Embraer reports weak quarter; MRJ FTV #1 assembly; JAL, ANA politics

Embraer’s Third Quarter: Embraer delivered fewer commercial airplanes in the third quarter than had been expected. The maker of E-Jets and the E-Jet E2 re-engined versions due beginning in 2018 listed its deliveries and backlog in its press release. Analysts expects 22 E-Jets would be delivered in the quarter. But the backlog is up 44% year-over-year, largely on the strength of the launch of the E2 (150 orders, 100 of which are for the smallest E-175 E2 and 25 each for the E-190/195 E2), and orders from Republic Airways Holdings and SkyWest Airlines for the current generation of E-Jets. The E-175 remains to most frequently-ordered airplane.

Although Embraer is expanding the size of the E-195-E2 by up to 12 seats, orders have been few. The E-190 has proved a better-selling model than the E-195.

EJet_E2 Compare

Source: Embraer

Officials expect to have a healthy fourth quarter delivery stream.

Mitsubishi MRJ: Assembly for the first Mitsubishi MRJ Flight Test Vehicle (to borrow Bombardier’s term for the CSeries) is underway. The first delivery was originally planned for this year; it’s now planned for 2017, four years late. This rivals Boeing’s 787 and exceeds the Airbus A350 and as yet the CSeries.

JAL, ANA Politics: Reuters has an analysis about the suspicion politics may have been involved in the decision by Japan Airlines to buy the Airbus A350 and the pending order by ANA of an Airbus or Boeing airplane.

Production wars coming: Airbus v Boeing

If some industry observers are concerned about the prospect of over-production now, the current state of affairs may only be the tip of the iceberg.

Airbus CEO Fabrice Bergier says he expects to boost production of the A320 and A350 families over the next few years, overtaking Boeing by 2018.

Airbus currently produces the A320 at a rate of 42 per month. The A330 rate is 10/mo and the A380 at 3/mo. Production of the first customer-destined A350 is to begin by the end of this year, with a targeted delivery in the second half of next year. Ramp-up to an initial production target of 10/mo is planned over a four year period, but the wing factory in Broughton, Wales, has a capacity for 13/mo, inferring a greater rate is already planned. Airbus is considering a second A350 production line, largely focused on the A350-1000.

Boeing currently produces the 737 at 38/mo, going to 42/mo next year. The 777 rate is 8.3/mo and the 747-8F/I rate is 1.75/mo. The 767, driven by the USAF tanker, is 1.5/mo. The 787 is ramping up to 10.mo, with a target by year end, but we believe this will be more likely in Q12014.

Boeing has notified the supply chain to consider higher rates for the 737, 767 and 787. We posted the chart below last June, reflecting the higher planning rates.

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Latest twin-aisle orders shift market share; Plus Odds and Ends

The flurry of orders in September and this month from Lufthansa Airlines and Japan Air Lines tightens the wide body race between Airbus and Boeing.

Airbus and JAL on Monday announced a firm order for 31 A350s and options for 25 more. Last month, Lufthansa announced a firm order for 34 777-9Xs and 25 A350-900s.

Twin Aisle Market Share 093013Sources: Airbus and Boeing

Airbus traditionally has significantly trailed Boeing in the twin-aisle sector, but so far this year the race is running about even through September. The Lufthansa orders for the Boeing 777-9X and the Airbus A350-900, announced in September, are not reflected yet, nor is the Japan Air Lines order for A350-900s and -1000s. None of these orders has been booked yet by either OEM. Airbus would take the lead.

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Odds and Ends: Slowing sales; Airbus in Japan; MRJ delay; Crandall on merger

Slowing Jet Sales: Within a few days, Bloomberg, Reuters and The Seattle Times each had stories about slowing jet sales.

Here is the Bloomberg story, focusing on cargo sales.

Here is the Reuters story.

Here is The Seattle Times story.

The theme of each is worrisome, but with Richard Aboulafia’s comments to The Times, we disagree with his view on American Airlines. American has an ancient fleet of Boeing MD-80s and aging Boeing 757s that have to be replaced, and we believe the Airbus and Boeing orders won’t go away if the merger with US Airways is blocked.

Airbus still trying Japan: Airbus, which has never had a lot of luck penetrating the market in Japan, still appears to have an uphill battle, according to this article. The Reuters piece quotes Airbus’ John Leahy at the Paris Air Show; when we spoke with Leahy by phone from the IATA AGM immediately before the PAS, Leahy wasn’t quite as upbeat as quoted in the Reuters article. Leahy tamped down speculation that he’d have a Japanese order for the A350 at the PAS (and he did not) but neither was he ready to predict any timeline when one might be forthcoming.

Aspire Aviation continues to believe Boeing may place the 777X wing production in Japan as a means to secure 777X orders and block the A350.

Mitsubishi’s delay: Mitsubishi’s latest delay on the MRJ90 program is being blamed on not following FAA process, according to this article.

Poor South Carolina 787 deliveries: All Things 787 reports that Boeing’s Charleston (SC) 787 assembly plant has delivered only four 787s this year.

Crandall on DOJ AA-US lawsuit: Former American Airlines CEO Robert Crandall (who retired in 1998) has a very good analysis of the faults of the Department of Justice lawsuit to block the American-US Airways merger in this Bloomberg TV interview. He’s first up in the 22 minute segment.

Desperation: Kingfisher sued International Aero Engines for $236m over allegedly defective and poorly designed engines on the Airbus A320. This doesn’t pass the laugh test and smacks of desperation. The V2500 has been on the A320 for decades and seems to have been designed just fine and performing well.

Odds and Ends: Lufthansa’s pending widebody order; MRJ v E-Jet E2; MAXimizing space

Lufthansa’s Pending Order: As we have written on previous occasions, Lufthansa Airlines has been preparing a large order for twin-aisle, twin-engine aircraft: 50 or more. We’d noted that the order was likely due in September.

Aviation Week has this update.

Mitsubishi MRJ v Embraer E-Jet E2: Flight Global reports that the Japanese OEM says the latest 15 month delay won’t hurt sales of the MRJ (to which one wag notes it’s not selling well anyway–there are only three customers), but what caught our eye is the Mitsubishi reference comparing the MRJ with the Embraer E-Jet E2. This is like the debate of new vs re-engine between Bombardier’s CSeries and the smallest Airbus and Boeing products.

MAXimizing space: Boeing shifted work around at its Renton (WA) factory as it prepares for production of the 737 MAX. The Seattle Times has a good wrap up.