Airbus and Boeing square off at ISTAT

Andy Shankland, senior vice president of leasing markets for Airbus, and Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing for Boeing, were next up at the ISTAT annual meeting in San Diego today.

The following is a synopsis and paraphrasing of their presentations and free-wheeling discussion.

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Boeing’s Randy Tinseth provides mythbusting assessment at PNAA conference

Boeing’s vice president of marketing, Randy Tinseth, appeared at the annual Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference this week in the Seattle area. He talked about Boeing’s annual Current Market Outlook update as well as taking a light-hearted approach to some mythbusting, a la the television show.

Paris Air Show, Day 2

To us the biggest news coming out of Day 2 was not the launch of the Boeing 787-10–this was widely expected–but the suggestion by Boeing CEO Jim McNerney that he might seek a waiver to the mandatory age 65 retirement to hang around a bit more.

We comment on this in another post.

Otherwise, today was pretty anti-climactic: Airbus won easyJet–this had been reported as likely. Boeing launched the 787-10 with the expected launch customers. Boeing added five sales to the largely dormant 747-8I program. The Wall Street Journal has a somewhat cheeky view of Airbus’ sales targets, with Boeing’s Randy Tinseth predictably churlish.

And it rained and rained and rained. We’re glad we’re in Seattle.

Special ‘task force’ studied lithium-ion batteries long before JAL 787 incident

A special task force was studying issues relating to the use of lithium-ion batteries in airliners long before the January 2013 Japan Air Lines fire. The effort began in 2008 and it met in December 2012, one month before the JAL fire.

Boeing, the FAA, Embraer, Airbus, GS Yuasa, American Airlines and ALPA are just a few who participated in these meetings, according to documents.

Randy Tinseth, VP Marketing for Boeing, referred to the group when he discussed the FAA approval to proceed with the Boeing plan to fix the 787 battery issues in his blog, here.

Tinseth writes:

The certification plan calls for a series of tests that show how the improved battery system will perform in normal and abnormal conditions. The test plans were written based on the FAA’s standards as well as applicable guidelines published by the Radio Technical Commission on Aeronautics (RTCA), an advisory committee that provides recommendations on ways to meet regulatory requirements. The RTCA guidelines were not available when the original 787 battery certification plan was developed.

We asked Boeing what the document was that Tinseth referred to above: it is a document numbered DO-311. There are a number of documents at RTCA containing the reference to DO-311.

DO-311 is described by RTCA as:

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New battle breaks out between Airbus and Boeing–in advertising

A new battle has broken out between Airbus and Boeing, this time with a sharp (and perhaps unprecedented) advertisement by Airbus accusing Boeing of outright lying.

(Click to enlarge.)

We don’t remember ever seeing this direct assault by one of the Big Two OEMs on the other. We certainly recall advertisements in the debate over two engines (Boeing 777) vs four (A340)–but to call the competitor a liar like this? It’s new territory, at least in print.

Airbus has been calling Boeing a liar in conferences for its representations for years.

As regular readers of this column know, we’ve been especially skeptical of Boeing claims, based on conversations we’ve had with airlines that have analyzed the aircraft involved, and in some cases those which operate both fleet types. The neutral arbiters–these customers–universally tell us Boeing claims are exaggerated and that the costs between the two OEM’s narrow-body aircraft are about equal. The costs between the Boeing 747-8I and the A380 are also exaggerated by Boeing, these companies tell us.

Furthermore, we’ve cast doubt on Boeing’s reliance of US DOT Form 41 data (which in itself is distorted and unreliable) and a study in Europe that looks at data from 2006-2009, data that is clearly out of date.

At the same time, we’ve taken Airbus to task over its parameters in concluding the A330-300 is a better airplane economically than the forthcoming 787-9.

At ISTAT Europe in September, an official from Virgin Atlantic publicly challenged Boeing’s Randy Tinseth over economic data Tinseth presented comparing Boeing and Airbus aircraft. Tinseth, according to those present, merely responded that he stood by the numbers.

Bloomberg has this story on the controversy. Reuters has this story.

In a way, the entire fight is silly. No airline or lessor will buy Airbus or Boeing aircraft based on these sort of claims. The airlines run their own economic analysis and the lessors are more concerned about lease rates and residual values. The entire conference and advertising effort is for consumption by uninformed journalists, financiers and aviation geeks. Those who actually understand the nuances tend to dismiss the claims of either manufacturer (as we do) and run our own analysis or rely on the airlines and lessors for impartial information.

The market has spoken. Airbus currently has sold about 1,400-1,500 A320neos to Boeing’s 1,000 737 MAXes. Airbus also, in recent years, has sold more current-generation A320s than Boeing has sold 737NGs. For the Very Large Aircraft, Airbus has an 86% market share of passenger airplanes.

These statistics tell more than anything Airbus or Boeing manipulate.

Boeing starts 777 build at 8.3/mo rate

777 Build Rate: Even as Airbus opened its A350 Final Assembly Line in Toulouse today, Boeing announced it has now gone to rate 8.3/mo on the rival 777. (One must wonder if the timing of the announcement is coincidence….) Here is Boeing’s press release.

Randy Tinseth, in his blog, writes this, with some photos.

Airbus A350: Aviation Week has this story from today’s FAL opening, reporting the company is trying to reassure stakeholders that the program is on track.

 

ISTAT Europe: a tough review by Aeroturbopower, and our thoughts

ISTAT Europe: Aeroturbopower has this recap of last week’s ISTAT Europe conference and he takes a devastating hit at the Boeing presentation. We weren’t at the event this year but we’ve seen plenty of Boeing presentations and agree with Aeroturbopower’s assessment that Boeing takes liberties…something we’ve written about and something we’ve also expressed to Boeing directly. Comparing apples to oranges seems to be a common tactic.

But in fairness, Airbus also selectively chooses numbers that boost its case. We dissected one such instance in this column on AirInsight. Both companies play around with the seating configuration of their airplanes and the opposition to come up with numbers for seat-mile costs. We’ve seen Boeing compare ranges of the 737 NG and MAX vs the A320ceo/neo families by including the auxiliary fuel tank for the 737 but not for the A320, completely distorting the comparisons. Boeing relies on DOT Form 41 data and a study from 2006-2009 in Europe when comparing maintenance costs of the two families to argue the 737 costs up to 27% less to maintain. The figure, on its face, defies logic. If the A320 cost this much more to maintain, airlines would be hard-pressed to buy it. But more to the point, the methodology for the DOT Form 41 data is thoroughly discredited as a reliable source of information. Relying on a study that uses data up to six years old is also questionable.

All these manipulations of data is why we view numbers from both companies with a high degree of skepticism. In this column, we discuss this at the very end.

Manipulation of data like this harms the credibility of both companies.

As for Aeroturbopower’s report on the 737 MAX design not being frozen, this is true and it’s not news. Boeing said it won’t be until next year and this is what we are also hearing from customers. We’re hearing from a variety of sources that there are still challenges in achieving the advertised 13% fuel burn improvement over today’s 737 NG. We believe Boeing and CFM will get there, but it remains tough. We would not be surprised to see the 69.4 inch fan diameter increase yet again.

WTO Compliance?

The Washington Post reports that the US has complied with the WTO ruling on Boeing illegal subsidies. Boeing didn’t announce whether it has repaid the illegal subsidies, as it pledged to do if it was found guilty of receiving them.

Aircraft demand: Comparing the Big Four OEMs

(Note: The Market Outlook information was released July 3; this piece contains information that was embargoed to July 5.)

Boeing updated its 20 year forecast, from 2012-2031, upping the total market demand about 600 airplanes.

In its annual release just before a major international air show, in this case Farnborough, Randy Tinseth, VP Marketing, said the latest numbers forecast a requirement of 34,000 through 2031 with a value of $4.5 trillion.

This breaks down:

Boeing Current Market Outlook, 2012-2031

Category

Number/Share

Value ($ Billions)/Share

Very Large Aircraft (>400 seats)

740/2%

260/6%

Twin Aisle (201-400 seats)

7,950/24%

2,070/46%

Single Aisle (91-200 seats)

23,240/68%

2,040/46%

Regional Jets (70-90 seats)

2,020/6%

80/2%

This is more optimistic than the 20 year forecast by Airbus. The most recent Airbus forecast—2011-2030—forecast only 26,921 aircraft, more than 7,000 fewer than Boeing—but Airbus does not forecast regional jets nor below 100 seats.

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The moving numbers, redux, in the A320-737 game

For two years, Boeing claimed the 737NG was 8% more economical (and here) than the Airbus A320. Boeing told media, analysts, everybody who would listen. Boeing illustrated the point before and after the MAX.

Here is a recent illustration; note the NG advantage over A320ceo is reduced to 6%:

And Randy Tinseth, in Randy’s Journal, writes:

Combining the seat count issue with all our latest improvements gets you to a 6 to 7 percent difference. So, if the aircraft are not at parity today, what does that say about the rest of the story? It’s always fun to have spirited debate with our competitors. But in this case, the numbers really do speak for themselves. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Our thought was, What happened to 8%? Is this a change in the Boeing messaging? So we asked Tinseth, and through a spokeswoman, the response was, “The 8 percent is our current operating cost per seat advantage over our competition and the other is a measure of fuel burn per seat.”

Airbus, as we’ve noted before, disputes Boeing’s analysis and offers up its own, where numbers are again at the forefront. A key assumption on Airbus’ part is using 157 seats for the 737-800 vs the 162 used by Boeing. Tinseth recently has this to say about that: according to Seatguru.com, Tinseth argues Boeing is closer to right than Airbus–hence his comment above.

Airbus also disputes the 20%-25% maintenance advantage Boeing claims for the 738. Boeing explained here where that comes from.

Here is an Airbus slide from the Innovation Days. Note the seat assumptions in the fine print.

The bouncing around is enough to make one airsick. This is why we remain skeptical of data from both OEMs and prefer to listen to the airlines, who tell use the two airplanes are very close.

Update, 3:30pm PDT: A reader linked this Airbus slide, which was previously posted but forgot about. It addresses Tinseth’s seat issue in the print at the bottom, and was created last year by Airbus.