Odds and Ends: MC-21 to be renamed; Boeing buys land; seat wars ahead?

MC-21 to be renamed: After creating a brand for the Russian Irkut MC-21, authorities have decided to rename the airplane the Yak 242, according to this article in Flight International.

The article is too brief to explain the reasons behind this, other than to indicate the MC-21 evolved out of a design that was designated Yak-242. The MC-21 is somewhat larger than the 242 and it is a direct challenger to Airbus and Boeing in the 150-210 seat sector.

Among our activities, we engage in branding. We don’t think this is a particularly smart move on Russia’s part. Returning to the Yak name is a throwback to the old Soviet Union and the history of Soviet airliners that left a lot to be desired. The “Irkut MC-21″ name creates some distance to this history in the effort to sell the airplane outside the old Soviet political sphere.

The Sukhoi Superjet SSJ100, which has had some success selling beyond the sphere, nonetheless reinforces the history of troubled Soviet airliners. Production has been painfully slow and in-service reliability difficult.

We think the Irkut name should be retained, a move toward the future, not one toward the past.

Boeing buys more Charleston land: The US government shutdown delayed the land purchased by Boeing of federally property around the Charleston (SC) airport. Now that the government is open again, the purchase has moved forward, according to the Charleston Post and Courier. According to reports, Boeing now owns or has under contract slightly more land at Charleston than it owns at Everett.

Boeing has been shifting work from Washington to Charleston, and the trend toward purchasing land means this will continue. We continue to believe that when clean-sheet airplanes come out of the Boeing shop to replace the 737 and 777, production of these will be at Charleston. Hopefully the demand for the 737 replacement will be high enough that production will be split between Washington and Charleston. We can foresee a scenario where Boeing has a more equal split between the two locations, such as Airbus has with Hamburg and Toulouse.

But the immediate question is whether the 777X derivative will be built in Washington or Charleston. We’ve heard both scenarios but don’t have enough information to know which is correct.

Seats Wars pending? Airbus has called for an industry standard for 18-inch wide seats in coach. Plane Talking has an analysis of this. We’ll point out that Embraer already has 18-inch seats as standard in its E-Jets and Bombardier has 18-inch window-and-aisle seats plus a 19-inch middle seat for its CSeries. This makes the E-Jet and the CSeries the most comfortable domestic airplanes available, with the middle-seat bonus for the CSeries.

We haven’t flown coach internationally for years, but we do so domestically and have been crabbing about the 17 inch seat on the Boeing 737 for a long time. With the Airbus A330 and Boeing 777 nine-abreast essentially the same width, we believe airlines and their drive toward cramming as many seats in as possible to the total disregard of passenger comfort certainly merits international standards at 18 inches.

But we’re not deceived that this proposal is altruistic on the part of Airbus. Boeing’s ability to accommodate one more row of seats with a slightly wider standard than Airbus, reducing CASM in the process, is clearly the motive. When Boeing compares today’s 777 against the A350 in sales campaigns, it uses 10 abreast in coach vs nine abreast for the A350 and argues superior CASM costs. Customers tell us this indeed reduces the CASM advantage the A350 has at an apples-to-apples 9 v 9 (the A350 continues to maintain a trip cost advantage).

We agree with Airbus on the principal. But far chance it will happen.

Irkut makes 10% fuel advantage claim over NEO, MAX for MC-21

Russia’s Irkurt claims its MC-21 mainline jet, a direct competitor to the Airbus A320/321neo and Boeing 737-8/9 MAX, will be some 10% more economical. Irkut claims the MC-21 will be up to 23% more efficient than the current engine-powered Airbus and Boeing products.

Thanks to a reader who is at the MAKS air show, we received this photo from a slide presentation. Although others may have seen this information before, this is the first time we have.

MS21_FuelBurn

Other MAKS news:

  • Sukhoi inked orders for some more Superjet 100s.
  • Still no announcements from Airbus, Boeing or Embraer.
  • Ilyushin Finance Corp and Bombardier announced that the first Russian operator of the CSeries CS300 will Vim Airlines. IFC ordered 32 with 10 more options at the Paris Air Show.

In other news, Boeing and Canada’s WestJet announced a letter of intent for 65 737 MAXes: 25 MAX 7s and 40 MAX 8s. This will enable WestJet to expand and replace its 737 NG fleet. Delivery begins in September 2017, making WestJet one of the first operators.

Looking ahead to 2013 in Commercial Aviation

Last year yielded a few surprises in an otherwise predictable year.

Jim Albaugh shocked the aviation world when he retired unexpectedly at age 62. He was expected to remain in his position as CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes until mandatory retirement at 65.

EADS CEO Tom Enders unleashed a surprise merger proposal with BAE Systems. The deal didn’t work due to German government opposition, but he ultimately accomplished a governance restructuring—a key objective of the merger—that will reduce government meddling in the future.

Those were about it. Boeing’s much-anticipated Authority to Offer the 777X didn’t happen. ATO for the 787-10 was stealthily granted. Airbus and Bombardier, to no surprise, delayed the A350 and CSeries by a few months. Boeing came roaring back to become sales leader for the first time in about a decade, on the strength of 737 MAX sales.

What’s ahead for 2013? Here’s what we see.

Overview

With the spurt of 737 MAX sales over, narrow-body sales competition between Airbus and Boeing should return to normalcy. Will twin-aisle sales become the next growth market because of the first flight of the A350 and the program launch of the 7870-10? Will ATO of the 777X evolve into a program launch as well? Will Bombardier’s first flight of the CSeries and subsequent testing validate its claims for the new technology airplane and finally spur a large number of sales of the “show me” crowd?

Here’s our OEM-by-OEM rundown.

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Odds and Ends: E-190 v Superjet v BBD in Russia; China’s aviation; WestJet’s speed dating; Crandall speaks

E-190 v Superjet v Bombardier: With the finding that the pilot of the demo flight of the Sukhoi SSJ 100 Superjet simply flew into a mountain in Indonesia, rather than there being a problem with the airplane, the cloud has been lifted from the aircraft. So the direct match-up of the SSJ vs the Embraer E-190 can now be compared and this article does so. Bombardier’s CRJ-900 and CRJ-1000 also compete.

China’s Aviation: Airbus and Boeing think China pose the greatest threat in the future, but this analyst is less enthusiastic.

WestJet of Canada: The low cost carrier took a bold step to order up to 45 Bombardier Q400s to feed itself. Now it’s using speed dating to decide where to fly the airplanes.

Crandall speaks on AA-US merger: Former American Airlines CEO Robert Crandall weighs in on the merger between American Airlines and US Airways.