The struggling Boeing 747-8

News reports that Boeing is promoting the 747-8I to Emirates Airlines prompted some to leap to conclusions that the struggling program is about to get a sorely needed shot in the arm. We don’t think so.

For one thing, Emirates president Tim Clark immediately poured cold water on the idea. In the process, in the same report, he said the 747-8 can’t match the Airbus A380 economics.

For another thing, we believe Emirates is trending toward a two-aircraft type fleet for which there is no room for a third–whether it is the Airbus A350 or the 747-8I. It’s clear the Emirates business model is built around the A380 and the Boeing 777-300ER/777X.

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Logical conclusions: Airbus wide-body decisions

A330 programme. The long range programme presents no new challenges. However, managing the order book beyond 2016 becomes more challenging due to competition from A350 XWB and Boeing 787.

—From the Airbus Group 2013 Annual Report

We have written previously that Airbus faced a production gap, a major drop in backlog orders from 2016, with no orders at all from 2020 (excluding the 27 orders placed in March by China, for which we don’t currently have delivery data yet).  Back on December 29, we noted that the prospect of the A330neo was gaining traction–and it’s even more so today.

Market Intelligence from multiple sources indicate that Airbus will announce at the Farnborough Air Show that it will proceed with re-engining the A330 into a new engine option configuration, including sharklets similar to that on the A320 family.

This will give a needed boost to the A330 line. There have been a dearth of orders, in part, no doubt, to the industry waiting to see whether Airbus will proceed with the A330neo. Recall that there had been a drop in A320 family orders in the run-up to the launch of the A320neo.

We have now completed a comprehensive study about the business case for the A330neo and how competitive it would be vs. the Boeing 787-8 and -9, and what price Airbus has to offer to help make the airplane competitive. This proprietary study is based on our proprietary economic modeling which, along with our own Market analysis, concludes that there is a business case to proceed with the A330neo. We concurrently believe Airbus will discontinue offering the A350-800, although this announcement may not come for some time. Among the reasons: Hawaiian Airlines wants the A350-800 as offering the passenger capacity and the range it desires. The A350-900 is too big, officials currently believe. But an A330-300neo won’t offer the range Hawaiian wants (it will fall about 1,500nm short, according to our estimates). If Airbus discontinues the A350-800, Hawaiian may well re-issue its Request for Proposals that will give Boeing a shot at getting the 787-9 into Hawaiian. Given the planned production boost to the 787 line (12/mo in 2016, 14/m0 in 2018 or 2019), Boeing now has delivery slots to offer to match that of the A350-800 schedule.

But we don’t think Airbus is done once it launches the A330neo. We believe Airbus continues to look at the prospect of re-engining the A380, c.2020, given additional impetus from the large customer for the A380, Tim Clark of Emirates Airlines. This article in The Wall Street Journal is the latest on this topic.

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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.

Odds and Ends: AirAsia on A330neo, A380; 777X specificiations; A380 engine PIPs

AirAsia on Airbus: AirAsia Group is one of Airbus’ largest customers, and its CEO Tony Fernandes is increasingly influential in the Asian sector. He’s also into car racing, often betting Virgin Group’s Richard Branson. This short interview details Fernandes’ view on the prospective A330neo–something Fernandes has been pushing for some time–and what he thinks Airbus should do with the A380.

Looking at the 777X: Aviation Week has a detailed look at the Boeing 777X “under the skin.” Fuel burn, engine thrust and general specifications are in the article. Aviation Week also has a series of videos from the Dubai Air Show here. Topics: 777X, Qatar Airways and A380 engines. On the latter, Emirates CEO Tim Clark suggests putting the new GE9X or Rolls-Royce Trent on the A380 to reduce fuel burn by 10%.

Emirates urges 777X be built in US: Wall Street Journal

Emirates Airlines has urged Boeing to build the 777X and its components in the US to avoid the issues that bedeviled the 787, according to The Wall Street Journal. (Subscription required.)

“Tim Clark, president of Emirates, said Boeing should assemble the 777X family in its own facilities to better manage the process and deliver the aircraft on time in 2020,” The WSJ wrote.

“‘All we said to [Boeing] was, ‘Please don’t do to 777X what you did to the [787],’” Mr. Clark said in an interview on the sidelines of the Dubai Air Show, adding that outsourcing the manufacture-and-build process to companies in Asia or Europe might mean Boeing loses quality and control of assembly. “Don’t do that to us,” he said,” The WSJ wrote.

“Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Akbar similarly expressed a desire that Boeing assemble the 777X at a single U.S. facility. “Frankly, we would rather everything was built in one place, and I think Boeing from the 787 experience have learnt a lesson,” he said in an interview Tuesday,” reported The Journal.

There is broad consensus that Boeing’s Everett plant is the best place to build the 777X, given its experienced workforce, a mature factory and the continuing challenges of the Charleston 787 plant. But Boeing CEO Jim McNerney’s antipathy toward the IAM specifically and the Washington State business climate generally are “wild cards,” a source familiar with the dynamics tells us.

Boeing is entertaining business offers from other states, and is widely reported to be considering locations at its facilities in Utah, California, Texas and Alabama. The Charleston plant is said not to be on the list due to the plant challenges with the 787, but Boeing hasn’t confirmed any of these possibilities.

Ultra Long Range Airplane market will limit 777-8 sales

A limited global market for Ultra Long Range Airplanes (ULRA) will limit sales of the Boeing 777-8.

The Boeing Board of Directors is expected to green-light the 777X program this month, with two versions of the airplane: the 350-passenger 777-8 and the 406-passenger 777-9. The 777-8 will have a range of about 9,400nm and the -9 a range about 1,000nm less.

The 777-8, an Ultra-Long Range Aircraft, is known within the industry as “Tim Clark’s airplane.” Clark is the president of Emirates Airlines and for years has been urging Airbus and Boeing to develop a plane with ultra-long range that can fly from Dubai to Los Angeles with a full payload. The absence of this ability is one reason why he has not purchased the 747-8I.

Reaction to the 777-8X in customer meetings sponsored by Boeing has been tepid. The 777-8X has been viewed as a niche airplane that will not compete effectively against the Airbus A350-1000, which nominally carriers 350 passengers but has a range of about 8,400nm.

Customer reaction, we are told by some of those in attendance at these meetings, has been that the 8X is a highly niche aircraft that will be needed on only 5% of the world’s routes. It will be too heavy and too costly for most operations, and uncompetitive with the A350-1000.

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Video interviews with Emirates’ Clark, Delta’s Anderson

Two video interviews popped up this morning with key leaders of airlines: Tim Clark, president of Emirates Airlines, and Richard Anderson, CEO of Delta Air Lines. Each is more than 25 minutes.

Emirates’ Tim Clark:

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Delta’s Richard Anderson via Bloomberg News is here.

2012′s Most Influential Person in Commercial Aviation

In 2011 John Leahy of Airbus was voted the most influential person. Who do you think is the most influential this year? We’ll hide the results until the voting is complete.

Odds and Ends: Airbus & Boeing White Elephants; BABC conference; CSeries stalking horse

White Elephants: Bloomberg News doesn’t pull any punches in this article.

747 No. 1 needs help: The Seattle Times has this long story about the first 747-100 that needs restoration.

BABC Conference: The British American Business Council has a conference Sept. 27 in Seattle, with focus on the Middle East. (Go figure.) Here is the link. Tim Clark, CEO of Emirates Airlines, is a key speaker.

CSeries Customers: Here’s a complete listing from Bombardier, the most detailed we’ve seen: The CSeries aircraft order book includes firm orders for 138 CSeries airliners from Braathens Aviation (five CS100 and five CS300 aircraft), Deutsche Lufthansa AG (30 CS100 aircraft), Korean Air (10 CS300 aircraft), Lease Corporation International Group (17 CS300 and three CS100 aircraft), PrivatAir (five CS100 aircraft), Republic Airways (40 CS300 aircraft), an unidentified major network carrier (10 CS100 aircraft), an unidentified European customer (10 CS100 aircraft) and a well-established, unidentified airline (three CS100 aircraft). The CSeries aircraft program has also booked options for 124 aircraft and purchase rights for 10 aircraft from these customers. In addition, the CSeries aircraft program has also achieved a conditional order placed by an unidentified customer for five CS100 and 10 CS300 airliners, as well as three letters of intent: for up to 30 CSeries aircraft from Ilyushin Finance Co; for up to 15 CS300 aircraft from Atlasjet; and for up to 20 CS300 aircraft from airBaltic.

AirAsia and CSeries: CAPA (Centre for Asia Pacific Aerospace) writes what we also figured: the buzz from the Farnborough Air Show about AirAsia and the CSeries seems to be more a ploy than a serious effort. Setting that aside, the CAPA piece is a pretty good analysis of the CSeries potential for low cost carriers.

The Sporty Game: AirInsight has an analysis on Boeing’s product strategy.