Boeing faces exodus of senior engineers in tight market for talent

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By Bryan Corliss
Nov. 28, 2022, © Leeham News: Boeing’s engineering corps could become further depleted within the next few days, as union-represented engineers and technical workers at the company’s Puget Sound plants face a Wednesday deadline on filing their retirement paperwork.

If they don’t leave now, individuals could face retirement benefit losses in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The potential loss of several hundred of Boeing’s most experienced engineers comes at a time when the company is scraping together engineering teams to tackle production problems in Charleston, and in the midst of an industry-wide shortage of engineering talent.

Summary

  • Aggressive hiring sparks Brazilian lawsuit
  • Engineers face Wednesday deadline
  • All aerospace companies need engineers
  • Tech industry layoffs won’t help
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Pontifications: Airports and aviation or mass transit, conventional or high-speed rail

Nov. 26, 2022, © Leeham News: Some European countries declared war on the airline industry. Authorities in The Netherlands want to put permanent caps on operations at the Amsterdam airport. The French government wants to ban most airline flights of two hours or less within the country.

By Scott Hamilton

These two countries prefer requiring travelers to use trains vs planes. In the US, there are some on the East Coast who similarly advocate mass transit, more conventional rail and the creation of high-speed rail over short-haul flights operated by small regional jets.

Here in the greater Seattle area, forecasts conclude that there will be airport passenger demand for 97 million people by 2050. The region’s main airport, SeaTac International, has growth plans to accommodate 50 million passengers by then. Physical constraints prevent the airport from expanding. Just adding a third runway took 20 years and required a massive landfill to match the plateau topography on which the airport sits.

A task force recommends three sites south and southeast of SeaTac. Each is a greenfield site that is mostly farmland. Aside from the opposition from landowners over their properties being targeted, anti-aviation people are already suggesting creating more conventional and brand new high-speed rail alternatives.

But, like so many advocating battery-powered airplanes and eVTOLs, or hybrids, or hydrogen-powered aircraft, those advocating substituting rail for airports ignore all the costs—both financial and otherwise—that go into a rail system.

Let’s take a look.

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Bjorn’s Corner: Sustainable Air Transport. Part 47. eVTOL traffic

By Bjorn Fehrm

November 25, 2022, ©. Leeham News: We have gone through the flight principles for different eVTOLs, the critical systems such as battery systems and flight controls, their energy consumption/performance, and how green they are compared to other ways of getting to an airport.

This is all about the flying vehicle. But it’s only part of the system needed for this transport system to work and be safe. We now discuss the other bits needed.

Figure 1. The JFK, Newark, and Manhattan airspace. Click for a detailed view. Source: Foreflight.

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The Boeing 767 Cross Section, Part 1

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By Vincent Valery

Introduction  

Nov. 24, 2022, © Leeham News: Last week, we saw the impact of using a nine-abreast economy class seating configuration on the Airbus A330neo economic performance against the Boeing 787-9. The passenger comfort was similar to the A350 NPS in a 10-abreast cabin.

NMA Freighter. Credit: Leeham Company LLC

We now turn our attention to another aircraft family, the Boeing 767. Until a few weeks ago, Boeing’s product development team worked on a 767-sized airplane. The program would start with a freighter, the NMA-F, followed by the passenger variant.

However, comments from Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun at the Boeing annual investor conference indicated there are no plans to launch such a program. Funding for such a program was reduced.

Despite Boeing’s announcement, we still thought it relevant to look at the 767 cross-section with a mindset of what could have been.

Summary
  • No adequate OEM offering in the upper mid-market segment;
  • The 767 cabin shoulder width;
  • Comparing mid-sized aircraft capacity;
  • A dwindling 767 freighter conversion stock.

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Movie Review: Devotion

By Scott Hamilton

Nov. 21, 2022, © Leeham News: The movie Devotion opens Nov. 23 in the US.

Based on a true story, the movie is about the US Navy’s first African American fighter pilot (at the time, “Negro”). The timeline is the Korean War.

Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell in Devotion. Credit: Devotion movie site.

Jonathan Majors and Glen Powell are the lead male actors. Majors was in eight movies before Devotion. Powell appeared in Hidden Figures, about the first African Americans (in this case, all women) employed by NASA. Powell portrayed John Glenn, the USA’s first astronaut to orbit the Earth.

Majors portrays Jesse Brown, the African American. Powell portrays Tom Hudner, who becomes Brown’s closest friend in a squadron that unsurprisingly for the era has its share of bigots.

The movie was made by Black Label Media, founded by Molly Smith, the daughter of FedEx founder Fred Smith. He helped finance the picture. Black Label produced Only the Brave, a movie about smoke jumpers in Arizona who were killed fighting a wildfire; and Sicario, the Day of Soldado.

Devotion takes us through Brown’s sprinkles of his family life, early days in the Navy and his efforts to qualify as a fighter pilot. A talented pilot, Brown initially had some difficulty qualifying for aircraft carrier operations (he was the first nor the last). His heroic actions on a mission over North Korea are followed by his crash landing, trapped in his airplane. He survived the crash landing. Hudner, his wingman, makes a wheels up landing to try and free Brown from the burning wreckage.

It’s a story about devotion to duty and a devotion to your wingman. This is a story about race in the Navy with Brown becoming a pioneer.

Airplanes also are stars in this movie and there is a local connection to Washington State and Oregon.

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China will accelerate development of its commercial aerospace sector

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The second of two articles.

By Scott Hamilton

Nov. 21, 2022, © Leeham Co.: Western aerospace companies that invested in China face challenging times ahead in a changing trade environment.

The COMAC C919 is a means to an end in the development of China’s commercial aerospace industry. Credit: Leeham News.

This is especially true for US companies. The overhang of trade and political tensions between the US and China makes for difficult times ahead. European companies are less threatened. Nevertheless, these face uncertainties as China strives to build its own commercial aerospace industry.

This effort “puts western companies that have made capital investments in Chinese capacity in a difficult situation just structurally because they have either JVs or WFOES (Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprises) or other engagements with Chinese-based industrial assets that will be hard to navigate simply from a trade compliance perspective,” says Michael McAdoo, Partner & Director, Global Trade and Investment for Boston Consulting Group.

“Non-Chinese companies now have a very difficult environment to navigate versus a decade ago. I think there will be a huge push to create the capacity, for engines, for airframes, and for key systems.”

McAdoo The C919 essentially was China going shopping basically for what it considered to be best of breed and all these different technologies. The majority of these come from Western suppliers. Then they were integrated into China with some Chinese design and build structures, but even that structure had some western partners at various places.

Related articles:

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Pontifications: Some Boeing product development engineers reassigned to 737, 787 lines to fix problems

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By Scott Hamilton

Nov. 21, 2022, © Leeham News: When Boeing CEO David Calhoun told his audience at the Nov. 2 investors day (and all those watching on the web) that there will be no new airplane introduced until the middle of the next decade, it was a shocker to some.

Wall Street analysts and investors loved the news. There would be no spike in research and development spending. Free Cash Flow—which is seemingly all that matters to analysts—was forecast to be $10bn by 2025-2026. Returning money to shareholders seemed to be restored as Boeing’s No. 1 priority. The stock price went up 18% in the week after the news.

Calhoun said there would not be a new engine before the middle of the next decade that would support the development of a new airplane. Calhoun ignored advances in airplane/wing design as a contributor to reducing fuel burn, however.

But, as the late radio commentator Paul Harvey used to say, “now, for the rest of the story.”

Since the Nov. 2 investors day, the first since 2018, LNA quickly learned that there was more than expressed at the investors day event.

Summary
  • While officials pointed to continuing production challenges, mostly fingering the supply chain, this is only part of the story.
  • Quality control slipped not only at the Charleston 787 factory, as has been widely reported. It remains an issue even today.
  • Quality control is also a problem at the 737 Renton and 767 Everett factories.
  • Quality declined in part because there are so many new hires to replace retirements, early buyouts, and layoffs. These new hires have a learning curve required that slows production and makes quality control challenging.
  • Product Development engineers diverted to 737 and 787 production to resolve issues.

In the meantime, Calhoun purchased 25,000 shares of stock on Nov. 8 for approximately $3.87m. Insider purchases like this typically send a message to Wall Street and stockholders that the CEO (or whomever) has confidence in the company’s future.

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Bjorn’s Corner: Sustainable Air Transport. Part 46. eVTOL comparison with helicopter

By Bjorn Fehrm

November 18, 2022, ©. Leeham News: In the comments to last week’s Corner, there were requests for a comparison with a helicopter re. Sustainability (kWh/km). Here you go.

I also threw in a cost of operations discussion, as the helicopter is the present alternative to an eVTOL for city-to-airport air transports.

Figure 1. The Robinson R66 five-seat helicopter. Source: Wikipedia.

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The economics of a 787-9 and A330-900 at eight or nine abreast

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By Bjorn Fehrm

Introduction

Nov. 16, 2022, © Leeham News: Over the last weeks, we have looked at the economics of our typical long haul widebodies when fitted with normal and high-density seating.

We continue this series by comparing the Boeing 787-9 and Airbus A330-900, when both fly eight or nine abreast economy cabins. As before, we fly the world’s busiest long-haul route, London Heathrow, to New York JFK and look at the comfort and economic data.

Summary
  • The 787-9 is the more capable aircraft with about 700nm longer range than the A330-900.
  • The economics of the two on routes both can fly is close. It comes down to cabin layouts.

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Embraer 3rd Quarter 2022 results; E-Jet deliveries backloaded

By Bjorn Fehrm

November 14, 2022, ©. Leeham News: Embraer presented its 3Q2022 results today. Commercial aircraft deliveries stayed low, with only one E195-E2 delivered in the quarter, together with nine E175s. In total, 27 E-jets have been delivered from a guidance of 60-70.

Revenue for the group was down 3% compared with 3Q2021, mainly due to Defense & Security revenue declining $75m ($102m vs. $177m). Group net profit was -$30m (-$45m 3Q2021).

Group sales were flat as Porter and SalamAir orders for E195-E2s balanced a Republic Airways reduction of E175 orders with 31 units. The company retained the 2022 guidance with an increase in Free Cash Flow from $50m to $150m or better.

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