Pontifications: Lockheed confident as C-130J faces Airbus A400M and Embraer C-390

The last article in a series of interviews with Lockheed Martin.

By Scott Hamilton

June 6, 2023, © Leeham News: The Lockheed Martin C-130 cargo plane entered production in 1954. The first flight was the same year and it entered service in December 1956.

The latest version, the C-130J, is still in production. Named the Hercules, the C-130 is operated by armed services all over the world. Retired versions serve as aerial fire-fighting tankers. A small number of civilian versions, the L-100, serve as commercial freighters.

The C-130J, called the Super Hercules, extends the life of the C-130 series indefinitely. And production for its first civilian operator, a Texas cargo airline, is underway.

Attempts by Airbus with the larger A400M and Embraer with the similarly sized, jet-powered C-390 to compete with or replace the C-130 have largely failed. More than 2,600 C-130s have been produced in 69 years.

The larger A400M has been a technically challenging aircraft and a financial disaster for Airbus. Production began in 2007. The first flight was in December 2009. It entered service in 2013. Only somewhat more than 100 have been built and sales of less than 200 have been made. A host of technical problems marred performance and schedule.

Embraer’s KC-390/C-390, about the same size as the C-130, trades turboprops for jet engines. Production began in 2014. The first flight was in February 2015, and it entered service in 2019. The Brazilian Air Force was to be the largest customer and operator. But financial constraints and changing policies resulted in a reduction in the order. As of today, only about 70 have been ordered and only about a dozen are in service.

Embraer partnered with the US company L3 Harris to market the C-390, including to the US Air Force.

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Boeing still hopes for 737-7 certification this year, 737-10 next year and an Amended Type Certificate for the 777X

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By Scott Hamilton

June 5, 2023, © Leeham News: Boeing continues to face a plethora of paperwork to certify the 737 MAX 7 this year. Officials hope to certify the largest member of the family next year, but won’t commit to this goal.

Boeing 777-9. Credit: Leeham News.

And there is no reason, at this time, to believe the 777-9 will require an entirely new type certificate despite major changes to the airplane.

So says Mike Fleming, senior vice president-Development Programs and Customer Support. Fleming made his remarks at Boeing’s media briefing on May 31 in advance of the Paris Air Show, which beings in two weeks.

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Bjorn’s Corner: New aircraft technologies. Part 15. Airframe for lower Induced drag

By Bjorn Fehrm

June 1, 2023, ©. Leeham News: Last week, we examined ways to lower the dominant drag of an airliner, the air friction drag (Figure 1).

Now we look at the second largest drag component, the Induced drag, and how it can be reduced. We go through the fundamentals of the drag to understand how to affect it. Then we look at aircraft changes to reduce Induced drag and if these make sense on an overall aircraft efficiency level.

Figure 1. The drag components on a typical single-aisle airliner at cruise. Source: Leeham Co.

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Boeing’s Calhoun: Be patient for a new airplane

By Scott Hamilton

June 1, 2023, © Leeham News: Boeing CEO David Calhoun remains upbeat about the company’s future despite occasional setbacks and a struggling defense unit.

Boeing CEO David Calhoun

But in a media briefing on May 30 in advance of the Paris Air Show, he was resolute that progress is being toward a full recovery from the “existential” threats posed in recent years by the 737 MAX crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Boeing is still recovering from these events, as well as a delivery pause of nearly two years of the flagship 787 and political tensions with China that began in 2017 when President Donald Trump imposed trade sanctions, thus beginning a trade war with one of Boeing’s most important markets.

China still has not resume deliveries of the MAX, a combination of the MAX grounding from 2019-2021, the trade war and a slow recovery from COVID. Boeing has an inventory of about 230 MAXes from the grounding; 140 of these are destined for China.

There is also an inventory of about 90 787s, the residual from a production quality issue that Boeing discovered. Officials forecast that it will be the end of 2024 before both inventories are cleared.

At a separate investors conference last week sponsored by the boutique company Wolfe, CFO Brian West reaffirmed free cash flow forecasts of about $10bn by the 2025 time frame. Guidance for production rates of 38 a month for the 737 by the end of this year and 50 by around 2025 and 5/mo for the 787 by year end and 10/mo by 2025 remain intact.

A new airplane, no JV and more
  •   At the media briefing, Calhoun expanded on his previously comments that technology beyond engines is ready for support development of a new airplane.
  •   A New Midmarket Airplane (NMA) would not have been sufficiently advanced to support its development, either, he said. Calhoun killed this project when he was named CEO in January 2020.
  •   Calhoun in April 2020 withdrew from the proposed joint venture with Embraer. EMB was to be responsible for developing a new airplane in the 100-150 seat sector and provide engineering for the NMA. The withdrawal is in arbitration, so Calhoun wouldn’t comment specifically about it. But asked whether Boeing might revisit the JV, he said there is less compelling reason to do a JV today than there was then.
  •   Boeing and NASA are studying a trans-sonic Truss Braced Wing (TBW) design, building on research and development Boeing has been doing for years. Calhoun said whether this will become a single- or twin-aisle concept when done is too early to say. But he added that the TBW doesn’t lend itself to a large capacity aircraft.

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Embraer gears for growth

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By Bjorn Fehrm

June 1, 2023, © Leeham News: We attended a briefing on Embraer’s strategy for the years ahead last week. The company has regrouped after the failed Joint Venture with Boeing in 2020 and the tough COVID years.

The focus has been on streamlining operations after the carve-out of the Commercial Aviation division was reversed. The reintegration was followed by efficiency projects in all divisions to lower costs, free capital, and pay down debt.

Only from a strengthened economic base can Embraer go for growth in the years ahead.

Embraer E2 jet ordered by Scoot. Source: Embraer.

Summary:
  • Embraer has turned corners in Finance, Executive jets, and Defense with the KC-390.
  • Now, the E-Jets shall follow, with sales of E2s picking up over the last six months.

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Boeing SC construction underway for second 787 final assembly line

An Etihad Airlines Boeing 787 undergoing modification for a production issue at the Boeing South Carolina final assembly plant. This rework will shift to Everett exclusively so this rework space can be shifted to a second Final Assembly Line. Credit: Leeham News.

By Scott Hamilton

May 31, 2023, © Leeham News: Charleston (SC)—Boeing is gearing up to add a second production line for the 787 here at what was once the second line to the Everett (WA) plant.

When the COVID-19 pandemic erupted, the Everett line was closed and production was consolidated here. Peak production between the two plants was 14/mo, with seven at each facility. Even before the pandemic, the rate was trimmed to 12/mo. With the pandemic, and airlines refusing to take any airplanes of any times as passenger traffic all but disappeared, production was slashed to 3/mo.

Then, when a production quality issue was discovered, deliveries were halt and production was slashed again, to a mere one-half 787 per month.

Deliveries restarted last year and the production rate returned to 3/mo. At a media briefing yesterday, In advance of the Paris Air Show, the VP and GM of the 787 program, Lane Ballard, announced the rate is going to 4/mo. By year end, Boeing will boost the rate to 5/mo. Boeing previously announced plans to boost the rate to 10/mo by 2025.

In a tour of the production line, the media saw early construction of a second assembly line in the 787 plant as Boeing prepares to add a second line for that previously announced 10 airplane per month, up from a peak of seven. But the Charleston plant has room for more than 10 airplanes per month.

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Pontifications: “The need for radical fuel improvements will only increase over time.”

By Scott Hamilton

May 30, 2023, © Leeham News: “The need for radical fuel improvements will only increase over time.”

That’s the definitive conclusion of Arjan Hegeman, GE Aerospace’s general manager of advanced technology.

GE is working on Performance Improvement Packages (PIPs) of its current engine lineup used on Airbus and Boeing airliners. It’s also developing the GE9X, now in testing on the Boeing 777X, and concepts of a hybrid-electric and hydrogen-fueled engine.

But the big bet is on the Open Fan “RISE” (Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines). “The Open Fan technology—it’s a go,” Hegeman declared earlier this month at a press briefing in advance of the Paris Air Show next month.

CFM RISE Open Fan engine. Credit: CFM.

The Open Fan is an evolution of the Open Rotor engine tested in the 1980s. The concept shows a dramatic reduction in fuel consumption compared with the engines of the day. But the counter-rotating rotor design was very noisy. Coupled with other technical challenges and a sudden drop in fuel prices, GE (and rival Pratt & Whitney) dropped the concepts.

But research and development continued. Today, PW thinks its Geared Turbo Fan engine will suffice for the future. Rolls-Royce is also pursuing traditional engine designs. But GE believes the problems of the Open Rotor have been solved for the Open Fan.

How?

It comes down to supercomputing, said Mohamed Ali, GE Aerospace vice president of engineering.

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Tanker competition decision expected later this year

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By Scott Hamilton

May 29, 2023, © Leeham News: Procurement of a new round of US Air Force aerial refueling tankers resulted in a shift in strategy driven by new threat assessments, a service spokesperson tells LNA.

The Lockheed Martin LMXT concept. Credit: Lockheed Martin.

“The Next Generation Air-Refueling System (NGAS) is being accelerated due to threats. Therefore, the Air Force is no longer pursuing the original envisioned tanker strategy,” an Air Force spokesperson said in an email on May 22.

Boeing KC-46A. Credit: Boeing.

“However, we know that between KC-46A (179 aircraft on current contract) and an accelerated NGAS, we still need uninterrupted tanker recapitalization. Therefore, we are working on validated requirements and a finalized Business Case Analysis (BCA) for this tanker before making a final decision later this year whether or not we’ll hold a competition for aircraft (approximately 75) as the gap filler to ensure uninterrupted tanker recapitalization. Andrew Hunter, the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology, and logistics provided this update on March 7 during a media roundtable at the AFA Warfare Symposium.”

Initially, the Air Force posited that the next round of tanker contracts would be for around 160 aircraft. Originally, the procurement, called KC-Y, was expected to be an advanced tanker design. Then it shifted to a “bridge” procurement for an existing tanker. Now called NGAS, the procurement concept is reduced to 75 tankers.

Boeing favors a sole-source, follow-on order. Unsurprisingly, Lockheed Martin Co. (LMCO) favors a competition.

Boeing currently has contracts for up to 179 767-based KC-46As. Airbus has delivered about 50 MRTTs worldwide. Boeing has delivered more than 60 KC-46As worldwide, nearly all so far to the USAF.


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Bjorn’s Corner: New aircraft technologies. Part 14. Airframe for lower friction drag

By Bjorn Fehrm

May 26, 2023, ©. Leeham News: This is a summary of the article Part 14P. Airframe for lower friction drag. The article discusses in detail a Blended Wing Body (BWB) type airframe and how it reduces the wetted area and, thus, air friction drag compared to a conventional tube and wing airframe.

Figure 1. JetZero Z5 250 seat BWB jet concept. Source: JetZero.

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Bjorn’s Corner: New aircraft technologies. Part 14P. Airframe for lower friction drag

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By Bjorn Fehrm

May 26, 2023, ©. Leeham News: This is a complementary article to Part 14. Airframe for lower friction drag. It discusses in detail the Blended Wing Body (BWB) type of airframe that shall reduce the airframe wetted area and thus air friction drag.

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