Bjorn’s Corner: Why I wouldn’t hesitate to fly on the MAX after the fix

By Bjorn Fehrm

May 18, 2019, ©. Leeham News: We are now two months into the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX because of MCAS. Boeing announced yesterday it has finished the work on the fix and it’s now ready for FAA certification flights. Once FAA has certified the fix, the 737 MAX will return to the sky. At least this is how it used to be.

A lot of hesitation and distrust has come into the system since the March 13th grounding. Here’s why I wouldn’t hesitate to fly on the MAX after the fix.

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How Boeing named, promoted the MAX in early days

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Introduction

May 16, 2019, © Leeham News: As a Congressional investigation into the Federal Aviation Administration’s oversight and certification of the Boeing 737 MAX development ramps up, LNA dipped into its archives to review what the company was telling the public.

The MAX was hastily launched in July 2011, when American Airlines informed Boeing it was about to place a record-setting order for nearly 500 airplanes. Airbus was lined up to snare it all with the A320ceo and neo families unless Boeing could make a credible offer.

Within 48 hours, Jim McNerney, then-CEO of Boeing, made the decision to launch the re-engined design of the 737. This later was branded the MAX.

It was a plane Boeing designed but didn’t want to build.

Once launched, Boeing had to play catch up to Airbus, which had a seven month lead with its neo. The public messaging was long on bashing the A320. There were few technical details presented in public, but the basis for what’s become in focus today after two fatal crashes was there.

Summary
  • Boeing promoted commonality between NG and MAX.
  • Making a virtue of basic design.
  • Integrating the larger engines.
  • Promoting the same simulators.

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Mitsubishi sets stage for announcement at Paris

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Introduction

By Bryan Corliss

May 10, 2019, © Leeham News: Senior officials of Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp. said they’ll announce a new concept to replace their proposed MRJ70 at next month’s Paris Air Show. But they’re keeping details to themselves until then.

“We’ve got a couple rabbits in our hat,” said Alex Bellamy, the chief development officer for the MRJ program. “We’d like to keep them in our hat for now. But rabbits have a habit of bouncing.”

Bellamy spoke with a handful of industry reporters Friday at a roundtable following the formal grand opening of Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp America’s new office in Renton (WA). The event – which included the ceremonial opening of sake barrels with hammers–attracted senior executives from MITAC’s headquarters in Nagoya, Japan, and local business and government leaders.

Mitsubishi is flight-testing the 92-seat MRJ90 in the skies above Moses Lake (WA). But in Nagoya, engineers are working on a clean-sheet design for a 76-seat, three-class regional jet.

It’s what the market is calling for, Bellamy said, and right now, there’s a declining number of competitors willing to provide it.

Summary
  • One competitor is going, the other doesn’t have a modern, Scope-compliant aircraft.
  • 50-years opportunity.
  • Combining comfort and new-technology economy

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Pontifications: By accident of timing, convergence of events, Mitsubishi is now well positioned to become major RJ player

By Scott HamiltonMay 13, 2019, © Leeham News: The regional jetliner industry is on the cusp of a major shift.

Bombardier is exiting commercial aviation. The company already is under contract to sell the Q400. It’s CRJ program is for sale, or lacking any, inevitably headed for termination.

Embraer agreed to spin off its Commercial Aviation division into a new joint venture with Boeing. Its E-175 E2, designed with changes to the US Scope Clause in mind, is too heavy to comply with contract restrictions. The predecessor, the E-175 E1, is Scope-compliant but it also is aging technology.

Neither the Sukhoi SSJ100 nor the COMAC ARJ-21 are serious competitors.

Mitsubishi, beset by five of delays that pushed its MRJ90 seven years behind schedule, has been dismissed by most as too little, too late, too heavy and not Scope compliant.

Yet MITAC, as Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp  is known, has quietly reworked the MRJ into a Scope-compliant “concept” aircraft that will be revealed at the Paris Air Show next month.

Officials said the aircraft, the name for which hasn’t yet been revealed, will be the only new generation, Scope-compliant aircraft, positioning Mitsubishi to become a key player in the regional aircraft industry.

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Boeing to support MAX simulator demo (Update)

  • Boeing CFO meetings show confidence in recertifying MAX sooner than later.
  • Returning to pre-grounding production rates will be “gradual.”
  • FAA clearance anticipated in 4-5 weeks.
  • Boeing will urge pilots, regulators to witness simulations of MCAS flight characteristics.
  • NMA, 777X delays likely.

UPDATE: Cowen & Co issued a revised note today, with new language concerning simulations of the MCAS flying characteristics. Boeing is not urging sim training. Rather, it is urging regulators and pilots to go to sites where MAX MCAS flying characteristics may be witnessed and understood.  Cowen tells LNA it misunderstood what Boeing said.

May 10, 2019, © Leeham News: In a sign that Boeing is confident it’s on track with the fix of the MCAS for its 737 MAX, the chief financial officer of the company Wednesday and Thursday made the rounds in New York and Boston with aerospace analysts and key institutional investors.

Greg Smith

Coming out of these meetings is news that Boeing will support simulator training for pilots to fully understand MAX handling characteristics, one analyst reports.

Greg Smith gave the financial analysts Boeing’s latest thinking about progress in returning the MAX to the skies across the globe. He also said Boeing is using the production slowdown (from 52/mo to 42/mo) to allow suppliers, notably engine maker CFM, to catch up from their own delays and strains. The suppliers maintained the 52/mo rate.

Spirit Aerosystems said it hopes that CFM, which has been running two-three weeks late with engines–will return to rate 52 in June. This is faster than suppliers were told by Boeing when the rate was cut in April. At that time, June’s rate ramp up was goal was 47/mo, with 52 in August and 57/mo in September. Boeing last year planned rate 57 in June this year.

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Bjorn’s Corner: Aeroflot SSJ100 crash at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport

By Bjorn Fehrm

May 10, 2019, ©. Leeham News: An Aeroflot Sukhoi Superjet 100 crash-landed Sunday at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport and burst into flames.

We shall look closer at the likely cause of the accident, which involves the SSJ100 Fly-By-Wire (FBW) control system working in Direct law.

The SSJ100 involved in the accident. Source: Wikipedia.

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FAA prepared to act alone to lift MAX grounding

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Introduction

May 9, 2019, © Leeham News: Boeing hopes that the Federal Aviation Administration will lift its grounding order for the 737 MAX as early as next month. It is prepared to act alone, LNA has confirmed, rather than waiting for a consensus from global regulations.

Some airlines and aerospace financial analysts, as well as others like LNA, consultants and observers, wonder if global regulators will agree with the FAA or move more slowly.

The FAA already initially concluded simulator training won’t be necessary for pilots to understand the now-infamous MCAS system and its upgrades. After one round of comments for the proposal, which is common in the FAA process, the agency is accepting a second round of comments.

Transport Canada, however, already indicated it wants simulator training before lifting the grounding order affecting nearly four dozen MAXes at Canada’s two largest airlines, Air Canada and Westjet.

Other agencies haven’t publicly weighed in.

There were some reports the FAA may wait for all regulators to agree before lifting the grounding order.

But LNA confirmed the FAA will act on its own review, while fully briefing global regulators, who will make their own decisions.

Summary
  • “Regulatory power grab” in focus, writes aerospace analyst.
  • Some hope for early lifting of grounding order, others don’t see return to service until September.
  • Is the Joint Authorities Technical Review panel the precursor to a new global regulator for certification?

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Everett-based DC-3 leaves Saturday for D-Day, Berlin Air Lift celebrations

May 9, 2019, © Leeham News: D-Day is June 6, 1944. The start of the Berlin Air Lift is June 24, 1948.

The Historic Flight Foundation (HFF), located at Paine Field, Saturday afternoon embarks on a multi-week trip from Paine to England in its historic Douglas DC-3.

This Douglas DC-3, owned by the Historic Flight Foundation, saw service in World War II in the Pacific theatre. It leaves Saturday for Europe to participate with about 30 other DC-3s/C-47s in ceremonies for the D-Day invasion of Europe and the Berlin Air Lift. Photo by Scott Hamilton.

The trip includes 54 flying hours, event and rest stops along the way and rendeveouing with 30 more DC-3s/C-47s, D-Day events in France and Air Lift events in Berlin.

HFF’s DC-3 didn’t participate in the European theatre of war, but it is an historical airplane. It was in the Pacific theatre, operated by CNAC, a Chinese airline in which Pan American World Airways had a financial interest. The airplane is decked out in period Pan Am colors.

  • 9am Saturday, May 11, HFF has a “fly day” as a prelude to the 3pm departure of the DC-3 for Europe. Static and aerials displays are planned. Rides are possible. HFF is on the west side of Paine Field, with the entrance on Bernie Webber Drive.

For HFF founder John Sessions, this trip is especially significant. He was nearly killed in the crash of another HFF plane he was piloting last August at the Abbottsford Air Show. His left leg was amputated below the knee.

Now fitted with a prosthetic lower leg and foot, Sessions returned to flight status just a week ago after going through flight testing, including on the DC-3.

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The decline and fall of Bombardier

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Introduction

May 6, 2019, © Leeham News: Bombardier was once the leader in providing regional airliners to the industry.

Today, it’s all but exited the industry.

With the announcement that its Belfast manufacturing facility and a smaller one in Morocco are for sale, only the CRJ regional airliner remains.

Expectations are that that, too, will be gone before too long. Bombardier has been weighing its “strategic options” of the CRJ since last year, when it agreed to sell the Q400 turboprop to Canada’s Viking Air. This deal is to close mid-year.

Here’s a look back how Bombardier went from a leader to an also-ran.

Summary
  • Bombardier pioneered the regional jetliner and dominated the turboprop sector.
  • Embraer surpassed the former and ATR the latter.
  • A bold move to jump into the lower end of the market dominated by Airbus and Boeing, coupled with bad management and over-extending the balance sheet, nearly bankrupted the company.

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Pontifications: Rebuilding the MAX and Boeing brands

By Scott Hamilton

May 6, 2019, © Leeham News: Boeing has a big job ahead of it to restore faith in the 737 MAX with flight crews and the flying public.

Recertification is still weeks or perhaps months away. The return to service may be anywhere from July to August or even longer, depending on how global regulators proceed with review and approval of the revised MCAS software and pilot training.

Pilots at airlines seem split whether a “simple” computer training protocol is sufficient or whether a flight simulator training is required.

Let’s set all this aside on the safe assumption this will work itself out, whether sooner or later.

So, the question then becomes: how does Boeing repair the MAX brand—and its own.

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