Bjorn’s Corner: New engine development. Part 4. Propulsive efficiency

By Bjorn Fehrm

April 19, 2024, ©. Leeham News: We have started an article series about engine development. The aim is to understand why engine development now dominates new airliner development when it comes to the needed calendar time for development and the risks involved.

To understand why engine development has become challenging, we need to understand engine fundamentals and the technologies used to achieve them. Last week, we discussed propulsive efficiency and learned that it depends on the Overspeed the engine gives its exhaust air-gas mix.

We then used two direct-drive engines from CFM (CFM56 for the 737 ng and LEAP for the 737 MAX) to give us examples of Overspeeds and their corresponding Propulsive efficiency. Now, we look at geared turbofans.

Figure 1. One of the first geared turbofans (if not the first), the Turbomeca Aubisque used on the SAAB 105 jet trainer. Source: Swedish Military Airplane History.

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Boeing unlikely to meet FAA’s 90-day deadline for new safety program

By Scott Hamilton

April 18, 2024, © Leeham News: Boeing appears unlikely to meet a 90-day deadline to submit a comprehensive plan to address safety concerns, insiders tell LNA.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Feb. 28 gave Boeing three months to address “systemic quality-control issues,” a move sparked by new safety concerns following the Jan. 5 accident of Alaska Airlines flight 1282. A 10-week-old 737-9 MAX was minutes into climb-out from the Portland (OR) airport when a door plug blew out, prompting explosive decompression of the cabin. Nobody died but there were injuries and damage throughout the cabin.

“FAA Administrator Michael Whitaker told Boeing that he expects the company to provide the FAA a comprehensive action plan within 90 days that will incorporate the forthcoming results of the FAA production-line audit and the latest findings from the expert review panel report, which was required by the Aircraft Certification, Safety, and Accountability Act of 2020,” the FAA said in the Feb. 28 press release.

  • Boeing firefighters union rejects contract again; free to strike May 3. See below.
  • SPEEA, Boeing’s engineer and technician union, tells members to start saving for a strike. See below.

“The plan must also include steps Boeing will take to mature its Safety Management System (SMS) program, which it committed to in 2019. Boeing also must integrate its SMS program with a Quality Management System, which will ensure the same level of rigor and oversight is applied to the company’s suppliers and create a measurable, systemic shift in manufacturing quality control.”

Now 45 days later, LNA is told Boeing is unlikely to meet the deadline. Furthermore, Boeing’s engineering and technicians union has had no outreach from Boeing seeking its input into the plan.

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Focus on quality not slowing innovation, says GKN

By Tom Batchelor

April 18, 2024, © Leeham News: The crisis at Boeing forced the entire supply chain to re-evaluate manufacturing processes and double down on quality control – but that is not yet stifling innovation, according to Peter Dilnot, CEO of Melrose PLC, the parent company of aerostructures and engine components supplier GKN Aerospace.

GKN Aerospace has undergone a restructuring that is now largely complete. Source: GKN

Melrose is most of the way through a comprehensive restructuring, and the company has emerged as a pure-play aerospace business that has consolidated production sites and exited “non-favorable” contracts.

“We don’t want to be everywhere,” explained Dilnot during a briefing in London attended by LNA this week, which was intended to set the scene ahead of July’s Farnborough Airshow.

“One of the reasons I think aerospace is so much in vogue at the moment is that it is one of the very few markets where you’ve got structural growth. Aerospace is unique in that we’ve got these long order backlogs, structural growth and as a result a growing top line for industry participants.”

From 50 production facilities pre-COVID, GKN is now down to 33, and it will soon be at 31 sites. Its four global technology centers remain in the UK, where it is headquartered, the US, the Netherlands, and Sweden.

The positioning of Melrose as a leaner business after the spin-off of its automotive unit is producing positive results. The company posted revenue of £3.35bn ($4.29bn) for 2023, 17% growth over the previous year, and adjusted operating profit of £420m (up from £186m in 2022), in its full-year results last month. Operating margin reached 12.5%, up from 6.3%, and profits of £700m are being targeted by 2025.

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Boeing defends 787, 777 against whistleblower charges

By Scott Hamilton

 April 17, 2024, © Leeham News: A whistleblower appeared before the US Senate today recommending that the entire fleet of Boeing 787s be grounded until inspections can be performed to assure safety.

The whistleblower, Sam Salehpour, is a Boeing engineer who worked on the 787. He claims he was moved off the program by Boeing in retaliation for raising safety concerns about the 787 and the 777. Boeing denies this charge.

Salehpour went public with his safety charges a week ago. He focused on the small gaps between fuselage sections and other areas on the airplane that failed to meet Boeing’s own specifications. Production gaps, where parts of the airplane are mated, are common. Boeing and other manufacturers use shims to fill these gaps.

This illustration, which is not to scale, shows how gaps develop, how joins are pulled together and how shims fill gaps that remain. The gaps are 0.005 to 0.008 inches wide–about the thickness of a piece of paper. Source: Boeing.

In 2020, Boeing revealed that in some cases, the gaps were greater than the 0.005 inches of its own specifications. Gaps of 0.008 inches were found. The gaps are the thickness of a piece of paper. Boeing initially grounded eight 787s for inspection.

In October 2020, Boeing suspended delivery of the 787 for what would eventually be 20 months. Deliveries already had been deferred by customers because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately, Boeing has 110 787s parked that were completed. After a lengthy process with the Federal Aviation Administration, the FAA approved Boeing’s fix. The fuselages of the 110 airplanes have to be inspected and measured. If repairs are necessary, it takes longer (5-6 months and in some extreme cases, 7-8 months) to complete than it does to assemble the airplanes in the first place. There are about 40 787s still awaiting rework.

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Dissecting Boeing CEO’s statement next new airplane will cost $50bn

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By the Leeham News Team

April 15, 2024, © Leeham News: It was a stunning number.

Boeing CEO David Calhoun said his successor will have to decide on whether, or how, Boeing will proceed with its next new airplane. The price tag, he said, will be $50bn.

The Bombardier C Series was the last all-new, widely used single-aisle jetliner design completed and in service today as the Airbus A200. China’s C919 has only a handful of aircraft in service and Russia’s MC-21’s EIS is uncertain. Credit: AP Canada.

No airplane program at Boeing, except for the 787, ever came close to this cost. No program at Airbus did, either—and certainly none came close at Bombardier or Embraer.

The 787’s cost was a financial and industrial nightmare. Design, production, and industrial snafus combined to create delivery delays of 3 ½ years. Deferred production and tooling costs reached a peak of about $32bn. Customer compensation and other factors are believed to have boosted the total cost to around $50bn, a figure Boeing never confirmed.

On March 25, Boeing announced Calhoun will retire no later than Dec. 31. Chairman Larry Kellner won’t stand for reelection to the Board of Directors at the annual meeting (date TBA). Stan Deal, the CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA), retired immediately. He was replaced by Stephanie Pope, the former CEO of Boeing Global Services and current EVP and COO of The Boeing Co. Pope’s new role at BCA is in addition to her corporate position.

Shortly after the Monday Morning Massacre, Calhoun appeared on the financial network CNBC and, among other things, made his stunning price tag prediction. It’s a figure he referenced in passing before—but this time it caught the attention of broader media.

Single-aisle airplane programs historically cost between $10bn and $12bn. Widebody programs cost between $15bn and $20bn, excluding cost overruns. Bombardier’s C-Series, the most recent all-new, widely used single-aisle airplane, cost an estimated $6bn before Airbus took over.

Boeing hasn’t done an all-new new single-aisle airplane since 1982’s 757. Airbus hasn’t done an all-new single-aisle airplane since 1984’s A320.

LNA explains Calhoun’s number below.

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Bjorn’s Corner: New engine development. Part 3. Propulsive efficiency

By Bjorn Fehrm

April 12, 2024, ©. Leeham News: We have started an article series about engine development. The aim is to understand why engine development now dominates the new airliner development calendar time and the risks involved.

To understand why engine development has become a challenging task, we need to understand engine fundamentals and the technologies used for these fundamentals. We started last week with thrust generation, now we develop this to propulsive efficiency.

Figure 1. The base engine in our propulsive efficiency discussion, the CFM56-7 for the Boeing 737ng. Source: CFM.

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A350-1000 or 777-9? Part 2

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By Bjorn Fehrm

April 10, 2024, © Leeham News: We are doing an article series comparing the capabilities of the Airbus A350-1000 and the Boeing 777-9. The A350-1000 has not been a hot seller, and a lot of analysts asked why. Is there a capability gap or what is the reason?

At the same time, the reworked Boeing 777X had reassuring initial sales at the November 2013 launch at the Dubai Air Show, where Emirates ordered 150 777-9 out of a total show orderbook of 259 aircraft for Emirates (150), Qatar (50), Lufthansa (34), and Ethiad (20). The orders have since grown to 481 as of late 2023.

The A350-1000 has had a recent resurgence in orders and switches from the A350-900 orders, whereas the 777–9 has seen several delays due to engine and certification problems and is now scheduled for 2025 delivery instead of 2020.

Does the 777-9 or the A350-1000 hold the upper hand in a long-term race between the largest widebodies after the Airbus A380 and Boeing 747-8i stopped deliveries? We use our Aircraft Performance and Cost model to compare the two to understand their present performance and potential for upgrades.

  • The Boeing 777-9 is a larger and heavier aircraft with a 12% higher passenger capacity.
  • Does an advanced wing and later generation engines compensate for an older and heavier fuselage structure?

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Pontifications: Boeing “transparency”–not so much.

By Scott Hamilton

April 9, 2024, © Leeham News: “Since [Aircraft Certification, Safety, and Accountability Act] ACSAA became law, Boeing has supported implementation of the legislation, including providing full transparency for the FAA’s expert review panel in its evaluation of our safety culture and other safety measures,” Boeing said in a statement responding to questions from The Seattle Times. “Over the past several years, we’ve taken a number of significant actions to strengthen our safety practices and culture. (Emphasis added.)

“We put safety and quality above all else, and continue to make significant changes to our culture, production and processes as we strive to improve.”

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read this in the second major front page article by The Seattle Times dissecting how Boeing has become an industrial embarrassment.

Make no mistake. I want Boeing to be a healthy, thriving company. Commercial aviation needs a healthy Boeing to compete with a healthy Airbus. As a reporter and commentator, I want to balance the negatives with the positives. But since the 2018-2019 MAX crisis, there has been little positive to find about Boeing to write or say.

The reason I couldn’t believe my eyes with Boeing’s statement above, referring to the Federal Aviation Administration’s Expert Panel, is buried within the 50 page report. It also is at variance with decades of my experience, and that of other journalists, in dealing with Boeing.

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Airbus charges and write-offs since 1999: more than €33bn

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By Scott Hamilton

April 8, 2024, © Leeham News: The A400M is Airbus’s biggest financial albatross when it comes to taking charges and write-offs, an analysis shows.

LNA last week reported Boeing’s long history of charges and write-offs that arguably hurt shareholder value in a company that’s placed this metric ahead of all others since the 1997 merger with McDonnell Douglas Corp. (MDC). Boeing has written off or taken charges of more than $73bn since 1996, the last year before the merger.

Airbus’ public records go back to 1999. Since then, the company wrote off more than €33bn (about $35bn using today’s exchange rate). This is about half of Boeing’s $70bn from 1999 through 2023.

The A400M military transport has been a financial thorn in Airbus’ side since inception. More than €10.5bn has been written off. Airbus’ other financial albatross, the A380, saw write-offs of €3.7bn.

Airbus’ infamous bribery scandal resulted in $4.2bn in European and US fines. Of this, $500m was paid to the US Justice Department for violating ITAR rules, which govern technology transfer to restricted governments such as China. (Notably, Boeing paid a criminal penalty fine of just $244m to Justice in connection with the two 737 MAX MCAS crashes in 2018 and 2019 in which 346 people died.)

The A350 program resulted in charges and write-offs totaling €2.57bn.

Airbus purchased Bombardier’s C Series for $1 for 50.1% control of the program. Airbus completed this purchase in 2018, taking a €2.6bn charge the same year for the purchase (and has invested billions of euros since then).

Below are two charts detailing the charges and write-offs. The first is by year and the second is by category.

Related Article

Boeing took +$73bn in charges since 1996

Airbus charges and write-offs by year

Airbus charges and write-offs by category

Bjorn’ s Corner: New engine development. Part 2. Thrust generation

By Bjorn Fehrm

April 5, 2024, ©. Leeham News: We started an article series about engine development last week. The aim is to understand why engine development nowadays dominates the needed time and the risks involved in new aircraft development.

To understand why engine development has become perhaps the most challenging task, we need to understand engine fundamentals and the technologies used for these fundamentals. We start this week with thrust generation.

Figure 1. The principle for thrust generation using air as medium. Source: NASA.

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