Bjorn’s Corner: Why did Ethiopian Airlines ET302 and Lion Air JT610 crash?

By Bjorn Fehrm

March 22, 2019, ©. Leeham News: Last week we covered what we knew about the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash.

In the passing week, more facts have been revealed. We also have the first lead why both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines flights finally dived to the ground.

Figure 1. The FR24 speed curve of the ET302 flight. Source: FlightRadar24.


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Congestion costs billions, but airlines show little concern

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Introduction

 March 21, 2019, © Leeham News: There are many estimates for how much flight delays and disruptions cost airlines and passengers. But everyone agrees the total number is big—possibly more than $1bn for each major US airline each year.

In 2017, delays cost airlines and passengers $26.6bn, according to the FAA/Nextor estimate. That total includes direct cost to airlines and travelers, lost demand and indirect costs. Congestion at the three major airports serving New York City directly cost air carriers an estimated $834m a year, according to a 2009 report.

Chicago O’Hare Airport at 7pm, Sunday, March 17, 2019. Source: FlightRadar24.

Yet despite the high cost, flight on-time statistics are basically where they were 20 years ago. Moreover, there are no discernible positive trends in the data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Of course, airlines take steps to decrease or limit flight delays, and, of course, some things, such as severe weather, are out of anyone’s control.

At the same time, airlines have shown little interest in pushing for low-cost solutions to decreasing system-wide congestion. There is no clear or easy explanations for carrier’s lack of motivation. However, interviews with current and former airline executives, researchers and others highlighted a few key factors.

Summary
  • Reducing air traffic congestion is a huge, hairy beast of a problem.
  • That complexity makes it difficult to see system-based approaches.
  • Airlines are concerned that competitors could benefit more from reduced congestion.

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Boeing didn’t want to re-engine the 737–but had design standing by

March 20, 2019, © Leeham News: With nearly 400 Boeing 737 MAXes grounded across the globe, few will remember that Boeing didn’t really want to do the MAX.

Officials in 2010-2011 engineered the MAX as a fallback airplane in case its hand was forced by Airbus as it first pondered and then launched the A320neo.

Jim Albaugh, then president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, didn’t want to re-engine the 737. He wanted a new airplane. Seattle Times photo.

The president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes at the time, Jim Albaugh, and the head of the 737 program then, Mike Bair, talked down the thought of re-engining the 737 even as it was developed. Albaugh wanted a new, clean sheet airplane to replace the 737.

When Airbus was about to land American Airlines with a huge order for the A320 family, both the ceo and neo, Boeing’s hand was forced. Within 48 hours, Jim McNerney, Albaugh’s boss, made the decision to go forward with what would become the MAX.

LNA dug into its archives for recorded interviews, transcripts and events with Albaugh and Bair. What follows paints the picture of Boeing’s view at the time about the 737 re-engining. LNA also spoke last year with a former Boeing engineer who worked on the MAX program. This interview was before the Lion Air crash in October.

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Pontifications: Fluid, dynamic events upend MAX story

Special Edition

By Scott Hamilton

March 20, 2019, © Leeham Co: I’ve been covering or employed in commercial aviation since 1979. I’m an aviation historian buff.

I’ve read all about the groundings of the Douglas DC-6, Lockheed Constellation, Martin 202 and de Havilland Comet. I read about how the Federal Aviation Administration didn’t ground the Lockheed Electra, choosing operating restrictions instead.

I lived through the grounding of the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and Boeing 787. As a reporter, I walked through the debris of the American Airlines DC-10 crash that led to the grounding. I went to the crash scene of the Delta Air Lines Boeing 727 at D/FW Airport and I’ve covered many, many crashes through reporting and as a commentator.

I’ve never seen anything evolve in air accidents as has evolved in the Boeing 737 MAX investigations.

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Impact to Boeing for MAX grounding assessed

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Introduction

March 19, 2019, © Leeham News: The impact of the grounding of the 737 MAX to Boeing will hurt, but the effect likely will be short term.

The most recent grounding of an airliner was the 2013 grounding of the 787. This cost Boeing an estimated $500m over the course of the three month grounding. A hardware fix had to be designed to contain battery fires. Installation in the field for 50 aircraft was required. Compensation to operators was necessary.

There are more than 370 MAXes grounded. Norwegian Airlines and Spice Jet already publicly said they will demand compensation. Deliveries are suspended.

This grounding should be much shorter than was the 787.

Summary
  • MAX fix was already in the works.
  • Some say US government shutdown delayed software fix at least five weeks.
  • Implementing software upgrade will be quick.
  • Grounding estimated by LNA to be six weeks max.
  • MAX grounding cost estimated $550m over several years.
  • Short term revenue shift $11bn to later in the year.

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Pontifications: 737 MAX events remind of Lockheed Electra story

By Scott Hamilton

March 18, 2019, © Leeham News: There’s a saying that history repeats itself.

When it comes to the crisis of the Boeing 737 MAX, I’m reminded of the crisis Lockheed faced in 1959-1960 when the Electra propjet crashed in September and the following March, killing all aboard both airplanes.

The Electra entered service Jan. 12, 1959, with Eastern Airlines. It was considered a pilot’s airplane. Coming off decades of piston engine aircraft and early in the jet age, the Electra was the only airplane that was over-powered, piston or jet. Timing, however, was poor and crashes soon overtook the euphoria.

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Bjorn’s Corner: The Ethiopian Airline’s Flight 302 crash

By Bjorn Fehrm

March 15, 2019, ©. Leeham News: With the crash in the weekend of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 we take a break from the Yaw and Roll stability discussions to look at what happened Sunday.

The 737 MAX 8 with 157 persons onboard crashed six minutes after takeoff. Here is what we know.

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Embraer presents weak 2018 results as the E-Jet E2 transition sets in

By Bjorn Fehrm

March 14, 2018, ©. Leeham News: Embraer presented its Fourth Quarter and Full-year 2018 results today.

The company posted a tiny profit after a year where the Commercial aircraft division started the transition to the E2 generation of the E-Jet and the Business aircraft division had a slow year for its Executive Jets.

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Cutting A220 costs is an ‘ongoing exercise’ for Airbus

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Introduction

March 14, 2019, © Leeham News: Airbus’ effort to slash supply costs for A220 production is “an ongoing exercise at this point,” Joe Marcheschi, Airbus’ head of procurement in North America, told LNA in an interview last month.

The A220-300 for JetBlue will be assembled at the Airbus plant in Mobile (AL). Airbus rendering.

“There are no specific, let’s say, achievements yet,” he said. “We are working closely with our supply chain.”

It takes time to squeeze cost out of the supply chain, he said. “We only took over July 1. That’s when we got full knowledge of the existing contracts.”

In January, Philippe Balducchi, head of the Airbus-led venture overseeing production, told journalists that the aerospace giant aims to realize “significant double-digit” percentage cost reduction. He indicated that most of the savings likely would come from the supply chain, according to news reports.

“Look, the airplane is absolutely fantastic—it just costs a lot of money,” Marcheschi said. “Now, we have to find a way to reduce the cost.”

Summary
  • Airbus is working to slash supply chain costs on A220 program, but no announcements yet.
  • The European plane maker wants to offer commercial MRO services in North America.

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Commentary: Boeing’s Tylenol moment and the need for radical transparency

By Judson Rollins

March 13, 2019, © Leeham News: The traveling public’s faith in Boeing – and that of regulators in dozens of countries – has clearly taken a beating.

The 737 MAX has now been grounded or banned in nearly every jurisdiction in which it was operating just a few days ago.

Sunday’s tragic accident in Ethiopia bears an uncanny resemblance to the circumstances of the October crash of Lion Air 610, a fact which Boeing has tried to downplay by arguing that both accidents are still under investigation. The earlier accident is widely believed to have been caused by repeated nose-down trim responses driven by the MAX’s Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), which in turn may have been influenced by inputs from a faulty angle-of-attack (AOA) sensor.

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