Boeing B-29 “Doc” visits Seattle May 17-22

By Scott Hamilton

May 17, 2022, (c) Leeham News: A Boeing B-29 bomber, made famous in World War II, is here in Seattle May 17-22. Ground tours will be May 19-22. Rides will be the mornings of May 21-22. Times may be found here. The plane is at the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field.

Boeing B-29 “Doc” is visiting Boeing Field May 17-22. It will be open to the public May 19-22. Photo credit: Leeham News.

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Start-up nears airport Aircraft Towing System tests

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By Scott Hamilton

May 16, 2022, © Leeham News: A start-up company is 60-90 days away from landing a contract with a US airport to install a prototype system that will pull airplanes around the field, eliminating taxiing with engines or tugs.

The ATS airport channel system. Source: ATS.

ATS Worldwide (for Aircraft Towing System) proposes a network of trench-like guides equipped with a flexible tow mechanism that captures the nose gear to tow airplanes from the regional jet to the Airbus A380. It’s all done with automation. No new equipment, other than a nose camera, is added to the airplane. This eliminates added weight and complexity, or the need for a Supplemental Type Certificate, proposed by Wheel Tug. No external tug, like Taxibot, takes the airplane to the end of the runway. This eliminates airfield conflicts, ATS said during the Aviation Week MRO Americas conference last month in Dallas.

But constructing a network of towing trenches from the gate, across the ramp, to the taxiways and the runways, presents its own challenges. Constructing the network won’t be inexpensive. Funding sources must be identified. The Federal Aviation Administration and other regulators must be convinced that the system will be safe. Regulatory standards must be prepared.

And the elephant in the room will be the reaction from unions whose ground handlers, wing walkers, etc., face losing jobs or fewer jobs.

The big advantages: eliminating the need for hundreds of tugs at an airport. Reduction in fuel required to taxi airplanes, major cost savings for the airlines. A reduction in emissions, a growing goal, especially in Europe and the USA. Finally, there can be lower headcounts by the airlines and airports, another cost savings.

Implementation, if all goes well, is years away. But a prototype system for proof-of-concept is expected to be activated at the Ardmore (OK) airport in 60-90 days. At least three major hub airports are reviewing proposals for initial demonstration projects as well, ATS says.

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Pontifications: Boeing spending millions to retain engineers

May 16, 2022, © Leeham News: Boeing is spending millions of dollars to retain engineers represented by the union, SPEEA.

It’s a reversal of efforts to trim SPEEA ranks through early buyouts and outsourcing and to address an aging workforce.

By Scott Hamilton

The proposed 2017 joint venture between Boeing and Embraer was meant to address the retirement crunch. But delays in clearing the JV by the European Union and then the Boeing 737 MAX crisis and the global COVID pandemic killed the deal. Boeing walked in April 2020, shortly after the pandemic began. Officials claimed that Embraer failed to meet all the terms and conditions outlined in the documentation. Embraer denied this, claiming Boeing’s self-inflicted MAX crisis was the reason Boeing walked. The companies are in arbitration over a $100m break-up fee. With the collapse of the JV, Boeing lost access to Embraer’s young (and less expensive) engineering workforce, the No. 1 reason to do the joint venture.

“There is a big push to keep people,” SPEEA tells LNA. “Boeing is using raises, restricted stock, and incentive bonuses to keep engineers. Our contracts called for $7m in out-of-sequence raises last year and the company spent $22m.”

Boeing is more than a year away from clearing its inventory of 737s and 787s. Until then, or until the end is definitively in sight, it’s highly unlikely that Boeing will launch a new airplane program. But there are five 7-Series airplane programs that engineers and others are working on: the certification of the 737-7 and 737-10 this year and next; the development of the 777-8F; and increasing the gross weight of the 787-9 and -10. Certification of the 777-9 is also outstanding. Nothing official has been said in detail, but changes to the airplane demanded by regulators may require engineering work.

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Bjorn’s Corner: Sustainable Air Transport. Part 19. Fuel Cell propulsion systems

By Bjorn Fehrm

May 13, 2022, ©. Leeham News: Last week, we looked at advanced developments for hydrogen-burning gas turbines.

Now we look at the alternative hydrogen-based propulsion system, which uses a Fuel Cell to convert the energy in hydrogen to electric power that drives motors to spin propellers or fans, Figure 1.

Figure 1. The principal parts of a fuel cell propulsion system compared with other electric motor-based systems. Source: Leeham Co.

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Impact of Russian Airspace Closure for mid-European freight airlines

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By Bjorn Fehrm

Introduction  

May 12, 2022, © Leeham News: Last week, we looked at what the closure of Russian airspace would mean for a mid-European airline that flies to Asia destinations like Japan, Korea, or Mainland China.

Air France now flies the routes from East Asia south of Russian airspace instead of over Siberia. The route is longer which increases the operating costs, but with the examples Boeing 777-300ER, there are no restrictions on passenger load factors, and most times, the cargo space can be loaded to the volume limit.

For a freight airline flying similar routes, the added distance impacts payload, as freighters have about 2,000nm less range than their passenger siblings. We check the operating cost and payload impact for mid-European freighter airlines flying from Far-East freighter hubs to West Europe.

Summary

  • A freighter airline takes a heavier hit from Russian airspace closure.
  • As the extra distance eats into the possible payload, the operating cost per tonne for hubs like Shanghai, Seoul, and Taipei increases more than for the airline’s passenger service.

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HOTR: Embraer gets launch customer for E-Freighter, Boeing adds Lufthansa for 777-8F

By the Leeham News Team

May 10, 2022, © Leeham News: Embraer yesterday received its launch order for the E-Jet E1 P2F conversions from lessor Nordic Aviation Capital (NAC).

NAC reach “an agreement in principle” to convert 10 E190/195-E1s into freighters. The first deliveries are in 2024. The aircraft are in NAC’s current fleet.

Embraer E190F for lessor Nordic Aviation Capital. Source: Embraer.

The E-Freighters have 50% more volume capacity and three times the range of turboprop freighters (read: ATR) and up to 30% lower operating costs than narrowbodies (read: Boeing 737s), Embraer says. The aircraft will be converted by Embraer at its Brazilian operations. The conversion “includes the main deck front cargo door; cargo handling system; floor reinforcement; Rigid Cargo Barrier (RCB) – 9G Barrier with access door; cargo smoke detection system, including class “E” extinguishers in upper cargo compartment; Air Management System changes (cooling, pressurization, etc.); interior removal and provisions for hazardous material transportation,” Embraer says. “The E190F can handle a payload of 23,600lb (10,700kg) while the E195F a payload of 27,100 lb (12,300 kg).”

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Mind the gap between announced and actual production rates

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By Vincent Valery

Introduction  

May 9, 2022, © Leeham News: As passenger traffic is recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the Americas and Western Europe, many airlines are eager to take delivery of more fuel-efficient aircraft. Higher oil prices and ambitious plans to reduce carbon emissions are driving new-generation aircraft demand, notably for the Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737 MAX families.

A combination of supply chain disruptions and challenges associated with increased production means that Airbus and Boeing aren’t ramping-up A320neo and 737 MAX production as much as they would like. Boeing fell short last year on its 737 MAX production targets. The American company is also dealing with multiple delays in the resumption of Dreamliner deliveries.

In recent years there have been significant gaps between announced and actual production rates. The gaps have a material impact on projected OEM revenues, cashflows, and incomes.

LNA analyzes aircraft production rates on all the Airbus and Boeing programs since 2010 to assess whether the gaps were as significant in the past. LNA also evaluates the programs that were the closest and furthest away from announced production plans.

Summary
  • A metric to measure production line consistency;
  • Relatively consistent Single-Aisle rates;
  • More volatile twin-aisle rates;
  • A more consistent OEM.

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Pontifications: Next new mainline jet likely will be conventionally powered

By Scott Hamilton

May 9, 2022, © Leeham News: Pratt & Whitney thinks a hybrid-electric propulsion system might be ready for installation on the next new airplane from Boeing or Airbus by 2031. But more likely is that the new airplane, whatever design it is, will more likely be powered by a conventional engine that is capable of running on 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF).

Graham Webb, the chief sustainability officer at Pratt & Whitney, said PW is “obviously investing in our Geared TurboFan. That’s our bread and butter. We are working to infuse a large number of technologies, including ceramic matrix composites, and aerodynamic improvements to the turbines and the compressor. We’re working on improving the cooling optimization and sealing, and the traditional core efficiency suite of technologies to enable us to get to the higher overall temperatures we need for the next generation cycles.

“We’ve already completed a suite of work with the FAA and our clean aviation program that enabled us to expand the bypass ratio of our Geared TurboFan engine further from where we are till now. We’re going to use that technology to grow the engine. We’ll put a different fan-drive gear system technology as a result of that expansion. That’s kind of like the traditional engine efficiency piece,” Webb said at the Aviation Week’s MRO Americas event in Dallas. LNA spoke with Webb on the sidelines of the huge event, attended by more than 13,000 people.

Under the FAA CLEEN Phase I program, PW developed ultra-high bypass ratio technologies beyond the current 12:1 present in today’s GTF engines. These technologies are ready for deployment for a future new aircraft. The specific bypass ratio of this new engine will be optimized to each installation on the new airframe configurations being developed by the airframers, a spokesperson added.

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Bjorn’s Corner: Sustainable Air Transport. Part 18. Advanced Hydrogen Gas Turbines

By Bjorn Fehrm

May 6, 2022, ©. Leeham News: Last week, we looked at how we create the shaft power for the thrust device we discussed before. We described the basics of a hydrogen-burning gas turbine alternative.

When we have liquid hydrogen as fuel, several advanced developments are possible. It’s what we look at now.

Figure 1. Airbus ZEROe hydrogen gas turbine concepts. Source: Airbus.

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HOTR: Boeing moving HQ to Washington, DC, was obvious to those looking

By the Leeham News Team

May 5, 2022, © Leeham News: Boeing is moving the corporate headquarters from Chicago to Arlington (VA) (a Washington (DC) suburb), the Wall Street Journal reported. The signs were there for all to see if you were looking.

Boeing closed its headquarters in Chicago as the COVID pandemic expanded. The Illinois/Chicago tax breaks expired. Key corporate communications people relocated already from Seattle to Washington, including Bernard Choi—whose duties expanded from oversight of Boeing Commercial Airplanes communications to the corporate level. There is an under-utilized Boeing building in Arlington.

Already under financial pressure because of the 737 MAX grounding in March 2019, the pandemic made things much, much worse. With no orders flowing into Boeing Commercial and few deliveries after the pandemic grew across the globe, Boeing’s cash flow took a huge hit. Then 787 deliveries were suspended in October 2020 and have yet to resume.

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