Bjorn’s Corner: New aircraft technologies. Part 6. Fuselage manufacturing

By Bjorn Fehrm

March 31, 2023, ©. Leeham News: This is a summary of the article New aircraft technologies. Part 6P. Fuselage manufacturing. The article discusses how a non-circular cross-section drives material use towards composites and the difficulties of manufacturing aeronautical composite structures in high volumes.

Figure 1. The elliptical NMA cross-section compared with A321 and 767 cross-sections. Source: Leeham Co.

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Bjorn’s Corner: New aircraft technologies. Part 6P. Fuselage manufacturing

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By Bjorn Fehrm

March 31, 2023, ©. Leeham News: This is a complementary article to Part 6. Fuselage manufacturing. It discusses in detail how to manufacture a non-circular fuselage that avoids fatigue problems.

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MCAS, The Aircraft Certification Act and the unintended consequences of Congressional Intervention

First in a Series of Articles

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 By the Leeham News team

March 30, 2023, © Leeham News: Boeing is suffering delays getting the 737-7, 737-10, and 777X certifications completed.

Airbus delayed the certification of the A321XLR over the design of its integral fuel tank. Boeing has gotten the brunt of the blame for its delays, a stance not without some merit. Airbus is fully responsible for the design and integration of the XLR fuel tank. But, unlike Boeing, less has been said about the certification delays of the XLR than the Boeing aircraft.

These delays may not be completely the fault of the manufacturers.

A brief history. We know that two 737 MAXes were lost due to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) overpowering the flight crew’s ability to hand fly the airplane, although there were contributing factors. Congress got involved and demanded that the industry refocus on the safety of the flying public. The end result was the creation and passage of the Aircraft Certification, Safety and Accountability Act (ACSAA). This legislation mandated changes to how the Federal Aviation Administration oversees the manufacture of Transport Category Aircraft and set timelines for implementation.

We also need to remember that the industry is much larger than Boeing and Airbus. All manufacturers from those building agricultural aircraft and piston-powered helicopters and bizjets all the way through to Large Tier 1 subcontractors such as Spirit Aerospace and avionics manufacturers must respond to these changes. The Act affects everybody.

The addition of EICAS

We have seen references to the act and how it set a timeline for a monitoring program called Engine Indicating and Crew Alerting System, or EICAS, and its implementation. A deadline of last December was included in the ACSAA, adopted two years before. The inclusion of EICAS was adopted on the assumption Boeing would certify the MAX 7 and MAX 10 before the deadline. Exempting these two MAXes at the time was approved because the MAX 8 and MAX 9 were already certified without EICAS, and cockpit commonality was considered important among the four types.

But Boeing was unable to complete certification of the MAX 7 and MAX 10 in time. Steeped in controversy, Congress in January continued the exemption to September this year.

Certification by the deadline of the MAX 10, the last in the family, was always deemed a challenge because the -10 hadn’t entered flight testing at the time of the legislation’s approval. But the MAX 7 was well into its flight testing. People couldn’t understand why Boeing was unable to certify the MAX 7 before the end of last year.

An analysis by LNA lifts the veil on this mystery.

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Pontifications: Technical challenges for UAMs, et al, only part of the problems

By Scott Hamilton

March 28, 2023, © Leeham News: Technical challenges for alternative energy aircraft are daunting. Urban Air Mobility, Advanced Air Mobility, eVTOLs, batteries, hydrogen, hybrids—this list goes on.

Advances are reaching a point where some of the concepts in development will be ready for service within a few years. As LNA’s Bjorn Fehrm has written about these various ideas, there remain questions over the feasibility and commercial viability, but I’m not going to repeat these here.

Rather, there are other areas to consider. LNA has touched on the issues of Air Traffic Management (ATM) and pilot needs. The latter applies to on-board or remote piloting. If there is a big pilot shortage in the airline industry (and there are biased rebuttals to the contrary), where are pilots for thousands of  UAMs, eVTOLs, small airplanes, etc., going to be found?

Certainly, pilots for these aircraft don’t need the minimum 1,500 hours mandated to be an airline pilot. But manpower is manpower and if you don’t have the people, the number of hours required doesn’t matter. I can’t say I’d be too keen on being transported by a pilot, either in the vehicle or at some joystick somewhere, who is running around like the Jetsons.

Automation in lieu of pilots presents a whole new arena of questions. Yes, automation is used in the military already, as are remotely piloted drones. Boeing CEO David Calhoun thinks automation is in the future of commercial aviation sooner than later.

But there are more issues to consider than these: Production, product support, and the supply chain are hardly inconsequential issues.

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An uneven financial recovery among OEMs and Suppliers

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By Vincent Valery


March 27, 2023, © Leeham News: In an article last year, LNA highlighted the divergence in the post-Covid-19 recovery among OEMs and select Tier 1 suppliers. Airbus had higher profits than before the Covid-19 pandemic, while all others lagged. Revenues were well below 2019 levels.

Commercial Aviation OEMs were severely impacted last year by supply chain disruptions. Airbus and Boeing ramped up production significantly slower than envisioned on all programs. The war in Ukraine and tighter financial conditions are complicating the situation further.

LNA collected financial information on the big three aircraft manufacturers and 10 major commercial aircraft suppliers to assess how quickly they recovered. There will also be an analysis of the numerous charges Airbus and Boeing have taken since 1999 through 2022.

  • Significant differences among the three major aircraft OEMs;
  • One engine OEM lagging;
  • Some OEM suppliers are struggling financially;
  • Twelve-digit accumulated charges at Airbus and Boeing combined.

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Bjorn’s Corner: New aircraft technologies. Part 5. Optimal fuselage

By Bjorn Fehrm

March 24, 2023, ©. Leeham News: This is a summary of the article New aircraft technologies. Part 5P. Optimal fuselage. The article discusses different cross-sections and how these drive drag and weight. The cross-section chosen depends on the container type employed for the area below the floor.

Figure 1. Cross sections using different size cargo containers. Source: Leeham Co.

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Bjorn’s Corner: New aircraft technologies. Part 5P. Optimal fuselage

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By Bjorn Fehrm 

March 24, 2023, ©. Leeham News: This is a complementary article to Part 5. Optimal fuselage. It discusses in detail the optimal fuselage for an airliner with 250 seats using different architectures and building methods.

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A Chinese intervention in Ukraine would kill its aerospace industry

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By Bryan Corliss


March 23, 2023, © Leeham News – Chinese leader Xi Jinping flew into Moscow this week for a three-day summit with accused Russian war criminal Vladimir Putin. 

They wined and dined. They talked publicly about economic accords and oil pipelines and pledged mutual support. In private, Putin almost certainly made a plea for stepped-up Chinese support for his faltering invasion of Ukraine. They made bold statements about banding together to oppose the hegemony of the West, which has united against Russia with sanctions including bans on providing Russia with the basic technology it needs to build weapons

And at the end of it all, on Wednesday, Xi walked up the jet stairs to his Air China 747, built by Boeing in Everett, America. He turned and waved, and then flew back to Beijing.

That moment, with Xi standing in front of the massive American-made jet, may just illustrate China’s conundrum right now: Xi, by all accounts, wants nothing more than to shove aside the post-Cold War order that has confined his nation from global Great Power status. An alliance with Putin’s Russia could be a key step toward that.

And Xi, as he looks around the interior of his jumbo jet, has to be acutely aware that China remains dependent upon the Western democracies for software, computer chips, and – critically – aircraft. 

  • War has created headaches for aerospace
  • Chinese tensions are bigger issue
  • China loses in a proxy war with West
  • Boeing’s China business is effectively frozen
  • Airbus in China may also be at risk

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Pontifications: Complacency, arrogance aren’t a Boeing exclusive

By Scott Hamilton

March 21, 2023, © Leeham News: Airbus is resting on its laurels while Boeing struggles to recover from one crisis after another since the March 2019 grounding of the global 737 MAX fleet.

Multiple sources tell me that Airbus, aside from the production problems it has in common with Boeing, is enjoying Boeing’s deep freeze by China. The decision by Boeing CEO David Calhoun to delay the “introduction” of a new airplane until the middle of the next decade took the pressure off Airbus to be ready to move sooner than later.

While Boeing struggles, Airbus has become conservative, complacent and—gasp—even arrogant, a longtime Boeing trait.

What’s happening?

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Regulatory filings spell out key 2023 challenges for Boeing, Airbus

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By Bryan Corliss

March 20, 2023, © Leeham News – In a filing with federal regulators, The Boeing Co. acknowledges it struggled to stabilize 737 MAX production rates at 31 a month last year.

However, the company is sticking to that and expects a “gradual” increase in 737 rates this year – dependent upon the ability of key suppliers to keep up.

Those are some of the takeaways from Boeing’s annual report, filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this year.

The reports, which are required under U.S. law for publicly traded companies, include much of the fine print that isn’t included in typical earnings releases and calls, including detailed discussions of the risks companies face.

The filing doesn’t contain any shocking revelations but does shed more light on how Boeing is coping with the challenges facing the industry: workforce recruitment and retention in a globally tight labor market, supply change management challenges, inflation, and geopolitical turmoil in key markets including China and Russia.

Reports also mirror information provided by Airbus in regulatory filings in the Netherlands, where the company is registered.

The filings paint a picture in which 2023 will be an important year for both OEMs as they try to recover from a series of serious setbacks.

  • MAX rates could go up; Airbus backs off
  • Supply chain a factor for both
  • Boeing finding workers; Airbus raised pay
  • Geopolitical tensions affect industry

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