Bjorn’s Corner: The challenges of airliner development. Part 30. Serial Production problems

By Bjorn Fehrm, Henry Tam, and Andrew Telesca.

November 26, 2021, ©. Leeham News: Last week, we started our analysis of the serial production phase. If development is filled with revelations and problems to solve, production has it as well.

We start this week by looking at the beginning of serial production, where several issues are overhangs from development. There are areas of the aircraft, though we have achieved our Type Certificate, that are not quite to the maturity level we want for long-term serial production.

Figure 1. A typical aircraft Final Assembly Line (FAL) site. Source: ATR.

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Why the A380 didn’t sell

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By Bjorn Fehrm

Introduction

November 25, 2021, © Leeham News: The last A380 will be delivered to Emirates in the coming week, after a production run of only 251 units. Why didn’t Airbus sell more?

What was the trouble with the A380? Was it uneconomical, or was there some other problem? We look into the different factors that made it a hard sell to the world’s airlines and support this with comparisons with aircraft that sold better.

Summary

  • The A380 had its shares of development problems, mainly in the installation of a complex electrical system. Still, overall the development and production went reasonably well for being a new type for Airbus.
  • We have over the years shown that its seatmile costs were competitive versus alternatives. What was then the problem? Why didn’t it sell?

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Regional Aircraft production

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By Vincent Valery

Introduction  

Nov. 22, 2021, © Leeham News: Last week, LNA looked at Airbus and Boeing’s planned twin-aisle production rates. We now turn our attention to production rates in the regional aircraft market.

The production of the Mitsubishi Heavy Industry-owned CRJ ceased earlier this year, while De Havilland of Canada’s Q400 will also end soon. Few expect production on the latter program to restart.

KLM E-Jet

MHI also halted the development of its MRJ/SpaceJet, with a program restart unlikely at this point. These exits mean that ATR and Embraer will be the only major regional OEMs outside China and Russia.

ATR announced plans to raise its combined ATR42 and ATR72 production to 50 aircraft annually. LNA will investigate whether the turboprop’s order book justifies such an increase.

LNA will separately analyze the Embraer E175 and E-Jet E2 production. Since the E-Jet E2 Embraer program competes with Airbus’ A220, we will also look at production plans on the latter.

Summary
  • An optimistic ATR production plan;
  • Comparing E175 and E Jet-E2 production;
  • Steady A220 production plans;
  • Orders at risk;
  • Other OEMs.

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Pontifications: Assessing the future of stand-alone GE Aviation

By Scott Hamilton

Nov. 22, 2021, © Leeham News: GE Aviation’s (GEA) spin-off takes the corporate burden off its back and opens that way to move forward just as commercial aviation should be over the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Scott Hamilton

The engine unit will no longer be dragged down by, and cash diverted to, GE Corp.’s problems. It can raise money for research and development of new engines and for eco-aviation, without it being siphoned off for corporate or sister company uses.

GEA has challenges ahead, to be sure.

The business model for engine companies has been upended, requiring an entirely new approach to selling engines and services. Historically, engine makers often deeply discount engines—up to 80% or more in some cases—and contract maintenance, repair, and overhaul services to make their profits.

As the COVID-19 pandemic prematurely prompted airlines to retire older aircraft, maintenance, repair, and overhaul revenues and profits shrank, sometimes dramatically. And, with a new emphasis on eco-aviation, new planes have engines with warranties and extended on-wing time that pressure MRO revenues.

Breaking up GE Corp. into three major units will take a few years. When it’s over, chairman Larry Culp remains chairman of GE Aviation. John Slattery remains CEO.

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Book Review: Flying Blind is a must-read about the Boeing 737 MAX crisis

By Scott Hamilton

Nov. 20, 2021, © Leeham News: Flying Blind, The 737 MAX Tragedy and the Fall of Boeing is the sad story of how The Boeing Co., once renowned for its engineering prowess, descended into the depths of crisis with its most profitable airplane.

Authored by Bloomberg news reporter Peter Robison, much of the story is well known on the proverbial 35,000-foot level. Congressional hearings, investigative reporting, crash coverage of Lion Air Flight 610 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 310, provided plenty of grist for the mill.

Robison delves deeper into the crisis that encompassed Boeing from March 2019 with the ET 310 crash, from which it won’t recover for years. I point to the Ethiopian crash as the start of the crisis, because for the most part, the Lion Air crash was viewed as just another crash—until Ethiopian’s tragedy made it clear there was something deadly wrong with the 737 MAX.

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Bjorn’s Corner: The challenges of airliner development. Part 30. Serial Production

By Bjorn Fehrm, Henry Tam, and Andrew Telesca.

November 19, 2021, ©. Leeham News: Last week, we described how we finished the testing and the process to get our Type Certificate.

Now we look at the phase after Design and Production certification, the start of production, Figure 1. The upstart and ramp of production have many challenges. We will start the discussion with one that is often overseen, the cost of ramping production to full serial production rate.

Figure 1. Our program plan for the aircraft. Source: Leeham Co.

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The end of A380 production

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By Vincent Valery

Introduction  

Emirates’ 100th A380 delivered

Nov. 18, 2021, © Leeham News: The 251st and final A380 delivery to Emirates will happen in the next few weeks before the end of the year. With that in mind, LNA thought it relevant to look back on the Superjumbo. The program meant so much for Airbus but ultimately failed to live up to its high commercial expectations.

Summary
  • Competing visions to meet future air travel growth;
  • A relatively less delayed entry into service;
  • Ongoing struggles to accumulate new orders;
  • Future operational prospects;
  • Where the Superjumbo works and does not.

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Boeing lands a series of passenger and freighter orders at Dubai

By Judson Rollins

Introduction

November 16, 2021, © Leeham News: Boeing captured a handful of orders and a further expansion into freighter conversion at this week’s Dubai Air Show.

The largest of these, announced Tuesday, is for 72 737 MAXes destined for Indian startup Akasa Air. These will include a mix of 737-8s and 737-8-200s. Akasa plans to offer commercial flights starting next summer.

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ATR, Pratt & Whitney launch new turboprop engine

By Judson Rollins

November 16, 2021, © Leeham News: ATR and Pratt & Whitney Canada jointly announced a new PW127XT engine for the ATR-42 and -72 series at the Dubai Air Show. The XT designation stands for “extra time on wing.”

Pratt & Whitney says the engine will offer 40% greater time on wing, 20% lower maintenance cost, and 3% lower fuel consumption than the current-generation PW127M.

The 40% time on wing assumes a 60-minute average mission in “benign environments.” The reduction in maintenance cost is driven by a requirement for just two scheduled engine events in ten years. Fuel burn improvements were achieved via a new compressor and updated turbine module. Read more

Air Lease Corp.’s A220 order may be followed soon by others

By Scott Hamilton

Airbus A220-300 for Air Lease Corp. Photo credit: Airbus.

Nov. 16, 2021, © Leeham News: Air Lease Corp. added another 25 Airbus A220s to its backlog with Airbus. The letter of intent, announced at the Dubai Air Show, brings ALC’s A220 backlog to 75, the most of any lessor.

ALC also is the first customer to publicly order the new Airbus A350F.

ALC announced the LOI yesterday at the air show. It was part of a package of 111 aircraft. In addition to the A220s, ALC signed for 55 A321neos, 20 A321XLRs, four A330neos and seven A350Fs.

Airbus has 643 firm orders for the A220: 90 for the smaller A220-100 and 553 for the larger A220-300. The -300 competes directly with the Airbus A319neo and the Boeing 737-7.

With the Dubai Air Show underway, LNA learned that there are at least two big orders that might emerge before year end that boost the book to nearly 800. One deal is with an exclusive Boeing operator, who also is in talks for an A321neo order. The sub-type couldn’t be learned, but given the carrier’s route system, it almost certainly will include the LR and/or XLR.

Interest in the A220 continues to pick up under the Airbus ownership. With the pandemic slowing, additional orders appear to be in the offing sooner than later.

Airbus continues its cost-cutting efforts on the program. LNA reported detail in a Sept. 28 post. During the IATA AGM Oct. 3-5 in Boston, Airbus’ chief commercial officer, Christian Scherer, elaborated.

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