Bjorn’s Corner: Sustainable Air Transport. Part 56. SAF non-CO2 effects

By Bjorn Fehrm

February 3, 2023, ©. Leeham News: We’ve gone through the composition of Sustainable Aviation Fuel, SAF, its production, and its cost. We’ve also discussed its effect on CO2 emissions from Air Transport.

An important part of SAF’s advantages is its effect on non-CO2 emissions. It stems from its low content of Sulphur and Aromatic hydrocarbons.

Figure 1. Composition of Jet fuel. Source: CE Delft, Potential for reducing aviation non-CO2 emissions through cleaner jet fuel.

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Good news for 4th 737 production line, but lots of unanswered questions remain

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By Scott Hamilton

Feb. 2, 2023, © Leeham News: Boeing’s announcement that it will establish a fourth 737 MAX final assembly line (FAL) at its Everett (WA) widebody plant by the second half of 2024 answers some but hardly all questions.

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The fourth Boeing 737 MAX production line in Everett (WA) will build the MAX 10. Credit: Leeham News.

The news is welcome at the plant, which assembled the 747, 767/KC-46A, 777, and 787. The last 747 rolled off the line last month after 54 years in production. The 787 FAL closed in 2020, and consolidated with the line in Charleston (SC). The 767/KC-46A line is ticking over at 3/mo and the 777 line is at a 2/mo rate—both well below their peaks.

Rework on 110 787s is to be completed by the end of 2024. This rework is moving from the 787 bay to the 747 bay and a building south of the massive assembly building. The 737 line will go into the 787 bay.

The new FAL gives some certainty to workers and the neighboring supply chain, and to Everett and Snohomish County in which the city lies. But there are lots of questions that are unanswered.

  • What will the production capacity of the new FAL be? How long will it take to reach the capacity?
  • Where is the tooling coming from?
  • How will the 737 fuselages get from Wichita (KS), where they are made?
  • How long before all three lines in Renton are to full capacity of 63/mo?
  • When does production of the P-8 end? (Put another way, how long is the backlog?)
  • Is there any thought to expanding the MAX production someday into the sawtooth building?

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Boeing CEO Calhoun vows commitment to innovation as 747 flies into the sunset

By Bryan Corliss 

Jan. 31, 2022, (c) Leeham News — Standing in the chilly hangar where 1,574 747s were built, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun committed the company to continued innovation in commercial aircraft.

“Our commitment as a leadership team at Boeing is to maintain this leadership culture forever,” he said.  “We’re committed to it and we will be forever.”

Boeing “continues to have visions just like this one,” the CEO said, gesturing to the last 747. “The hangars are full of innovation.”

Calhoun also thanked everyone who’s been involved with the 747 program in recent years.

“If a company ever needed to stand tall on a legacy it was the Boeing Co.,” he acknowledged. “For the past three or four years it has been tumultuous.” 

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Pontifications: New Rolls-Royce CEO paints a dire picture; all scenarios on table at Airbus

By Scott Hamilton

Jan. 31, 2023, © Leeham News: Rolls-Royce’s new CEO says the engine group is a “burning platform,” failing to give returns.

Tufan Erginbilgic, who joined RR as CEO on Jan. 1, said this is the “last chance” to get its house in order and turn a profit.

The dire outlook has potentially disastrous implications for Airbus. The airframer relies exclusively on Rolls for its engines for the A350 and A330neo. Airbus is monitoring the situation closely. Market sources tell LNA that Airbus is assuring customers and potential customers that Airbus will make sure engines and aftermarket support are available, without detailing how.

An Airbus insider tells LNA that all scenarios are under consideration. Some speculate that Airbus might either provide financial support to Rolls or even, in the extreme, buy the engine company. Others believe either course is unlikely because Airbus has its own production problems to sort out. Its fiduciary duty is to its stockholders. “It’s not their job to inherit a problem that was created decades ago,” one London-based analyst says.

What’s at the root of RR’s current problems? Many of the reasons have been discussed before, but let’s summarize them.

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Boeing to add 4th 737 FAL at underutilized Everett plant

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By Scott Hamilton

Jan. 30, 2023, © Leeham News: Boeing will establish a fourth final assembly line (FAL) for the 737 in the vast Everett (WA) assembly plant in 2024. The company announced the move internally today.

Boeing Everett plant, where all widebody aircraft are assembled. Boeing will add a narrowbody 737 line. Credit: Everett Herald

The move was one of many rumored for months. Consolidating the 787 FALs in Charleston (SC), a move announced in the early days of the COVID pandemic, and shutting down 747 production, announced two years ago, the future of the big, empty spaces at Everett was a question. When Boeing was studying whether to launch a New Midmarket Airplane (NMA), Everett was on the list for an FAL (as were other places). But when CEO David Calhoun killed this program, more questions arose.

Rework on the 787 temporarily filled the 787 bay and now, part of the 747 space. But this was hardly enough.

LNA has obtained production rate studies Boeing shared with suppliers for the future. Conceivably, the aggressive numbers could be accommodated at the 737 plants in Renton (WA), but there is more to consider than raw production numbers.

  • Boeing has a lot of skilled workers in Everett who are losing their assignments when the 787 rework is completed (target: year-end 2024) and with the cessation of 747 production. These skilled workers need replacement work.
  • Boeing needs to keep up with the Joneses (aka Airbus). Boeing is studying very high 737 production rates.
  • There is no new airplane program for Everett and a lot of empty space.
  • Everett’s overhead absorption rate is now covered by just the 767 and 777 at very low rates and rework.

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Repost: Exclusive Interview with Joe Sutter’s grandson as Last Boeing 747 leaves Everett factory

Update, Jan. 30, 2023: The last Boeing 747 will be delivered to Atlas Air tomorrow. Below is the story LNA posted on Dec. 6, 2022, when the airplane was ready to roll out of the Everett factory. In it, we exclusively interviewed the grandson of Joe Sutter, the lead engineer of the 747 design.

Cargo carrier Atlas Air is taking the final 747-8Fs, the last of a legendary line of Boeing jumbo jets./Atlas Air photo

By Bryan Corliss

Dec. 6, 2022, © Leeham News: The final Boeing 747, line No. 1,574, rolls out of Boeing’s Everett factory tonight. The plane was built for Atlas Air, which is scheduled to take delivery in early 2023 – almost 52 years after the first 747 entered service with Pan Am in January 1970.

“It’s kind of a sad occasion,” said Jon Sutter, the grandson of legendary Boeing aircraft designer Joe Sutter, the father of the 747.

Jon Sutter – who now works at Boeing in the same Boeing Field building where his grandfather designed the Queen of the Skies – hadn’t been born when the first 747 flew. 

And his grandfather, who passed away in 2016, didn’t live to see the end of the program he’s most closely associated with. 

However, even with the end of the 747 program, Joe Sutter’s legacy lives on, his grandson said. 

“His baby, Boeing, is still going,” Jon Sutter said in a recent interview with LNA. “You can see his influence in every other plane out there.” 


  • First-flight pilots called it a “two-finger” airplane
  • 747 was Plan B after SST was canceled
  • Last 747s sport special decal honoring Sutter
  • 747 survived the Boeing Bust
  • 747-8 was final iteration
  • ‘Hard to imagine the world without it’
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The Airbus A220-500, a deep-dive analysis: The launch date challenge

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By Bjorn Fehrm and Vincent Valery

Jan. 30, 2023, © Leeham News: In the previous articles, demand in the Airbus A320 family gradually shifted from the smaller A319 and A320 to the larger A321. This shift is laying the groundwork for the arrival of the A220-500.

Airbus can develop the A220-500 with relatively minor technical modifications that are not extremely challenging. In an aircraft performance analysis, we saw that the light aircraft weight gave the A220-500 an advantage against the A320neo and 737-8.

What is then preventing Airbus from launching the A220-500 now? While most of the attention has been on the cannibalization risk with the A320neo and the lack of urgency given Airbus’ market share lead, other and more critical factors, in LNA’s opinion, are at play.

Being an aircraft OEM is not just about designing airplanes that meet payload-range requirements and satisfy stringent safety regulations. It is also about efficiently building aircraft with millions of parts and consistent production rates. The recent challenges OEMs are facing ramping up after the Covid-19 pandemic show that aircraft production is far from a walk in the park that can be taken for granted.

It is common for aircraft OEMs to spend as much cash nursing production through the learning curve until the first profitable delivery as developing the aircraft itself.

The final article on this A220-500 series discusses why Airbus is rightfully cautious about launching the new variant.

Figure 1. A rendering of an A220-500 that takes 157 passengers. Source; Leeham Co.

  • Current planned A220 production rates and variants can satisfy demand;
  • Adding the A220-500 brings the program to a new demand level;
  • Several clients would place large A220-500 orders;

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Hexcel reports increased demand for aerospace composites as industry rebounds

By Bryan Corliss

Jan. 27, 2023, © Leeham News: Composites materials supplier Hexcel Corp. reported that its fourth-quarter sales were up 29% over the same period last year, driven by increased demand from all across the aerospace industry.

“Virtually every platform from narrowbody to widebody to business jets is growing, and the customers continue to ramp as fast as the supply chain allows,” CEO Nick Stanage said.

As international air travel recovers, airlines are seeking more widebody jets, which is good for Hexcel, because newer widebodies have higher percentages of composite materials, Hexcel executives told investment analysts. However, new business jet and military aircraft models also incorporate higher percentages of composites.

Stanage and Hexcel CFO Patrick Winterlich noted that their company is not immune from the inflation and labor issues facing most manufacturers, but said they’re coping.

“You can’t give someone five years, three years, of experience in six months or nine months,” Stanage said. “We are working as hard and are focused as hard as we can on training and accelerating it.”


  • Hexcel profits beat Wall Street expectations
  • Analysts: Can Hexcel match Boeing ramp-up?
  • CEO: Commercial aerospace can withstand recession

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Bjorn’s Corner: Sustainable Air Transport. Part 55. Sustainable Aviation Fuel feedstocks

By Bjorn Fehrm

January 27, 2023, ©. Leeham News: Last week, we learned the main pathways to Sustainable Aviation Fuel and their production volumes for the next years.

Now we look at the feedstocks, what output we get from these, and how to safeguard the pathway is ethical and sustainable. Finally, we look at the cost of SAF until 2050.

Figure 1. The main pathways to SAF. Source: Clean Skies for Tomorrow report. Click to enlarge.

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The Airbus A220-500, a deep-dive analysis, Part 2

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By Bjorn Fehrm

Jan. 23, 2023, © Leeham News: Following Thursday’s article about an up-and-coming Airbus A220-500, we now look at the operational cost for the A220-500 and compare it with the A320neo it should replace.

We put the data we discussed in Thursday’s article in our Aircraft Performance and Cost model, fly the aircraft on a typical single-aisle mission and look at the results.

Figure 1. A rendering of an A220-500 that takes 157 passengers. Source; Leeham Co.

  • The A220-500 would be a viable replacement for an A320neo.
  • With the changes/improvements we discussed, it beats the A320neo on operational costs. The differences are not of the speculated level, however.

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