With Christmas around the corner, here are some year-end thoughts, absent any breaking news of some kind in the week ahead:
737 upgrade: Southwest Airlines continues to pressure Boeing to do something about a more fuel efficient airplane, and there has been some recent buzz when Flightblogger published a picture of a 737 re-engine concept, but we believe the re-engine has been shelved for now–more likely in favor of the 737NG+. Work continues on the Boeing NLT (New Light Twin.)
787 flight tests: It’s been widely suggested by observers and analysts flight tests will resume in January; we understand Boeing is working toward resuming them after Christmas (to clarify for the cynics and comics, this means Christmas 2010 and before New Year’s 2011). P100 panel, software fixes proceeding faster than expected–but will FAA sign off when Boeing desires? An announcement is expected, in Boeing tradition, on the eve of a holiday.
787 first delivery: As we had forecast way back on Nov. 19, a 4-6 month delay in first delivery is now expected. (We were the first to come out with 4-6 months as a forecast, following by days a prediction by Wall Street the delay could be up to a year.) BCA CEO Jim Albaugh told The (London) Financial Times recently that he expects first delivery in June or July (4-5 months), but we’re still sticking to 4-6 months because of the cumulative effort of other long-standing (and previously revealed) issues, notably the tail assembly, that still have to be fixed. Don’t be surprised if the first delivery happens in June or July–but also don’t be surprised if it slips to August.
Ascend Worldwide’s data base shifted first delivery of the 787 two months to the right (from February 15 to April 15) sometime between December 1 and 15, but we have no reason to believe this truly reflects what the delay will actually be.
A320neo: Airbus launched this program without an order and COO-Customers John Leahy told a subsequent press conference that he expects “hundreds” of orders, but not before Christmas. This is code for year-end, in our view. Leahy doesn’t make these comments idly. The announcements may be made by year-end, or with the January press conference Airbus typically holds to discuss prior year issues. Boeing calls this “Airbus’ 5th quarter.” Not always in good humor.
Although Boeing through November has sold about 100 more 737s than Airbus has sold A320s, don’t count on the year-end results reflecting this lead. Leahy has a habit of pulling a lot of year-end orders out of his sleeve. And just this week, LAN firmed up an order for 50 A320s announced at the Farnborough Air Show, closing the gap.
A320 replacement: Robert Wall of Aviation Week has this piece about what Airbus’ John Leahy thinks the A320 replacement will look like and what will power it. Leahy’s view rests on an open rotor engine with technology that doesn’t exist yet.
KC-X Tanker: we are hearing the USAF award is likely to be announced in February, rather than January.