Odds and Ends: Boeing’s secret 777X plan; Airbus wins big with British Airways parent

Secret 777X Plan: The Seattle Times reports that Boeing has some secret planning underway for assembly options for the 777X. This involves increasing the automation on the assembly (and thereby reducing manpower) and increasing the production rate to 10 or 12 a month, according to Dominic Gates’ story. This rate is still below the ultimate target of 13/mo Airbus has in mind for the A350, up from the announced 10/mo. And Airbus is considering yet a second assembly line for the A350, though it is unclear if Line 2 would be for the incremental 3/mo to 13 or more than 13.

The increased automation described by The Times, and the manpower-automation trade off, sounds very similar conceptually to the robotic process Boeing uses to paint 777 wings. In pre-Paris Air Show briefings, Boeing addressed the manpower issue. What jobs were lost to painting were shifted elsewhere as production of the 777 ramped up to the current 8.3/mo. According to The Times article, increased production of the entire 777X line would offset jobs lost to automation.

IAG goes with Airbus: In another huge order, assuming all options are exercised, Airbus scored a big win with the parent of British Airways, Iberia and Spain’s Vueling (an LCC), IAG, for up to 220 A320ceo/neos. Bloomberg has the details.

18 Comments on “Odds and Ends: Boeing’s secret 777X plan; Airbus wins big with British Airways parent

  1. IAG going with Airbus isn’t suprising. The entire single-isle fleet is practically all-Airbus. Still, its a nice win for Airbus and a “congrats” to them.

    That being said, I would like to see Boeing something from the “European legacies” regarding the single-isle fleet.

    The new B777X tooling/automation sounds interesting and would be a “win” for the Puget-sound area.

  2. agree ,IAG going A for narrow body is a given in my view ,not big news. Once you have the 320 fleet , there is no reason tech/economic or otherwise to switch. great win for A.

  3. I wonder what is so secret in upgrading the 777 assembly to todays standards. As a Boeing engineer says in the article they are catching up.

  4. Automating the B-777 line, and perhaps other lines, makes sense for Boeing. US auto makers have been using robots to assemble cars for decades now.

  5. Re, IAG given the group is running down the 737 type & consequently operates an almost exclusive Airbus single aisle fleet, some of the observations made here have indicated the Airbus selection was a forgone conclusion is totally incorrect. A long behind the scenes battle took place between the two prime manufacturers in trying to retain or gain this account.

    IAG may still be thought by some to be a bringing together of old style legacy operators, commercial reality demands procurement within the group is tightly managed & is a reasonably transparent process, as such patriotic influences should not & did not form part of this decision.

    Type change costs had a bearing on the decision, the competitors package was creative & effectively countered the impact of this. I am given to understand other elements relating to the operational effectiveness of the airbus product had a not inconsiderable impact on now turning IAG into one type single aisle operator for this category.


    • Other than the developing budget portion of IAG your assumption is reasonably precise, cargo income whilst not being a panacea does assists costs, pallets contribute toward this, hand loading does not. turnaround & airport infrastructure dictates this at most of IAG’s short to medium range destinations.

      • What impact if any has Hand loading on product quality?
        Damage to baggage ( from repeated handling, from rain/snow) and dispatch errors like loading for the wrong destination ?

        Initial cost aspect should show some dependency on availability of cheap work.
        Workforce aging and qualification structure (should) make automation more attractive in Europe and Japan than forex in the US.

  6. The Vueling element here is the exception, generally airport infrastructure at the majority of IAG short/medium schedules is tuned toward pallet handling, at most physical off loading is seen as arduous time consuming & consequently become increasingly rare.

    Observing the loading procedure many of us sadly observe either from the departure lounge or peering out through cabin windows whilst sipping a glass of pop, patently demonstrates the time saving advantage of pallet loading & the scope for additional cargo income from savvy carriers.

  7. Phil, you are correct. I think everyone who travels frequently has observed the “respect” or lack thereof, luggage receives by the no doubt pressured, hardworking men at the tarmac.. youtube is full of it

  8. when it comes to competing with airbus on the narrow body type, boeing has been very disappointing. They have yielded the market to airbus without putting a fight.
    ab will soon have 3 factories for the narrow body jet so it must sell planes at any cost to keep those factories running.
    Boeing does not need to go as low as ab on price to keep its single factory running.
    Although it is well known that airb wins these deals solely by offering much lower price for their products boeing should have comes up with a differentiator that gives the 737 a clear edge over the a320, Boeing will not acheive the 50/50 market share hoped for.

  9. Didn’t someone say a few topics ago that, in a competition they had been involved with, Boeing had offered the lower price? And haven’t you just read the comments above about the A320 series being preferred at IAG because of its ability to accept palletised cargo? Combined, these seem to show your allegation that Airbus always wins on price to be purely prejudice – unless you can prove otherwise?

  10. Le bon vivant are you serious or sarcastic?

    I think the advantages of the current Airbus offering are clear and available slots this decade have turned into the biggest restriction on selling more NEO’s.

    What do you feel Lufthansa, Air France, the Chinese are going to order, or the US carriers replacing 757s?

    I think from the current market situations and prices information leaked it is clear who has to pull all stops (including pricing) to prevent being overrun.

    The current 737MAX vs NEO situation was unforeseen and unwanted by Boeing. http://www2.pictures.zimbio.com/gi/American%2BAirlines%2BCEO%2BGerard%2BArpey%2BAnnounces%2BL8YfiGvSOEZl.jpg

    Now they are making the best of it, preserving key customers, keeping the line going, saying they are the best. I foresee renewed NSA initiatives by Boeing as soon as they get the 787 right (generating a positive cash flow).

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